with No Comments

Post No.: 0721impartial


Furrywisepuppy says:


Magazines and journals are typically partisan towards their particular industries. Don’t ever show that the industry you fundamentally depend on is stagnating or cannot justify its own existence – keep hyping up products, giving occasional 5-star reviews (but not too many), defend your industry from external attacks and don’t insult your readership. In short, you’re not likely going to read something that’s impartial.


So a motoring magazine is going to favour and champion the interests of motorists. A hi-fi magazine is going to present a picture that there’s constant exciting innovation in hi-fi technology that keeps on producing ever new ‘best ever’ hi-fi components and therefore reasons to subscribe to such a magazine to keep up to date with them. A dedicated financial journal might even be indirectly funded by the banking sector and is therefore predisposed to paint that industry in a favourable light.


Journalists working for magazines are also more likely to write positive articles about whom they interview otherwise they’ll get a reputation for dissing people, which will affect their ability to secure future interviews with key industry figures, which will thus affect their publication’s readership and revenue. Radio presenters are likewise incentivised to talk well about celebrities generally otherwise these stars won’t want to appear, potentially with exclusives, on their stations again. Celebrities, like the ordinary people they fundamentally are, are mostly okay folk but – unless it’s a debate or interrogation – presenters need to show polite enthusiasm and say what an amazing film or song they’re there to promote is, even when it’s not!


Interviewees, of all kinds, aren’t usually ever paid in cash but can receive in-kind benefits through the PR they’re taking advantage of. A celebrity might really only be there to plug their book. A guest might even only agree to be interviewed if they can be assured that certain topics are off-limits.


Whereas businesspeople can perpetually avoid giving interviews (hence why many are quite elusive e.g. most sportswashing billionaire football club owners, even towards their own club’s fans) – politicians, in democracies at least, cannot escape giving regular public interviews as part of their job, and they must make lots of public appearances if they want to get (re)elected. (However, when populist politicians cannot choose which journalists are present and who reports on them during press/news conferences – they might end up accusing those who say unfavourable things about them of being ‘fake news’(!))


Notwithstanding, people can usually be selective about which interviewers they talk to and appearances they make so that they can carefully manage their public images. And it’s often better to give few interviews or say few words because the benefits of saying something good for your reputation aren’t as great as the risks of saying something bad. (Plenty cannot help themselves on their own social media accounts though!) Or if your reputation is already deplorable then staying out of the media spotlight can mean one receives less public scrutiny (like those who sportswash, greenwash or generally whitewash the images of the brands they own – it’s not just dictators who routinely attempt to control their messages and public images!)


Some media outlets may be rich and powerful enough to fill mainstream media with their own articles because they’re part of a parent media conglomerate that owns much of the media industry itself. They may have the staff, connections (for link density and engagement), knowhow and means to make their own webpages more likely to appear at the top of search engine results pages related to any search terms to do with them or their industry. Lobby groups routinely flood the media with pieces that favour their positions whenever there are proposed laws affecting their industries. We’re bound to be only hearing a one-sided story when a corporation talks about the disadvantages of trade unions or how amazing their own environmental endeavours are. A spokesperson for a company is obviously going to assert that industry self-regulation is best for everyone and not just for themselves, even (or especially) after a scandal has rocked their industry; unless it’s patently no longer defensible (but even then they’ll attempt some sort of halfway ‘separate yet internally on the payroll’ supervisory body first!) They’re not going to be impartial about those standpoints.


Many of the largest, global mass-media outlets are backed by for-profit conglomerates that favour one political stance or another, which we as news consumers seldom take into account. And since most of us will only click on the links found on the first page of search results, we’ll only get to read their not very impartial perspectives and corporate propaganda.


Not all media outlets side solely with the wealthy for being owned by wealthy individuals, and not all rich donors care solely about the rich – but one value of public broadcasters (publicly paid broadcasting) is their independence from wealthy investors and their private interests. A problem they instead face though is their independence from government influence. (For the BBC, the answer is to charge the public a license fee rather than take funding directly from taxes. The same rationale is sometimes used for higher education institutions – a tuition fee ensures greater independence from government control as well as lessens corporate sponsorship control.)


A typical reporter’s approach is, “Is x good for us? Let’s go ask the manufacturers of x.” But what do you think they’re going to say?! And of course they’ll say it’s not about the money.


Someone who’s working in or otherwise stands to personally profit greatly from automation technologies is going to support a prediction that automation technologies are going to create more high-quality jobs and other new opportunities than they’ll axe. It’s like we’re bound to not be hearing an impartial story when we listen to only one side who was involved in an acrimonious split-up with their partner, or to only one driver who was involved in an accident with another.


Billionaires are going to argue that it’s wrong or bad for society if the rich get taxed more highly. An art agent is going to claim that magnificent art that’s worth millions is still being created today despite the gradual commodification of art through AI. That dentist or doctor in that commercial advertisement who’s getting paid to appear in it is bound to recommend that company’s products. Someone who has invested heavily in a cryptocurrency is obviously going say that everyone should invest in it too since they want it to rise in value.


So a party is hardly going to be impartial when its own self-interests are at stake – yet many independent journalists or readers can mistakenly read such opinions as if they’ve come from impartial minds. Therefore we must always assess a source’s potential personal stakes and in turn biases, and take these into account. Is the person being interviewed the founder of a company that’s developing or selling a particular technology?


A company, to protect its own self-interests, may spread biased media releases that won’t transparently reveal that the sources actually originate from the company itself or its partners (e.g. professors sponsored by them). They’ll dispute independent, truly impartial, research that doesn’t show their products or practices in a good light. They’ll dispute policies that wish to increase taxations that’ll affect their businesses. They’ll often even conduct their own prejudiced scientific research (e.g. by committing deliberate selection biases to create a self-serving result).


Basically, based on what their financial or otherwise personal interests are – does the sentiment ‘but you would say that though’ apply? You should rather trust in someone who isn’t trying to sell you something over someone who is. Woof!


This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re disseminating BS or are wrong but they mightn’t tell us the whole truth about what they support or promote even if they know of its drawbacks. Even when asked, they mightn’t give us a straight answer! Their viewpoints highly likely won’t be impartial because they’re not independent from what they speak about. We indeed cannot assess their views before we hear them, but we also need to hear other, opposing or independent, voices too.


Yet we’re notorious for intuitively employing confirmation bias to cherry-pick the evidence or arguments that support whatever conclusions we seek, while ignoring what contradicts them. (Confirmation bias should therefore perhaps more accurately be called the ‘myside bias’ since it’s not a tendency to confirm everything one currently knows but mainly the things that support the position one already advocates.)


For example, if someone were to argue that child stardom is wrong, they’ll list those child stars who didn’t turn out well when older while overlooking any who did. Or despite whatever counterevidence a stubborn conspiracy theorist is presented with, their theory will persist in their mind because any such evidence will be rationalised as fake, those people are ‘crisis actors’, or whatever – these kinds of rationales even reinforce their theory of a cover-up operation by a powerful clandestine organisation that ostensibly has long tendrils that control every sector of society.


You’ll be accused of having been brainwashed or for being a part of the conspiracy yourself if you tell them they’re wrong. Hence why it won’t work to tell people they’re wrong in this amount of words – they need bridging through showing them respect, listening, empathy and through understanding why they want to believe what they believe. Is it because they feel powerless? Is it to explain this confusing world? It’s not always due to a low IQ because those with higher-than-average IQs can fall for conspiracy theories too.


Conspiracy theorists love taking selected snippets of videos or transcripts out of context. Journalists might cherry-pick reporting the mean, median, mode, range, a relative figure, the absolute total, or whichever statistic specifically best conveys their pre-selected conclusion. Cherry-picking information was covered in Post No.: 0491. Governments and businesses love selecting the most favourable definitions or measures of terms like ‘the employed’, ‘patients seen’ or ‘crimes’ to suit their own agendas (e.g. what kinds of crimes should be excluded from the headline crime statistic).


The reporting of statistics can be manipulated like highlighting that ‘the rate of increase in carbon emissions has been decreasing’ when this’d still mean the absolute figure is increasing! (Cherry-picking derivatives.) Divide any number by any other and you’ll get a ratio too. Figures are ‘adjusted’ for this thing or another, or not, depending on whether the final number suits one’s desired message.


I could compare my best result with your worst to make myself appear much better than you. Since ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a matter of comparison, we can cherry-pick whichever benchmarks we like in order to paint the verdict we wish to convey – so we’ll try to pick someone who’s even worse than us then howl, “I’m not as bad as them!”


If someone beats us at a game we believe we’re great at then we might rationalise that they must’ve cheated, or at least practised more than us, in order to preserve our self-belief of being better than them. Footballers who miss the target will sometimes even genuinely perceive that the goalkeeper got a fingertip on the ball to save it and so it should be a corner kick, hence even our senses can be duped when situations are unclear, like when things happen within a flash.


Journalists, scientists and anyone can present different possible angles on the same events. For instance, even if the human race were to go extinct tomorrow, one could argue that at least no more human suffering will be experienced, or at least the rest of Earth’s furry animal kingdom can freely flourish once more!


This shows us that no subjective view is impartial or objective, even if based on objective data. In democracies, we might be able to find a common view that most of us will accept at a given time – but this still won’t make it impartial or objective, but merely popular.




Comment on this post by replying to this tweet:


Share this post