From the ABC Drum: Simon Tatz is the director of communications for the Mental Health Council of Australia
"So Mr Drum editor, for the sake of balance, where are the communists? ... We understand that you must strive to present a balanced view but this article amounts to propaganda .... I am fed up with the ABC's lack of journalism ... shame on ABC for publishing this nonsense ... time the Drum and ABC woke up to the fact that they are the biased ones and any attacks on the Murdoch press reek with stinking hypocracy [sic] (from blogs on The Drum)"...
Readers of The Drum will be familiar with the commentator who doesn't like an article and so accuses the ABC of bias for hosting it. Yet how we interpret opinions, information, texts or news and then construct their 'meaning' is based on multiple and competing factors.
Reception theory, a branch of cultural studies, analyses how we create and negotiate our own meanings and understandings of information, rather than just absorb messages and texts in an imposed way. According to Reception theory, what you consume (news, drama, books, music and even events) is interpreted through a range of tensions and interactions influenced and informed by your own politics, ideology, cultural identity, race, age, religion, class, locality, gender and life experience. In other words, you bring your own biases, agendas and opinions to the media you receive.
It's not bias that is at play, rather that we all 'receive' information and interpret it through a prism of factors – political, ideological, cultural, demographical, behavioural, and even tribal. Our perspective changes along with our life experience and circumstances. Reception theory reminds us that we can all watch the same program or interview and come away with totally different interpretations and understandings. The Australian is no more biased than New Matilda, depending on your politics.
As a generalisation, we receive news and information selectively.
It's a bit like the Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, 'What we say to dogs and what they hear'.
An owner screams at his attentive, sitting dog: "Okay Ginger! I've had it! You stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage, or else!" In the next frame we are shown what the attentive dog hears: "blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah... "
Remember this next time you claim the referee is biased or your ABC has a Right-wing or Left-wing agenda...
Crap... A few good ideas but falling into a blancmange of crap... The issue of perception is also strongly related to the emission of the information. To claim that our own filters will make us see roses and cactus is fair enough, but is this fellow, Simon Tatz, aware that one can dose the information to make it smell like roses to more people?... This is not new. Propaganda has become a very subtle game of tweak. The information is tweaked specifically to achieve a goal — which at the moment is to dilute any proper investigative journalism at the ABC.