As B and W gets ever more popular, I find myself cringing at times. So many right-wing blogs seem to like us. Fortunately so do a lot of left-wing ones, as well as less-politically-classifiable ones, but all the same, I do cringe. But as my colleague likes to remind me, the left has only itself to blame (or, when he’s being ruder, it serves the left right). If they will insist on being woolly, if they will insist on ignoring evidence they don’t like – then they’re just giving away ammunition, that’s all. The more leftish voices there are trying to keep the left honest, the better, and if that’s a gift to the right too, so be it.
But then again. It’s not always quite that simple. People do have agendas, after all, and can use evidence for their own purposes. So I do cringe, and hesitate, and doubt, and ponder, sometimes when I find an article on a site belonging to the Cato Institute, or the American Enterprise Institute, or the Competitive Enterprise Institute (we should start calling ourselves the Butterflies and Wheels Institute, I think, it sounds so much more important). Getting the facts right is one thing, and using them to try to make a case for profit as the ultimate decider of every question is quite another. But then I shake the water out of my ears and remember that if the article is good on its own terms, if it makes its case, I should link to it and let readers draw their own conclusions. So that’s what I do – cringing all the while.
My colleague’s colleague (Julian Baggini) talks about this in an article at Open Democracy.
But it would be as wrong to dismiss Bradley’s claims because of their provenance as it would be to accept them because of a prior commitment to free trade. Bradley backs up his claims with plenty of evidence, and some of his recommendations are as eco-friendly as any green could wish…But there is little chance of Bradley or Beckerman getting a sympathetic hearing from greens or their leftist allies. This isn’t just because of willful narrow-mindedness. The problem is that there is a wider ideological war going on and in war, propaganda is more valuable than the truth. What people say is not as important as how their words will be used.
That’s just it, you see. How will the words be used. But then if that worry becomes a reason to hide or dismiss or ignore or conveniently ‘forget’ evidence or arguments that we don’t like – the result is obvious. Everyone will be systematically lying all over the place and any hope of getting policies based on reality instead of wishful thinking is gone.
Our ideological enemy’s enemy is our ideological friend; loyalty to a position, deserved or not, blinds us to the merits of our opponent’s case…A tract like Bradley’s can be readily dismissed – since it emanates from a free-marketeer, ‘he would say that’. But this game can be played on both sides: when greens dismiss Bradley’s thesis, the neo-liberals can just as easily say ‘they would say that’. Yet we should judge arguments on the basis of their premises and reasoning, not on the predictability of their conclusions.
He’s right you know. The other way only leads to Down the memory-hole. We’ll just have to get used to the odd cringe.