Should a criticism be listened to if it is dishonest or ignorant?
Establishment journalist, Charles Moore, has a column today criticising the liberal bias and, in his opinion, lack of impartiality at the BBC.
In some respects his criticisms have merit, the idea that we can leave our biases behind and be wholly impartial when demanded to be wholly impartial is not an idea that has much basis in reality.
Indeed, much of the methodology of science and medicine requires as many biases as possible to be accounted for and reduced by blinding, if not eliminated entirely.
The assumption that journalists, whose methodologies cannot possibly be blinded, can operate without bias is not a sound basis on which to make decisions about the politics of journalists you wish to recruit.
However, bias is one thing, that can be accounted for, lying, deliberate misrepresentation or ignorance are worse traits in journalism, these suggest an attempt to deceive or a crucial failure of understanding that renders any argument or presentation so untrustworthy as to be useless.
Unfortunately for his argument, Charles Moore does at least one of the above.
On the Today programme yesterday, for example, it was reported that the Government has decided to delay any action to ban cigarette brand packaging. The official view was duly represented by a Tory backbencher, Mark Field. The banning enthusiasts were represented by Harpal Kumar, the chief executive of the charity Cancer Research UK. Mr Kumar made some pretty extreme assertions, such as that the tobacco industry was “entirely dependent on recruiting children” to addiction. This was unchallenged by James Naughtie.
As CRUK’s own figures show, 80% of smokers start before they are 18, while they are, legally, children.
Further to this, the numbers of children under 16 smoking has risen from 157,000-200,000 in the last year.
Mr Kumar’s ‘assertions’ were a simple stating of the research literature.
Mr Moore is either unaware of this, or choosing to ignore it, and this unfortunately damages whatever good points he might make. He is either dishonest, or ignorant, whether unwittingly or deliberately.
Why then should we listen to him?