Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Will the Electoral Reform Society prevent Yes peer pressure bias ?

To Juliet Swann the admin worker in Electoral Reform Society's 2-person Scottish office. Their director Willie Sullivan works for Common Weal and has long given the impression of being a Labour Yesser.

“If the Yes bias in yesterday’s session on citizen’s conventions was accidental, you will be happy to agree with measures to prevent its repetition. This event was supposed to be nothing to do with backing either side on independence. From the main speaker, it was: nothing wrong with the main speaker. The offender was the supporting speaker with a Canadian experience who came after her.

To prevent hijacking of events, a rule needs to be billed, saying: whenever a claim is made in favour of either side on independence and in the referendum, someone on the opposite side will be entitled to respond to it. Even though this is a diversion from the meeting’s intended topic.

Otherwise, speakers can use events supposed to be about other things, to project claims on behalf of one side as measured facts without having to justify them. The supporting speaker, you will remember, claimed to have measured that Yes voters were more likely to have researched their facts than No voters.

This was obviously intended to make No voters sound stupid and propagandise that the facts pointed to voting Yes, and it was presented in support of a pushily self-satisfied Yes voter in the audience who had expressed that prejudice already. We then had to make the most of our opportunity to contribute to the intended topic’s discussion, without getting any opportunity at whole-room level to give a No voter’s defence to the claim made against us. As a result, that Yes voter left believing she had picked up a scientific statistic in support of her prejudice, and she was not accessible in the informal time at the end either as she chose just to engross herself with a friend then leave. Any number of folks could have seen the spectacle of her prejudice confirmed and been swayed by it themselves too. These all left without ever knowing that a No voter present in the room thought they had missed a big fact when they researched their votes, and thought the statistic claimed was misleading because it did not consider whether voters chose reliable sources for their facts.

My counter to the statistic, as a No voter, would be: (1) it assumes the voters had available all the facts they needed, but facts of big importance to me on racism and citizenship were not easily available, (2) did these voters question the Yes campaign on facts and dig behind them, or just accept claims as facts because they wanted to believe? (3) some voters for a status quo may be choosing on the evidence of life experience, hence have less need to read up on it, this does not make their choice less intelligent. This just to show I have an answer – and if I slipped in claims for my side into an event about something else, you know the Yes voters would have an answer and would be indignant to have it heard.

This is a question of whether ERS events and their findings are reliable, or will be corrupted by bias towards the Yes movement’s undemocratic game of peer pressure. I find it necessary to circulate the question openly, so that future participants and the whole reform scene be alerted to watch out that you make the right choice to prevent hijack bias by always having a right of reply to it when it happens.

As you know, I raise this question already from a position of lapsed membership, because of the unanswered question on exactly where you shared our local group’s voter question action towards the 2 ref campaigns.”

This may be read by folks who never reached the meeting, so I would mention about that too. Why was there any need to do this relatively small meeting as a limited places book your place event? They told us there was a waiting list of folks who had not got places, they emailed asking we to tell them if we weren’t coming, yet by the chance of stormy weather on the day folks did not turn up and there were lots of empty seats without the waiting list folks having had a chance to be there. This was brushed aside quite trivially saying the weather would make them relieved. This is a totally unsatisfactory standard of practice towards inclusion in democracy! the very thing we were there for!

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