Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts On Media

One of the things that has increasingly annoyed me in politics is confirmation bias, wherein people choose the news that suits their views. I understand why they do it. Hell, I have done it to a point. I get the Cato Daily Podcast and listen to that regularly. I never go to Drudge or Fox News, nor NPR or MSNBC. If online there, the comments will make you angry. Well, they make me angry.

Politico has a great article about the result of this. They call it a 'media cocoon'. They ascribe it to Republicans only. That's easy to do, given how they just lost the Presidential election and failed to re-take the Senate. I find all walks do this now. It isn't as though internet is only available to the right, and selective filtering never occurred to those on the left. Politico is left-of-center enough for me to find them to be part of the problem. Ascribing cocoons only to Republicans is proof enough. Nonetheless, the concept is valid and the article makes its points.

Being libertarian and having several circles of friends, I can see the various cocoons come into play. I have old music scene friends and New Yorkers in one cocoon. They can't believe the social conservative views held by some, and often are in despair over 'the course of the country', sliding into the grip of social conservatism- all while championing science and numbers... while the numbers show that the country is moving sharply away from social conservatism! There is one friend in particular that I reassure at least twice a year by pointing out how trends are moving in his direction. Stop listening to your own narrative!

Each side makes the case that policy is moving away from them. If you believe the narrative, it must be that it works in the way propaganda works- substituting facts for something plausible but not of fact, with the intent of motivating.

I get caught up in it, too. My recent despair is of the same nature, but in fact marijuana policy and same sex relationship policy just moved in a libertarian direction west of the Mississippi. What do I see? All of foreign policy and economic policy going the other way. Am I justified in noticing the ratio? Sure, but to what end?

I'm not making the case against choosing one's news sources. I'm making the case for broader horizons.

I sat in a house full of Democrats on election night. I was the only non-Democrat in the house, and not a Republican. Our host was amazed as I predicted the outcomes, but also the demeanor of those presenting the news on the various channels as we surfed. I thought they would enjoy the schadenfreude of watching Fox personnel grimace and moan, and they did. They had no idea to expect that, which floored me until I realized they never ever watch Fox. I thought it would be obvious. To not guess that Sean Hannity and Karl Rove would be unhappy? That's living in a cocoon!

So, broaden those horizons. Take in some news from the other side, and you'll find yourself rounded out a bit more. Apply this to travel (go abroad, it's eye-opening), music, films, books, food, etc. We aren't insects. We are capable of more than singular foci. Not only capable, but better for it.


Doug said...

The "everyone I know voted for McGovern" phenomenon.

See also the Splinternet.

Mike Kole said...

Yep- first thing cited in the Politico article.

Wainstead said...

But page 2 of the article talks briefly about the left wing cocoon.

"That's partly because of the difference between the two cocoons in the two parties."