Democracy can only work effectively if the people voting

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In summary: The media is also responsible for the "echo chamber" effect. This is where people only hear information from sources that agree with them. This can lead to people not questioning their beliefs, or even changing them.
  • #1
jamesb-uk
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A democracy can only work effectively if the people voting have a clear view of what the politicians are doing. However, the problem arises when the information passes through the media. Most of the media in the UK, and all of the media in the US is not state-funded, so they inevitably do whatever they can to increase the number of people who see what they're saying, by 'hyping-up' the most mundane and insignificant 'controversies'. In the UK, no television or radio stations are allowed to show a bias towards a specific party, but I believe they can in the US, but in all/most countries, the newspapers and the internet are, and all media providers give 'comment' alongside the news. This distorts the information reaching the public, and essentially dictates to many people how to vote. I do not believe in press censorship, but I do think that the media has far too much power for something/someone which/who is unelected. Perhaps the best way to solve this would be to ensure that all forms of media must show all political stories without any bias, but keep the 'comment' in a seperate, clear section. What do you think?
 
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  • #2


jamesb-uk said:
In the UK, no television or radio stations are allowed to show a bias towards a specific party, but I believe they can in the US...
The US has had something called the "fairness doctrine", which isn't in force today, but is still being talked about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_doctrine
...but in all/most countries, the newspapers and the internet are, and all media providers give 'comment' alongside the news. This distorts the information reaching the public, and essentially dictates to many people how to vote. I do not believe in press censorship, but I do think that the media has far too much power for something/someone which/who is unelected. Perhaps the best way to solve this would be to ensure that all forms of media must show all political stories without any bias, but keep the 'comment' in a seperate, clear section. What do you think?
I think the cure is worse than the disease. Enforcing fairness requires government intervention and is therefore subject to the biases of the people in government. It isn't possible to eliminate bias, so it is better to simply separate the media from the government as much as possible.
 
  • #3


One of the founding principles of the BBC is:

To be free from both political and commercial influence and answer only to its viewers and listeners.

I don't believe in media censorship, but I feel that this idea works well. The BBC is really only there as a channel for information to pass from the politicians to the people, but it also provides analysis of the information to enable people to see through the 'spin'.

I feel people should be allowed to express their views freely, but this should not be portrayed as fact, or used to force the same view on other people.
 
  • #4
If the media is trying to get as many viewers as they can than they are going to tell people what they want to hear. But to think this will effect how people vote is to assume people are irrational. People should realize that the media is playing to their biases and discount the information accordingly.

If you believe that the media does tell people what to think, and they listen, than there is also a big problem with State owned media. With Government control of media than bureaucrats and politicians will be using the media to gain more power, wealth, or influence.

I do think that the media influences people, there is a concept in psychology called http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_cascade" where there is a self reinforcing cycle. People have an availability bias, they estimate probabilities based upon how easy it is to think of examples. The interaction between availability bias and the media leads to a never-ending sequence of mass hysterias. They call these mass hysterias "availability cascades."

It works something like this:
1. The media gives massive coverage to shocking but rare events in order to get good ratings.

2. The public watches. Watching makes it easier for the public to think of examples of the events the media covers.

3. One effect: Public begins to think the problems are quantitatively serious, so it gets easier to sell the public similar stories.

4. Other effect: Politicians begin trying to solve the "problem" to win votes.

This story requires people to be systematically biased, essentially irrational or stupid, to make sense though. There is a great book I just read (and where I got much of this post from) that explains why people are sometimes irrational called https://www.amazon.com/dp/0691138737/?tag=pfamazon01-20, essentially the crux of the argument is that people behave more irrationally when the cost is low. So people consume more irrationality when engaging in a low cost activity like voting and can indulge in the irrationality of a media created mass hysteria. Mass hysterias provoke strong political responses but weak personal responses because the price of irrationality is lower in the former case.
 
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  • #5


To be free from both political and commercial influence and answer only to its viewers and listeners.

How do you plan to enforce this. The commercial media will respond to ad revenue, they will air whatever generates the most profit. State owned media will respond to political incentives, whatever agency controls the media will air whatever gives the head of the agency the most votes if he is elected, or whatever will give the politician who appointed him the most votes.

I don't think you can have the best of both worlds, you must choose which one you think is better, there are trade offs between the two. I'm more inclined to go with the former, but that's just me, I don't like political censorship.
 
  • #6


jamesb-uk said:
One of the founding principles of the BBC is:



I don't believe in media censorship, but I feel that this idea works well. The BBC is really only there as a channel for information to pass from the politicians to the people, but it also provides analysis of the information to enable people to see through the 'spin'.

I feel people should be allowed to express their views freely, but this should not be portrayed as fact, or used to force the same view on other people.


The views or biases that the media has are only truly forced upon the consumers if the viewers at home take them as fact. Many people are aware of spin and political agendas of the media. People do express their views freely in "fair and balanced" atmospheres, but consumers are often aware that spin is implicit in such media.

The government does not need to intervene or regulate; the people then become exposed to the government's biases instead of those of corporations or broadcasters as Russ said. It'd be great if we could have truly unbiased broadcasts, but unfortunately, that may not be possible without taking extreme measures.
 
  • #7


jamesb-uk said:
One of the founding principles of the BBC is: "To be free from both political and commercial influence and answer only to its viewers and listeners."
And Fox News is "fair and balanced"... And I don't believe that either.
 
  • #8


AeroFunk said:
How do you plan to enforce this. The commercial media will respond to ad revenue, they will air whatever generates the most profit. State owned media will respond to political incentives, whatever agency controls the media will air whatever gives the head of the agency the most votes if he is elected, or whatever will give the politician who appointed him the most votes.

It is enforced in the BBC. Although it is state funded, it is kept very separate from the government, and is often just as critical of the governing party as it is of the opposition parties. If many people feel the BBC is biased and complain, then it will be investigated.

I think that there are a lot of people out there who, after seeing weeks and weeks of negative coverage for a particular politician, and after hearing so many people asking him/her to resign, would turn against that politician, without actually seeing the whole articles/programmes, and without really thinking about what they have actually done wrong.
 
  • #9


jamesb-uk said:
It is enforced in the BBC. Although it is state funded, it is kept very separate from the government, and is often just as critical of the governing party as it is of the opposition parties. If many people feel the BBC is biased and complain, then it will be investigated.

If the BBC relies on state funding then I really don't see how it is separate from the government.
 
  • #10


The BBC is funded by a 'license fee' paid by everyone in the UK who has a television. Perhaps you should do some other research as to how it works if you want to know.
 
  • #11


Information passing through the media is inherently biased, but there is a wide variety of media and competing providers. With minimal effort you can look at a variety of biases and compensate for them. I don't really see the existing media bias as a problem and certainly not enough of a problem to risk censorship and government control in the way the OP proposes. I actualy think that such an approach would reduce the number of outlets and therefore lead to more media bias rather than less.
 
  • #12


jamesb-uk said:
The BBC is funded by a 'license fee' paid by everyone in the UK who has a television. Perhaps you should do some other research as to how it works if you want to know.

Thank you for elaborating, and no, I have no real interest outside of this discussion as to how the BBC operates.
 
  • #13


Free markets show even distrubution only through competition. In the case of the US the government has imposed what could be considered implied biasness by supporting corporate monopolization of the media. Until the media itself is free of government control there will always be a heavy hand behind our news. I do not fail to see the paradoxical nature of what I've stated. Government control is suppose to protect us from monopolies however, not support them. So perhaps a better way to sum it up would be; Until the media itself is controlled by a government that is serving of the people instead of itself there will always be a heavy hand behind our news.

One of the primary purposes of the US Constitution was to give the government a large amount of control over corporations, while little over the individual. We live in a world today where that has been flipped on it's head. Corporations dictate policy while the average citizen bears the greatest of burdens. This is not the Republic our founding fathers had in mind.
 
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  • #14


a4mula said:
One of the primary purposes of the US Constitution was to give the government a large amount of control over corporations, while little over the individual.

Where in the Constitution does it the government power over corporations? The Constitution was created to be a restraint on government power, the whole of the Constitution is listing things government cannot do.
 
  • #15


AeroFunk said:
the whole of the Constitution is listing things government cannot do.


No. The Constitution lists the powers of the three branches and states in the articles. I have no idea what you are talking about.
 
  • #16


The only part of the Constitution that lists things the government can't do is the bill of rights. The rest of the constitution is a structural document, outlining the structure, functionality, and duties (powers) of the government.

Anyway, yeah, the Constitution doesn't specifically discuss regulating corporations and none of the founding fathers ever mentioned it AFAIK. The US was originally based on a highly free version of capitalism, with the intention to have very little regulation. That wasn't much of an issue back then, as the industrial revolution hadn't happened yet and there was little need to heavily regulate corporations.
 
  • #17


jamesb-uk said:
The BBC is funded by a 'license fee' paid by everyone in the UK who has a television.
The BBC does seem to do a better job than average of limiting the influence of bias, but no organization composed of or run by humans can be completely free of bias.
 
  • #18


jamesb-uk said:
The BBC is funded by a 'license fee' paid by everyone in the UK who has a television. Perhaps you should do some other research as to how it works if you want to know.

Always found that funny. They show as much adverts as other channels but you have to pay the BBC, even if you don't want to watch it.
 
  • #19


Focus said:
Always found that funny. They show as much adverts as other channels but you have to pay the BBC, even if you don't want to watch it.

Adverts?
The BBC gets into trouble whenever they accidentally show e.g. a can of soda in a news segment (without showing ANOTHER can of soda from a competing brand, that is). There are no ads on the BBC.

BBC World is a commercial channel, but that is a separate company (and not available unless you have cable/satellite in the UK, it is not intended for the domestic market)
 
  • #20


a4mula said:
One of the primary purposes of the US Constitution was to give the government a large amount of control over corporations, while little over the individual.
This is untrue to say the least. There is no constitutional distinction between individuals and corporations.

A corporation is just a group of individuals organized to pool resources and delegate decisions.
 
  • #21


jamesb-uk said:
A democracy can only work effectively if the people voting have a clear view of what the politicians are doing. However, the problem arises when the information passes through the media. Most of the media in the UK, and all of the media in the US is not state-funded, so they inevitably do whatever they can to increase the number of people who see what they're saying, by 'hyping-up' the most mundane and insignificant 'controversies'. In the UK, no television or radio stations are allowed to show a bias towards a specific party, but I believe they can in the US, but in all/most countries, the newspapers and the internet are, and all media providers give 'comment' alongside the news. This distorts the information reaching the public, and essentially dictates to many people how to vote. I do not believe in press censorship, but I do think that the media has far too much power for something/someone which/who is unelected. Perhaps the best way to solve this would be to ensure that all forms of media must show all political stories without any bias, but keep the 'comment' in a seperate, clear section. What do you think?
Forcing the media to be unbiased is censorship by definition. I despise media bias as much as anyone, but who would determine whether bias exists or not?

It's not like everyone agrees on what constitutes bias. Gee, let me be the one to determine what is and isn't biased. I'd make Fox News stop being so socialist.:approve:
 
  • #22


I think bias is altering the facts or portraying them in such a way as to make them support your cause.

What I meant to say was that I think it would be better if news (fact) and opinion were seperated, so people could clearly tell what's fact and what's opinion, so people can clearly make their own minds up about what they want to believe, without having it dictated (in a way) to them by the media.
 
  • #23


Seems to depend on what you mean by bias. Bias could mean "to present a specific position" or "to present an [incorrect] position".
 
  • #24


jamesb-uk said:
I think bias is altering the facts or portraying them in such a way as to make them support your cause.


I used this one in another thread. A favorite quote of mine. "Men often construe things after their own fashion". It has deep meaning regarding the subject. Bias can be very subtle sometimes, but it exists nonetheless.
 
  • #25


It really is too bad that the average American can't be relied on to find accurate news for themselves now. I think there does need to be some way to get unbiased (or at least as unbiased as possible) news, but I can't fathom how it would be done.

Luckily, there are restrictions on actual LIES in the media, though.
 
  • #26


jacksonpeeble said:
Luckily, there are restrictions on actual LIES in the media, though.


Honestly even then libel and defamation are extremely difficult to prove in the court of law. Here are the essential guidelines

-Statement must be false
-Statement must cause damage to the person(s) in question
-Media must have shown blatant disregard for the truth
-The statement must have been made with malicious intent (Thanks New York v. Sullivan)
 
  • #27


Oscar Wilde said:
-The statement must have been made with malicious intent (Thanks New York v. Sullivan)

Well, the other three are reasonable.
 
  • #28


jacksonpeeble said:
Luckily, there are restrictions on actual LIES in the media, though.
I don't think so, at least not for political fraud. It's been rampant for decades in the U.S.

And the bulk of people have no idea about it, because their source for info is the fraudulent source.
 
  • #29


Al68 said:
I don't think so, at least not for political fraud. It's been rampant for decades in the U.S.
There is no such thing as "political fraud", nor is it typically possible to libel/slander/defame a politician. The standards of proof are far too high. Here's a landmark case on the issue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Co._v._Sullivan
 
  • #30


russ_watters said:
There is no such thing as "political fraud"...
The fact that it's not illegal or actionable doesn't mean there's no such thing. My whole point was that there's no legal restrictions on the media or politicians committing such fraud.
 
  • #31


russ_watters said:
The only part of the Constitution that lists things the government can't do is the bill of rights. The rest of the constitution is a structural document, outlining the structure, functionality, and duties (powers) of the government.

Anyway, yeah, the Constitution doesn't specifically discuss regulating corporations and none of the founding fathers ever mentioned it AFAIK. The US was originally based on a highly free version of capitalism, with the intention to have very little regulation. That wasn't much of an issue back then, as the industrial revolution hadn't happened yet and there was little need to heavily regulate corporations.

To expand on that thought...local newspapers (when reporting on local news) tend to function in the way the founders envisioned. However, national/international TV/cable news (plus the internet) and their thirst for ratings to derive advertising funds were not considered.
 
  • #32


jacksonpeeble said:
It really is too bad that the average American can't be relied on to find accurate news for themselves now. I think there does need to be some way to get unbiased (or at least as unbiased as possible) news, but I can't fathom how it would be done.


The BBC or PBS is probably your best bets. It actually refreshing once in a while to tune into what seems like "real" news, instead of the meat-grinder BS that spews forth from the likes of a FoxNews or MSNBC...pure crap! :yuck:
 

1. How does democracy ensure that the people voting are making informed decisions?

Democracy promotes transparency and freedom of information, allowing citizens to have access to accurate and unbiased information about candidates and policies. It also encourages active participation in political processes, such as debates and discussions, which can help voters make informed decisions.

2. Can democracy still work if not everyone participates in the voting process?

While it is important for as many people as possible to participate in the voting process, democracy can still function effectively even if not everyone votes. The key is to have a diverse and representative group of voters who accurately reflect the population.

3. How does democracy ensure that the majority does not oppress the minority?

Democracy includes checks and balances, such as a constitution and independent judiciary, to prevent the majority from imposing their will on the minority. It also promotes the protection of individual rights and freedoms, ensuring that all citizens are treated equally under the law.

4. Is it possible for democracy to work in a society with high levels of inequality?

While democracy is not a solution to inequality, it can help address it by giving all citizens a voice and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. It also allows for policies and laws to be created and amended to address issues of inequality.

5. How can democracy be improved to ensure that all voices are heard?

One way to improve democracy is to promote and encourage diversity in leadership and decision-making positions. This can help ensure that a variety of perspectives and voices are considered. Additionally, implementing policies such as campaign finance reform can help reduce the influence of money in politics and give a fair chance to all candidates.

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