By Matt Johnson
Objectivity is an important attribute as a writer. In fact, it’s an important attribute in any industry and any job. However, writers have access, in general, to large audiences. And so it is important to be forthright in what a writer publishes.
I’ve attempted this on several occasions. And as a consequence, I’m positive there have been times where my writing has appeared conservative to the eyes of a liberal; and I’m positive there have been times where my writing has appeared liberal to the eyes of a conservative. Indeed, I have explored both political realms in great depth, so these two perspectives of my writing make sense.
But because of this, I tend to view the presidential run of Donald J. Trump in a different light, or rather through a different lens. I have been slow to take the bait of different medias in regards to buying into a certain point of view; for example, how Fox News views Trump and how MSNBC views Trump. This is because I have perceived a curious relationship between the republican presidential nominee and the media. And in addition to this curious relationship, I believe both are biased because of their educational and political biases. Let me explain.
As the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn once argued in his masterpiece The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, students of a particular science (I believe this applies to journalism and political science students as well) will move through a predetermined paradigm that is one part their curriculum and one part their culture. In addition, they are provided textbooks in their curriculum to edify and perpetuate the current ideas and applications of their new-found discipline and field. But this isn’t enough.
They must also be influenced by external cultural and political forces as well. In other words, the political and social bubbles may be a real thing and this election may be just one example of these bubbles. And as a consequence, any person, no matter their training, is susceptible to this reality and because of highlighted events, perceptions will change in different ways.
As MarketWatch explained in an article from this past May, Trump has received billions of dollars in free advertising from the mainstream media overall while in a win-win relationship with them. But now he is at odds with them over the recent release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape, and the recent accusations of sexual harassment by several women.
Am I saying that the accusations of these women are without merit? Not in the least. That’s not my argument. Am I saying it is the case that the media once loved him, but now hate him? Not necessarily. That’s not my argument.
However, this perceived attempt to delegitimize his character is not playing well with his supporters. In fact, it has only embolden them. The “Deplorables!” are seeing this as a battle cry. And as a consequence, his argument now is that these news organizations are conspiring against him with these corporate news organizations who are in bed with the Hillary Clinton campaign, which means he views himself as the anti-establishment candidate.
Make no mistake, news organizations like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News are major corporations. This is a fact. However, does this mean that they are up to something nefarious or devious? Again, not necessarily. Evidence needs to be put forth – many have argued that’s already been done – and then that evidence needs to be scrutinized and tested for accuracy and validity. But surely this is what is happening to Trump, right? Maybe? Is it?
I will receive different arguments for and against from different political spheres; and my training should set off red flags while allowing me to see above the fray that is this election. For example, am I able to identify that there are at least two opposing arguments with different sets of supporting evidence for and against? And once I identify these opposing world views along with their sets of beliefs, who shall I believe?
If MSNBC tells me Donald J. Trump is a sexist, racist, bigot tyrant, then shouldn’t I expect evidence to support such a notion? And if Fox News, or probably a better example would be Breitbart, tells me Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread, then shouldn’t I expect evidence to support such a notion? And besides the question of who I should believe, where should the threshold of believability reside?
However, it maybe difficult to accomplish such a feat in this very partisan and toxic political environment. Even the very idea of objectivity won’t go without retort. Why is this?
This is because of human nature. Humans are ready-made, emotionally driven creatures; but add to that this politically divisive environment, where Trump or Clinton will destroy the very fabric of America if given the opportunity to do so. Of course, the opposite is argued as well.
Supporters of both teams argue that each one will save America. These are of course gross generalizations, but they point to a system of emotional behavior that is often favored by most members of the species. And this “humans are emotionally driven creatures first” notion has been explored and illustrated by Jonathan Haidt, Daniel Kahneman, and Scott Adams to name a few. As Jonathan Haidt explains in his book The Righteous Mind,
If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you.
As an example of what Haidt is elucidating, just visit one of the many threads on Trump or Clinton’s Facebook page. An observer would be hard pressed to find a discussion that didn’t go off the rails and straight into the ditch that is character assassination. Members of each team with their colors, logos, and rhetoric gladly declare their respective allegiances. Indeed, their team is righteous and superior, and a win by their leader means the salvation of the universe as we know it. And how should the critical thinker approach this political dichotomy?
That is the question, isn’t it?
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