Mark Reads ‘The Truth’: Part 8

In the eighth part of The Truth, I AM FILLED WITH JOY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

My god, THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN. I was filled with dread once I realized what Mr. Slant’s purpose was. He had designed this entire nightmare so that Goodmountain and William would feel utterly forced to hand over over two thousand dollars for Guild membership in the Engravers and Printers Guild. It was absolutely a shakedown, so I assumed the worst. Those trolls were there to take the presses, weren’t they??? Mr. Slant had to have known that they couldn’t fork over two thousand dollars, but he didn’t care. That wasn’t the purpose of the meeting; it was intimidation, both through the trolls and Mr. Slant’s legalese.

And then a beautiful thing happened, and I’m only now appreciating the full extent of what William was able to pull off. In any other context prior to this moment, Mr. Slant would have won or there would have been bloodshed. But William switched the dynamic of the conversation by ordering Goodmountain to transcribe and quote the conversation as it was happening, which is something Mr. Slant never anticipated. Those kind of confrontations had always happened in private, but William’s promise to put it in the Ankh-Morpork Times changes who has the power. In that instance, William has the upper hand, and it’s why Mr. Slant retreats, despite Carney’s clear disappointment. Now, it’s true that he frames the entire situation in a way to make it look like Mr. Slant was “flagrantly” trying to abuse his power, which isn’t exactly that far from the truth anyway. But even if William writes the story this way, it doesn’t detract from what Mr. Slant attempted! He was trying to use his power as a lawyer to take down Carney’s competitor.

In the process, William now has another enemy, and I’m just gonna predict here that Mr. Slant and Mr. Carney aren’t going to the be the first. I do appreciate that he asks the other people working for the Ankh-Morpork Times if they’re okay with the direction that he’s taking. He’s now involved them in something that will only get bigger and scarier from here on out. Thus, it was smart of him to visit Vimes this early on because I got the sense that he doesn’t want Vimes to be an enemy of his, even if Vimes annoys him. It’s through this long sequence that Pratchett explores a very complicated issue. On the one hand, William is getting a taste of holding people of power to a public standard. That’s a good thing! That’s why the scene with Mr. Slant was so deeply satisfying. What if every creepy lawyer or exploitative businessman was held accountable for their actions?

However, William is still on a tightrope, and he could careen off into a dangerous place if he’s not careful. There is a particularly line of Vimes’s that stuck out to me:

“Are you going to print everything you hear?” said Vimes.

It’s might seem like a simple question, but it’s an important one. William is reactive at this point: things happen, he writes them down, and then he publishes those stories as soon as he can. The situation with Mr. Slant is a great example of that! He didn’t twist the truth, but he did just record what he heard and publish it. Reporters, though, have a responsibility to double and triple check the things that they here. (They should probably check things more than three times, anyway.) So far, William takes things at face-value, and there’s a danger in that, one that I think Vimes is trying to hint at. For example: he reported on the crime that Vetinari committed, but that’s not the truth of the matter, is it? He just regurgitated facts, but those facts don’t actually tell the whole story, do they?

So what should William do at this point? It’s great that he’s asking questions, that he’s challenging the narrative that Vetinari tried to murder Drumknott. He knows the evidence is already contradicting the given story, and I suspect he’ll figure out that Mr. Slant knew that Vetinari being out of commission was beneficial to him. But he has to take care to be conscious of what he is publishing and what his impact might be.


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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