Should the BBC let flat earthers on?
It’s difficult being a public broadcaster. I suppose that in America TV channels broadcast what views they like into the marketplace of ideas, the proud people of those isles then select those views they find most stimulating and patronise them with their viewing, then no doubt, those channels which broadcast dull or unpopular views are driven to bankruptcy and the market enables Americans to be stimulated as never before.
This is not so in the UK. Our solemn masters have decided that it is in our best interest that the state decides what is on TV. I for one, do not deign to question their wisdom, however, the question of what is best broadcast upon this service naturally follows from the proposition that something ought to be broadcast. Recently, my associates on twitter have been sharing some story about how the BBC said they would allow flat earthers if they existed in sufficient quantities, in order to maintain their claims to impartiality. I think this comment was made in relation to something to do with trans people but I haven’t looked into it.
According to YouGov, 1% of Britons believe the Earth is definitely flat, while a further 2% believe that it’s possibly flat. This is not very many, and no doubt many more Britons believe such a theory to be totally absurd and unworthy of any attention from our esteemed national broadcaster.
Let us suppose that the number of flat earthers in our nation grew immensely over the next few years. Suppose that by 2030 30% of the population came to believe that the Earth was flat, what should our friends at the BBC broadcast then?
The arguments on the no side of this debate seem to be: 1) that Truth is good and ought to be broadcast and 2) that there is no reason at all to doubt that the Earth is round. There really isn’t much more to it than that, the Earth is not flat and therefore the BBC should not invite people who believe such a thing to spread their false views.
The arguments in favour might be that 1) Truth is not good and should not be the only thing broadcast or 2) Truth is good but there is enough reason to think the Earth is flat that we must consider it to be a candidate for truthiness or, most commonly I suppose, 3) We can never be really certain of what is true, things that seem absurd might turn out to be true, how are we to decide what is unbroadcastable nonsense and what is not? This last argument is the real argument for flat earth broadcastery and I think it would be reasonable to use it in many cases.
But, how well does it hold up for flat earth stuff? Is there any possibility at all that the Earth is flat? I may be showing my biases here, but I think the answer is no. Does this mean that the BBC should never invite any flat earth people on? Hmmm, I think not necessarily. After all, up till now I have been operating on the assumption that flat earthers will do something to convince people of their ideas, this might not be the case. Consider another problem facing the BBC, they aren’t very funny: comedy has been going downhill for quite a while and has now become a dull repetition of political beliefs accompanied by an applauding audience. What could be a better way to revive comedy on the BBC than inviting flat earthers and mercilessly mocking them, perhaps until they cry? For this purpose, the BBC could hire some ex-CIA agents, experts in the use of psychological torture, to interview these ne’er do wells until they break down in tears for millions to watch and we all laugh at how dumb they are.
Maybe then the license fee would be justified.