“A LIE will go round the world,” observed the great 19th-century preacher CH Spurgeon, “ while truth is pulling its boots on.”

The satirist Jonathan Swift and the writer Mark Twain observed the same thing about the potential malign influence of communications technology – in their time the press, but in ours a much wider range of digital sources.

Now a lie can travel at such a breakneck electronic speed that boots will not even have been picked up before poison is being poured back into our ears.

This is the first global pandemic of the social media age but some are fearful that it might be the final one of the printed newspaper era. I think that is an exaggeration but none the less the lack of advertising and sales does mean that news at every level is being received and read much more online than on paper.

UK newspapers, including the numerically (per head of population) varied Scottish subsection, are finding it very tough even though there has been some UK Government help with advertising, now replicated for the local press by the Scottish Government.

There are varied views on how much we should worry about that situation but I think we have a democratic obligation to protect as much as we can a free press, though we have no obligation nor right to mandate what that press says or how it is delivered.

The market, in part anyway, does that and each of us is free to buy or not to buy in whatever form whatever we wish as our politics, mood or prejudices take us.

It is in fact not the medium but the message that is important and thus well resourced, independent journalism is what needs to be helped through the crisis not the existing power or media ownership structures.

It is the constant cutting of quality reporters and writers in pursuit of profit that has been a strong contributory cause in the decline of newspapers and reversing that is a prerequisite to survival and regrowth.

Good journalism is vital at a local level too but local papers are also publications of record (something the national press gave up on long ago unfortunately) with a particular place in their communities. They are more essential in physical form than their national counterparts and I was sorry to see the West Highland Free Press suspend print production.

I hope it can be helped back into existence and I want to support in anyway I can the rich range of local newspapers in my constituency, from The Oban Times to the Dunoon Observer, not forgetting community productions such as the Ileach.

There is a crossover too between newspapers and social media. We saw in the last week how that operates with the skewing of what the First Minister actually said about borders, and the strong social media presence which echoed her clear setting straight of the record.

Politicians are sometimes nervous about taking such actions, fearful they may simply draw more attention to a story by seeking to challenge it. That can be a fine judgment but I am glad that the First Minister is doing so vigorously, as she has often done in the past.

Moreover she is using the power of social media as the tool and that is one of the positives of the age we are growing into.

For just as social media can be unpleasant, unkind and untruthful, it can also be the opposite of those things. It can not only spread the lie, it can also halt it in its progress.

This week I had to deal with a local example – a complete misrepresentation of the work my team and I had done on an issue of travel. The lie took flight on social media in one part of my constituency until it was confidently and comprehensively rebutted by the simple expedient of laying out the facts and asking those who had got them wrong to correct them.

It isn’t the trolls and the keyboard warriors that are the problem. It is our willingness to allow them to have the last word and use whatever abusive language they wish in doing so.

That is what allows the lie to whizz round the world.

Putting the truth to work in order to shoot it down is what we should be doing on every occasion. That ensures a future not just for a free media in every form but for its foundation stone, which is freedom of speech.