Dave (askdavetaylor) Taylor gave the Keynote address of the Executive & Entrepreneur track at the Blogworld & New Media Expo 2008 in Las Vegas. (I am here as track director for the Citizen Journalism Workshop). Mr. Taylor made the comment that from the very beginning media–such as early cave paintings–has been biased in that it reflected what the creators wanted to show and not what they did not want to show.

Interestingly I discussed this point in my book Visions of War (St. Martin’s, 1999) which looked at the history of pictures of war. I noted that cave paintings, like those at Lascaux, France were the first physical “medium” of communications outside of the human body. They date back to the appearance of us–anatomically modern humans–and flourished during the Upper Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) era about 35,000 to 12,000 years. Interestingly, when researchers have counted the scenes, flora, and fauna represented in the images on caves you see a huge “bias.” There are very few images of “gathering” or small animals or fish.

On the other hand, overrepresented are big-game animals that weigh more than 100 pounds: bison, Mammoths, deer. They are attractive animals–from carnivore’s perceptive. Many are hugely bloated. These animals do not match the surveys researchers have done of the actual faunal life in the area of the caves. “La Grotte de Cent Mammouths” is one example: there are some 158 or more pictures of Mammoths but only a few Mammoth teeth testify the big animals were very scarce in the neighborhood.

My argument was that the cave paintings were food porn and political propaganda. Rich, fatty meat from animals that were big and dangerous to hunt were the prestige “kills” of the day. They allowed hunters to gain status–by distributing meat to followers—and tell stories about his glory through the medium of the cave wall.

So, yes, media have always been biased.

Originally posted September 21, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

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