The Both Sides Meme and the 2012 Election

Froomkin’s new article about false equivalences in the press is outstanding. The centerpiece:

“If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they’ve got to know what’s going on,” Ornstein said. “And if the story that you’re telling repeatedly is that they’re all to blame — they’re all equally to blame — then you’re really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do.”

Ornstein said the media’s failure led him to conclude: “If you want to use a strategy of ‘I’m just going to lie all the time’, when you have the false equivalence meme adopted by a mainstream press and the other side lies a quarter of the time, you get away with it.”

Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann also noted the awkward rise of the fact-checkers and how it caused more problems than it solved. In fact, I tweeted about this very thing during the debates: why aren’t the so-called reporters and journalists fact-checking the campaign within their reporting, rather than segregating off as its own feature?

Furthermore, Mann observed:

“We had these little flurries of fact-checking — which I found not worthless, but not a substitute for coherent, serious reporting — and most of the time it just got stuck in the back of a news organization’s output and there was no cost to a candidate of ignoring it,” Mann said.

And then there was this terrible irony: “Fact checkers almost seemed obliged to show some balance in their fact checking.”

Politifact and FactCheck were both guilty of this. On several occasions their fact-checks of the debates, for example, contained a similar number of falsehoods for each candidate, even though Romney’s were considerably more egregious, and while the president had some falsehoods, his tally was fluffed up with minor numerical gaffes and honest mistakes.

The press corp simply needs to grow some balls, ignore the right-wing screechers, and report the facts, irrespective of whether it sounds lopsided. If the facts are lopsided in one direction, then so be it. By the way, the same goes for MSNBC and the reporting sounds lopsided towards the president, so be it — again. As I’ve repeated too many times already: if reality has a liberal or pro-Obama slant, then that’s not a bias, it’s reality.

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  • bphoon

    Co-sign, emphatically. I get sick to death of news actors not only giving me their “perspective” but then either implying or flat out telling me how I should feel about it. Ann Curry used to “emote” the news. Faux News…well we’re pretty familiar with what they do. CNN incessantly promotes itself and spends most of its energy trying to wow us with it’s super technological doo-dads. Each and every news actor out there seeks to be some sort of “personality” or celebrity, doing guest appearances on sitcoms and yukking it up with Jay Leno.

    Gone are the days when Walter Cronkite, Huntley-Brinkley or Frank Reynolds…hell, even Tim Russert…simply gave us the facts and left it up to us to make our own value judgements.

    News Actors: Just give me the facts regardless of what they are or who they might favor. I can rub a couple of brain cells together and figure out what I think about them.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    This is something I pointed out on the issue of “pro-Obama bias” at MSNBC; simply debunking an egregious Republican lie about the POTUS could constitute pro-Obama bias.

    This point, of course, is particularly salient, paraphrasing a bit for emphasis:

    If you want to … lie all the time, and the other side [only] lies a quarter of the time, you get away with it [because the media has to pretend that both sides lie equally often].

    It didn’t take long for Breitbart or some other right-wing blog, to prove to itself and its half-witted audience that the media was in the tank for Obama during the election season, by determining that the media mentioned, pointed out and called out a lot more Romney/Republican lies than Obama/Democratic lies. Of course it wouldn’t occur to the pea-brained knuckle-draggers on that site that the reason for that could be that Romney and the Republicans did, in fact, lie a lot more and a lot more often than Obama and the Democrats. Since that cannot be true, since there must self-evidently be the exact same amount of lying by both sides/parties/candidates, saying that one side lied more than the other can only be the product of irrational bias.

    Republicans know that; they know that their own fans are incapable of believing that Republican politicians are capable of anything bad, and they also know that non-GOP fans who are not Dem fans are likely to fall into the “they all suck, they all lie, they’re all crooked, they’re all corrupt, they’re all just as bad, they’re all the same” camp. The empirical reality that the Romney campaign, and Republican campaigns overall, lied a lot more, a lot more often, and a lot more egregiously than their Democratic counterparts, never sees the light of day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Bockenthien/1476190129 Peter Bockenthien

    “media’s failure” is equivalent to “liberal media bias”. The media doesn’t fail at all, it’s calculated to increase profits, pure and simple. So all other arguments go out the window.

    I guess it’s okay to get your “news” from a wide variety of sources but with just 6 media companies controlling everything read, seen, and heard, my only source is Democracy Now!, which is what the media used to engage it.

    So we have Democracy Now! and Capitalism Now! media sources.
    Who you going to read and trust?

  • missliberties

    Our Democracy is at stake.

    The press has failed miserably. The most glaring example was the debt ceiling debate. People still do not understand what the debt ceiling is.

    If journos were serious about their job……. sigh…… this country would be a lot better off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1730451827 Jane Phillips

    I, too, have been astounded how reporters (anachronistically and constitutionally known as ‘the press’) have ceded their field to fact checkers when they should bear that responsibility themselves. Own and wear “lame stream media” proudly if it means reporting facts. I live exactly 1 mile from the arguably finest journalism school in the US (University of Missouri-Columbia a.k.a. MU) and have called them ‘Mediocrity r Us’ for some time now.

  • Scopedog

    “The press corp simply needs to grow some balls….”

    That might be one Herculean task. They’ve had thirty years to do so (since the election of Reagan), and so far, all that’s there are just….well, little itty-bitty ones, I guess.

  • D_C_Wilson

    I’ll never understand how “equal number of lies” proves that they’re not biased. If candidate A lied five times and candidate B lied six times, stretching reality to manufacture a “sixth lie” from candidate A doesn’t mean you’re unbiased.

    It just means you’re chicken shit over being accused of having a bias.

  • Madfoot713

    Unless reality has a conservative slant. But, that’s obviously not something you’re willing to consider.