Rejecting Equivalence

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.

Tags: Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, the village (all tags)



Cheers to Rachel

May she tear up the status quo like so much tissue paper for years to come.

I also like it when Ana Marie Cox flirts with her, but that's an entirely different issue. :P

by Dracomicron 2008-10-14 10:48AM | 0 recs
You Voyeur you!

Don't go all Rich Lowry on us and start seeing Sparkles and stuff...

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-14 10:57AM | 0 recs
Mind out of Gutter. Geez.

I just think it's funny because Rachel blushes bright pink and flubs her camera cues.

Basically the same reason I loved it when Jane Fonda made out with Stephen Colbert on-camera.  He was left speechless because his on-air persona couldn't handle the audio, visual, and tactile imput.  So to speak.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-14 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Mind out of Gutter. Geez.

I love Jane, she had Colbert absolute lose it, he was completely flabbergasted.

Hey, I love Rachael, she is probably THE most genuine news personality on the TV machine, there is no performance, no facide with her.

And yes, it's pretty easy to make her blush.

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-14 12:06PM | 0 recs
Oh yeah

Cheers for real TV moments.

Also: h@Wt l3sB1@nZ LOLersk8s!

I feel dirty.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-14 12:14PM | 0 recs
Frum is full of it..

When Rush was dominating talk radio and Faux was the LONE voice not trying to play this fake balance game, Frum and all the Cons didn't say a darn word about civility.

NOW that they have a candidate they hate who is GOING to lose (so they are willing to trash him) and NOW that there is actually voices from the left, Air America, Keith, Rachael...

SUDDENLY they decry the coarseness of the discourse.

What hyprocrites these guys are.

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-14 10:56AM | 0 recs
Well, if they want equivalence...

...then they should be all for the Fairness doctrine, right? That would put an end to the famous liberal bias.

The pathetic goatf***ing MSM this election cycle continues to confuse fairness with balance.

Go after them Rachel.

by iohs2008 2008-10-14 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Rejecting Equivalence

The recent demotion of the Olberman/Matthews team to the debate coverage backseat pushed by master-equivalenter Tom Brokaw was a strong reminder how powerful the forces pushing for equivalency truly are.  The likes of Brian Williams and Anderson Cooper are models to emulate, since they are in line with the "exact balance - all the time" advertisers want to see on political shows.  

by devilrays 2008-10-14 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Rejecting Equivalence

Maddow confronted Frum as soon as he dropped the equivalence bomb. It was beautiful to watch. Their discussion changed dramatically after Frum laid out his lame accusation. Rachel wouldn't let it go, nor should she have. We must not let them get away with giving lies the weight of truth.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-14 11:07AM | 0 recs
Good for Rachel Maddow

I think she was taken aback at first by Frum's going after her for her "tone" and "sarcasm" and creating a false equivalency with the attacks going on in and around McCain/Palin rallies but she recovered nicely and did a good job knocking him down without pulling an O'Reilly and yelling at him to "shut up -- cut off his mike!" And I'd like to see her joust with Paul Wolfowitz, but don't expect him to take up her invitation anytime soon.

by jcullen 2008-10-14 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Good for Rachel Maddow

When I heard the crap spewing out of his mouth about her show, I was thinking, Man, he is totally dissing her.  I hope she comes right back and doesn't let go.  And she didn't.  As she said, that wasn't what she wanted the interview to be about, but was right to not let the challenge to her credibility go.  She kept after him until it was obvious he wasn't going to actually answer, no matter what.  David Frum is a HACK spewing out talking points!  GO RACHEL!!!

by viperlmw 2008-10-14 02:04PM | 0 recs
If anything

Obama goes to far in praising McCain. He ought to call him a lying adulterous warmonger, not a hero. But that's just me.

by Paul Goodman 2008-10-14 11:27AM | 0 recs
Re: If anything

Yeah, and me too.

I think I would last about 2 minutes on any of these shows, before I would leap across the desk and strangle Pat Buchannan or any of those lying sacks.

That is probably why Civil and Calm Barack Obama is about to get elected president, and I am ranting on some blog....

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-14 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: If anything

How come that Pat Buchannan has such a HIGH PITCHED voice--in the local watering hole where I go we speculate that his nuts never dropped when he was about 12 years old like all the other guys or that he is a eunoch!!!  Maybe he is such a grump grouch because he resents the fact that all the other guys have deeper baritone quality voices and his is that screechy nasal sound.

by hddun2008 2008-10-14 12:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Rejecting Equivalence
I recognize this Equivalence when dealing with closet Republicans (those people who don't want you to know that they privately plan to vote for McCain but they have lost their jobs or homes under Bush and cannot openly promote the Republican party).
I have a good friend he often criticizes/complains about the mistakes that the Bushies have made- i.e. the loss of his fat good paying factory job 3 years ago, huge deficits, the Iraq War, the 911 attacks, the Recession, the bank panic, and on and on and on.
But he always masks or leads away from putting the blame on the Republicans by also including Democrats of guilt in these matters. Our friendship ended when he included the Democrats on the mess in Iraq--I told him that Bush/Cheney/Rummy were totally to blame for that crap. Notice when you talk to someone like this that they always say "well, you know that the Democrats and Republicans are to blame for such and such as mess/mistake". That is the Simpleton street level person's way of make an Equivalence. They always lead the blame with Democrats or "the Democrats in Congress are to blame too" -- what a bunch of idiots.
by hddun2008 2008-10-14 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Rejecting Equivalence

That's what you get for insulting a reporter to her face. And the Republicans wonder why the media has turned against them...

by nstrauss 2008-10-14 12:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Rejecting Equivalence
"Never a good idea to attack the dude with the microphone." Or dudette, as the case may be.
by failsafe 2008-10-14 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Rejecting Equivalence

Overall I think this post tries to draw lines where really there are shades of grey - Krugman is great at many things, but he's deeply partisan and doesn't like to acknowledge, politically, that Dems are flawed. Cokie Roberts isn't wrong to cite the notions of how enraged Democrats were in 2000 (I know I was there for it), and how "illegitimacy": was a huge deal. And I tend to thnk that notion has colored a lot of how the Bush Presidency has progressed, and how its been seen by the public.

Second, I like Maddow, but Frum also has a point. (And it's worth pointing out that Frum does not, really, fall into the easy categories of most conservatives; he's said similar things for a long, long time, and it's a reason why he's not that popular on the far right, either.) Bravo to Maddow for not backing down, but I do disagree with her: I think politics and political discussions generally would be better these days with much less sarcasm and easy posturing; Maddow's a smart, thoughtful interviewer, but she can also be a glib, easy shot commenter. One of these things, I think, is better than the other.

One of my big fears is that, empowered by a lopsided victry, Democrats decide after November that they can, indeed, claim a new power and a new certitude, ignoring dissent and dismissing any and all criticism from the right.  When Barack Obama talks about a notion that we have to all, even with differing views, work to find common ground and common solutions, he's talking about a respect for dissent and opposition that's often taken for granted and not done seriously. I'm a Democrat because I believe we take in a multiplicity of views more thoughtfully than conservatives and their dogmatic, top-down notions of dealing with issues. But we can, easily lose sight of it. And when we don't take in the kind of thing Frum's talking about - raisng the discourse, and engaging debate rather than "teasing" the other side, we're not, I think doing good enough.

by nycweboy1 2008-10-14 07:52PM | 0 recs


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