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When was the last time you lied?

You know everyone does it. A little white lie? A sickie at work? Economical with the truth in an interview for a job? Telling a friend the tubes are really slow today hence you being 10 mins late when really you just couldn't get your act together.

What if your lies cost lives? What if having told a lie you had to maintain it for forever?

Something struck a chord with me whilst listening to the historian and activist Neil Oliver the other day. He was talking about lies which suddenly get accepted and talked about as though the passing of time had made them somehow ok. For example most people I talk to now do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy. Obviously you couldn't say that ten or twenty year ago but now most people are happy to discuss it. During the 90s we went to war in Iraq on the lies of a government who asserted that Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction. We all know how that one worked out. But how is Tony Blair not in the European Court of Justice in The Hague?

Yesterday I was in Houseman's book shop in Caledonian Road. A bookshop with a long history of peace activism. So much so, that it proudly presents a plaque above its door which details MI5 has at times had them under surveillance! Not your average Waterstones then. I was mighty glad to hear they are doing really well and it certainly seemed that way with a constant stream of purchasers. Is it because people are finally waking up to the lies we are told in the papers, on the television, through the radio? Seeking out alternative voices?

I couldn't help but purchase a couple of books (not the best idea when I was going on a Dan Glass walk as I already had two in my bag). First up, my eyes lit up as I picked 'A History of the World in 50 lies' by Natasha Tidd. Natasha is a Journalist and Historian and this is her first book. On the tube yesterday I got as far as Julius Caesar (the great general and statesman of the Roman Empire we are told). Soon into the book I was reading that old Juls was not so good making the books balance, in fact he was crap with money and owed so much of it that the only way he could keep himself afloat and not be banished from public life was to wage wars and loot. But obviously the average Roman is gonna get a little pissed off with going to war so often so Juls had to somehow justify all these wars. Imagine having to tell lots of porkies to get people to do what you want. Insidious lying just took hold. History has looked kindly on Juls but actually let's face it, he was a knob!

I am looking forward to the rest of the book. What interests me is the lies which have surrounded women's history. Take the case of Rosalind Franklin, the discoverer of DNA. Overlooked until 4 years after her death and three men from Cambridge awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the discovery. Doesn't it just take your breath away? It makes me want to punch a cushion and use lots of expletives in the process. But what really worries me is people's reactions to these lies and injustices. How many times do you hear people say 'Oh I know, but what can you do, it's always been the same, it's not going to change'! Not sure which makes me more apologetic, Juls C skipping through the fields of Gaul slicing off the heads of any sheep farmers he finds and stealing the sheep on route or Grandma Ethel saying 'boys will be boys and it's always been the same'!

I often hear my mum say the era of the internet is evil and she is glad her days are nearly over. I on the other hand think that the internet holds a microscope to this propaganda as there is always someone to question and providing they have a voice which is heard then another point of view will interject the incessant stream of lies we are fed by unscrupulous people with egos the size of the Eiffel Tower.

The Suffragettes were considered terrorists in their day. The Daily Mail coined the phrase Suffragette as an insult but like many insulting terms it was turned on its head and became a reference to a movement which took the world by storm. We have much to thank those gutsy women for, they provided dignity and power to a gender completely sidelined.

Now before I leave you today, you are probably asking 'what was the other book Mandy'? Or maybe you are not and are thinking what a load of dreary codswallop this is. I think you wont be because let's face it you have read this far! So I want to say it was TinTins adventures in Gaul or some other lightweight offering but alas it was Fascinating Footnotes from History by Giles Milton. A brief scan gives us the women who gave birth for Hitler and story of Cher Ami the pigeon extraordinaire whose war efforts were commended with the Croix de Guerre and a wooden leg. I am sure he was chuffed by the latter.

I almost cannot read fast enough for these books. The knowledge will serve me well I am sure and in the meantime if you would like to hear about a whole host of momentous lies which have been carried out in the name of historical referencing then I am your guide. A feral animal myself, marching through the streets of London in an attempt to right the wrongs of our collective history and reclaim the streets for my fellow countrywoman!

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