Although written primarily for a Christian audience, Nigel Pimlott’s incisive pantomime analogy sheds light on the significance of ‘post-truthism’ for all of us involved in youth work.
The annual panto in our village is always great fun and entertainment. There’s a mix of banter, fantasy and miraculous stories played out by outlandish characters. There are goodies, baddies and dubious promises about living happily ever after tugging on our heart strings. Given what has happened across the political landscape in the last few months, you might think that was also pantomime.
Our resident panto baddie will bully, threaten and twist things. They’ll be highly selective, cherry-picking facts and manipulating people. They will say whatever it takes to get their own way. They’ll play on the emotions of the vulnerable, unaware and naive. They invoke hysteria and dire consequences if they are disobeyed. They proclaim a populist consensus wrapped up in half-truths, facts taken out of context and fearful predictions. Our post-truth politicians have been found guilty of deploying the same tricks and casting the same spells.
Youth and children’s workers themselves are not immune from the potential bewitchment a post-truth culture casts. It is too easy to fall into the trap of exaggerating things like the number of first-time faith commitments at an event, or bigging-up the impact a project has had. For those who do externally-funded work the pressure to make inflated claims, enhance stories of success and over-state the value of what we do can be overwhelming. Evaluations, reports to church councils, and meetings with line managers can be painted in such a positive light that the truth ends up diminished.
We can’t afford to get seduced by post-truth approaches. We mustn’t get caught out by them. So, be aware of pantomime-like claims of magic solutions, ‘too good to be true claims’ and also be aware of political rhetoric about ‘them and us’, promised pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and unsubstantiated tales. They are all likely to be examples of our post-truth culture. Remember – it’s behind you!
It’s smashing and provocative piece with proposals for how we combat post-truth politics. Well worth pursuing in full.
[Nigel Pimlott is a writer, consultant, facilitator of Messy Church and works part-time for the Methodist Church as a training and development officer.]