When things aren’t quite what they seem

The Irony of Fate is my favourite Russian film. It hinges on the fact that in Soviet Russia, all apartments everywhere looked the same. And that after one too many on New Year’s Eve, you realise too late that you’ve ended up in somebody else’s flat because that flat, including the key to the front door, is identical to yours! In the film, at least, the consequences are hilarious. If you’re curious, you can watch a version with English subtitles via this link.

Sometimes I worry that the plethora of (dis)information that bombards us each day is similar to the ubiquitous Soviet-style apartment blocks in the film. We gradually fall into an alternative reality without realising it and insidiously lose our power of discrimination. That allows apparent truths to persist, which are subsequently not uprooted by simply telling the real facts.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect illustration of this. Facts all to easily suffer a bitter blow when they enter the public arena. So perhaps it’s time for a different approach. Narrative expert Kobie van Krieken advocates a counteroffensive with alternative plots. I wonder whether science is sharp enough to give ear to her call.