Friday, October 15, 2010

Moral Vacuums

A comment on Dan Hannan's latest post triggered a thought for me, as it was perceptive but should be extended much further.

Here it is:
"Yes what exactly are Conservative MPs supposed to believe ? The answer appears to be NOTHING..."

Well yes. Having said that, what politician does seem to believe in anything other than self-interest and working out which way the wind blows? It was always like this, you might argue, but I think there are a couple of big differences which make it so much worse now.

1. Everyone has moved towards what they perceive to be the Centre. Blair started this by detoxing Old Labour, and CMD has jumped on the bandwagon. Tribalism used to mean supporting your party's policies in the face of any evidence to the contrary. Now it means supporting the colour of your party's rosette, while ultimately doing the same thing as everyone else.

2. The death of quality journalism. Journalists used to hold politicians to account. Now they just vomit up whatever press release their MP chums have sent them, while whining about how crap bloggers are. The BBC has a lot to answer for here, I came across this nugget this morning:
In 2007, a BBC Trust report called Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century said: “Climate change is another subject where dissenters can be unpopular … The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus. But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate.”
Words fail me.

3. Science and the reporting of science following journalism down the toilet. Here's a great example. This article suggests cancer is a modern invention as little trace of it can be found in ancient mummies. Nowhere does the report say something like "Of course, this could be due to the lower life expectancy of 25 to 50, since the median age of cancer diagnosis is in the 60s". I'm not saying this proves that the report's conclusions are wrong (although that is my opinion), but there is no rigour anymore, no balance. Facts are manipulated to fit theories, and to chase money.

Which brings me to the end. No-one seems to believe in integrity, fairness or balance. Politics (including the quango and EU farces), science and journalism have become a chase for funding at all costs. It's exactly the same in the US, anyone who has any interest in where we're headed should listen to Dan Carlin's Common Sense podcasts. This is exactly how I feel about UK politics, just change the names.


  1. Yeah, I really hate it when politicians (of whatever stripe) are criticised for being ideological. Now it's gotten so bad they go around boasting that they're non ideological.

    In fact everyone has an ideology whether they know it or not. It much better to know it because you can then reason about it or “debug” it. Keynes (who was certainly clever, even though he was evil) said it very well:

    “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.

    Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas”.

  2. I share your opinion of Keynes, but yes that is an excellent quote, it seems he wasn't always wrong!