coronadiary | 16 March

I probably shouldn’t write that I don’t do facts but it’s true, I don’t do them. I haven’t done them in years, something my friends have known since forever and that my colleagues have learned to accept. My interest in lies did cause a bit of a stir a couple of years back, when, within the course of just two months, I (1) helped organize a series of lectures on unreliable narrators, (2) organized a writing competition about Lying and (3) told my fellow book club members (colleagues and students) emphatically that love is a lie (some were still in the lovey-dovey phase and I’m not talking about the students).

What I mean when I say I don’t do facts is not that I’m a nihilist (I’m just plain sarcastic) or a historical negationist; or that I don’t believe that two and two equals four. What I do mean is that I don’t do things presented as facts, i.e. without any room for questions or maneuver. I (and, by extension, you if you’re reading this) have my Ethics Professor Rob Devos to thank for that. During one of his first classes, he stopped mid-speech and told us everything he’d said up until that point was total horseshit (he used a more decent term) and that we’d only scribbled down what he said because we assumed a Professor wouldn’t lie. You’d think I’d have figured out the world’s continually filtered for and by us by the age of 19, but having someone spell it out for me that explicitly meant something.

Maybe add my love for literature and my complete incapacity to/disinterest in retain/ing dates, names or numbers, and you can guess what I’ve been thinking about the news, and about politicians these days. The latter, as we all know, leave lots of room for maneuver, especially for themselves (you can claim you think people are exaggerating and that draconic measures were needed last month, apparently, only hours apart); the former, not so much.

Afternoon and evening broadcasts are but slight mutations of each other and news that’s not related to corona doesn’t reach us if we don’t look for it. How’s Australia dealing with the aftermath of its fires, are women still disappearing in large numbers in Mexico? And why do newspapers and broadcasts still obsess over conveying the number of infections, when everybody knows lots and lots of people are not tested?  

I’ve talked about this with my husband (we talk a lot these days), who’s even more frustrated with the filter bubble descending over us than I am. I forgive the news its minimal mutations and selected view more than I normally do because I see the people behind it, all of us, maybe, as mutations of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner: we have to repeat the story until it makes sense and it might never, fully. We’ll be repeating it until we aren’t, or at least, less often.

text and photo by Sofie De Smyter |photo taken in Brussels’ Atomium, Belgium