Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Deep Thoughts for the Day

This is Orcinus on today's media:

One of the more annoying tendencies of the mainstream press in recent years is the way it tries to "balance" news by posing a kind of equivalency between the right and the left. You know the thought process: "Sure, the right may be a bunch of lying power-mongers, but the left is just as bad."

Of course, the right and left are qualitatively quite different in many respects, and each is problematic in its own way, but for entirely different and unrelated reasons. The thinking that adopts this sort of equivalency is not just lazy, it badly distorts the truth -- which is what journalists are supposed to be aiming for in the first place.

One of the ways this shows up is in news reports that present an equivalency between reasonable and fact-based remarks (e.g., Richard Clarke's critique of the Bush administration's war on terror) and outrageous smears (Republican operatives' counter that Clarke was only interested in promoting his book) and falsehoods.

I so agree. Just today I heard a good example on this on PBS radio. This approach equates telling lies about someone with the telling of the truth about someone else. As an example, just consider the debate about John Kerry's military service versus. The journalists present the two sides as if each had an equally valid point. Taken to its logical extreme this would mean that if I started a flat-earth party I'd be allowed to foam away with just an occasional "She has not been able to prove that the round-earth people are lying" inserted in the commentary.

If the journalists don't have the responsibility to dig out the truth, who has? Nobody? The viewer, listener or reader at home certainly doesn't have the time and resources to judge every argument for its accuracy.