“I said when I was in my haste, that all men liars be” (Psalm 116:11 Scottish Psalms)
“You’re a blatant liar”. It’s not an accusation one hears every day. At least not since I stopped reading Secular Scotland’s or Richard Dawkin’s FB page where I was often accused of ‘lying for Jesus”. In a post-modern society it should be encouraging that people are so concerned about truth but I’m afraid ‘truth’ tends to mean ‘what I like and agree with’. It’s a bit like one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Truth becomes what we believe.
The Importance of Truth
I also find it fascinating that the Bible lays such stress upon truth. The devil is ‘the father of lies’, ‘the accuser’, whereas Jesus is ‘the truth’, the judge. To tell lies is to do the devil’s work. The tongue is a deadly poison. And the keyboard. No Christian ever wants to be accused of telling lies – but if we know our bibles and our own hearts and if we are being honest – then all of us lie. We want to avoid it but sometimes it seems almost second nature.
No More Politicians?
That’s what makes it more than a little bizarre that if a politician is caught lying, then they are no longer fit to be a politician. In that case we would have no politicians. I’m not being disparaging to politicians – I believe that all humans lie. I also accept that if a politician continually lies then they are not fit for office. But the notion that if, after trawling through someone’s social media for years you come across some plagiarism, or lie, then they must immediately resign, is ridiculous. In practice of course that is not what happens. Usually if it is the politician, I don’t like then they must resign because they lied and have no ‘integrity’ but if the politician is ‘my guy’ then he/she is excused.
So back to this week. I was accused of blatantly lying because I complained about Ian Blackford going to a radio show in Portree in the midst of lockdown. He didn’t. I was wrong. For which I apologise. It would have been a blatant lie if I had made it up, or if I knew it to be false. But I reported it after checking with two different sources – and we were all wrong. There is a fundamental difference between being wrong and telling a lie. But not in the modern world.
It’s interesting also to see how quickly the charge of liar is thrown at our politicians. Nicola is a liar. Boris is a liar. Keir is a liar. In the words of the old Psalm – all men (and women) liars be! Except of course the person who is accusing others of being liars! But this cheapening of the concept of lying does real harm. Because when people do tell blatant lies (like Donald Trump) then they can get away with it.
The Durham Police
An example of this came today – even by modern standards it shocked me (hence this post) .
Durham police issued an official statement about Dominic Cummings visiting his parents’ home and the now infamous drive to Barnard Castle. Immediately my Twitter feed filled with excited people saying this was the smoking gun. Here are just three of the many examples saying the same thing:
“He broke the law. Police confirmed it. He’s lucky that he wasn’t charged” (a minister)
“Durham police say trip to Barnard castle was a breach of regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. That is to say #Cummings broke the law of which he & the Govt he advises were the architects” (Joanna Cherry – QC and SNP MP)
“If these reports are true then the PM must sack Cummings. If he does not, then he is completely undermining Policing in Eng & Wales. Surely that cannot be a sacrifice worth making?! What does it also say about the PM & Cabinet who defended his actions as being within the rules?” (Humza Yousaf – Scottish Justice Secretary)
‘He Broke the Law’
Numerous other politicians, journalists, clergy, celebrities joined in the clamour . The police stated Cummings broke the law. He has to go. Surely so many ‘experts’ could not be wrong? And after all we had a QC (who I actually admire as a politician) and a justice minister telling us it was the truth. But then I had my doubts. Firstly, my experience earlier in the day of having passed on something that was wrong – despite what I thought were reliable sources. Maybe I should check? And secondly the fact that Mr Yousaf said ‘if’ these reports are true’. I assumed that as a justice minister he would have access to the reports. Surely Durham police would have issued a statement. It took me 10 seconds to find it. It’s not long and I suggest you read it for yourself.
On 27 March 2020, Dominic Cummings drove to Durham to self-isolate in a property owned by his father.Durham Constabulary does not consider that by locating himself at his father’s premises, Mr Cummings committed an offence contrary to regulation 6 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. (We are concerned here with breaches of the Regulations, not the general Government guidance to “stay at home”.)On 12 April 2020, Mr Cummings drove approximately 26 miles from his father’s property to Barnard Castle with his wife and son. He stated on 25 May 2020 that the purpose of this drive was to test his resilience to drive to London the following day, including whether his eyesight was sufficiently recovered, his period of self-isolation having ended.
Durham Constabulary have examined the circumstances surrounding the journey to Barnard Castle (including ANPR, witness evidence and a review of Mr Cummings’ press conference on 25 May 2020) and have concluded that there might have been a minor breach of the Regulations that would have warranted police intervention. Durham Constabulary view this as minor because there was no apparent breach of social distancing.
Had a Durham Constabulary police officer stopped Mr Cummings driving to or from Barnard Castle, the officer would have spoken to him, and, having established the facts, likely advised Mr Cummings to return to the address in Durham, providing advice on the dangers of travelling during the pandemic crisis. Had this advice been accepted by Mr Cummings, no enforcement action would have been taken.In line with Durham Constabulary’s general approach throughout the pandemic, there is no intention to take retrospective action in respect of the Barnard Castle incident since this would amount to treating Mr Cummings differently from other members of the public. Durham Constabulary has not taken retrospective action against any other person.By way of further context, Durham Constabulary has followed Government guidance on management of alleged breaches of the regulations with the emphasis on the NPCC and College of Policing 4Es: Engage, Explain and Encourage before Enforcement.
Finally, commentary in the media has suggested that Mr Cummings was in Durham on 19 April 2020. Mr Cummings denies this, and Durham Constabulary have seen insufficient evidence to support this allegation.Therefore Durham Constabulary will take no further action in this matter and has informed Mr Cummings of this decision.
You don’t need a degree in textual analysis to work out what was being said. The police state that Dominic Cummings did NOT breach section 6 of the guidelines in travelling to Durham. And that he ‘MIGHT’ have committed a ‘MINOR’ breach of the regulations in going to the castle. A breach so minor that if the police had stopped him they would simply have asked him to return home and not charged him. It really couldn’t be plainer. But nonetheless ‘quality’ newspapers, clergy, a QC and a Scottish government justice minister still managed to report that he had been found guilty. I have no doubt that they are intelligent people – and that they can read police reports. Therefore, in knowingly stating that he broke the law, they are lied. In the case of the justice minister it maybe that he really hadn’t read the report which just makes me guilty of ignorance and laziness – twitting out responses to something he had not seen and yet which was easily accessible.
This is my truth – tell me yours.
But it gets even worse. When it is pointed out that the police only stated that he might have committed a minor breach – they go full postmodern Bill Clinton – ‘it depends what you mean by the word ‘is’! According to our learned friends when the police say ‘might’ they mean ‘definitely’. That’s why I despair for this country. When you have a justice minister demanding ‘justice’ based on a lie, backed up by a QC who lies about what is in front of her face – then the legal, political, media and church institutions are in deep trouble. Yousaf and Cherry should apologise, correct their ‘mistake’ or resign. Cummings should also admit he was wrong about going the castle and apologise for his ‘minor’ breach. But I suspect pride will prevent either of these things happening. And everyone else should follow the police in this matter and take no further action!
Have we gone full Goebbels? ‘the bigger the lie the more you are likely to get away with it’? Or is it just that, despite all the shouting, at the end of the day, we don’t really care about truth – we just want our ‘side’ to win?
But there is nothing new under the sun. Augustine summarised it perfectly…
“(People) love truth when it shines warmly on them and hate it when it rebukes them”
“A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently”.