I've spent the last day or so in a blizzard of moderation over at Liberal Democrat Voice for having the temerity to suggest that, rather than rush to judgement, it might be better to wait for the facts to emerge. As for the suggestion that the media might not always be unbiased or even factually accurate, and that a range of sources might help in reaching one's opinion...
And yet, in the real world, plenty of people are perfectly capable of jumping to a conclusion based on something which fits with their biases, conscious or sub-conscious. That is, I suppose, normal. After all, in our busy lives, who has time amidst work, families, housework and all those other things to find out more? We effectively trust our media to be reasonably accurate, even as we acknowledge their biases.
Except that we don't, when asked the direct question about levels of trust in journalists. Depending on which polling company is asking the question, only about 1 in 5 of us trust them. So, why is it that too many people who comment on political websites will start from the presumption that the story they have read, or use in support of their argument is true, accurate and without spin? And why are they so dogmatic about it, to the point of surprising levels of anger, aggressiveness and downright rudeness towards anyone who might have the audacity not to agree with them?
It seems to work for them, I must say. That said, whilst they tend to dominate any debate in which they participate, they appear increasingly to be talking to (shouting at?) just each other.
I also find myself bemused by the persistence of non-Liberal Democrats who seem to have remarkable amounts of free time to find Liberal Democrats to abuse. I understand that they're angry, but given their assumption that we're all morally bankrupt and operate in an ethical vacuum, what makes them think that we're suddenly going to conclude, "You know, Steve's right, I am ethically and morally loathsome, I think I'll give up any interest in society and play gin rummy and engage a seven year old to clean my chimney instead."? It seems somewhat unlikely, wouldn't you say?
I'm not under any illusion as to the popularity of liberal democracy as a political philosophy. It is, self-evidently, demonstrated by the absence of a wholly Liberal, or Liberal Democrat government since 1911, and the status quo has some pretty enthusiastic, and motivated, supporters.
I'd like to think though that, given the chance, and a fair hearing, people could lend us their support. I'm not likely to achieve that by standing on doorsteps, aggressively challenging people's integrity and morality.
So, why does the internet seem different?