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Does Films For Action Have Bias? - a Statement About Neutrality and Our Values

By Films For Action / filmsforaction.org
Dec 29, 2017
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Does Films For Action Have Bias? - a Statement About Neutrality and Our Values
We don't do breaking news. We do breaking knowledge.

It's hard to believe Films For Action has been around since 2006. From our early years focusing on local film screenings in Lawrence, Kansas to our more recent years, focusing on raising awareness globally via our website and social media, our mission has been to provide a DIY alternative to the corporate mass media, which censors, sanitizes, attacks and ignores the diverse voices of humanity in favor of a narrow spectrum of elite, faux left-right consensus that favors the status quo and puts the interests of profit over people and planet.

The mass media claims to be neutral and strives to be objective, but it has always been anything but. This problem has been extensively documented. Chris Hedges called it "The Disease of Objectivity." Noam Chomsky is famous for outlining "the propaganda model of news." Meanwhile, FOX News is famous for claiming they're "fair and balanced" - a line of propaganda so transparent it's been mocked for years. But the deeper truth is that all media has some form of bias. The major news networks and newspapers of the old media - ABC, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, the Washington Post and the New York Times, to name a few, all mask their bias for elite perspectives (both corporate and state) behind a guise of "objectivity." To present oneself as unbiased, while having bias is, of course, one of the hallmarks of any good, persuasive propaganda.

But the old media is lying to itself for another reason. As one of our heroes, Howard Zinn once famously said, "You can't be neutral on a moving train." Neutrality in the face of injustice, in the face of racism, environmental destruction, corruption, colonialism, empire and plutocracy, cannot and will never be neutral.

Media cannot be neutral on this moving train. Too much is at stake when we are quite literally facing a planetary emergency that is reaching its major turning point. We must pick a side.

Does this mean Films For Action has bias? Yes it does. But it is bias rooted in the desire for justice. Our bias is rooted in our love for Pachamama, our Mother Earth, and all living beings. Our bias is rooted in our desire for a society that's just, egalitarian, peaceful, healing and truly participatory in ways that the present system will never offer.

To put it simply, our bias is rooted in our values, which we share openly and honestly.  That is the big difference between the old media and the new media. Whereas the old media feigns neutrality and objectivity while promoting a spectrum of thought that benefits their bottom line, the new media is transparent about its values and who it stands for.

The problem with the media isn't bias itself - it's the values, interests, and funding sources that shape and inform that bias. 

Accuracy, however, is another story. Accuracy is of the utmost importance and something we treat with the greatest responsibility, as all journalists and media outlets should. With the rise of "fake news," discussion over which media outlets we can trust has become a central concern.  While profit-driven alternative media exploded during the 2016 US election, and a vast array of sketchy sites sprung up to take advantage of heightened political concern, we haven't forgotten that the corporate mass media has been responsible for some of the most dangerous and consequential "fake news" stories of our time, including most notably the false story of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which successfully helped take the US to war at a time when alternative media was critical of these "facts" and knew them to be false.  Fake news by the "credible, respectable" mainstream press, which often originates by simply repeating government claims uncritically, has been far more disastrous for the planet overall than anything that unethical bloggers have managed to accomplish. 

That said, inaccurate and false information is harmful regardless of whether it comes from corporate or alternative sources, and there is plenty of bad information coming from the entire spectrum of media, from the far left to the far right, and from corporate outlets to the smallest indie operations. 

While our values and the diversity of perspectives we share naturally put us on the spectrum from center-left to far left, we're committed to always putting accuracy first, and holding ourselves accountable to the 5 principles of journalism

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Films For Action is a library for people who want to change the world.

 

Our mission is to provide citizens with the knowledge and perspectives essential to creating a more beautiful, just, sustainable, and democratic society.

Films For Action was founded in 2006 by a few friends in Lawrence, Kansas, after realizing how essential healthy media is to a healthy democracy.

Over the last 15 years, we've reviewed and curated over 1,000 free documentaries and 4,000 short films, plus over 150 pay-per-view documentaries, spanning 34 topics related to changing the world.

During this time we've been able to reach tens of millions of people - not by owning a TV network or spending truckloads of cash on advertising, but because millions of awesome people keep sharing 'films for action' with their friends on social media - in particular, our 850,000 supporters on Facebook and 70,000 site members. 

One of the coolest things is, thanks to our patrons, our library is ad-free and 100% supported by member donations, while 99% of our library is free to access and always will be. The pay-per-view films on our site, of course, help support the filmmakers, and 90-100% of the revenue for PPV films hosted by us goes to the filmmakers. 

To thank our $5/mo patrons, we partner with filmmakers and distributors to provide free access to a growing number of films that are normally pay-per-view. With just 20 highly curated films at the moment, it's basically a very, very tiny Netflix for world changers, but its main function is to support the library as a whole.

If you'd like to know more, want to help out, or you're a filmmaker looking to collaborate, feel free to get in touch!

Cheers,  Tim Hjersted