One final thought for the day. I’d argue that the most annoying, destructive, lazy, and deceptive — yet totally pervasive — rhetorical trick in American public life right now is the false equivalence reporters and politicians create between the Right and the Left. All one has to do to demonize a progressive figure or idea is couple it with an “extremist” right-wing view and dismiss both out of hand as outside accepted political discourse.
Today brought us (at least) two examples of that very phenomenon, and two refreshingly honest takedowns of the culprits. And, lest one think that this trick belongs only to those on the right, the two offenders today were a reporter for a liberal blog and someone you might call a big deal in the Democratic Party.
Yesterday, Obama gave a statement about health insurance reform in which he basically said that both single-payer advocates and full-on deregulation advocates are both incorrect in their views. Matt Yglesias responded today by writing:
[T]he positive equivalence between single-payer advocates and deregulation advocates rankles. What’s more, the issue here is government-run health insurance not total government control of health care. On top of that, would it really have killed the President to do a little public education and note that it’s not just “many other countries” that have such a system—American senior citizens have it too. Medicare for All is clearly not “practical” as a legislative matter, but a big part of the reason that it’s not practical is that high-profile political figures have spent the past 20 years letting the right evade the arguments.
And then Greenwald’s takedown of fellow Salon writer Mark Benjamin is devastating. Benjamin wrote an article titled “Bachmann and Grayson: A diary of crazy,” that argued Michelle Bachman and Alan Grayson were both crazy extremists in essentially the same ways. Greenwald responded:
There are so many things wrong this analysis. To begin with, it’s a classic case of false journalistic objectivity: the compulsion of journalists to posit equivalencies between the “two sides” regardless of whether they are actually equal (since I’m calling a GOP member of Congress “crazy,” I now have to find a Democrat to so label). Benjamin cites numerous Bachmann statements that demonstrate her penchant for bizarre claims (and there are many he omitted), but points to only one Grayson statement: his famous floor speech in which he claimed: “If you get sick in America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.” One could reasonably object to that statement as unduly inflammatory rhetoric, but Grayson was one of the only members of Congress willing to forcefully connect health care policy to the actual lives (and deaths) of American citizens. There’s nothing crazy about dramatically emphasizing that causal connection; far crazier is to ignore it.
I highly recommend reading Greenwald’s piece in full, but more important is the fact that with the advent of the blogosphere this deceptive tactic doesn’t go unmentioned as often as it would otherwise. That’s a good thing, regardless of one’s political philosophy.