TW:Philosophy- Bias and Media

April 2, 2011 in Philosophy:TW

Philosophy:TW bannerWhen you sit down to watch or tune into the nightly news, you are unconsciously listening to the opinion of someone else. Although news organizations and groups, such as our very own TW blog, try to keep bias low (or in some cases, the opposite), it always sneaks in to the smallest degree. To be able to detect bias and cope around it is something that is a crucial skill to survive well in situations such as PnP debates, diplomatic discussions, and even discussions on game features. In this issue of TW:Philosophy, we’ll explore what bias really is and how one can see through it to find the hard facts.

Bias: The Sleeping Monster Within All

bi·as: noun. \ˈbī-əs\

An inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment :prejudice; an instance of such prejudice; deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates; systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others.

Whether or not humans intend it, bias plays a key role in forming our opinions on key issues. Bias is most commonly found in issues where personal loyalties may take effect such as political events, social movements, and religious strife. All news sources are biased to a degree, even if they are not intentionally so. Some sources are tagged as ‘Liberal’ or ‘Conservative’ in the United States because of the news they portray, their affiliations, and the political beliefs of those who work for them.

In its broadest definition, bias is all and any statement that is not factual or numerical in nature. It doesn’t matter if it has support; if a sentence is not purely numbers or cite-able information, then chances are it has some opinion or conclusion drawn from something else. Even these words now are biased if you think about them! Some people, on the other hand, see bias as a very specific thing- direct favoritism of one side over another. For the sake of simplicity, I will define bias as the second definition for the time being, as it is far easier to recognize and deal with.

When the blog hires a new blogger, they are given a 40+ page .pdf file that guides them through using the blog and the processes required for blogging- sort of like a field-guide to blogging. Within are a few examples of what is clear bias and not:

“… The player, Lord_Dannordax14, an arrogant fool who ‘rules’ over a puny little tribe called ‘The Dannorians’ recently said in a message to the glorious attacking tribe ‘North Treaty Group’…” Bias is too clear.

“… Recently, the leader of the small tribe ‘The Dannorians’ sent a message to an attacking tribe called the ‘North Treaty Group’ asking them to…” Perfectly Acceptable.

As you can see, that sort of situation of bias would be rather extreme (hopefully something you should never encounter on the blog), but a clear-cut example of what NOT to write.

Seeing Through the Mist

So, what steps can you take to get through the bias and find the facts?

  • Ignore adjectives and superlatives such as ‘best’ and ‘greatest’.
  • Take anything suggesting a one-way conflict with a grain of salt*.
  • Ignore predictions*.
  • Understand that ‘many people’ can also mean ‘I’ or ‘a few people’.

In doubt? Use Socratic Thinking:

What is used to measure evidence for this?<
>Measurement and information types
That clearly shows [opinion] is (right/wrong).<

As an example:

>100 spearmen are better than 100 axemen defensively in equal circumstances.
What is used to measure evidence for this?<
>unit defensive power.
The measures of unit defensive power clearly shows spearmen are better defenders.<

But what does all this stuff have to do with reading a blog you may ask? Well, there certainly is no short answer…

Next time you read your next world blog or listen to your next news program, keep your eyes (and y’ears) open for bias in its words. Being able to take in a long article about how some tribe lost a war and get out of it solid facts key to your next political can really help you. It also helps you get to the bottom of what really happened. Because we all have slightly different political views, ‘the bottom’ isn’t always the same thing, so it’s best to analyze for yourself and keep your findings personal.

On the Other Side of Things

On our side, the blog administration does a lot to try to mitigate personal bias. Here are a few tricks and policies we use:

  • When interviewing someone over a two-sided conflict, be sure to also interview the next side and feature them together or only one issue apart.
  • Censor or edit certain things that the blog author wouldn’t feel comfortable letting his grandmother read (bad language, etc.).
  • Ask the blogger to step back and look over his work from as many points of view as he/she can.
  • Actively notify bloggers when they don’t follow the above steps.