Television is a very poor medium for the discussion of complex topics, says Dalrymple in the Library of Law and Liberty, but that fact doesn’t seem to have limited the popularity of such discussion shows. He cites a recent experience on a show where he and three other people were expected to discuss the public value of imprisonment in ten minutes. What to do when a fellow talking head says something Dalrymple knows to be untrue?
Once my fellow panellist had delivered himself of this supposed fact, the presenter turned to me and asked me a question completely unrelated to it. I was faced with a dilemma: If I answered her question, the alleged fact would float by unchallenged; but if I disregarded her question and returned to what my fellow panellist had said, I would appear rude and evasive. Besides, I had 30 seconds at most in which to speak. Hogging the microphone for more time than that would have been counter-productive, because it would have led to a row which would have overshadowed completely the substantive matter we were trying to address.
So I let his statement stand, which might have given the impression that I accepted it as truth. The viewers, too, may well have assimilated it as truth.