Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kevin Drum on a pox on both houses style journalism

This is Joseph.

Mark Evanier points us to this quote from Kevin Drum:
So what is Donald Trump going to do about that? Unfortunately, the answer is pretty obvious: he's going to propose a replacement plan that does hardly anything for anyone and then he's going to lie about it—loudly and relentlessly. Congressional Republicans will all join in, and the press will then report that the effect of the replacement plan is "controversial." Because, really, who can say what it does? All those numbers are pretty confusing, after all.
This really is the underlying hack for journalism that seeks to be centrist by always saying both sides are incorrect.  If one side lies (it could be either) then reporting becomes "we can't figure out if this is a lie or not because it would be partisan to make a decision".  The next step is a pretty dark place for investigative journalism, where nobody tells the truth because that concedes an advantage to liars. 

For the "a pox on both their houses" style centrism to work, other journalists have to be willing to call out lies.  If we make centrism high status, then it becomes a bit parasitical, by allowing those who practice it a chance to free ride off of the truth telling of colleagues. 

When these colleagues figure this out, then it isn't pretty because everyone becomes a centrist. 


  1. Joseph:

    This is interesting but the next step is to try to understand why, if this is the natural absorbing state of the process, why has it taken so long for it to happen? I'm assuming you think that the takeover of "pox on both their houses" journalism is relatively recent?

  2. Good question, Andrew. My suspicion was that it was counter-balanced by a norm of fact checking. But that may well be an overly romantic view of 18th century journalism, for example.