Bias is a tendency to lean in a certain direction, often to the detriment of an open mind. Those who are biased tend to believe what they want to believe, refusing to take into consideration the opinions of others. To truly be biased, it means you're lacking a neutral viewpoint. Sprouting from cultural contexts, biases tend to take root within an ethnic group, social class, or religion.
Bias, prejudice, and discrimination all live under the same roof. Bias is an inclination toward one way of thinking, often based on how you were raised.
For example, in one of the most high-profile trials of the 20th century O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder, but many people will remain biased toward him and treat him like a convicted killer anyway.
Prejudice is a feeling toward a person based solely on their affiliation with a group. It often casts an unfavorable light on someone simply because they're a member of some family, church, or organization.
For example, millions of people around the world consider Tom Cruise to be a very talented actor. He's also labeled as one of Hollywood's nicest guys, purportedly treating his cast and crew with the utmost kindness and respect. However, his affiliation with Scientology prompts all kinds of negative press, causing some people to feel prejudice toward him.
Discrimination comes into play when one starts acting upon an inherent prejudice they possess.
For example, during the time of slavery, men and women held prejudices against African Americans and, in turn, discriminated them through slavery, segregation, and other heinous acts.
Examples of Bias in Behaviors
- If someone is biased toward women, they might display that bias by hiring a man over a more-qualified woman.
- If someone is biased toward a certain religion, they might show it by making rude or insensitive comments, or go as far as vandalizing religious buildings.
- If someone is biased toward same-sex couples, they might discriminate against them by refusing entrance into a club or hotel.
- If someone is biased toward a political affiliation, they might show it with name calling or refusing to believe their opponents could be right about anything.
Examples of Bias in Politics and Media
Fake news, anybody? President Trump believes the media possesses a terrible bias toward him, based on unjustifiable prejudice, which leads them to discriminate against him in unfavorable coverage. He's not the only leader to feel the media is biased toward him and in turn to feel biased toward the press.
Here are examples of current bias in politics and media:
- An example of bias toward Trump can be found in certain instances of reporting. An editorial published in The Washington Post on December 1, 2015 was titled, "Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”
- On January 20, 2017 a reporter from TIME falsely reported President Trump removed the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office. That report quickly spread across countless media outlets. A little further investigation would have revealed that the bust was still there. It was just being blocked by a reporter. Trump's reply to this report was, "This is how dishonest the media is. The retraction is where?”
- A February 2017 poll from Fox News indicates that 68% of Americans think the press has been tougher on Trump than Obama. In that same month, Trump tweeted, "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
Here are some historical examples of bias toward the media:
- Abraham Lincoln accused newspapers in border states of being biased toward the South. He ordered many of them to be shut down.
- In the years before World War II, Hitler accused newspapers of having a Marxist bias.
- In the 1980s, the South African government accused newspapers of liberal bias and ordered censorship over them, shutting one down for a time.
- During the Vietnam War, Spiro Agnew called anti-war protestors the "nattering nabobs of negativism.” He accused newspapers of being biased toward America.
- During the civil rights movement, production companies were accused of bias toward mixed-race storylines. Some southern stations refused to air shows with mixed casts such as Star Trek and I Spy.
Here are the types of bias you can find in the media:
- Advertising bias - Selecting media stories based on what will please advertisers
- For example, what if an online news outlet's biggest sponsor was a major airline? In this instance, it's possible that outlet might headline stories pertaining to incidents on other airlines and hold back stories that made that airline look bad.
- Concision bias - Reporting views that can be summed up in a few words rather than those which require lengthier explanations
- In a world where the average news reader is reported to have an eight-second attention span, it's not uncommon for news outlets to publish stories in 500 words or less, carefully selecting catchy headlines, and opting for shorter stories that can be consumed faster than lengthier, detailed pieces.
- Corporate bias - Picking articles or stories that are pleasing to the owners of the media organization or network
- For example, what if a celebrity news outlet's CEO also owned a luxury jewelery company? It wouldn't be so far-fetched to see that same outlet post articles of celebrities wearing that designer's accessories.
- Mainstream bias - Reporting the same thing everyone else is reporting, or to avoid offensive stories, so no reader or viewer turns away
- For example, CBN News (a Christian news outlet) claimed on June 30, 2017 that the mainstream media demonstrated glaring bias during LGBTQ Pride Month. The article cited five media outlets with news and information sections highlighting LGBTQ life and culture.
- Sensationalism - Reporting extraordinary events in favor of everyday events. This can make these events seem more common than they really are.
- An example of this was the media's coverage of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. This story headlined news outlets for weeks, foregoing other stories that might've typically run on the front page.
Bias in personal and professional settings will continue to muddy the waters until everyone vows to operate with an open mind. We will continue to see bias sprout up until people choose to cast a shadow over preconceived notions planted in their minds and shine some light on thoughtful explanations from someone else.
Worst of all, the media is supposed to deliver unbiased news to its audience so they can form their own opinions. It's clear this doesn't happen today, nor has it for quite some time. A good professor will tell students to ingest daily doses of media with a discerning pair of eyes. Choose what to believe and what not do believe. But, most of all, always remain open to the opinion of someone standing on the other side of your fence.