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False equivalence: how 'balance' makes the media dangerously dumb


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#1 PhillyB

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 04:42 PM

Here's a thought-provoking article that challenges our sanitized notions of the golden mean and it being everyone's fault equally (a narrative which sits well with a national dialogue starving for common ground of some sort, especially between moderates, but isn't necessarily accurate.)

 

I am constantly astounded, looking at social media, at the ability of two otherwise bright, critically-thinking people to look at the same issue and come away with completely different understandings of it. I see arguments re: the shutdown that eviscerate the Tea Party radicals for having divided mainstream Republicans and then I see political cartoons like the following with the original poster in utter, slack-jawed disbelief that anyone could possibly see it any other way:

 

1395165_10202336315075162_547941230_n.jp

 

 

And here we stand in the din of a national dialogue yelling contest, with one side trying to out-shout the other and win followers in the arena of political discourse and ideological ideas. Is it all about volume, then? To hear the golden-mean-pushers that say everyone is to blame, you'd think there's no reasonable standard to which we can hold these scenarios in order to determine who's at fault. I think that's false. I think there is an answer, and I think in order to arrive at it we must first cleanse ourselves of the popular narrative that "both sides" are "dragging down America" as though their political agendas are secondary and crafted for a divided public while they sit in shrouded chambers and clink tumblers full of whiskey and chuckle at the mayhem they've caused. We must realize that politicians are a reflection of the divided constituencies which they represent, and they are a microcosm of the endless political dialogue between everyday Americans. Until we recognize this, until we break this false conception of an abstract, "them versus us" congress, any kind of attempt to arrive at a definitive answer will be fruitless.

 

Anyway I'm going off on tangents. Here's the first part of the article:

 

Let us state this unequivocally: false equivalency – the practice of giving equal media time and space to demonstrably invalid positions for the sake of supposed reportorial balance – is dishonest, pernicious and cowardly. On the other hand, according to the grassroots American Council of Liberty Loving Ordinary White People Propped Up by the Koch Brothers, the liberal media want to contaminate your precious bodily fluids and indoctrinate your children in homosocialism.

 

Haha, kidding. Of course, there's no such group. But false equivalency in the news has been very much, in fact, in the news lately – thanks to reporting on the US government shutdown that characterizes the impasse as the consequence of two stubborn political parties unwilling to compromise on healthcare. For instance, this was the final paragraph of a Washington Post editorial:

 

"Ultimately, the grown-ups in the room will have to do their jobs, which in a democracy with divided government means compromising for the common good. That means Mr Boehner, his counterpart in the Senate, Harry M Reid (D-Nev), minority leaders Sen Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and the president. Both sides are inordinately concerned with making sure that, if catastrophe comes, the other side takes the political hit. In truth, none of their reputations stands to benefit."

 

Mutually obdurate pols – it's a fetching narrative, since Republicans andDemocrats are undisputedly more polarized than they've been in a century, yielding endless posturing and partisan gridlock. Except, the narrative is wrong. The shutdown is not the result of the divide between Republicans and Democrats on Obamacare: that issue has been legislated, ratified by two presidential elections, affirmed by the US supreme court and more than 40 times unrepealed by Congress.

 

No, the shutdown is the result of the divide between mainstream, center-right Republicans and Tea Party extremists. The latter are wrapped in suicide belts and perfectly willing to blow the GOP and the economy to kingdom come if they can: a) kill Obamacare (as if); or B) guarantee campaign windfalls from likeminded anti-government crackpots.

 

This is not gridlock. It is a hostage situation.

 

 

 

 

This is an issue I've given an immense amount of time to; I spend hours a day researching, writing about, or otherwise pondering these sorts of dilemmas. The epistemological questions behind information mediums and how ideology is formed in human beings are fascinating to me and something I could spend a lifetime trying to understand (and I suspect I will.) In any event, I found this article challenging and thought-provoking.

 

Thoughts?



#2 cookinwithgas

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 04:59 PM

Tea Partiers say u r using big werds is for librhul college socialists

#3 PhillyB

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 05:11 PM

do you have anything to say about the article?



#4 cookinwithgas

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 05:17 PM

I agree with it.

#5 BBQ&Beer

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 05:30 PM

I'd have to agree, it gives people a sense of "I had a point, otherwise they wouldn't have mentioned it. I just didn't present it like I should've." 



#6 NanuqoftheNorth

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 06:10 PM

This country was founded on a free press to preserve our democratic principles.

 

Those principles have never been in greater danger if the state of our current "free press" is any indication.  

 

Thanks to deregulation of mass media in the 1980s, today over 90% of our "News" now comes from 6 pan-national mega corporations.

 

These mega corporations are driven by political and financial considerations not by any sense of duty to provide truthful information to the general public.

 

http://www.slideshar...ership-15621788



#7 Mr. Scot

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 06:20 PM

You're essentially arguing that we'd be better off if instead of letting both sides present their case to the public, we just give the media the power to judge who's right and then let them tell all of us what to think.

Nah. That doesn't sound elitist at all :rolleyes:

Heck, I'm sure that sounds great...as long as the media agrees with what you think.

#8 NanuqoftheNorth

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 06:29 PM

"People shouldn't expect the mass media to do investigative stories. That job belongs to the 'fringe' media"

Ted Koppel

 

A few decades ago, there were thousands of independent media outlets in the US. Today in America, six multi-national global media mega corporations run by six individuals control 96% of the content Americans see on TV and watch at the movies; read in books, magazines and newspapers, and hear on the radio.

 

http://earthblognews...nda-techniques/

 



#9 PhillyB

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 06:33 PM

You're essentially arguing that we'd be better off if instead of letting both sides present their case to the public, we just give the media the power to judge who's right and then let them tell all of us what to think.

Nah. That doesn't sound elitist at all :rolleyes:

Heck, I'm sure that sounds great...as long as the media agrees with what you think.

 

this is what i meant by epistemic problems. does the media agree with you because you're right, or because it's tailored to what you believe?

 

you're right that there is a danger in allowing an entity to decide what is or is not newsworthy (though it happens all the time) because multivocality is important and viewpoints should not be marginalized for the simple crime of opposing whatever power happens to be in charge of the media. that said, should we then conclude that there is no objective standard by which we can determine if something is newsworthy? should we give equal time to lunatics who insist obama is a closet muslim bowing to mecca every day just because they happen to be a substantial number of people? to what extent does the media have a responsibility to give airtime to legitimate, fact-based stories and throw out the ones with no backing in spite of the number of people who may subscribe to that particular viewpoint?

 

that answer isn't as simple as it appears.



#10 NanuqoftheNorth

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 06:43 PM

Why Fox News has the Right to Lie to Us

 

http://youtu.be/jDKLFn0pty4



#11 Mr. Scot

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 06:43 PM

this is what i meant by epistemic problems. does the media agree with you because you're right, or because it's tailored to what you believe?

you're right that there is a danger in allowing an entity to decide what is or is not newsworthy (though it happens all the time) because multivocality is important and viewpoints should not be marginalized for the simple crime of opposing whatever power happens to be in charge of the media. that said, should we then conclude that there is no objective standard by which we can determine if something is newsworthy? should we give equal time to lunatics who insist obama is a closet muslim bowing to mecca every day just because they happen to be a substantial number of people? to what extent does the media have a responsibility to give airtime to legitimate, fact-based stories and throw out the ones with no backing in spite of the number of people who may subscribe to that particular viewpoint?

that answer isn't as simple as it appears.


See, this is why I like having media entities of different philosophies.

Less chance of a collaborative message.

#12 PhillyB

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 07:36 PM

See, this is why I like having media entities of different philosophies.

Less chance of a collaborative message.

 

that gets dangerous too, though. i remember last year leading up to the election when bing came out with this commercial where this conservative dude looks at the camera and goes "you know what i like? conservative news!" and then this chick pops up and goes "i'm pretty liberal and i sure like my liberal news" and then this bing rep jumps on and goes "well now bing gives you the exact type of news you want!!!!! subscribe today!!!!"

 

that's so fuging moronic it boggles my mind, but i guess it's nothing new, as loud ideologues have been telling their hordes of followers exactly what they want to hear for years (and generating massive revenue for themselves as a result.)



#13 Mr. Scot

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 08:54 PM

that gets dangerous too, though. i remember last year leading up to the election when bing came out with this commercial where this conservative dude looks at the camera and goes "you know what i like? conservative news!" and then this chick pops up and goes "i'm pretty liberal and i sure like my liberal news" and then this bing rep jumps on and goes "well now bing gives you the exact type of news you want!!!!! subscribe today!!!!"

that's so fuging moronic it boggles my mind, but i guess it's nothing new, as loud ideologues have been telling their hordes of followers exactly what they want to hear for years (and generating massive revenue for themselves as a result.)


People are naturally going to gravitate to other people who agree with their points of view, regardless of which ideology or belief system they follow. And honestly, I don't see that as a problem.

The fact that intelligent people can look at things and come away with completely different viewpoints and ideas doesn't bother me at all. Don't quite get why it bothers you.

People are different. To me, that's a good thing.

#14 CarolinaCoolin

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 09:00 PM

People are naturally going to gravitate to other people who agree with their points of view, regardless of which ideology or belief system they follow. And honestly, I don't see that as a problem.

The fact that intelligent people can look at things and come away with completely different viewpoints and ideas doesn't bother me at all. Don't quite get why it bothers you.

People are different. To me, that's a good thing.

I agree. Different perspectives allow for advancement.

#15 NanuqoftheNorth

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 09:17 PM

Yes, six mega corporations controlling over 90 percent of the media Americans come in contact with on a daily basis is a diverse spectrum of views.  :thumbsu:  :rolleyes:




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