Columnist's arguments flawed


I write this in response to John Keisling's contribution to the Feb. 20 edition of the Wildcat regarding the "liberal bias" of the U.S. media. I do not write to challenge Mr. Keisling's general argument that the media displays a liberal bias, but, rather, to point out specific logical errors made in the argument itself. These errors are apparent as he uses the media's alleged treatment of the former Soviet Union as morally equivalent to the United States and the media's alleged allegiance to multiculturalism as examples of a liberal bias.

Mr. Keisling's problems arise as he fails to define bias in relation to objectivity. Ideally, journalists are supposed to report only objective facts except when writing editorials. Objective facts are those which are scientifically established through observation and measurement without regard to the value-based assumptions of either the individual journalist (subjective bias) or the community at large (inter-subjective bias). Value-based assumptions are those which are founded upon belief rather than simple observation and measurement. For example, we can objectively establish the factual difference between the colors green and purple as well as variation among hues within the category green and the category purple. However, we cannot objectively establish that green is better or worse than purple or that one hue of green or purple is better or worse than another. Hierarchical categories of better and worse, in general, require subjective and/or inter-subjective value-based assumptions. They are not objective.

When Mr. Keisling suggests that the treatment of the former Soviet Union as morally equivalent to the United States reveals a liberal bias, he is wrong. It would take a value-based assumption about what is morally superior and inferior to treat the former Soviet Union as morally superior or inferior to the United States. While I agree with Mr. Keisling that the civil rights record of the U.S.S.R. was morally reprehensible, I recognize this as my own subjective opinion and an inter-subjective opinion that I share with Mr. Keisling and countless others.

Similarly, an objective media will not suggest that one culture is morally superior or inferior to another because to do so would require value-based assumptions. Multiculturalism, in refusing to make such assumptions, reveals itself as an objective philosophy. We can establish factual difference between and among cultures and we can establish factual variation within a given culture, but we cannot objectively establish a moral hierarchy among cultures.

I'm sure that Mr. Keisling, as a doctoral student of mathematics, is well aware of the difference between objectivity and subjectivity. My only question is why he didn't apply this awareness to his column?

Mark Hedley

Adjunct Professor of Sociology

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