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RP - Balance in the Media

Repost - Sep 12, ravensview.substack.com

Balance in the Media

The dangers of Misinformation through Bothsideism

Media-Bias-Chart-_Aug-2022jpg We all have biases, based on our experiences, on our goals. We like to think we are open-minded about everything, but we are more comfortable when we are surrounded by people, and media, that support our views.

The above chart, by Ad Fontes Media, is based on a detailed analysis they do of many media sources - you can check out their methodology on their site. I’ve always been somewhat left of centre, and two of my main media choices are the Guardian Weekly and the Washington Post. In fact, I pay for both of them. They both are rated as a slightly left bias, and with reliable, analysis/fact reporting. I have other sources, including a TweetDeck selection of favourite journalists, but they all tend to be from the same area of the chart. One popular site for many, Fox News, rates as right bias, and only generally reliable on some issues and/or extremism. Yes, I could try to be ‘balanced’ by spending equal time off over there in right field, but the farther I goes, it seems to me they are less about facts (except for #alternatefacts) and more about rhetoric and opinion, as short, easily remembered and repeated sound bites. What I call “Bumper Sticker Politics”. But for many people, especially on the right, politics, like religion, is a belief system. They believe certain ‘truths’ about it, as beliefs, without the necessity of facts, so don’t miss the absence of supporting data. I can see the comfort in that.

However, trying to be balanced brings us to ‘bothsideism”. Wikipedia says of this, “False balance, also bothsidesism, is a media bias in which journalists [or others] present an issue as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence supports. . . . [It’s] an attempt to avoid bias and gives unsupported or dubious positions an illusion of respectability. It creates a public perception that some issues are scientifically contentious, though in reality they may not be, therefore creating doubt about the scientific state of research, and can be exploited by interest groups.”

We saw this in many COVID discussions. For example, to discuss the science behind a decision, someone would be introduced as a medical graduate with several specialties, many peer-reviewed publications and a number of years of relevant experience. Then, for the other ‘side’, we would be presented with someone whose qualifications included a list of self-published books, many social media sites and hundreds of thousands of followers. They really should be introduced with, "And here is so and so, not a medical graduate, with no peer-reviewed publications and no years of relevant experience, to present their views on this.”

But that would not sell clicks and advertising.

Trump gave us a great example of this phenomenon after the violent protests in Charlottesville, where someone from the right(?) had rammed their car into protestors. Possibly inspired by Trump’s rhetoric. Trump said of this, “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

We rely on the media to dig into all parts of an issue, but we also expect them to act like refs on the playing field, to throw down a red flag when someone breaks the rules. Not to try to explain it away.

The New Republic (Bias: -18.05, Reliability: 34.16) recently published a piece on this “bothsideism”, entitled “CNN, Politico Want to Give Authoritarianism a Fair Shake -Are these outlets truly ignorant of the threats facing our democracy, or are they looking to profit from its fall?”

A rhetorical question, as profits are the name of the game. And power. Especially for those that enabled Trump and “The Big Lie”. PBS has a great documentary on this, via Youtube. It’s almost 2 hours long, and you need US access, but do check it out. And if you’re up here in Canada, well we’re not there. Yet.

OK, there I go, being depressing and cynical again. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts, and have some comments. Time to look for something more uplifting. Here’s a quote and a picture.

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.” —Jack Handey



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