Understanding Bias in the News Media

An article I found in the Toronto Star titled “Hungarian Prime Minister says Donald Trump is Better for Everyone” written by Pablo Gorondi, refers to the Prime Minister of Hungary praising US presidential candidate Donald Trump. Vikor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, has come out and stated that Trump is the best idea for the United States because of his policies about keeping immigrants out and dealing with terrorism.

Orban has announced publicly that he supports Trump and he would be the best option for the West. Gorondi showcases this in a negative way throughout the article, and spins it to appear as a bad thing for the whole world. He focuses primarily on Orban’s discussion of Trump’s politics when it comes to immigrants, as both of these people have strong ideas on the subject. Immigration is a subject that has caused a lot of division around the world, as many people from the right and the left do not know how to combat the current affairs. Trump has been very vocal about his immigration policies and has made very racist comments in public about it. Therefore, many people associate Trump’s immigration reforms with racism.

The article comes from a left wing news source and therefore plays on the notion that most left wing people hate Donald Trump. Those reading the article would already have a bias against the candidate, and would likely have already let those biases determine how they read the article. There are two sentences in particular that stand out due to the underlying bias that is meant to control the thoughts and minds of those reading the article.

There are many obvious forms of bias within the article. Firstly, the author writes, “Orban, who has built border fences to stop migrants, said…” (Gorondi, 2016). He specifically mentions this because of Trump’s infamous plan to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants. This is meant to strike a chord with those readers who already have that previously mentioned bias. Once they see that Orban also supports putting up walls to keep immigrants out, they will automatically register that this man is not a good man because his politics are similar to Trump’s racist ideas. This sentence is in the beginning of the article on purpose because it will set the tone for the rest of the article for anyone who continues reading.

The next biased parts of the article come when Gorondi mentions how unpopular and disliked Orban is with the rest of Europe and the world. He mentions that Orban “has been criticized often by the European Union” (Gorondi, 2016). This sentence is letting people know that this man is not well liked by officials, and that there is obviously a reason that people are not supposed to like this man. It is essentially fueling the fire of hatred toward Orban for his support of a strongly disliked candidate among liberal readers.

References

Gorondi, Pablo. (2016, July 23). Hungarian prime minister says Donald Trump is better for   everyone. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from       https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/

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Understanding Bias in the News Media

Why Am I In This Audience: Pretty Little Liars

One show that I am in the audience of is ABC’s Pretty Little Liars. The show, which follows the mysterious happenings in the fictional city of Rosewood and how those mysteries affect the lives of four teenage girls, has had a large and loyal following since its premiere back in 2010. The show, while unrealistic with the way there are constant new threats, murders, and crooked police officers in this one small town, makes the viewer feel as though they are invested in what happens to the main characters and their town as a whole, and if the audience wasn’t hooked on the mystery of figuring out who is behind all of the craziness, they can definitely get hooked on the romantic storylines that the show weaves through for each of its main characters, like Haleb or Spoby.

Because TV follows a primarily broadcast model of communication, wherein there is one or few senders and many receivers getting information in a single direction (as opposed to the digital model of communication, which is more of a spider web), production companies are able to track numbers of viewers and audience members in order to get ratings, as well as to find out their primary demographics. Gitlin points out that these numbers are not necessarily accurate, since they measure the people watching at its original air time usually, which is only a sample of those who watch. Especially today, where if you miss the show during its air time you can stream it online the next day, these numbers do not provide total accuracy. Less and less people are watching television in traditional ways, and so the number of viewers watching during air time lessens and lessens. I’m sure the show has many viewers now who did not watch the show when it originally aired, but saw that the series is on Netflix in its entirety now and made the decision to “binge watch” all six of the seasons which have aired (season seven is currently on air). Since I watch the show primarily online through outlets other than ABC’s website, their audience numbers likely do not include me.

Though many might argue that the show Pretty Little Liars has run its course, and after six seasons of mystery and excitement, the seventh feels like the producers are running out of material and the show should have wrapped up already since it’s a bit of a stretch now, there is still a huge following for the show – though many may not be watching in traditional ways. Regardless of how they watch the show, though, the audience for Pretty Little Liars definitely still exists, and in large numbers. As a member of the audience who watches the show primarily online outside of its official network website, my own audience membership is measured by posting about the show online, or adding to its hashtag on social media. These are newer ways to track how many people are tuning in or excited about what is happening, since there are new ways for media to be enjoyed that many audience representational numbers don’t often take into account.

Adorno and Horkheimer’s theories tend to be fairly cynical when looking at cultural media texts, citing that all cultural media objects are, above anything, for profit and the entertainment industry exists only within a capitalist means of production. While this does seem overly critical to some, I think that there is plenty of accuracy to what they are saying. If we did not live in a capitalist society, perhaps making these claims would be unreasonable, but in our contemporary cultural moment, Adorno and Horkheimer’s theories seem appropriate. Even if you are not supporting the show by buying t-shirts or backpacks or jewelry with the characters’ names and faces on them, you support the show simply by tuning in. If you tune in during its air time on TV, you are contributing to its ratings, affecting which advertisements wish to be placed in its spots. You are paying for a television subscription of some sort. If you watch it on Netflix, you pay for that subscription. Even if you find a free streaming site online, you are still paying into your internet connection. There is no way to watch the show for free, and as such, you add to the capitalist production system of the entertainment industry just by being in the audience. I continue to be in the audience for Pretty Little Liars because I feel invested in the characters at this point, having watched them for years, and I’m curious how the show will end, despite the fact that being here I am contributing to its capitalist system of production.

Why Am I In This Audience: Pretty Little Liars

Daily Social Media Use

I don’t use any social media other than Facebook, I really don’t understand Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. I can do everything those three do on Facebook, why the need for others? So instead of talking only about Facebook, I will go over a less known, yet popular with teens, social media site/app that is a little iffy in my view. Because today’s youth seem to be obsessed with anonymity, risky behaviour, and the insatiable need for attention, that can easily turn into bullying, I thought it would be an interesting thing to share.

The social media platform is called Ask.fm, this app is used for kids to ask questions without having to reveal their identity to others using the app. Ask.fm was purchased by Ask.com in 2014, an article written by Mike Isaac for the New York Times quotes the CEO of Ask.com stating that “[Their] going to focus on turning around the philosophy of the company and putting trust and safety first”, which really hasn’t been the case so far. Ask.fm has been criticized for not stepping in and taking accountability for cyberbullying that have been linked to suicides. Take the case of Hannah Smith, a 14 year-old girl from England who killed herself after relentless online bullying after posting a question on the site. I can’t help but wonder why young people are so interested in this type of anonymous social media, why do they feel so strongly about being connected to a world full of strangers and potential online predators? It makes me think that Émile Durkheim’s theory of social solidarity has something to do with our need for a feeling of social belonging. Teenagers are desperate to feel connected to people, even if it is strangers. Durkheim’s social solidarity theory rings true in today’s youth; we see/hear all too often of teenagers taking their own lives because they have been bullied to the point that they can’t see a way out. It’s ironic that the one thing that youth are doing to feel more socially connected is the thing that is actually hurting them the most.  Ask.fm took in 6 million Euros a year before it was purchased by Ask.com, at that time is was owned by Russian brothers that were only interested in making millions of dollars; with little regard to the safety of users.

The social media phenomenon that is Facebook has turned into a massive online social media network with over 1.23 billion users, from its early days of a site used to rate ivy league university girls, originally called “Facemash” created in the dorm room of Mark Zuckerberg and his peers. Facebook quickly took off with university students across America eventually making its way into main stream pop culture, it is now the biggest social media site in the world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held off on making Facebook a publicly traded company for over four years, most likely out of greed, until its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on May 18th, 2012. Zuckerberg was very smart in how he decided to sell shares in his company, the Facebook shares were divided into two categories, class A and class B (Watson, 2016 Lecture 1 June, 20). Zuckerberg is the only one allowed to own class B shares and he owns enough to make sure he is the only one needed to vote to make any changes to the company. This is reminiscent Karl Marx conflict theory that divides us all into social classes, “haves” and “have nots”. Mark Zuckerberg is a “have” and we are all “have nots”, in theory we all work for him and he profits from us.

When I log onto Facebook I normally see a lot of news postings from cites such as Huffington Post, New York Times, CBC, CNN, etc… I tend to spend too much time on Facebook every day, it even sometimes takes away from my school work, it’s the last thing I do before bed and almost the first thing I do when I wake up. It sometimes takes my attention away from my kids, no I’m not one of those parents that ignores their kids. Facebook claims that all of its active users are separated by only four people, meaning that I am only four Facebook connections away from a person in Siberia, or the rainforest. This is similar to the “Small Worlds Experiment” by Jeffrey Travers and Stanley Milgram in 1967 that concluded that everyone in the United States is separated by only six degrees of separation. This is sociologically significant because it brings up questions and concerns about globalization. Facebook plays a huge role in the elimination of space and time, we can now communicate instantaneously with anyone in the world at any point in time. We can buy something online and have it delivered directly to someone on the other side of the world in and instant. Ok, maybe Facebook is not responsible for those things, but it definitely helps in the unstoppable force that is globalization.

 

 

 

Daily Social Media Use

Refugees! Not a National Threat!

I’d like to take moment and talk about the increasing intolerance I’ve seen in the news and on Facebook lately regarding immigrants, more specifically Muslim immigrants, and their perceived unwillingness to “assimilate” to Canadian culture. I tend to like to share my space in this world with intelligent, open-minded people, and I think it’s my duty as a decent human being to speak up against bigotry.

Let me first remind some people that you are all immigrants. Only those of you that are Aboriginal can lay claim to being an original inhabitant of this country, not one of us assimilated to Native culture; your ancestors came here and imposed their customs and beliefs on the First Peoples.

Our ancestors came from all over the world: France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Poland, etc… They brought with them hundreds of different customs and rituals, religious beliefs and practices. Many of you still partake in these rituals and customs on holidays and during time spent with family, freely and without persecution.

“But, but, but…. our ancestors came to this country and they assimilated!” I can hear some of you saying, but that’s not altogether true, is it? They’ve kept their languages, you celebrate your traditions, your children go to Catholic schools, or attend Ukrainian dance classes on the weekend. Maybe your parents belong to the Irish Club, or you are able to attend masses held in Croatian. There are festivals to celebrate every background in this country. The whole province of Quebec has been able to hold on to its culture and customs and hasn’t been forced to assimilate to the rest of Canada. The entire western world caters to Christians. You get paid holidays based on religious traditions that might not even be yours, but no ones going to complain about that.

There are pockets of our ancestors in every province who have held on to their languages, clothing, customs, and beliefs; thank goodness they have. What makes Canada different from the rest of the world, remember, is that we are supposed to be a tolerant society. People have come, and still come here, from all over the world to escape intolerance. They have given up the comfort of familiarity to be here, where our citizens are free to be whatever they’d like to be, believe whatever they’d like to believe, love whomever they’d like to love, and even dress the way they’d like to dress. We are a beautiful combination of everyone’s beliefs and customs.

This is the same type of ignorance and vitriol that eventually caused the slaughter of millions of Jews in WWII. Before you’re too quick to defend your hate-speech, marinate on that for a minute and think about if you want to contribute to that kind of hate.

There is only one race, the human race.

Refugees! Not a National Threat!