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Whatever will become of trivia nights when we can't even get our facts straight?

Opinion

The time has come, a fact’s a fact …. if you said Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning add a point. But in a world full of ‘alternative facts’ does the truth still have a place, asks Rebecca Levingston

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Tis the season for school trivia nights. This weekend, I’ll join a bunch of parents dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters in a freezing school hall to test our collective knowledge.

Trivia nights are great intellectual equalisers.

You turn up with your team, everyone’s got a different brain full of facts and if you’re lucky the amalgamation of minds adds up to a bar tab or a meat tray at the end of the night.

Here’s the brilliant thing, all correct answers are equal. Someone at the table knows when the Boer War ended and someone else can name Peter Andre’s breakthrough single. I’m not telling you which fact I knew at pub trivia, but if you read on, I’ll give you a little sign.

I am a bit worried about the trivia nights of the future, because it turns out facts are fast disappearing in 2021. Answers to questions can be completely opposite and argued as fact.

Is the Great Barrier Reef in danger?
Scientists: yes.
Politicians: no.

Is the vaccine rollout a race?
Prime Minister: no.
Population: yes.

Ok, maybe they’re not disappearing, but facts are up for debate it seems.

Is a fact, the truth? A fact is something that exists or can be proven. The world is drowning in facts about COVID-19, but countries are responding differently. Perhaps how you feel about a fact affects what you do with that information.

Did we get too many facts about AstraZeneca? The Brits gave the lead scientist a standing ovation at Wimbledon and here in Australia we’re struggling to convince people to get the jab.

The reality of the COVID-19 situation in New South Wales might change the response to that fact. Wonder how the facts south of the border will affect our feelings here in Queensland?

Head to the Northern Hemisphere and you get a whole new set of facts. Almost 90% of adults in the UK have received their first vaccination. Close to 70% have received their second jab.

So, did the UK do the right thing opening up? The facts are yet to reveal themselves in full.

Can you have a half-formed fact? A semi-fact? A half-truth can be dangerous. Anti-fact, you might say. Then again, a white lie can keep things civil at a time when a full truth might offend. Does my nose look big in this mask?

Not much civilised about last weekend’s protests. Some attendees claimed they weren’t anti-facts or even anti-vax, but they came armed with their own feelings. Some who didn’t attend feel that if you breach lockdown, you deserve to be locked up.

The fact is, around 30% of Australians have received their first vaccine jab and close to 15% are fully vaccinated. The unfortunate reality is, that even when you’re fully vaccinated you can still contract COVID-19.

You won’t get as sick, yet ironically, that’s all the more reason to get jabbed. And wear your mask. Interesting how the advice on masks has changed during the course of this pandemic and most have accepted that fact.

Meanwhile in Mexico, the most outspoken anti-mask politician has confirmed he’s contracted COVID-19.

When I first started in radio, I hosted a regular Friday night segment called Tequizza. I convinced a group of my colleagues to sing the name of the quiz to the classic Mexican flavoured song and I borrowed a giant maroon sombrero from my boss which I took into the studio for inspiration.

I recall brainy truck drivers, nerdy pedants and well lubricated listeners calling in to answer trivia questions. I was always impressed by their knowledge. And each week, someone ended up a lucky winner.

Oh yes, luck! What happens when luck becomes a factor in the scientific response to a pandemic. Most Queenslanders feel fairly fortunate right now. Let’s hope our luck holds out while we all get smarter.

What’s that fake Mark Twain quote?

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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