Last night I thought I’d be incredibly sad and watch as much as I could of the final Guild Council of the academic year being streamed from GuildTV. I missed most of the first half of the meeting (most of the motions and preamble) due to work. What I did catch was primarily the Guild Officers leaving speeches and I’ll say this now. After listening to the speeches I respect all the Guild Officers so much more (but no change on actual agree and disagreement with them). Probably the most thought provoking and even moving speech was the outgoing Guild President’s, Mark Harrop. I do believe he will have a fair fewer ‘haters’ after last night. Though there was one area of the speech that I did find a problem with, the not so ever present “silent majority”.
I’d like to nip this in the bud now. To say this is a personal attack on Mark (as some short-sighted individuals claimed my tweet from last night regarding this claimed to be) would be hugely misleading and would be over-flattering of our outgoing Guild President. There’s a very small select group of individuals I feel comfortable attacking personally and Mark certainly doesn’t feature as one. As someone who genuinely cares in determining what is true I find it entirely comfortable criticising absolutely any idea. I find it entirely reasonable to point out to individuals when they believe the wrong ideas (given the right circumstances) they are then able to recognise their mistakes, because we are all stupid on issues at some point in our lives. I’m incredibly stupid when it comes to understanding cricket, art, pop culture references and popular music. As I’ve already said, I have a great deal more respect for the outgoing President and all the other outgoing Sabbs after last night. Mentioning Mark in my tweet and this post is not a personal attack as some individuals may claim, it is an attempt to make him and many others realise the flaws in the idea of the “silent majority”.
Moving on, the “silent majority” idea invokes my own personal love/hate fallacy of argumentum ad populum. In a nutshell, the level of popular support has absolutely no bearing on what is right or wrong, true or false. If we’d always bend to the will of the “silent majority” homosexuality would not have been decriminalised in the UK in the 1960s and desegregation in Southern US Schools in the 1950s would have also never have happened. Or at least without it, introduced both far too sooner.
You may ask how this is relevant to the wider Labour party, NOLS and BULS. Sadly far too much. Too often do I hear 60% believe x, 80% support y. So what?! This has no absolutely no bearing on the truth! This personal distaste for argumentum ad populum has been particularly tested over the Diamond Jubilee and to be honest, I’m becoming incredibly tired of hearing it. More often than not, the “silent majority” fallacy is too often produced to legitimise truly false or morally wrong policies and ideas. As someone who cares about the truth and its ultimate pursuit, I hope we would all speak out against such basic yet widespread fallacies.