Enemies of this blog, which include George Galloway, OFSTED, Vladimir Putin, Nigel Farage and the Iranian Government, will be hugely amused at a recent faux pas of mine on Facebook. I posted the item above without checking its authenticity, something I have criticised others for doing in the past. The apparent list of misdemeanours by MPs is a hoax and is exposed as such on FULLFACT. It can be read by clicking on HERE.
There is little I can say to excuse my mistake. I could dismiss it as a "senior moment" or try to wriggle out of responsibility for my error by saying that many others fell for it as well. Instead, I shall try to explain it. It is true that, as the Roman poet, Horace, said :
"quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus" (Ars Poetica. v. 359) - "Even Homer sometimes nods"
The meaning, as we probably know, is that the wisest among us, even the great writer, Homer, make errors - "anyone can make a mistake". Nevertheless, we should examine our mistakes and learn from them, and that is what I propose to do here.
So, why did I omit to check the facts of this note? Why did I swallow this item of "fake news"? My self-analysis might be useful, as we are bombarded with fake news, advertising and propaganda of all types every day.
In the first place, I simply re-posted the item because I thought it would make a useful talking point. Mainly, however, I re-posted it because I automatically, albeit vaguely, sympathised with the underlying sentiment, even though it isn't true. In other words, whoever devised this list knew that a lot of people would accept it as fact because they were pre-disposed to believe it - including me, until I thought about it more clearly. And that, I believe, is a warning to us all: the most effective propaganda seeks to confirm our prejudices. Portraying politicians as corrupt self-seeking parasites is not difficult when you know that many people believe it already - in fact, want to believe it.
Does this point to a general fault in us all? Does it explain why so many voters in the USA continue to have faith in Donald Trump, even when his claims are proven to be false or exaggerated? Does it explain why so many voters in the UK support Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party menagerie? Aren't all politicians purveyors of fantasy? The answer to this last question is "No!", but far too many people in the UK seem to prefer the Brexit delusion.
As for me, I have learned my lesson and will try very hard not to repeat it. As G. K. Chesterton said in 1927:
"Every man makes mistakes; they say a man who never makes mistakes never makes anything else"
Quite - in future, like me, will readers check for hoaxes on Snopes or Full Fact? I hope so. As for my detractors mentioned in the first paragraph: don't laugh too much, chaps. I'm still on your cases!