Karl Gallagher (libertarianhawk) wrote,
Karl Gallagher

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Media Bias Problems

In the comments in a post on feelings of helplessness by ozarque, gement wrote:
[After Bush was re-elected] I basically started questioning social cause and effect. For all I knew, and I still can't really shake this, the news I hear from my liberal West Coast metropolitan NPR-listening bubble is completely skewed and the theocracy is coming tomorrow. It's not only that I can't stop it. It's that I no longer trust my information, so I can't even tell if it's happening or not.
That's an aspect of media bias I hadn't considered before. I get annoyed at NPR because my preferred side is ignored, or presented badly. But it doesn't drive me nuts. Instead I go off to other sources of news (newspaper websites, bloggers, www.whitehouse.gov, soldiers in Iraq, etc.) and find pieces of the puzzle that were left out of the MSM (mainstream media) picture. I get to join in the smirks when the MSM's predictions utterly fail to match reality, happy that I'd been reading people with a better grasp on it.

I'd never considered how the people who prefer the MSM's take on the world reacted to the reality-shocks. Yes, a handful switch over to the other news sources I use, but that's pretty unpleasant unless you've been traumatized enough to change your entire worldview. So the majority are sticking with their news sources while not trusting it to warn them of upcoming disasters (such as Bush getting reelected). That's probably a lot like the psychology experiments where dogs get random shocks until they're driven nuts.

It's making me a lot more sympathetic to some of the amazingly paranoid worries I see from my liberal friends. I'm not worried about theocracy in the USA because I read conservative sites. The guys trying to rally the troops for a last-ditch resistance to legal polygamy are not expecting to be on top of the heap any time soon. And they're a lot happier than the fiscal conservatives. But someone who's only seeing those groups through the MSM can't believe reports of their weakness because hey, they said Bush would lose. So they're scared and digging in for a fight.

I think this may be one of the big drivers of the red-vs-blue hostility in this country. But I'm a little more hopeful, too. The net is making it easier to find alternate sources of data. What we need is a liberal-point-of-view news channel that won't distort reality to put their audience in a cocoon. If we can establish a common ground of shared facts we'll be a long way toward making our disagreements more civil.
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