THIS election is starting to feel like an homage to that famous scene in The Wizard of Oz. The one where the curtain slips revealing that the terrifying Wizard is in fact just a rather pathetic old man pretending to be something he’s not. It’s all been fake. Poor Dorothy was conned.

Everywhere you look now curtains are slipping, and fakes are being exposed. There was the toe-curling spectacle of Boris Johnson, caught on camera, rambling like a drunk uncle at a wedding while talking to Conservatives in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister claimed Northern Ireland was getting a “great deal” because it’s staying in the EU’s single market and keeping freedom of movement … unlike Scotland, Wales and England. So presumably, the truth is that the rest of the UK is getting a terrible deal.

Johnson also said there wouldn’t be checks on goods between the UK and Northern Ireland. The only problem is that the PM’s own Brexit deal says there will be checks.

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What’s true? What the PM says in private, or what he tells the people of Britain? What’s fake? Who’s a liar?

In this Liars Election it’s certainly the Tories leading the pack when it comes to fakery. On Sunday, the party placed stories with friendly right-wing newspapers claiming Labour’s spending plans would cost £1.2 trillion, or £43,000 per household. Tories like Sajid Javid claimed the figures spelt financial ruin. Within hours, it was branded “fake news” and a “work of fiction”.

The figures were junk - totted up by the Tories before Labour even brought out its manifesto. To make matters worse, when the tables were turned, Javid refused to say what Tory spending plans would cost. He had to defend himself saying costs would be revealed “when we publish the [Conservative] manifesto”. As Tories tried to attack Labour and bandied around imaginary figures, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business minister, refused to discuss Conservative spending plans saying, without a hint of irony: “I’m not going to bandy around figures”. If it wasn’t so important – it would be comic.

But these are the kinds of fakes and phoneys we’re used to at elections. We expect lies, exaggerations, and hypocrisy. That’s how we do it, after all.

However, there’s a much more insidious form of fakery abounding in this election. It’s not just lies and deceit – it’s an attempt to alter reality, to destroy the truth.

First, we’ve the Tories pushing out a fake news video, edited to make it look like Labour’s Keir Starmer was dithering about the party’s Brexit policy. The clip was taken from a television interview with Starmer, and unforgivably the Tories added in several seconds of Starmer in silence, captioning it ‘Labour has no plan for Brexit’. In reality, there was no silence and Starmer fully answered the question posed to him.

The Tory press office, however, doubled down, disputing what every voter in Britain had seen with their own eyes. “Believe it or not,” the party said, “this car crash interview did really take place.”

No. It. Didn’t.

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There’s something very Orwellian about doctoring videos. It’s Stalinist to attempt to control and distort the truth by physically manipulating a piece of media, like a TV interview. Speaking of Stalin, we should remember that Johnson has just claimed Jeremy Corbyn has a view of the rich “not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks”. As a reminder, the Kulaks were wealthy peasants. Stalin called for them “to be liquidated as a class”. The death toll varies between 700,000 and six million.

There was more media manipulation at the launch of the Tory election campaign. The images released to the public showed what looked like Johnson surrounded by a crowd. However, an accurate picture of the venue where the event took placed showed the hall nearly empty.

The cropped image purporting to show Johnson mobbed by supporters appeared on the front pages. The Telegraph said: “Boris Johnson ended the evening engulfed by young Tory fans all chanting his name.” Of course, the sentence should have included the words “in a hall three-quarters empty”.

It was straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook. When Trump was sworn in as president, the White House claimed it was the largest inauguration ever. It wasn’t. The row coined the phrase ‘alternative facts’.

Professional journalism is being damaged by this tsunami of fakery. Broadcaster Andrew Neil retweeted a doctored video seeming to show the SNP’s Ian Blackford flustered about the NHS. Neil later deleted it.

We aren’t just under attack from fakes within our political system, we’re in grave danger of fakes from without too. The Conservatives are accused of blocking a report into Kremlin interference in British democracy because it names nine wealthy Russians who donated to the Tories.

The government has delayed making the Intelligence and Security Committee report public. There have been calls for it to be released prior to the election. One of those reportedly named in the document is Alexander Temerko, who worked for Russia’s defence ministry. Temerko calls Johnson his “friend” and gave the Tory Party £1.2m over the past seven years.

Labour’s Emily Thornberry has raised questions about Johnson’s powerful advisor Dominic Cummings and his connections to Russia, as well as the level of his security vetting.

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Academics have found thousands of fake social media accounts following Scottish politicians, including Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and Jo Swinson. One report claimed the First Minister could have up to 73,000 fake followers. Up to one in seven accounts following politicians could be phoney. Many are bots linked to countries like Russia and state-run disinformation campaigns.

Facebook, which said it would allow the doctored Keir Starmer video on its site, has made clear it will permit politicians to run false ads – aka lies. The policy is championed by former LibDem deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, now a Facebook executive.

People lie to you because they know the truth is against them. The Tories are pumping out lies as that’s all they’ve got. But this wave of fakery isn’t just desperate politicking. We’re in a new realm of organised, digitised deceit. Democracy can’t survive without truth. Yet, we’re at risk of lies seeping so deeply into our culture than we cannot determine fiction from fact. When that happens we really won’t be in Kansas anymore.