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We Need Both Sides

Entry 1915, on 2018-05-25 at 20:39:06 (Rating 3, Politics)

Back in my younger days I was quite naive about politics, society, and other general philosophical narratives. I thought everything was black and white, and most importantly, that the right (conservatives, Republicans, libertarians) were wrong about everything, and possibly evil, while every aspect of the left was honorable and just, and their ideas were based on facts.

Now I have seen the light. I still score well to the left on political opinion surveys, but I disagree with significant aspects of left-wing ideology and recognise some good in ideas from the right. I think the critical point is that I don't care what the left or the right think any more, I just prefer to form my own conclusions based on my own personal morality.

And some of the most extreme right-wing opinions actually make a certain amount of sense. The political right's objections to the mainstream media (MSM) for example, aren't entirely the result of paranoia and extreme bias, because there really is a bias in the MSM.

My main news sources are RNZ (previously Radio New Zealand), the New Zealand Herald, the BBC, the New York Times, and TV3 (a New Zealand commercial TV channel). All of these have a significant bias to the left, in my opinion, although you might say the Herald has more a bias to trivia and clickbait!

How do I know there is a bias? Because opinion polls, elections, referenda, and other situations, where people can express their opinions anonymously and without fear of repercussions, show that the political views I see in the MSM are not the same views held by people in general.

So superficially our society seems to be very politically correct. It supports favourable treatment for every imaginable disadvantaged group; believes in gender-neutral, racially inclusive, non-aggressive speech; thinks those who don't succeed are victims of an unfair system; etc. But under the surface there are a lot of people who believe the complete opposite of these things.

Sure, there are right-oriented news programs as well, and they are possibly even more biased than those on the left and the so-called center, but I would like to hear a bit more from people with that perspective on news sources which are allegedly more credible.

It would be nice if there was just one presenter on RNZ, for example, who has a right bias, who would challenge the constant simple-minded political correctness which every current presenter seems to have to varying degrees. This person would not have to be "correct" or "accurate" about anything, but he/she (oh no, look what I did there) would be able to offer an alternative narrative to what we usually get.

And ironically I think this would be advantageous to the left as well as the right. When I hear the one-sided material we currently have I always feel like I'm being lied to. Well, lied to is maybe a too strong way to put it, but I feel like I am being deceived by being fed just one side of the story. If I did hear both sides, and one side still came out ahead, that would be far more compelling.

So when I hear a story on RNZ which is clearly biased to the left I don't totally take it seriously because I know there is another side I'm not hearing. And if I did listen to more right-oriented stuff the same reaction would apply there.

John Stuart Mill famously said "The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, has left it on record that he always studied his adversary's case with as great, if not still greater, intensity than even his own."

This seems to be good advice for two reasons: first, that if you have an opinion you want to defend you can do that more effectively if you understand the alternatives; and second, if your opinion doesn't stand up well to the alternatives maybe it's time to change it.

Either way, I think there's no doubt about it: to have honest debates on modern societal issues, we need both sides.

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Comment 1 (4910) by EP on 2018-05-28 at 11:05:15:

Agreed. The older I get the less red or blue I see and the the more grey (or purple I guess) I see.

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Comment 2 (4911) by OJB on 2018-05-28 at 11:05:50:

Yes, I just wish people would try to get away from the tribalism, the blind following of a fixed political view. It's far better thinking for yourself.

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