Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Emotionally an eight-year old

An enormously revealing (bordering on the delusional) response from Washington Post reporter Paul Kane. The questioner said that there was " no factual basis" for a claim that Kane and his colleagues made. This charge was part of a larger widely-circulated accusation that Kane and co. have repeatedly distorted their coverage to maintain a comfortable narrative and avoid the blowback that inevitably follows when you hold powerful people responsible for their actions.

Kane is familiar with these accusations (he's the one who brings up the subject) and it's clearly a sore point, because when he hears the question he angrily... Well, I'm not sure what the hell he does but he certainly does it angrily.


Paul, I'm guessing you won't be sympathetic to the following point, but I'll put it out there anyway. Most reporting on the supercommittee--like most reporting on the deficit--reflects an acceptance of a basic fallacy. Whenever there is an impasse, there seems to be a desire to blame both sides equally, on the theory that if only Democrats would concede more, Republicans would reciprocate (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding). Yes, Democrats have drawn lines in the sand, but as Greg Sargent and other commentators have documented, when you compare the specifics, there is no factual basis for blaming both parties equally. So my question is, why does the Post's coverage do so anyway, either explicitly or implicitly?
– November 21, 2011 11:48 AM


Yeah, you're right. I think this point is just absurd and ridiculous. This is a big thing among folks calling it "moral equivalence" (Fallows, Ornstein) and others calling it the "cult of balance" (Krugman).

It's just stupid. If you want someone to tell you that Republicans stink, read opinion pages. Read blogs. Also, the underlying sentiment on the left is that this is the real reason why things went wrong in 2010: That the mainstream media is to blame. Sorry, I think that's the sorta head-in-sand outlook that leads to longer term problems for a movement.

Greg is a fine writer. He's an opinion writer, in the opinion section of the web site. I encourage you to keep reading him. And I encourage you to keep reading the news coverage, which should always strive to present both sides of the story. If you really don't want to hear anything about the other side of the story, I really do encourage you to stop reading the news section.
You'll notice he never says "I never implied that both sides were equally to blame." or "Both sides are equally to blame." Instead he calls the complaints 'stupid' and says that if people don't like his rules they can just go home.

Kane's stunted emotional development might be amusing if not for the bigger story. I'll try to come back later and flesh the following out but here is the need-to-get-to-bed version.

Our ability to have a productive public discourse has been eaten away by this and other problems including:

a decline in standards of accuracy;

undermining of authoritative sources like the CBO;

subsidized debate by partisan foundations;

an increased use of press releases as news and a tendency of journalists to simply print what they're told;

coziness with subjects;

more and more groupthink.

As someone who likes the idea of a democracy, these things scare the hell out of me.

1 comment:

  1. It's almost comical how close the "both sides of the story" idea he endorses in his defense is to the ideas that he attacks at the beginning. Deborah Tannen wrote a book some 10 years ago called _The Argument Culture_ in which she discusses the prevalence of this adversarial approach to truth-seeking in American culture, points out its failings and detriments (for example, giving exposure and credibility to fringe views), and notes that this approach is much less common or extreme in other cultures.