What a tangled web we weave


A recurring story in UK journalism is the exposure of mendacity on the part of some prominent left-wing journalist. Hailed as a darling of the left, and with a devoted following of those whose prejudices they confirm, periodically one of them is exposed for lack of journalistic integrity. Sometimes they misattribute quotation or quote selectively to mislead, sometimes they pass off completely fabricated stories as true reporting. Commonly they use statistics dishonestly to lend their opinions more support than the real facts offer.

Patient work and fact-checking by critics, usually from the blogosphere, can expose a pattern of deceit that ultimately shames and discredits the journalist concerned, leaving the left bereft once more of one of their rising stars. The self-justifications and half-hearted excuses are to no avail. "My work expressed the spirit of the truth." "Perhaps I did cut corners, but it was to expose wrong-doing."

The regularity of these events poses the question as to why it happens. What is it about promising left-wing journalists that leads some of them to blur the truth? The answer could be a simple one. It is that the real world does not fit their ideological view of it. They want a world in which people feel collective solidarity and are content to pay high taxes to have 'society' (by which they mean the state) provide services that enlightened people think appropriate. And they want equality.

In the real world people want to improve their lot and that of their families. They prefer to allocate their resources on the things they think important, and have scant respect for the collectivist views of 'enlightened' thinkers. They are more concerned with opportunity than with equality, and don't mind some people being richer if they have the chance to better their own lot.

In a nutshell the real world itself is centre-right. When left-wing journalists find it fails to conform to their ideology and their preferences, some of them are tempted to lie about it. They gloss over key facts and evidence that would falsify their preferred interpretation, and interpolate fabricated material to make it fit their Procrustean bed. They lie, in other words, because the truth itself would refute them.