History of the Movement: Reporting Bias and Perception


“The very ink with which all history is written is merely prejudice” – Mark Twain


The Occupy Wall Street Movement began September 17, 2011. That’s about the only thing everyone agrees on when it comes to the occupy movement.

My initial plan was to present a linear timeline describing the major events of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the motives behind them and their impact. However when looking at various media outlets and realizing the bias in reporting and heavy influence of social media it is impossible to present a linear history that can be accepted as an unbiased historical outlook. The Occupy Wall Street Movement has experienced a chronological transformation to which can only be defined and reported based on individual political/religious/social perspective. Gladwell details the use of social media has increased the corrupted reporting of history,  and presents these media types as “in addition” to the reporting of history reported by traditional types.

But this brings up the question, is Gladwell correct in his argument? Is Social Media Corrupting the Reporting of History?

Even Mark Twain in 1800’s recognized the presence of bias in how history is reported well before the invention of social media. To disagree with Gladwell I would argue that Social Media has not contributed to the corruption of recording history but instead, it has allowed for history to be more accurately reported because it allows for a broader perspective to be portrayed. Traditional media sources have political bias’s in reporting (Foxnews, MSNBC, ect.) so social media presents unlimited perspectives unique to the individual experience beyond the bias’s of traditional media.

The addition of social media did not create bias in reporting, it simply increased the amount of perspective in historical report of events. A society once reliant on information from limited sources are now opened to the views, opinions, and stories of anyone with a computer and internet access. While Gladwell looks at this negatively, it could be argued this ultimately creates the complete history of the event.

A study in 2000 looked at how world events were interpreted based on political ideology. The findings of this study showed that the political ideology bias was strongest among people reporting high knowledge of the event. (Fagerlin) History will always be effected by how events are perceived, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement just exemplifies how ideology and bias in reporting effects how it is perceived in history.


5 responses to “History of the Movement: Reporting Bias and Perception

  1. This is an interesting topic, and you did a good job of analyzing Gladwell’s opinion of biased social media. I like that you argue that by saying that more opinions exposes the greater truth, but I think it would be interesting to see a specific example of this happening with the OWS movement. Maybe for your next post you could show two different reports about the same event and break down what’s actual fact, and how opinion skews those facts.


  2. an easy way to find your linear history is to just follow posts on face book timeline. maybe not as direct as you may like but it’s all there.

  3. eimilealoisia

    This is a good post! However, it is important to cite Gladwell, especially where you included the “in addition” quote from him.

  4. I think your point about bias in the media is spot on. News sources are no longer just reporting the facts as they are; they are usually skewed to one side of the other to appeal to the views of their demographic. Social media does allow many different views of the same event to be told, and thus history is more fully reported. However, I do have to comment on your first point at the beginning of your post. You say, “The Occupy Wall Street Movement began September 17, 2011. That’s about the only thing everyone agrees on when it comes to the occupy movement.” In that respect, are you saying that social media can actually report too many perspectives and therefore cloud the original meaning of an event? Do you think if the information about the movement was delivered only to traditional media sources, would viewers get a clearer idea about Occupy’s goals? Or would the message be even more confusing since the movement has no official leaders?

  5. ramblerofoccasionalbrilliance

    I think you are absolutely right to say that social media “did not create bias in reporting, it simply increased the amount of perspective in historical report of events.” I think it should be said though that as human beings, we are biased. Every perspective we have is biased and shaped by our own prejudices and simply our faulty memory. Even when we see things first hand, we can’t possibly store all of that information and so our brain fills in the blanks. This can be seen in eye-witness studies where a “robber” runs into a room full of people (traditionally a class of introductory psychology students) steals something and runs out. Later the teacher will ask the class to each write down what the intruder was wearing and ask some leading question like, what color was the hat. The brain fills in the gap of information and each time we recall a memory we basically rewrite it. This is why stories get exaggerated over periods of time like how that decently sized fish you caught with your dad as a kid has overtime become something of a sea monster (faulty memory in combination with a good story) The same thing is true of events in recent times and in history. It is said that history is told by the victors, but now, even though there are still bias’s, even the losers have youtube.

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