Dodgy Journalism

We tend to believe what we read. At least, we usually believe it until (or if) we get the other sides of the story. Then we draw our own conclusions.

The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, did a lot of work on the belief of information. This is a great article, which discusses his work alongside the work of Descartes, and provides the results of a study: http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/why-you-cant-help-believing-everything-you-read.php (since this is an article about us believing what we read, I feel I should provide comprehensive references to what I say so I’m not accused of b*llsh*tting you all).

With this in mind, we should be very careful about what we believe in the media – especially now that we are closing in on the General Election. There is a lot of good, impartial journalism out there, but you need to be vigilant because we live in a time where wealthy, powerful people use media outlets for their own personal gain. They are willing to leave truths out of their work, emphasise the points that suit them, and straight up lie to get what they want.

Look at the recent Daily Mail headline that coined Nicola Sturgeon (SNP Leader) as “The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain” based on nothing more than conjecture, and a very un-scientific projection of the future if the SNP were successful in the elections. Similarly, the Telegraph released a despicable article about a conversation between Nicola Sturgeon and a French Ambassador without going to either of them for a quote (both deny the content of this conversation that the Telegraph reported on, so the report amounts to fiction projected to us as the truth).

As a species, we are very trusting. As humans developed, information was life and death. When we lived in nomadic tribes, we passed information to one another about things such as the availability of food in an area. We are hardwired to follow this sort of guidance. When we were toddlers, our mothers and fathers told us not to go near the fireplace because it was hot, and it would have burnt us. We believed them automatically because it was essential for us to believe them. Our minds are filled with loopholes when it comes to believing what we’re told, and there are people out there who will take advantage of that.

I’m an advocate of free speech. I like it when people give their opinions and speak their minds, no matter how controversial or outlandish (when things are out in the open, you know what you’re up against). But there is a big difference between this and purposefully deceiving people for personal gain. As I write this, the media is producing something designed to benefit a political party (and to hell with the truth!). And let us not forget that it is the lower class masses that are most influenced by the media – because there are more of us, so we watch more TV and buy more newspapers, etc.

Don’t let the media set the terms of our democracy!

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Tuition Fees: The Lower The Better

Today Ed Milliband promised that he would cut university tuition fees by a third if elected and, crucially (as we learnt from Mr Clegg last time), this would be non-negotiable in any post-election coalition deals. There has already been a lot of cynicism in the media about this, and I am preparing myself for more of the same, but I think this cut in tuition fees would be a great thing.

A lot of the naysayers are saying that the promise is tokenistic, and that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to students. If a student takes a 4-year university course today, it will cost them £36,000. If they take the same course after the tuition cut it will cost them £24,000. They would save £12,000 (this isn’t taking into account other expenses such as accommodation). That’s simple mathematics. £12,000 is a lot of money. If a person doesn’t think £12,000 is a lot of money then they’re out of touch with the real world.

The universities are also saying that this is a bad idea (surprise, surprise). They seem to be concerned that they might not be able to function properly if the tuition fees are capped at £6000 a year instead of £9000. This is all talk. A few short years ago (as recent as 2010) fees were capped at £3000 a year, and they were coping just fine. Now, suddenly they’re horrified at the prospect of having to cope with 6k.

Lowering tuition fees is good for the country but, personally, I think the cap should be even lower. Ideally, I believe higher education should be free.

Up until the late 90s it was, essentially, free to go to uni. But for much of this time university was something that was only accessible to the more privileged, and it wasn’t generally considered an option for the working class. During this time it was acceptable for the taxpayer to foot the bill for higher education. When university became an option for most young people, even the working class, that’s about the time they decided that people should have to pay for university. If you see something wrong with that, then you and I are on the same page.

Why should the wealthy have more of a right to a good education than the poor?

The Nordic philosophy to higher education is what we should aspire to. They have always been strongly opposed to tuition fees. The same goes for Scotland. The difference with Scotland is that they are actually a part of the UK. I also live in the UK, but I wouldn’t get free tuition fees because I happen not to have been born in the right part of the UK. If Scotland gets free higher education I think we should all get the same privilege.

I feel privileged to have been able to go to university. I’m the first person in my family to have done so (in fact, when I got my first GCSE I became the most qualified member of my family, which comprises of coal miners and steel-workers). University is a great opportunity to develop, meet people, and broaden your horizons while in the pursuit of knowledge. I believe it has made me a better person, and I believe our country would benefit from it greatly…IF people didn’t come out of the other side of it with crippling debt.

Cuts to tuition fees would be a big step in the right direction.

Annoying Words/Terms in the Media

Thanks to the media, there are many over-used words and phrases that the British public are getting sick of hearing. Here are a few:

Austerity

A word used by people who don’t actually feel the effects of it. People who do feel the effects of it tend to say “Mum, Dad, I’m moving back in with you guys!” instead.

ISIS

They were the “biggest threat” to the Western World even before we’d decided what to call them. Also, when you see your sister in the street you can’t shout “Hi, Sis” anymore without getting funny looks.

TV Debate

This discussion is raging on. Basically, David Cameron doesn’t want a TV debate because he thinks opinion of him is as good as it’s going to get already. He was well up for the debates last time round…

Selfie

Narcissistic, but we’ve all done it. I remember when people had friends who would take pictures for them. Now everyone hates each other.

Long Term Economic Plan

The Tories know how to put the slow into slogan. Boring. Drab. Completely un-proactive. The deficit reduction has stalled, our debt has increased, and spending on vital services has been slashed. This plan is going to feel very long-term to the working class.

Fracking

This word sounds rude, and we’re going to be hearing it a lot more. Apparently there’s a “debate” as to whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. In reality there is no debate. The people who want it are the people who will benefit financially from it. Everyone else thinks it’s a silly idea. But, of course, the big corporations usually get their own way in the end.

Can you suggest any more?

Cynicism

When I look at politics and society today it pains me to see so much cynicism.

cynicism

[ ˈsɪnɪsɪz(ə)m ] 

NOUN

  1. an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism

This cynicism didn’t appear out of thin air. Several things contributed to the current cynical zeitgeist in our society. The terrorist attacks on the 11th of September 2001, and the subsequent attacks since, are bound to sap people’s faith in mankind. The recession, caused by wreckless, selfish actions by banks and corporations, has had a negative effect on almost everyone – people are bound to be more suspicious of the world around them. In response to these things, the government has been making irresponsible decisions that hurt the vulnerable members of our society while protecting the wealthy and powerful.

The latter of these factors is the most interesting. The government has played a big part in causing this cynicism, and now it uses the cynicism to gain support. Basically, the government gave us a swift kick to the balls and then made us pay them for the ice to stop the swelling.

Here are some of the cynical policies the government wants to enforce:

  • No more benefits for drug addicts and the overweight. It’s all their fault, so why should everyone else have to contribute towards them?
  • Privatise the NHS. People are using it willy-nilly. Maybe they’ll think twice if they have to pay!
  • Stop people coming into the country. They’re going to sponge off of the system.
  • Bring back fox-hunting. Those little furry bastards are trying to take over the world!

The government is happy with the current unsettled, cynical state of our society because it gives them leverage to manipulate people. The government is able to turn hate away from themselves and onto others. Suddenly the government is providing ‘solutions’ to problems that probably don’t even exist, marginalising a few outsider groups in order to please the masses.

But the government won’t provide us with any real solutions, because that would improve the chaotic, cynical, unpleasant atmosphere we’re living in. And as we’ve establish, that’s the government’s leverage – it’s not in their interest to improve it.

Luckily, I think people are getting wise (or desensitised) to this way of thinking. The right wing parties that were enjoying a resurgence are now dying back a little bit. People are tired of hating. Greece have embraced anti-austerity (which is scaring the wits out of the EU). I think a change has begun.

However, the change isn’t in full-swing. The UK elections are only a few short months away: Will the public be ready to vote for change, or will we be stuck with the Conservatives again? Only time will tell. I only hope that the future holds less cynicism and more compassion for our fellow man.