Steaming Ass

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  • More on apparent media bias:

    You keep asking me to convince you of things that are utterly obvious to me, and I'm sure I've discussed this before. You need to look at things like presentation order and word choice. What information is put at the top of the article (or oral presentation)? What information is buried in the middle or hidden at the bottom (with journalists being well aware that most readers never get to the bottom)? If experts are being quoted, who is being given the last word?

    You are something of a word lover. Notice which choice of synonym the author uses. If there is a choice between a good connotation and a bad connotation, which is chosen? If the writer is describing a group, does he use the group's description of itself or that of their opponents?

    If the article is discussion the results of an action and they are a mixture of good and bad, is the good or the bad given the most emphasis?

    How difficult are the interview questions asked? Knowing that most interviews ask far more questions than ever get included in the story, can you detect any pattern in the answers that were included? Have they been chosen to make the interviewee look good or bad?

    Is some information presented in short, clear sentences while other information is presented in long, complex sentences? Is the reporter trying to make some of the information unclear?

    Just about anything can be spun. A simple example:

    Trump: When the Twin Towers came down, I saw Muslims dancing in the streets of Manhattan.

    Supporter: President Trump understands the Islamic threat. He even saw Muslims celebrating 9/11.

    Neutral: The President claims he saw Muslims celebrating the terrorist attacks on 9/11, but no news footage or confirmatory reports have yet been found. (Perhaps they next interview an expert on conflation.)

    Detractor: Trump said he saw Muslims celebrating 9/11, but no one else seems to have seen it. He's a lying sack of shit.

  • You say 'eliminate' medicaid, but what he has managed to accomplish is so much more subtle than that.

    To be fair, he wanted to eliminate medicaid. The subtlety was thanks to his staff finding a way to push something, anything, through. The end result is a Medicaid that still exists, but doesn't do anywhere near what it should be doing.

    Eliminating abortion access for most people is being done subtly too. Remember all those judges that congress wouldn't let Obama backfill? They're getting filled quietly, by people that pledge loyalty to the president and (at least according to anecdotal accounts) promise that they don't agree with Roe-v-Wade. Plus the elimination of the birth-control mandate will ironically result in more abortion court cases, giving these judges chances to slowly nip away at the rights until only the upper-middle-class and higher can afford a legal abortion. Why would they want to eliminate cheap/free birth control access? Well, in addition to the issue of religion, just remember that a lot of men actually believe that if a woman has more sex she needs to take more birth control. Some of those men have national radio and TV talk shows on Fox.

    Oh yeah... Fox owns a lot of radio shows too. They don't own many stations outright, but they do distribution through Westwood One and Premiere(iHeartMedia[ClearChannel]) radio networks.

  • Fox radio... They have a LOT of shows.

    This may be blurring topics (again), but do a thought exercise...
    How many liberal radio shows can you think of? (Actually liberal, not some cop-out like a show on NPR). Thom Hartman? Any others? Alan Colmes died in February and even part-time liberal Ed Schultz defected to the Russians so he could stay on TV so I'm drawing blank.

    Now, how many conservative shows? I bet even people that never listen to radio can name at least two conservative radio shows. Hell, Howard Stern is actually conservative in his politics. The fact of the matter is, over 90% of (non-sports) commercial talk-radio content is conservative in nature (and more than that for talk ratings). I wont get into sports radio that delves into politics... I haven't looked for numbers on that.

    It is true liberals prefer regular music radio with news breaks, listening to NPR, and podcasts, but its still an interesting statistic.

  • edited November 2

    @Bill said:
    Do you see that there is no rationalization in my support of Trump?

    Afraid that's a no from me dog. When the guy's campaign aides get indicted you emphasize the distance from him, when he bickers with a war widow you say the press lured him into it, when you read a run-of-the-mill news story about him you're peeved that the part friendliest to him wasn't first. I don't think I've ever seen you say anything negative (or even skeptical) about the guy.

    So again, I fully accept that you believe you're not a duck. But I'm a rationalist, my duck-categorizing criteria isn't self-belief, it's quacking.

    You keep asking me to convince you of things that are utterly obvious to me

    You're hugely misunderstanding me. You believe that the press is liberal-biased, because you looked at the coverage and reached that conclusion, and you think I'm disputing that claim because I looked at press coverage and decided it's not liberal-biased. That's not what's happening here at all.

    Rather, I have no strong opinion about whether the press is left-biased, for the big-picture reason that I think left-right categorization is bogus/not useful, and the small-picture reason that I don't think there are any good ways of reliably measuring such things. As such I'm not challenging you to prove your claim because I think it's false. I'm challenging you explain what objective reasons you have for believing it because I don't think you have any.

    But the main thing I want to reply to is:

    You are something of a word lover. Notice which choice of synonym the author uses.

    and so on, because I think that's where our fundamental disagreement is. Stuff like that - examining word choice, etc - is precisely the kind of thing I strive not to do, because it's a textbook recipe for convincing yourself of what you already think. If you suspect that an article is biased and you go through that list of things to look for, it's nigh-inconceivable that you wouldn't find something to back up your suspicion.

    Even more, consider your words "utterly obvious to me". Anyone who does any kind of thinking about bias or epistemology should be saving up words like "utterly obvious" for things that have serious objective proof behind them. If anything, "utterly obvious to me" should be a huge warning sign - when it's utterly obvious to you, that's when you need to put in the extra effort of trying to dissuade yourself, to see if your arguments really stack up.

    To plant the flag of "utterly obvious" on a hill made of "I looked at a number of factors such as word choice and sentence complexity and made subjective judgments about them" is anathema to rational thinking - with a process like that you can convince yourself of anything.

  • @Clme said:
    It is true liberals prefer regular music radio with news breaks, listening to NPR, and podcasts, but its still an interesting statistic.

    To be fair, podcasts are kind of radio, when you get down to it. Or rather there's a sliding scale between radio, digital radio, podcasts, youtubers, etc. But it's an interesting point.

    FWIW on the media bias thing, considered casually I'd think people in the press would be more biased for and against individuals than parties or ideologies. If one considers the kinds of people who are likely to become serious journalists, it would be pretty natural to expect them to prefer policy-heavy politicians like Obama or McCain, and be biased against style-over-substance people like Trump, Ben Carson and so on.

  • There are things that are difficult to measure, but are still obviously true. If you dismiss analysis of writing as being inherently non-objective, we have nothing left to discuss.

  • Clme, I don't know much about radio shows. I haven't listened to the radio, other than incidentally, in a long time--well over ten years. I do know that some conservative talk shows found a big radio audience. The explanation that I've read is that conservative radio did well because there were few other conservative outlets in other media.

    Assuming what you say is true, though, conservatives aren't noticeably more ignorant than liberals. Both believe a number of things that aren't true. That's why I consider myself to be neither one.

  • edited November 4

    @Bill said:
    There are things that are difficult to measure, but are still obviously true. If you dismiss analysis of writing as being inherently non-objective, we have nothing left to discuss.

    Whoa there with the turning-off of the brain. In the big picture, when someone challenges your epistemic model and your best answer is "if it's not obvious to you then I'm done here", that ought to worry you.

    In the small picture: when you say "this article is biased", that's an opinion and there's nothing wrong with judging it subjectively. When you say "the mainstream media is overwhelmingly liberal-biased", that's a falsifiable statement about the world and demands a different kind of support. Not to say it has to be provable in a laboratory, but at least there should be arguments for it that are persuasive to someone who's skeptical, and that's what I'm challenging you to produce.

    In other words it's not some kind of bright-line issue of whether analysis of writing is allowable or not. The issue is whether you question your own beliefs, or whether you just suspected something, went looking for subjective confirmation, found it, and called it a day.

    (Of course if you want to believe a falsifiable statement about the world even though you don't have any arguments that would persuade a skeptic, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that. But it means you've given up on being a skeptic yourself. Rejecting beliefs when you don't have any objective arguments for them is what being rational is all about.)

  • I'm constantly questioning my own beliefs. The farther out on a limb I'm willing to go about an issue correlates pretty well with how much I've made sure that I'm not being nuts.

    You say that the statement, "The mainstream media is overwhelmingly liberal biased" is a falsifiable statement. I agree. I don't see how you can believe it, though, unless you accept my assertion that it's possible to analyze a piece of writing for bias. It isn't a mathematical process.

    As for the analysis of writing, rhetoric is a subject that's older than Christianity. So is poetics. Both will teach you how to tear apart a piece of writing. Sound and Sense by Laurence Perrine and Western Wind by John Frederick Nims are both good texts to begin learning that. I advise those interested look for older editions that are cheaper to buy and don't have co-authors that have "updated" them.

    I suggest that it's difficult for a writer to eliminate all bias from any writing that is more elaborate than book keeping or a recipe for biscuits. The author's own beliefs will influence his word choice and presentation order, at least. Those will, in turn, influence, to some extent, the impression left by the piece. I believe, therefore, that completely objective writing that goes beyond the simplest description is impossible. Often, one can analyze why a piece leaves the impression that it does.

    Of course the analyst's own beliefs can influence his examination and conclusions. That is inevitable, but we have to use the tools we have—in this case the human mind—and the subjectivity doesn't actually carry all before it. You can be careful about things and remind yourself of your own biases, and some things aren't all that subjective.

    For example, beginning journalists are taught to put the most important information right at the start of a news article. They are modeled as an inverted triangle, as opposed to the keyhole model for essays that you might have learned in English. Therefore, if a journalist puts something right at the start of an article, it tells you one of two things: Either the journalist (or his editor) thinks that item is the most important information, or he wants the reader to think that item is the most important information.

    Word choice, which stories are at the top of the page (or website), what story leads off the news program—this information might take some subjective evaluation, but the amount isn't overwhelming.

    Now, if you accept that such an analysis is possible, it in turn becomes possible to falsify the premise that the media has a liberal bias. It has become harder since the advent of cable television and the internet. I assume we are talking about the United States and about news and editorial coverage of politics and public policy. Up until the late 1970s, it would have been easy to get everyone to agree about what exactly is the mainstream media: ABC, NBC, CBS, Time Magazine, Newsweek, U. S. News & World Report, The New York Times, The Washing Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the daily newspapers of the ten or so largest cities. Some people might add in some of the big general interest magazines that include a lot of political cover, e.g., The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker. You could make the list longer or shorter, but you could get a good consensus about what media sources were relevant.

    You would have to get transcripts from the television networks. You could then examine the political and public policy news stories and editorials for their slant, perhaps everything from five (or ten, or a hundred) different randomly chosen weeks to adjust for current events. We would have to define "overwhelming." Say it's seventy-five percent. If less than seventy-five percent of the articles and video stories had some liberal bias, my assertion would be falsified.

    Today we would have to add in Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC to the television sources. Most of the news magazines and the big daily newspapers have lost a lot of clout. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal remain important, however. They are what the other journalists read. You'd have to add in some of the big syndicated news radio programs. You would need to find out which of the political websites actually get a lot of readers.

    In principle, it still can be done. I know that studies have been done. Unless my memory is failing me, the studies I've seen conclude that most of the big news providers have a somewhat liberal bias. I believe that the "somewhat" is misleading, because the Overton window has been moving in a liberal direction for decades. What used to be liberal has become centrist.

    My own evaluation is that The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, and Salon all have an easily detectible liberal bias. The Wall Street Journal is the least liberal of the most influential newspapers, but I wouldn't consider it conservative. Its news section is pretty moderate. Its editorial section is sometimes mild libertarian, sometimes neoconservative, which isn't the same thing as conservative. The execrable left-right-spectrum model fails here.

    I've largely given up watching television. (I just download some stuff if I find it worth the time.) Back in the day, I thought ABC, CBS, and NBC were somewhat liberal. I've never had access cable television, except for a few months my senior year of high school, so I've only incidentally seen the cable news programs. From what I've read, CNN is somewhat liberal, MSNBC is more liberal, and Fox is somewhat conservative.

    Most of the stuff I click through on Google News, if my memory is sound, has a liberal slant. The Drudge site itself has a clear conservative bias, but the linked articles don't necessarily.

    I know little about news radio. I gave up radio even longer ago than I gave up television. Rush Limbaugh clearly is conservative. In the handful of times I've listened to the man, much of what he says is a reaction to The New York Times and The Washington Post. They still set the agenda.

    In my own mind, at least, my premise has not been falsified. Taking a head count of big media, I think over seventy-five percent of them have a liberal slant.

    Note well: I'm not talking about the echo-chamber effect, wherein an individual only pays attention to the media that reinforce his own biases. That is a totally different issue.

  • @Bill said:
    You say that the statement, "The mainstream media is overwhelmingly liberal biased" is a falsifiable statement. I agree. I don't see how you can believe it, though, unless you accept my assertion that it's possible to analyze a piece of writing for bias.

    Reread my last post. I'm not saying you can't examine writing for bias, I'm saying that, if you want to examine the claim "a large majority of Ps are Qish", then looking at a bunch of Ps for signs of Qishness, finding some, and then concluding that the premise is true is just a recipe for confirming whatever your suspicions are. If you were a lefty looking for signs of conservative bias, the same process would convince you just as readily.

    If you really wanted to know about the truth of the premise, at an absolute minimum you would need to (A) look at a random/representative sample of Ps, (B) establish some arbitrary standard of Qishness before you start looking for it, (C) also look for not-Q-ishness, and (D) actually write shit down, rather than imagining you're the only human being who remembers hits and misses with equal accuracy.

    Note: I'm not suggesting you do any of those things w.r.t. media and bias. Making your own non-rigorous judgments about bias is a perfectly rational thing to do if you then use those judgments to decide whether to believe the news report, or decide which news media to rely on, etc. What's irrational is believing you know something about the world because you (A) looked for signs you were right and (B) found them.

    In principle, it still can be done. I know that studies have been done.

    Sure, I think I mentioned that. I don't tend to be very interested in them because the kinds of things a study can rigorously check for don't map well to the things I'd want to know about media bias. I mean, it's easy to check how many news articles are positive or negative about Trump, but unless I'm a poly-sci grad student writing a thesis, what would I do with that information? It doesn't tell me anything about which articles are accurate, or complete, or influenced by advertisers, etc.

    I'm constantly questioning my own beliefs.
    ... In my own mind, at least, my premise has not been falsified.

    Discarding premises you've falsified is like being faithful to your wife when she's in the room, it's the default baseline that everyone does automatically. Questioning your own beliefs means discarding a premise even though you think it's true, if you find that you don't have any strong arguments for the premise except just that you think it's true.

  • Aside: if you're looking for stuff like bias in news articles, you really shouldn't just look for stuff like word choice, that merely includes the possibility that your premise is true, you should be looking for stuff that excludes the possibility that your premise is false.

    E.g. putting a piece of information higher or lower in the article is something that a biased author might do, but an unbiased author might also do it for mundane reasons, so it's very weak evidence. OTOH when an article subhead says "The Left/Right Unhinged", we can take that as evidence of bias in and of itself, in that it excludes the inverse - we don't just expect that a biased author might use such a title, we also expect that an unbiased author wouldn't.

  • @fenomas said:

    @Bill said:
    You say that the statement, "The mainstream media is overwhelmingly liberal biased" is a falsifiable statement. I agree. I don't see how you can believe it, though, unless you accept my assertion that it's possible to analyze a piece of writing for bias.

    Discarding premises you've falsified is like being faithful to your wife when she's in the room, it's the default baseline that everyone does automatically. Questioning your own beliefs means discarding a premise even though you think it's true, if you find that you don't have any strong arguments for the premise except just that you think it's true.

    I definitely disagree with this. One, there are a lot of things that you should, as a working assumption, believe even if you only have weak evidence in favor. You should believe them until you have decent evidence against. Trivial example: you should assume any dog you meet is vicious until it proves itself friendly, even with the prior knowledge that most dogs you meet will be friendly.

    Two, there are things that I believe are true, but I'm not sure why I believe them, yet they seem to have kept me out of trouble so far. Quickly sizing up people is an example. Sometimes you look at someone and think that you would never trust him under any circumstances. I suggest that your mind and body are telling you something at a level below consciousness. (Keep in mind that the vast majority of you brain function takes place at an subconscious level. In fact, consciousness is best thought of as the explainer for what your subconscious has already decided.) I strongly you suggest that you not disregard these subconscious warnings.

    Three, I don't believe that it's actually possible to discard a premise that you think is true unless you have strong arguments in its favor. I think human being are hardwired to do the opposite and will continue to believe whatever it is they believe until they have strong arguments against it, and often times not even then. I think about the best that we can do is become aware of our own premises.

    I suggest that anyone who thinks that they have abandoned a belief just because it lacks evidence only think that they have abandoned it. When the time comes for them to make a decision under time pressure, that belief is going to get put into the subconscious mix with everything else.

  • edited November 5

    @fenomas said:
    Aside: if you're looking for stuff like bias in news articles, you really shouldn't just look for stuff like word choice, that merely includes the possibility that your premise is true, you should be looking for stuff that excludes the possibility that your premise is false.

    E.g. putting a piece of information higher or lower in the article is something that a biased author might do, but an unbiased author might also do it for mundane reasons, so it's very weak evidence. OTOH when an article subhead says "The Left/Right Unhinged", we can take that as evidence of bias in and of itself, in that it excludes the inverse - we don't just expect that a biased author might use such a title, we also expect that an unbiased author wouldn't.

    Sometimes authors are open about their biases. I actually prefer this. It makes life easier. For example, a few months ago I read a couple books by Dinesh D'Souza. He's biased. He doesn't pretend otherwise. He was openly writing for the choir. This made it easy to keep in mind that he wasn't a completely reliable source. In fact, I ended up reading Rules for Radicals and The Pivot of History to check his references, and I agreed with The Pivot of History more than I did him.

    You have to use the more subjective techniques of rhetorical analysis when the writer is pretending to be unbiased. And no, you just don't use one. You have to use several of them at once. In other words, if you have a whole bunch of independent events that have a truth value of .51, enough of them can multiply out to near certainty 1- (1-.51)^(a whole bunch) approximates 1.

  • edited November 6

    @Bill said:
    One, there are a lot of things that you should, as a working assumption, believe even if you only have weak evidence in favor. ... you should assume any dog you meet is vicious

    This is argument by wordplay. It is useful to behave as if dogs are vicious and guns are loaded, and we can refer to that as "belief" if we feel like it, but it's clearly separate from the epistemic matter of accepting or discarding a premise based on evidence.

    I think human being are hardwired to do the opposite and will continue to believe whatever it is they believe ... I think about the best that we can do is become aware of our own premises.

    Dude.

    I'm claiming that your thinking about media bias is irrational. If you want to say it isn't, we can have that conversation. If you want to say "fuck off, if I want to be irrational that's my business", that's fair enough. But this "okay but like what does it really mean to be rational anyway" stuff is just words that you've typed out to avoid thinking about a hard question, and that's not something I can respond to.

    You have to use several of them at once. In other words, if you have a whole bunch of independent events that have a truth value of .51, enough of them can multiply out to near certainty 1- (1-.51)^(a whole bunch) approximates 1.

    That's not how inference works. If you want to go through a bunch of data points raising your belief in a premise each time you find evidence for it, you also need to lower it each time you don't. And if you then want the results to mean anything, you need to do the other stuff I listed (write shit down, look at a random or representative sample, etc.).

    What you've described - just going through evidence and adding up all the bits that support your expectation - is the literal definition of confirmation bias.

  • edited November 7

    I know what confirmation bias is. Of course you take notice if the signs go in both directions.

  • edited November 8

    @Bill said:
    I know what confirmation bias is. Of course you take notice if the signs go in both directions.

    Not what I said - you must also lower your belief in your premise when the signs point in no direction at all. If your hypothesis is bias then no bias is the null hypothesis.

    Seriously, take a step back here. You're claiming that you can reliably infer truths about the world by casually looking for evidence of what you already believe. The entire history of scientific and epistemic endeavor is a repudiation of that claim. It's utter craziness.

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