You can call a horse a cow, but the milk is gonna taste funny…
Posted January 25, 2013on:
Morning Widdershin friends, here’s hoping you don’t spend one second today wondering why phonetic isn’t spelled the way it sounds.
Two weeks ago I wrote about the shadowy dark-moneyed interests infesting newly gerrymandered districts with intergalactically unrepresentative Representatives. Last week I wrote about the grand Electoral College scheme to replace voting with geographic square footage as the ultimate determiner of the Presidency, thereby institutionalizing a quadrennial de facto coup d’etat.
This week I’d like to conclude my tripartite screed with a look at the institution the Framers envisioned as the guardian against such things — the press. As sentries of freedom and guarantors of the free flow of information, if the press were a car, it would have fins and no seat belts because it’s caught in a mindset best suited for the 1950s. A bit of explanation would be helpful here.
Since the late 1980s with the meteoric rise of political talk radio and Fox News, the mainstream press has been “worked” — “worked” just like a losing team works a referee in a ballgame. The actual reason you work a referee is not the reversal of a call just made, but intimidation the next time around. The “working” of the mainstream press has been epically effective.
Because the press has been “worked,” they go overboard in trying to appear neutral — so no matter how factually sound or scientifically true a claim might be, there is always an editorial requirement to have an “opposing” view. So riddle me this Widdershiners, since we haven’t perfected inter-dimensional space travel, how does one balance crazy without distorting reality?
For instance, 98% of all climatologists and meteorological scientists agree that climate change is happening — pretty definitive. But tell me, when have you ever read an article or seen a broadcast about global warming without a prominent place being given to some cast member of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as a climate change denier?
Another example, when have you read any article about the Stimulus Act that didn’t have a reference to it being a scurrilous failure having not created any jobs, when 93% of all economists and virtually 100% of those having studied the issue say that the Stimulus Act created or saved 3 million jobs and is credited for, at least in part, averting another Great Depression?
Since the brain works in threes, another example is the number of fiscal policy articles written by economic reporters who always find some wayward neighbor of the Unibomber willing to be quoted about the stop-dead-in-your-tracks fear of inflation. The fear of inflation is the most overused boogeyman of all the conservative canards — it is hauled out during every Democratic administration and conveniently hibernates during all Republican administrations. Suffice it to say, the last time inflation was an economically crippling factor was the late 1970s, but its zombie-esque presence inevitably shuffles its way into almost every fiscal policy article.
As the comedian Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid,” but the press could certainly limit its lewd display and in so doing, limit the confusion around the efficacy and soundness of policy considerations.
Another bugaboo of the mainstream media is the use of false equivalencies. A false equivalency is something like this, “A puppy and a kitten are both cuddly pets, therefore there are no differences between a dog and a cat.” False equivalencies are to lazy reporters like Lazyboys are to slugabeds — the resort of choice.
The use of false equivalencies is the tonic from which the overarching public sentiment is spawned, “They all do it — all politicians are equally recalcitrant, petulant, and conniving.” The truth is, while all politicians do employ hyperbole and tactics, some bring multi-headed nuclear weapons to knife fights.
A perfect case in point is the use of filibusters to kill otherwise worthy legislation or appointments. We are at an all time high in the use of Senate filibusters to thwart any meaningful action on jobs, judicial appointments, and executive appointments. While Democrats have certainly used filibusters in the past, it is a false equivalency to deem the doubling of the use of the filibuster during the last two years as ordinary, but the press treats this aberration as a run-of-the-mill fact of legislative life.
Finally another practice that frosts my flakes is the practice of the press to hide behind nomenclature, thus the title of this post, “You can call a horse a cow, but the milk is gonna taste funny…”
Little did I know until I started researching this post that exalted fact checkers don’t examine anything underlying what something is called. An example is the Paul Ryan budget proposal to kill Medicare by changing it to a voucher system. No one, not a single human acting with more than a reptilian brain stem, would see a voucher system as anything but killing Medicare and its guarantee of basic healthcare for the elderly.
That is, no one except the fact checkers who repeatedly refused to call out a voucher system as killing Medicare because the Ryan budget continued to call the voucher system Medicare. Simply put, it is the equivalent of eviscerating the Energy Department as long as the government sends out AAA batteries and continues to call the mailing entity the Energy Department. By shielding such acts behind nomenclature, the press has become complicit in turning fact checking into a political cudgel to obfuscate the truth.
Promoting crazy as a policy stance, false equivalencies, and nomenclature obfuscation are as corrosive to the body
politic as using Drano as a cocktail mixer. Why is this happening — no one really postulates a theory so that means I’ll take a shot: I think it is a combination of a fear of being “worked,” a fear of losing audience share, a remnant of a decades old journalistic sophistry unsuited for an electronic age, a byproduct of corporatism of the media, a burning desire to be first as opposed to being right, and probably most of all, plain old-fashioned laziness on the part of reporters. When you are writing at a fourth grade level, it is difficult to have the wisdom to bring clarity and understanding to modern-day complexities.
As Chuck Palahniuk said in Survivor, “The only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage.” With the superficiality and the unending quest for celebrity apparent in today’s press, they are condemning the accurate, free flow of information to a slow and agonizing suicide while they brazenly proclaim their own starstruck martyrdom. The question for them is a simple one: Is one still a martyr when there is no one left to care?
This is an “all skate” open thread.
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