How to honestly critique a report

Criticism of 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Migrants' over at Comment is Free from Philippe Legrain shows the correct way to present disagreements with something a document says.

I'm not talking about the substance of the disagreement, but the form it takes. Legrain says, in effect, 'The government report says X, but I think that's rubbish because Y'.

He doesn't just pretend it says what he wants it to and have done with it. Maybe that's because the disagreement isn't being disguised as news coverage, but there you go.

That possible reason doesn't excuse the Mail's own comment piece, 'Now for action on mass migration'. It manages not to mention 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration' once, aside from mentioning one of the figures from it without giving the source. Like the main article, it talks mainly about the other report with the negative stuff in as if there were only one report. It then follows that with Coleman's figures. It denigrates Byrne's figures, but doesn't deign to even mention where Coleman's come from.

Which one of these do you think more honestly sets out a disagreement with the government report? The one that mentions it and lists where disagreements are, or the one that pretends it doesn't even exist?

Often, criticism of papers like the Mail is countered by a perplexed statement that all the papers do the same thing as the Mail, and why shouldn't it be allowed to give its point of view? This misunderstands the original criticism. It's not that the Mail pushes a point of view people like me don't llike, although it does. It's that it does so dishonestly, tricking its readers with PT Barnum style comtempt.

Of course, pointing that out usually invites replies accusing you of snobbery for assuming that Mail readers can't make up their own minds - which bizarrely seems to defend the paper by saying that its readers don't believe it anyway.

The hilariously titled 'On balance, do you believe immigration is good or bad for Britain?' currently stands at 17% good and 83% bad, presumably because the paper's readers are fantastically astute and get their information about immigration from a variety of sources and are not for a second swayed by the dishonesty of the paper, and certainly not because the paper's coverage of the subject is about as balanced as a seesaw with Kate Moss at one end and the entire fucking globe at the other.

That's just a coincidence.

1 comment:

James O said...

Legrain makes a few good points but he's blinded by his own free-market fundamentalism and leaves himself exposed to the pseudo-leftist rhetoric adopted by opponents of immigration which blames them for lowerign wages.It was hard to know whether to laugh or cry at his statement about 'our ageing and increasingly wealthy society' and the jobs'Britain's increasingly well-educated and comfortable citizens are unwilling to take'. the fact is - writing as an employee of the Dept. for work and benefits - britsh-born workers are filling very lowly paid jobs such as cleaners, dinner ladies, bar staff but the rising cost of living is rendering these low wages unlivable - the only workers able to live off these wages are temporary workers intending to send money home. The fact is that the economy which exploits British-born workers exploits foreign-born workers even more ferociously and the only solution is to fight for worker's rights across the board, rather than engaging in Brown's 'british jobs for british workers' chauvinism.