Penetrating the Cloud of Unknowing: Policy, Rhetoric and Public Bewilderment
In a three-part lecture series at St Peter’s College, Oxford, Mark Thompson, former Director-General of the BBC has addressed public understanding of, and engagement with, political and other public issues. These lectures naturally touched on questions of political and journalistic integrity, public authority and recent developments in media technology.
‘[F]irst let’s step back and consider a broader question namely the widespread view that something has gone awry with the character of our politics and the way in which political questions are debated in America, Britain and other western democracies.’
‘I know what economists are, but who are…‘social commentators’? What training and qualifications do you need to become one? Or is social commentator like community leader, an office which involves an element of self-election?
[I]n practice ‘social commentators’ means retired politicians and civil servants, academics in the social sciences and I’m sorry to have to break it to you journalists.’
‘Not in my name is not just the rejection of a specific democratic decision but a rejection of that democracy’s right to make such a decision on your behalf. It’s a moment when moral disgust at what is being proposed overwhelms the sense of the need to obey the conventional rules of the game and…accept the verdict of the majority.
It shares some of the certainty and purism of the ‘values’ debates… in which practical considerations are put inside in favour of a simple, clear and effectively unchangeable position. What follows may well be a powerful individual or collective declaration of morality, but it is a declaration which is made by people who have already left the debating chamber.’