Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Media False Equivalence Fails During Shutdown

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The American people think they're a bunch of kids playing in a sand box and neither side is covering itself in glory. I must say this whole business of "I won't negotiate with a gun to your head" is - actually, I'd rather negotiate with a gun to my head than to have somebody shoot me, and I think that's where they could end up if they don't sit down and talk. So both sides really do need it.
~ Cokie Roberts on ABC This Week, via Sam Seder on YouTube

Let's parse what Cokie Roberts said . . . who is the "they" in that analogy? Who is the "they?" It's the Republican Party. She has conceded they are holding a weapon to the head. And who is the person who has the gun to their head? It's not President Obama in this scenario. It's not the Democrats. The Democrats don't lose particularly if the Republicans refuse to stop the government shutdown. They don't lose particularly if the debt ceiling is not raised. It's the American people who lose! They are the ones with a gun to their head! Not the Democrats, not the President.
Under her analogy, the people with the gun to their heads is the American public. And they're not in a position to negotiate with the Republicans. If this is just about winning for Cokie Roberts, then the Democrats and the White House have absolutely no incentive to do this. Because if the Republicans "shoot" the American people in the head, I imagine to the extent that there are benefits, it's going to acrue to the Democrats. Because Americans don't like to be shot in the head. It hurts when you get shot in the head.
. . . We should all remember Green Eggs and Ham (read by Ted Cruz during his filibuster). Maybe if you get shot in the head, you'll like it!
~ Sam Seder, Majority Report

Legendary journalist Carl Bernstein on MSNBC's Morning Joe
This is about the Republican Party and what it's going to be. Is it going to conduct a fact-based, philosophical argument in our political system or is it going to be a nihilistic, hateful, asymmetrical in terms of facts and the truth part of the party, as in Joe McCarthy.
This is about media as well. These poll numbers are about a totally different media culture than we've had in the past.
. . . we need to start covering this story not 50/50 — this much on this side, that on the other — we need to cover it factually. Because there are facts here that will show what this event is about. And where, in fact, is this anger, hatred of Obama coming from? What is the root of this?
. . . It's about truth. It's about fact. It's about a wing in [the GOP] that has no interest in truth or governing or fact and it's bringing the country down. It might not bring the party down. Like McCarthy, it might work. That's the terrible thing.

From Eric Boehlert on Media Matters
CNN often rallied around the GOP talking point that Obama ought to "negotiate" with Republicans because give-and-take is what politics (and compromise) is all about. "Why won't the president come to the negotiating table?" Candy Crowley wondered, while CNN's Carol Costello asked "Why doesn't the president pick up the phone and call John Boehner?"
On the surface that sounds like a reasonable question, and no doubt it represented the centrist position CNN felt comfortable championing, as it hyped its watchdog role of holding both parties accountable. But the query only worked if CNN anchors and reporters completely disregarded the facts of the unfolding shutdown and flushed all the context down the memory hole.
. . . Viewed in full context, the Republican demand was utterly extremist and without precedent in modern Congressional history. Too often though, CNN ignored that defining fact. Instead, CNN offered up a more simplistic, blame-both-sides version where Obama starred as an obstinate protagonist who arrogantly refused to deal with his Republican counterparts.

. . . journalists have been suckered into embracing "balance" and "neutrality" at all costs, and the consequences of their choice in an era of political extremism will only get worse and worse.
. . . Blaming everyone — Congress, both sides, Washington — is simply the path of least resistance for today's political reporters. It's a way of avoiding conflict rather than taking the risk that the public — or their editors — will accuse them of being unprofessionally partisan.
. . . So, no, the shutdown is not generalized dysfunction or gridlock or stalemate. It is aberrational behavior by a political party that is willing to take extreme and potentially damaging action to get its way. And by not calling it what it is, the political press is enabling it.
~ Dan Froomkin on Al-Jazeera

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a "standoff," a "showdown," a "failure of leadership," a sign of "partisan gridlock," or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on....
. . . This isn't "gridlock." It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us -- and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.
~ James Fallows, The Atlantic

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