In the thirteenth part of The Truth, William is confronted. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of cissexism, specifically transmisogyny.
I’ve been having a number of conversations lately – both because of these reviews and life events – about the frustration that surrounds constructed narratives. The scene at the beginning of this section of The Truth is such a powerful example of that frustration. The people who read The Inquirer not only believe what they are told, but they begin to construct this whole worldview that prevents them from ever questioning the thing they were told in the first place.
The example given here revolves around a fire that The Times reported on. It was obvious that Mr. Hardy had accidentally lit himself on fire, yet The Inquirer made it out to be a Mystery Fire, one that got people convinced that they’d been lied to. It’s a manipulative way of making people feel special, like they were smart enough to realize that they were being lied to. (The irony being, of course, that this all started off with a lie anyway.) So when William tries to report on a fire the next day, this happens:
On making gentle inquiries of a family watching disconsolately as the smoke from the fire was turned to steam, William ascertained that the blaze had been mysteriously caused by mysterious spontaneous combustion in an overflowing mysterious chip pan full of boiling fat.
Now, they could have lied in order to protect themselves from embarrassment over causing their own fire. Even then, why choose the spontaneous combustion angle? Either they exploited it to make themselves part of this narrative, or they began to believe it to make themselves part of this narrative. Nothing is challenged, nothing is questioned, and the world is pushed just a little bit further into the reality described by The Inquirer. So how do you combat that? How do you convince people that what they’ve told themselves is wrong? It’s such a frustrating position to be in, and even William lacks a real solution.
On top of that, William’s got to deal with the undeniable reality of Ankh-Morpork logic. Sometimes it’s funny, but it can also be deeply troubling, like when half the city brings in any ol’ animal they can find in order to claim the reward for finding Vetinari’s dog. (BLESS THE PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT IN THE WRONG SPECIES, especially the person with the parrot.) So you’ve got a populace who is prone to their own special logic and believing the nonsense that the Inquirer peddles.
As if that’s not enough, Pin and Tulip show up to attempt to find the Patrician’s dog. I had hoped that their awful disguises wouldn’t devolve into jokes about men in dresses, but yet again, Pratchett had to say something. This isn’t even the first time he’s made the joke about the size of someone’s hands in this context! So you can’t even claim he’s being original about the transmisogyny. That aside (and seriously, it’s real hard to put that aside), I did enjoy this section for Otto’s role in everything. His new method of reviving himself was brilliant, but I also love that he’s taking a bigger part in the paper. He is the main reason that Pin and Tulip abandoned the shack, too, since he was able to distract them using his dark light flash. There’s a hint of another conflict here, since the dwarfs are pissed that Otto continues to experiment with dark light, but I’m unsure where this might be leading to. I’m paying attention, though! This dark light stuff wouldn’t be mentioned as much as it has if it weren’t important, y’all.
AND NOW I NEED THE NEXT SECTION BECAUSE I WANT TO KNOW WHAT VIMES’S ANSWER IS TO WILLIAM’S QUESTION.
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