Has our public discourse been poisoned? It’s easy to think we are in a race to the bottom, where unprincipled populists exploit fear and ignorance in service of their political agenda. In the US, Donald Trump’s rhetoric seems to attract voters irrespective of its factual content; in the UK it seems that following the gruelling Brexit debate the truth has taken a battering.
Given Michael Gove’s infamous suggestion that people have ‘had enough of experts’, it is tempting to claim that we now live in a post-fact society, yet the advent of the Internet means fact-checking has never been easier.
Joining host Geoff Whelan to separate political fact from fiction are Michael Blastland, Hugo Dixon, Michael Dougan, Max Goldman, and Emma Runswick.
Michael Blastland is a freelance writer and broadcaster, who created the popular BBC radio series ‘More or Less’, examining statistical errors in the news. His books ‘The Tiger That Isn’t’ and ‘The Norm Chronicles’ quantify the role of chance in our lives, issues with the public misunderstanding of risk, and the cognitive biases which often inhibit our understanding of probability. He currently presents ‘The Human Zoo’ for BBC Radio 4.
Hugo Dixon is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of ‘InFacts’, a journalistic enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to stay in the EU. He writes a regular column on political economy for The International New York Times, Reuters and Breakingviews. He also writes for The Financial Times, The Guardian and other publications. His most recent book is ‘The In/Out Question: Why Britain Should Stay in the EU and Fight to Make it Better.’
Michael Dougan is a Professor of European Law at the University of Liverpool, specialising in EU constitutional law, the Single Market and EU welfare law. He has published widely on the EU's constitutional framework after the Lisbon Treaty, on the principle of direct effect of Union law in national courts, and on the enforcement of Union law. Ahead of the EU referendum his video on the facts behind the rhetoric went viral, gaining almost two million views.
Max Goldman joined Sense about Science in 2013 and works specifically on their ‘Ask for Evidence’ campaign. He has an MRes from the London Consortium, a cross-disciplinary group of museums, galleries and academic institutions designed to bridge the gap between public and academic discussion, and a BA in philosophy and theology from the University of Oxford.
Emma Runswick is a medical student and NHS campaigner. She sits on the BMA Medical Students Committee and has been involved in the Junior Doctors dispute and the professional responses to government health policies such as the 7 Day NHS, the Five Year Forward View and compulsory NHS service for doctors. She has particular interest in public health and behaviour change strategies.
Geoff Whelan is a criminal barrister and chair of the Greater Manchester Skeptics. He writes a regular legal column for ‘The Skeptic’ Magazine and will be hosting the ‘March of Unreason’ panel.