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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Child of Bias

I am a child of bias... allegedly.

I often hear how biased the media is; most often in the US but it does occasionally echo across the dales here in the UK as well. The bias in question is usually to do with the political spectrum and often centres around the BBC. Not always though.

Growing up I got my news from the Express, Sunday Times, local papers, local radio, BBC news and ITV news. I'm focusing on the TV here though. At no point have I ever watched an ITV news report and a BBC news report and thought 'ooh this seems to be different from what the other said' and so I conclude that whatever bias one has, the other must also have it. Popularly the opinion seems to be that the BBC (and by my dodgy analysis, ITV) has a large lean to the left in politics.

Additionally, I have recently learned from Meryl Yourish that the British press has a distinct anti-Israel bent. I was not aware of this.

Anyway I am going to make a leap here: if I have gotten my news (almost exclusively) from these biased sources then surely it would have affected me in one of three ways.

  • I adopt the media view without thinking and so immediately lean left and am anti-Israel.
  • I recognise the institutionalised bias for what it is, rebel against it and form my own opinion.
  • I recognise the bias and agree with their points anyway.
So which represents me? (Let me know if you can think of any more).

First, I disliked Neil Kinnock and the Labour party under him (I liked John Major, but not Thatcher). I dislike Tony Blair intensely (as many of my readers will know). But that is just a measure of how I view the leaders; where do I stand on their policies?
I agreed with the Conservatives on some (but by no means all) things at the last election and disagreed with most of what Tony Blair said. I believe in public services but I think the government should be small and efficient. I believe that the private sector is not always the best solution for every problem and in following that path lies ruin. I think the government should stop sticking its nose into the classroom. I am against the death penalty and dislike the idea of abortion intensely (I imagine that I am not alone here since I know of no pro-choice people who are actually pro-abortion). You have seen some of my ideas about tax. I would argue that I am a moderate who adopts sensible ideas from across the political spectrum. I would not say that I lean predominantly left or right. Strike number 1 and number 3 assuming a large left leaning bias.

On the question of Israel: I sympathise with the Palestinian civilians who are killed in the fighting. I sympathise with the Israeli civilians likewise. I also sympathise with the men and women of the Israeli military who are under constant threat. I disagree with some of the Israeli governments attitudes and I disagree with much that comes from the Palestinian Authority. I have no time for Palestinian terrorists (call a spade a spade).

Is there a cycle of violence? Yes there is: the Palestinians attack, the Israelis retaliate, the Palestinians retaliate for the retaliation of the Israelis, ad infinitum. That is a cycle of violence; it is a descriptive term, nothing more. Who is to blame? Whoever started the latest round, and I would say that more often than not it is one of the terrorist groups. Israel must be allowed to defend itself, simple as that. Does Israel provike? I think a case can be made sometimes, but quite frankly there is never an excuse for firing weapons at civilians and/or military targets unless it is in direct response to defend yourself from an attack (defend not pre-empt).
Do I think Israel should not exist? Don't be ridiculous, it has as much right to exist as the next country. Do I hate Jews? No, why should I? What have the Jewish people ever done to me? Plus I detest it when people use a broad brush to paint an entire people (religion or country) the one colour. Other people are individuals and are just as complex as we think ourselves to be. If we simply dismiss a nation because of a few bad eggs (to use a cliche) then we are bigots.

So I would say that I am not anti-Israel. I believe that there should also be a Palestinian state and that will go someway towards solving the problems but I am realistic enough to recognise that it will not solve all the problems. Only a genuine change in attitude amongst many of the local players will lead to any sort of lasting peace.
So where does that leave me? I don't see consistently leftward leaning reporting and I don't see a huge British media bias against Israel (Orla Guerrin, not withstanding - no time for her at all). My critiscism of those that do would be that I think sometimes they read too much into the language; they see insults where none exist and over analyse what the reporters say looking for the meaning that they are expecting to find.
In many ways the real test is what people with no vested interest in the conflict think: I am one of those people and does the media here in the UK make me anti-Israel and pro-Palestinians?

My answer is no, it does not.

So do I see that bias in the media and choose to ignore it? Again, I say no. I do say that on a case by case basis I see sloppy reporting and detect individual bias creeping in for specific issues but sometimes those selfsame reporters who I have criticised will file a report in which I see no fault. Our perspectives change on a daily basis and colour what we might say at a given time. Emotion interferes at every step and sometimes detachment will come later and so a given situation will colour a given report.

Basically my point is that I do not see an overarcing bias in the media. of course there is always the fourth option:

  • there is a bias but I am too stupid and pigheaded to see it.

Of course I would wonder whether that says more about the person who thinks it than it does about me...

3 comments:

Kav said...

Ah! Commenting on my own post!

Of course I should have added the caveat that accusations of bias might be informed by past experience.

Anonymous said...

Kav,

Put me on record as voting for "pigheaded".

J.D.

Kav said...

that's good coming from you! ;-)

Actually, I'm not sure that I made it clear, the post is just a general muse on one possibility and does not necessarily reflect my actual view.
I think that there are probably holes in it big enough to drive a truck through (where's Averroes when you need him?).

Mostly it was a little mentle meandering. That's the beauty of a weblog, I can make these little forays into different ideas anytime I please.

And others can see what a complete nut I am.