On Bias & Credibility

I’ve had many discussions with folks who draw false equivalence between right wing propaganda like FOX or Breitbart and more progressive outlets like MSNBC, CNN and the traditional print media (NYT, WAPO, WSJ). Some people don’t trust ANY source, believing they are all biased. But is bias an absolute evil or is it an inherently human trait? Is bias that is born of ignorance (say, racial or science denying) equivalent to bias informed by facts and critical thinking (such as social justice or science affirming)?
          This lack of faith in the 4th Estate is troubling, but understandable, given how right-wing media has exploded ever since the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned by the Reagan administration. It is quantifiable that FOX/Breitbart tell more lies and promote an agenda of ignorance-based bias than any other networks. And their disinformation is purposeful, designed to mislead and misinform, to feed the baser biases of its viewers. Say what you want about Rachel Maddow and her “agenda,” she gets her facts straight, and when she doesn’t she admits it. Can the same be said for Sean Hannity?
       So, are all biases equal? The answer is a resounding “No!” All biases are not equal, nor are all biases worthy of respect. If you want your bias to be respected, you have to earn it.
       So here are some pointers. If you want to find information you “trust,” you must do the work. Read multiple credible sources. How do you find credible sources? Follow journalists with a proven track record, who have established credibility over time. Dare to follow links in articles to review source data, even if some of it is hard to understand. Bottom line, if you can’t find any sources you trust, that’s on you. You haven’t done the work.
       This next one is a big deal, and perhaps the hardest for passionate people to follow. If you want to develop critical thinking skills, stay away from the fringes, especially the ones who lean your way. They will poison your ability to process information rationally through confirmation bias, which is the first step toward the kind of cognitive dissonance we see among conservatives and Trump supporters.
Most of all, recognize that sometimes even credible sources will make mistakes. Every major newspaper has had to run retractions or corrections. What’s more important is their overall track record, and how they deal with their own errors.
       Do all of that, and you will sift through the bias, allowing you to arrive at a more credible position for yourself. Note that I have not suggested that your conclusions would necessarily be the same as mine. But I’d have an easier time respecting them. Even if they are biased.

Out With The Old…

The Millennial Socialists are Coming!”

This is what the old white guard is terrified of. This is why Republicans will do everything and anything to tighten their minority grip on power. Why they will lie, cheat, steal SCOTUS seats and work to undermine voter rights.

On this day, July 1st, 1971, the 26th Amendment was ratified and the voting age was lowered to 18. Young people have the power to affect massive change in this country. We need them to engage and to exercise that power.

Why? Because the current ruling class has demonstrated a profound unworthiness to control the levers of power.

White baby boomers, who, on this day in 1971 were granted the opportunity to join the national franchise, dropped the ball. We were the first “coddled” generation, raised by post WWII parents who understood what sacrifice was and who did everything in their power to shelter us from any kind of hardship.

For too many of my generation, standing up for social justice took a back seat once we came of age, once we acquired a level of comfort our parents could only have dreamed of. We started to believe we were not only worthy, but entitled to those comforts, even as we ignored the fact that what made it possible for us to ascend was social programs like the GI Bill. And too many of us were willing to turn a blind eye to the direction our country was headed, because, as members of the priviliged class, we allowed ourselves to be convinced that we were worthy and entitled, that our socio-economic status was a product solely of our own virtue.

Yeah, we bought that conservative claptrap hook-line & sinker. Because it validated us and provided cover for us to ignore the the widening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Here on Long Island, white flight from the city created white working class enclaves, while black and hispanics who wanted the same were red-lined into less desireable neighborhoods, not afforded the same opportunities.

We allowed ourselves to be conned that “those people” were not as deserving as we were, that their condition was not a product of systematic institutional racism, but of some inherent failure on their part. And segregation prevented us from recognizing our common humanity.

We white Boomers had our chance to create a better, kinder country. We squandered it in favor of our own comfort. Now, we need younger generations to step forward and bring empathy back.

Not that we’re worthy of it.