Sunday, October 30, 1938, the United States was nefariously assailed by aliens hailing from MARS! Or were they?
If you caught the beginning of The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast, you would have known that the regular scheduled Orson Welles radio show was about to start. An issue arose when a large number of people missed the prevalent warning clearly detailing that what was to commence was a work of fiction. For the informed it was entertaining, for the uninformed it was devastating. Families of the uninstructed cowered and wept, clutching together, and feared for the ominous end. But hold on folks! It was just for fun.
Now obviously, if you were to hear on the radio that we were under siege from Mars, you would immediately assume that Elon Musk and his Tesla Army had returned to take back what was lost to mankind. After that you would go to your search engine of choice and try to find reputable sources that aligned to your way of thinking. The same thing I do when I hear Matthew McConaughey has died, or Sansa Stark has released a sex tape (to the best of my knowledge neither of these are true). When you find the information embedded on your screen from someone or some place you trust, you believe it. Sure, I would assume the majority of us are guilty of believing what fits our narrative. The problem is that just because it does fit our narrative, it still may not be factually true.
In the case of the Orson Welles scare, if you didn’t catch the announcement that it was a scheduled show you probably thought the unfolding events were in fact factual. The means to remedy the ignorance was to call the radio station. Today, if you read or see something on the internet from what you believe to be a reputable site, you take it as fact. A left wing site says, “MAGA wearing privileged children seek to malign Native Americans”. Well that’s terrible, I see the video of them chanting and ganging up on this poor Native man. Then right wing news media comes out, “Full video has been released and well to do teens were confronted by drum wielding Red Man”. Yikes! Those kids were just on fieldtrip. “Reputable” outlets squabbling over what the actual facts are.
In 1938 people did not have enough means to understand what was real or not. Today we have so much information we cannot asses what is real and what is fake. How do you make an objective assertion with information that may have a political spin? I have found that the best way to ascertain the truth is to try and look at things as objectively as possible. If you are a liberal you will lean towards believing a liberal agenda. The same is true for conservatives. Regardless of political affiliation, when you read a story that falls in line with your belief , go seek out the opposing viewpoint and read it. Understand that a truly objective stance can only be achieved by you. Everyone is pushing an agenda.
Okay, read both sides of a story. Now how do we know who skews to which side of the aisle? This should be as simple as googling and hoping someone has done most of the work for us. However, this too is at the mercy of whatever publication you click on, and what agenda they are trying to push for. Poynter Institute recently listed 515 “unreliable” news websites. Then turned around and recanted their statement; Barbara Allen, “Letter from the Editor”
Poynter.org, May 2, 2019, https://www.poynter.org/letter-from-the-editor/2019/letter-from-the-editor/ Not only is the news you receive distorted to the beliefs of the people putting it out, but now we are being told “reputable” sites are not “reputable” based on one groups political beliefs.
By far the best basis I have found that I can use to give me insight on the political leanings of news outlets is “The Media Bias Chart“, created by Vanessa Otero of AdFontesMedia
As seen above, most news outlets have a place on the chart. If you agree with the placement of all or some sites is your opinion. I personally believe that TYT Network is just as biased on their side of the aisle as The Daily Wire is on theirs. (I subscribe and listen to both networks podcast). That’s what is great about this chart. While everyone may not agree about the placement I think most would agree that it is an adequate baseline that you may adjust as you deem fit.
Now armed with our chart, we can understand the political leanings of our news sources and begin to discern which way they want us to perceive the news. So what next?
Realizing that media sources have sway will help us understand that we cannot and should not believe everything we read, or even see. If one publication says something check the partisan bias and think, “what do they have to gain from me believing a story this way?” If at first this is difficult, utilize the chart to find a source that will juxtapose the same story with a different outcome. Very quickly you will start to see that key points will be twisted or all together left out for someone to push their narrative. The only way for you to come to a factual conclusion is to stop believing the first thing you read.
- Realize all media has an agenda
- The story will be skewed based on their agenda
- You can’t believe something is true without seeing the other side of the story
- Seek out multiple sources from different political affiliations
- Leave your comfort zone
I hope that reading this article has helped at least one person realize that we can’t accept news as fact just because we agree with what it says. Stop digging in and start branching out.