Monday, April 7, 2014

Bias, objectivity, and the biases of processing: Part 1

One of the biggest complaints when I scroll through Facebook, especially from older people, is that the news is biased against their political views.  I do not want to pick on Republicans but it is almost always a Republican complaining about the liberal bias about a news source that day, MSNBC, ABC, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, even The Wall Street Journal, I have seen it all.  Democrats are almost as bad.  Democrats complain incessantly about Fox News being terrible.  They complain about how Conservative The New York Times or NPR is.  The end result of these complaints is the same.  They want objective or otherwise bias free news sources.  The truth is people do not want objective or bias free news sources.  They want news sources that agree with them.  Even if people actually wanted bias free news sources, they, largely, don’t exist.  The truth is, everything has a bias.

People do not want objective or bias free news sources.  Fox News was found to be the most trusted name in news by Public Policy Polling, yet again.  Fox News is the most watched news network.  Despite the claims of “fair and balanced” it is almost universally recognized as right-leaning if not fully on the Right (meaning Conservative) side of the political spectrum.  Those not on the Right distrust Fox News and it was found to also be the least trusted name in news by Public Policy Polling.  During the 2012 Presidential election calendar and even while states were counting votes, Fox News was confidently predicting a Mitt Romney victory.  On election night, former presidential advisor Karl Rove (in)famously stated it was too early to call the state of Ohio for Barack Obama.  To some of the Fox News audience, there was an almost instant belief that voter fraud cost Romney the election; after all, how could all these presidential advisors be wrong?  Another segment of the audience believed confidently that Romney wasn’t Conservative enough and that’s what cost him the election, Rove was merely in disbelief that a conservative nation wouldn’t elect Romney.  Still others believed that the Obama administration fudged the unemployment numbers to steal the election and Rove couldn’t have predicted this impact.  Others strongly believed that Hurricane Sandy cost Romney the election and that’s why the presidential advisors were wrong, as Rove is not a weatherman.  To those moderates who didn’t fully trust Fox News, it was just the latest indicator that Fox News was not to be trusted.  Those looking for “non-biased” news sources, the fact that Rove was in denial was because the internet group Anonymous had stopped Rove from stealing the election.  Those to the Left saw Rove’s refusal to concede Ohio as just the latest indicator that Rove (and all conservatives) couldn’t accept the United States changing.   For an event where literally millions of people watching, there were thousands of various opinions on Rove’s refusal to concede defeat.  Each one of them shaped by ideology, political preference, age, etc.  Each one of them formed by someone who fully believed they were the only one with this opinion. Each one of them formed by someone who witnessed an event and did not think twice that there was an unconscious bias working its way in there. 

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