Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Unbiased Twaddle is Not The Answer

As this bizarre and depressing election campaign lumbers on towards no real conclusion, I've heard more and more people saying they wish they could get some "unbiased" information. Just the straight truth about climate change, the economy or membership of the European Union.

This yearning for unbiased information betrays a deep misunderstanding of reality. These are big, complicated questions with many variables, lots of ambiguity and no definite answers. Even on specific variables it's impossible to make any educated guess about what would happen to, say our balance of trade with the remaining EU members when we as yet have no idea what the trading arrangements will be. The effects will not be evenly distributed, and many of them anyway will be qualitative in nature and inherently subjective.

Attempting to get an unbiased view of such a complex issue is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the question. It is something on which you have to form your own judgement based on your own values, and your own estimation, as informed as you choose to make it, as to what these outcomes will be.

I blame this idiotic desire on a few different things. Firstly the inane promise of the BBC to produce unbiased news which they have never even attempted to fulfil, combined with the legislative requirement for all other broadcast media do notionally aspire to the same unobtainable goal. The very act of choosing what to report is so obviously a value judgement that the notion of unbiased news is a nonsense, which has only succeeded in producing a dull witted and naive population who unquestioningly believe what they see on television.

But I also lay a big portion of the blame with the education system which in it's absurd and politically driven bid to give everyone qualifications has had to reduce every meaningful area of discussion to bullet points, and assess the outcomes by a series of multiple choice answers. People are conditioned out of qualitative assessments and value judgements by this system, and instead believe that there exists some prior body of knowledge which can be reduced down to digestible points from which the correct answer can be known.

It doesn't work like that in the real world. Complicated questions have complicated answers, in so far as they have answers at all, and those attempting to answer them have an agenda. Taking their "unbiased" view of the matter will simply lead you to their answer. Do you own research and arrive at your own answers based on your own values.