Jeffrey Sachs meets Piers Morgan

26 Mar

Screenshot for the YouTube interview, linked below

I’ll start with a claim I seldom make, on account of its bad salesmanship. Those familiar with my site and others of similar stripe won’t find anything new in this interview; not of substantive content at any rate. What they will find, however, is a master class in how to get your points across in a calm, measured and supremely courteous manner when faced by questions bursting with small-minded prejudice and founded on manifestly false premises.

The strapline for the YouTube interview – “Can you not find anything negative to say about Putin?”  – is a question Morgan repeatedly puts to the professor. The way the latter politely sidesteps it – not with obfuscation, whataboutery, irritation or apologetics but by calmly insisting on a bigger picture than the nature, real or perceived, of one man – is a small but telling aspect of my grounds for calling this a master class.

In a sister post of March 4 – see John Mearsheimer meets Piers Morgan – I set out where I disagreed with Professor Mearsheimer, a leading exponent of the ‘political realism’ school, before going on to write:

… even where I fully agree with the professor – which is a good deal of the time here – I say he concedes too much; too often allowing Morgan to reverse burden of proof. Never more so than in his responses to repeated claims, couched in terms I saw as artful flattery, that he, Mearsheimer, was too trustful on Putin having no designs on territory west of the Dnieper, far less west of Ukraine. While the professor did occasionally counter that there is no evidence of a Russia motivated by other than legitimate security concerns, I fear he should have made that point more forcefully.

Or should he? Was he playing verbal judo, and rolling with his interlocutor’s Queensbury Rules punches? Did he let smaller matters pass by, the better to soft-land the greater truth – without ever having to spell it out – that the West is intensely propagandised?

As it happens, Sachs and Mearsheimer are quite chummy, though Sachs’ political realism is a good deal more optimistic than Mearsheimer’s. And both exude that affable courtesy of which deep immersion in the relevant facts, and years of thinking things through, are necessary but rarely sufficient conditions. (See Sachs’ profile here.) Where I would have wanted to interrupt Morgan and challenge at numerous points the sub text of his questioning, Jeffrey Sachs, like John Mearsheimer before him, remains calmly unruffled.

That doesn’t mean I always agree with either. But mostly I do and, more to the point here, both make their points far more effectively than I could have done in comparable circumstances. The interview comes in at under half an hour, so why not judge for yourself?

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2 Replies to “Jeffrey Sachs meets Piers Morgan

  1. I don’t have the patience to deal with Morgan, who in my humble opinion is the equivalent to the arse end of a donkey – and what can you expect from a cuddy but a kick?

    Sachs is a diplomat not a circus clown like the Washington war hawks and the blithering dead heads infesting what passes for gov’t ‘officials’

    I recently had a throw down with a neighbour who insisted he hated Putin, but because I said “I don’t hate Putin” he went off on an insane rant about ‘opinionated’ people like me being the reason he was so angry in my daring to observe a non understanding of haters! This was seconds after he had just explained to me how his ex wife was a hater but he wasn’t like her!? (I didn’t call him a hater, just the bigots and racists whose hate I really didn’t understand). Either he’s off his trolley or he is a baby throwing his toys out of his pram and unable to curb his anger and hatred….obviously I wasn’t entitled to have a different ‘opinion’ from his own.

    It would seem that too many people in this country are quite happy being blissfully ignorant of the facts and serving the ‘hate’ wish list of the establishment that diplomacy is just not possible as though it was an alien construct beyond their understanding and worse they don’t want the truth just as long as they can keep hating, I suppose it beats confronting our laziness and self destructive bias or having to work out who to vote for actually serving democratic values.

    Sachs delivered an example of level headed and intelligent observations which was the antithesis of Morgan, who could never be that self aware enough to recognise it.



    • Hi Susan. I guess what we’re up against on occasions like the one you describe is the triumph of assiduously inculcated narratives (including but not confined to propaganda blitz) over mere evidence.

      I take heart in the fact – shown by what happened in Syria 2016 and what is happening in Ukraine – that narratives (including but not confined to propaganda blitz) tend to weaken in the face of stubborn reality.

      What of ideology, when reality intrudes?

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