Group Think and Bias: A Media and Marketing Challenge

Bias is largely a cognitive process of being predisposed in favor or against something. Everyone has predispositions. It is part of being human. Lets see how artificial intelligence evolves to influence humanities bias. For now we have to deal with how all of us relate to what we hear, see, feel and touch in an era that promotes differences rather than commonalities. In travelling the world I found that everyone likes to believe how unique their respective culture is and in many cases better than the one next door. While these differences are celebrated they are often also inflated. I for one notice that most peoples are more alike than different. We are social beings, family focused, communicate through language, often believe in some higher power and aspire to make a difference if only in our sphere of influence.

In America there is a struggle in defining our nation state. Bitter partisan politics is now the norm. This has often been the case throughout various periods in American history. Examples include the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and building on and expanding Civil Rights for various minority groups to name a few. Today you can add economic warfare between the have and have not’s with some politicians openly challenging the countries economic structure. They include Bernie Sanders who helped pull the Democratic Party left and Bill de Blasio who continues to praise Socialism. Finding it difficult to site successful models of centrally planned economies often Scandinavia is referenced as the torch bearer for a kinder gentler governance model. The only problem with the reference is that they are not a Socialist country. The means of production are owned privately. They merely have a strong health and social safety net. Referencing how Socialism ruined Venezuela does not make for a convenient truth.

The millennial generation, or those born after 1982 have little grounding in American Exceptionalism or the notion that their Rights as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution are NOT bestowed by government but are self endowed or by their creator and can not be taken away. The starting point is that all Rights are bestowed to the individual, And the people through the Constitutions defined the limits that government can operate and  infringe on those rights. For statist the Constitution can be a pesty document getting in the way of drastic social or political change. As a result if political support is too narrow for a given issue some blame the Constitution. Rather than go through the effort to change the Constitution there have been far too many examples of simply passing laws and regulations that ignore it. This is precisely what the document was intended to prevent. Without embracing the Constitution, understanding it and facing down continued attacks on its efficacy personal rights will surely erode.

This brings me to an informed public and bias. There is free speech in America but it comes with a responsibility that has all but broken down. Fox New has often been referenced as the Republican channel with CNN (or the proverbial Clinton News Network) and MSNBC the Democrat channels. In large measure Fox News and MSNBC can defend their objectivity because many of their personalities openly profess to be opinion leaders. In other words you kind of know where they stand and you’re attracted to a respective channel or program to give voice to your own predispositions. The larger danger is CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC who try to position themselves as objective news readers. In fact they are anything but. George Stephanopoulos who chairs the anchor desk for ABC News was a former Clinton White House employee and donor to the Clinton Foundation. Dan Rather got sacked for fake news of a falsified document which besmirched former President George Bush. There are many examples of both Democratic and Republican news coverage bias.

There is a perception on the political right that gives rise to the fake news mantra that mainstream media are biased and left leaning despite attempts to mask reporting in veiled objectivity. Furthermore, given the conflicts President Trump has with much of the media it is perceived by many on the right that newsrooms responded by weaponizing the media in support of the Democratic Party. Many suggest that the only difference now is that the mainstream media are showing their true colors given the vitriol for the President. For those on the opposite political spectrum there is no context for these perceptions. Their reality is different and largely informed by their respective predispositions as well and reinforced by mainstream reporting. The result is pervasive political division and seeing the world completely differently. It’s no wonder Tweeting is so popular and is viewed as a means of by passing intermediaries of information and going directly to your audience. All too often newsrooms are news making rather than simply reporting. Gone are the days of point, counter point with respectful discourse and open minds ready to be influenced. While the low standing of opinion driven news reporting is dangerous to a democracy it is largely of their own making.

National news formats should be in the audience creation business, that in turn generates revenues through advertising or by other means. This should be best achieved by creating truthful and trustworthy content and delivery. Fact checking is an important ingredient. Many newsrooms have cut back on investigative journalism at a time when it is needed most given the low credibility of current reporting. The continued hardening of positions will have knock-on effects. At some point there may be adverse selection if their isn’t already that will narrow audience appeal and further  diminish the ability for mass marketers to reach large audiences within their demographic. Moreover, it may amplify differences rather than commonalities among people that translate into to no win buying decisions for brands. People boycotting the same sponsor for completely different reasons. It is time that the media hold a mirror to itself and commit to objective reporting so people across the political spectrum can make their owned informed decisions rather than being told how to think.

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