President Obama takes on the ‘false equivalence’ media


ScreenshotThe example I frequently use to describe false equivalency reporting is this: If someone says the Earth is round and revolves around the Sun, the modern media is compelled to find someone who says the Earth is flat and that the Sun revolves around the Earth, in the interest of being “fair and balanced.”

One statement is demonstrably provable fact, the other statement is demonstrably provable nonsense. But the modern media treats both statements with equal weight and credibility. “We report, you decide.”

The modern media reduces everything to mere opinion. The modern media is a miserable failure at separating the “wheat from the chaff,” i,e., reporting the facts, and dismissing the nonsense.

I have posted about the media’s use of false equivalency many times. Today the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports that President Obama has had quite enough of the media villagers’ use of false equivalency reporting. Obama slams ‘false equivalence’ media:

At a fundraiser last night, President Obama unleashed a surprisingly spirited and comprehensive attack on both-sides-to-blame media coverage. While he has taken issue with Beltway coverage before, what was particularly noteworthy this time is that he made the case that “false equivalence” coverage is fundamentally misleading in the sense that it obscures the basic imbalance that currently exists between the two parties.

It’s worth quoting at length (per the White House transcript of Remarks by the President at DSCC Reception — Chicago, IL):

“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible.  And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses.  But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific.  We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.

“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.

“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side.  There are no radical proposals coming out from the left.  When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy.  When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism.  We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…

“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago.  We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system.  All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.

“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true.  What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”

I’m not sure Obama has ever gone so directly at the idea that today’s GOP has become what some of us have been calling ”post-policy“; that the basic imbalance resulting from that is the primary cause of reigning Washington dysfunction; and that on a fundamental level, press coverage is failing to reckon with these realities.

GreenLanternObamaThis will prompt the Green Lanternite pundits, who continue to trace the problem to Obama’s failure to move Congress, to argue that he is merely making excuses for failure. I would note, though, that in his remarks, he also said the only remedy for the problem is for Democrats to vote out Republicans, which is to say, it’s on Democrats to fix by winning elections. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see whether folks will reckon seriously with the question of whether Obama’s diagnosis of today’s GOP, and of the relative moderation and willingness to compromise on the part of Democrats, is, you know, true.

Don’t hold your breath. False equivalency is the modern media’s business model. It is the “FOXification” of the news, and the raison d’être of the conservative media entertainment complex.

It is an abdication of their constitutionally protected role as the “watchdogs of democracy.” The modern media are now the lapdogs for the corporatocracy.


  1. Just making one point here. The velocity if money decelerated enough to offset the monerary and fiscal stimulus. At 1.5, the velocity of money is the slowest it has been in the history of the United States.

    Supply side economics is over, the marginal taxation on our successful small businesses is over 60 percent. Look out the window and see the result – no jobs.

    • Seems like you’re ducking my question. I’ve asked it about 8 times. It is a relatively straightforward question, no?

  2. How erudite of you. A quality sneer requires intellectual altitude, something your response lacks in and of itself and as a foundation. One thing the greatest recession since the great depression proves is the intellectual bankruptcy of both Keynes and Freidman. Velocity of money has declined precisely fast enough to perfectly offset and completely defeat stimulus efforts, both monetary and fiscal, something that classical economist Ricardo predicted and exactly opposite of what Keynes and Freidman predicted. In fact Ricardian equivalance ieentifies such stimulus as a major drag on the economy becayse it is both ineeficient and a future drag.

    • But Thucky, is it dishonest, using a pseudonym, to refer to yourself in the thrid person, thereby giving the false impression that you are not the person to whom you refer?

      As for your thesis, the BlueMeanie is correct. It was supply side economics and blind deregulation (the repeal of Glass-Steagall, for example) that caused the great recession. Yes, I know you believe that Roosevelt caused the Great Depression and Obama caused the Great Depression, but we’ve already demonstrated the absurdity of those beliefs, so don’t repeat them here unless you are willing to do so under your real name, not a pseudonym.

  3. You can tell any story you want, but when your taxation, regulation and social welfare policies result in half of all adults not being in the worforce, people are going to hold you accountable and, they are going to demand a different direction.

    More than any other aspiration, people want a good job for themself and their children. Its not happening and no amount of beating up on successful businessmen and women is likely to forestall judgement day for the Democratic party.

    • Well, dumbass, it was faith based supply-side “trickle down” GOP economics that cost them their jobs, and it is the GOP’s continuing adherence to austerity economics that is hampering the economic recovery. The Tea-Publican Congress has not passed a single jobs bill since taking over in 2011, and has taken money out of the economy that would have boosted economic activity. So yes, someone should be held accountable — every goddamn Tea-Publican in office should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail, er, I mean voted out of office.

Comments are closed.