Sophists do not win by persuading you to accept their specific arguments; they win by persuading you to accept their general methodology. They win by transforming every newsreader into a self-professed pundit. This is the minor misfortune of the blogosphere, which gives a slightly wider platform that degenerates into a vulgar, second-hand form of the narrowest fourth estate. Sophistry thrives on the ephemeral, on the permanently new and the ceaselessly recycled; id est. sophistry thrives on the news. It does so irrespective of medium.
Recent outrage over Lord Freud’s comments is a par excellence example. The claim that some of the disabled may have less market value than the minimum wage is, as the loathsome ASI insist, not the same as stating that the disabled have less moral worth. It’s just acknowledging that’s how some aspects of our economy necessarily treat people. The logic of the market is all Freud was inarticulately articulating. That he is defending this logic is trivial because so must everyone who accepts the capitalist mode of production per se, whether in good or bad faith. Including most of the thetheatrically incensed hypocrites. It should be equally obvious that much of the liberal chatterati care little for the plight of the disabled. And Labour care only for exasperating said plight.
I’ve no good feeling for Lord Freud and would be glad if this careerist ended in ignominy. He is content to strip the meagre protections many have from the forces he accurately describes. Nonetheless, the reason he’s pilloried has little to do with genuine concern for the disabled or antipathy for his beliefs. To object to Frued’s essential claim here (rather than his superficial wording) would put you far to the left of the opportunistic Ed Miliband. And Ed Miliband is the wellspring of this pseudo-indignation. This is a cleansing ritual and Labour PR exercise, a scapegoating carnival to purify guilt. The scandal has no deeper meaning whatsoever.
The media’s role in all this is primarily therapeutic rather than analytic. It offers a service to its target demographics, be they the right-liberals of the Daily Mail or the left-liberals of the Guardian. It shores up their narcissistic defences against an indifferent reality. It does not shape reality, let alone offer any opportunity to do so. There’s nothing so disempowering as fabricated power; the poison of the click bait, sharing, petitioning, blogging press that’ll have you gunning for Lord Freud while you impotently elect his ideological doppelgängers.