Benjamin Haydon,”Fortunately for serious minds, a bias recognised is a bias sterilised.”

Here’s the thing. I am biassed! I have my own thoughts and opinions and they probably colour everything I say and do, however hard I may try to be balanced and research all sides of an argument. Whilst others my age were partying, I had loved to listen to shortwave radio and had often found it hilarious. At that time people were defecting from Eastern Europe almost every week, yet their national radio stations were continually claiming that these countries were some kind of utopia.

Of all the things I was taught at school and university, perhaps the most significant( I now realise) was the importance of critical thinking and the need to recognise bias. It seems to be an ability we  may have already lost or are(at the very least) in the process of totally relinquishing. Bias was often anticipated and we had tended to foresee which way stories would slant, due to our choice of reading material. Most people had  learned to view some of the more outlandish claims, with a degree of scepticism. I do not remember the conversation being about whether news was “fake” or not. It was about the extent to which it was biassed one way or another.

My parents  and grandparents would tell me about Lord Haw-Haw and his sinister attempts to break their spirit during  WW2, by broadcasting Nazi propaganda. He had often been viewed by the British public, with more hatred than many of the more obvious suspects.

Lord Haw-Haw broadcast

My stint as a market researcher had taught me similar lessons, The people most willing to talk to me were nice, little old ladies, who had really just wanted to chat. Yes. my results had been totally skewed towards the viewpoints of kindly pensioners. Avoiding bias in any work presents great challenges. How did we deal with the fact that we knew bias was par for the course? Most of us had recognised the need to develop a degree of discernment.

Casting a questioning eye over material we watch and read should be something we do automatically. Bias is a fact of life. The danger is not that a proportion of what we read is biassed, it is that we may be losing our ability to take this factor into account,

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