Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The False Equivalency

As a general rule I don't post directly to political statements by Facebook friends.  I do this because I don't want to debate a friend on their beliefs and I don't want to offend them. The rare occasion is because what they are posting is patently false or urban myth.  I then offer them the link to Snopes or one of the other myth debunking site.  I also figure if it is something I need to discuss, I can do it here.  I do nevertheless try to offer thoughtful ideas here. I really try to be fair.  I research my statements, and I rely on as best as I can unbiased sources.  I read on a number of sites from CNN to MSNBC to Fox and even occasionally extreme sites like the Blaze and Mother Jones.  I will not though build a false equivalency for what I write.  This brings me to my point: I have come to believe that much of the problem in Washington stems from the false equivalency of the mainstream press.  I am not talking about Right Wing Fox or Left Wing MSNBC but mainstream media like ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN which are the major provider of news on television. As such smart people only get the "balanced" reporting which is not necessarily the truth.

Take for example the current shutdown. There is not a single mainstream reporter that doesn't know that the cause of the dysfunction in Washington is the extreme right in the Republican party.  I am not saying that Democrats have never played their own left wing cards in the past. I am saying the current shutdown and governing  by crisis this time lays squarely at the feet of the Republican party.  There is not a single reporter who does not know that the clean continuing resolution is already legislation that has been arrived at by compromise.  It includes the sequestration cuts that were negotiated in the fiscal cliff deal.   It does not restore one dime.  Yet the reporters do not challenge the assertion that no compromise has been offered.

Not only that but current budget projections are only slightly higher than the Ryan Republican Budget.  It is becoming really true that the Republicans cannot take "yes" for an answer.  In fact, if the Republican Speaker would put a clean CR on the floor it would pass and the government would re-open.  Yet, one person I know posted that it's all Obama's fault for refusing to negotiate, and he is the only president to refuse to do compromise during any government shutdown.  That's because the press has failed to report that the Republican house has been invited 18 times to negotiate with the Senate on the budget which if they had done, we would not have had to have a CR.

The evening news soundbites failed to include that at the meeting that Obama had with leaders of the House and Senate that, according to one of the leaders, Speaker Boehner was offered the ability to discuss anything about the budget if he would pass a clean CR that has passed the Senate.  No the soundbite was about the rift not the offers.  They have failed to report that many of the Tea Party Republicans have been pressing to shutdown the government for at least two years.  In fact,several went out in celebration on the night they succeeded in closing it down. How many mainstream organizations reported this statement: We’re very excited,” said Republican and Representative Michele Bachmann “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.” One Republican, conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.,went on record saying "“We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” The Republicans have shutdown the government and put 800 thousand people on furlough because they were disrespected? Why doesn't the mainstream report this? The answer is simple and two-fold: Equivalency and Ratings.

Gone are the respected reporters like Cronkite and Murrow who called a spade by spade.  Murrow didn't worry about whether a politician would call him a name like Liberal Commentator or refuse to come back for an interview.  No he knew that his job was to report the truth and that a politician will always seek press. Even bad press is better than no press.  So he had no problem facing down the likes of McCarthy and his grab for power by using his search for the Red Stain.  Murrow new full well that McCarthy would call him far worse things than Liberal and could try to get him in his hot seat.  Murrow was a reporter.  It was his job. He took McCarthy to task.

No, those reporters are gone.  The new mainstream worry about equivalency.  Networks have become fearful that they will appear unfair to one side or the other.  In their quest to make sure this doesn't happen, they seldom call any politician out on any lie they tell and given the number of audio and video tapes they have it would be quite simple to call them out .  Politicians now use the media not to report the news but to fundraise and stir the base because mainstream is worried about equivalency of reporting.  It is a false equivalency, and this "fair reporting balance" ends up hiding the truth.

The other is ratings.  As news organizations became controlled not as separate reporting entities but by the entertainment division of huge corporations, ratings not the news became more important. Their department isn't controlled by a trained journalist who understands what it takes to tell the news, but by some guy who also had to worry about Dancing with the Stars.  They became entertainment.  Scandal and conflict make good entertainment. It makes for good ratings.  News organizations now worry about rating sweeps and not getting to the truth.  It helps justify the false equivalency.

I don't blame my friend for his uninformed statement about the refusal to negotiate.  I blame the media for its failure to inform.  I know that he doesn't have the time I do to verify and check what he is being told.  Still I would say get off  Fox or the Blaze alone and look at places that still do report.  Surprisingly even mainstream newspapers report serious news.  It seems they don't have worry about the ratings, and they have the funnies.