Recently, a fellow mom asked a question on a Kansas City mom’s Facebook group – why someone would consider voting for a presidential candidate whose appeal she herself was failing to see. The mom asked with deep respect and asked others to follow her lead; to listen, to seek to understand and not judge.
The dialogue was open, moms shared their feelings, and we all learned something. It occurred to me that our evidence base was completely different. We are not getting our facts from the same sources. I knew sharing a post I’d read was not going to change that. So instead, I asked the question: “Is there a media that you trust that will represent each candidate and the issues they stand for fairly separating fact from partisan fiction?” They couldn’t name one.
Scary Mommy was one of the many varied news media that covered the GOP and Democrat conventions. And while the liberal slant they took upset some, others felt moms and Scary Mommy in particular should stay out of politics. In response, came comments that prove at least some Americans understand sarcasm;
“We should stay out of politics, especially as it so dramatically impacts our children’s lives. We should leave that to the men and ‘I was thinking the same thing. Or at least that what my husband told me to think. I’m waiting for him to tell me who we are voting for.'”
So, why should we care? And why should blogs like this that normally navigate the day to day ups and downs of feeding, sleeping, and educating kids, allocate time to the wider context in which we live? Well, for precisely that reason, the wider context of how much our food costs, whether we can put a roof over our kid’s heads and their education matters. And deciding what’s in our best interests relies on the quality of information we access.
As much as Scary Mommy’s convention coverage made me laugh – (Scott Baio. Really?), I am not sure it did much to advance the cause of separating fact from fiction. Arguably, it’s not Scary Mommy’s role, but whose role is it?
Facebook would say it’s not them. Despite being the world’s biggest distributor of news media, Facebook takes no responsibility for ensuring our news feed shows a balanced reporting on world events. Since I became a mom, Facebook is now my main news source. Like I am sure it does for you too, the world happens for me through a series of eye-catching headlines that flicker through my feed. Delivered through algorithms that register news sources that I’ve liked and shared, now serve me up daily reinforcements of the same.
And what I’m left with is a perception of the world that echoes my unique worldview. An echo chamber of my own making. And the result is I’ve been totally devastated when actual world events unfold in a way that my newsfeed would have never predicted.
The United Kingdom, where I spent the bulk of my adult life, already had its chance to vote this year in a referendum. If this didn’t come up in your feed. I’ll give you a quick recap. The referendum was held to decide if the UK should leave the European Union. The European Union is a single market of 28 member states that have standardized laws to facilitate the movement of goods, services and employment across the region. I won’t go into the arguments for and against here, but suffice to say the campaign to Leave won the referendum by a narrow margin of 3%.
In the immediate aftermath, Britain’s currency value dropped to its lowest level by 30%, the economy slowed and Leave campaign leaders reneged on their campaign promises and in some cases, resigned. The impact of these economic challenges on ordinary people; rise in food prices, increased cost of international travel, higher cost of imported goods, lack of EU funding to support deprived neighborhoods and the spectre of loss of jobs to other EU countries emerged in media across the political spectrum.
A wave of voter’s remorse emerged. “Why didn’t you tell us before we voted, that these would be the consequences?” they asked. But what happened was predicted in the media, just not in all media sources, and critically not in the media sources read by those who voted Leave. I am not saying all who voted Leave didn’t have access to the right information, but some didn’t.
And that is what I think is a critical lesson in the run up to November. Finding the right information and making your own mind up about the issues is about exposure to a wide variety of viewpoints. And while it’s difficult to completely avoid bias in media, knowing how those sources lean can help. That’s why this election, I am moving away from Facebook as my sole news source, and broadening the news media I consume by including these sites in my repertoire.
Allsides.com – a crowdsourced platform that rates the bias of news articles from mainstream media in real time. Their tagline is ‘Don’t be Fooled By Bias. Think for Yourself’. Using a 5-point ranking of LLCRR, you can see how Left, Center or Right an article is and click through to read multiple perspectives on current political events. You can also search for perspectives on a broad range of political issues including Education, Immigration and Taxes.
Politifact.com – is a Pulitzer Prize winning website dedicated to fact checking the “facts” quoted by politicians. Each quote is ranked against the truth-o-meter from True to (liar, liar) Pants of Fire. The site also runs a truth-o-meter scorecard against each of the presidential candidates. Politifact aims to be non-partisan.
And finally, why not break the taboo? Talk politics with another mom! Find out what she’s thinking, feeling and why.
Just do it with respect, with the intention to understand, not convert.