A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

If We Expect Donald Trump to Tell the Truth, Then So Must His Detractors

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I find his popularity, especially among Christians, to be baffling. My friend, Michael Kruse, who blogs over at Kruse Kronicle, recently posted the following on social media with a link. He has given me permission to quote him in full (italics belows). I think Michael is spot on. He calls out the media for how often they purposefully misrepresent the views of persons they disagree with. Nuance is not something the media seems to understand. Folks... let's disagree on substance and not on caricature.

What say you?
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Okay. Here is prime case for considering how you deal with confirmation bias. I do not like Trump. His rise in the GOP is very disturbing to me. Now a headline comes out saying 20% of his supporters disapproved of freeing the slaves. Bam! Bias confirmed. Post to Facebook what a despicable group his followers are.

Just one problem, if you read the article, the headline is bogus. Based on the content of the article, the headline should read "Nearly 20 percent of Trump's supporters disapprove of Lincoln freeing the slaves through executive order." The surveyors asked if people approved of presidents using executive orders. Many of Trumps supporters were in the negative. Then they asked respondents if they thought presidents should have used an executive order in a number of instances when such was the case. It seems 20% said no to Lincoln's use of an e. o. to free slaves. (Footnote: I saw a fascinating exhibit at the Truman Library about Lincoln and the Constitution. There are many principled scholars who judge some of Lincoln's acts as unconstitutional or at a minimum highly questionable. That does not mean those scholars support slavery.) I suspect a great many of those who responded negatively would argue slavery should have been ended via other means.

Now having misrepresented the views of Trump's supporters, fuel is added to legitimizing their grievances against mainstream institutions. Again, when a news item seems too good to be true in confirming our biases, it often is. And if we are going to insist Trump be truthful, then so must we.
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Here's the article Michael is referring to-- "Nearly 20 percent of Trump's supporters disapprove of Lincoln freeing the slaves."

8 comments:

bthomas said...

It is not possible to take the msm seriously as anything other than a tool used by the left to advance their social/political agenda. The twisting and torturing of facts to produce their desired narrative are notorious. If and when the msm writes anything remotely connected with the truth, it is like sausage... the skin of the truth stuffed with a lie.

Allan Bevere said...

Thomas,

The right is just as guilty of such distortion.

Oloryn said...

I believe the root of this problem boils down to pride and a strong sense of self-righteousness, on both the left and the right. If you're going to resist the tendency towards confirmation bias, you have to first admit that you're vulnerable to falling for it. You have to admit that you can easily fall into what Daniel Kahneman dubs WYSIATI - What You See Is All There Is - the tendency to assume that the data that is already in front of you is complete enough to come to a valid conclusion, and that there is no need to look out for additional data or perspectives; the tendency to deny that what data you have is likely to be partial and inconclusive. And you have to admit that you are capable of misunderstanding even what data you have. If you don't admit these things, you really won't be on the lookout to avoid falling for them. Pride and self-righteousness can easily keep you from admitting these things.

It's kind of odd, but it seems that you have to have some measure of self-doubt to keep yourself in any way objective. I think that just how delicate that balance is is indicated by the tendency for people expressing this to express it as a paradox. Paul puts it as "If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know as he ought to know" (I Cor 8:2). I believe at least part of that basic knowledge one should have is the knowledge of how you yourself are capable of getting things wrong (Paul knows this well, having come face-to-face at his conversion with his own ability to be utterly certain he was right while actually being utterly, utterly wrong). G. K. Chesterton expresses it as "It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong."

bthomas said...

Re: Exaggeration. Agree there are instances when Conservative right shades the truth. There are few if any instances in which the liberal left allows the truth to even see the shadows much less the light of day.

Allan Bevere said...

Thomas, spoken like a true conservative.

DanO said...

One of the problems of taking the position "well, the other side does it too" is that on television ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, HLN, PBS, and most of their affiliates not only lean a particular direction but openly advocate. Of course there are a couple that lean right like FOX and Newsmax and they also filter the news and even advocate for positions, especially in the opinion segments.

For conservatives it is difficult to not feel very much outnumbered. It is frustrating to point this out and then be met with "well, they all do it."

Allan Bevere said...

Dan,

While it is true that cable news overwhelming leans left, the right controls talk radio.

And yes, both sides are guilty. I stand by my comments.

DanO said...

Sure, both sides do it but what about those of us who do not listen to talk radio? TV has been the dominant media for 60 years. That's quite a long time to influence a society. Not to mention the control of the print media. When one adds Hollywood into the mix the picture is pretty lopsided. Not to acknowledge that just comes across as to equivocate.

FWIW I agree with your (and Michael's) central point about caricature. As Christians we should not be doing that and shame on us if we do -- in whatever form of mass communication we practice.