Abigail Radnor: The word of a year where lies trump truth

Our writer can't get enough of facts

January 04, 2017 11:04

I love a quiz. I'm not especially good at them. If I try to recall any moments when my general knowledge triumphed I can only think of that time I managed to list all five ingredients of a mojito without hesitating (and yes, my mum is proud). But my inability to succeed in quizzes never stops me enjoying them. Because I love learning. For every answer I do not know, I learn something new. And that is just brilliant. I am a fully fledged geek who loves a tall glass of knowledge topped with a good dollop of cold hard facts (just as refreshing as a mojito).

If you think I was a class swot growing up then you are right. I thought knowing the answer and sharing that answer with the class was EVERYTHING. I vividly recall walking out of shul at the end of the service one Kol Nidrei with my parents and a primary school classmate, with a wicked sense of humour, running up to us and impersonating me.

It involved shooting his hand up the air, urgently jumping as though nature was calling and shouting "ooh ooh pick me, Miss, I know, I know" before running off. My parents found this hysterical. I was unperturbed. The impression was pretty much spot on and I saw nothing wrong with being that person. The most crushing moments of my school days were the times I put up my hand, desperate for attention and got the answer so wrong it was positively stupid. There was an incident with a whale’s blowhole once, when I was nine, that still fills me with shame.

People who really know their stuff get me positively giddy. I am lucky in that I have a job where I can sit in a meeting and hear experts debate the stories of the day. Their opinions of places and people in the news are especially interesting because they have often lived in those places and met those people. I also have friends who dazzle me with their smarts — one who launched her own company at 28, another who is part of the White House press corps and another who recently made the front pages standing outside the High Court defending this country’s constitution. To me, they are rock stars.

So in and amongst the horror show that was 2016, I found the news that Oxford dictionaries declared "post-truth" the word of the year to be especially heart-breaking. Not exactly surprising when you consider its definition (“relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”) in light of events that have occurred this year. But profoundly depressing.

I’ve always found great reassurance from the likes of a specialist when a loved one is ill or a plumber when water pours through my ceiling. So Michael Gove wasn’t talking about me when he said "this country has had enough of experts" this past June. I can’t get enough of them. But it seems it really does not matter if you shoot your hand up in the air, desperate for attention and say something so very wrong it is positively stupid. In fact, in 2016, it seems that is how you win elections.

A difference of opinion is one thing but a world where lies trump truth and out and out buffoons seize power is downright dangerous. And for me, that was the worst outcome of 2016. On a lighter note, should you be partaking in a quiz this festive season, and you’re asked "what is the word of the year?", you will know the answer. And that is a wonderful thing.

Abigail Radnor is acting features editor of Guardian Weekend

January 04, 2017 11:04

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