A question to which the answer is yes

Could it be that the left is predisposed to exaggerate the power of the press because doing so provides a comfortable explanation for what is an otherwise unpleasant fact – that the British people don’t share our beliefs for some deep-seated reasons?

23 thoughts on “A question to which the answer is yes”

  1. I think this :

    “Could it be that the left is predisposed to exaggerate the power of the press”

    needs to be complemented by this: “except the BBC and the Guardian who have good intentions and are powerless small lambs”

  2. I’m not sure I even buy the premise of this arguement. I would guess (and it’s only a guess) that if someone added up the total daily media exposure to distinctly left wing media (BBC, C4, Guardian, Mirror, etc), it would be higher than the total daily media exposure to distinctly right wing media (Times, Telegraph, Sky, etc).

    If that guess *is* correct, the uncomfortable fact for the left becomes this: “the British people don’t share leftist beliefs for some deep-seated reasons despite the fact that they are disproportionately exposed to our views”

    Does anyone track media exposure by left/right split?

  3. Ta Tim. But this is an issue for classical liberals like you as much as the left, because the public don’t share all of your views either.
    My answer is the Marxist one: to invoke ideology & cognitive biases to explain the public’s errors, and to be sceptical about the value of democracy. What’s yours?

    Tim adds: But the public do share most of my views: hatred of politicians, contempt for bureaucrats, a pretty much laissez faire attitude towards the doings of others and so on. Most of actual “life” as opposed to specifically “politics” is classically liberal.

  4. [email protected],
    But why would it be an ‘issue’ at all? What’s the ‘problem’ we are trying to solve here?

    If you don’t agree with me, that’s not a problem. It’s only a problem if I think you need to be ‘cured’ of false conciousness or whatever. But I don’t, so there is no problem for me.

  5. My answer is the Marxist one: to invoke ideology & cognitive biases to explain the public’s errors, and to be sceptical about the value of democracy.

    So Marxists don’t consider that they might be subject to ideological and cognitive biases as well as the public?

    (This isn’t a specific criticism of Marxists. I think this about scientists who publish papers on how people come to views based on ideology and cognitive biases, rather than clear evidence. On the one hand, I am inclined to believe their results. On the other hand, their results do imply that if I believe their results I shouldn’t believe their results, after all, if people come to their views based on ideology and cognitive biases, and those scientists are people, then presumably their views on how people form their views are likely to be based on things other than actual evidence).

  6. And on the third hand, does the scientists’ work imply that, since I’m inclined to be convinced by their work, I therefore shouldn’t be convinced by them?

    Or, to bring it back to the Marxists, if you are convinced by the Marxist view that the public’s views are formed by ideological and cognitive biases, then shouldn’t you on that basis, as a member of the public, distrust your conviction of the correctness of Marxism?

  7. Tracy W

    I suspect the general Marxist response to your insoluble conundrum would be that Marxism as a philosophy is uncovering a deeper scientific explanation of scientific explanations themselves, this is I think ( I may have got it wrong ) what all philosophers are attempting to do or imagine they are. Therefore Marxism as the most searching and sceptical examiner of capitalism will have a generally clearer understanding of the workings of capitalist society and those who follow a Marxist approach are able to escape the worst aspects of false consciousness. Of course you and I may think that’s self serving bollocks but then we would wouldn’t we ?

  8. @ Tracy W – I’m quite open to the possibility that I’m subject to cognitive biases. Feel free to point to examples. None of us is immune.
    @ Gary – the question “why do we disagree?” is surely worth asking in any case. It arises in the case of immigration because there is such a big disjoint between the empirical evidence – that immigration does little harm at worst and probably some good – and public opinion.
    I stress that immigration is NOT a left-right issue. If you’re a classical liberal, as I guess many readers of this blog are, you must surely beleive in the free movement of labour, and the right of the employer to hire whom he wishes.

  9. [email protected], your liberal assumption is correct. I’m aware that many do not share my views on immigration, but I don’t frame that as an ‘issue’ (which I take to really mean a problem).

    The question of “why do we disagree” then becomes one of intellectual curiosity rather than an ‘issue’ to be fixed. Fixing other people’s faulty beliefs is normally reserved for illiberal types of both left and right persuasions, and that’s why it’s not really an ‘issue’ for me as a liberal (which is where you came in).

  10. So Much For Subtlety

    chris – “It arises in the case of immigration because there is such a big disjoint between the empirical evidence – that immigration does little harm at worst and probably some good – and public opinion.”

    Except that is utterly not true. It depends on what you count and what you ignore. If you look merely at economic contribution, it is likely that Britain is worse off because of immigration. If you count the costs of crime there is no denying it. There are also longer term issues that we have not even begun to understand yet. The public is almost certainly right – and I think under-estimating the costs – on this issue.

    “I stress that immigration is NOT a left-right issue.”

    Well yes it is. Because the Left hates Britain and wants to see it destroyed. So replacing the British population with immigrants who can be counted on to vote to the Left – as that nice man from Blair’s administration admitted – is not a very right wing policy.

  11. @chris // Jul 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm
    “It arises in the case of immigration because there is such a big disjoint between the empirical evidence – that immigration does little harm at worst and probably some good – and public opinion.”
    I am sorry were you in a coma in July 2005 and in February 1989? Without immigration we would not have any Islamic terrorism. Salman Rushdie would not have had to go into hiding.

  12. “Without immigration we would not have any Islamic terrorism. Salman Rushdie would not have had to go into hiding.”

    The economic cost to the UK of Islamist terrorism and protecting Salman Rushdie, all-in, is a rounding error. You can argue, as SMSF does, that migration poisoning British culture and that this fact dwarfs any positive economic benefits; but arguing this point from a quantifiable economic perspective is a non-starter.

  13. Did I say that the only problem with Islamic terrorism is the cost? (Although of course no one knows what it will cost in the future).

    However I though migration watch had proved the immigration costs us money. I know the same people who told us that Saddam had WMD said that immigration benefits us but I think they are not very reliable

  14. No, Immigration Watch “proved” that immigration brings in extra money per capita. Even with their severely juked assumptions, all they managed to show was that the per capita benefit, while positive, wasn’t as large as other studies have suggested.

  15. So Much For Subtlety

    john b – “The economic cost to the UK of Islamist terrorism and protecting Salman Rushdie, all-in, is a rounding error.”

    I am not entirely sure that is true. How many people travel and have to take their shoes off every year? A rounding error compared to the entire economy perhaps, but all crime costs and terrorism is no exception.

    “You can argue, as SMSF does, that migration poisoning British culture and that this fact dwarfs any positive economic benefits; but arguing this point from a quantifiable economic perspective is a non-starter.”

    I am not sure I am making that argument. That immigration is resulting in the slow extinction of the British peoples is unarguable, but that does not suggest British culture is superior. Cultural arguments are hard to quantify in economic terms although I am sure it could be done. However so is the value of rare and soon to be extinct species.

    19 john b – “No, Immigration Watch “proved” that immigration brings in extra money per capita. Even with their severely juked assumptions, all they managed to show was that the per capita benefit, while positive, wasn’t as large as other studies have suggested.”

    I bet they did not. Most immigrants have low educational achievements. They are therefore not very productive. We have a massive welfare state which gives large sums of money to such people. There is simply no rational way that most of them do anything but cost us money. That German banker claims that 30% of welfare spending goes to 10% of the German population – the immigrant 10%. The same is almost certainly true in the UK.

    Immigration provides the middle class with domestic servants and exotic foods. It does no one else any good at all.

  16. Surreptitious Evil

    While you may argue about the rights or wrongs of the entitlement of non-EU immigrants to benefits (and there is only one solution to the entitlement of EU immigrants), surely:

    That German banker claims that 30% of welfare spending goes to 10% of the German population

    this is at least a step of the way to the right thing. Assuming that you can avoid false incentives (such as high marginal tax rates), I would be happy to see a much greater %age of total welfare spending going to the (poorest) 10% of the population. Together these can then be a step on the way to the reduction of the overall welfare bill.

  17. Regarding the cost of immigration in Denmark it is costed at £2billion euros per year.
    http://www.presseurop.eu/en/content/news-brief/628911-denmark-debates-cost-immigrants

    As our population is 10x times there a similar cost would be £20billion euros per year.

    I find it hard to believe that as immigrants are not overly represented in prison that immigration does not cost us money.

    However one issue with immigration is this :-
    I don’t want to take off my shoes on domestic flights.
    When I travel to countries which have not been cursed by Islamic immigration this does not happen.
    Obviously I believe in the rule of law and do not want to deport law abiding immigrants but I don’t want the issue to get worse. Islamic immigration has been bad for this country – even if Islamic terrorism has only killed 50+ people so far, it is still 50 too many. (I know that is a very small number).

  18. “The economic cost to the UK of Islamist terrorism and protecting Salman Rushdie, all-in, is a rounding error. ”
    The fact that he needed to be protected is a cost which can not be calculated. It diminished us as a country. Winning the Ashes had almost no economic benefit for the UK but it was still a very good thing.
    Losing the ability to critiscise the pedophile prophet doesn’t cost us any money but it means we are no longer free. I would rather that we lost every sporting competition for ever and were still free.

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