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Culture Challenge of the Week: Bias and Spin

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Beware: During this heated election season, liberal self-styled ‘public interest’ organizations might be trying to fool you. Even though they advance larger government, more taxes, pro-abortion policies and the liberal candidates that support them, you can't always tell by their ads. Many of these groups even have neutral our civic oriented sounding names. And because they sound neutral, their messages are often effective at reaching new voters who don't recognize the hidden agendas.

And through it all, our children—the future voters— are watching.

Daily tracking polls (where biased samples determine the outcome) and TV “political analysts” (passed off an unbiased voices in spite of thinly disguised sympathies) wield disproportionate influence over independent voters—a scary thought, given the close Presidential race.

The Obama administration has even gone so far as to try and intimidate the Gallup poll organization, and has now joined a federal lawsuit against Gallup, instigated by a former Democratic operative.

More insidious than the Obama administration’s overt political pressure is the subtle influence of neutral-sounding civic groups.

Take the League of Women Voters, for instance. Its name conjures up images of gray-haired grandmas conducting voter registration drives and working the polls on Election Day. Not so. The League is nothing more than an interest group that aims to drive votes to the Democrat party. Look at their agenda: They support gun control, abortion, and Obamacare; They favor international arms control, reduced defense spending, and greater United Nations control over member countries. They dismiss “religious and moral objections” to government-mandated contraception and abortion coverage and favor abolishing the constitutionally-created Electoral college.

Neutral they are not.

Youth groups like the Girl Scouts of America—which claims to be neutral on abortion— frequently partner with the League and hold them up as an example of non-partisan, pro-woman, civic engagement. The Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, for example, promotes the League of Women Voters through its My Voice Counts patch, calling the League a group that’s “making democracy work.” Similarly, the Los Angeles League of Women Voters (a member of the Reproductive Justice Coalition of Los Angeles) works closely with the Girl Scouts in Los Angeles to ‘educate’ them on voter engagement. Both the League of Women Voters and the Girl Scouts of America tell young women to use their voices and contribute to the electoral process. But on whose behalf? Do these young women realize they’re being manipulated about what to think and what to say?

How to Save Your Family: Teach your kids to recognize spin

Your children will hear conflicting “news” messages at school, from peers, and through the media. While we can’t always control what they hear, we can at least teach them to be savvy consumers of these messages. We need to let them know, as the great Bill O'Reilly says, that "The spin stops here", and show them how to read through the rhetoric.

These three simple steps will go a long way in helping your children cut through the noise:

1) Teach your children that the label “nonpartisan” does not mean an organization is unbiased. They must learn to look behind the labels to see where a group stands on the issues. Many civic groups espouse positions that plant them firmly in one party or another. The League of Women Voters’ open support for abortion is a perfect example.

2) Help your children understand that interest groups don’t always trumpet their leftist viewpoints in their handbooks or mission statements. Look at the language they use (e.g., “reproductive justice” equates to pro-abortion, “marriage equality” supports same-sex marriage) and the work in which they engage. See who the organization’s partners are. Just like people, you will know an organization by its friends.

3) Show your children how to recognize the spin in “soft” news sources like AOL’s Huffington Post, which now hosts pages designed to influence young audiences (check out their “Teen voices” section which recently promoted homosexuality). Similarly, remind them that Facebook and Twitter may even slant a story in 140 characters or less.

As seasoned voters, we’re sensitive to agenda-pushing groups. For young and future voters, it’s a whole new world to navigate. It’s our obligation to teach our children how to recognize agendas and think beyond surface messages. And in sharpening their critical thinking skills, we can hone our own--and ensure that the organizations and candidates we support really are in tune with what we know is right.

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