‘Tis the season for us to pronounce our objectivity, open-mindedness, and general all around acceptance of all ideas.  One has to love an election year. First off, I do not wish to make this a political stump for any particular candidate.  First of all, I do not wish to alienate half of my audience, even though 99% of them are bots who probably want SkyNet for President. Second, the intent is not to convince anyone who to vote for.  Seriously, who ARE all of these undecided voters who can be swayed by ads and debate speeches.  I suspect 95% of us made up our minds whom to vote for months ago and these undecided folks – well, perhaps we don’t care too much for their opinion given how fickle it can seem.  At least I don’t care.

I have heard, seen, and read more posts about objectivity, and open-mindedness on venues like FaceBook and Twitter than I care to think about.  OK, not entirely true, I am thinking about them to write this post.  Back to the topic – we as humans like to think we are being objective and unbiased.  As I write this I like to delude myself I will insert no political agenda into the text and be completely unbiased.  Alas, I will fail as will nearly everyone else.  We may not realize it, but we will fail.  Our brains are wired to seek affirmation of our beliefs and views and have our opinions and beliefs validated.

Take the typical FaceBook post I read this morning about the debate.  In general, regardless of which ‘side’ you are on, your friends supported your rant.  In most cases they even elaborated on your rant in their own spiral of self affirmation.  Sure, its great to get validation that you are right and your opinion is in the majority, we all love it.  But if you surround yourself with friends and followers who share similar viewpoints, you will rarely get a dissenting view. It is easy to fall prey to this fallacy, especially if your digital social circle reinforces your beliefs.  To a similar extent, I believe religion works this way as well, but that is a topic for another day.

Since most people want others to consider their view point as valid and cognizant of available facts many will claim their are open minded or open to alternative view points.  At some level, they may be, but sometimes you may hear something that shocks you to the core. Belief altering news is just biologically hard to swallow.  Some people will go into full blown denial, others will have a period of adjustment and go through stages akin to those of grief.  Yet others will readily acknowledge their own fallacy and accept the new information and move on. Personally, I find myself embarrassed when this happens to me, as the new information often seems obvious to me and that I should have known better.

With political debates on the news, are we truly open minded enough to have an intellectual discussion of the positions?  And can these discussions change our behavior?  I posit that we cannot.  I’d like to think of myself as open-minded, but in reality when it comes to the election my mind was made up months ago.  Personal beliefs and bias are so prevalent that nothing short of a nuclear style implosion could change my viewpoint and alter my vote – in addition that would be two nuclear implosions as the first would have to destroy my faith in my chosen candidate and the second would have to enhance my opinion of the other. In my limited circle of friends and family – all of which are well educated and represent a variety of professions, geographic regions and backgrounds are all firmly rooted for their ‘side’.

The web is full of recaps about the debate and each candidate their their tax plan, energy plan, job plan etc.  I will state that no President can make policy in a vacuum.  No President can push through legislation without some support from both parties.  No President is solely responsible for any committee made legislation passed through the House and Senate. Yes, the Buck Stops Here is valid, and the POTUS is the CIC and the buck does stop with him, but we all know how Bills travel through our government and have additions, subtractions and alterations to appease special interest and the like. So I stand by my statement that no POTUS past, present or future can single handedly influence policy to the extent the candidate blame or claim.

Back to open minded bias.  The dictionary defines open minded as :

1. having or showing a mind receptive to new ideas or arguments.
2. unprejudiced; unbigoted; impartial.

Are we truly open to new ideas and arguments, especially those that do not support our beliefs? Do we truly carry, in this micro case about Presidential candidates, no bias, and impartial prejudices?  Without revealing a political agenda, two common prejudices for each candidate are race, religion, ethic origin, and social status.  These 4 topics do not make the POTUS but these four topics do have a significant basis in our beliefs, bias and prejudices about the candidates.  For some, they can’t get passed the name Barak Obama, as it sounds too foreign.  Others can’t get passed the name Mitt Romney as it sounds too elitist.  Was Obama born in the US or not? A Mormon for President?  A black man?  These thoughts, while not overtly said (OK, a brief viewing of FOXNews did view some of these last night) are on the minds of many.

If you come to the dance (so to speak) with one of these bias, and attempt to watch the debates with “open-minded” attention, can your brain overcome these prejudices- both conscious and subconscious to truly allow you to be open-minded? I think not.  For myself I cannot, or at least did not change my mind or opinion based on the debates or rhetoric.  My own personal opinion was validated by about have of my friends and followers, and contrasted by the other half.  I saw no conversions in my cyber universe among my social networks.

Twitter had over 7 million tweets during the debate.  From the ones I saw, they were skewed for or against each of the candidates.  Not too much open-mindedness there.  Some news outlets tried their best with fact checks and limited overt bias reporting, but even these are subject to personal bias.  Data in the raw is unbiased IF and only IF it was collected in an unbiased way.  Both sides of the political debate on jobs can spin the job creation and loss numbers completely in their favor, and be factual.  But not forthcoming. So even these facts have lies buried within them.

To quote a fictional character from TV, “Everybody lies”, and its true we do.