Mark Reads ‘The Truth’: Part 6

In the sixth part of The Truth, William learns how complicated publishing a newspaper can be. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

This is all happening so fast, y’all, but it has to, doesn’t it? William found a way to fill a void that no one ever noticed, and The Ankh-Morpork Times is spreading rapidly because of it. But “spreading” doesn’t quite do this justice. It’s not that people are reading it; they’re reacting to it, often in fascinating, infuriating, or bizarre ways. And while you might be able to anticipate some of that, you can’t really control it. Oh, there’s behavior you can take in publishing to mitigate responses, and a lot of it takes conscientious care and thought beforehand. (Which is not a bad thing, mind you.) But I found this all quite amusing because I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE.

Let me run through this in chronological order, then, because LORD, this is so real. I cannot get over the brilliance of a zombie being in charge of obituaries. Y’all, MR. BENDY WRITES ABOUT THE THINGS THEY’VE DONE SINCE THEIR DEATH. It’s hilarious, but I also thought it was touching; it’s such a passive way of reminding the people of Ankh-Morpork that there are people who have a different experience than them. It doesn’t degrade the quality of the other obituaries, either, but rather makes them a million times more interesting. And honestly, if I can step up on my soapbox for a second, this is why conscious inclusivity can have a positive affect on everyone. Showing us that the world is varied and complicated and different doesn’t make me feel worse, and it doesn’t make for worse content either. There’s that scene later in this section where Mrs. Arcanum remarks how odd it is that Mr. Bendy wrote the obituary as he did, but it’s GREAT. It doesn’t feel like an insult!

Then there’s Rocky, which is a fucking great name for a troll, y’all. Let’s just establish that. I wasn’t surprised that people would show up to the offices of TAMT (I’M GIVING IT A COOL ACRONYM OKAY) looking for a job, though I also couldn’t figure out what Rocky would be able to do. But Brezock provides the perfect opportunity not just to give Rocky gainful employment! Pratchett gets to talk about how people respond to the things in print, and this isn’t the only example of it. William toes the line between printing the “truth” and inventing it, exploiting the fact that if he prints something, people will assume it is the truth. When Brezock complains about how he is represented on the page, it touches on that “uncomfortable” element that Vetinari reference. Well, it’s at least one manifestation of it, I mean. Brezock didn’t throw a table; he knifed someone. (And you can see my video for discussion of the usage of the word “sissy,” as I am interested in how that word works for people in other countries.)

But then something happens: Brezock asks William to issue a correction that states that he tore off someone’s ear with his teeth, which would surely add to his reputation. William doesn’t confirm it one way or another, but this would set a dangerous precedent. If anyone could simply change the “truth” by asking it to be published, then where is William’s dependability as a journalist? Of course, this would mean he would have to get caught fudging the truth, and it’s only a matter of time, right? Plagiarists and liars pretty much always get caught by the public, even if it’s years and later. It’s important to bring this up because of what’s revealed at the end of Part 6. How is William going to deal with the “truth” of that situation?

Of course, the truth is a complicated idea. It is “true” that there are purist bigots all over Ankh-Morpork, the sort of people who believe that any of the “new” groups of people (the non-humans, to be specific) are sullying the masterful beauty of the city. Which is bullshit, of course, but the reality of that opinion is that… well, it exists. So when William objects to printing a reader letter that lays all of the blame for the city’s crime on dwarfs, who also steal all the humans’ jobs, he’s presented with a conflict: is that the truth, or is the opinion the truth? He knows the hot take on dwarf theft is bullshit, but Sacharissa shoots back that some people agree with it. Is that the only qualification that there needs to be to print a letter?

Goodmountain justifies it by claiming that it’ll take up space and drum up more interest in the paper when people reply. And it was in that moment that I felt that this book had, once again, gotten a little too close to our current reality. How many media outlets do this ALL THE TIME? It’s like Pratchett new that clickbait journalism would become a thing. Or the whole Fake News cycle. Or even largely “respectable” papers hosting wildly misinformed columnists because they know it’ll get them pageviews and ad revenue? (I’m looking at you, New York Times.)

William de Worde is going to have to make some real difficult choices in the coming pages, and the primary of them will concern how he covers the latest bit of news: Lord Vetinari killed someone. Which we know to be bullshit! He must have been kidnapped in that one scene, and Charlie stepped in to “kill” Mr. Tulip in some ridiculous con meant to turn public opinion against Lord Vetinari. So… which truth will William write about?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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