Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What we know and what we don't know

Tom at Lets Be Sensible says that it's not important that everyone should have a firm view on every topic. He links to a nice little piece from Monday's Thunderer making the same point:

"Lest any in the seats of operational power think it prudent to "bow to public opinion", they might also care to remember that, these days. that may mean little more than which salaried lobbyist did the cutest turn on You and Yours*..."

I couldn't agree more. In fact, I'd go further. I'd argue that we have a moral obligation to express uncertainty where we don't have demonstrable insight. I could even take the opportunity to come up with a crude argument on how representative democracy is dependent upon elected representatives acting as jurors, and the rest of us as expert witnesses.

Given the awful standard of commentary and reportage in the mainstream media, Blogging provides a process of natural selection that should improve the quality of those witnesses. That's the theory, anyway.

But I won't labour this point now because you're probably not completely recovered from *mas yet.

Continuing with the agreeing with Tom theme though, he's absolutely right (in the same post) about BBC Radio 4's 'Who Runs Britain' series. It was a thoroughly irritating project, and it seemed to provide a test-tube example of just how crap the level of public debate is in this country.

We were offered a set of choices from the canon of lazy journalistic obsessions, and then the public were invited to vote on them. I doubt if the majority of voters who chose the 'winner' would have voted any differently, no matter what arguments were on offer. Another illustration of how perverse Direct Democracy is.

The sooner the media tire of these polls, the better.

There are plenty of people who are keen to lay this at the feet of the BBC - that Auntie is somehow biased, or that she has a particular agenda. I'd suggest that the blame should be spread much more widely: The standard of British journalism has caught a terrible cold that has made it lazy and dysfunctional. It needs some particularly nasty-tasting medicine to get it back on its feet again.

And the BBC has largely caught that cold from the print media.

(*for non-UK readers, You and Yours is a BBC Radio 4 consumer affairs programme)

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