Author Topic: Objectivity-A guide to non partisan understanding in a partisan world.  (Read 244 times)

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Giuliano Taverna

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Objectivity

A guide to non partisan understanding in a partisan world.

By Giuliano Theodore Taverna

It is regrettable but true that objectivity in this age of corporate news cycles, and partisan conflict is deficient, if not totally absent from all forms of media. Whether you tune into cable news, or talk radio. Whether you search the net for blogs, think tanks, or political organizations. Or even if you go for the nostalgic appeal of the written word, such time honored and respected publications such as the New York times are now lacking in objectivity. It is possible, and indeed easy to break down the bias in media right down the partisan lines of Conservative and Liberal. Yet, even if you accept the bias of a news source, it is still difficult to determine what is mindless spin, and what is indeed fact. A conservative leaning person is likely to be more susceptible to the right wing spin of such sources as Fox News, the weekly standard, the Rush Limbaugh program, or the heritage foundation. While a liberal leaning person is just as likely to be more easily fooled by the left wing sources such as MSNBC, the New York Times, NPR, and moveon.org.

But there is a second source of bias, and that is due primarily to the nature of news in America. That is the fact that news from sources such as cable news and to a lesser extent newspapers, are driven by ratings and the consumption economy of our capitalist system. While this ensures an effective mix of partisan ideologies, both liberal and conservative media exists, and ample resources for their content, lots of funding, good equipment, and manpower. There is a cost imposed on quality, content, and indeed objectivity. News cycles are driven by ratings, and the need for ratings. Thus they have the propensity to become tabloid like, sensational, and reminiscent of the yellow news of the 18 hundreds. Mindless tales of celebrities take precedent over crucial international stories feel good tales of animal, and TV shows take precedent over exposing political, corporate, or labor union corruption that the nostalgic age of mud racking so indulged to the benefit of progress in the American system.

So now that we have indentified the problem, we must develop a solution, herein I will lay out an effective way to gain objective truth from biased sources.

Step 1 Know your bias. Letís not kid ourselves, we all have beliefs, and those beliefs effect both our reaction to news, and the way in which we draw conclusions from information. The conservative might hear about an increase in the rate of single mothers and believe the cause is the collapse of the family and traditional values. While the liberal might conclude that itís the lack of sex education, the availability of contraception, and a womenís right to choose that is responsible for this statistic.

Step 2
Know the bias of your source. Is it conservative, or liberal? Is it corporate or nonprofit? Always assume by default that your biased source will lie or spin stories in favor of their agenda. Guard against this by checking their story, their sources, and comparing it to alternative sources with the opposite bias. Generally if a conservative and liberal source agree it is correct, and if they disagree, it is just as likely that both are telling half truths, as it is that one side is correct and the other wrong.

Step 3 Be independent. Never take a story at face value. Do your own research and hear all sides before you make statements or take stands. Because if you have been deceived by your source, it will both damage your credibility, and your self esteem. This is a lesson I personally learned the hard way, and a lesson that I continue to learn as I myself strive to perfect my objectivity. Itís an endless pursuit, no one is perfect and you will never be totally objective, but you must always try to improve.

Step 4 question the conventional wisdom, but donít embrace the dissent. It is easy and indeed fashionable to rebel against the majority and embrace the fringe. Left wing and right wing demagogues from Linden Larouche to Ralf Nader and from Ross Perot to Ron Paul have inspired the disenfranchised elements of partisan politics by offering clear contrast and radical ideas. However these sources are often even worse than the established parties they contrast. Many of them have hidden agendas and disturbing connections, many of them embrace ludicrous theories ranging from revisionist history, to blatant conspiracy. So it is again necessary to do independent research. To hear both sides, to look into claims, and to seek evidence and contrast donít accept the status quo, but do not blindly follow the alternative. Trust no one, even yourself. Put your faith instead in the facts and the logical thought process by which facts translate into well reasoned conclusions.

Step 5
stick your neck out! The best way to find out you are wrong about something is to lose an argument. Itís difficult and often the most terrifying prospect to take a stand and invite criticism, but it is necessary to argue for the truth once you have become comfortable your estimation of it, both so that others can be tested, and so you yourself can be tested. If you win the arguments, your truth is lionized; if you lose it is corrected. In both cases the cause for truth and objectivity is furthered, and on a fundamental level democracy itself is improved.

Step 6
donít be a partisan. No matter how passionate you are in your convictions do not demonize the opposition, even if they attack you, refrain from vitriolic rhetoric. If you allow yourself to become a partisan you will lose both your objectivity, and your credibility. The best weapon a person can use is to marginalize the oppositional. This is done constantly. The anti war movement was decided as the party of Michael Moore, and anti American by the conservatives. The anti tax movement was decried as the party of Rush Limbaugh, and racist and ignorant. These attempts by the power structure to stamp out dissent must be repelled by both those in favor of the dissent, but also those against it. We must employ the old liberal adage. ďI do not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.Ē The decedents of the enlightenment age would do well to remember the immortal words of Voltaire. For regardless of what you think we ought not to allow opinions to be marginalized, and the policies of those in power to go unquestioned.

Step 7
donít buy into slander and libel. If you hear someone called a racist, a radical, a crook, or any other negative title or connotation. Even if you are given a reason that sounds both plausible and compelling, always check yourself. Look into the claim, the evidence supporting it, the arguments for and against, and most importantly, hear the defense of the person being attacked. Listen to their side of the story. For no matter how personal or trustworthy a source is, it is never to be a substitute for your own eyes, your ears, and your own mind.

Step 8
be consistent! If itís ok in one situation, it must be ok in all, or in none. It is so common for partisans to defend the actions or words of one of their own, then attack the opposition for doing exactly the same thing, under the most flimsy of excuses. A recent example can be found in the outrage over Rush Limbaughís statement, ďI want Obama to fail.Ē Itís true that politics has an extremely short attention span, but it is not so short that the fervent wishes of many soon to be Obama supporters, regarding Bush are forgotten.  Indeed, they wanted Bush to fail, but they were outraged when Rush said the same of their partisan leader. The same goes for the other side. Many republicans supported Bushís deficient spending, yet now decry Obamaís deficit spending. Now, it must be said that many republicans didnít care about deficit spending until the shock of the bail outs, and the implications of the financial crisis took effect. However those republicans that continue to defend Bush era spending after the fact, and in many ways the equivalent of those democrats that to this day defend Clinton era foreign policy, even after the wakeup call that was 9-11.

This also extends to political correctness. The left wing protestor who calls Bush a redneck is not called a racist, even though redneck is a racially offensive derogatory term used to describe Scots-Irishmen from the Appalachian Mountains. Yet the right wing protestor who sings Barack the magic Negro is immediately decried as a racist. We must come to a conclusion that either both cases are racist, or both cases are legitimate forms of protest. I tend to favor the former, and condemn such statements as bigoted and inflammatory, but I am even more disgusted by the hypocrisy of those that will make one statement and condemn the other. It seems both sides want a monopoly on hate speech, and the ability to define it.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2009, 08:06:54 am by Giuliano Taverna »
"It is the duty of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them." Tiberius Caesar

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