Thursday, October 26, 2006

False Balance, Again

Sometimes blogging is really easy. I just go to some other blog and harvest all the hard work there. Yesterday, for example, Atrios put together two posts about false balance in the media. "False balance" is when you decide that neutral writing means finding a nasty deed on both sides of the political aisle before you can write about the nasty deeds at all. An example would be if your next door neighbor was found guilty of murdering people and you wanted to tell this to your cousin in Nebraska but wanted to make it sound neutral so you'd add that the neighbor on the other side sometimes rakes her leaves into your yard instead of picking them up. So it sorta evens out.

Translated into the political arena, false balance means something like this:

In a report on how recent campaigns advertisements are "getting ugly," ABC News, unable to point to a single instance of "nasty" attacks from Democratic candidates or their supporters, suggested it is only a matter of time before "the left" begins to "unleash its garbage as well." ABC News offered no evidence to back up its allegation that Democrats might soon resort to distasteful, negative advertising.

Or something like this:

KLEIN: You know, I just can't get over Rush Limbaugh. Boy—you know, people who live in glass pillboxes shouldn't throw spitballs, right? I mean, this is the guy—the guy least in the country who should be criticizing an ad like this, given his own history of addiction.

And I got to say that, you know, for the vice president of the United States to legitimize a guy like Rush Limbaugh is every bit as bad as all those Democrats who went out to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of the Daily Kos and the left-wing bloggers. I mean, can't we—can't we just stop this crap?

Now, anyone who has read Kos for more than once knows that comparing him to Limbaugh is ridiculous. But even if it wasn't, surely what the vice president of the United States does matters more than what some Democratic politicians do.

False balance in the media is a funny thing, though. It tends to work in only one direction: to make a Republican lapse look less significant. If the story is about, say, Hillary Clinton and her marriage the writers never feel an urgent need to poke at the marriages of wingnut politicians for the sake of some similar balance.

So what is behind this odd phenomenon? The fear of wingnuts, pretty much. They are in power and they are always ready to blame the media for being too liberal. Sadly, the solution to this may necessitate that we become as vicious as the right. We, too, may have to start nipping at the heels of the journalists, to create a different kind of balance, the balance of harassment.