Bias on the News and Internet

There are a handful websites I check every day, several times a day. Drudgereport.com offers straight-forward news without all the flash and hype. Ebaumsworld.com provides jokes and videos without being one notch down from a smut site like many of their competitors. Then there’s Digg.com – a site that helped spearhead the web 2.0 revolution, initially designed for tech news. The site grew incredibly fast because of it’s unique approach to content, which would be submitted by users, voted on by users, and commented on by users. Basically, it’s news meets democracy.

Today, Digg.com has 6 categories, each with their own sub-categories, including my favorite – “Political News”.

This is somewhat of a joke to me because the common Digg.com user has very little understanding of politics and sociology, which I think go hand-in-hand. I would say they are definitely more informed than the average American, which is a depressing reality because most of their education comes from biased sources. See, there’s one major flaw with the internet… there’s no accountability or responsibility, especially in the area of journalism. I’m not one to support regulation of anything typically, but one thing is true, that when you can regulate something you have more power to make sure it’s done right. This is the argument for legalizing marijuana – if it’s legal people will be able to buy it from clean, reliable sources, and you could have safety laws similar to the way we deal with alcohol. I’m still developing my stance on that.

Back to the point. If the internet is not regulated somehow, and I’m not saying it should be, then anyone and everyone is allowed to post anything within Federal law. This means that where we once got our news from educated journalists, whose reputation and career depended on the reliability of their story, many young Americans get their news from… well, anyone who has something to say. Imagine what can be done with such power. The very fact that you’re reading this is a testament to our new age. 15 years ago I would not have been able to share my thoughts with you so easily. I would’ve had to put years of experience and education into developing a reputation for quality reporting, or at least entertaining opinions. But I would’ve had a supervisor that looked over my work and challenged me to make sure my facts were valid. But this is 2007. I can write anything I want, and if I’m convincing enough you will believe what I say. SO in this day and age, it’s up to the reader to be wise about what they believe.

It’s a challenge. At some point along the line we’ve lost the ability to trust anything. Just about every news outlet has it’s own agenda, and they’re more concerned with ratings than news. Do they care what happens to Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan? No, but you do (for some oddly obsessive reason) and in order to get you to watch, they’re going to talk about it. But when they want to turn public opinion a certain way they adjust their reporting. There’s always two sides to every story, and you get the side they want you to have.

What bothers me the most are these videos that include speeches and conversations which are taken out of context and used to portray someone as something they are not, to suit the opinion of the producer of the video. It’s very easy to edit just about any conversation to say something that wasn’t meant. People do it all the time for good humor. Have you ever seen one of those spoof interviews, where it appears that someone is answering ridiculous questions? They’re funny! You know it’s fake, though convincing. What about when trickery is pulled on serious matters and we don’t know it? Context is an important factor in interpreting something. What if we took the first 4 words off of the sentence, “People used to think the world is flat”? Or if we showed you a picture of two trains about to collide, but then showed a different angle where you can se that they are on separate tracks?

I would advise people to stop watching videos online that attempt to portray people as stupid or evil. Instead, find out what you can about the person from neutral sources and make an assumption of your own. This doesn’t just go for people, but for endless causes. I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible for 9/11 to have been an “inside job” as some have preached, but I think it is highly unlikely. I might be more convinced if I weren’t annoyed with how deceiving these “truther” videos are. They’re full of mis-quotes, half-truths and other magic. When that kind of stuff is used, it completely discredits the validity of the report.

People are gullible, and they look for ways to support their own beliefs. I would be willing to bet that most people who are convinced of the government’s involvement with 9/11 already had a deep mistrust of the government in the first place. It’s interesting how we all find ways to make ourselves right. Maybe we should spend more time listening to other points of view, and realizing that we could be wrong.

Unfortunately, this blog offers no solution outside of an encouragement to stop supporting this junk, and don’t produce it! Those of you who love to throw your ideas into the public arena, do so with responsibility. Give people a chance to observe evidence that is presented fairly, showing both sides of the story. It’s fine if you want to interject opinion, but make sure the public is made clearly aware of that. I try to be honest and objective in my writing. I have plenty of opinions, and I don’t hesitate to make them known, but I attempt to provide a fair observation. If you see me doing otherwise, feel free to rebuke me.

1 Comment

  1. the flaw in regulating journalism is then you get only the slant that the regulators (big money people) want. I like what you said about stop grazing the surface, and check things for yourself. There is a lot of biased reporting on the net, but you always have the option of digging deeper

    insightful post

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