Is there bias in the media? Is the sky blue?
Bias is so commonplace that we don’t even recognize that it’s present. We mindlessly watch FOX and CNN, oblivious to the blatant one-sided nature of the “News”. When I say that the media is one-sided, I don’t mean that ALL media is left leaning, I simply mean that journalists on both sides fail to represent the opposition equally.
They do so by using what I call the sandwich method. It sounds simple because it is; you present your argument, then allow the opposition to voice their side. If the process stopped there, we would have a flatbread, delicious and fair. Instead, the rebuttal is followed by arguments from the original point of view which completes the sandwich. In this case, the order in which the statements are presented is crucial to viewer perception, as explained by basic psychology.
If given a list of things, people are more likely to remember the first items presented, this is known as the Primacy effect. Additionally, “We also tend to assume that items at the beginning of the list are of greater importance” than that which follows. (This is why I always volunteered to present my projects first. Suckers.) Similarly, we also have a tendency to better recall things at the end of a list, which is known as the Recency effect.
This method of debate allows political commentators make audiences remember their argument as the more important one. Allowing the other side to have their 2 cents gives the networks an “out” when they are accused of being one-sided or unfair, even though the bias still remains.
The media skews information by employing fallacies in their rhetoric. Most commonly found is the Expert Fallacy, which is an “appeal to authority”. People tend to trust the views expressed by authority, rightfully so. However, this creates a major problem when the authority is not an expert on the specific topic, or if the person presenting the information has a strong opinion on the matter, which implies underlying bias.
As a rule of thumb, whenever I hear the phrase “Experts say” or “professional” I become suspicious; It never hurts to investigate the background of the so-called-experts that are throwing information at you. When the media finds their sources, note that the expert almost always will support the claims made by the media. It would be just as easy to find a professional that has evidence to disprove their argument, but doing so would be counterproductive. The media is not trying to inform you, rather they are trying to persuade you, which is what I find truly frightening.
The “News” is not fact-based, but rather a compilation of opinions disguised as facts. If you want the truth, you have to be willing to look at all sides of the media and read alternative opinions. I assure you that you will not get the full story by watching only FOX or only MSNBC and CNN. If you are willing to grit your teeth for a bit, I strongly suggest watching the opposing network. If you typically tune in to FOX watch CNN for a change and vice versa.
(Side Note: I’m not trying to pick on FOX, its simply the only major conservative news outlet, which is another problem within itself. )
Willingly listening to views that contradict your own will allow you to see the hidden bias in your own views. Trust me, it’s not easy listening to people who disagree with you, but I promise it will make you a better person. For those of you that are saying to yourself, I really don’t care about being the bigger person, do it because it makes you look less ignorant when you debate. Think of it as a secret weapon in the art of arguing; if you are familiar with the content you are up against it’s like going into a football game with the other teams playbook memorized. Let’s face it, the majority of the arguments you hear come directly from mainstream news.
If you are unsure of how far left or right your viewing habits lean, this chart is fairly accurate: