Bias refers to the process of deletion and distortion that you subject information to as you project your assumptions in to the world around you. These deletions and distortions are influenced by your beliefs and values. Beliefs and values act as a set of filters for how you attend to information.
Biased news outlets or journalists will delete and distort information in line with what the story the outlet or journalist will want you to take away. If an outlet or journalist is particularly biased they will subject events to heavy amounts of distortion and deletion to the point that the original event as it happened will barely be recognisable.
By presenting information in this biased way you can encourage large amounts of people to believe in events that are not true and lead people to act upon the world in ways that hurt themselves and their own communities.
There are many different kinds of bias a person can have so we will only consider a core few that are most common both for you, as a consumer of news, and journalists as producers of news
Confirmation bias occurs when a person only pays attention to information that fits their beliefs and values. When a person is filtering information for confirmation, they will distort and delete information that contradicts their beliefs and magnify information to reinforce their beliefs. Confirmation bias can be particularly dangerous if enough fear is created in people. When people are in a state of fear they will tend to magnify the significance of a perceived threat.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person is unable or unwilling to accept the unpleasant truth about a situation and have to internally justify the unpleasantness. This justification process soothes the pain of the truth by not accepting it.
One example may be someone who is overweight and the truth about why they are overweight is excessive consumption of calories. Rather than facing the truth that eating too many chocolate bars is making them fat, the person will justify the over consumption such as having had a bad day and deserving chocolate. The truth of the situation does not change but the persons perception of the situation does.
Another example may be someone who views themselves as a good person but does something that causes other people harm. Causing someone harm conflicts with the persons perception of being a good person and the truth of doing bad things causes pain. Rather than accept the truth of the situation that you caused someone harm you will instead justify your behaviour in some way to reduce the pain. The truth of the situation does not change but the persons perception of their own behaviour does.
The greatest acts of evil have often been carried out through the machinations of cognitive dissonance. This is the process that allows people to enact untold and violent horrors upon their fellow human beings including women and children.
Denial occurs when a person simply dismisses information flat out. It does not matter how much evidence of the truth you provide a person with. When a person is in denial, accepting the truth of information is so massive it threatens to over turn everything that they have come to understand about themselves and the world around them. To accept the truth of this information turns their world upside down which can feel like a threat to the persons very existence. If this is the case the person will simply refuse to accept the truth no matter how insane it might look to other people.
The headline below relates to a PBS news hour interview with Hillary Clinton whereby she says she could beat Donald Trump again in a presidential election
Political bias occurs when you or other people filter the information they receive about the world through the lens of their own political beliefs. When someone pushes everything they see and do through the sausage machine of political dogma they can often be referred to as “ideologically possessed”.
Bloviation occurs when you or another person makes an assertion with little or no qualifying evidence for the assertion. Journalists and news outlets may have guests or experts on their programmes who make many assertions with little if any credible evidence to back up their claims. It can often leave the consumer of the program with a warped and biased interpretation of events. Over reliance on bloviation risks turning a news outlet or journalist in to agents of propaganda rather than serious producers of credible news.
Below is a clip with the head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, Dorothy Byrne. Dorothy Byrne makes the assertion that Boris Johnson is a known liar. Dorothy offers no evidence in the 16 minute interview for Boris Johnson’s alleged known lying. Dorothy does use some evidence towards the end of the interview, unrelated to Boris Johnson’s alleged known lying to convince the public that news outlets such as C4 should be people’s primary sources of the news.
Featured image source: https://libguides.ucmerced.edu/elevate-news-evaluation/spectrum