“Dismiss anything else…. We will continue to be your single source of truth…. unless you hear it from us it is not the truth.” Thus spoke New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, in a video that has re-emerged for some reason after some 15 months.
To be fair to the Prime Minister, it is important to get the context right. She was not giving a general lecture on truth and its sources. She was not claiming omniscience or omnipotence. She was also trying to warn people against listening to the endless rumours on the Internet. To combat that she was simply stating that as regards information about Covid-19 in New Zealand, the government was to be the ‘one source of truth’. Yet, even given those caveats, it is a revealing and shocking statement.
First, she was being more than a little disingenuous. In that press conference on March 20th, 2020, she was trying to deal with a rumour that New Zealand was about to enter into lockdown. Something she implicitly denied. Yet the country entered a national lockdown on the 25th of March. Doubtless someone will say that she did not explicitly deny that this would happen, but that is playing with words. When Ms Ardern said that the government would give all the information they could, it was bound with a caveat that we would just be given all that we need to know. But who decides what we need to know?
Even more importantly — if there is only to be one source of truth, who gets to check whether it is the truth? The truth then becomes only what the government tells us. George Orwell wrote about this in his prophetic novel, 1984, where the Ministry of Truth refers to a government department whose purpose is to present government propaganda, particularly in the re-writing of history, to suit the purposes of the present government.
In 1984, the Party slogan is: “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past”. There is an increasing tendency, not only in the authoritarian communist states like China and North Korea, but also amongst Western ‘liberal’ elites to try and put that slogan into practice.
Which is why we have ‘decolonising’ the curriculum, or the removal of statues, or the reclassifying and banning of some older books and films. What was Dark Emu but an attempt to rewrite the past to suit the narrative of today’s progressive zeitgeist? Which is why, even when it was such appalling ‘history’, it was immediately jumped upon as ‘the truth’.
The New York Times earlier this year made an appeal to Joe Biden to appoint a ‘reality czar’ who would “tackle disinformation and domestic extremism”. There were many (and not just on the Right) who saw exactly where this would lead. Whilst in China we have a hard dictatorship, aided by technology, in the West we are heading towards a softer, but no less dangerous, totalitarianism, also aided by technology.
The big tech companies, largely led by white woke Californian billionaires, are setting themselves up as sole arbiters of truth. Which is why every time I put the word ‘vaccine’ in the title of one of my blogs or prayer notes, Facebook flashes up a warning. They alone are to be trusted. They are the sole source of truth.
The Internet giants were quick to flag the notion that the current coronavirus came out of the coronavirus lab in Wuhan, as a ‘conspiracy theory’ and ‘fake news’. Now that President Biden has suggested it may be a possibility, they are quickly having to rebrand their ‘truth’! Re-writing history is easy to do when you control the sources and the means of publication!
Back in my homeland, the Scottish government spends millions on what they call ‘public information’, but much of which would be more accurately described as propaganda. Part of this involves the re-writing of history, but also the demeaning of language.
In a classic example of Orwellian newspeak, the BBC this week gave a report of Scotland moving to ‘level zero’ in terms of Covid-19, before going on to helpfully tell us that ‘zero does not mean nothing’, thus conveniently enabling the government to retain a significant number of restrictions.
When I was in school, I was taught that zero did mean nothing. If you are told that you are getting a zero pay rise, you would understand that meant nothing. But when governments become not only the sole source of truth, but also the sole provider of it, then words can mean whatever they want them to mean.
Another example of this was seen in a tweet put out by the Scottish government minister John Swinney with this meme:
Whilst most scientists think that masks have some use in limiting the spread of Covid-19, this meme is false. It is not backed up by any scientific study anywhere. In fact, the idea that if you are wearing a mask and are six feet away from someone you have zero (in the traditional sense of the meaning of the word) chance of getting Covid-19 is downright irresponsible and dangerous. The irony is that it goes against the Scottish government’s own guidelines.
And therein lies the problem: when governments make themselves to be the sole source and arbiters of truth, they don’t have to abide by the rules — they just get to make them. The Scottish government is passing a Hate Crime bill which would make even the State of Victoria, and the country of Canada, look liberal by comparison (although I am sure both will soon do their best to catch up!).
The Scottish Hate Crime law will result in people being prosecuted for what they say in their own home if the government deem it to be hate speech. And of course, the government as the sole arbiter of truth gets to define what hate speech actually is.
Just before I left Scotland, I noticed walking back from church some posters which I found to be hateful and offensive. So, I did what any good citizen would do. I reported them to the police. After all, the police state:
“A hate incident is any incident that is not a criminal offence, but something which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hate or prejudice.”
That seems clear. But of course, it does not mean what it says. It is code for certain privileged groups to be given carte blanche to intimidate and pursue anyone who dares to disagree with them. My trouble was that the poster concerned was from the police. In effect, I reported them to themselves. And not surprisingly, they pronounced themselves to be free of hate — and ignored their own law (which says that hate is the eye of the victim, not the alleged perpetrator).
You can read about what happened here.
Let’s return to New Zealand. Speak Up For Women is a feminist group which is planning to have a series of meetings in New Zealand. They put up this advert —
But after an activists’ campaign, Go Media, the advertising company, removed it. They explained:
“While we believe in freedom of speech, we do not condone content that upsets our community. We apologise unreservedly for any distress this may have caused anyone and remedied the situation as soon we could.”
In today’s New Zealand, saying that a woman is an adult human female is a truth that cannot be spoken. It ‘upsets’ ‘our’ community. Again, I suspect that Go Media would not bat an eyelid if a poster critiquing Christianity were displayed and those in the church were upset by it. We are not part of the ‘our’.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand government is in the process of redefining what a ‘woman’ is, to the extent that they are actually redefining women out of existence. Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, got it so wrong. It is not religious fundamentalists who are attacking the feminist gains of the past century — it is ‘liberal’ progressives.
If the New Zealand government redefines what it is to be a woman, does that make it true?
Thankfully, no. No more than when David Cameron said that the UK government was ‘redefining marriage’ for all, did result in real marriage becoming what he wanted. He was wrong. And they are wrong. Truth does not just come from government. At least Pilate, the politician who gave Jesus over to be crucified, recognised that: “What is ‘truth’?” (John 18:38)
David McGrogan, in an article commenting on Ardern’s bold claim to be the sole source of truth, points out:
“The danger here is that when the State expands, it tends to do so at the expense of other sources of authority and loyalty. The family, the community, the church or other religious group, the employer, the club — all are undermined as the State grows.”
That is the big danger we face in Western society right now — the State telling families, churches, employers, clubs, that the State, and the State alone, is the ultimate source of truth.
As McGrogan points out, there is only one aim — for the State to be the sole source for truth, authority and ultimately loyalty. But Christians will never accept that. We know the sole source of truth is God. As Jesus put it so simply: “I am the Truth”!
That’s why totalitarians (whether communist, fascist, or ‘liberal’ progressive/regressive) hate the Church more than anything. Xi Jinping is right to be concerned about religious groups within China, especially those Christians who remain faithful to the Bible. Liberal progressives who seek to impose their views and values on the whole of society are also right to see us as their main obstacle.
We can never bow the knee and accept any government as the sole source of truth. Because we know the One who is truth — and we are not going to hand his crown over to anyone else. Jesus is Lord. Not Caesar — of any kind.
“The further society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
~ George Orwell