Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Off Balance

Paul Krugman knocks the wind out of the “both sides do it” meme.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.


You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

There is a big difference between being objective, which is an admirable goal in journalism, and being unable to distinguish between lucidity and lunacy. It’s like seeing headlines, “Does Sun Cause Daylight? Experts Disagree.”

It is perfectly acceptable to point out that there are extremists in the United States Congress without calling your objectivity into question. Hell, some of those whack jobs like Louie Gohmert of Texas and Steven King of Iowa are counting on being called on to go on TV and expound their crackpot theories. To them, it’s their meal ticket.

The world will not come to an end and Edward R. Murrow would not rise out of his grave in horror if some newsperson were to call out a politician of either party on their lies and misstatements. In fact, that’s their job. So why don’t they do it?