I wanted to revisit that awful Liz Spayd column that led me to cancel my New York Times subscription. We all make fun of “both sides do it”, but most BSDI types believe that both sides are in fact doing it, and that’s why they should keep saying “both sides do it” over and over again. That’s quite different from believing that you should say “both sides do it” over and over again on general principle. Liz Spayd is saying that both candidates should be criticized equally regardless of what the facts are. For example, she writes:
CNN’s Brian Stelter focused his show, “Reliable Sources,” on this subject last weekend. He asked a guest, Jacob Weisberg of Slate magazine, to frame the idea of false balance. Weisberg used an analogy, saying journalists are accustomed to covering candidates who may be apples and oranges, but at least are still both fruits. In Trump, he said, we have not fruit but rancid meat. That sounds like a partisan’s explanation passed off as a factual judgment.
In the absence of any facts (she mentions hardly any in the piece), how can she say that it’s a partisan’s explanation rather than a factual judgment? There is factual reason to believe that Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin. If Mitt Romney is an apple and Obama is an orange, then, yes, rancid meat is the right comparison for a puppet of Vladimir Putin.
And let’s take a step back here and notice that Jacob Weisberg, one of the most mealy-mouthed, centrist, establishment pseudojournalists out there has now become an angry unserious uncivil hippie in the eyes of the New York Times? How the fuck did this happen?
There was a lot of discussion about the difference between derp and denial a while ago (see this, for example). The idea here is that derp is “yes, the earth may be getting warmer we can’t be sure of the causes, and we shouldn’t slow down our economy, and what about that fourteen year pause derp derp”. It’s Bjorn Lomborg, Breakthrough Institute, David Brooks type stuff. Denial is “global warming isn’t happening”. It’s Jim Inhofe stuff.
Spayd’s piece is denial, it doesn’t rise to the level of derp. She argues that false balance is not a problem and by definition cannot be a problem. Just “shine light in all directions”, that’s what journalists do! It doesn’t rise to the level of “yes, perhaps Trump’s issues are unusually bad and Hillary’s mostly minor but in the interests of letting our readers know as much as possible derp derp derp”.
It’s the rhetorical equivalent of bringing a snowball to the Senate floor to prove climate change is a hoax.
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