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.
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.