FOX News & Confirmation Bias

A few years ago, I will admit, I would mostly watch FOX News for my news intake. I did accept that it carried a heavy lean to the right, but considering the state in life where I was at the time (a Christian leader), it came across as a breath of fresh air to hear news with a tone that I already agreed with. In the last five years I’ve tried to even that out by reading from at least four different sources—but most importantly now that I have left my Christian worldview, it is shocking how thick and evidently bias it actually is. Before, it validated what I already believed to be true and I had no problem if they were biased—I was glad that someone was unapologetic about my Christian worldview in what I perceived to be a world controlled by Satan to undermine God’s will. FOX News spoke from a traditional Christian worldview and that was great for me and those in my community.

This BBC article mentions we humans have a “Confirmation Bias”—something in our brain that looks to focus on that which validates what we hold dear as a belief. But as time progresses, it can become dangerous, because we start to create a tunnel-vision toward that ideology which becomes, well, bias… and for the record, that means incomplete and erroneous idealization of an idea while scratching off consideration of an alternative. The more bias and tunnel-visioned we become, the more hardheaded and stubborn we get about what we already believe to be true from the get go. Any attempt to challenge that irritates us. As we sink our heels deeper into the dirt to defend our ideology-based identity, we may end up making drastic choices and mistakes—in this case, voting for someone who reveals himself to the rest of the world as monstrous—like Donald J. Trump. Fox News makes a fortune by being the main traditional conservative news outlet—and I suppose they have a right to make a buck—but for the rest of us, is seems atrocious that in order to defend a traditional Christian worldview that we viewed as attacked by a growing secular world, we might have chosen a monstrous individual who abused that bias to win a presidential election.

Donald Trump is by no means a Christian in character (and I know hundreds of Christians of virtuous character that I consider examples of integrity). But he claims to be a Christian—who can’t recall a single passage that’s meant something to him, or misreads scripture from the teleprompter. He knew he just had to say “pro-life” and that audience would go crazy and zoom in on those values and throw reason out the door in order to defend that deeply held religious belief they considered to be under attack.

In our desire to validate such deeply held religious beliefs, we make ourselves susceptible to manipulation. But does it happen only with FOX News and Christianity? Nope. It happens across humanity. Is it possible that many turn automatically left with a fist up in the air as we hear “immigration”, “gay”, “Obamacare”? How about black voters and Barack Obama? We all have an auto-pilot for bias in some hot stops and love calling it out on other people because… well, “they are wrong and we are right.” But this is not about choosing what is right and wrong, but to identity that we have “confirmation bias.” Our race, sexual orientation, community, economic background, friends, among others, will serve as grounds to become tunnel-visioned over biases—but out of any, it seems, to this day, the most powerful continues to be religion. Faith is a topic that will continue to be a source for vibrant debate in the years to come, but it shouldn’t be also a source for exploitation of a susceptible population. Let’s be careful of that.

For more of my journey through religion and the tragic choices I made through tough lessons, find my autobiography at www.tothecrossandback.com.

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