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Evidence-based BS October 18, 2009

Posted by dissident93 in Medialens.

BS stands for Belief System(s). Ideologues often claim that their BS is based on evidence, and it usually is. With enough ingenuity you can find evidence to support even the most absurd claims. But the real test is in addressing the evidence against a given claim. That’s where ideologues show themselves to be little more than BS-merchants.

Take my favourite example, Medialens. They assert that “professional rigour” in the Western media “does not exist”. And in their writings they provide evidence in support of this claim – eg cases where “professional” journalism has been “biased in favour of powerful vested interests” (to quote Medialens). So far, so good. But what about the cases which do appear to meet reasonable standards of “professional rigour”? Well, in the Medialens universe such cases don’t really exist – they only appear to. You see, the “Western” media excels at creating “appearances” which serve power interests, and any evidence which seems to refute Medialens’s claim is just such an appearance. This is the kind of BS which is “logically” set up so that it cannot be refuted. It’s closed BS, circular reasoning – ie worthless in a “scientific” sense.

Still, Medialens are big on “evidence”. In a response to criticism by Steven Poole (author of Unspeak), they wrote:

So we don’t just “bathe everything” in mad polemic. We recognise exactly how extreme these claims may seem and invite readers to consider serious evidence that they can be justified. (Medialens editors, 10/10/09)

The “extreme”-sounding claims (which Poole had criticised) were from Medialens’s book, Newspeak in the 21st Century:

the BBC is part of a system of thought control complicit in the deaths of millions of people abroad, in severe political oppression at home, and in the possible termination of human life on this planet

How would you “justify” these claims with “serious evidence”? Well, you’d first have to understand how a “system of thought control” can be “complicit” in anything. We’ve got a “war on terror” – perhaps we’ll soon have juries finding “systems” guilty of crimes against humanity?

If the BBC is part of a “system of thought control”, what do we mean by BBC? Do we mean each and every BBC employee, or are we referring to a more abstract BBC “culture”? If the former, does a BBC employee remain complicit in “the possible termination of human life” at weekends? And if the latter, are we talking of an institutional culture which is part of a larger system which is in some way complicit in crimes against humanity? Could we be any more abstract in our claims? Is there anyone on the planet who isn’t a part of this “system of thought control” in some sense, and if so, how would we know for sure? How would I, or David Edwards or David Cromwell or Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha or Noam Chomsky go about demonstrating, with serious evidence, that we’re not, on some level, part of the system which is “complicit” in the deaths of millions?

Steven Poole found Medialens’s response to his criticism “ridiculous“.