Sunday, August 28, 2005

You're Entitled To Your Own Opinion, Not Your Own Reality

Here's a new idea from the BBC: presenting opinion pieces as opinion pieces, not news. It'll never catch on...

Unfortunately, the Beeb apparently considers that simply labelling something an opinion piece is enough to absolve them of all possible crimes against reality, or at least you could be forgiven for thinking so on reading this.

We get some dreary recollections about Britian in the Fifties - the sort of thing that if it was mentioned by a Conservative would have Liberals rolling their eyes and making sarky comments about 'the Golden Age'. Harold wants us to know that we could been a contender, but we didn't take the whole science thing seriously enough. Well, OK, that's an opinion offered as such so it's tempting to let it slide - except that this is the central thesis of Harold's argument. He wants to convince us that the US is sliding down the same U-bend that Britain did.

First witness for the prosecution is certified genius Vinton Cerf. He's criticised the US administration about cuts in science funding, all of which strikes Harold as the greatest act of courage since the storming of Pointe Du Hoc:

The Bush administration does not take kindly to anyone who has drawn a federal dollar being critical - and being critical moreover in the businessman's' bible, the Wall street Journal.

So it is brave of Cerf to risk future disfavour and inveigh against "the stewards of our national destiny" for cutting money from key areas of research in its 2006 budget. That's a recipe, says Cerf, for "irrelevance and decline."

Far be it from me to suggest that all this drivelling about the BushChimpler's brutal crushing of dissent is by way of distracting from the basic absurdity of Harold's point. We're supposed to be shocked a researcher has demanded more funds for research into his area ? When exactly did they ever say anything else ?

Similarly, we're are instructed that even though Professor Neal Lane was a former Clinton adviser, the fact he also served as head of America's National Science Foundation at the end of the Clinton years proves he's non-partisan. Say what ? The fact someone is a senior academic scientist proves he can't be Left-wing ? There are few places more uniformly Liberal than the average campus.

In fact, such question-begging descriptions appear throughout the article. We're told about the 'well-documented readiness of the Bush administration to manipulate and suppress scientific findings', which apparently is so well documented that Harold can't actually document any examples.

When he's not instructing us what to think, Harold is providing carefully-trimmed descriptions of other critics. We're told that Russell Train served under Nixon and Ford, and now claims that 'we have moved away from regulation based on professional analysis of scientific data regulation controlled by the White House and driven by political considerations.' But Train is no disinterested scientist. He is a hardcore ecoactivist who campaigned for Kerry last year. His claims are just a new variation on an old Lefty line: the reason people laugh at them instead of vote for them is becuase they're suffering from false conciousness, instead of being all enlightened like what Liberals are. Needless to say, it hardly seems like it's their opponents who want to pick and choose their science based on whether it's useful to their cause or not.

Likewise, we're told that the Union of Concerned Scientists is both 'nationally well-regarded' and 'non-partisan'. Really ? Here's a free clue, a body that advises it's members to 'advocate, not educate' isn't really concerned with science.

Consider the totality of the evidence. We have a guy complaining that, in time of war and with a large deficit, the Federal Government isn't spending enough on science. Maybe, maybe not, but the point at hand is that this alone is hardly evidence of some deep psychological flaw in the BushChimpler's psyche. No, the only evidence for Harold's absurd thesis comes from a Clinton hack, an ecoloon and a group of Lefty activist-scientists - none of whom are accuratly described in the article.

Any bets on when the BBC will consider the subject of journalistic integrity ?

No comments: