Monday, March 26, 2018

Media Bias And You: A Primer

I have been accused (in every instance by someone from the Right Wing Shriek Factory) of having a liberal bias. To which I respond ...

Well, DUH.

However, when it comes to any fact-based reportage and analysis, I do my best to present as unbiased an opinion as the subject matter allows. Very rarely will my material fall into the green square on the chart (the Scalise shooting in Alexandria being an example ... in the initial hours and days, I did not editorialize at all and instead simply reported events as I got information from the Alexandria Police Department and the FBI); usually I do my best to fall into the yellow square.

That's not to imply for an instant that I am on a professional par with AP, Reuters, et al. What I am saying is that I am striving for the level of opinion and analysis one finds in publications like the Washington Post or The Guardian (which skew slightly left) or The Economist or Foreign Policy (which skew slightly right). Sometimes I am more successful than others ... then again, this is a one-man operation.

I do not, as a rule, cite sources that are too far left or too far right, unless I can find sufficient corroboration from neutral sources to support it ... and even on these occasions, I am very wary of the language used (for example, if there is an article in the Conservative Tribune that refers to a "despicable act" by a Democrat, I will try to find something that corroborates the FACTS of the story while ignoring the language used).

So, with all this being said, I will now embark on my bitch session.

All too often I am approached online by people who demand that I respond to some ridiculous charge or another, usually with no supporting information:
  • Hillary Clinton conspired with the Russians to lose the election, because people do that.
  • Emma Gonzalez, the 17 year old Cuban-American high school senior who was at Marjorie Stoneman High School while the shooting on February 14, 2018 was happening, is actually a supporter of Fidel Castro because she has a Cuban flag patch on her jacket.
  • Adolf Hitler used children to promote gun control.
  • Putin’s Wikileaks Host: “Mob Laundromat” Funded GOP
  • Exclusive: China Syndrome – Xi and Putin Partnered in U.S. Election Interference
None of which I try to defend, because it is patently obvious that these are people just looking for an online fight. However, examples like these are indicative of a much larger problem: the replacement of rational, thoughtful discourse with blatant attempts to score points. Liberals aren't trying to explain their agenda in an attempt to sway people to their point of view; they are interested in painting all conservatives as heartless monsters. Similarly, conservatives are foregoing trying to further advertise their real agenda and instead spend their time trying to prove how liberals are a bunch of whiny, guitar-strumming hippies who are too easily triggered.

And because this is such an effective approach, political discourse in the United States has reached new heights of thoughtfulness and seriousness, if "thoughtfulness" is defined as "the most creativity used in distorting or fabricating an accusation," and "seriousness" is defined as "while simultaneously maintaining a straight face."

Now, I know of a couple of conservatives in Facebook groups in which I am a member who are instantly going to leap on this and accuse me of not loving America, of not knowing what I'm talking about, being a hack, etc. simply because it's coming from me and these people are so wrapped up in their self-righteousness that the mere thought of giving a liberal credit for -- well, ANYTHING -- causes them to get the vapors and call for their fainting couches. And to these people I say, "Enjoy your mint juleps, and the Sons of the South will come rescue you in due time."

To everyone else, I implore you to consider the source before you share something. If you are going to disseminate information, please make sure it's accurate. If you are sharing anything from a source in the red square in the diagram above, it is automatically suspect and probably complete bullshit. If it is in the orange square, it is most likely using partisan language to unfairly distort the perspective even if the underlying facts are legit.

My advice? Stick to outlets in the green square for straight news, the yellow square for opinion and analysis.

And not for nothing, this is actually version 3.1 of this diagram. When it first came out in December of 2016, Fox News was on the border of "skews conservative" and "hyper-partisan conservative," (on the X-axis) and squarely in "Opinion; fair persuasion" (the Y-axis). It is now on the border of "hyper-partisan conservative" and "most extreme conservative" on the X-axis, and on the border of "unfair persuasion" and "propaganda" on the Y-axis ... in short, it has become less legitimate as a source of valid news (you can find more about this chart and the methodology used to populate it here).

I gotta lie down.

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