Updated: Jun 21, 2020
Editor's note: This post is an opinion piece. Some of the information is factual, but much of it stems from my own experiences and biases. Please use discretion. Thank you!
During one of my typical Friday evenings as of late, I was chatting with some friends over FaceTime and enjoying a few drinks. We started talking politics and eventually got to the issue of bias in the media. We all agreed that everything is just so biased these days.
But then I raised a question: What is bias?
Sure, there's an easy answer to this question. You can find it just by typing the word bias into Google and reading the definition.
But my friends and I agreed that the formal definition of bias wasn’t the answer we were looking for. Especially not in our post-truth world, where the news lies to you and the current presidential administration is the poster-child for nepotism and alternative facts.
We agreed that bias is much more complicated than that.
It’s more complicated than that because life is messy.
It’s more complicated than that because information arrives in all shapes and sizes: the internet, podcasts, books, coworkers, cable TV.
It's more complicated than that because we've been conditioned to distrust The Man.
We’ve been conditioned to distrust big corporations. To be skeptical of media sources. Of large government-run agencies. They’re out to get you. There’s an ulterior motive. They’re lying to you.
And there’s some truth to this.
Information can be presented with bias based on how you interpret the data. The political world is more partisan than ever. People have ulterior motives. Even if you try to be unbiased there’s going to be someone out there who claims you’re biased.
The Bias Issue
The Bias Issue is the concept that bias is not an ultimate truth. It is a relative truth, and the truth changes based on a number of factors: perception, data (both qualitative and quantitative), cultural norms, cultural systems, and moral baselines. Because of this, bias can be interpreted differently depending on the particular set of circumstances involved.
Basically, The Bias Issue is a big issue in today’s culture.
In order to address The Bias Issue we first need to learn how such an issue emerges.
I believe The Bias Issue emerges from three distinct, but co-dependent, reasons:
1) People aren’t very good at weighing the validity of information.
2) Everything is politicized.
3) Life has an inherent bias.
The Validity of Information
The first reason for The Bias Issue is that people just aren’t very good at weighing the validity of information.
This is part of the reason why people become conspiracy theorists. They’re skeptical of everything, but they’re also bad at deciding which sources are more trustworthy than others.
So, if someone receives information from two sources: the CDC and thetruthisoutthere.com, they may believe thetruthisoutthere.com over the recommendations of the CDC.
And here’s where this becomes part of The Bias Issue.
Think about the premise of the example above. How did thetruthisoutthere.com even become a rival of the CDC?
It’s because people pay attention to the loudest voices in the room.
There are many ways to become the loudest voice in the room: through professional authority (the CDC or World Trade Organization), through accuracy and research (nonprofits and think tanks), through a great marketing team (media sources and commercial businesses), by appealing to emotions (click-bait articles, opinion pieces like this one!), the list goes on. Sometimes it’s a combination of a few of these.
But here’s the issue: many people don’t care about this. So if you’re a company or organization, all you need to do is be loud. You don’t really need factual information.
And this is what sources like thetruthisoutthere.com rely on. They have a lot of viewers, and because they have a lot of viewers, people take them seriously.
So, what does this do?
It creates an illusion where a loud voice is measured against a valid source.
Let's illustrate this with an example.
This is the normal political spectrum of news outlets:
Side note: Remember, political orientation is different than partisanship. CNN, for example, is relatively moderate in their beliefs, but they attempt to divide the public in the way they present the news. Thus, they are both moderate and partisan.
Now let's see what the spectrum looks like when you throw some Far Right media sources into the mix:
Check out InfoWars on the far right over there. This is probably one of the best examples of a LOUD voice.
And remember, a LOUD voice has influence.
And LOUD voices have so much influence that they begin to pull the media spectrum to the right:
Conservative media sources become even more conservative because of LOUD voices like InfoWars.
So what does this do? Well, it changes the argument. The old Moderate is now considered Left Wing.
The loudest person in the room has shifted the reality of the situation. They’ve created an artificial political spectrum and an artificial sense of bias.
This explains why moderates these days are being labelled as liberal. It also explains why I’ve been getting feedback that my blog posts are too liberal. Because even if something is factual, and there is data to back it up, the general perception is that it’s biased.
All because the loudest person in the room has changed the argument.
Which brings me to my next point.
Everything Is Politicized!
It’s true! Everything is politicized.
Here are just a few examples: Football, Veganism, Equal Rights, The Oscars, Face Masks, New Balance Shoes, All-Natural Foods, Recycling, Pick-Up Trucks, Farming.
The list goes on. Some of these politicizations are justified, others are not.
But the point is: everything is either liberal or conservative. And it’s getting to the point where there’s no wiggle room.
For example, a few weeks ago I was scrolling through Facebook and saw this post:
And then I saw this comment:
I sat there for a minute and said to myself, “Just move on Eric. It’s not worth commenting on”.
So, naturally, I commented:
Then, in a since deleted comment, the guy responded calling me a Bernie Bro. A Bernie Bro.
By showing support for Biden I’ve become a Bernie Bro in their eyes. A liberal snowflake.
But it got me thinking about a sad truth these days. You can’t criticize either side of the aisle without being given a label: a liberal snowflake, a Trump supporter, a Bernie Bro, a racist.
It’s even gotten to the point where a conservative-minded person gets called a snowflake if they criticize the Republicans, and a liberal-minded person gets called a Trump-supporter if they criticize the Democrats.
Part of this is the fault of the media. They exploit and divide the population for financial gain. They run endless stories on Trump. They change the narrative when it suits their motives.