Fact or Fiction?

Like any sane person, I have been flabbergasted and outraged by Donald Trump’s chutzpah. He has adopted the style of George Orwell’s “Big Brother” where fantasy is reality, and lies become truth. Amazingly, there are so many prepared to buy into this line, whether out of self-interest or stupidity. Trump’s core support has remained unwavering to date, although as their tax dollars are redirected to the rich, and their medical support is slashed, that support might move away. Perhaps it is simply the case that many people literally cannot distinguish between fact and fiction.

Impetus behind this phenomenon is provided by fake news – stories which are pushed as gospel when they are merely the figments of someone’s over fertile imagination. Nothing new in that, you might say. “New Labour“ was famous for its spin. Yet this is more than spin (i.e. putting a positive face on facts). It is the fabrication of a story, underscored by the ability of those concerned to believe their own publicity. Certainly, Trump’s ego enables him to view himself as embodying truth, preposterous as that may seem to the objective observer.

I was mindful of this when I read of Mayor Anderson’s absurd assertion that he was closing his twitter account because of the “abuse” he receives from respondents. The old adage about pots and kettles comes to mind. He is, in my experience, the most coarse and abusive politician I have ever come across – and that is saying something. Perhaps he too sees himself as subject to a different order to the rest of us.

Fake news increasingly dominates the Merseyside political scene, enhanced by its unquestioning repetition by what passes for local media. Take the MIPIM jolly in the south of France. This glorified auction of local authority assets to the parasites who gather there in the hope of easy profits, has been the source in the past week of a stream of fake news which needs to be taken with a large bucket of salt. Fed to a gullible Merseyside public deprived of the information with which to form an objective view, these stories need to be put into perspective.

Some of this disinformation is put about by developers in the hope of obtaining investment, and some from local authorities, desperate to plug gaps in local authority finances. I understand these needs, but hope that public representatives sup with a long spoon when negotiating with business sharks whose only motive is private profit. One can easily convince oneself of a mutuality of interest with private and predatory capital. The honeyed words of the latter can be tempting, but remember, for example, how the public purse continues to be ripped off under the guise of the Public Finance Initiative. There is nothing for nothing.

Thus, we have a proposal for a huge regeneration of central Birkenhead, capitalising on its incredible cross-river views. However, despite the blurb, it remains another item on a wish list. Wirral residents will be mindful of Peel’s promises for Wirral Waters. To date, the only real investment attraction, after the fiasco partnership with Stella Shiu and the failed International Trade Centre, was a college facility courtesy of Wirral Council. Peel’s promises of a mini-Manhattan are yet to materialise. Current spin for Woodside suggests a reality which does not yet actually exist.

Likewise, there continue to be similar projects floated on the eastern littoral of the Mersey. On the central docks site, a promised residential development has been transmuted into a possible football stadium, bordered by a cultural neighbourhood. Do not misunderstand me – we all want to see meaningful development and investment across Merseyside. What we do not want is for our representatives to buy into the get-rich-quick schemes of the likes of Peel and Signature Living. Developers are in the business of squeezing finance from wherever and whomever they can. Local authorities exist to service their communities, not the private interests of buccaneering businessmen.

That is why it is so important for the wider public not to be seduced by the false news and public relations gimmicks put to them either by unscrupulous politicians or the private sector, aided and abetted by their media mouthpieces. At some point, the snake oil salesmen bedevilling our sub-region must be held to account.

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