In the wake of Brexit and the up and coming Presidential election in USA, a few words on knowing where your sources come from should prove valuable. Britain’s decision to leave the EU was one that engaged a huge audience and many different people had their own opinions. There were numerous articles from ne
wspaper outlets, speeches from various important politicians and hundreds of thousands of Facebook posts. All of these people are entitled to their opinion and they all provided useful insights to the large political debate.

However, it is important not to simplnewspaper-insidey read their message and take it at face value. With so much information and different views, it is important to pin down who has said what and why they have said it. Delving deeper into who has provided these opinions can provide valuable information and give you a more informed picture of the debate. From this better informed picture of who is holding what view, a person can go on to understand differing views’ arguments and make decisions from better positions. A few brief examples should help to elaborate why this is a useful practice.

Daily Mail:

  • This UK tabloid newspaper is aligned to the Conservative party.
  • This means that all of their articles are likely to have the aim of endorsing right-wing views or may aim to discredit left-wing politicians.
  • For example, an article could be demeaning a politician for something other than their political views  This is with the intent of  discrediting their ability to affectively lead a constituency, party or country.

Russel Brand:

  • Russel Brand’s recent entrance into political activism is staunchly anti-capitalist and critical of existing politics.
  • His Trews youtube videos and writing will reflect his anti-capitalist agenda.
  • So, in his latest video Brand criticises both Trump and Clinton’s views, portraying his negative view of the existing political powers.

Myself:

  • As a recent graduate from humanities I am more likely to favour liberalism.
  • When I write an article or have political conversations with people, I am more likely to favour equality and freedom.
  • So, an article I write will favour the view that everyone has a right to live their own life, have their own views and make their own choices.

Whilst understanding what viewpoint an organisation or person may be coming from is important in increasing our awareness of a discussion, it does not mean we should use it as ammunition to detract from their argument. This is called argumentum ad hominem. For example, Harry could be arguing that we should consider becoming vegetarian and in the process raise some great points about the environment and the sentience of various animals. Ben could retort saying we shouldn’t listen to Harry as he eats meat and is a hypocrite. Harry has put forward good reasons for becoming a vegetarian and discrediting the argument for his still eating meat is irrelevant. Whilst Harry is giving the argument, it should be considered as separate from Harry and should be analysed separately. This article similarly aims to discredit Brand’s anti-capitalist arguments by highlighting his recent expenditure on a house. Discrediting the messenger of an argument gets debates and discussions nowhere.

In some cases, the political stance or opinion a person/entity holds will be very obvious. For example, Hilary Clinton favours a Democratic stance and Donal Trump favours a Republican one. However, some newspapers and individuals’ views on these matters may not be widely well known. After engaging with say, a celebrity’s opinion on a matter, understand where their political or philosophical allegiance lies. This leaves you informed and far less likely to take their word as gospel purely due to their stardom.

So, when we are presented with a political opinion or argument, we should try to understand the source as much as possible. This understanding of who/what they are and the political stance they hold will help inform us and give us a further ability to analyse information. From here, we can also better picture what argument aligns with what side of an debate. In times of great political debates that will affect us all heavily, simple tools such as this can help us make decisions that are well thought out and aligned to our own true opinions.

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