Modern politics is increasingly a battle over the truth. President Donald Trump loses no opportunity to accuse the media of propagating "fake news". Mr Trump’s critics respond that it is the US president himself who is lying. Last week, the Washington Post solemnly reported that "President Trump has made 4,229 false and misleading claims in 558 days". The role of Facebook and Google in spreading "fake news" has added an extra edge of hysteria to the debate. Concern about social media fosters the false impression that the battle over truth in politics is a uniquely modern challenge. But the reality is that this struggle has been fought many times. The current popularity of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 (published in 1949) or Hannah Arendt’s 1971 essay Lying in Politics underlines that previous generations have been here before. Social media creates new weapons but does not change the essential nature of the battle. Those who are worried that the Trump White House, or Vladimir ...

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