Shadows concealing reality, by Chris White

Just about everyone I know seems to be asking "what the heck is going on in the world today?" A review of the news both in the United Kingdom and in Brussels, where this is being written, leaves huge numbers of us more confused than ever before.

A take on the British media last week would suggest that Britain is in a hopeless economic situation with the poorer classes facing almost immediate catastrophe. Perhaps that is the case but the same is true for much of the European Union.

One British Newspaper headlined that Putin is holding us - the UK - to ransom. He most certainly is, but the same applies to the rest of Europe.

Germany is facing a serious crisis having rejected nuclear power to rely on coal. Even more important it only fairly recently introduced a minimum wage - still lower than the UK - and is now facing serious inflationary pressures.

EU news sources highlight endless crises of one sort or another. Poland's political class is looking more likely to edge towards Polexit than ever before, although the majority of its citizens would almost certainly be opposed to such a move. Almost endless disputes about the supremacy of EU law and, more significantly, the rising prices of oil, gas and electricity together with warnings about inflation and increasing taxation are not exclusive to the UK.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel is constantly accused of making promises she has failed to keep. Is that true, or is it just that there her efforts are bogged down in administrative delays? Prime Minister Boris Johnson is getting a bad press on much the same basis but then so are EU leaders and continental politicians across the spectrum.

Over two-hundred years ago John Adams scribbled a note about French philosopher Condorcet’s 1795 text on the free press ‘Outlines of an Historical View of progress of the Human Mind’ saying “There has been more new error propagated by the press in the last ten years than in the hundred years before 1798”. Clearly nothing has changed there then!

Meps European Parliament

On Tuesday the European Parliament, sitting in Strasbourg, adopted a list of 32 members to sit on the EU-UK Parliamentary advisory committee. A promising candidate for the British team told me on Friday that “the UK government has so far done nothing”. Or have they simply been waiting to see the make-up of the EU Parliamentary team? I have not found any reference to this next potential debacle in the British media. Did I miss something?

Nor, in the current maelstrom of crises reports did I, this week, find any reference to something that a European professor specialising in the energy sector pointed out by saying “if Brits are finding it difficult to visit Spain they should consider Morocco because your country is going to be popular there”.

He was referring to the construction by a British company of solar energy plants giving employment to thousands of Moroccans and laying a cable on the Atlantic floor past Spain and France to England’s West Country. Now why is that project due to be supplying electricity by about 2025 not entering into the energy crisis debate? Why does the press not mention this?

More than 2000 years ago in his book Republic the Greek philosopher Plato reported his mentor Socrates as suggesting that if were imagined that prisoners chained to a cave wall all their lives saw nothing but shadows, then they would take for true reality nothing other than shadows. But if one were released he would realise the difference between shadows and reality.

Plato made the point that skilled and well compensated orators constructed arguments for money without regard for their truth or falsehood. Now where have I heard that lately?

That news reports today are too often described as "false" or "fake" does not mean that their limited substance is untrue as such, but rather that by ignoring the broader picture they are misleading. As Plato forecast, democracy is in serious crisis.

We cannot just blame the media. Governments need to consider the danger to democracy that Plato forecast so accurately more than two millennia ago, and start explaining things better so that we, the public, might have a better chance of identifying the truth behind the headlines. Given his background, one would assume that Prime Minister Boris Johnson might understand that.

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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