The Divide is What Divides Us

As mind-bogglingly circular as that title is, there is sense to be made of it. I was lallygagging my way across the internet when I came across this Digg article about how Lewis Black (perhaps one of the funniest comedians out there) "exposes right wing media paranoia" on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Specifically, he talks in the video about Fox's move to buy out Dow Jones, the parent company of The New York Times, in an attempt to even out the bias between the two of them. Naturally, it spins into a hilarious, yet thought-provoking tirade on the right-wing "alternate universe." It expands into such areas as Conservapedia and QubeTV citing that right-wing paranoia seeks to counter such "biased" movements as Wikipedia and YouTube. The irony, of course, is that both of these examples are user-editable - it's impossible for them to have any kind of bias. Or is it?

As we all know, bias on a large scale comes down to the character and beliefs of those people who make up the majority of a group. In order for Wikipedia, YouTube or any user-driven website to have any kind of bias, we would have to prove that the majority of those people who use the Internet on a regular and in-depth basis themselves have a certain bias. I obviously don't have the resources to track down every single person who regularly uses these kinds of sites. I wish someone who did have the resources would take the time, though. I do have a couple of examples from which to draw to make a rough estimate of how such a survey would come out, though.

Just the other day I had to explain to my mom what a lolcat is. My mom is definitely conservative and she would be proud to tell you so. She does not use Digg, she doesn't post things on YouTube, she doesn't edit Wikipedia. On rare occasions she may reference Wikipedia for a definition and when someone points her to a funny YouTube video she'll take a look, but for the most part her life is lived offline. The deepest into the Internet she goes is keeping in touch with her friends and family through Facebook. The only video games I've seen her play are on my sister's Wii.

My dad, when it comes down to it, I would consider to be more conservative than my mom. He does not have a Facebook profile, he does not use Digg, he does not use Wikipedia (that I've seen) and, unless he clicked the above link, I don't think he knows what a lolcat is. He'll watch a YouTube video if I post it on my blog and regularly plays golf and bowling on the Wii. He makes a living as a web designer and a technical support representative for a Christian web hosting company, OurChurch.com. The deepest he goes into the Internet is the source code of the websites he works on.

Obviously, these profiles are only of two conservative people. However, I know many more conservative people as I have grown up my entire life surrounded by the likes of such people. These other people are constantly saying how technologically savvy my parents are and how they could never understand a computer like they do. Do you get where I'm coming from?

Look, obviously I don't have the empirical data to back up my hypothesis, nor do I have the means by which to gather said data. But a short survey of all my experience both on the web and in real life tells me that there are far less conservative people online than there are liberal. It almost goes without saying that "liberal" people are the first ones to jump on the next new and exciting thing (the Internet) while "conservative" people tend to hold back and wait to see if it's trust-worthy. This inequity could clearly result in a devastating liberal bias, if it were true.

Now back to the title of this article. Let's assume I'm right and the Internet is rampant with liberal left-wingers. Well, that would mean that the only dialog going on on the Internet is between liberals. (Of course, I'm over-generalizing here - bear with me.) Where does that put the conservatives? Well, they're probably getting their world news from TV (Fox News) or the local paper. When they talk to each other they do it face-to-face so they know to whom they're speaking. They have what they believe to be a solid, faithful grounding on the situation of social interaction. Good for them. They believe their way is right. But wait a minute. The liberals on the Internet also believe that they are right. What can they base this on? Well, they talk to and comment with people from all over the world. They believe they have the greatest and truest consensus because they draw from the biggest pool. So conservatives trust the trustworthy source where liberals trust the consensus of the majority. A trustworthy source will never be a consensus and a consensus will never be a trustworthy source, so the two sides are stuck on opposite sides of the spectrum. They are divided. And they see the opposing side not as a different point of view, but as the wrong point of view because of the source of their view. Their division has divided them even more.

What's the answer? Well, I don't even know if I'm asking the right question. Is there an equal amount of viewpoints on the Internet after all, which would make this entire article hogwash? I honestly don't know. I can't know. The most I can hope for is that this or any other article spurs on some kind of investigation into the true bias (or lack thereof) of not just one site specifically, but the entire Internet at large.

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