Truth: A concept that describes a state of reality of something, the fact that that thing is true. What does it mean? Can an article be true? Can any fact be, in reality, a fact?
It is common nowadays to find people, or even media, describing a given piece as being “biased” or, even worse, “propaganda”, what a shame! But what is the truth, and where is one to find it? Moreover, how is one to report it?
Disclaimer: I do not hold it in my hands, I am not an expert in media or such, just a humble writer and real life space engineer student. This article will not show you the truth, nor will it answer all the above questions. I, however, think that some misconceptions about the media require some clarifications.
Bias: An Unreasonable Opinion?
A common reproach made to writers and journalists, in general, is that the information they report is biased. But what does this mean in reality? Cambridge Dictionary defines biased as:
Showing an unreasonable like or dislike for a person based on personal opinions.
Here, we have two important parts: it is a positive or negative orientation with respect with something/someone and it is unreasonable.
This brings me to my first point; can an article be biased? Most pieces are, indeed, leaning towards one side, as they naturally reflect the opinions of the writer, affiliations of the editorial board, and so on. But is this orientation unreasonable? Where is the limit? When one reads a scientific paper, he should expect it to describe scientific facts, whereas, in a religious paper or book, one expects biblical references. If reading some left aligned newspaper, one expects news putting the good actions of socialists and communists for example, where right aligned papers would probably have depicted the same actions as bad. When reading pieces on the Imperium News Network, one expects news that is mostly described from well, the Imperium side.
A lot (but not all!) of the INN writers are from the Imperium. Thus, they see things from the Imperium perspective. When writing about stuff, they report what they saw and will give a point of view related to what they had access to at the time. The article will then be subjective, attached to the observer.
This does not mean that bias does not exist at all, but we should generally talk of subjectivity: the text or media, in general, as leaning towards its affiliations and not objective. Objectivity is (or should be) constructed by the reader by comparing different sources and keeping an open mind.
Objectivity is the state of being objective (thank you, Cambridge Dictionary, useful definition here). This means that you put your personal considerations aside to only report facts. The problem with facts and this is especially true in EVE, is that writers rarely happened to live the action. That is why we are called reporters. We report on what we saw and what information we could find available. The facts are thus always incomplete, and generally, partially one-sided. This is also because some people do not like us and prefer not explaining their point of view. For some, it is due to old resentment. For others, it is because they do not trust us. Maybe also, so they can complain we are not objective (friendly pun here). Of course, writers try, and this is something we are pushing here at INN, to get the point of view of all parts.
When reporting, a writer will generally try to put his own convictions aside and keep it nonpersonal. He will, however, be the media for the opinions of those involved in the action he is reporting on. The objectivity of the result then depends on the variety of points of view one can obtain.
But a lot of the pieces presented in newspapers and on INN are opinion pieces. By definition, these are opinions, ie subjective pieces, that relay the thought of the writer, and this brings me to my next point: what is propaganda?
“Propagoonda”, A Story to Sheep Them All
It is no secret; lots of articles posted on INN are written by members of the Imperium. In extenso, most of the opinion pieces reflect opinions that are either common in the Imperium or close to the “official version” of the story given by the Imperium leadership to line members.
Now, let us look at the definition of propaganda:
Information, ideas, opinions, or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published, or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions.
Before diving in this definition, the good reader you are probably noted I used the same source of information (Cambridge Dictionary) three times in this article: this is already a reader’s mistake: always use different sources for information, keep an open mind! Completing it with other sources yields the same base, but with an important piece added: “(…) in order to force the public into adopting the idea/doctrine.”
Back to propaganda, we have two important parts: partial information and influence. As we discussed above: yes, the information presented in (our) articles is generally partial, as having all the information, in particular for “historical” facts is tricky. What about influencing? Is influencing a problem or is it the “forcing” part that is? Can you force people into believing you?
Sphere of Influence
When one writes an article, even when it is a report, he will generally want to transmit a message. No one writes about something he finds totally lacking interest, and this interest is already something you try to transmit. For opinion pieces, even worse, you give your opinion. You expect people to think about it, so you try to influence them. And this is perfectly fine!
What propaganda does that is generally accepted as bad is trying to force people into thinking like the writer. This is done by obscuring parts of the information. For example, consider real world dictators: the first things that were controlled by governments are media and internet, for modern ones. Other ways to proceed are to create false data, the use of dogma (religious, for example, or cult of personality, hello Mittens <3), On a side note: believe it or not, but as a writer, I have never seen one of my articles pass through The Mittani, nor have I read anything about him directly in a while (SOTG apart).
Of course, the way one influences or persuades someone into thinking in one way could be debated extensively, but this is not the purpose of this article. I can, however, redirect the cultivated reader you are using compliments, which is also a good way to influence people. By the way, “Propaganda and Persuasion” is an excellent book by Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, and in particular their first chapter.
Back to INN, do we only influence people, on purpose or as a side-effect, or do we try to persuade you?
We will need to consider two cases here, reporting articles and opinion ones. For reporting articles, the information is generally presented by giving numbers based on Battle Reports as much as possible. The course of action is then described trying to remain neutral. This kind of article is very common, and presents both wins and losses for the Imperium, with ALODS covering our stupid losses as well, for example. I think most will agree that, for this category, propaganda is reduced as much as possible.
INN: Hidden Propaganda?
Notable exceptions are articles such as “NC LOKI FLEET DUNKED BY ALT DEFENSE FLEET”. I will not lie. This, dear reader, is “propagoonda”. What makes the difference? A less impersonal (formal) tone, more emphasis on “impressive” numbers, less supported by external reporting tools and a focus on one side of the story alone. What breaks the boundary between a rather oriented article and propaganda is the pursued goal: this article is trying to “sell” you the winner side as the best side. And even more, this winner side is a power block, an influencing entity. We are thus trying to increase its influence or power by making it look better. This is the essence of political propaganda.
For a report on a battle or match written by someone that has a preference for a team, it is normal to feel it in the writing, even if the writer tries to be as objective as possible. But here, the writer puts himself in the article:
Dictors started bubbling furiously to catch the NC fleet. The friendly cyno went up and in dropped only a small part of the Delve Armor Super Carriers and Titans ready to demolish any and all opposition, and they did, gloriously. (…) not a bad days work for an Alt Defense Fleet. The Bees quickly worked to loot the field, and let me tell you, war chests were restocked by the drops. Many men went home infinitely better off than they were before the fleet.
This short extract is filled with comparisons, personal notes (let me tell you), oriented wording (gloriously, not a bad day,…). The author is not reporting, he is telling a story, and he tells it as a victor forging his perspective of history.
Reporting vs Promoting
This is an easy case, and others also exist. Take for example the series of articles on Space Violence, here and here, I personally wrote. I was not only reporting, I was promoting Space Violence because, hell, we are good! (See, oriented, no real support, more personal, less formal,…). Was it propaganda? Not really, Space Violence is recruiting inside of the Imperium, and we are not really any power block. See us as a sports team, whereas the Imperium would be, well, the country for which we play!
Does it invalidate the rest of the articles? Of course not. The reader is expected to be able to take the info. “Real” or “hard” propaganda, as it was used by several countries or organizations during history and even today, is generally more global. The only information available is the one that the power group wants you to access. The rest is locked down. The propaganda is then depicted as being the information, and the reader has no choice, often not even being aware he could have a choice. Propaganda used by power-blocks in EVE is “softer”, it could even be compared to advertising.
The fact that INN has news and propaganda can, and I’d agree with that, be seen as dangerous. But what is good is that it is totally known and accepted, and INN is not trying to hide it (and I will take this article as a proof, if it is ever published). Better: anyone is invited to write articles, be they propaganda for groups other than the Imperium, provided that the read is good and the article “politically correct”, not insulting everyone for the sake of insulting. And you can even get paid for it!
Thus, it is up to the reader to distinguish real info, based on external reports and sourced in a consistent way, and light propaganda, similar to advertising.
Back to The Truth
For opinion pieces, the distinction is generally harder to make. In science, we have a principle:
If you have a theory, never try to prove it, try to disprove it. As long as it is not disproven,you may consider it as not false, but never consider it as true.
The notion of truth should be avoided. When an opinion is given to you, try to find the flaws and discuss them, even if you agree with the opinion. Propaganda is good at one thing: always giving the same message. Find the message, prove it to be wrong, and extract the part of “not-false” that exists in everything.
This holds “true” for this article as well. Try to disprove it. I will happily discuss it below, as long as you document your reflections and remain courteous. This is also a way that we use to make our articles less subjective; we are open for comments. Furthermore, we often do edits on articles when someone points something interesting in the comments.