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:
- The RW will lie about how much money they really spend. If they aren’t lying about the money spent, they are hiding it.
- What they tell you that they spend is not verifiable because they don’t have to tell anyone anything. This also applies to the left. (OMG, both sides do it! But don’t stop thinking folks!)
Finally, notice how he uses the “grooming fellow travelers.” Nice commie language, you really stuck it to us! I wouldn’t mind the red baiting as much if he could prove the kind of “grooming” and funding both sides provide. The opportunities open to both sides are vastly different in quality and quantity, and that’s important to note.
And how do these reporters find out this kind of info? Will some right wing organization provide it? Nope. That is why you should also remind these journalists about Source Watch from my friends at the Center for Media and Democracy.
I care very much about the brains of my fellow citizens, and the fact that the world’s highest paid intern, Luke Russert loves the “Both Sides Do It” concept tells you a lot about how bad it is for our brains.
So as I thought might happen Adam Weinstein responded. Here are his responses: A few things first. Getting criticism from people who you believe are on your side or you believe should be on your side is really fucking annoying. I get that. Especially if you did a great job on something and you feel they are pissing and moaning about one small part. You want to say, ‘Hey screw you! Didn’t you see all the great stuff that I did for our side that NOBODY ELSE DID!?”
And it might feel like they are ungrateful for your hard work. For the record Adam you wrote a great piece. Now here is the first response from Adam:
@spockosbrain Wow, dude. Way to pull some insults out of that piece where there were none. Most CAP peeps I know were quite content with it.
@spockosbrain Also, I never made a dollars comparison. I noted that CAP also does what ISI does on campuses. *That’s why CAP was created.*
@spockosbrain Also, don’t complain about “fellow travelers” — which, believe me, is pretty F-in’ far from an insult coming from me — (1/2)
@spockosbrain — and then lump me in with some nugget “nerdprom” invitees. Sheesh. Way to make friends.
From me to him @AdamWeinstein Thank you for your twitter response. You proved my point. I will be pasting them into my article.
@spockosbrain Congrats on your big coup. Speaking of privilege, sorry I didn’t write the exact story you wanted in just the way you wanted.
I feel kind of bad about how this played out, but now imagine this going on in the head of journalists all the time? Who needs that noise? But like a lot of us we ignore the praise and look at the critism. And if you think there might be a glimmer of a part of a bit of your own agreement with it, then it is harder to take.
Glenn Greenwald found out how touchy the broadcast media people are early on. Then expected him to play by the rules they live under. But he didn’t. I actually did go into the comments section at gawker and commented with the same info. But it just blurred with the 280 others.
People see their names on twitter and notice. Corps do too. This is a public tool that we can use until it stops being effective.
But as I say in the comments, it isn’t the only tool,just today’s.
I have some more thoughts on this but it’s late.