Debates are structured to convey fairness, but the moderators are always Democrats. If the moderators were Republican, people would notice. Why are Democrat journalists presumed “neutral,” while Republican journalists are suspect of bias?
Many Americans do not perceive liberal views as a bias, but they perceive conservative views as a bias. We humans are not aware of our own biases. Electricity flows through your brain the way water flows in a storm, finding the paths of least resistance. You make sense of the world reaching your senses by sending the electricity down one of your existing pathways. When electricity lights up one of your big circuits, you have the experience of “knowing.” The neural circuits you’ve built over time channel your thoughts, but you don’t notice the circuits themselves.
Your brain builds most of its circuits in youth because that’s when “neuroplasticity” is high. Most of us spend our youth with teachers trained to equate liberalism with education. Mainstream teacher training presumes that liberals are normal and decent, while conservatives are mentally defective, and “the enemy.” Teachers and students wire their brains to see the world through this lens without seeing the lens itself. Separate schools exist for separate modes of thought, and their bias is noticed but mainstream schools are imagined to be “objective.”
A brain learns from rewards and threats. Teachers reward you when you mirror their views and you learn to repeat behaviors that get rewarded. If you challenge the teachers’ world view, your work will get extra scrutiny and criticism. A brain learns avoid risk without conscious awareness of the paradigm it is building. You wired yourself to think business and racism are the cause of all problems long before you’re old enough to vote. You don’t notice your wiring, but when you look at the world, you see the information that triggers your pathways.
The solution is not to impose quotas on teachers or debate moderators. That would only saddle us with more biases. We are better off learning to notice our biases. Humans cannot do this easily. It requires an investment of effort, like digging more ditches for water to flow in more directions. This effort is our civic duty. Citizenship is more than just a way to get free stuff.
We don’t notice our filters until we are exposed to people with different filters. When people speak disdainfully of those who don’t share their filters, it motivates us to stay inside our communities of thought. But opportunities for respectful dialogue across mental borders are everywhere, and the IVN Online Presidential Debate this Thursday is one of them. Instead of having a debate molded by one party, you can find information that may not fit your well-worn circuits.