LAST Sunday a homeless man died in a car park in Glasgow. It was minus eight degrees out. The tragedy spoke to the multiple social crises we face – of poverty, mental health, disfiguring inequality and the lack of affordable housing which ranges from rough-sleeping at one end to a bonanza for private landlords at the other.

In this context the cavalcade of the absurd, the puerile and the deluge of lies that has so far characterised much of the General Election seems even more disappointing. From devastating climate breakdown to social crisis, the country – and the world – needs leadership and urgent action.

Instead we have had a week in which Willie Rennie ran down Ashton Lane clutching a parrot, the LibDems featured Jeremy Corbyn as a shambolic puppet, the Tories banned the Mirror from their press conferences, and the Conservatives rebranded its official Twitter account as a “fact checking service”.

You had, in effect, the biggest party in Britain acting like a disinformation centre and being completely shameless about it. In previous campaigns this would have been discovered to be a mistake, the act of a junior activist and apologies would have been peddled out.

Instead the opposite happened. The Conservatives doubled-down and defended the outrageous act. Nicky Morgan whined that this was a “Westminster bubble story”.

In a very uncomfortable exchange with Channel 4’s Ciaran Jenkins on the subject, Michael Gove was reduced to accusing him of “mounting a rigorous left-wing case for a particular political point of view”.

It was straight from the Steve Bannon playbook, probably intended to distract people from the leaders debate – which Corbyn won hands down.

But perhaps the low-point in the week was daytime TV sleb Rachel Riley creating a T-shirt from an edited a photo of Corbyn at an anti-apartheid protest and accusing the Labour leader of being “racist”.

The image has been edited from an original photograph, which pictured Corbyn being arrested at an anti-apartheid protest in London in 1984 during his first year as an MP.

In the unedited photograph, Corbyn’s placard reads: “Defend The Right To Demonstrate Against Apartheid Join This Picket.”

Riley’s stunt was deplorable for a variety of reasons, not least because the modern day equivalent to apartheid South Africa is Israel, not only because this week saw the US endorsements of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, not only because Nelson Mandela’s son chief Mandla Mandela spoke out in defence of Corbyn, but just because it was redolent of the whole tone of the campaign, mired in lies and stunts, disinformation and propaganda that feels new, even for a generation brought up in deception.

Journalist Matt Kennard spoke out saying: “This is the most Orwellian campaign I’ve ever witnessed.

“They’ve turned maybe the most consistent anti-racist campaigner of his generation into something comparable to Enoch Powell. And all because he’s been a lonely parliamentary voice speaking up for victims of a modern apartheid state.”

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has formerly complained to the Conservative Party that its social media rebranding as “factcheckUK” was “the deliberate undermining of truth”.

This is not normal.

The American writer Rebecca Solnit has tried to pull apart this culture of lies. She writes: “Cousin to the noun dictator is the verb dictate. There are among us people who assume their authority is so great they can dictate what happened, that their assertions will override witnesses, videotapes, evidence, the historical record, that theirs is the only voice that matters, and it matters so much it can stand tall atop the conquered facts.

“Lies are aggressions. They are attempts to dictate, to trample down the facts and those who hold them, and they lay the groundwork for the dictatorships, the little ones in families, the big ones in nations.”

Silo culture, social media and confirmation-bias means that lies prosper. Disinformation rains down like confetti.

Solnit accounts for the internet’s own form of “informational relativism”. Facebook, she explains is now taking heat for its refusal, amid what is supposed to be an informational clean-up, to ban InfoWars—which, among the other conspiracy theories it has pushed, claimed the Sandy Hook massacre of children was a hoax and the teenage Parkland mass shooting survivors were “crisis actors”.

This is much the same as those who, wanting to deny the reality of Assad atrocities against civilians, call the dead and dying “child actors”. For every “false flag” apologist there is a website somewhere.

HOW is this possible? Solnit argues: “This is a consequence of internet companies pretending they’re neutral platforms rather than information organizations with the responsibilities that have always come with that role.

“This is the result of their desire to serve any product to any customer, as long as it’s profitable.”

Which brings us to the other stand-out set-to of the week.

Labour announced they would roll-out public broadband services, which was immediately and hysterically dubbed “Broadband Communism”. Unfortunately for the Conservatives that sounded quite cool, and people liked the idea of a free digital commons, as so many aspects of our lives are played out online, from attending job interviews, to accessing health care.

The idea neatly bookmarks the privatisation from the Thatcher period which kicked off with selling off BT. So we’ve come full circle, only now the Private Good/Public Bad mantra is so engrained that any effort towards a collective ownership is denounced as communism, even by those who pretend to support the BBC and the NHS.

But the demand for debate to be had in shrill apocalyptic terms, rather than argue against your opponent with facts, makes political life just a bewildering ricochet of “lines” blurring past your consciousness as you try and navigate through your day making sense of it all.

Riley’s stunt is the latest in a long line of Corbyn smears, a code of conduct that will be familiar to independence supporters. Anti-Semitism has been weaponised, or rather being critical of Israel has been weaponised as anti-Semitism.

Writing in his new book (Strange Hate; anti-Semitism, racism and the limits of diversity) currently touring Scotland, Keith Kahn-Harris writes: “Life-long anti-racists accused of anti-Semitism, life-long Jew haters declaring their love of Israel ... Today, anti-Semitism has become selective.

“Non-Jews celebrate the ‘good Jews’ and reject the ‘bad Jews’. And its not just anti-Semitism that’s becoming selective, racists and anti-racists alike are starting to choose the minorities they love and hate.”

It’s in this context that manifestos land with a thump – like old telephone directories, full of promises and hope or lies and nonsense depending on what you believe and who you believe in.

It’s difficult, as distrust in media digs in and politicians and their spinners behave appallingly, to know where to turn.

Kahn-Harris goes on: “Most of us think of truth as something that arises from facts that exist independently of our wills and whims; we have no choice in the matter, but we also believe in some sort of objective reality—either a thing did or did not happen, a sentence was or was not said, a substance is or is not poison.

“What’s clear now is that most is not all, that a minority of us think that they can enforce a version that is divorced from factuality, and they always have. It corrupts everything round them and the corruption begins within them.

“Somewhere inside they know that they are liars and that they are imposing compliance to lies.

“There are lies subordinates tell to avoid culpability, but they tend to be about specific things – I did not eat the cake, I did not show up late – while these fact-bullies can take charge of whole categories, as when a menacing father insists that his whole family pretend that everything is fine and they adore him.

“Gaslighting is a collective cultural phenomenon too, and it makes cultures feel crazy the way it does individual victims.”

It’s important to resist this process, and particularly important in an election, and particularly important when people are freezing to death on the streets.

As one of the Marx Brothers quipped long ago: “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”