Relativism and the Brexit debate

14 Jun

Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity within themselves, but rather only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration.

In terms of debate and reporting, relativism equates to saying that all points of view are equally valid. The result of this is that one side of the debate might have all the evidence and verifiable arguments while the other side has little or no evidence to support their opinion, but both sides of the argument are given equal weight.

A case in point was last night when the BBC economics reporter stood in front of a blue screen graphic. On one side of this graphic was a pile of books labelled with the TLAs and FLAs* of international economic organisations such as the IMF. On the other side was a much smaller pile of books, (two actually), one of which appeared to be labelled ‘A Man’s Guide to Brexit’.

The actual position is that all, yes ALL, international and independent financial agencies think that the UK leaving the EU is a really bad idea. The BBC had to invent some title to put on the book on the other side because nothing actually exists. The reporter then explained the positions of the two sides in equal detail. The justification is that the BBC was trying to be even handed. In terms of providing unbiased information it is a disaster, and moral cowardice. If there is no evidence to back up the argument of one side, then that side is wrong, and the reporter should have said so.

Relativism is cowardly because the reporter was not providing the forensic weighting for fear of offending and dangerous because most people rely on information from ‘experts’ to tell them how good the argument is. In any field of study where evidence needs to be considered relativism is an intellectual sin.

The most popular newspapers, the Sun and the Daily Mail are not guilty of relativism#. They actually do not present the Remain campaign’s opinions at all, and just make personal attacks on the messengers. In other words, a large part of their reporting is unfiltered lies. This is what propaganda is in the modern world. Tell a lie often enough, over a long enough period and it will be regarded as the absolute truth.

One last rant, I keep hearing people say that they do not have the information and that politicians should provide the details for them. Many are just too bloody lazy to look anything up on Wikipedia or do not want their delusions challenged by reality.

*Three Letter Abbreviations and Four Letter abbreviations

# Philosopher Hilary Putnam, among others, states that some forms of relativism make it impossible to believe one is in error. If there is no truth beyond an individual’s belief that something is true, then an individual cannot hold their own beliefs to be false or mistaken. A related criticism is that relativizing truth to individuals destroys the distinction between truth and belief. That is why so many people get angry when you challenge their beliefs. They hold the view that if they believe something, then it must be true.


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