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Tomorrow's Vote: I

4 May 2005
Tomorrow's vote in Britain: I In order to defend their journalistic independence The New York Times forbids its columnists from endorsing candidates or reporting how they will vote. I like this – openness as guessing. Even if I did not, while openDemocracy benefits from charitable funding I am forbidden from using its space and resources to advocate that anyone vote for a political party. This does not mean I have to neuter or castrate my own judgement. American formalism and propriety can be taken much too far. When I was in Washington six months ago, just after George Bush was elected president for the first time, Danny Postel presided over a gathering of friends and colleagues. I asked how they had voted. One told us that he no longer voted on principle because he feared that if he did so it would distort the objectivity of his reporting. He had to become someone who did not take sides, he claimed, if he was to give a fair account that would provide readers with the balanced view they expected. A classic dispute broke out over whether it was more honest to be open with readers about your own judgements so that they could assess for themselves if you are wrongly prejudiced. It also seemed to me that it is way too self-important to think that readers will regard ones words as gospel. It greatly underestimates their intelligence. They, rightly, expect you to be a person of views and opinions of your own. More important, such ‘neutrality’ is the slave and servant of the status quo. Presented with a choice between reason and democracy on the one hand, let’s say, and unreason and the undead on the other, should one refuse to make a call? To report them as equally reasonable propositions is bad enough. To train oneself to accept that whatever choice the system throws up is a proper one is to abnegate all responsibility for the most important democratic task of all, that of ensuring we have a say over the kind of choices we are offered. Real name comments welcome or email [email protected]

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