The Left-Right False Equivalence Media Failure

not equal - photo by holeymoon

It’s lazy reporting to conclude that “both sides do it”. It’s a failure of analysis to conclude that both sides play the same games whether we are talking about left or right – Democrat or Republican – liberal or conservative. Are they really mirror images? Do both sides play the same tricks?

If we limit the scope of this discussion to the political parties and a corrupt political system then there might be at least some merit to this idea of equivalence. It is true that most politicians will say what they need to say to get elected and generally rig the system in favor of their next election with little regard to their constituents. I happen to think Republicans are more unabashed about it and quite frankly better at it, but I admit that could be bias talking.

I believe this idea of equivalence starts to break down when you apply it to liberal vs. conservative. Forget about politics, politicians and political parties and focus instead on the things people are for or against. Obviously liberals and conservatives have very different ideas about how things should work like role of government including health care, economy, etc. but it seems like the media likes to portray both sides as equal halves of a political pie. They like to talk about pandering to the base and extreme ideology left and right as if there are equal measures of it on both sides.

Where is the extreme left exerting its influence now?

You could make a case for a radical left-wing element in this country – Weather Underground – Students for a Democratic SocietyBlank Panther Party – that exerted its influence back in the 1960s and 70s but I don’t know what you can point to now. Is it a radical left-wing idea to want health care for all? Is it a radical left-wing idea to have compassion for the poor and those less fortunate and feel government can play a role? Is it a radical left-wing idea to want equal rights for every citizen and every member of the military? Give me an example of something radical from the left that has prominent influence over our political discourse in this country.

Where is the extreme right exerting its influence now?

The better question would be – where isn’t it? A constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage – Illegal immigration laws in some states that make it practically a crime to walk around without “papers” when your skin color is darker than some would like – Voter suppression laws enacted by Republican controlled states that effectively make it more difficult for minorities to vote.

These are just some of the extreme ideas on the right that have at least some mainstream traction. Most if not all of these extreme ideas are based on anecdotal evidence at best. Come up with a theory – that instantly turns to fact – of what is wrong with the country and conservatives start trying to find ways to limit the rights of people who don’t look like them or act like them. Of course that doesn’t sound very conservative to me. It sounds like big government interfering in people’s lives. I think it’s best to refer to these people and these ideas as extreme right-wing and not conservative. The country has been pushed so far to the right over the past few decades that more and more extreme right-wing ideas are being fully embraced by people who call themselves conservatives. Are they all extreme right-wing ideologues or are some in a pot a water set to a slow boil?

I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what the left-wing equivalents are to these extreme right-wing ideas. The scale started tipping to the right during the 70s and 80s and it’s now in full-tilt. It’s a complete and nonsensical overreaction to the social upheaval of the 1960s and 70s, which will need an entire article unto itself some day.

You could throw the anecdotal evidence charge back at me or to others on the left when we make claims about how a specific problem should be addressed but there is a key difference between the right and the left. Even if my evidence happens to be anecdotal on a given issue, my intention is to actually fix a problem using compassion and without discrimination. Liberal solutions to problems do not contain a side goal – or primary goal – to disparage people. The problem with the right is that many of the things they advocate turn out to disparage people based on things like race or sexual orientation.

I dare you to name something from the left that has the explicit intention of disparaging a group of people. And I’m not talking about political rhetoric aimed at one politician to another. I’m talking about real ideas and legislative goals that aim to disparage another group of people. The only thing I can come up with is a deeply religious conservative who believes it’s against his or her religion and against the word of god to accept gay people and in fact take it a step further and proclaim that gays are disparaging their faith just because they exist and want to have the same rights as everyone else. But this is only disparaging within the mind of that person. It is not as if the advocating of gay rights has the intention of disparaging some other group of people. You can’t control how people think. You can’t control if they are closed-minded about differences in fellow human beings. We should never cater to the lowest common denominator out of fear of offending what could only be described as bigoted and offensive sensibilities.

Just for once it would be nice if the media stopped worrying so much about Fox News and conservatives complaining about a liberal bias and instead focused on the facts. The truth doesn’t have a bias even if some interpret it as such.

photo by holeymoon via Flickr


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