by Jack Emberly/Special to The News
“…only an admission of our ignorance can open us to fresh knowledge.”
– My Story As Told by Water, David Duncan
Confirmation bias is the rejection of information that doesn’t support one’s prior beliefs.
It’s a serious obstacle to truth, social progress, and enlightenment.
Notable examples are Joe Biden stole the U.S. election, despite all the evidence he didn’t, the earth is flat – no verification needed – no distance sailing experience required, end of discussion.
In August, I encountered confirmation bias when I mentioned the Fairy Creek protest over logging of Vancouver’s last old growth forest.
Even though folks knew little about it, they held strong negative opinions: “the protesters have nothing better to do; First Nations people don’t want them there; the protesters leave garbage in the bush, the police are just doing their jobs.”
There was more to the story, but I had to admit my own ignorance.
Why would the Forest Defenders lock themselves in log barricades that the police dismantle with chainsaws and heavy equipment? Why would their supporters sleep in vehicles and endure extremes of heat or rain?
Had they nothing better to do?
Not the ones I talked to.
I found grandmothers who hand out environmental pamphlets at farmers markets; a businessman who raised sons to respect nature; issue-informed young people who came to support a “worthwhile cause;” a local construction worker who wants the B.C. government to restructure an “extractive forest industry” to save jobs while preserving old trees with spiritual significance to Pacheedaht people like Bill Jones – an elder who invited the protesters to set up the blockades.
Premier John Horgan recently omitted that fact by telling the media the Pacheedaht want the protesters to leave. Half-truths fuel negative confirmation bias, divide, and alienate people.
In August, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called for conservation financing to preserve old forests “essential to Indigenous cultures, supply clean water and carbon storage, support wild salmon and tourism.”
This should have happened, but political parties disagree on how forests should be managed.
In 1994, the NDP attempted to save them with new, stringent regulations.
That was upended in 2003, when a Liberal government weakened legislation and deregulated the industry.
Karst, the construction worker, noted delayed action by the NDP today to enable reform.
“It seems they’re trying to build an industry based around quick crop rotation. It’s like mowing the lawn. Old growth has about three years left if we keep harvesting it at the current rate.”
In 1776, Thomas Payne, (Common Sense) wrote, “government, far from being the means of order, are often the destruction of it.”
Are the police just doing their job at Fairy Creek?
I found RCMP behaviour disturbing.
Reporters were kept waiting at the main access gate to demonstration sites.
“My rights as a journalist have been infringed upon,” one told me. “I’ve been standing here for an hour. Judge Thompson ruled we’d have free access.”
At Red Dress Camp, I stood among media impounded in a “temporary exclusion zone,” too removed to hear what was happening.
The RCMP said if we didn’t like it “we could go back to the judge to complain.” A cynical suggestion, when more than 90 complaints of the RCMP violating civil rights haven’t been acted upon.
The problem is a broken complaints system controlled by the RCMP themselves.
One podcaster quoted Judge Wally Oppal: “It’s absolutely wrong for a national police force in the 21st century not being amenable to independent civilian authority to examine their conduct. Legislators and parliamentarians have left the RCMP to their own devices,” but “if you don’t have civilian oversight, essentially you have a police state.”
At Red Dress Camp in August, one officer repeatedly warned reporters not to talk to them or we’d “be out of here” (arrested). Police wore no badges and refused to give their names. Others wore the controversial thin blue line patches.
The National Police Federation says they symbolize the role of police to curtail social chaos. Noble objective, but critics say they represents an “us-against-them mindset” that seems to have expanded to include the press.
I began this three-part report by quoting a song from the 1960s that ran “there’s something happening here.”
Much more is clear now.
Canada’s democracy relies on an informed public and journalists willing to stand up for it whatever the personal cost.
Duncan said “the best laws are those of nature.”
Government needs to help corporations reflect them.
“Their transformation is the crucial topic of the time.”
Finally, police have to be neutral. Even the suspicion of confirmation bias by them is a threat to democracy.
– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist
Is there more to the story? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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