In the twentieth and final part of The Truth, William accepts his new role in society. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
In the end, the news is what we make it.
In many senses, William is challenging power. The scene that opens this section is all about that! At the Palace, William gets a chance to confront many of the very men who (most likely) were behind the coup that got Vetinari thrown in prison. He avoids any direct charges or accusations, though, and he instead reminds these men that there’s a new force in town:
The Ankh-Morpork Times.
As I said on video, I would laugh more about Lord Downey if I didn’t live in a country where our leaders really don’t think freedom of the press is a valid thing. But that’s the power that William has discovered. He can ask questions of those who run the city. He can print what they say and what they don’t say. He can print anything he wants, and while that’s terrifying, it’s also invigorating. I’d say that this could usher in a new era of politics in the city, but I’m not sure yet. Perhaps the leader will adapt to William and his work. That’s not for this book, though, and the point still felt relevant. William changed the city!
Yet the most prescient point in the finale of The Truth came from the mouth of Lord Vetinari. Even if William unnerved Vetinari just a bit, I found Vetinari’s presence in The Times’s shack to be a different kind of reminder. A freedom of the press means that these organizations truly are free to print whatever they want. That’s what we saw in The Inquirer, who flat-out lied, misled, and misdirected their readers solely for profit. Their audience ate those stories up, and they let that paper exploit their own confirmation biases. Indeed, it was much harder to find the “truth” because The Inquirer yelled a lie so efficiently.
But does that mean that William is on the right side of history? Does it mean that by virtue of publishing the news, he has nothing to worry about? It’s not that easy:
“It amazes me how the news you have so neatly fits the space available,” Lord Vetinari went on, staring down at the page Boddony was working on. “No little gaps anywhere. And every day something happens that is important enough to be at the top of the first page, too. How strange–”
News organizations are still run by people, and those people choose what to focus on. They choose what gets top billing, they choose what ends up on page 20, they choose what never gets covered at all. That is the freedom of the press, too, and it’s something that I believe William misses during this scene. Right after Vetinari tells him this, there’s that moment where he dismisses reporting on the Alchemists’ Guild blowing up. Right then, he made a choice: that is not newsworthy. Do we understand it? Sure! I got the joke. That guild blows up all the time! It’s still news, though, because it happened.
Even the most well-intentioned papers and broadcast organizations are still guilty of this. It’s something you have to continually work on. Are you supporting the status quo by not reporting certain news? Are you creating stereotypes? What happens when you humanize certain people while reducing others to monsters? Bias always exists unless there is a conscious effort to avoid it.
That’s a truth. If anything, this book serves to remind us that there probably isn’t A Truth, a singular narrative that describes or categorizes anything perfectly. It changes based on who is telling the story or who is no longer able to tell the story. Perspective matters a whole bunch in this book, y’all. It’s why the reincarnation bits at the end of The Truth are important. If Tulip was given a new life, it meant he finally was able to face what he had done to other people, to see their lives cut short brutally. Mr. Pin, however, got to see life from a new point of view, too: HE’S THE UGLIEST POTATO KNOWN TO HUMANITY.
I liked that Pratchett looked out at our world at the end of all of this. William, Sacharissa, Goodmountain, and Otto have found their calling, and it’s clear from the ending that they were all meant to do this. Let’s just hope they do so responsibly, however. Because the freedom of the press is as much a power to wield as it is a right.
WHEW, I LOVED THIS BOOK A LOT. Onwards we go into Thief of Time!!!
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