Below is a perfect example, published just yesterday, of biased journalism. It’s very short, I promise. Please take a moment to read it and then we will do a quick analysis of it’s journalistic integrity. http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/01/...
RED FLAG #1: The “quote” they put in the headline is not a quote at all. They actually used a single stroke parenthetical so they could paraphrase. That would be all well and good except an actual journalist, with journalistic integrity, would only paraphrase someone if they feel the paraphrase conveyed the intended message and tonality of the person they are paraphrasing. Not only is this paraphrase purposefully making the quote more divisive, they used it in the headline. They are doing this to garner more emotion from their readers, traction for the article, and therefor advertising dollars.
RED FLAG #2: The first sentence chooses the phrase “reportedly issued an expletive-laden threat”. They have chosen the word “reportedly” so that they can now summarize what others have reported, regardless of fact, and simply call it fact. 24 Hour News cycles often use the phrase “some have said...” before saying something completely flagerent or agenda pushing. By doing so they are finding a way to say whatever they want, and often the only person they are quoting is simply the host of the previous hours show. But now that “someone” said it, it’s cannon. This article isn’t especially guilty of taking advantage of this to an extreme, but it’s an easy way to “cover your ass” when deciding to create an exaggerated narrative for clicks.
RED FLAG #3: Exaggeration. They chose to state “expletive-laden threat” to evoke as much anger as possible. They don’t place the video on their page. They don’t offer a full quote to fully substantiate their summary. All of these are red flags that immediately told me watching this mans actual statement wouldn’t resonate at all as they describe. And it didn’t: http://bcove.me/w6d87prx To summarize that concern, with that one sentence in mind, as an expletive-laden threat is technically not false. But to describe his single use of the word “ass” as “expletive-laden”, and then summarize the statements so casually that one would assume he spoke at length in threatening fashion, is just blatant exaggeration and biased news making.
RED FLAG #4: Lack of context. They give a quick summary of the painting describing only the point of contention without showing you an actual picture of the painting or giving more context. And to be honest, didn’t the way they describe it make it sound like it was a painting solely “depicting police officers as pigs”? But it’s not. It’s not something so obscene that it garners omission. Here, take a look: http://bit.ly/2jm8dxn We could break down at length the many messages one could take from this piece. Or how a black man being shown as a wolf could have it’s own negative meaning. Or how there is a second police officer not depicted as a pig in the painting. But obviously the main point is that this is a painting about so much more than the narrative this terribly bias article is feeding readers.
RED FLAG #5: More lack of context. They spend an entire ONE sentence explaining the context of “where?” “what?” “how?” “who?” and “why?” on behalf of the condemned side of the story. The obvious question of “why it was hung?” is brushed upon in that one sentence but really answers nothing. Especially considering the article at this point has led readers to believe it is simply a painting depicting police as pigs, and nothing more. Real news doesn’t look like this. Real news doesn’t leave obvious questions unanswered.
If you are curious, like I was, about what the real full story was behind this divisive agenda building headline, here’s what an actual news article looks like: http://politi.co/2iBvyKz
Now if you are someone who reads the news often, or could be described as a news junkie, I’m sure you recognized most of those red flags almost immediately. But since most people in this world are busy running their own lives, businesses and families, from all levels of educational backgrounds and career focuses, most people don’t have the time or experience to know when they are being fed a biased story-line.
And with that concern in mind, all I can do is talk directly to you normal non-news-junkie people directly with a hard truth: Only you can change how you digest information. Only you can hold yourself responsible for understanding the integrity, motives and reality behind what you are choosing to digest. There is no quick solution. All I can do is help and hope you learn how to ask the next question. And when it seems someone is purposefully ignoring the obvious next question, or is purposefully denying you an answer to what is a very reasonable next question, that is when you should wonder the next most important question “Why?”.
As a general rule of thumb, if someone is purposefully removing nuance from a story, conversation or debate, they are probably doing so in order to deflect from a losing argument they are more comfortable holding onto than discussing honestly. Or in the case of bias news organizations, they obscure facts to perpetuate a narrative that fosters easily mislead and emotional masses into clicking, watching and reading, so the organization can make more money.
So with that in mind, be careful what you digest, because you are what you eat.
- Chad Becker -
"The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it." -Alberto Brandalini
Three months in to the job I currently hold, my fairly religious boss-man finally asked me a direct question regarding religion. With a bit more internal anguish than I expected, I answered honestly like I decided I always would a number of years ago. After telling him I was an atheist, and establishing that I did go to a Methodist Church growing up, his first and almost only question was "What happened to you at the church that turned you away?" I couldn't handle that question "in the moment". That's because his response speaks volumes about how he interprets my being an atheist. He doesn't see it as my stance on the validity of religion. He see's it as my bias due to someone else's failing or my own lack of "faith".
But that's certainly how it felt considering he never really changed his question after my first response of "It's not a matter of what happened, it's just what I decided after I was old enough to really look at the validity of Christianity". However, I know I didn't say it so eloquently. That was because, like I said, I was feeling quite a bit more uncomfortable than I ever expected I would.
To attempt to answer his repeated question I went on a tiny, yet calm, rant, flailing in all sorts of different directions that probably made me seem like a bit of a loon and/or lost on the subject. But really it was quite the opposite. I so earnestly and honestly stared at the question of "God" for so many years that I just wanted to get all of it out. And since I was in the rare position of an honestly religious person actually asking me directly how I got to such a conclusion, I may have gone a little overboard and everywhere. Because...well, the nerves I guess...the work environment...alright I'll stop making excuses now. It just wasn't pretty.
Here's the actual thoughts I was trying to convey while in my panic rant.
The 6 Paths to Atheism:
1. The Cliches
I hate that these thoughts are seen as cliche. I'm talking about questions like "Where did we all come from?" and then the requisite follow up of "Well then, where did God come from?". You know why I hate it? Because those are very fair questions to ask. The first one being the question that drives many people into philosophical and religious thought.
But the answer you'll get from the religious is, "God always was". That's really just a veiled way out of the question. It doesn't address the intellectual core of the question. You're assuming things that exist must have come from something; you're told we came from god; so where did god come from? Instead of saying 'nowhere' the answer distracts with 'always was'. Using that logic you might as well assume we, as humans or a planet or just plain mass, always were. There's nothing more philosophically or scientifically profound about saying "God just is'"than saying "we simply are". It's just an escape route. To understand that the answer of God isn't an answer to the question of 'Where did we come from?' at all, makes it a lot easier to question his very existence.
2. The Rest of the World Really Does Exist - Part 1
I think this is where my doubt truly started. The first argument I remember bringing up time and again when I first found people to talk to honestly about the existence of god was 'If I had been born on the other side of the planet, I would simply be whatever religion their culture is.". Since there is no more material background for Christianity over Islam or, heck, even Mormonism, my thought was in all likelihood true. All of the big faiths have a book that is full of stories that morally instruct and people that believe it to be true. Nothing distinguishes one religion's claims as more valid than another on an evidence based level.
This was a big thing to me because I understood the rest of the world really does exist. I understood that there's entire populations of real fully formed people and cultures too! Many of them outnumber us as well! And on that same note, a lot of religious people do claim that you have to praise the right God to go to heaven. It's definitely a pretty big theme in the Bible. Heck, the old testament instructs you to kill people of other faiths (We'll get to the bible later). To understand that entire cultures and countries of people hold opposing religious beliefs to yours is one thing. To realize that just being born in a certain region is the main precursor to a religious affiliation is another.
3. The Rest of the World Really Does Exist - Part 2
This part isn't going to be as hard hitting as it is ego crushing. I've been told "There's nothing more narcissistic than believing there is no god". They get to that conclusion with something to the affect of "You think you're the biggest thing in the universe. You believe in nothing but yourself". To this, I'd say there's nothing more narcissistic than saying "My Dad came to see me today. YAY! God is so great!". Obviously that is simply an example from a vast array of examples; Thanking god for an award, pointing to the sky when you score a touchdown, stating you are 'blessed' and so on. All of these things suggest that God played a meticulous role in your normal, or mundane, or even acceptably exciting life, while allowing entire regions of the world to be subjected to war-lords, hunger, AIDS pandemics, oppression or just plain greed. And not just for moments, but for lifetimes and generations. This is the most narcissistic thing I can think of. And accepting those truths makes it pretty hard to believe in a God that interferes with day-to-day life.
4. The Bible: Content
"God clearly expects us to keep slaves. That right there clearly demonstrates that we shouldn't get our morality from religion." - Sam Harris
Need I say more? I really feel like I don't, but I know how debates go below articles dealing with religion so I better lay it on thick. To put it slightly less simply, there is a long history of religious texts being used to oppress people. Without going on a rampage of quotes I can give you a quick synopsis. If you're a woman, the bible tells you to do what your man tells you to do and don't even think about talking at church (Ephesians 5:22-24 and all over Corinthians). These texts were used by countless "religious" folk to suppress women's rights using the Bible as the word of God. If we're talking about slavery, then you know that slaves should respect and serve their masters as if they were god on earth no matter how horribly they treat their slaves (Peter, Psalm, Ephesians, Colossians, Titus). But don't worry, god tells the slave owners to take it easy on them (Ephesians 6:9). These texts were used by the "religious" to argue for slavery in this country using the Bible as the word of God. The exact same could be said for interracial marriage, with the Bible literally invoking the concept of "mud races" numerous times (Acts, Genesis, Leviticus, Jeremiah, Deuteronomy). I mean, come on.
So, with that, the exact debate being had in the religious sector over homosexuality is almost identical to ones that were had over slavery, race relations, and women's rights just decades ago. Luckily, this will play out like all the others. Once the "religious" people, quoting their religious text, eventually lose, the mainstream accepts that those portions of the Bible were "a product of the times" and/or were "never meant to be taken literally".
But does that really make the foundation of religion any stronger? Or is that just the unceremonious and intellectually dishonest way to admit that your religion is wrong and instructed people immorally for hundreds of years? Once you recognize that the Bible actually has a fair amount of immoral instruction, and people are just regurgitating answers to excuse it, can you really accept it as the word of God?
5. The Bible: Origins (Alternate title: The Rest of the World Really Did Exist)
A lot of our modern day understanding and celebrating of Christianity is just plagiarism from paganism. From the birth of Christ being celebrated in December to the most iconic stories in the Bible, it was almost all stolen from previous cultures and beliefs of their time. Countless pagan religions that predate Christianity had tales along the exact same lines. Stories of a "Great Flood". Stories of men born of a virgin. Stories of dark vs. light/good vs. evil. And if you get real technical, you can worry about how his December birthday doesn't line up with how the stars would be aligned at that time to guide the three wise men...it simply matches up with Pagan Winter Solstice.
So, once you recognize that the Bible has lifted much of it's religious lore can you really accept it as the word of God? And once you recognize the Bible is merely a compilation album, what does that say for religion as a whole?
6. Staring at it for a while...
This one can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I'll use the concept of "heaven" as an example. To put it simply, existing forever in bliss sounds great but what does that even mean? If you assume that you are forever happy in heaven does that mean you even have thoughts? Is something magically making me never have a sad thought? If so, is that even me anymore? Is heaven just a drugged up version of yourself then? If not, what if someone I really enjoyed, went to hell? Would they not let me think about that? Because that would be an eternity of sadness for me. Not bliss. And if "heaven" just lied to me and gave me a carbon copy of that person, what the heck is that? That's not reasonable.
Fair to say that I have pulled this concept from Youtuber "Theoretical Bullshit"
Yes, the basic concept of heaven sounds great and I really do wish something to that affect exists. But deciding to intellectually dissect the parts of religion that are meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy can make it anything but. It makes it seem hollow and meaningless. And once you recognize that many claims religions make are either hollow threats or hollow promises, what's left to believe in?
*Bonus 7: Evolution/Science
I didn't include this as an actual subset because I don't see this as something that has to be at odds with a God. That's simply the dynamic many religious people draw. And Richard Dawkins. But, of course, it conflicts with both (yup, there's two) of the origin stories of the Bible. As much as I've always loved Genetics, and love Richard Dawkins' work in demonstrating how "not perfectly made" our organs and animal structures really are, I've just never really found this to be a way in to Atheism. I've experienced a tad, and seen plenty, to understand the kind of mental gymnastics people put themselves through to preserve "faith" and this never seemed direct enough for me to think it would change hearts and minds on its own. Definitely worth noting none the less.
Closing Arguments: Ironically I'm About to get Preachy
Personally, religion's most disgusting attribute is when it makes people feel shame and guilt for the wrong things. You haven't been going to church? You're a bad person. Think homosexuality is ok? You're a bad person. You have lustful thoughts? You're a bad person. When the mind is worried about these quaint (or non-) downfalls in their personal morality it makes it easier to lose sight of what's really important: Just being a nice person -- not hurting people. When we label things that are of no consequence as immoral it can not help people make sense of the world. It just confuses and creates internal anguish. And there's nothing much worse than teaching someone to hate themselves.
So, personally, once I realized all this guilt was completely unnecessary and just in place to help other people hold onto these beliefs, no matter how it affected those different than themselves, it all just seemed so...gross. So gross, in fact, that calling myself an atheist felt like a badge of honor I had created and given to myself. And I believe this is what atheists are referring to if you ever hear one of them say that losing their religion was "freeing".
With that, I hope this piece didn't only preach to the choir. Likewise, I hope this piece didn't only fall on def ears. If religion is your thing, I'm not trying to stop you and I'm not going to call you any names. I'm just pointing out that these are the holes in your foundation and it seems the only way religion ever plugs them is by increasing the portions of the Bible that were "a product of it's time" and/or "were never meant to be taken literal" while ever increasing the acceptance of secularist views with every passing year, generation and Pope.
And that's what I meant to say to my bossman.
May peace be with you. And also with you, you and you.
By Bad Checker
First and foremost - this note is in response to this video:
http://youtu.be/XnB0NZzl5HA - Mitt Romney hidden camera footage talking about "47% of America" to a room full of millionaires.
Now for the breakdown:
The 47% number he is using throughout the video is one that stems from the conservative talking point "47 percent of Americans Pay No Income Taxes". A statement that he repeats himself at the end of the video.
So, with that, who exactly is in this 47% he's talking so illy of? It's easy to find 18% of it, which is about how much of the population actually doesn't manage to pay any taxes into the federal government through income. (More on that in a second). But more than half of that 18% is elderly folks who paid into the system in the past, another reasonable portion being students, and then - "oh my gosh" - some people are actually lucky enough to be so poor as not to owe Uncle Sam a cut. Those lucky duckies living the dream. Must be nice.
So, wait a second? Where is the other 29% of Americans Mitt Romney is talking about? Who are these dependent, entitled, unteachable, self-victimizing, not even worth worrying about people? Well, I think it's time I admitted something. If not for myself, for the sake of transparency and my journalistic integrity. I have to admit that...he's talking about me. He's talking about my girlfriend. He's talking about my best friend. He's actually talking about the majority of people I personally know within my age range. If you're making under $25,000 a year, he's likely talking about you as well. ( http://abcn.ws/QygFUU ) If you've ever gotten a (proportionally) fat refund check at the end of the year because you were working a low-wage job just to get by, he's likely talking about you too. Working through school? You're a dirty 47%-er. Working an entry level job in the career of your choosing? You succubus scum. Just plain lucky enough to have a job? I bet you get the government to cover your horses dressage lessons too! Oh wait...
What that number really means, and therefor what he should say if he wants to even pretend he's not being willfully manipulative, is: '47% of Americans pay no income taxes beyond Payroll taxes (which includes Medicare, Social Security and Unemployment), state taxes, and local taxes'. Since that may be a bit long-winded they could at the least fairly reasonably say "47% of Americans pay no federal taxes beyond Payroll taxes" and it would still ring true. But I guess that just doesn't have the same bite when you want to denigrate as much of the lower class as possible in order to cater, patronize and vindicate the beliefs of all the wealthy doners in the room. So, not only is that not what he said, he painted 47% of America as dependent, self-victimizing, and personally irresponsible.
And if you think it's unfair to assume he was being purposefully manipulative with that message, I guess one could tell themselves he really meant it...
You can stop reading here if you were only interested in my original headline. My main point has been made. My message above was the most annoying, blood-boiling narrative I took from seeing him say to a room full of wealthy doners, so bluntly, what he was always skirting along the lines of saying to the general public. After looking around online and seeing people only debunk (err...re-debunk?) the number itself (among other hysterical, hypocritical call-outs) I felt the need to write this perspective.
Pheewwww. Feels good to get that off my chest. I could hardly handle the weight of my own self loathing for the past 8 hours since Romney put me in my place. The idea that, as a technically "self-employed" worker, after paying the full Social Security tax of 10.2 percent myself, the rest of my pay-roll taxes, I don't quite hit the 14% tax rate that Romney payed last year until after I throw in my State and Local taxes -- I can hardly live with myself. I don't even deserve to live in this nation if I'm not wealthy enough to have the majority of my budget go to things other than food, transportation and shelter. He should probably send me over seas until I learn how to fend for myself. But, meh, maybe I'll just find one of his bank accounts while I'm over there instead. I mean, he said himself he's 'not worried about me' so I'd probably get away with it.
Another Obvious Thought That I've Already Somewhat Hit On:
The use of that blunt sentence ("47% of Americans Don't Pay Taxes") is a misunderstanding of it's origin at best, a lie of omission at worst, and a blatant attempt at vindicating self-congratulatory millionaires into giving him money at it's 'worse than the worst'. Due to the fact that this is not a new statistic to offer to the public circle and has been discussed, dissected and debunked many times before, the idea that this was anything other than the "worse than the worst" scenario, one would have to assume Mitt Romney is indeed a robot designed by the Koch Brothers.
Laundry List of "Oh, By the Way"s that hit home on this topic:
- The states with the most people that ACTUALLY don't pay taxes: vote Republican! http://bit.ly/OyKrHl
- Romney thinks that he should be exalted for his over-seas bank accounts and tax manipulation to get to such a low number (as someone worth over 250 Million Dollars) http://yhoo.it/QVOWRw
- His father stood for the exact opposite and was actually the Presidential Candidate that set the standard for releasing years of tax returns. http://wapo.st/Lf9Bhe
- More than 20,000 people made more than $200,000 in 2009 and managed not to pay any taxes! No fair: those lazy 47%-ers should be exhaulted for their tax do-diligence too Mr. Romney. http://usat.ly/o6jAnk
"Hey look! It's that stuff I wrote that totally proves I am capable of writing impactful, clear messages." -CB