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A different angle on bias

I think this is one of the best summaries I’ve encountered of the bias problems that media people are having with this war. It’s from an emailer to Natalie Solent:

When you’re told to talk about the war for hours every day and only a finite amount happens in a day, you tend to exhaust rational remarks and reasonable questions and, after doing all you can with repetition of the obvious, must ask unreasonable questions and explore less likely contingencies. In this mental state, prejudices are apt to come more to the surface as the commentator’s mind searches for something else to say.

That’s a better explanation of what is going on than to suppose that it’s all some great big conspiracy. It is quite a lot of little conspiracies, although maybe “networks” might be a better word. And it’s a great big zeitgeist, that is to say a conspiracy that is all out in the open. And that has the results described above.

But the main thing these people are biased in favour of is keeping their jobs. If you can help them do their jobs while you do what you’re trying to do, they won’t necessarily stop you. Zeitgeists can be changed.

3 comments to A different angle on bias

  • G. Cooper

    The idea that war coverage is a victim of rolling news isn’t wrong – journalists have worried about the impact of quantity broadcasting on the quality of what is reported for a long while.

    Nonetheless, it doesn’t account for the editorial stance adopted by the organisations responsible for collating and presenting those reports and (inevitably) the BBC is the best example of this. As I’ve remarked before, its news online service is quite astonishing in terms of the nakedness of its bias and it isn’t the pressure of war causing this – it is the tone, style and character of the Corporation itself, which stems directly from the type of people the BBC recruits. As the sole BBC person I know who isn’t a Guardiantista once told me: ‘if you hold any contrary opinions you keep damn quiet about them.’ Today (Sunday 30th) all the lead stories, yet again, depict complete gloom. The motivation is clear – demoralise the readers/listeners/viewers and the ravings of Robin Cook et al become all the more appealing. “Yes, the protestors were right – this war is going horribly wrong, let’s pull our boys out right now.”

    Only a fool wants news slanted in the opposite direction, but the BBC’s coverage has stepped beyond bias – it is now open propaganda. To put it another way, if this had been the tone adopted in 1939, I’d be writing this post in German.

  • Scott

    In his book “Bias” about well… bias… in the media, lefty Bernie Goldberg argues an interesting point. He contends that there is no left-wing conspiracy within the media establishment, rather that the truth is far scarier. A conspiracy would be (relatively) easy to identify and discredit. The problem is that the members of the media believe themselves to be very mainstream (many would even argue that they’re conservative) in their thinking. So it becomes incomprehensible to them that their prejudices and biases are out of sync with the views of Joe and Jane Sixpack, let alone that they even posses prejudices and biases.

    The result is tainted reporting that escapes criticism where criticism is most needed; within the media establishment itself.

  • Brian

    Shrinks call that the False Consensus Effect: we have a tendency to see our own behaviors as typical.

    The cure is to get more diverse views into the newsroom.

    I saw Ann Coulter give a speech, and a young audience member asked how to get ahead in politics. She said if you want to help the cause you should stay the hell out of politics and make movies and TV shows instead.