Notes & Essays

On Biases, Media and Otherwise: Why People Have It And Why We're All Doomed

An essay on media bias, personal bias, and the inconsequentiality of the bias of it all.
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When we talk of "bias" nowadays, we often refer to the buzzword circulating on critical remarks directed against the news media. As a mere observer of the circus known as contemporary political and social affairs, we may have really gone haywire unlike that of the previous decade. I still remember fondly the word "truthiness" coined by Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, a satirical parody of news pundits and talk show hosts on American television. Truthiness is not a matter of knowing what is true or false; truthiness is true because it feels true. It is obvious it is a jibe against the propaganda trumpeted by the Bush administration in Iraq, and a growing awareness that television is making people less focused and too "tribalistic" when it comes to their preferences and attitudes.

And here we are since then, talking about the same problem that was once a punchline for a gag.

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What is quite ironic for those who use the term "bias" is that it was previously a monopoly of the Left, especially at the height of the War on Terror and the financial crisis of the late 2000s, when governments had a tendency to manipulate public opinion (which they still do to this day). But thanks to the increasing prominence of conspiracies (with networks such as The History Channel partially contributing to it) and the more pronounced impact of the Internet in everyday living, information has become decentralized. The usual hold of the large institutions in the age of TV has continued to diminish. Worse, traditional media has long been engaged in a race to the bottom in search of ratings. This is not at all surprising, because in the consumer society of ours, everything is up for grabs, even information itself.

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Let the highest bidder possess the facts, and everything else becomes a matter of corporate sponsorship from Toblerone or Viagra.

When was the last time that we remembered CNN doing an in-depth dissection of an international incident? It was a long time ago, and also a long time ago, a combination of economic and social pressures have led to the abandonment of perspectives in exchange of talking points from an influencer, a blogger, and washed-up media announcers. And they have the same message: Subscribe to us instead of the conventional news sources.

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And thus we need to focus on the bigger elephant in the room: Can a news source really become unbiased and fair, as the espousers of the word will often claim to uphold? To anyone’s surprise, it is quite possible. But the only outlets where you can find it are the news channels of the likes of C-SPAN. For those unfamiliar, C-SPAN is an American television network that shows proceedings and press releases of the government in an unedited, unscripted, and unabridged format. If this is really the intention, it can be done at the expense of boredom.

But it is not the intention.

To those who use the term so frequently, to be unbiased neither means fairness nor objectivity. It means toeing the party line.

The news media is no stranger to having bedfellows and lobbyists wanting a positive spin on their incidents. However, those who tend to use "bias" are using it as a cudgel to everyone they do not like.

Personally, I find it funny, because it reminds me of The Twilight Zone. And with the recent fiasco over the fate of a major Filipino network always at odds with this administration, it is now harder to write articles for the purposes of inciting an April Fools’ joke. There are so many snowflakes (whether conservative or progressive) on the horizon, who are always waiting for the kill. Irony is dead and we have killed it.

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And this is where the contemporary heated disputes collude. Erasing their labels, we can find a common pattern on why the so-called culture war (cancel culture and name-shaming) is becoming a norm (other than a false dilemma that sets people apart from uniting against the status quo we all despise).

Whether we like it or not, we are more overworked, more stressed, and more unsatisfied with our personal lives. The wages have remained stagnant, the unions are busted, and there is severe impotence with regards to workers’ rights. So, after a long day of a grueling job you hate, being shouted at by your own bosses, you turn on either your television or your device connected to the Internet. To hell with me, I just want to escape reality, you mutter subconsciously. Ergo, neurotic people are likewise neurotic on how to approach disagreements and misunderstandings.

The fault of those who are overly into conspiracy theories is that, while they are correct in pointing out the evils committed on a common person, their articulation, moreso their solutions, are far too easy and reflect a sort of desperation. They usually avoid addressing the incompetence of the ruling class itself and their capacity to have class solidarity to protect their holdings (we can very much say that the conspiracy theories today are manifestations of class solidarity within the ruling class). We also tend to avoid that the politicians and whatever flavor of public figures we have for the era are just servants to a system that they are anxious to latch on to in fears of collapse.

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But still, if we really want lessened biases and agenda-pushing, then I have three proposals. First and foremost is the decriminalization of libel, as rich idiots will no longer have a reason to protect their sorry asses from constructive criticism and their wrongdoings.

Second is for all major news networks to list all their advertising sponsors to ensure the protection of the journalists from any reprimands: Advertising interests usually prevent the news media from tackling labor strikes and work stoppages.

Third and last is for the freedom of information act to become applicable to all government agencies, with all the files free and open to the public. This will also facilitate easier reporting for journalists and ensure greater transparency.

As for the biases on human perception and psyche, we can very much undergo a lobotomy to replace our brain with that of a chimpanzee.

To go back to the roots of why journalism is here in the first place, journalism is a profession engaged with telling what otherwise cannot be told. Everything else is public relations.

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And in this era we live in, we just want everything to be public relations to hide our misery and sorrow.

The simulacra are absorbing us into its gigantic screens, and we are in need of a Freudian mommy or daddy to cover up our Oedipal/Electra complex well into Purgatory.

The wheel of life takes another turn, and we are at the bottom. It is better to be an armed partisan or a holy man than a civilian in the 21st century. For the logic of Capital accelerates into the abyss, with a collapsing stage we refer to as "humanity" in front of it.

And we will thus be reunited with our Creator (that we have also killed), in everything and anything along with the bushes of the plains, the mountains, and the sea...

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Allen Severino
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