Facts are being replaced by lies in public and political discourse, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has warned.
“During the Brexit campaign, the ‘No’ campaign convinced people that the money saved from not having to contribute to the EU could be exclusively used for the National Health Service resulting in corresponding major improvements, not true, not possible, not remotely possible,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
The minister was speaking at the NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards in Dublin yesterday.
“But people wanted it to be true. Experts who urged caution were dismissed as experts.
“Just like the idea that Turkey would join the EU by 2020 and their entire population would move to somewhere in Surrey, it cut through,” she added.
She said purveyors of lies play on people’s fears and that this resulting abandonment of truth damages our democracy.
“Lies cut through when liars talk a good act, when fearful people want to believe them.
“Lies cut through when assertion and opinion are considered more user-friendly than truth but we abandon truth at our peril.
“I would say that abandoning facts is a kind of censorship because it deprives the citizens of truth and I do believe it damages our democracy,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
The Tánaiste also mentioned the damaging use of language in the US presidential election and in the Conservative leadership contest in Britain.
“Two of the most defining phrases from the recent Conservative leadership campaign and the current US election campaign were: ‘bloody difficult woman’ and ‘nasty woman’.
“‘Crooked and corrupt’, words that would only have been used in the most serious of circumstances a decade ago are repeated endlessly often without factual underpinning,” the minister said.
“Facts are almost becoming old-fashioned, opinion and attack have taken primacy,” she added.
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