According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 72 percent of Democrats trust the news media, versus 14 percent of the Republicans. Why is this so? The answer lies in the fact that the national news media is overwhelmingly liberal. So, what’s a Republican to do? Find coverage that agrees with their views.
Let’s first define the word “bias” so we can establish a baseline. According to “Miriam-Webster.” bias is defined as: “an inclination of temperament or outlook especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment: PREJUDICE.”
Let’s face it, we’re all biased! We all have prejudices. We all have grown up in environments that have caused us to lean to the left or the right, or somewhere in between. Human beings tend to search out those who agree with them and avoid (or violently argue with) those who disagree with them. That’s called confirmation bias. Bias is a reality. There is a way to get at the truth, however. That way is tri-fold: self-awareness, self-control and humility. Let’s look at each in turn.
Self-awareness: Most of us know what we are – progressive, moderate (an endangered species) or conservative. Do you know why you’re one or the other? If you ever watch politicians, they will tell you why they believe as they do. Some examples: progressives often talk about growing up as a minority or in a single-family home. Other progressives grow up with parents who are college educated. The greater the level of education, the more likely that a person will be progressive.
Conservatives often grow up in religious families where the Bible is viewed as inerrant. They see an increasing cultural tolerance for gay marriage and the LGBTQ population which they view as biblically sinful. Abortion is murder to them and should be ended. Never mind that Jesus never talked about either and the Apostle Paul only dealt with homosexuality in regard to Christ followers.
He did not try to change the Greco-Roman culture through getting laws enacted or by trying to dominate the government.
Other conservatives are involved in business. Government has created rules and regulations that take away their profits and raise costs. Some working class conservatives have found themselves to be slipping out of the middle class, struggling to make ends meet. Many of them work with their hands and don’t have higher degrees. They resent that immigrants have entered this country either legally or illegally. These immigrants get government help while they, native born Americans, are often ignored. These conservatives are angry over globalization which has sent many factory jobs overseas.
Moderates like me have taught or known about the political spectrum for decades. They often read a great deal and have been involved in politics, either as an elected official or as social science teachers. Moderates can listen to arguments on both sides of the spectrum and see that neither side has all the truth.
You know you’re a moderate if you can tick off both sides of the political spectrum. I’ve angered Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a deeply devout Democrat who publicly accused me of being either journalistically sloppy or willfully trying to deceive. I was neither, but after he was privately informed of his misunderstanding of what I wrote, he merely doubled down.
Conservatives often accuse me of being a “liberal,” which is sometimes true. Sometimes anything to their left is evil. Those on the extreme right or left on the political spectrum share a common dogmatism, no matter the difference in doctrines, as any religious extremist. Their views have become their god to which they are deeply devoted.
Self-control: Maintaining relationships is more important than one’s political views. Many people forget this. As a result, family, friends and acquaintances are alienated. Self-control comes by not replying or reacting emotionally to views that strongly differ from one’s own.
Seeking common ground and compromise also works, but self-control is rooted in my third point in dealing with bias.
Humility: Humility comes from the realization that we humans don’t know much. We crave certainty that doesn’t exist. It has been my experience that the more dogmatic I become, the more uncertain and insecure I am. The more we have self-awareness and self-control, the easier it is to be humble. Humble people know their weaknesses and their strengths and are able to listen to those who disagree with them.
Since media is biased and so are we, seeking out differing opinions helps us remember to be humble. Author Stephen Covey said it best: “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”
Being able to seek out and listen to those with whom we disagree requires self-awareness and self-control.
Bias is part of the human state. Either we can be ruled by it, or we can gain control of it. The choice is up to us.