Challenging Bias & Recognizing When We’re Being Fooled

As someone who (admittedly) used to be 100% convinced of my rightness on most issues on which I had an opinion, the past few years put me in many positions in which I found myself to be either only half right, misguided, or in some cases, totally misinformed.

…that’s what living in Washington, D.C. will do to a person!

These days, as a result of my baptism by fire in Washington, I am far more open to having my mind changed. Over the past few years, I formed the ability to put my preconceived notions on an issue to the side before I wrote something for a newspaper — and despite the fact that lately I haven’t been writing about politics, there’s never an occasion or a story where an open mind isn’t a good thing.

So these days I enjoy having an opinion challenged. In some cases that will involve a complete 180 (although that’s not so common) and in other cases, most cases, it will be that someone says something or makes an argument that simply allows me to see an issue in a whole new light, broadening my understanding of both sides. Usually — and unfortunately — this kind of enlightenment involves realizing that my previously held belief had been hugely influenced by years of bias in the media, which I hadn’t thought to question.

That annoys me for two reasons. First, because I hadn’t though to challenge it already, and second because blatant media bias passed off as absolute truth just pisses me right off. But we’re all susceptible to it in some way. Anyone who tells you they aren’t is lying, and even those who rail against it, are being caught out somewhere.

For me, the latest glaring incidents of bias, have been related to the Sochi games and all of the anti-Russian bias they brought up (which I wrote about here). Western media reaction to the current situation in Ukraine is another instance of the same thing. If we failed to do any of our own research, we might think Euromaidan is a black and white, united, 100% pro-EU movement trying to escape Russia’s claws — and that all of Ukraine is on board. We would never know for example, that half of Ukraine is Russian-speaking and still vehemently pro-Yanukovych.

And it was with that backdrop that I recently watched the video below. It’s a talk by the typically controversial British journalist Peter Hitchens given to students at the University of Bristol, called “Why I Like Vladimir Putin”.

Don’t let the title fool you though, he’s not completely ‘yay Putin’. In fact, he’s a harsh critic of Russia in many ways. He does however, sharply criticize the interventionist policies of the United States and make solid arguments in favour of Putin’s foreign policy in recent years. And if you’re wondering, yes, the Georgian war and current situation in Ukraine are included in this discussion — as are the human-rights issues in Russia.

The questions asked by the students after Hitchens’ remarks cover pretty much every angle and really force him to back up his arguments. If you’re interested, but don’t have time to watch the video, he makes his arguments more concisely here in writing.

Do I agree with everything he says?  No. But that’s not really the point.

It will just make you think.

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One thought on “Challenging Bias & Recognizing When We’re Being Fooled

  1. I enjoyed this post, we often believe what we are fed from the media, and it’s undeniably true no matter where you live. I’ve lived outside the U.S. now for almost 2 years and have gained a more informed view of the world. Residing inside Russia has given me a unique experience to see exactly what is going here. Sadly I see many things that need to change, but I’ve also learned the other side which many don’t get to see, through the eyes of the people themselves. Many don’t like Putin, but they love their country. The West will never truly understand Russia entirely for reasons that are hard to explain. Ukraine and Russia are like brothers and sister who fight and make up because ultimately they are cut from the same cloth. Dividing them would be very dangerous, the result would create divisions in the world that will have repercussions for years. Views and opinions are just that, opinions, to be considered but not acted upon.

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