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post #1 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 15th, 2017, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

https://www.alternet.org/media/conse...didnt-end-well



Each morning when his wife leaves to work out at the gym, Tom Herbon turns on the radio in his basement wood shop. For much of the day as he works around his home in Troy, north of Detroit, Herbon listens to WDTK 101.5 FM, “The Patriot,” a conservative talk radio station featuring commentators including Sean Hannity and Mike Gallagher. From 1-3 p.m., he switches stations to hear Rush Limbaugh.

Several times a day, he’ll fire up his desktop computer and read the latest news on the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggregation website that gets more than 25 million pageviews a day.

“I’m a Donald Trump Twitter follower,” said Herbon. “I want to hear directly from the horse’s mouth instead of it being misrepresented by the biased media.”

Fifty miles away, a different soundtrack plays in the Ann Arbor home of Aric Knuth and Jim Leija. After work, the couple listens to NPR while cooking and eating dinner. Typically, NPR’s news programs including “All Things Considered” play in the background for three hours each evening. Knuth and Leija, who voted for Hillary Clinton for president, read the New York Times.

“I have the app (for the New York Times) on my phone,” Knuth said. “I check headlines at least six times a day.”

The Ann Arbor couple had never seen the Drudge Report. The Troy retiree had seldom listened to NPR.

That was about to change.


Herbon, Knuth and Leija were all born in Michigan, are college educated, own beautiful homes and have upper-middle class incomes. Yet their world views are polar opposites. One aspect of their lives that divides them: their sources of news.

A generation ago, it’s safe to say most Michigan residents got their news from the same local newspapers as their neighbors, and from nightly news shows on three broadcast networks. Today, conservatives in Copper Harbor can glide from car radio to smartphone to laptop gorging on a diet of Benghazi, Obama phones and pedophile pizza conspiracies. Meanwhile, progressives in Port Huron can spend the day swaddled in podcasts and Facebook feeds assailing the intelligence of Trump voters and speculating when impeachment hearings will begin.

The conservative Herbon and liberals Knuth and Leija don’t deal in conspiracy theories or smug dismissiveness of those with whom they disagree. But the yawning gap between the media sources of these three voracious news consumers makes it difficult for them to find common ground.

To try to understand each other more, Herbon, Leija and Knuth agreed to swap news sources for one week.

It didn’t go well.


The news bubble swap


Herbon is a 57-year-old retired engineer. He is conservative financially, regaling visitors with the story of packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for work every day for 17 years. If possible, and Herbon proves that it is, he is even more conservative politically.

[--]

Herbon gets his news primarily from the conservative site Drudge Report. He doesn’t watch TV news, opting instead to work around the house with “The Patriot” talk radio playing in the background.
“Maybe they’ve (traditional media) always been biased,” Herbon said, “but we didn’t’ have a conservative checkpoint to check it against.”

[--]

Leija and Knuth both work for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and their temperaments match the measured, low-key voices they hear each evening on NPR (National Public Radio), which they listen to on public radio station WUOM, 91.7-FM, better known as Michigan Radio.

Knuth is a lecturer in the English Department and director of the New England Literature Program, and Leija is director of education and community engagement for the University Musical Society.

Like the conservative Herbon, the unabashed liberal couple tweaked their news habits in the wake of the presidential election.

“We subscribed to the New York Times,” Knuth said. “We felt we needed to read more than we were getting in our 10 free articles a month.”

Beyond the Times and NPR, Leija reads Jezebel, a decidedly feminist-focused blog featuring a mix of opinionated news and entertainment.

[---]


Knuth and Leija agreed to switch from listening to NPR to The Patriot talk radio. Instead of compulsively checking the New York Times multiple times a day, the pair would only look at Drudge Report.

After some hesitation, Herbon agreed to turn his radio to a station that carried NPR programming. Instead of reading Drudge online, he would peruse the New York Times website and Jezebel.

Knuth and Leija were enthused about the project. “I love experiments,” Knuth said.

Herbon was wary. “I don’t know if I can make it a week,” he said.


"I AM OUT"


I sent Herbon, Knuth and Leija instructions for their roles in the news bubble swap on Thursday, March 16. The experiment was to begin Monday, March 20 and run through the following Sunday.

The instructions were emailed at 9:23 a.m.

Thirty-one minutes later, Herbon emailed to say he already regretted agreeing to swap news feeds.

"I just looked at jezebel.com," Herbon wrote. "The headline "Federal Judge in Hawaii Blocks Trump's Second Travel Ban Just in the Nick of Time" and ensuing article is total biased crap. I specifically chose "total crap" because NO respectable news feed I listen to, read or watch describe things as 'shitty.'

"Without even spending another second on this project I can tell you the result," Herbon said. "…God help us."

At 11:39 a.m. the same day, Herbon sent a second email. He’d looked at more articles on Jezebel and checked out the New York Times website.

“I browsed more of jezebel.com and cannot believe what I am reading,” he wrote. “This site is nothing more than a ranting website for the lunatic fringe that shows NO RESPECT for anything or anybody. I have no interest in punishing myself by interacting for another second with this website.”

At the New York Times, Herbon took offense at an article that referred to a Trump rally as “angry” and “xenophobic.”

“I thought this activity would be interesting and fun but there is nothing fun about subjecting myself to such irresponsible drivel for another second let alone another week,” Herbon wrote. “I will NEVER look at that Jez… website again. Life is too short to waste another second going to a website that treats the release of celebrity nude photos (Herbon was likely referring to this article) with more respect than the President of the United States.

“The NY Times does not print accurate facts in areas I know, so I have no confidence or interest in reading about things I don’t know because I cannot believe what I read.”

Conservative Tom Herbon calls the New York Times “un-American.”

At 2:53 p.m. that same day, four days before the experiment was to begin, Herbon sent a third email:

“So there is no confusion, I am OUT of the print experiment,” Herbon wrote. “The sources you wanted me to review are so un-American and so out of touch with real America I cannot support them in any way shape or form.”

‘A nightmare’

In Ann Arbor, Knuth and Leija stuck with the news swap for five days before giving in to temptation and checking the New York Times for updates on the Affordable Care Act repeal bill being debated in the House of Representatives.

Trying to keep up with the world by only reading the Drudge Report was “a nightmare,” Leija said. Drudge aggregates news stories from multiple sources on the Internet and places them in a list with the same, small headline size.

“I found it hard over the course of the week to know what the important stories were,” Leija said. “I felt under-informed because all that tiny text creates a sense of not being able to tell what is important. It was depressing in a strange way.”

Liberal Jim Leija calls Drudge Report “a nightmare.”

“You have really important stories all mixed up with really unimportant stories on the same list,” Knuth added. “I just didn’t understand how that could ever be a helpful tool for understanding what’s happening in the world.”

Knuth listened to The Patriot hours each day. “I was shocked,” Knuth said. “I had never listened to a radio station like that before. I was shocked to see that it was actually just a series of programs of Rush Limbaugh-type guys. It was wall-to-wall programming of these cranky personalities, who were engaged mainly in complaining.”

After years of listening almost exclusively to public radio, which does not take advertising, Knuth was disturbed by the amount of air time taken up by ads on The Patriot, including one ad he heard repeatedly featuring former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul hawking a food dehydrator.

“I was just constantly frustrated.” Knuth said. “I like to know what happens in the world, and I constantly felt like I didn’t know anything, and also frustrated by the endless sales pitches, which made me annoyed.”

[--]

After a week’s exposure to each other’s news bubbles, no minds were changed. The liberals said they felt the conservative was being ill-served by his news feed. The conservative said the same for the liberals.

“It made me really sad that there is this person who listens to this radio station all day long, that is filled with people who are exactly like him, that say exactly the things he wants to hear,” Leija said. “I guess that is the nature of the bubble. That really scared me.”

As for Herbon, listening to NPR and reading the New York Times, “I was immediately turned off by inaccuracies of what I know to be fact. If people don’t know what a fact is, we have a huge problem.

“If they say black and I say white,” Herbon said, “there’s no way to agree.”

So what can we do?

Herbon, Leija and Knuth came away from the news swap saying they believe the divide between Michigan residents would shrink if they shared a nonpartisan source of news.

Herbon suggests Drudge.

Leija suggests the New York Times.

"These lifeforms feel such passionate hatreds over matters of custom, God concepts, even - strangely enough - economic systems." - Capt. J Piccard USS Enterprise

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
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post #2 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 15th, 2017, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

Though not altogether surprising, on reflection this is "troubling." And it impacts all areas of life from science research to the arts. Most of us don't seek out info as a means to learn or even assess things. We seek perspectives that will confirm and reinforce what we already think.

"These lifeforms feel such passionate hatreds over matters of custom, God concepts, even - strangely enough - economic systems." - Capt. J Piccard USS Enterprise

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
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post #3 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 2017, 10:51 AM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

LOL.

The shock to their systems must have been huge. All three are very set in their ways.

Kudos for doing the experiment, though.

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post #4 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 2017, 11:07 AM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

This experiment has also been done here by swapping each other's Facebook profiles with much the same results. It is indeed shocking how big the dividing lines have really become.

I think it's telling the conservative in this experiment is apparently calling investigative criticism un-American, confirming my picture of conservatives as blind 'patriots' who believe anything their conservative leaders tell them without any evidence. But of course I'm just interpreting things through my bubble.
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post #5 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 16th, 2017, 01:09 PM Thread Starter
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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I think it's telling the conservative in this experiment is apparently calling investigative criticism un-American, confirming my picture of conservatives as blind 'patriots' who believe anything their conservative leaders tell them without any evidence. But of course I'm just interpreting things through my bubble.
To some degree, you are. As we all do unless we push ourselves to do otherwise. It's true that conservatism is more given to paternalism and often leads more easily to authoritarianism but it doesn't have to. Just yesterday I posted one example of that:

Pro-Women. Pro-Republican. Anti-Trump.

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post #6 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 12:21 AM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

Speaking for myself - I would very quickly become extremely annoyed to be bombarded from a news feed broadcasting views contrary to everything I believe. Do you have any newsfeeds in the USA that are interesting and equally challenge all political viewpoints - left or right?

So that's why I think it's important to have something like the BBC in the UK which is supposed to be impartial where you get people from all sides of the political spectrum and they all get asked realty tough questions. Sometimes though the BBC gets it wrong and there is a definite bias. But the BBC does take seriously claims that it is not balanced.

Incidentally my favourite interviewer is Andrew Neil on BBC. Tough facts based questions (and not emotive and just rude for the sake of it like Paxman). Nobody - left or right seems to ever answer Andrew Neil's questions. They all answer a question and talk and talk to take up time. But it's always an answer to the question they would like get as opposed to the actual question they got.

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post #7 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 02:23 PM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

Both are partly right. The level of disrespect for this President is unprecedented.
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post #8 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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Speaking for myself - I would very quickly become extremely annoyed to be bombarded from a news feed broadcasting views contrary to everything I believe. Do you have any newsfeeds in the USA that are interesting and equally challenge all political viewpoints - left or right?

So that's why I think it's important to have something like the BBC in the UK which is supposed to be impartial where you get people from all sides of the political spectrum and they all get asked realty tough questions. Sometimes though the BBC gets it wrong and there is a definite bias. But the BBC does take seriously claims that it is not balanced..
That's exactly what I see as problematic. And it's far only about politics. Many people have developed such a strong emotional opposition to any viewpoints that don't fit with what they hold that it pushes their objectivity towards zero. The common takes on climate change are an ongoing example.

As for "impartial" it impacts what people assess as being that. If most of what they hear/read fits their beliefs it's impartial. If not, it isn't.

"These lifeforms feel such passionate hatreds over matters of custom, God concepts, even - strangely enough - economic systems." - Capt. J Piccard USS Enterprise

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
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post #9 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 04:59 PM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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That's exactly what I see as problematic. And it's far only about politics. Many people have developed such a strong emotional opposition to any viewpoints that don't fit with what they hold that it pushes their objectivity towards zero. The common takes on climate change are an ongoing example.

As for "impartial" it impacts what people assess as being that. If most of what they hear/read fits their beliefs it's impartial. If not, it isn't.
I disagree. I don't think that's the problem at all. It's not natural to want to be bombarded from a news stream with views diametrically opposed to your own. And it's a bit rich to criticise the individuals for not being objective when the news feeds themselves aren't objective.

No. What is important is that there is a main news outlet that interrogates and analyses policies from both sides of the political spectrum. What is a problem is if you've never ever got your news from anything other than a very biased news outlet.

But there's nothing wrong with getting very annoyed and not wanting to get your news from a biased news outlet which is completely one-sided and contrary to your own views. And there's nothing abnormal or worrying about switching off when you do (like the experiment). And it's simply impossible for individuals to know or have the time to check out things themselves.

It seems like it might be different in the USA to the UK in that it seems that the news outlets in the USA are all very partisan. In the UK - most of the papers are well known for their political stance. But TV is the main source of news and politics and we have BBC, ITV and Sky. The BBC is neutral - well it's supposed to be. And whilst it is criticised by the right for bias to the left and vice-versa - all political parties arguments and actions are represented and come under scrutiny. The same for ITV and Sky. Both Left and Right are represented and programs like the Pledge and programs analysing What The Papers Say - there's a balance between people representing different viewpoints - left and right.

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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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Speaking for myself - I would very quickly become extremely annoyed to be bombarded from a news feed broadcasting views contrary to everything I believe. Do you have any newsfeeds in the USA that are interesting and equally challenge all political viewpoints - left or right?

So that's why I think it's important to have something like the BBC in the UK which is supposed to be impartial where you get people from all sides of the political spectrum and they all get asked realty tough questions. Sometimes though the BBC gets it wrong and there is a definite bias. But the BBC does take seriously claims that it is not balanced.

Incidentally my favourite interviewer is Andrew Neil on BBC. Tough facts based questions (and not emotive and just rude for the sake of it like Paxman). Nobody - left or right seems to ever answer Andrew Neil's questions. They all answer a question and talk and talk to take up time. But it's always an answer to the question they would like get as opposed to the actual question they got.
Tucker Carlsson on Fox News
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post #11 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 05:59 PM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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I disagree. I don't think that's the problem at all. It's not natural to want to be bombarded from a news stream with views diametrically opposed to your own. And it's a bit rich to criticise the individuals for not being objective when the news feeds themselves aren't objective.

No. What is important is that there is a main news outlet that interrogates and analyses policies from both sides of the political spectrum. What is a problem is if you've never ever got your news from anything other than a very biased news outlet.

But there's nothing wrong with getting very annoyed and not wanting to get your news from a biased news outlet which is completely one-sided and contrary to your own views. And there's nothing abnormal or worrying about switching off when you do (like the experiment). And it's simply impossible for individuals to know or have the time to check out things themselves.

It seems like it might be different in the USA to the UK in that it seems that the news outlets in the USA are all very partisan. In the UK - most of the papers are well known for their political stance. But TV is the main source of news and politics and we have BBC, ITV and Sky. The BBC is neutral - well it's supposed to be. And whilst it is criticised by the right for bias to the left and vice-versa - all political parties arguments and actions are represented and come under scrutiny. The same for ITV and Sky. Both Left and Right are represented and programs like the Pledge and programs analysing What The Papers Say - there's a balance between people representing different viewpoints - left and right.
That's exactly how I feel when I watch Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and used to when I watched Keith Olbermann.

Both provided comic relief at times, though.

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post #12 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 06:09 PM Thread Starter
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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I disagree. I don't think that's the problem at all. It's not natural to want to be bombarded from a news stream with views diametrically opposed to your own. And it's a bit rich to criticise the individuals for not being objective when the news feeds themselves aren't objective.
Yes. We got that the first time.

It's not about "natural" - or not. Certainly most people lean towards bias reinforcement. But that something is common doesn't make it less problematic. In fact the opposite

And yeah, it's on individuals to cultivate greater objectivity. People relying on news feeds to do one's work for them is another aspect of the problem. It seems to be to be part of that paternalistic bent I mentioned. I also mentioned that whether they see a source as objective or not is, for most people, highly subjective.

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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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Nobody - left or right seems to ever answer Andrew Neil's questions.
That's because he interrupts them half way through their answer - they quite literally can't answer his questions. Andrew Neil is a great journalist but I don't really rely on him to give the public a great idea on who to vote for. I want to actually hear what a politician has to say and what their angle is rather than a "hard hitting and aggressive" style interview which the UK seem to love these days. Yeah it's fun seeing a politician you don't like take some heat but at the end of the day it generally doesn't mean shit when deciding on who will make the country a better place.

Oh and Andrew Neil is also a Tory, ex Rupert Murdoch lapdog, which is something worth noting
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post #14 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 07:01 PM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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That's because he interrupts them half way through their answer - they quite literally can't answer his questions. Andrew Neil is a great journalist but I don't really rely on him to give the public a great idea on who to vote for. I want to actually hear what a politician has to say and what their angle is rather than a "hard hitting and aggressive" style interview which the UK seem to love these days. Yeah it's fun seeing a politician you don't like take some heat but at the end of the day it generally doesn't mean shit when deciding on who will make the country a better place.

Oh and Andrew Neil is also a Tory, ex Rupert Murdoch lapdog, which is something worth noting
He does interrupt them to pull them back to answering his question. But not because of your false claim that the interruption prevents them from answering the question. But because they are not answering the question and instead answering something they weren't asked.

As for him being a Tory. Yes he was. But you'd never guess that from his questions and the politics shows he hosts. Only the most insecure left winger would comment on that and try to pretend there was bias. Every politician of whatever party - left or right - simply doesn't/can't answer his questions and just answers the question they want him to ask. He doesn't go easy on any one side. Everyone I know - left wing or right wing - thinks that. 'During the election - the Andrew Neil interviews of the party leaders were pretty universally agreed as the most definitive and informative to get to the bottom of what on what the parties were promising and the pitfalls. One day for each leader. No other interviewer had such prominence. No-one I know - left or right - bleats on about bias from him except for you.

I definitely B]want [/B]an interviewer to interrupt when the question asked isn't addressed and the politician waffles with an answer to a question they would like asked instead.

He's an aggressive interviewer in that he won't be fobbed off. But it's fact and details he questions them on and tries to get answers. Paxman on the other hand is aggressive, rude, emotive and insulting and you don't get to facts. That sort of aggressive boorish behaviour from an interviewer I don't like.

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post #15 of 38 (permalink) Old Jun 17th, 2017, 07:55 PM
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Re: A Conservative and Two Liberals Swapped News Feeds—It Didn't End Well

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Yes. We got that the first time.

It's not about "natural" - or not. Certainly most people lean towards bias reinforcement. But that something is common doesn't make it less problematic. In fact the opposite

And yeah, it's on individuals to cultivate greater objectivity. People relying on news feeds to do one's work for them is another aspect of the problem. It seems to be to be part of that paternalistic bent I mentioned. I also mentioned that whether they see a source as objective or not is, for most people, highly subjective.
This is an absolute nonsense thread and experiment for trying to prove it's our problem we are not objective.. The experiment was a complete waste of time. What a half baked idea to get the bleeding obvious. Wailing about ppl having a lack of objectivity when they switch to receiving a stream of propaganda completely against their views. Come on. What do you expect? Are you yourself going to lock yourself in a room and subject yourself to solely a right wing news feed and become more objective as a result? Of course not. You'd be more determined than ever and criticising it and quite right too. And so is telling people that they should be more objective if confronted with a flood of propaganda against their core beliefs.

You know the way that ppl often change their mind is when ppl supportive of what they believe in question one or two of their beliefs. As opposed to hard core opponents that constantly wail about everything the other side believes in. Often making arguments which are no more than insults at people who have those other beliefs.


As for it being subjective as to whether a source is left wing or right wing. A few people will argue but it's pretty universally agreed which papers are right wing (e.g. DM), what are left wing (e.g. Groniad) and that the BBC has to take steps to treat each party equally and take seriously any complaints of political bias.

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