If we can agree on one thing, it’s this: we’re living through a battle for truth. I’ve spent years in the media crossfire and I am still trying to work out what to think. Who sets the rules in the internet age? Is free speech really under assault? Is journalism becoming a branch of the entertainment business. Is it the truth we want – or justice?
Like many of us, I’m a muddle of strongly held, conflicting views about power and protest. About freedom of speech and social responsibility. And even about the very idea of the truth: is it the truth, a truth, or – heaven help us – “your truth”?
And so, to try to make sense of it all, we are launching a new podcast today. Its title contains a couple of hefty clues about what’s inside: it’s called ThinkIn with James Harding. I want it to capture the spirit of openness that drives ThinkIns, and that sense of what we’ve always called “civilised disagreement” – strong, forthright opinions that help us all reach a better-informed point of view.
In each season of the podcast we’ll burrow into a big theme. There’s none bigger than The Battle For Truth, which is why it was the subject of a series of ThinkIns with our members recently, and is now the subject of Season One of our new podcast.
Each episode (there’ll be six altogether in this season) will take a skirmish in that battle – a moment that crystallises the arguments – and try to make sense of it. We’ll look at cancel culture, at the rights and wrongs of Donald Trump’s ejection from Twitter, at press conferences and public inquiries, at Facebook’s “supreme court”. But we start today with perhaps the biggest battleground of all: our history – how we deal with our past in statues and place names, in museums and libraries, in thinking about restitution and reparations.
It’s a fascinating, knotty conversation with brilliant contributions from the novelist and critic Bonnie Greer, the Rhodes Must Fall activist Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, the journalist and historian Max Hastings, and historian Zareer Masani. I do hope you’ll listen – and let me know what you think.
This week will, of course, also contain some ThinkIns of the traditional kind, all dealing with some urgent, difficult questions:
- This evening, at 6.30pm, we look back at the death of Caroline Flack, just over a year ago, and ask: what have we learned?
- On Wednesday evening, can Covid cure healthcare of its race bias?
- And, on Thursday, we wonder whether this year’s big climate summit will live up to the hype. COP26: who are they kidding?
As always, we’d love to see and hear from you at any of our ThinkIns.
Editor & co-founder