The Risk of Objectivity

It struck me (once again) this morning how much we tend to bind our self-esteem to ideas and opinions. Once we have offered a view on something, we defend it. Indeed, we stoke the fires by censoring the information we acquire and receive. We read the articles that support our take on an issue and wave them about for others to read. We skip over opposing views or try to trash them, to make them worthless.
The official name for some of those tendencies when they are done without thinking is “selective perception”. Beyond that, we tend to filter out within our brains the arguments and facts that support our view, and forget about those that oppose it. This is called “selective retention”.
What does this mean to publishers and bloggers? It means that if they stick to a hard line view, as do the Anti-Pinoy and Get Real blog sites, they can build up a clientele of like-minded readers who enjoy the perspectives there. Because the reader base is fired up and supportive, the publishers increase the stridency of their views and everyone is happy.
The problem is, they are not objective, they harass and drive away opposing views, and they end up wrong about half the time.
These natural bias-building inclinations are not unique to the Philippines. Look at the fundamentalist religious movements around the globe. Same principle. Or look at the Tea Party or Occupy movements in the U.S. Same thing. The uprisings of the Arab Spring. Same thing. People are rallying around causes that reinforce their own preconceptions. That often include only half the truth.
Publishers and bloggers who try to tread a balanced line risk becoming irrelevant because about 50% of the time they are offending one set of readers or another.  If they write a particularly hard-hitting article favoring a given perspective, they risk losing readers who believe something different. And if they write the opposite hard-line article, they risk losing the rest. Readers flit off to find views that are better aligned with their thinking.
My leanings tend to the liberal, I suppose. But I have also blasted the Occupy movement as being a step closer to anarchy than to freedom. So Occupysupporters may take offense and stop reading. Or as I relentlessly pound on the Catholic Church of the Philippines, I risk filtering out Catholic readers. And my blog effort seems somehow to become less genuine for that.
With this as background, I find that I particularly admire the articles on the blog site Blog Watch:Citizen Media, an effort of Noemi Dado (and separate from . She is decidedly in favor of women’s well-being and supports the HR Bill. But she makes sure to publish opposing views, including those by the Catholic Church. Yesterday, I read an article by Gloria Arroyo critical of the lack of energy and single-minded focus of the Aquino Administration. Blog Watchdidn’t wrap the statement in editorial commentary condemning Ms. Arroyo’s point of view, although readers are certainly free to add their perspectives in the comment section. The article was allowed to stand on its own merits. And remarks or writings by the Aquino Administration are also presented on the site, and allowed to stand for what they are.
I’ve written two articles that have been published on Blog Watch: Citizen Media. One is on educationand another on the Philippineclass structure. Both articles had their genesis in dialogue here at The Society of Honor. Not all blog sites welcome views by non-Filipinos. Indeed, to win some blogging awards in the Philippines, you have to be Filipino. Ideas of themselves aren’t what is important, even if they are about the Philippines; nationality is important. It is a form of selective perception.
In naming my blog site “The Society of Honor“, I was actually stating an ideal, the wisdom and high-mindedness of striving for objectivity instead of promoting an agenda. That’s where the term “Honor” comes in. I’ve found that is harder than it seems, because, as sole writer and editor, I am fully susceptible to the forces of selective perception and retention.
I rely upon readers to hold me to a straight line when I wobble. That is the Society I refer to in the blog name. I’d like to build a readership who can respect opposing views, but have the candor to disagree, as I strive to do the same. By way of example, I appreciate the stance of Mariano who articulately, in his cynical style, criticizes President Aquino even as I praise him. He never finds a need to bolster his argument by calling me a moron. And I appreciate Brianitus giving my chain a yank when I over-ranted about Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Indeed, it is this striving for balance and a 100% reading of all perspectives that will assure that you and I both remain open-eyed, open minded, and as close to 100% intelligent as we can get. Rather than limiting ourselves to a 50% level of intelligence by selectivity in what we observe, remember and say.
11 Responses to “The Risk of Objectivity”
  1. Goodness I listen to NPR, and KCRW (Santa Monica) on the other side of the fence I listen to these demagogue of KFI AM 640 John&Ken and Bill Handel. Bill Handel, in the morning drive, asked his audience "if it takes 80 Indians to equal white Americans, HOW MANY FILIPINOS IT TAKES TO EQUAL WHITE AMERICANS". Darned it, I was soooo amused that I was flailing and banging on my steering wheel with laughter. The audience natural selection is the majority. The Republicans listen to that Republican woman's (forgot her name) and the Democrats listen to NPR and democracy.orgCard-carrying Fake-American citizen Filipinos watch TFC channels all the time while I do not. I just cannot stand those Vicky Bello restructured and reconfigured "white" Filipino "performing artists". This I noticed, their cinematography has improved a thousand times except in those telenovelas where the lighting is studio-like flat.

  2. Mariano,my two favorite blowhards are Rush Lindbaugh and Michael Moore. They are cut of exactly the same clot, only they show opposite sides, one red the other blue, one facing right the other left.I'm stunned that so many intelligent people actually believe the crap they dish. But they do.

  3. Clot. haha, maybe so. Try cloth.

  4. Attila says:

    I agree that Michael Moore has an agenda and using Cuba's health care system as an example is way off the wall. However myself being from a communist country I can tell you that education and healthcare was always free despite the fact that the system was oppressing and you had to be a party member in order to advance. As in many western European countries like the Scandinavian countries it is also free. Those are not communist just socialistic countries with good economies. I have a job that unionized and I clearly understand that without it I would not have all the benefits (health care, pension, 401K, job security etc.) Michael Moore did not do a good job of getting his message right but he has a point.

  5. Attila, yes, Michael Moore makes good points. But he views those with other ideas as the enemy. Same as Rush Lindbaugh, even if the opposite thinker is the President of the United States. I think democracy in the U.S. style is not for everyone. Sometimes, as I watch the partisan deceits, I wonder if it is best for the U.S.

  6. AJ says:

    Michael Moore and Rush Lindbaugh are like unscrupulous businessmen, they sell something without giving any hints to potential disadvantages of their products.If you read the Philippine Star, you'd find that about two thirds of their writers are similar to these guys if not worst.Something I like about community-based buy and sell sites is that the best sellers are not only trying to sell you something, their also trying to be your friend.These people are similar to what Filipinos refer to as "suki". You buy from them and they provide you with not only good service but friendship. They're more than happy to tell you the pros and cons of their goods. Whether they do it for the business or they really care is something I don't care about since I'm happy with the results of their actions.Rarely do I see a blog or columns that show both sides of a story as well properly compare the pros and cons or site which arguments are important and which ones are moot, or even intellectually dishonest.

  7. AJ says:

    Whoops*or cite

  8. AJ, right! Unscrupulous businessmen, that's it. Like used car salesmen or politicians. I will refrain from saying priests. Lawyers are in the profession of selling a one-sided deal. (I hope you are not a lawyer; some of my best friends are, but they ridicule me for being an ex-banker; so it is even.)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Noemi Dado is a hypocrite. She plays the role of a grieving mother on one hand ( and a pseudo-agent provocateur on the other (BlogWatch). She doesn't take criticisms graciously and runs away from debates. We used to be friends in FB. But when we got into a heated debate regarding the Christopher Lao issue, she un-friended me and even blocked me.I'm no longer surprised as to why – she's one of benign0's groupies. She hangs out with the AP and the GRP crowd. Probably makes her feel younger than botox.

  10. Anon, thanks for the alert.

  11. Anonymous says:

    No problem. If you want to check the validity of my aforementioned claim, just type "Noemi Dado" on Google.

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