Is it possible to be completely and honestly unbiased when it comes to the portrayal of politics in the media? This is a question that has preoccupied me for some time and, ultimately, it is one that can be answered in a single word. No. Most western states have watchdogs and committees that keep, or attempt to keep, broadcasting bias in check, but it is never truly enough, especially when these watchdogs have agendas and biases of their own.
While Ireland and the United Kingdom do not, yet, have to suffer the kind of polarised agenda-led reporting to which many Americans are subjected by the likes of Fox News and CNN, that does not necessarily mean that the same bias can be totally avoided. The BBC and Sky News are generally reliable but even they cannot escape the meddling fingers of political, royal and personal agendas, typified by the Murdoch family – who are to objective reporting, what kryptonite is to Superman.
Whether it be whipping up public fear and scapegoating migrants to distract from poverty and unemployment or, on the other end of the spectrum, masquerading as a friend of the oppressed by perpetuating a culture of political correctness that ends up being more oppressive than what they’re supposedly trying to prevent, political agendas make it very hard for someone who wants a balanced outlook to be successful in their goal.
The best we can do is watch a news channel that appeals to our world-views, whilst being aware that other viewpoints exist and never losing sight of the fact that, no matter what they claim, the people behind what you watch ALWAYS have an agenda, be it subconscious or otherwise.
Historical Accuracy and Film:
There have been quite a few historically inspired films recently, Oscars’ season breeds them, but it was this week’s article on Brexit: The Uncivil War that led me to consider the issue of historical accuracy in the films we watch. One can understand that, for the sake of clarity, and often with runtime a consideration, historical events must necessarily be simplified. But when the simplification extends to alteration, this is where problems begin to arise. Brexit: The Uncivil War was always going to have a difficult task, providing commentary on historical events that are still unfolding, but by leaving out and altering large sections of highly relevant material it rendered itself guilty of a dangerous level of subjectivity that seemed contrary to its very aim: showing how people can be easily manipulated by what they watch and are exposed to.
Slightly different is the issue of historical accuracies in period dramas and historical movies. Assuming your audience is too dumb to understand the complexities of a historical event is a poor starting-point for any film, but actively altering the timeline and features of a historical event leaves me wondering whether there was any point calling the film historical at all! Netflix’s The Outlaw King was a fun and well shot piece of historical based drama, but it so altered the timeline of Robert the Bruce’s life and deeds to make it almost unrecognizable to anybody who has even a mild interest in the Scottish Wars of Independence.