Smart Canadians

Discussion in 'Politics' started by joepistole, Feb 23, 2013.

  1. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    I personally think cable news spends too much time on opposing points of view already, giving airtime to cranks.

    In America, we have a skewed view of what is controversial. The fairness doctrine would seem to require that stations give some time to creationists when evolution is discussed (or young earth creationists, whenever geological processes are discussed), antivaccers when vaccines are discussed, AGW-deniers when climate change is presented. All of which lends some semblance of credibility to them. How do you distinguish actual controversies from the ones that vocal minorities find controversial? What distinguishes the historical debates over whether we ever landed on the moon (or whther 9/11 was a government conspiracy), from the debate over whether Obama's policies improved the economy in a way that would allow the FCC, or whichever government agency enforces the fairness doctrine, to make distinctions in a non-arbitrary manner? Surely it can't be that we have to present the "other side" if anyone believes an issue is controversial.

    What about issues that are nor binary? I am not a Christian, but neither are Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Shintoists, there is more than one viewpoint in opposition to Christianity (and more than one kind of Christianity, for that matter).

    I have difficulty believing that the fairness doctrine could be applied in a way that would be even handed, and that my view of how well it was being applied would depend on a great number of factors. The best we could do with it, in my view is to only apply it in extreme cases, far beyond the level of bias beyond what comes from Fox News or MSNBC (as they do make half hearted efforts to present "contrasting viewpoints" without giving "equal time".
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  3. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    You appear to have missed this part, “It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters.”. Do you really think evolution or any of the other topics you raised are controversial and the public has any interest in them? And do you really think Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and his ilk present contrasting views? Do you think Ron Hannity and his ilk fairly present contrasting views? If you do, you have been drinking too much Kool-Aid.
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  5. Cavalier Knight of the Opinion Registered Senior Member

    This is what I believe too. I mean, do *I* think things like these are controversial? No. Do other people? Many Americans very much do. 46% of Americans believe in Creationism, according to the last poll I happen to have seen (see here). Another 32% believed in "theistic evolution" (i.e. "not evolution," but rather a watered down version of intelligent design that called for species to change over time in precisely the way God wants them to). Which would make the teaching of the scientific (and purely naturalistc) evolution in public school potentially controversial (and actually controversial in many communities). I happen to believe that those 46% are ill informed and that the best remedy there is is not to pretend they have a real point (which means not worrying about havng to given their side a voice in the news).

    But I think you raise the bigger point...who decides what is "controversial" and on what basis? If you do not think evolution in America is controversial, and it is, then I imagine you would be okay with someone n the government making the call about not what *actually* is controversial (like evolution), but rather what *ought* to be controversial (where I agree with you that evolution should not be a source of controversy).

    Even if we suppose that the officials in charge of enforcing the rule would be conscientious about determining what is a "controversy," we all have biases and blind spots that will skew our perception.

    As for whether Fox News, or MSNBC "fairly" present contrasting views, I am pretty sure the Bush Administration officials would differ on that point from people in the Obama administration (or from yourself). Unless the Fairness Doctrie were only invoked by Administrations I happen to agree with in broad strokes, I can easily see it being misapplied by favoring (even unconsciously) the broadcasters whose biases the regulators prefer.

    In any event research into cultural cognition suggests that people who are die hard believers in a certain point of view for ideological reasons dig in their heels deeper--essentially double down--on misinformation when confronted with contrary information. You can read here for more information So the sad truth is that fairly presenting both sides of the debate doesn't always work...and happens to be especially unlikely to work when people view the debate as confrontational or competitive. The way to sway the ideas of people who disagree is to make the presnetation of new information seem as undisputed and uncontroversial as possible. Even then you get the die hard who refuse to bow to reality.

    Sadly too, we're all like that. We like to think that we ourselves are rational, but no one really is. The problems of cultural cognition are as prevalvent on the right as they are on the left (for example: We are not evolved to be strictly rational, unfortunately.

    As for Hannity, of course his presentations aren't fair, as judged by me...but that is not to say that a Bush appointee wouldn't, in good faith, see them as fair. "Fairness" isn't an objective trait that can be measured, so that would not be my favorite criterion on which to see such a policy enforced.
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  7. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

    Who decides what is controversial today? The media, is any one talking about evolution on the national stage? Is anyone in Congress or the president or the Supreme Court talking about evolution? No. Evolution gets a tiny fraction of one percent of the media coverage.

    Determining what is controversial should not be all that difficult. Is the media spending a significant amount of time on the subject? Is there disagreement? You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure out what is controversial and what is not.

    We all have cognitive biases. But that is not the issue. The issue is providing good information to potential voters so they have the tools . . . the information to make good decisions in the ballot box. Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh and company play to cognitive biases and actively encourage their followers to eschew information from other sources or information that differs from their programming. With good information perhaps people can make better decisions at the ballot box. But that seems to send chills down the spines of Republicans/conservatives. That is why they are so opposed to the Fairness Doctrine. That is why they killed the Fairness Doctrine.

    The Fairness Doctrine was the law of the land for almost a half century. It worked quite well. Why are conservatives/Republicans so afraid of a little honest dialogue?
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013

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