Biases and body odor


    ‘I got to thinking about biases and body odor while I was tracking the House deliberations on the franchise of ABS-CBN. I find it amusing that anyone would accuse a network of biases, and just as amusing that a network will deny having any.’

    THERE are some things about ourselves that we have a hard time confronting. Even if these are things which come naturally to us because, well, because we are human.
    Take body odor, for example.

    We may not like to admit it, or we may not even notice it, but we – you and I – all have some natural body odor, a product of so many things coming together from genetics to the food we eat plus our exposure to elements, especially the sun. How chemicals also mix with our sweat matters – that’s why some cologne smell better on us than others. We have individual “scents,” thanks to the bacteria in our bodies that break down our sweat, and thanks to our eccrine and apocrine glands that may be less or more active than those of others.

    Apparently, there are also as many odors as there are nationalities; years ago a good friend from Austria told me that, to him, Filipinos smelled the same; he was reacting to a remark I made that, to me, all Austrians (or did I mean Europeans or Caucasians?) smelled the same!

    Some people are turned off by the scent of others. Think of the movie “Scent of a Woman.”

    Others are turned off. Usually, we are not aware of our own odor, but who doesn’t sniff his underarm or shirt or even towel once in a while? Athletes, who naturally sweat a lot, often talk of fellow athletes who are more “odorous” than others. And if you think about it one man’s bad smell could very well be his own offense mechanism, yes?

    The point is, we all have our smells and we may not notice them much but we are clearly conscious of it because we wash up and use a lot of lotions and even potions to mask it.

    The same goes for biases. We all have biases, some less, some more, towards any and every issue one can think of. From gender issues to taxation issues to civil liberty issues to religion and politics, each of us is on some scale somewhere between two extremes on every issue. And that’s because we are human. We have emotions. We have different levels of knowledge and expertise. We have different levels of care and attention.

    Biases are as natural to us as our odors are. And like our odors, we are sometimes unaware that we have biases. Sometimes we deny having biases.

    Sometimes, we are even proud of our biases!

    I got to thinking about biases and body odor while I was tracking the House deliberations on the franchise of ABS-CBN. I find it amusing that anyone would accuse a network of biases, and just as amusing that a network will deny having any. Both are idiotic – because everyone has biases, and an organization’s bias is the sum of the biases of the people who determine policy. A news reporter at a network has as much bias as a legislator, albeit perhaps on different things and resulting in different perspectives, and for either to deny that is pure hogwash.

    Does Fox News have a bias? Sure. Does CNN have a bias? Sure. Does the New York Times or the Washington Post have a bias? They sure do. Is this fine? In a democracy, sure. You see, the presence of a variety of media outfits with their own biases is meant to address the many biases that exist in the population, the fact that we do not all think the same or see the world through the same lenses. I am generally sympathetic to democrats in the United States, so between Fox News and CNN, I spend 0% of my time watching one and 100% watching the other. But I, too, get tired of CNN, and that’s why I have the BBC, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg and even Singapore based Channel News Asia to turn to, which make up what I consider a healthy mix of media outlets to get my news from. Someone else will find my choices sickening.

    A biased media is not the problem in a democracy. It is part and parcel of a democracy, because no leadership is infallible and you need others to always try to point out a different perspective to you or, worse, to show the world how wrong you are. The bigger problem in a democracy is trying to curtail the amount of dissonant voices represented by “biased” media which those in power usually mean a media outfit that doesn’t see the world the way they do, or paint it the way they want it to be painted. As if their view of their world is the only view, let alone the right one?

    I’ve seen how powerful a network like ABS-CBN can be – its choice of how to present mining as an industry, for example, shows you how it can shape public opinion if it chooses to highlight a certain angle of a story more than any of the many other angles. And yes, when you are on the receiving end of such reporting it can be devastating. An issue unfairly treated can even lead to people involved talking their lives.

    But that’s why there are legal remedies to the person or organization who feels unfairly reported on. And there too is the power of the market and of competition. Which is why having more, not less, media outfits is usually the better answer. Instead of denying one a franchise, just give out more!

    Bias? It’s like body odor: we don’t notice it for as long as we “smell the same.”


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