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Forum Post: The False Equivalence Meme

Posted 8 months ago on April 19, 2014, 10:46 a.m. EST by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT
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Let us state this unequivocally: false equivalency – the practice of giving equal media time and space to demonstrably invalid positions for the sake of supposed reportorial balance – is dishonest, pernicious and cowardly.

On the other hand, according to the grassroots American Council of Liberty Loving Ordinary White People Propped Up by the Koch Brothers, the liberal media want to contaminate your precious bodily fluids and indoctrinate your children in homosocialism.

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Thompson points out that the federal deficit has actually been falling; most Americans think it is rising; and that these two facts shouldn't be treated in a "well, there's truth on all sides" fashion:

Rather than free readers from the shackles of false equivalence, this sort of argument actually solidifies the worst kind of false equivalence. It holds up the misinformation of survey respondents—whose opinions have been shaped by both-parties-are-to-blame coverage—as equivalent to an informed analysis of Washington. As Fournier observes the shutdown is entirely a GOP production. The fact that voters disagree is not, by itself, a useful counter-argument. It's like we're feeding readers the false-equivalence narrative, watching them eat it, and then saying: "Well, Americans do seem to blame both sides equally, maybe there's something to that.".

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False equivalencies give plausibility to each side even if one side is provably wrong. Anthony was creepy for showing his private parts on twitter; David Vitter using the services of prostitutes broke the law. The media treated these two events as equivalent.

Over the years Republicans have successfully used a trick that works almost all of the times—they accuse the media of having a liberal bias. They tell their base that the media and institutions of learning favor liberals, and in doing so, "attacks" on Republicans by the media are perceived by their base as false and stemming from so-called liberalism. This trick has important consequences, as we'll learn below the fold.

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There is no equivalence in most of the political arguments today. The Republican Party has lied to the American population not on what the party's ideology is, but on what that ideology would do to the standard of living of the working middle class. Making their arguments equivalent to those of the Democrats confuses Americans just like snake oil salesmen of the past did. And Republicans were permitted by the media to get away with a level of lies and misinformation that acted to embolden them and their lies.

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  • Not “Both Sides,” Now: Why False Equivalence Matters in ...
    • entertainment.time.com/.../not-both-sides-now-why-false-e...‎ Time
    • by James Poniewozik - in 224 Google+ circles
    • Oct 7, 2013 - ... in one direction, or to obscure issues in a dust cloud of “But they started it! ... But in a case like the fiscal crisis, false equivalence matters.

Here we seem to have an example of false equivalence very cleverly embedded in the article itself. It opens with the statement: People can argue the rights and wrongs of the showdown, but pinning the crisis on a bipartisan failure of "Congress" is a media copout and then it closes by insisting: Reality doesn’t always have a bias, liberal or otherwise. But when it does, it’s not journalism’s job to rebalance reality.

The Atlantic article above mentions this very author and his position in this debate and suggests, by citing Derek Thompson, that it is the media's job to report the facts.

And with that, how can anyone disagree . . .

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“The mainstream media irresponsibly treats uncredentialed climate deniers … with the same degree of respect as climate scientists who are qualified” to judge the problem. In doing so, they ignore the fact that, led by massive investments from Charles and David Koch, “Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.”

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A false equivalence is to describe a situation as having logical and apparent equivalence when in fact there is none. For example, I believe it would be false equivalence to say Republicans and Democrats are equally to blame for the government shutdown and the possibility of a debt default. Republicans engineered the shutdown to protest a three-year-old health care law, knowing their defund-or-delay demands were unattainable. False equivalence is a form of intellectual laziness.



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