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Three Perfect Examples of Both-Siderism You Might’ve Missed

Let’s take a trip down memory lane, all the way back to three weeks ago.

I know, it seems like at least half a year, but the invasion of the Capitol on January 6 has still not been fully absorbed. So let me direct your attention to a 60 Minutes segment from the Sunday immediately following that very dark Wednesday.

Leslie Stahl did a thirteen-minute interview with Nancy Pelosi about the events of that day. Roughly twelve minutes was spent on a tour of the ransacked House chamber, with Pelosi recreating the scene — her office invaded, her computer stolen, her staff under the table for two hours in the dark. And that idiot with his feet on her desk. This is common knowledge now, but it was still a blur that Sunday.

The razor in the apple came just before the ten-minute mark in the clip.

Now sitting across from Pelosi, discussing the road forward, Stahl made the outrageously disingenuous claim that “You are not known as a person who compromises.”

Which Pelosi was having none of. She said, with just a touch of snarl, “I’m mischaracterized by Republicans that way.” Which is a truth we all hold to be self-evident.

But Stahl wasn’t finished. “What about the Covid relief package?” she asked solemnly, “Which was held up eight months?”

Pelosi snapped back, “That was their obstruction.” Referring to Republicans, of course. Which, need I say, is a truth that 60 Minutes itself has repeatedly documented. Which Stahl knew perfectly well.

Pelosi then ticked off a long list of the things Republicans had refused to even consider over that eight months, when the Senate went deaf and hundreds of thousands died inexcusably.

Still, Stahl persisted, quoting an unnamed Democratic source who supposedly said, “It looked like we were obstructing, and it was a mistake.”

Pelosi was clearly as pissed as I was, but with far more self-control.

Because here, at the highest levels of media attention, was “both-siderism” in all its glory, caught in flagrante delicto.

The interview was ostensibly about a deeply disturbing act of insurrection by domestic terrorists hell-bent on overthrowing, by violent means, a national election. Arbitrarily throwing in Covid relief felt like intellectual whiplash. Yet here was this journalist — at the very top of a supposedly honorable profession — wagging her finger, treating her audience like morons, and slipping in the most important question in journalism today:

“But what about the Democrats?”

Republicans blow up the planet. Democrats run a stop sign. Equally bad, right?

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about both-siderism, but I thought it had tapered off a bit. Not so. Now that Democrats are in power, they’re ramping it up again.

Another instance — more subtle but equally nauseating — came exactly one week later, also on 60 Minutes.

This time, Scott Pelley was introducing us to one of the officials who, on January 6, had been on the very hottest of hot seats:

“Meet Muriel Bowser,” voiced Pelley, “the Democratic Mayor of Washington DC.”

Excuse me? She’s not the Democratic mayor. She’s the mayor. Period. What does her party have to do with it? She’s a person in position of extreme pressure and responsibility — not to mention accountability. She stands at the center of a crisis of historic proportions. And Pelley just has to go for the cheap shot?

With those four little syllables, he manages to insinuate that the party owns her, that it directs all her actions, and that she’s virtually identical to Republicans in her craven obedience to an ideology.

In other words, simple competence under existential threat must surely be a partisan thing, right? How Fox News is that?

I know I’m sounding picky, but this was not an accident. It happens too often. CBS and its fellow networks have a vested interest in both-siderism. The more fractious the partisanship, the more eyeballs they get, and the more commercials for overpriced drugs they can sell. So they miss no opportunity to raise the temperature. It’s the trashing of democracy, baked into a business model.

But as bad as those two instances were, the absolute pinnacle of both-siderism was achieved on January 28, this time by Jonathan Chait, writing in New York Magazine.

The now-famous story about Marjorie Taylor Greene and the Jewish Space Laser.

What’s infuriating about this article is not that Greene is a nutjob’s nutjob, or that she’s a federal indictment waiting to happen. Nor is it that she thinks Jews would be stupid enough to waste those fat George Soros checks on space lasers.

No, what’s infuriating is that Chait goes out of his way — far, far out of his way — to compare Greene to, of all people, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not in any substantive way, mind you. Not in any reasoned argument, or even an attempt at one. He just tosses out the comparison. Because why not?

The story is completely about Greene, but before even mentioning her, Chait pulls AOC in from deep left field. Then, after giving us Greene in all her batshit craziness, he simply must bring the story back around to AOC — for balance, of course:

Anyway, it is true that Marjorie Taylor Greene and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez play equivalent roles within their respective parties. 

And this is New York Magazine, not Epoch Times. You have to read it to believe it.

Something is going on in the executive suites of these media companies, and the corrosive effects are no longer under the surface. I’ve singled out 60 Minutes and New York Magazine, but the entire media ecosystem remains infested with both-siderism. It has become a serious blight on the country, enfeebling what’s left of our public discourse.

We get that the sides are drawn. We get that it’s objective reality on one side, lurid fantasy on the other. But why do these “reputable” media outlets insist on throwing gas on the fire? What do they gain from biting the democracy that feeds them? What do they get from this myth of moral equivalence, beyond a point or two of market share?

Stahl, Pelley, even Chait are, of course, just following orders. Either they toe this line or they lose their jobs. They know exactly what they’re doing.

As do their bosses. The best we can say about them is that they’re willfully dishonest. Both sides are not the same — not even close — and they damn well know it. Still, they cling to that narrative like their quarterly earnings depend on it.

And like that’s all that matters.

Comments

  1. I've actually been looking at both-siderism (nice phrase!) from the sexism perspective for some time now, and I think that if they don't exactly match, they sure as hell dovetail. The "you're as bad as I am" nonsense always comes out from the side of the holder of power-over. Always. There is no equivalent on the side of the person or group that is "below" the wielder of that "power-over" hammer. Trump can beat our constitution to death with a sledge and raise nary an eyebrow, and a Democrat questions a constitutional element and is accused of plotting the demise of democracy itself. I have pulled my sexism equivalent from the bodice-ripper-du-jour, Bridgerton, of Netflix fame.

    SPOILER ALERT!

    So, at one point our heroine takes her position atop our hero and he is - er - "forced" to provide seed that might impregnate his wife even though hubby wants no heirs. Putting aside for a moment any justifications or quid pro quos or whatnot, what happened was that I saw a bit of writing about this "abusive" move of wifey's! And along with that article came the voice in my head that said, "Yes, what is abuse in one place is abuse in another place." But then, fortunately, my head awoke and went, "Waaaaaaiiiiiit a minute..." I'm so sorry, but really? This big man can't lift this tiny woman - or, indeed, push her - off of him and get away? Puh-leeeze."

    That's what I call the "velcro" kinds of thinking that we get pulled into. It requires peeling away the seeming obvious from the truth.

    Not in great supply these days, but definitely represented by your writing, for which I'm grateful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Point taken. I think you're referring to the 'double standard' phenomenon, a perennial hit, of which both-siderism is a vibrant subset. I'm sure there are more out there.

      Delete
  2. 60 Minutes and New York Magazine have this in common, they are owned, by owners. Everybody who works at these two, and all other media enterprises, is a cossack who works for the Czar, or in this case, the owners.

    The owners have their interests, which are not my interests or your interests, or the public interest. Don't blame a snake if it bites you, because that's its nature. It's just defending itself when it bites, unless you are small enough for it to want to eat, which seems unlikely. The owners are just defending themselves by trying to keep in place a political system in which two parties cancel each other out, so that there will be little to no control over them by any nagging govt that tries to protect the public interest by controlling the owners.

    The snake who bit you might not have done his own survival much of a favor. He probably would have been better off slinking away as quickly as possible after you inadvertently stepped on him, because wasting any time biting you just delayed his escape, while making you mad enough to want to pursue in order to kill him. So, sure, the owners at this point really probably would be well-advised to drop the Rs like a hot potato, because the owners are vulnerable to a populist revolution by their long-suffering victims, the rest of us, and the Rs are the only group going at all likely to foment a successful populist revolution. But the owners are like the snake, they operate mostly by unthinking instinct and force of habit, and that has them still at least both-sidering the two parties, and some of them actually continuing to give the populist revolutionaries money.

    ReplyDelete

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