“WHEN enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.”

Jon Snow’s words in Game of Thrones might have been about a fictional fantasy world, but there can be few who heard them who didn’t feel them resonate with the world we see today.

Truth is the absolute bedrock on which society is built. Without it, our lives are essentially meaningless.

Unambiguous, literal truth matters far more than whatever we want to believe, because only if information is accurate can it be useful.

If we make something the core of our being, if it’s not true then we are at best inadvertently living a lie, at worst wilfully putting faith in one.

Society should value truth above all else; but is that the world we live in today?

I would like to think so, but the evidence against this is compelling.

The rise of populism and narrow-minded nationalism across the globe has swept millions of people up into what are effectively cults in all but name, their proponents unable to countenance the slightest criticism from outside their bubble but willing to believe anything their heroes say, even if the evidence against it is right there staring them in the face. Like religious dogma, ‘the cause’ is perfect and immune from all criticism in their eyes.

We see this almost daily with Donald Trump, a man who is not only a serial liar but actually an extraordinarily bad one, given his propensity to lie about almost everything and in the face of overwhelming evidence against him – but it barely affects his support, in whose eyes any dissenting view is biased, evil or part of some ‘liberal agenda’.

How ironic that so many on the right in America who revelled in Ben Shapiro’s famous “facts don’t care about your feelings” quote have elected a man who is the absolute antithesis of that simple truism.

This is not just a problem on the right, though, with far too many on the left shouting down any dissenting views, even those grounded in facts, as racist or fascist rather than engaging in constructive debate.

We see it far closer to home too with the rhetoric of Brexit. Indeed, Michael Gove’s infamous “this country has had quite enough of experts” quote neatly sums up so much of the worst of populism: the idea that ‘my ideology is more important than facts’.

Inevitably, this attitude has seeped beyond politics into everyday life. I see it in my job and how much more willing people seem to be to tell obvious untruths than they were when I began my journalism career a decade ago.

We see it too with the current fears about ‘fake news’, by which I mean not stories that are unwittingly inaccurate but ones that are deliberately untrue or misleading. Anyone who creates such content on purpose disgraces the name of journalism but we also can’t ignore the reason why such content is being created: in today’s climate, countless people are willing to lap it up because it reinforces their own beliefs.

We seem now to be living in a world where the message matters so much less than the messenger, where an inconvenient truth always takes a backseat to a reassuring lie.

There are always going to be differing opinions on pretty much every topic and there are always going to be two sides to any story – there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a fact in itself.

But please, can we hold debates on these things based on actual facts?

Or else the world of “no answers, only better and better lies” that Jon Snow warns of will no longer be just a fantasy.