Monday, May 09, 2016

Sometimes the Press has a lot to answer for ...

There are times when I despair of the British media.

Their favourite trick, deployed both as a means of stirring up interest and as a means of sabotaging causes of people they do not favour, is to take an opinion which someone has expressed in moderate and reasonable, or at least defensible, language, and headline a parody of that view in the most absurdly exaggerated form.

They've done this at various stages to both sides of the EU debate: they have been doing it to the Prime Minister today,

No, David Cameron did NOT say that Germany would invade Poland on June 24th if Britain votes for Brexit the day before.

Nor did he say that Putin will nuke Ukraine immediately after Britain votes to leave.

He did not even say that a Leave vote would make World War III much more likely.

But you wouldn't think that from the newspaper headlines this morning.

Hence just about every Leave supporter in the country has been either saying that Project Fear has reached ridiculous levels or that the PM has totally lost the plot.

Which, if David Cameron had actually expressed his opinions in the extreme form which half the media has been suggesting, might have been a reasonable response.

But he didn't come anywhere near to using such ridiculous language..

While I regard NATO and the nuclear deterrent as having played a far more important role in protecting peace in Europe than the EU, the opinion which the PM actually did express, also supported here by two former soldiers who are now Tory and Labour MPs, that the EU has made a contribution to keeping the peace, a view shared by a number of senior generals and security experts, is a far more reasonable opinion than the caricature in the headlines.

Incidentally, I'm not quoting people like General Sir Michael Jackson to try to suggest that this means that the debate is settled and nobody is allowed to disagree. There are experts on both sides and we are all entitled to our opinion. What I'm pointing out is simply that the PM has not gone bonkers, and the opinions he actually expressed, which are much more nuanced and less alarmist than the headlines, are shared by many other people including a lot of experts.


Let's look at the language the PM actually used.

"Isolationism has never served this country well. Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it."

"The serried rows of white headstones in lovingly tended Commonwealth war graves stand in silent witness to the price this country has paid to help restore peace and order to Europe. Can we be so sure that peace and stability on our continent are assured beyond any shadow of doubt? Is that a risk worth taking? I would never be so rash as to make that assumption."

Now that is not the same as "Brexit will raise risk of world war," which is the opinion attributed to the PM by one front page headline today. It just isn't.

Nor is it equivalent to "Leaving EU could bring war" as another paper's front page shouted this morning.

In my humble opinion it would be perfectly possible for someone who was planning to vote for "Leave" to agree with every word quoted above from the Prime Minister's speech, but treat this as an argument for saying that a post-Brexit UK should not pursue isolationist policies rather than an argument for "Remain."

4 comments:

Jim said...

Bias by omission is by far the larger charge for the press to be honest.

Chris Whiteside said...

Yes, I agree with you on that.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

even Cookie Monster seems to under stand the media and their "out of proportion" tendencies.