Back when I was on Facebook, a family member saw The Help and posted about it. She praised the film, and then ended her post with the declaration that this kind of racism was still around; it just went by the name “Tea Party” today.
At the time I actively supported a local Tea Party group. Being thoroughly unaware of any racist activities we had undertaken, I asked her how she got that idea. From “the news,” came the reply. I said I was active with a local group and had seen no evidence of racism in it, nor had I seen anything substantiated in the news.
“Well, maybe you’re not watching the correct news.”
So, here’s a comment on my perceived editorial diet, from someone I knew used Jon Stewart as a major news source.
I was reminded of this exchange reading comments on this article, in which a citation from Breitbart is derided as “not credible.” (The cited article contained references and links to Time magazine, as well as the Armed Services Committee web site.)
The first step to digesting information effectively—critically—is understanding that there is no such thing as a neutral source. Does Breitbart have a point of view? Yes—a stated conservative one. Does this point of view somehow excuse it from supporting what it says? Of course not. If anything, it intensifies the need for such support.
The classic case of dismissing the messenger is Fox News. Many people who have been conditioned to reject as propaganda anything appearing on Fox find no inconsistency in turning to CNN or other network news. They won’t be sucked into all of that biased crap, by God. And they’re the very worst ones: people who believe they have a “balanced” diet of news and opinion but in fact do not.
To get closest to the truth, you need to find an opinion source that’s as close to your political opposite as possible, and consume it regularly. I have used The Nation for this for years. It is straight, down the line, liberal red meat. If you want to look for liberal bias in an ostensibly mainstream news source, compare its coverage of a story with that in The Nation. Is the message different? Or is the only variation one of degree?
To be sure, there are sites and publications out there with well-deserved credibility problems. However, when it comes to more mainstream news and opinion sites, they’re closer to each other than you may realize in how well they’re researched, whether they have a point of view, and so forth.
Take a regular walk in an ideological neighborhood you don’t like.