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Balance of Power

Elections tend to get pretty tight and even outside of parliamentary politics it seems that on any issue there is as many people believing in one thing as believing the opposite.

It’s so weird how strong backlash and reaction always gets.

Media Bias

The “false balance” media bias is one reason for this.

False balance, also bothsidesism, is a media bias in which journalists present an issue as being more balanced between opposing viewpoints than the evidence supports. […] producers and editors may feel that a story portrayed as a contentious debate will be more commercially successful than a more accurate account of the issue. Unlike most other media biases, false balance may stem from an attempt to avoid bias; producers and editors may confuse treating competing views fairly—i.e., in proportion to their actual merits and significance—with treating them equally, giving them equal time to present their views even when those views may be known beforehand to be based on false information.

The Two Shifting Amœbae

There might be other reasons too. It’s not fully understood, but while the Overton window shifts like a tug-of-war (usually in the wrong direction), there’s usually about as many people on side A as on side B.

And, take climate change as an example. It’s much more important and urgent and actionable than even side A’s policies reflect (let alone side B which is much worse).

So it’s not as if they’re tug-of-warring right over the center of the chasm of truth. Instead, they’re both lost far over the edge of wrongness.

Let’s not delude ourselves here. Side A’s and Side B’s strengths both derive not from truth itself, but from perception of truth. From narrative.

Not everyone on the side of A or the side of B believe in the exact same thing. Side A and side B are both amorphous blobs of people who hate the other side more.

Maybe it’s the case that as someone moves from side A to side B, the point of acceptable perception also shift commensurately in the same direction. And as soon as a side has grown bigger than the other, it’ll also grow off-putting enough to make people move to the other, thus always keeping the balance.

It’s difficult to consider the true and good side as “as off-putting” as the hideous creepy crawlies on the wrong and bad side, but, remember, it’s about perception, and, more importantly:

It’s not that the policy positions of A and B are kept in balance. It’s the group sizes, not their truths, that are. Instead, as the population as a whole (A&B combined) shifts (sometimes dramatically) towards a position, the “border line” shifts towards that position as one side adapts some of the positions of the other.

In Sweden over the last few years, we’ve seen the border line shift towards blatant racism, and even the supposed internationalist left have adopted some of the positions previously espoused by the right, while the right have then carved out positions even crueler and more extreme.

So we see (uh, this might get a bit “time cube”, I’m sorry) these two movements being interlinked. As a side grows, so does its position, and as that happens, its position gets adopted by the other side, which then grows it. And the border line, its hour come round at last, keeps slouching towards wrongness to be born.

Sure, among the established powers of capital, exploitation, racial and sexual hierarchy, and fossil mania, there are people aware of these movements and are trying to shift public opinion in their favor. I’m not talking about conspiracy theory stuff, I’m just referring to “strategists”, “lobbyists”, “think tanks”. Greedy opportunists trying to snatch the arc of the moral universe and bend it to their own will.

However, I don’t think we’re well served by over-anthropomorphizing and ascribing agency to how our buggy systems fail us and steer us in the wrong direction. Instead, I think we need to suss out how these systems of public opinion and interaction work (especially in the age of social media—although the rural/urban opinion gap is widening so it can’t be wholly ascribed to on-screen bleep-bloopity) in order to let us set the course towards climate awareness and action, and towards human dignity.