In this political season, there is an essence of bias. I hesitate to call it implicit in nature because of politics and party-driven animosity, but I must call attention to the possibility. Ingrained stereotypes do affect our perception.

Bias is always with us. On Facebook we have almost a tribal need to “like.” In the classroom it sometimes governs the way teachers grade students. In the courts, the sentencing process should strive to be equal, but is it? The media are supposed to report but news is often colored by opinion. Last, but by no means least, the buying public has to constantly winnow out the deliberate ad bias accompanied by hype.

As is the case with most things we do or say, we are led by the example of others. Those we trusted the most as infants gave us a “code” for life. As we age and become more socialized by larger environmental influences, we may lose or modify the code that our parents gave us. As adults, we need to develop what William Strunk called a “fog index.” For those who aren’t familiar with the book “Elements of Style,” I highly recommend it for your home library. In the book, he speaks to us about clear thinking when writing and reading others' writing efforts. His book cautioned people to be as clear as possible in their writing and to be able to identify material written with a biased point of view.

Prejudice is the ugliest form of bias. Vast sums of money are spent during political campaigns to exploit bias. There are campaign advisors who are hired to separate us into characteristic groups. Such elements as skin color, age, ethnic origin, gender, and whether or not you have a disability are identified. Once they have us sorted into groups, the ad guys probe the data for stereotypes to exploit.

So, what is Joe Sixpack’s job in the milieu? You and Joe should remember Strunk’s advice. Use your innate filter for detecting bogus claims put forth in biased ads. Ask thought-driven questions when in the presence of a biased campaign worker. When reading material, try highlighting what appears to be biased. Remember that you, too, are biased. We take action directed by our beliefs and feelings. Try, in this highly charged political season, to make decisions based on logic rather than responding to carefully crafted appeals to base emotions.

Bill Dawson


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