The mainstream media are systematically biased against liberalism. This struck me whilst listening to Radio 4's 6pm news report on immigration from the EU.
The thing is, in a lengthy series of reports, the strongest argument for immigration was never mentioned - that people have a liberty (or right) to live where they wish or hire whom they wish. Instead, the pro-immigration arguments all focused upon the benefits they would bring. It's as if Poles were only put on Earth that they might enrich the Brits.
The BBC's omission is no idiosyncrasy. Pro-immigration leaders in the Guardian, Indy and Times all talk of material benefits, not rights.
This could just be a rhetorical device. But I fear something else is at work. It's the media's fetishism of facts.
A benefit, or an alleged benefit, is something which seems material - a hard fact. A liberty is something you can't touch, so it seems airy-fairy and contentious. So the media elevate the former over the latter.
This has some nasty consequences. Reports of the alleged costs and benefits of immigration lead people to judge the issue in narrow utilitarian terms. Liberty gets overlooked. This is, of course, a howling error. It forgets Hume's famous is-ought distinction.
Such sloppy inference is a natural consequence of the journalistic attitude summed up in the Guardian's stupid maxim, "comment is free, but facts are sacred." As long as you don't misrepresent the "facts", anything goes. Logic, and an awareness of the richness of our philosophical traditions, have no value.
The slip into utilitarianism is compounded by another journalistic vice - the search for "balance." The BBC thinks that if it quotes the main party leaders, it's achieved balance. But as the main parties are committed to the same managerialist pseudo-utilitarian ideology, this balance is spurious. Important perspectives - liberal ones - are ignored.
The media's focus upon facts is, however, a peculiar one - that's why I call it a fetish. For one thing, which facts get reported? And for another, when did you last hear or read a mainstream media report mention a standard error, a correlation coefficent or goodness of fit? The fact that "facts" are uncertain and weakly linked is a fact that gets ignored.
As usual, Alasdair MacIntyre was insightful:
Facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a seventeenth century invention. In the sixteenth century and earlier,'fact' in English was usually a rendering of the Latin 'factum', a deed, an action and sometimes in Scholastic Latin an event or occasion. It was only in the seventeenth century that 'fact' was first used in the way in which later philosophers such as Russell, Wittgenstein and Ramsey were to use it...What is and was not harmless, but highly misleading, was to conceive of a realm of facts independent of judgment or of any other form of linguistic expression. (Whose Justice, Which Rationality, p357).