We are all biased. Consciously and unconsciously.
Consciously we have preferences; things that we prefer, that we choose, and this influences that ways in which we act and present ourselves to the world.
Unconsciously we have biases that influence our actions and are influenced by society and ingrained notions of 'good' or 'bad'. This podcast explores this phenomena better than I can explain it.
Post-truth is a term that entered the general lexicon last year. It suggests that we live in an age of "alternative facts" where individual 'truths' are more important than objective facts. This is manifest in a denial of reality, a rejection of expert testimony, and the jealous defence of personal perception over other possible views.
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When we see or hear things that challenge our opinions, people are beginning to retaliate rather than rethink.
The BBC is constantly accused of bias: last year there was even a debate in the House of Commons on the issue. Whatever they report, however they report it, someone, somewhere, believes that they are being biased. In the issue of Brexit both sides are angry at what they see as an 'obvious' preference for the other side, and it was the same during the General Election.
Here's the thing: I think that the BBC are actually pretty neutral. I think that they have to be. But we are not used to seeing, hearing or reading completely nonpartisan coverage of an issue any more.
I heard somewhere, recently, that the BBC is bound by a code of conduct of impartiality in the UK that doesn't extend to newspapers or other news channels. This means that newspapers can be prejudice as their editors wish, with repercussions only when they misreport, rather than misrepresent the facts. The BBC can't do this: they have to show objectivity.
However; during political or sociological debates, when invited guests are brought into studios to answer questions, the BBC selects these participants based on party vote share: this means that as, unfortunately, UKIP got a larger number of votes nationwide than the Green Party, they are more likely to invite a UKIP spokesperson onto a show rather than the Green Party MP. This can mean that the debate appears biased, but it is more reflective of the opinion across the country.
Image Source: bbc.co.uk
I believe that it's very important to attempt to absorb a range of views and viewpoints. This can help us empathise and understand an opposing opinion, but it can also cause anger: I occasionally endeavour to read a newspaper that has a diametrically converse outlook to the one I personally hold, even though they often make me really angry, both in the language they use and the way the language is employed.
Alongside this, I strongly believe that the press should report facts, not opinions. And that any curtailment on the freedom of reporting facts is a threat to all of our freedoms. Witness la-Leadsom's sinister comment that news reporters ought to be 'more patriotic' when reporting about Brexit. As if reporting factually on the fall in sterling, the widespread unrest, the debacle of negotiations, without at least having the decency to wear a Union Jack tie and praise Our Glorious Leader in the next breath, is somehow misleading to the nation.
To mis-quote Voltaire: I may not believe what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. We live in a free country (for now) and we are entitled to our opinions. But every right comes with a responsibility, and it is also our responsibility to respect the opinions of someone who may think differently to us.
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The other is not like us. But we are all other and we are all us, and it is important to remember this. Especially in times when bias is mainstream, and alternative facts are reality.