Africa’s good news and the media’s biggest bias

Good question raised in this Economist piece: Have the media, even the omnipresent BBC and CNN, overlooked good news in Africa in favor of the usual roll call of famine and atrocities?

Perhaps, but one commenter gets right to the heart of the issue:

In addition to whatever racial, ethnic, continental, etc. biases may be at work here, it is worth noting that in every country, what makes news is bad news. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a policy in almost every newsroom on the planet — unless restricted by government orders. An occasional “feel good” story may slip in, but usually well after all of the bad news of the day.

If you follow the news, you could believe that Africa is full of violence and disaster. But then, you could also believe that American cities are as well.

via Africa’s reputation—deserved or not: Continental bias? | The Economist.

Cute PolitiFact graphic, but …

I think this is where PolitiFact overreaches. They aren’t checking — reasonably, couldn’t check — every single thing candidates say or even every significant fact they cite. So expressing truth-telling as a percentage doesn’t work. It’s not a random sample — it’s the collection of facts they’ve decided to check out, which is always going to skew negative. (Just like Snopes, which is far less politically charged, isn’t going to have a whole bunch of “Oh yes, that’s true.”)

PolitiFact | The PolitiFact report card on the presidential candidates.

How to remember things that didn’t even happen

The 6 Weirdest Things That Are Ruining Your Memory | Cracked.com.

What I love about Cracked is that it takes legitimate intellectual concepts and mixes them with just enough snark and crude references to make them digestible.

In this case, they’ve compiled a few physical and psychological tricks that can mess with one’s memory. A couple of them are simply good reminders to take care of yourself. The first two (#6 and #5, because Cracked always counts down) are of particular interest to those of you interested in politics and the media because they demonstrate how people can be mentally trained to think fiction is fact.

Like the email forward I just got in which some blogger claims the media are irresponsible in reporting on guns because it suits “the media’s needs.” Right. Until capitalist/corporate media completely dies and we’re all subsidized by agenda-driven foundations, the media’s primary “need” will be to make money. That explains Skip Bayless. That explains the “it bleeds, it leads” maxim. It would lead the media to avoid pointing out harsh truths on guns to a trigger-happy country.

But between false memories and peer pressure, it’s easy for ideologically blinkered dirtbags to cry conspiracy.

When do you confront offensive people?

Today’s moral dilemma:

For the second time in about a week, I saw a car that had a plethora of bumper stickers ranging from the innocuous (Support Our Troops, Pittsburgh Steelers) to a few pointed attacks on Obama.

Here’s where it goes over the top. She has a COEXIST sticker. Underneath it, in the same blue color, she has “MY ASS.”

I was out of my car, anyway, and I considered writing a note and leaving it under her windshield wiper. I wouldn’t want to respond to hate with hate, so it would be something along the lines of “This is a nice, friendly town with educated people who recognize that this country was built on religious freedom and pluralism. Please reconsider your bumper sticker.” (Yes, I briefly considered inviting her to take the advice on another bumper sticker and leave the country if she didn’t like its core values, but that would be mean.)

I didn’t do it, and I’m not sure it’s a good idea. But at some point, are we supposed to tell people when they’re making asses of themselves? 

If someone walked by a school at dismissal time with the F-word on a T-shirt, I’d be inclined to say something, and I think I’d be in the right. (Please don’t cry “censorship.” F-word T-shirt Guy would have the legal right to wear the shirt. I’d have the legal right to say the community doesn’t appreciate it.)

So does this woman’s bigoted bumper sticker rise to that level? What do you think?

(Link goes to the Coexist Foundation.)

When do you confront offensive people?