Sunday, November 16, 2008

An open letter to IPP.

By way of explanation IPP is an individual with whom I have crossed swords on the comments section of “To Miss With Love”. Below is my response to some of his recent comments to me.

I await his response with interest.

IPP

I guess the question is where to start?

Lets begin by returning to a specific question, and that is the story about the family on benefits and why I dismissed it because it is in the Express. And it’s going to need me to take you back a while to when I was at the tender age of 16. At that point I needed to chose my A levels. I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to study Biochemistry at university so Biology and Chemistry went straight on the list. The question the was what to do with number 3? I loved science and I also loved history (and indeed still do) so would I go for physics or history? In the end I quite literally tossed a coin for it and came up with physics although I have also remained an amateur historian ever since.

Now what the hell has this got to do with the Express?

Both science and history have given me the skill of critical reading. Science works on the basis not of proof, but of disproof. You read a paper in a journal and set out to disprove its conclusions. Whether you prove or disprove you publish the results and so a body of evidence builds up one way or the other and someone carrying out research will seek to read as much of that body of evidence as possible. They will however read them only from reputable sources. Science, Nature, Scientific American and the BMJ are probably the top of the tree in that respect. There are others the bottom of the tree that scientists will point and laugh at because they have a history of printing, to be blunt, bollocks.

Similarly history has taught me to read about the same subject from a variety of sources. To consider the perspective of the writer. Who were they? What did they have to gain? What was their bias? In short, take nothing at face value.

And so we come to the Express and news papers in general. I place broad sheets in the category of historical sources. The bias is to be questioned at all times. As is their accuracy of course, they have been known to be wrong. They have however a tendency to be factually inaccurate a lot less than the tabloids.

The number of times that the tabloids tell stories that are not simply biased but outright lies is staggering. The “Tapas 7” and Robert Murrat smears are probably the most famous lately from the Express but it goes on and on and on. It’s a constant stream of lies and inaccuracies. It’s particularly striking when it is a subject that I know a lot about. A couple of weeks ago the Express printed a story saying that the scout association was to give sex education to 6 year old Beaver Scouts. Nothing could be further from the truth. There wasn’t even a grain of truth in it. It was totally wrong. So when this paper prints stuff that to an outsider could sound plausible but I know to be wrong it makes me ask what else is wrong in the paper? What else have they made up?

These are just examples. If you want me to give you a more comprehensive list you only have to say and I will happily do so. Trust me though, you think this post is long you should wait and see what that list would look like.

There is also of course the hypocrisy of the paper. It recently launched a “clean up tv” “crusade” in the wake of the Ross/Brand incident. Lets not forget the Express Group is part of the wider Northern and Shell group which also runs the porn channel “television x” and publishes Asian Babes and Readers Wives.

And you expect me to take this paper seriously?

And so the tabloids I tend to place in the category of crap scientific journals. It is possible that there is some truth in there. The broad facts may be accurate. What though has been omitted? What has been totally fabricated?

In terms of the particular stories benefit claims and the cost of those claims is confidential and so neither I, you or the Express have access to the full facts. So when I am asked to take a story seriously where the full facts are unknown and it is reported by a paper with a

1. A history of dishonesty
2. A history of hypocrisy in its editorial stance
3. A history of strong political bias

Then I am inclined to take my historian and scientist approaches of pointing and laughing.

And so let us turn to the nanny state.

It’s a phrase I love because it is such a wonderful example of how tabloid journalism works. I hope you have read Animal Farm, a book that in my opinion is the greatest political satire ever written. While being principally about the Communist Russia many of its themes can equally be applied to many other situations. A recurring theme in the book is the idea of “keeping it simple”. No matter what you are doing, no matter how complex the concept, whether it be an honourable cause or a total deceit, if you give the masses a simple phrase to trot out then they are easy to manipulate. If you are the pigs trying to control a farm you use “four legs good, two legs bad”. If you are a tabloid trying to convince its readers not to vote for Labour (incidentally I wouldn’t vote for the current Labour mob anyway) or Lib dems or Greens etc you use things like “nanny state” or “political correctness gone mad.” You simplify it, you patronise people.

So when I refer to not being for the nanny state I mean not in terms of this mythical “nanny state” created by the tabloids that is trying to molly coddle us all. What myths you may ask? An example is one well meaning but misguided head teacher bans conkers in the play ground. The papers tells us it’s the nanny state or health and safety etc trying to stop us doing what we want. No it’s not, it’s one well meaning but misguided head, nothing more and nothing less.

I would go into more detailed argument and examples however I think that would be pointless as what you mean by nanny state is clearly something quite different judging by your reference to the health service and education. My assumption is that you think that as little as is humanly possible should be spent on public services and we should all be left to make our own choices as to what we do with our own wealth.

Here we must company all together as I simply don’t believe in that.

The world in which we live in and the basic rules of economics mean that will always be winners and losers. Leave everyone to it and there will still be those flipping burgers and still be those working as lawyers and stock brokers and everything in between. There will still be that pyramid. You can not have a system where the most talented are (and quite rightly in my opinion) allowed to better themselves and not have those who fall behind. People are not all alike, they come in different forms with different talents. Some with very few talents. There will always be the pyramid.

In the state you believe in the people at the bottom would have no health care because they couldn’t afford it. If we all had to go private then the likes of me, and maybe you (I have no idea of your financial situation) could afford it but the man flipping burgers couldn’t. Hence I do believe that we should all contribute to an NHS so that we can all get health care free at the point of contact.

Of course the NHS is far from perfect. I know enough people that work for it to know how bureaucratic it is and how there is a lot of dead wood management that could be trimmed from it. That’s a given but that doesn’t mean it should be abolished.

My final point is that I am somewhat confused by your stand point. Do you believe that “drugs, prostitution, incest, smoking, fox-hunting and bestiality” should be legalised? However to comment on those particular subjects,

On drugs I don’t think the argument is about whether things like heroin or crack should be legal but how do you limit the damage caused by them. Does that mean a hard crack down on them? Or enforced rehab? Or legalisation and regulation? I don’t know the answer to that question and am open to suggestions. However their legalisation or otherwise should be the answer not the questions.

Prostitution is different to drugs. Someone taking crack of their own volition can turn very violent. They will often steal for their habit. As such I think it is the place of state to take the most effective course of action to limit its use. Prostitution however is simply about what two consenting adults get up to. It’s not my thing personally but I see no reason why I should interfere. So yes, legalise it.

Incest, given the serious risks of genetic defects and the psychological effects of the incest taboo on any child from that relationship I think it should remain illegal.

Fox hunting and bestiality result in pain suffering and cruelty to sentient beings for no good reason. Again it should stay illegal.

Smoking, I think it is correct to stay as it is. By removing it from public places the dangers of passive smoking have been removed. However it still means that adults can get up to an activity that brings them pleasure without me interfering. Tobacco duty also contributes far more to public services than it costs in excess health care. So leave it how it is.

You may still not like my thoughts, you foolishly continue to read the Express with out making use of your own critical thinking skills but I feel that I have made my position clear and I look forward to your thoughts.

Best wishes

Akela

2 comments:

Rory Meakin said...

“Rory

I guess the question is where to start?

Lets begin by returning to a specific question, and that is the story about the family on benefits and why I dismissed it because it is in the Express. And it’s going to need me to take you back a while to when I was at the tender age of 16. At that point I needed to chose my A levels. I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to study Biochemistry at university so Biology and Chemistry went straight on the list. The question the was what to do with number 3? I loved science and I also loved history (and indeed still do) so would I go for physics or history? In the end I quite literally tossed a coin for it and came up with physics although I have also remained an amateur historian ever since.

Now what the hell has this got to do with the Express?”


Fuck all. But perhaps it relates to your self-perception?

“Both science and history have given me the skill of critical reading. Science works on the basis not of proof, but of disproof. You read a paper in a journal and set out to disprove its conclusions. Whether you prove or disprove you publish the results and so a body of evidence builds up one way or the other and someone carrying out research will seek to read as much of that body of evidence as possible. They will however read them only from reputable sources. Science, Nature, Scientific American and the BMJ are probably the top of the tree in that respect. There are others the bottom of the tree that scientists will point and laugh at because they have a history of printing, to be blunt, bollocks.

Similarly history has taught me to read about the same subject from a variety of sources. To consider the perspective of the writer. Who were they? What did they have to gain? What was their bias? In short, take nothing at face value.”


How educative for you…

“And so we come to the Express and news papers in general. I place broad sheets in the category of historical sources. The bias is to be questioned at all times. As is their accuracy of course, they have been known to be wrong. They have however a tendency to be factually inaccurate a lot less than the tabloids.”

The Guardian has been known to be wrong? Really? Please - tell me it’s not true!

“The number of times that the tabloids tell stories that are not simply biased but outright lies is staggering. The “Tapas 7” and Robert Murrat smears are probably the most famous lately from the Express but it goes on and on and on. It’s a constant stream of lies and inaccuracies. It’s particularly striking when it is a subject that I know a lot about. A couple of weeks ago the Express printed a story saying that the scout association was to give sex education to 6 year old Beaver Scouts. Nothing could be further from the truth. There wasn’t even a grain of truth in it. It was totally wrong. So when this paper prints stuff that to an outsider could sound plausible but I know to be wrong it makes me ask what else is wrong in the paper? What else have they made up?”

In my experience these things may well be thoroughly misleading and inaccurate, sometimes perhaps even knowingly. But very rarely do they materialise from thin air. I have zero knowledge of the story or its accuracy but, frankly, you’re hardly a disinterested independent analyst in my book. Despite the absolutist position you take in support of your organisation.

“These are just examples. If you want me to give you a more comprehensive list you only have to say and I will happily do so. Trust me though, you think this post is long you should wait and see what that list would look like.

There is also of course the hypocrisy of the paper. It recently launched a “clean up tv” “crusade” in the wake of the Ross/Brand incident. Lets not forget the Express Group is part of the wider Northern and Shell group which also runs the porn channel “television x” and publishes Asian Babes and Readers Wives.”


I fail to see how it is hypocritical for a newspaper whose proprietor also owns pornographic newspapers and a subscription TV channel to campaign to “clean up TV”. Again, I know zero about the said campaign, but something makes me suspect it was about free-to-air rather than subscription services. And any clown, even one in a woggle, must realise a magazine cannot be described as TV.

“And you expect me to take this paper seriously?”

Does everything have to be this facile?

“And so the tabloids I tend to place in the category of crap scientific journals. It is possible that there is some truth in there. The broad facts may be accurate. What though has been omitted? What has been totally fabricated?”

Perhaps you’d care to make a suggestion, and how it might materially change the substance of the story?

“In terms of the particular stories benefit claims and the cost of those claims is confidential and so neither I, you or the Express have access to the full facts.”

How do you know the Express doesn’t have access to the cost of the claim in question? What we do know, however, is that the ceiling prices up to which councils will pay for a given property specification in a given area are published by the government. And it is known that landlords and tenants have no incentive to agree a price less than the ceiling.

“So when I am asked to take a story seriously where the full facts are unknown and it is reported by a paper with a

1. A history of dishonesty
2. A history of hypocrisy in its editorial stance
3. A history of strong political bias

Then I am inclined to take my historian and scientist approaches of pointing and laughing.”


Have you ever thought that by taking account of sources which are at odds with your biases and prejudice might, in fact, take you closer to the truth of a situation and that that might be better than simply reinforcing your confirmation bias? You might not like the message, but that’s no reason to shoot the messenger.

“And so let us turn to the nanny state.

It’s a phrase I love because it is such a wonderful example of how tabloid journalism works. I hope you have read Animal Farm, a book that in my opinion is the greatest political satire ever written. While being principally about the Communist Russia many of its themes can equally be applied to many other situations. A recurring theme in the book is the idea of “keeping it simple”. No matter what you are doing, no matter how complex the concept, whether it be an honourable cause or a total deceit, if you give the masses a simple phrase to trot out then they are easy to manipulate. If you are the pigs trying to control a farm you use “four legs good, two legs bad”.”


Or “broadsheet true, tabloid lies”?

“If you are a tabloid trying to convince its readers not to vote for Labour (incidentally I wouldn’t vote for the current Labour mob anyway) or Lib dems or Greens etc you use things like “nanny state” or “political correctness gone mad.” You simplify it, you patronise people.”

Not nearly so patronising as to tell people they are too worthless to decide how to live their own lives. That you, a fucking cunt of a politician/bureaucrat, are simply so much more knowing and worthwhile that you are able to decide whether or not someone else can choose to take employment in a workplace where smoking is permitted, or frequent such a public house if you are the customer role, or enjoy a line of cocaine, or accept payment from someone in exchange for sex, or any number of other areas of life where the state uses its power of coercion and violence to enforce the will of the elite or the majority onto the individual.

“So when I refer to not being for the nanny state I mean not in terms of this mythical “nanny state” created by the tabloids that is trying to molly coddle us all. What myths you may ask? An example is one well meaning but misguided head teacher bans conkers in the play ground. The papers tells us it’s the nanny state or health and safety etc trying to stop us doing what we want. No it’s not, it’s one well meaning but misguided head, nothing more and nothing less.”

In a sane world you would be right. But in our fucked up society, schools are run by the state and only parents who are so productive as to be able to afford to pay twice can opt out of the rotten system. Therefore, the head is an agent of the state and his actions are state actions.

“I would go into more detailed argument and examples however I think that would be pointless as what you mean by nanny state is clearly something quite different judging by your reference to the health service and education. My assumption is that you think that as little as is humanly possible should be spent on public services and we should all be left to make our own choices as to what we do with our own wealth.”

No, a ‘nanny state’ is one that acts not to keep the peace and arbitrate between individuals’ disputes but interfere in their lives for their own good. A bit like a nanny would take too many sweets from a toddler or restrict his movements etc etc, all done for his own good. And yes, the overwhelming majority of what the full force of the state’s monopoly of the means of legitimate violence is employed to effect is done for my own good. Not to stop me from unduly impinging on someone else’s liberty, life or property. But because I am thought too fucking worthless to decide for myself how I should live my life.

“Here we must company all together as I simply don’t believe in that.

The world in which we live in and the basic rules of economics mean that will always be winners and losers.”“


I love apples but have an orange in my possession. You love oranges but have an apple in my possession. The rules of economics suggest we would trade the apple for the orange. Unless, perhaps, there was a sales tax which outweighed the benefit. So – who would be the loser in that trade?

““Leave everyone to it and there will still be those flipping burgers and still be those working as lawyers and stock brokers and everything in between. There will still be that pyramid. You can not have a system where the most talented are (and quite rightly in my opinion) allowed to better themselves and not have those who fall behind. People are not all alike, they come in different forms with different talents. Some with very few talents. There will always be the pyramid.”

It is not yet clear why liberty must be sacrificed and people must be threatened with being locked up in concrete cages.

“In the state you believe in the people at the bottom would have no health care because they couldn’t afford it. If we all had to go private then the likes of me, and maybe you (I have no idea of your financial situation) could afford it but the man flipping burgers couldn’t.”

This may well be true. It may be that the level of care within his reach may be of a level your personal moral preferences deem insufficient.

“Hence I do believe that we should all contribute to an NHS so that we can all get health care free at the point of contact.”

For a moment, let’s ignore the economics of state-run industries and replacing the price mechanism with queuing. Let’s just ignore, as if it’s irrelevant, the fact that the NHS causes widespread excess mortality and morbidity compared to other systems which exploit similar levels of resources. What level of health care should be given charitably, and what ought to be included. Where does ‘health’ stop and general ‘wellbeing’ start? Or ‘beauty’? How should the level of charitable ‘contribution’ be arrived at? Currently, the largest mob in society (Labour supporters) gangs up and appoint their leaders (MPs) to positions of control (parliamentary majority) over methods of violence (MoJ, MoD) which are used against those who refuse to comply with the levels of charity which the leaders agree on once a year. It’s important to remember that the state will use lethal force to enforce its dominance over the individual if that individual attempts to defend his liberty. Rightly so. After all, if it was thought that an area of life should be part of the domain of free will and choice, then obviously there would be no requirement for violence (or the threat of it) to enforce it. So the question is what level of charitable donations should be enforced by the violent means (including threat thereof) that only the state should wield? Put another way, how much of society should be violent and unfree, and how much should be left to free individuals to agree peacefully?

“Of course the NHS is far from perfect. I know enough people that work for it to know how bureaucratic it is and how there is a lot of dead wood management that could be trimmed from it. That’s a given but that doesn’t mean it should be abolished.”

No, that doesn’t mean it should be abolished. Many companies are bureaucratic and wasteful, but that doesn’t mean they should be abolished with the flick of a politician’s pen. But who are you kidding thinking that “better management” can save the NHS from the symptoms of state control? And yes, the NHS is most assuredly “far from perfect”. It is so far from perfect that the only countries in the world to have copied it are also two of the most unpleasant dictatorships, Cuba and North Korea. Every other country has looked at the Soviet model of organisation and rejected it. And yet the cheerleaders still cling to the risible notion that it’s the Eighth Wonder of the World. Time to get real.

“My final point is that I am somewhat confused by your stand point. Do you believe that “drugs, prostitution, incest, smoking, fox-hunting and bestiality” should be legalised? However to comment on those particular subjects,”

Whether or not I believe them was not relevant to the point I made. The point was that you are an authoritarian who believes in controlling people from their own reckless choices by way of a nanny state.

“On drugs I don’t think the argument is about whether things like heroin or crack should be legal”

I’m afraid that is precisely the argument. You are authoritarian if you believe in state control. If not, then you are not authoritarian. It’s that simple.

“but how do you limit the damage caused by them.”

This is only a legitimate topic for public policy if you believe people do not deserve to make their own mistakes in life. Otherwise, this is the realm of society, medicine, care and charity.

“Does that mean a hard crack down on them? Or enforced rehab? Or legalisation and regulation? I don’t know the answer to that question and am open to suggestions. However their legalisation or otherwise should be the answer not the questions.”

Legalisation would reduce the harm. Just as with prohibition of alcohol in 1920s America, criminality and suffering flourish under prohibition. But these questions are incidental to whether or not your beliefs are authoritarian in approach or liberal.

“Prostitution is different to drugs. Someone taking crack of their own volition can turn very violent.”

Someone who doesn’t take crack can turn very violent. Someone who does take crack, similarly, can fail to become violent. Crack is not the problem. Violence is. It is violence which should be addressed, not –in a liberal society- crack.

“They will often steal for their habit.”

Ditto. If detection rates of real crimes (ie, those with victims) are too pathetic to be of use, or punishments too cushy to provide a deterrent then it is this which should be addressed. People who take or sell drugs should not be punished simply because some people who take drugs also commit other crimes.

“As such I think it is the place of state to take the most effective course of action to limit its use.”

Go fuck yourself. Some scout leaders sexually abuse children, but that doesn’t mean you should be punished simply because you are a scout leader, does it?

“Prostitution however is simply about what two consenting adults get up to. It’s not my thing personally but I see no reason why I should interfere. So yes, legalise it.”

Quite right. But this logic also applies to all other currently illegal activities I listed. And prostitution is also highly associated with health and welfare risks. So shouldn’t nanny step in here, too, for their own good?

“Incest, given the serious risks of genetic defects and the psychological effects of the incest taboo on any child from that relationship I think it should remain illegal.”

Presumably you think people with inheritable disabilities should similarly be banned from reproducing, given the serious risks of genetic defects. And I think we can rule out care of children by gay parents or adopters, for example, given the psychological effects of the taboo on any child from such a relationship? And presumably you would ban interracial sex, given that it is similarly a taboo among many people?

“Fox hunting and bestiality result in pain suffering and cruelty to sentient beings for no good reason. Again it should stay illegal.”

How useful that you are able to judge what is and what is not a good reason for others. That neatly gets round the problem that you obviously don’t have a problem with inflicting “pain, suffering and cruelty to sentient beings” per se, and rightly so. Otherwise you’d have to start wearing plastic shoes and eat a lot more vegetables and tofu.

“Smoking, I think it is correct to stay as it is. By removing it from public places the dangers of passive smoking have been removed.”

I’m never sure whether to think authoritarians are just comically deluded or seriously fucking dangerous. In fact, the answer is both. Where do I start with this nonsense? First: Smoking was not “removed from public places”. It was banned from private property where individuals are in employment. Second: the risks of passive smoking have increased. Instead of drinking and smoking at normally ventilated pubs, people have transferred to their normally unventilated homes. This has increased exposure to children, thought to be most at risk (and certainly the ones the state should not be harming).

“However it still means that adults can get up to an activity that brings them pleasure without me interfering.”

No it doesn’t! I can’t visit a pub or restaurant or café with a smoky atmosphere now, thanks to you. You banned me from making that choice. I also can’t run such an establishment if I wanted to. Again, thanks to you because you banned me. You threaten me with theft of my property (by way of a fine) if I disobey you. You will use force against me (via the agents you have empowered) if I refuse to yield my property to you, should you find me disobedient.

“Tobacco duty also contributes far more to public services than it costs in excess health care. So leave it how it is.”

Wow. What a mindset. I am to be permitted to smoke under certain restricted circumstances as you see fit because you confiscate more of my property in return for permission to buy a cigarette than it is likely to cost the compulsory health insurance you force me to pay for? Thank the Lord I’m not actually a smoker.

“You may still not like my thoughts, you foolishly continue to read the Express with out making use of your own critical thinking skills but I feel that I have made my position clear and I look forward to your thoughts.”

No, I don’t like them. Your thoughts seem to revolve mainly around what you want to force me to do and how much of my property you want to confiscate from me in order to pay for such things as you think dandy.

Best wishes

Akela said...

As mentioned at the top of the blog I will reply in due course. In the mean time however lets be clear, call me a cunt again and you wont be welcome on here ever.