Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Biases

If anyone ever tells you that they are impartial, or unbiased, they're Lying.  To you and, more importantly, to themselves (if they believe that).  Id doesn't matter if you think Race is an issue, or a non-issue.  If you you believe in one religion, or no religion,or a multitude of New Ageisms, you'll have religious bias.  If you believe "All men are created equal" or "All men are created equal" you're going to have Political bias.  One can not even talk about the subject of Sex, be it Heterosexual, Homosexual, or Donkey show, without bias not only creeping in, but dominating the subject.  I hold this particular truth to be self evident.  


And yet we as a people are expected to buy that well really any media outlet is devoid of Bias.  I have heard Conservative bemoan the fact that for years the bias has been painfully plain and yet every time they point this out they are treated as petulant children.  In recent years with the wild and quite frankly unqualified success of Fox News, the Liberals of America have been screaming of Conservative Bias.  Indeed if we had a round robin right now and asked for opinions about the news, chances are depending on the political spectrum you fallow you will find a News Channel that suits what you feel is appropriate or proper.  


Lets dispel this myth right now.  Even when stating who what when and where, you can let Bias creep in.  Lets say a woman is mugged outside a hospital last night around 10PM, and describes her attacker as a large black man between the ages of 20-26, who used a Knife to hold her up, and threatened [insert detail here].  Now right there you have a story that states who when when and where.  The problem is how you report the facts.  You could leave out that this was a large black man, and just describe him as a man.  You could make it seem like she was in the hospital, or even leave out the details of the assault so it seems like she randomly gave money to a man holding a knife on her.  


But there is a further problem.  See with the 24 hour news cycle, and indeed, since the profession really first began, there's been this desire to help put the story in context.  That's a problem.  It was a problem in the Vietnam War, because, many reporters lead Americans to believe Tet was a huge success for the NVA/VC when in fact it was a total disaster.  The same could be said of the Reagan years, and Bush the Elder's presidency.  It would be hard not to argue bias in the Starr trial, and who can forget the 2000 election.  as time goes on the biases become more plain, and those that promote them get more shrill in their denial of said Bias.  


But, we need to know the news.  We need to know what is going on in the world.  How do we get our news without it being tainted by Bias.  Well that's the tricky part.  See any institution that tries to impose any bias laws from the outside will itself be tainted by Bias.  That's why the so called "Fairness Doctrine" has been so thoroughly lambasted.  Who is the arbiter of "fair"?  If you give five minuets to a sane person about the idea of life on another planet must you also give five minuets to a wacko telling you how he was probed in the anus by Agent Orange and the CIA after being kidnapped by Glacknar the Space Alien?  To be certain debate is not only important but incredibly vital to a free Republic like ours (I don't care what you say we are not a democracy).


So how do we cover a conflict like say the constant back and forth between Palestine and Israel.  without a doubt if one tries hard enough one could make either  side seem like a victim.  The Israelis have tanks jets, and helicopters.  See a guy throwing a rock at a tank and not assume that the tank is the bad guy?  Show pictures of suicide bombings wiping out bus terminals and schools and how can you not want to wipe the floor with such people?  There is no easy answer except to tell the whole story, as much as you can, and get as many sources as possible before making an opinion.  This approach works not only for Journalists, but also for Citizens as well.  


Lastly you have to remember that you are biased.  That you Bias will color your decisions, and that this is not necessarily a bad thing.  You Biases are based on your experiences, and are not always going to lead you astray, but one must always personally be on guard for the times that such a thing does happen.  This is a vigil that only you can do.  As I said before any attempt to do so from outside will only exacerbate the problem.  No law will fix this problem.  As always this is as much yours in both problem and solution.  

3 comments:

The Constitutional Insurgent said...

On target. Bias is in the mind of the beholder. Of course there are some instances where it can seem to be as plain as day with general consensus, but the remainder is as exactly how you stated.

Perception bias usually leads to confirmation bias for most people; that's why they usually stick with sources and assessments that don't cause them to rethink their position.

Argent said...

Bias can sometimes be true like the photos of many angles of an apple are true representations of an apple, but all biased to their viewpoint.

Sometimes.

Actually if news media's only problem were simple reporter bias I'd be happy. They know emotion sells so bias articles by injecting it with emotional hooks.

Another serious problem is many reporters know almost nothing about the subject they are reporting and often copy other reports.

You're so right. We are all biased and it takes a horrible amount of awareness and effort to even reduce it. I've faced mine in a big way twice and both times were as hard as hell.

Joe said...

They say the brain is basically a pattern seeking machine designed to predict the future based on the past. So our biases, right or wrong, are our brains way of making sense, distilling down if you will, the flood of information we receive every day into actionable information. But it is a flawed system, and we have to be aware of the flaws. There is also some hard wiring in there that contributes to the outcome. Teasing out the details is revealing some interesting stuff.