Bias in Journalism … Truth Decay

Ever had one of those ‘eureka moments’ where you come across a previously unknown, or perhaps once known but now forgotten, piece of information that explains one of those ‘how on earth did we get here’ observations?

The QuipperyExample: how did we (and I can only speak for Canada and the USA) get to a place where balanced, unopinionated news is now (often) very biased journalism? Part of the answer, according to the video below (and numerous stories on the internet) was the introduction, in 2008, of Accountability Journalism.

Accountability Journalism was the brainchild (or perhaps given a voice by) Associated Press Bureau Chief, Ron Fournier. Mr. Fournier believed that the conventional press model – where both sides of an argument are entitled to equal weight – was no longer needed in journalism. In it’s place, he gave free reign to first-person emotive language in news reporting. Previously, this had been reserved for opinion editorials. He gave the journalist the power to decide what was factual and fair and whether or not to include an opposing opinion.

Is this a slippery slope where journalism becomes not an outlet for news, but becomes an interpretation of said news?
– Susan Duclos, Digital Journal, July 2008 –

Ten years later, the answer to the slippery slope question is ‘yes’:

Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage.
– ‘Truth Decay,’ RAND –

Of course, the situation seems worse than it is if you consider there are roughly 12000 journalists in Canada and 33000 in the United States. The wackadoodle reporters are just the most visible.

Who tops your list of Journalists you trust the least? Who do you trust the most?

 

 

 

 

Anti-Government – That’s Canadian Extremism

The 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada would be a ho-hum read if it had limited it’s scope to identifying the expected culprits: 1. Sunni Islamist Extremists 2. Canadian Extremist Travellers who assist with terrorism in foreign countries 3. Shia Extremists 4.Extremists who Support Violent Means to Establish an Independent State Within India. This included Sikhs until Prime Minister Trudeau decided to remove them because he was visiting the Vancouver Sikh Temple.

Canada’s Left leaning Liberal Government then added a fifth type of extremism – a bundle of all the other bad things in their vocabulary – anti-government, anti-law enforcement, advocacy of white nationalism (supremacy), racial separation, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-immigration, male supremacy (misogyny), bigotry and homophobia. They couldn’t just call this Extremism. No – they had to assign these activities to their political rivals and call it Right-Wing Extremism.

Excerpt from “2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada”

Slick trick, right!?  Liberals could never be racist, homophobic, bigots or misogynists, could they!? If anti-government is now extremism, how can we protest when we think the government has gone too far in some direction? Can a person be opposed to illegal immigration without being anti-immigration? Don’t some left wing social justice crusades embrace the bigotry of man-hating and white-shaming? Why isn’t eco-terrorism on the list? What about special interest terrorism by the fringe elements of animal rights, pro-life, environmental, anti-nuclear, and other movements? Isn’t it a form of bigotry to add ‘Right-Wing’ to any type of Extremism?

Unfortunately, in contemporary usage the terms “right”, “far right,” and “alt-right” have become verbal missiles lobbed daily at individuals and ideas that the liberal-left opposes.
– Walter Donway – Just Say “Racist” –

In Canada, the Left-wing is fighting to stay in power in two elections this year. The Province of Alberta will vote on April 16, 2019. Canada will go to the polls in the fall of this year.

Alberta’s ‘left of the Liberals’ NDP (New Democratic Party) is led by Premier Notley. Mr. Kenney’s  United Conservative Party is the major opponent.  As you might have guessed, Notley is attacking Mr. Kenney’s Conservative candidates by saying they are, yes, Right Wing Extremists.

It is unforgivable when Government tries to silence the opposition by using social engineering to influence attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale. It is unforgivable that mass and social media assist them.

The Race to the Bottom of the News Barrel

What was the spark? A MAGA hat worn by mostly white male teens? Was this a clear case of stereotyping?

Stereotyping or Social Categorization is a cognitive process by which we put individuals into social groups and respond to them as members of a social group, instead of individuals. This can lead to negative interactions. For example, a young liberal might take issue with anyone they identify as a conservative Baby Boomer. Any number of people might be instantly offended by someone they perceive as a privileged white male. We live in angry times.

MAGA – Make America Great Again

Social Categorization is what happened in January 2019 when someone posted, on Twitter, a short video taken at the ‘March for Life’ event. The video was said to be proof that Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School Boys (some of them wore MAGA hats) had harassed a Native American and a group of Black Men at the Lincoln Memorial. The Native American, Nathan Phillips said he believed  “These young men were beastly, and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.”

The video (sent out from a Twitter account that was later shut down by Twitter for fake and misleading registration) went viral. Prominent individuals and numerous news media picked up the story and ran it without verifying the accuracy. The teens were vilified. There were calls for the student’s expulsion from school; they were threatened with harm, and in a few cases, there were death threats.

Sober second thought came after a careful review of the many videos that were taken that day. These showed that the viral video did not accurately depict what had happened. It simply depicted the story that the video wanted people to believe – ‘privileged young white males’ are evil. The video clip didn’t show that the ‘Men Behaving Badly’, were the Black Hebrew Israelites who were yelling homophobic slurs and racist insults and the Native American who thrust himself at the students.

A significant number of personalities and members of the media, after looking at the full videos, retracted their stories, or apologized for what they had said about the boys.  Other people, however, would not correct their attack stories.

Enter Attorney Robert Barnes.

The threat of litigation has perhaps led to a few more apologies. ‘The Weekly’, (a news program on CBC  which is a Canadian Federal Government Crown Corporation) hosted by veteran reporter Wendy Mesley,  apologized and corrected their story, but not until March 10. They said they “regret characterizing those teens as ‘teenage bullies’” and corrected what they said was an erroneous statement.

Why would it take almost 2 months to issue an apology for running a story based on a viral video on Twitter? What does this say about investigative reporting? What does this say to the consumers and readers of just about all forms of media today?

What can you do to avoid jumping to biased conclusions?

  • Read a range of views from across the spectrum – right, left and middle.
  • Be skeptical about every story that tells you what your viewpoint should be.
  • Be willing to accept that people are not the same as the social categories you put them in.
  • Accept that opposing viewpoints might be just as valid as yours because they are likely based on bias too…

What is an example of a biased opinion you held until you read and understood the validity of a contradictory assessment?