In recent weeks, the controversy concerning the 2020 United States presidential elections has risen to the top of more than a few headlines, though this is not the nation’s first taste of political turmoil. In fact, it would not be uncommon for someone to say that American politics have been polarising long before the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Now that the race has been declared a win for president-elect Joe Biden, allegations of voting fraud from the Republican Party have secured the limelight for the United States and increased Democrat-Republican tensions. Though we as a school may be primarily liberal in our political point of view and tend to ridicule the Republicans as a result, our critiques seem somewhat unwarranted, if not hypocritical, when we consider how we all obtain our political information. As such, we must recognise and combat any of our own singular thinking in order to promote constructive discussion.
Our exposure to political news during our childhood has a significant impact on our perspective, especially if we do not recognise the biases that may have been established. Though I do not recall all that much from my primary school days in California, I do remember finding it strange that I had different political opinions to most of my classmates. Given that I lived in Orange County, a region whose Republican views in California are more fervent than they are atypical of the state, being a fan of Obama was not a sentiment many shared with me. During the 2012 election, I told some of my friends that my family supported Obama and watched CNN, only to be looked at quizzically for not supporting Mitt Romney or watching Fox News. In truth, I said that I supported Obama for no other reason than the fact that my parents did, and perhaps they did likewise. For as long as I could remember, my family watched CNN and never even considered Fox News, so I was politically biased by seeing the same perspective every time.
This raises the question of the extent to which our political views are simply the rationalisation of what we were made to believe when we were young. Though we can still make the morally correct option even if we are biased (if such an option exists), it does not say much about our own morals if we chose it simply because our political party did. At this moment, Republicans seem easy to mock for insisting that the election was rigged against Trump, but if they made the mistake of only ever watching Fox News (who wholeheartedly believes that election fraud had occurred), it is not difficult to see why they would think so. Fox News might be the only map of the political world that they ever had. But… are we much better in that regard?
As a quick exercise, name all of the media sources you follow that are dedicated to news (no, Instagram and Snapchat do not count). How different are these sources to what you recall seeing on the TV when you were younger? Though there may be some variation, it would not be a surprise to find that the channels or magazines are similar to what was first imprinted onto you. The issue is not in having a bias, but in not acknowledging it. Biases are part of the unique perspective each person has, making them a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they produce various outlooks on a given situation, which grants us new insights and solutions. On the other hand, they can result in irrational decisions made out of loyalty to concepts that are not fool-proof. By always using the same few news sources and treating their reports on subjective matters as gospel, we have committed the same sin as many of the Republicans who insist that Trump won the election.
This is not to say that neither side should criticise the other. Regardless of political bias, there are some standards that everyone is expected to uphold after reaching a level of maturity. Violence, racism, and sexism are as reprehensible as ever. Both the left-wing and the right-wing should call out and condemn them, whether they be from the other side or from within. The message is that it is not entirely fair to lambaste Republicans for being diehards in the face of apparent defeat when we have a tendency to justify the actions of the left, especially when such choices are just echoes of what we hear from media.
Fortunately, the negative effects of bias can be combatted. After reading this article, try watching the news on a channel you have never tried before. Better yet, try to choose a source whose views go against your own in some way. The idea of watching news with biases is not to find the objective truth, but to understand a subjective perspective. In doing so, we can become effective at salvaging the facts from a sea of contrary opinions and forming our own political views, not someone else’s. Although this will not put a stop to disagreements, it is still a large step towards establishing the political cooperation needed for effective progress.
– Gabriel Tetrault
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily endorsed by The Update. We encourage anyone who would like to send an opinion piece to sign up in the join us section of the website.