When I’m sick and tired of certain media conventions, I write a post about it. If you are like my friend Jimmy Dore you write a funny comedy bit about it. Stewart, Colbert and Oliver all mock the media, but is it making the media change? Is there something we can do besides point and laugh?
Today’s sick and tired media phrase is “Both sides do it.” This phrase is designed as a preemptive answer to the right wing’s screaming about a story and to help show that ”the liberal media doesn’t have a liberal bias.” The idea has become internalized by the MSM. My friend Eric Boehlert at Media Matters has written about this sliver in the heart of the MSM for years. Atrios makes a pithy comment about it every few months.
Why “Both Sides Do It” Short Circuits Brains
The magic phrase is destructive because it breaks down math and evidence in the heads of journalists. It converts a complex equation into 50-50! For example, this magic phrase can take a $5 BILLION dollar multi-decade program and make it equal to a $5 Million five year program with the simple incantation, “Both sides do it.” Shazam! The readers can now indulge in a “pox on both their houses” thought and move onto The Amazing Spider-man 2: Chock Full O’ Villains
- $5,000,000,000 DOESN’T Equal $5,000,000 in real world math.
- However, in “Both Sides Do It” math 5,000,000,000 = 5,000,000 because 50% = 50%
How do we, the non-very serious people, who don’t get invited to “nerd prom” force a break up of this destructive short hand?
What to Do: Read, Laugh then Point and Tweet.
I want to suggest to people that when you see these “both sides do it” pieces directly tweet to the reporters asking for metrics, ratios and names. This doesn’t have to be mean or rude, just persistent. That’s it.
They might engage you and have a 140 character “discussion,” but the point is to start fixing in their mind that the BSDI shorthand comes with a price.
Let me give you an example to practice on.
Today over a Gawker, Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) wrote this piece. “Conservative Money Front Is Behind Princeton’s “White Privilege“ About Tal Fortgang
“—the privileged white Princeton freshman who wrote so passionately about how he’s not a privileged white guy—no one, not even the New York Times, noted that his post was made possible by a conservative group that bankrolls and grooms college kids for right-wing leadership.”
It was a nice piece. He did research and asked questions other journalists didn’t. Like, “Who helped get Tal Fortgang’s message out there?” He pointed out that the piece was in the “Princeton Tory, an independent campus publication that’s just one of about 80 bankrolled by the Collegiate Network and its parent group, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.”
As part of his piece he said, ”to be fair” which is usually used after someone has listed a litany of offences from one side.
“To be fair, the campus wars aren’t all one-sided: This is a game that liberals have learned to play recently, too. The Center for American Progress, through its Campus Progress and Generation Progress programs, similarly funds left-leaning independent campus publications and grooms fellow travelers for punditing and politics. “
Since he felt obligated to check the “Both Sides Do It” box, I felt obligated to write this in the comments
“Interesting piece, but could you please include a ratio of the money of one group to the other? As you know quantity, quality and type of support vary greatly between both sides.
Please provide data proving how this is ”similarly funded.” on the left.
He won’t easily be able to for two reasons: Read the rest of this entry →