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How Truth Survived 2019

The "truthiness" of US President Donald Trump and other world leaders cast a dark shadow over public life in 2019, and probably will continue to do so next year. But fortunately for those who care about both democracy and the planet, the actual truth remains a powerful force.

LONDON – “Truthiness,” a concept coined by the American comedian Stephen Colbert, involves saying things that you want to believe are true even if there is no factual evidence to support these assertions. And without doubt, truthiness has had a great run in 2019 – from US President Donald Trump’s Washington, to the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, to events in Asia.

This disturbing trend was partly reflected in Time magazine’s choice of candidates for its 2019 Person of the Year. The shortlist of five included Trump, who, although he did not win the prize of seeing his picture on Time’s cover, exemplifies the political triumph of today’s ubiquitous mendacity. In the opposite corner were two other candidates: the whistleblower who exposed Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s president for political gain, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, who presided over the chamber’s recent vote to impeach the president.

The two remaining contenders also represented old-fashioned honesty and political courage. The winner was Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate-change campaigner. Some patronize her, while others reject her arguments. But she represents the concerns of those who will inherit the future. Moreover, what Thunberg says bears the imprimatur of most of the world’s climate scientists. She wants world leaders to act to save the planet before it is too late.

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