(Yeah, it’s a Brexit one, it’s about the debate around Brexit. My only publicly expressed view on the Brexit decision remains that it’s very important) .
There’s a crucial debate going on at the moment, except that there really isn’t. Or to put it another way, you have to look really hard to find something worthy of being called a debate and that saddens me. This is about the debate, not a view on the rightness of wrongness of any potential outcome.
I tend to lob in pop culture references into my writing and I offer three for you now… The debate makes me think of Dragnet, the Bluetones and John Lennon. Here’s why.
Whether you have seen the original TV series or the movie with Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd you’ll know that Sgt Joe Friday in Dragnet wanted ‘Just the facts, m’aam’.
And I wish that occasionally we’d find a disinterested observer, without a case to make, who could just call out the facts. Of course facts are complex and open to interpretation, but wilful misinterpretation should be made some kind of crime. It’s already a crime against the truth.
Separating the signal from the noise has never been harder. Separating truth from cliché has never been harder. There are too many people trying to win and not enough trying to work out what a win would really look like. ‘Lies, damn lies and statistics’ isn’t supposed to describe a multiple choice question about your preferences for portraying your side of the debate.
And you need to be sceptical, because even facts aren’t straightforward. Joe Friday didn’t say ‘Just the facts, m’aam’, or at least the facts aren’t straightforward.
In the jangly genius of Bluetonic by The Bluetones there are a few lines that are zingers when it comes to quality of debate.
I give you, for your entertainment, the following.
You may not see things my way, like my method or my reasons, but you can’t tell me that I’m wrong
You may not see things my way, I don’t care because I’m not asking
That appears to be my Facebook timeline.
More interestingly for me there is a line that’s always stuck with me.
When I am sad and weary and all my hope is gone, I walk around my house and think of you with nothing on
There’s a beautiful ambiguity as to which of us is wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes in that statement. About whether I’m vulnerable or I have mentally disrobed you. It’s a wonderfully deceptive phrase and could mean one of two completely different things.
Ambiguity kills education. That doesn’t mean everything is clear, but it means it you deliberately aren’t clear then you retain power, but the world loses any sense of meaning except through the interpretation of the individual.
All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth