In the fifth century B.C., Greek dramatist Aeschylus said:
“In war, truth is the first casualty”.
And of course, it is true.
Looking at Hong Kong over the past months, though it is not a war in the accepted sense, truth is a matter of perception. Facts, where they exist, are black or white, right or wrong, on both sides. Fake news and exaggerated opinions abound. Where is ‘the truth’?
In July, did Hong Kong see two million people march against a proposed extradition law? Or was the number less than half that? Are brave students battling for democracy against repression from a brutal police force? Or do diligent policemen and women risk their own safety to keep law and order against savage rioters and criminals?
Has the Hong Kong Government ineptly failed to remedy the problems about which protestors complain? Or have officials sensibly decided to allow matters to ‘play out’, rather than make things worse by taking the wrong action?
And what of the role of the PRC? Is China a peace-loving nation that values security and stability above all else? Does it leave Hong Kong to run its own affairs as guaranteed by law? Or is it a repressive regime in which the Communist party clings to power by spying on its citizens and punishing those it does not like? Is its influence seeping in a sinister way into Hong Kong?
Organisations in the USA, among others, have funded the protestors. The USA has recently passed a law supporting them. Economic sanctions against Hong Kong will occur if the protestors are not listened to. Is this blatant colonialist interference with another regime’s internal affairs? Or is it a valid way to establish global standards of free speech and democracy that are upheld by all humane societies?
The sides try to substantiate their views in whatever media they choose. Both leave out inconvenient facts, exaggerate their claims to the moral high ground and sometimes, frankly, lie.
The sad part is that this is an important debate. Valid arguments get lost in the emotional drivel that passes for news in the media. The media has a huge responsibility for making a bad situation much worse.