That Maitlis speech: truth and facts need no rebuttal

Emily Maitlis. Photo by Gothick, Wikimedia Commons

What Emily Maitlis seemed to me to be saying in her Edinburgh lecture was that there are truths that need to be told that can be stated as facts without requiring rebuttal. A short thread to discuss this…..

There is, for example, a phenomenon called climate change. No broadcaster need balance that opinion with the view of someone who denies this: any alternative claim is not credible.

It’s also true that climate change has been advanced by human activity. In that case it is beholden on us, now, to address it if we wish to secure the future for human life on earth. This is fact.

There are many other such facts. For example, deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda is racist. That’s a fact. The merits of the policy can then be discussed, if a broadcaster thinks it useful. But the racism should be on the table.

That Brexit has failed is also indisputable. Key social, economic and political indicators make that clear. It is evident people are unhappy about this. What to do about the failure of Brexit can be discussed, but denying that failure is no longer credible.

It’s also a fact that people will suffer and some might die this winter if they are not supplied with more help to pay their energy bills and meet other costs. They need help whether that be directly or by way of inflation matching pay rises. This is a fact.

It’s also a fact that when wages are rising at a rate lower than inflation that they cannot be the cause of an inflationary spiral. That’s not possible. So no journalist needs to say it.

It’s also a fact that governments need not balance their books. We have had a national debt since 1694. It’s served us well. Almost no national debt at all has actually been repaid since 1945. And our economy works because this is the case. Just say it.

It’s also a fact that taxpayers do not fund government spending. Quantitative easing proves it. The crises of 2008 and 2020 were not paid for with tax. They were paid for with Bank of England created money. This is a fact. Denial is not possible.

It’s also a fact that we do not need to repay the national debt. Apart from the fact that about a third of it is already owned by the government, which makes repayment hard, the owners of the rest really don’t want to sell it. Celebrate that. Don’t pretend it’s not true.

Stop pretending too that the national debt is a burden on our grandchildren. For some grandchildren it will be an asset they will inherit. For others, the national debt is a cheap funding mechanism that makes their future – even their survival – possible. How is that a burden?

Whilst we’re talking about ridiculous claims, might we stop pretending Covid is over? It is not. Deaths are up. People are still suffering from it. It’s still massively disruptive in our economy and society. Let’s talk about what to do about that, and stop denying it.

Let’s also face facts about democracy. Assaults on the right to vote, the Electoral Commission, the right of organisations to comment during elections and much more are combined assaults on democracy, and free speech. These are facts.

Whilst we’re talking free speech, the pattern of media ownership in the UK oppresses free speech by introducing massive bias into our media. This is a fact. Talk about what to do about it. But please do not deny it.

There are many more.
– Our society is structured to advantage the wealthy.
– We are systemically denying access to the law to most people in this country.
– Student debt is designed to crush younger people into debt compliance.
– Benefits are intended to perpetuate poverty

I could keep going. The point is we need to say these things as the facts that they are. Journalists need to report then as fact. They are indisputable. Then debate on their consequences can begin. But we can’t progress whilst some deliberately dispute the truth.

The fake news agenda, as embraced by the Tories here as it is by the Republicans in the US, actually spends its time promulgating falsehoods. Let’s stop giving them the permission to do that. Might we instead talk about the world as it really is? Think how useful that might be.

Originally tweeted by Richard Murphy (@RichardJMurphy) on 25/08/2022.

That important speech is here in full. Watching is strongly advised!