Tuesday 16 April 2013

Quoth the Scotsman | Max Barry on Bias

I've been reading Lexicon lately: a blistering new literary thrilling from the mind behind Jennifer Government. I'll absolutely review the wild ride it represents closer to its release date in the UK—it's due out in June from Mulholland Books—but in advance of that, I wanted to whet your appetites a mite.

The following excerpt—one of a number of incisive interstitials foregrounded by Max Barry—purports to be a forum post... but just so you know, it's not. At the time of this writing, at least, the link leads nowhere. Just so you know.

That said, this passage captures the voice of the typical forum-goer fantastically:
From: http://mediawatch.corporateoppression.com/community/tags/fox 
I just think it's missing the point to get upset about bias in Fox News or MSNBC or whoever. I see this all the time: I mention to someone that I watch Fox and it's like I just slaughtered a baby. They ask how I can watch that, it's just propaganda, etc etc. And they know this not because they're ever sat down and spent any time with it but because their favourite news channel, i.e. a Fox competitor, sometimes plays a clip from a Fox show and it makes Fox look really stupid. 
Well, you know what, Fox does that, too. If I only watched Fox, I'd think you must be really stupid, watching that other show I see clips from on Fox sometimes. 
But I don't just watch Fox, because the way to beat biased reporting isn't to find the least biased one and put all your trust in that. First of all, they're all biased, from the language they use and the framing down to the choice they make about which stories to report. The gap between the most biased news show and the least is pretty small, all things considered. 
But more importantly, relying on a single source of information means you can't critically evaluate it. It's like you're locked in a room and every day I come in and tell you what's happening outside. It's very easy for me to make you believe whatever I want. Even if I don't lie, I can just tell you the facts that support me and leave out the one's that don't. 
That's what's happening if you're getting all your news from one place. If you stop listening to someone the second you hear a word or a phrase you've been taught belongs to the enemy, like "environment" or "job creators," that's what you're doing. You might be an intelligent person, but once you let someone else filter the world for you, you have no way to critically analyse what you're hearing. At best, absolute best case scenario, if they blatantly contradict themselves, you can spot that. But if they take basic care to maintain an internal logical consistency, which they all do, you've got nothing. You've delegated the ability to make up your mind. (p.219)
I'm going to have to start reading another newspaper—online, obviously—than The Guardian, aren't I? :P

I'm only half kidding, actually...

Look out for my full review of Lexicon to go live in late May.

1 comment:

  1. Insightful.

    And if nothing else, this post reminds me that I still have yet to read Jennifer Government. :p