An Idea on Ratings

In my first post, I mention a handful of weaknesses I have found with the most popular Media Bias chart. It would be reasonable to assume, then, that I wouldn’t be posting about it and creating a blog if I didn’t think I had some idea to fix those problems.

[edit, Aug 2020: This rating system is out of date, for reasons discussed in my post “The Other Axis.” I will post and link to the new draft sometime this month.]

In this post, I will detail my idea for rating criteria, and give a hypothetical example of what rating an article might look like in it. Without further ado, or perhaps with much ado about nothing, here is my rating criteria:

down/up axis is focused on individual vs collective ideas

left/right axis is focused on progressive vs conservative ideas

-3: Grounded in revolutionary collectivist ideas, like communism or democratic confederalism.

-3: Grounded in revolutionary progressive ideas, such as abolition of systems of oppression

-2: Grounded in moderate collectivist ideas, such as socialism.

-2: Grounded in moderate progressive ideas, such as defunding or decriminalizing.

-1: Grounded in basic collectivist ideas, such as collective action or social democracy.

-1: Grounded in basic progressive ideas, such as means-tested reform or legalization

0: Makes no real ideological statements or such mixed statements as to be incoherent

0: Makes no real ideological statements or such mixed statements as to be incoherent

1: Grounded in basic individualist ideas, such as neoliberalism

1: Grounded in basic conservative ideas, such as the preservation of the status quo

2: Grounded in moderate individualist ideas, such as classical liberalism

2: Grounded in moderate conservative ideas, such as nationalism or traditionalism

3: Grounded in revolutionary individualist ideas, such as libertarian capitalism

3: Grounded in revolutionary conservative ideas, such as fascism or neoreaction

Every article read will be given two scores, each between -3 and +3. I will average the scores from every article from a given outlet that I read, and use that average to place the outlet somewhere on a grid. As a note, I expect to read a minimum of 50 articles per outlet over the course of a number of months before I post the first ‘version’ of the chart, with the understanding the updates will be frequent going forward.

Now, why this specific model?

Obviously, I am aware that there are plenty of weaknesses with using the four-quadrant model. If I were trying to help someone figure out their own political biases, I would direct them to something like the 8values test, which – you might note – is four more values than I’m using here.

First, as you might guess from looking at the ratings criteria above: These are fairly advanced metrics. Most people operate on a left/right scale because it is very easy to look at it, see where someone falls, and compare that to other known quantities. Simple, easy-to-identify graphics have the benefit of being easy to understand. The more variables you introduce, the harder it is to immediately visually identify information.

So, there’s a trade-off. A simpler graphic is easy to understand but is less accurate. The 8values test is more accurate, but harder to understand (and rate with!) at first glance. A four-quadrant test is still reasonably easy to visually parse, put gives slightly more robust information.

For example…

Let’s take a hot-button issue: Policing. There are a range of different ideas on the table right now.

On the progressive side, you have…

-3: Abolish the police. Build something new and more just in its place, if you must have police at all.

-2: Defund the police. They are still necessary, but their budgets are bloated and steal from other community projects.

-1: Reform the police. Small technocratic changes such as #8cantwait can make a difference, if enforced properly.

Meanwhile, on the conservative side:

+1: Things are fine as they are. The police are heroes, and there is a good amount of oversight already.

+2: The police are all that stands between us and chaos. We need to remove restrictions on them and let them work!

+3: The police should have absolute power and no civilian oversight. It’s the only way to keep the nation safe.

Looked at like that, it seems like a single left-to-right axis covers pretty much everything. So why do we need a four quadrants, rather than two?

So that we have a way to talk about why.

Let’s say you fall on -2 and would like to call to defund the police. What are you aiming to replace it with? Both individualists and collectivists could agree on defunding the police, but they would veer wildly on what the next step is. For instance:

-2: Defund the police. Most of their functions can be handled by the community at large. For instance, put that money towards a local social work collective could handle many mental health and drug addiction problems without risk of escalating violence.

+2: Defund the police. Sure, we need some people to solve murders or property crimes, but traffic cops? Vice? Those are unnecessary departments that exist to criminalize individual choices. I’d rather just keep more of my tax dollars.

Both positions argue for the same basic idea, but have radically different reasons for doing so. A simple left-right model might try to adjust by sliding one slightly to the left and the other to the right, but I tend to find that misleading. By using two more axes, the ideologies can stand on their own as distinct political beliefs — and the media outlets pushing them can be seen more honestly.

I hope this clarifies the basic system I’ll be working with. Well, unless I get some feedback from folks who think there’s a better way. I’m happy to answer questions, and it is very possible that this system will change as the project progresses. It is my hope to be open and honest about how this is being built so that I can learn and improve as we go.

Next major post, likely sometime next week, I’ll be defining some of my terms and suggesting readings and videos to people who are interested in learning more about the chosen political dimensions. I will be trying to make sure I always offer at least some free online resources when at all possible, though I may from time to time also suggest books that you may have to use library resources to access.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: