Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Even the Tory Moon isn't really made of cheese

If an opinion poll showed that a majority believed the Moon to be made of green cheese, would that constitute ‘proof’ of the Moon’s composition?  To most of us, that might sound like a very silly question, but not apparently to one Tory AM, who said this week that “… this poll indicates that it is having no effect on child abuse rates …”, in reference to an opinion poll asking residents of New Zealand whether they thought that the smacking ban was effective or not.  For him, the poll constituted ‘proof’ that the ban doesn’t work.  But opinion polls only measure opinions (the clue is in the name, surprisingly enough), and in the universe inhabited by most of us they tell us absolutely nothing about the substance.  For that one needs facts and figures, and maybe even an expert or two to interpret them.
It’s easy to mock such an obvious example of confusion between opinion and fact, and simply put it down to individual stupidity; but what if it’s not stupid but entirely deliberate?  Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increasing tendency in politics, particularly politics of the ‘right’, to either ignore facts or else treat unevidenced opinions as being equivalent to facts, and the politicians have got away with it because much of the media play along with them.  The internet is awash with opinion presented as fact and then shared and reshared until many are convinced that it must be true.  Even in the mainstream media, in the name of ‘balance’, opinions which are very obviously disproved by any examination of the hard, objective reality are given equal validity and attention as provable and demonstrable facts.
The ancient saying has it that “those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad”; the modern equivalent seems to be that those whom some politicians wish to control, they first confuse between fact and fiction.


dafis said...

I'm not inclined to identifying virtue in anything that Mr Millar or any other Tory, Welsh or Brit,promotes as fact or opinion. However his lack of depth of thinking in this case is often replicated by our politicians right across the spectrum. Both the Cynulliad and that other place in London seem to house a high percentage of people who rely almost completely on soundbites as a way of communicating with the public and each other. They give an impression that a deep contemplation of an issue is beyond them as it might interfere with some of the more enjoyable aspects of their roles, like dining at someone else's expense. So much easier to chew the fat ( literally and metaphorically) than to dissect and analyse an issue and deliver a considered view, preferably well founded on facts.

Cibwr said...

There is an Isaac Asimov quote that I think is quite appropriate here....

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.