The evasiveness of truth within biases
■ By David Porter / Contributed
Not too long ago, I wrote about the evasive qualities of truth, and it generated more reader response than any column I’ve put out in the 24 years that I’ve been doing this. Interestingly, one reader thought I was being anti-Trump and another thought I was being pro-Trump, and neither of them were very happy about it.
It kind of proves my point about the evasiveness of truth. Two people read the same column and came away with opposite perspectives. That brings me to a new topic within the subject of news literacy. While we talk a lot about the biases of those reporting the news, we don’t hear a lot about the biases of the audience and how that impacts the way consumers interpret the news.
I think a lot of people believe themselves to be without bias. Maybe they don’t grip what bias is. Any belief or preference is a bias. Everyone has them.
Biases are not inherently good or bad. They shape our personalities and our day-to-day decisions. They are personal and easily misunderstood by others. That’s why some people who say racist things don’t view themselves as racist. They believe they are right. Conversely, there are times when some things may seem racist but really aren’t.
For instance, I tend to avoid certain neighborhoods at night. It’s not because they are predominantly black; it’s because they are high crime areas. I’ve driven through some of those neighborhoods at night and have seen prostitutes on nearly every corner and drug deals taking place. Avoiding those places isn’t racist; it’s self-preservation.
On the other side, there are countless examples of casual bias that a lot of people don’t seem to think about because they’re oblivious to their own prejudices. At risk of opening Pandora’s box, here is just one example:
A lot of Christian religions include a mandate for women to keep their heads covered. Some use bonnets. Some scarfs. Nobody I know has a problem with that. Yet, a lot of people I know have a problem with turbans. That’s because they associate Muslims with terrorism despite the fact that nearly a quarter of the world’s population is Islamic. In my neighborhood, we don’t see a lot of Muslims and we don’t know that much about them. Our fears are fed by what makes the evening news.
I’ve heard people rail against the repression of women among Muslims, yet some Christian sects are similarly repressive. Opposing one and not the other is indicative of a bias. I’m not suggesting that we should go after Pentecostals; rather, I’m suggesting we should be more tolerant of religions other than our own. Right is right and wrong is wrong whether it’s in the Bible or the Quran.
That brings me to another point that I find interesting. As Americans, many of us tend to defend all Christian denominations as if they are the same and condemn all Islamic sects as if they are the same. Yet, we know that there are vast differences between Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, etc. But we don’t know a Sunni from a Shiite. We easily distance ourselves from radical Christian groups, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, but we don’t differentiate between Muslims.
In the same vein, we tend to lump all Hispanics together, sometimes to the point that we don’t realize that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.
It all comes back around to our personal truths. Truth is what we believe to be true even if it is layered with bias. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could peel back those layers and view truth for what it actually is; if we could separate fact from faith?
It’s difficult partly because faith is the cornerstone of Christianity. As a Christian, I don’t need to know how many stars are above us, or how old the Earth really is or whether Jonah was literally swallowed by a whale. Faith is all I need. Faith is all there is. I follow on faith.
But as a taxpayer and citizen on Earth, faith is a poor substitute for facts. We can’t know everything there is to know, so we have to rely on faith in our leaders to some degree, but our faith must be steeped in facts — truth unblemished by bias. Instead, when the facts don’t support our faith, we simply find alternative facts.
You know what alternative facts are? Not facts.
David Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Ooh, boy, I’m going to get some letters now.