Friday, 29 April 2011

For balance

In most discussions on the news, the press nowadays are careful to bring in a dissenting voice - no matter how outlandish the dissent is - to express an alternative view.

The matters that they don't are those that are universally agreed - "Mr Jones, of the 13th Century Society, condemned the proposals. 'Everyone knows that disease is spread by miasmas', he said.".

And, of course, those that the press might like to be universally agreed.

[trigger warning for the links]

So, for instance, the BBC uncritically reprints a DWP press release claiming that "most" benefit claimants are "fit for work" - despite there being massive problems with this conclusion - without any evidence of an opposing view. Like gravity, the round earth, and so on, the "fact" that most benefit claimants are scroungers is too uncontroversial to need one.

Conversely, on other issues where there should be no controversy at all, they go to find the most hateful people they can, just to get "an opposing view". Got to have balance, and if no-one mainstream is willing to provide it, then find someone who isn't.

Likewise, most science reporting has some other scientist saying "well, we shouldn't jump to conclusions based on one experiment" - but take some of the worst research ever, and not only doesn't it need an art historian pointing out "Wait, what? That makes no sense" - it also gets a second independent speaker for the same proposition - you know, for balance.

So - this is neutrality, this is impartiality, from the fabled BBC - it can be taken as uncontestable fact, just as it can be taken as uncontestable fact that France is in Europe, or that the A1 runs from London to somewhere up North, that default people are superior and morally good, and everyone else is clearly inferior and brought it upon themselves.

That's impartiality for you.


The BBC gets a lot of criticism from the right-wing Politicians1 for being too left-wing, and a lot of criticism from left-wing Politicians for being too right-wing. This is taken by centrist Politicians to show that clearly it is impartial.

Again, since the battle between right-wing and left-wing Politics is for which bunch of mostly-default people should be in charge, that's hardly surprising.

1 I use the capital P to distinguish "the mostly-default people who are thought of as involved in politics" from the much larger set of people who - "the personal is political" - are actually involved in politics.