Tag Archives: control of discourse

Opinions Are Not Sacrosanct

I’ve lost count of the times someone on Facebook or Twitter has told me that I should “respect” their opinion. I always tell them, “I don’t give a fuck about your opinion” and they, like some needy child, will always wail, moan and stamp their feet and accuse me of all kinds of things. As someone once said “Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one”. Those who offer their opinions en lieu of a reasoned argument need to bear this in mind.

Opinions also tend to be confused for coherent and well-constructed arguments. There is nothing well-constructed about opinions, they are the product of an emotional reaction to someone or some thing, or they’ve been produced by the media and repeated without question . Yet, if you use the word ‘argument’ in your response, these people will confuse it with the word ‘quarrel’ or ‘disagreement’. An argument or a thesis is based on reading/study and is supported by the production of evidence. Opinions require no evidence. Hence, they are useless in a debate.

So what’s the difference between an opinion and an argument?

An example of an opinion is “I like McDonald’s burgers because they’re nice”. That statement is based on how a person feels about McDonald’s in relation to Burger King or any other fast food outlet. It is entirely subjective. There is no evidence to support the statement.

An example of an argument is “I hate McDonald’s because they refuse to recognise unions on their premises and have sacked unionised workers. Therefore, I boycott them”. Here, I have not only made a statement, but I have supported it with some evidence in the form of a link and given you my reasons for disliking McDonald’s. If I wished I could have added more evidence to support my thesis.

Recently, anti-Corbynites, Tories and Kippers have shouted in near unison that “Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable”. There is no evidence offered and the opinion is based almost entirely on narratives produced by opinion-formers in the mass media. If you attempt to press them to offer an explanation for this narrative, they will almost always mention a recent poll. But are polls evidence? No. Why do I say that? Because polls are not peer-reviewed and those who interpret the data aren’t self-reflexive. Moreover, the way in which respondents are led to a conclusion is rarely, if ever, discussed. Polling companies will preface a question with a statement like “It has been said that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable”. Already, the notion that Corbyn is “unelectable” has been fixed in the respondent’s mind and they will offer a Pavlovian response on cue.  Remember, these are called opinion polls for a good reason.

Polls don’t exist to measure public opinion. On the contrary, they exist to shape it.

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Filed under Opinion polls, Research, Society & culture

Plural media or supine media? The right’s media claims don’t stack up

Jeremy Rhyming-Slang: Murdoch can count on him to do the 'right' thing

There are many right-whingers in this country who constantly moan about ‘BBC bias’. It seems to me that none of them actually pay any attention the BBC’s news output, particularly with regards to corporation’s reportage of the recent student protests. Throughout its history, the BBC has been more biased against the left and the working class than it has the right: the General Strike of 1929, the Battle of Orgreave Colliery are a couple of examples of this tendency. Then, in the aftermath of the 9/11, old footage of celebrating Palestinians was grafted onto current footage to help reinforce the myth that all Muslims hate America (this ignores the fact that there are Christian Palestinians). These are examples of real bias yet the right say nothing – and for obvious reasons.

Make no mistake, the right’s claim that the BBC is ‘biased against them’ is a nothing more than a manifestation of control freakery. They won’t be content until all the news media of this country reflects their views. Guido Fawkes blog tells us that “breaking up the BBC” will actually create a “plural media”. The subtext to this demand is that right-wingers like Staines want Murdoch to increase his stake in BSkyB. Murdoch already owns The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times, The News of the World, Times Educational Supplement, The Times Literary Supplement and publishers Harper Collins.  Staines says,

The BBC must therefore be an even worse threat to “media plurality”, particularly when one considers that it is protected from fair competition by a state subsidy via taxation. Somehow this doesn’t worry the Guardian, which is hardly surprising because BBC News often feels like the broadcast arm of that paper. When one considers that the BBC overwhelmingly recruits from its pages the Guardian-BBC axis is abundantly clear.

The fact that media jobs (note I said media jobs) are advertised in The Guardian is not an indication of media bias any more than teaching jobs advertised in the Murdoch-owned TES will necessarily attract an overwhelming number of right wing, Tory- voting teachers. It’s a facile assertion. What Staines fails to understand is that the numbers of media jobs advertised in The Times and The Telegraph are fewer than in The Guardian because their media sections are smaller. The Guardian has had a dedicated media section for a number of years. This has not been the case with the right wing press.

Douglas Carswell chimes in with this

Creating a framework that allows local TV to flourish – and without public funds – would give a real boost to localism.  A patchwork of local TV stations across the country would help folk keep tabs on their ever more autonomous council – and their directly-elected police commissioner and mayor.

Besides, it would, as Guido suggests, give us a more decentralised, more plural media.

These TV stations will more than likely be bought up by larger concerns. This is exactly what happened to many local newspapers in the 1980’s which were bought up by larger publishing companies. As for a “plural media” how exactly will this be achieved by creating ‘local television stations’? ITV franchises like Anglia, Thames and Granada once provided quality local news until deregulation forced them to consolidate. Localism, my eye.

When the Broadcasting Act (1990) was passed, the Major government claimed that it would lead to more ‘choice’. 19 years after the Act was passed, it has led to dilution, repetition, dumbing down and a greater choice of rubbish. Television companies, including the BBC,  have been involved in a race to the bottom since the Act was passed. Commercial radio has fared even worse with much of the music output, for instance, duplicated across channels.  Interestingly enough the Act also provided a convenient loophole to protect Murdoch’s Sky which was defined as a “non-UK service”.

What the Tories and their supporters actually want is a supine media that disseminates their ideology and only asks polticians what Americans call ‘softball questions’. They want a British equivalent of Fox News which, in spite of its name, contains very little news and a lot of right wing opinion. Fox News, as Chomsky and Herman observe, is little more than an “unofficial ministry of information”. No doubt this is what Jeremy Hunt and his supporters want to see. Not content with having most of the newspapers on their side, they want control of the rest of the media too.

The last thing this country needs is to have the likes of Richard Littlejohn or Nick Ferrari elevated to the same status as Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity in the States.

Don’t let Murdoch get his own way. Please sign the petition.

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Filed under allegations of bias, Media, News Corporation, Society & culture, television, Tory press