by Todd Beeton, Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 10:41:02 AM EDT
We've seen it for years, the false equivalence struck by the media Villagers when discussing something negative done by Republicans or even a criticism of Republicans, it always has to have a corrollary on the left, otherwise they risk being called out as "liberal media" or showing "bias." It's an absurd notion, one that inherently implies that there actually is no objective truth, but rather that there are always two valid sides to everything. "Republican strategists say the sky is green..."
This year we've seen it reach new heights, as media figures and right-wing pundits confronted with criticisms of the McCain campaign, have tried, comically, to insist that "both sides are doing it," whatever "it" is. For instance, at the height of Sarah Palin's media blackout, it was a pathetic sight to see Lou Dobbs bully Candy Crowley into saying that both campaigns are equally inaccessible. Right. And then just this past Sunday on This Week, classic Villager Cokie Roberts, in response to an undeniable charge about the right-wing's batshit crazy reaction to the Clintons in the 90s, insisted that both sides are the same in their disdain for the president of the other party:
Krugman: This is not just about McCain and what he did. The fact of the matter is, for a long time we have had a substantial fraction of the Republican base that just does not regard the idea of Democrats governing as legitimate. Remember the Clinton years. It was craziness, right? They were murderers, they were drug smugglers, and the imminent prospect of what looks like a big Democratic victory would drive a lot of these people crazy even if Sarah Palin wasn't saying these inflammatory things. It's going to be very ugly after the election.
Roberts: On both sides that's true. I think that you've also had a huge number of Democrats who think that the Republicans are illegitimate, and that was particularly true after the 2000 election, and to some degree after 2004. And so you really do have at the core of each party people who are not ready to accept the verdict of the election.
Krugman: I reject the equivalence.
Krugman could have been more forceful with his pushback, of course, although the format and the quick hit forward movement of the This Week panel actually makes it difficult, but even that little coda Krugman added to Roberts's absurd statement was really important. These people NEVER get challenged in their little protective bubbles and it was nice to see Krugman take Cokie on, even though she completely ignored it, as the Villagers do. You see, the inanity of many of these professional pundits requires that there's no follow up or challenge -- they can just say stupid shit and it hangs out there, even becoming conventional wisdom. It's a lot more difficult for them to do that with the ascendancy of the blogosphere and the progressive media infrastructure, of which Paul Krugman is an essential component.
As is Rachel Maddow who had a "rejecting equivalence" moment of her own on her show yesterday when David Frum accused her of essentially poisoning the political discourse to the same degree that the pitchfork mobs at the McCain and Palin rallies have. Umm, really? Watch Rachel put Frum in his place and watch how clearly unaccustomed Frum is to getting challenged by anyone in the media:
MADDOW:...We decry them on all sides, people left right and center complain about the tone in politics but I sense also that there's a devotion to coming up with a false equivalence, that bringing up John McCain's experience in the Keating 5 for example is somehow equivalent to calling Barack Obama somebody who "pals around with terrorists," you saying that my tone on this show, sarcasm, being playful, the way I approach issues, is somehow equivalent to the McCain campaign saying they don't want to talk about the economy. I don't see those things as equivalent. [...]
FRUM: You guys have a symbiotic relationship of negativity.
MADDOW: I just don't think that what we do on this show is at all equivalent to people yelling "Kill him" from the audience of political rallies but I appreciate that rhetorically you're trying to make the point of equivalence, I just couldn't disagree with you more strongly...
There's something admirable about the fact that Frum would even go on the show and something fairly audacious about a former Bush speech writer calling for a more adult intelligent discourse (cognitive dissonance, anyone?) But this exchange couldn't point out more starkly just how important the evolution of the media landscape over the past few years has been. Progressive voices, once relegated to a lone chair on a panel drowned out by media enabled conservative voices, are no longer shouting from the wilderness.