Everyone Is Biased, but Not All Biases Are Equal
One of the most common sentiments heard from centrists and moderates goes something like this:
“I wish there was some news source out there that’s totally unbiased and only reports objective facts with no spin.”
Here’s the thing: everyone’s biased. Even the famed Star Trek character Data, an android, has biases. At the very least, Data is biased towards self-preservation if not to also protect his crewmates.
The only thing that seems to be purely non-biased is the universe itself, but even that is an assertion that we can (probably) never verify.
So, while we’re here living on Earth, we need to operate as if everyone has a bias in some way or another. However, that doesn’t mean that all biases are equally valid.
There are various ways to measure the validity and usefulness of a given bias. We can do this by looking at:
- the coherency of the bias
- the outcomes that naturally follow from that bias
- what that bias chooses to mention
- what that bias chooses not, or fails, to mention
For instance, a bias of capitalism is to perpetuate itself for the sake of itself. One way it does this is by adopting the political framework of conservatism, which exists to protect the established order and status quo. Capitalism distinguishes itself from other hierarchical power structures by heavily relying on market manipulation to maintain control over its subjects.
So, capitalism intrinsically resists any sort of change unless it becomes profitable via the “free market.”
This is largely why ideas like…
- the eight-hour work day
- child labor laws
- women’s suffrage
- the 1964 Civil Rights Act
- gay marriage
…took so long to realize. Those “radical” ideas eventually became less profitable and more threatening to fight against rather than to adopt, co-opt, or even just pay lip service to.
Right now, some big topics on the line are transgender rights and climate change.
On the other hand, leftist biases are largely rooted in more egalitarian mindsets.
Capitalists actively fight against “radical” ideas that promote equality and celebrate human dignity for all human beings until it’s no longer profitable to do so because those ideas directly threaten the established structures of power. Meanwhile, leftists adopt these “radical” mindsets as foundational tenets.
Leftists prioritize treating all humans equally more than capitalists. Leftists prioritize change rooted in equality, decency, and dignity more than capitalists. Leftists prioritize true liberty more than capitalists.
Why Are We Waiting for Change?
If one’s goal is to support real equality among the average citizen, then one must adopt a mindset of “radical” change that goes against capitalist interests. To be afraid of “moving too fast” or of asking for “too much” is to, in some sense, be a centrist or moderate.
However, by adopting this type of position and aligning with centrism to protect the status quo, one is implicitly aligning with capitalist systems that actively work to oppress the population at large.
This is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant in his Birmingham jail letter:
“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate,
- who is more devoted to “order” than to justice;
- who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice;
- who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’;
- who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom;
- who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
The viewpoint of “just wait your turn for freedom and justice” implies that there is some value to be gained by waiting. Who benefits from waiting? The established order that does not wish to change: conservatives and capitalism itself.
Fully understanding the context of the biases permeating our culture is essential to understanding when direct action is required.
It’s Not Just “Your Opinion, Man”
None of this is to say that striving for the search of objective truth is folly, as a centrist might say as they claim to “look at all sides of the issue.” Rather, it’s to say that not all viewpoints are equally valid or moral. Not all viewpoints are worthy of being treated equally.
It’s not “well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” Bias is a manifestation of how one sees the world. As we’ve seen throughout the history of scientific progress, not all worldviews are accurate or even useful.
Just because someone has a different bias does not mean that they, or their bias, should be treated the same as others.
In fact, understanding the differing biases of other people and various news organizations does more to provide one with a fuller, richer understanding of the world than refusing to inform one’s self out of spite.
The alternative is to continue complaining about how unfair it is that purely objective sources of societal, economic, and political information don’t exist.
Centrism and moderates, by definition, first look for a compromise before considering meaningful change because they believe that all sides should be treated as equally valid.
Everyone is biased. That’s okay. What’s not okay is the refusal to question or critique the biases of the status quo, the established order, or even your own.
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