Skip to main content

Both Sides Now

Back in the nineties, Holocaust denial enjoyed one of its periodic but thankfully brief revivals. It was an old idea given new life, thanks to some shrewd but cynical PR and a few credulous members of the media.

Spread virally, or what passed for virally at the time, the “story” — that the Holocaust never happened, that six million Jews were never exterminated — actually percolated up to the mainstream media as a “controversy” for a while.

TV news and talk shows, both national and local, worked hard to fan the flames, actually giving serious airtime to the charlatans perpetuating this sludge.

But the producers of these shows, sensitive sorts all, couldn’t believe how hard it was to recruit actual Holocaust victims to sit across from the charlatans. They were offering good money, after all.

Why would these old folks not want to go on camera? Why would they not want to relive those unimaginable horrors that scarred them for life, listening to some toxic putz who’s trying to convince the world that the most traumatic event in an entire century was all just a big misunderstanding?

But hey, the show must go on, so the pitch those producers would inevitably fall back on was: “Don’t you think people deserve to hear both sides?”

Both sides. One side the most widely chronicled mass murder in human history, with millions of eyewitnesses, a rich body of analysis and literature, and an overwhelming influence on human thought ever since. And the other side — not.

And there, in the middle, were the talk show hosts. The ones with the great hair and the winning smiles. The ones trying to get a rise out of one side or the other. The ones disingenuously pretending that disinformation has merit.

That’s where the “both sides do it” narrative turns poisonous. That’s where the media — including “legitimate” journalists who should know better — cross over from objective to complicit.

Because now those two “sides” — one a total fiction — will walk off together into the future, with the fiction slowly but steadily gaining traction each time another charlatan with a racist agenda gets a little financing to market more disinformation.

And who’s to say that in fifty years, when all the Holocaust survivors and most of their grandchildren have died out, that the fictional version won’t be the one accepted by history? Who’s to say that the lie won’t take over?

But wait, you say. What’s wrong with the media looking at two angles on the same story? After all, objectivity is a cornerstone of journalism, right? Journalists are trained to ferret out and examine both sides, right?

Absolutely. But only if there really are two sides. When something purporting to be a “side” is fraudulent, when it gaslights, when it makes bad faith arguments in the service of a bad faith agenda, why would we dignify it by calling it a side?

Unfortunately, that’s what the media continues to do. Working from a business model that relies on controversy to attract eyeballs, it seems they will dignify anything as a side. The more polarizing, the better.

And in doing so — in presenting outright lies as one side of a supposed story — they legitimize those lies.

Which brings us to the Republican assault on voting rights.

Under any rational thought process, there can be no other side to the right to vote. As Sen. Raphael Warnock recently said, “Voting is the infrastructure of democracy.” When the legitimacy of the entire system rests on that infrastructure, what’s the other side of that?

Is there a groundswell of demand that we stop people from voting? Is there anyone saying please oh please, take away my vote? Is there a lively discussion about eliminating democracy as a guiding principle of the nation? Not that I’ve heard.

But because Trump — a psychotic yet charismatic con man — single-handedly launched the most outrageous lie in living memory, we are now forced to defend the right to vote from that very lie.

It’s bad enough that so large a percentage of the electorate subscribes to Trump’s “stolen election” narrative. But when the media frames it as one side of a debate that isn’t actually happening, that’s despicable.

There isn’t a shred of legitimacy to denying any citizen the right to vote. There is no “election integrity” problem that needs solving. But as with Holocaust denial, it can be made into a problem just through well-financed repetition. So because Trump’s lie has gotten so much traction, red state legislatures are now in a frenzy to rush hideous voter suppression measures into law.

This comes at a time when the GOP is so intellectually and morally bankrupt, it has no choice but to create and perpetuate lies. No truth need apply. As they slip into irrelevance, they’re reduced to creating outrage from anything, or from nothing. And the media, ever alert to possible controversy, no matter how fictional, plays right along.

So look for stories that frame these racist anti-voting laws as a legitimate debate between two equal and well-reasoned points of view. And remember that they’re not.

Look for stories framing the anti-vaccination crowd as reasonable people, with sincerely held beliefs. Especially the belief that Covid is simultaneously a hoax and a flu.

Look for more ginning up of the “crisis” at the southern border, where the Biden administration is trying, against daunting odds, to find a humane solution to the kiddie concentration camps left by Stephen Miller’s minor league gestapo.

And look for both-siderism to continue to thrive. Clearly, it’s alive and well and more virulent than ever. 

It’s also self-fulfilling. Because just as with Holocaust denial, the other side — the lie side — will inexorably burrow into our political discourse, and settle in for a long and deeply corrosive shelf life.

And if we don’t watch it carefully, it will at some point become the truth. 


P.S. I have declined here to provide actual examples of both-siderism, though they can be found across a broad spectrum of media, both mainstream and fringe. I’ve pointed out such examples in past rants, especially here, here, and here. That said, I refer you once again to any of the weekly Professional Left podcasts, where the practice is sliced and diced regularly, and in entertaining fashion.

Comments

  1. Certainly networks such as One American News are not culpable of correcting for "one-siderism." That seems to an issue of the center-left.
    You might love OAN: https://www.oann.com/category/newsroom/
    I watch it now and again just to burst out of my comfortable bubble, and to roil my blood.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Dobbs is Just the Bludgeon We’ve Been Looking For

I recently had occasion to engage in a brief political discussion with a bright and well-spoken woman in her mid-twenties. She was clearly perturbed at what she considered the failure of Democrats to push through the progressive agenda she and her generation have long been promised. I felt her pain, knowing how hard the next twenty or thirty years will be for her age group, not just in this country, but planetwide. She will surely be a witness to spontaneous atrocities, environmental calamities, and a competition for dwindling resources that will reduce many of her fellow humans to savagery. At the same time, I was embarrassed — as I often am — that I’m passing along to her a nation in far worse shape than it was when I found it. Even so, I felt she was being a bit hard on the Democrats in power, most of whom have, more or less, behaved admirably in pursuing basically the same agenda as hers, even as they remain shackled to a constitutional system on the very c

Putin’s Information Bubble Springs a Leak

The cat is out of the bag. The Russian citizenry can now be quite sure there’s a real war on, with real people dying. Something about a 300,000-man military draft — more likely a million — serves to focus the mind. It was only a matter of time before even the most brainwashed of parents would figure out that their sons were highly likely to be blown to pieces sometime soon. Who would have thought Putin’s hermetically-sealed information bubble would be pierced, not by liberals or intellectuals or human rights activists, but by the militant right? I suppose it does make a certain weird sense. The left has either fled the country, gone to jail, or — in most cases — opted to shut up and lay low for a decade or so. So it’s the far right that, curiously, is giving Putin the most heartburn. Specifically, it’s the ultra-militarist bloggers on Telegram — boasting millions of followers — who are reporting from the front lines of the war. And they’re telling it like it

They’re Using ‘Trump’ and ‘Espionage’ in the Same Sentence

It isn’t every day that a former president gets investigated for espionage. One more first for Donald Trump. Yes, we’ve all been titillated by every sordid new development in the ongoing saga of the Mar-a-Lago files. But the big question, at least for me, remains: What was he thinking? Why would he take state secrets out of the White House, knowing full well it’s a felony? Not that he’s a stranger to felonies, but still. The press has focused mainly on the make-believe theories thrown up by the wingnut right to explain away the obvious. But I’ve not seen much on the espionage angle itself. Which is strange. Because the very word ‘espionage’ puts an unmistakably sinister spin on Trump’s motives. It’s not a word that either CIA or DOJ throws around a lot. But it’s a word both are using. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Trump it’s that life is about transactions, about trading favors. He is, by nature, a quid in search of the perfect pro quo. So while we don’t know how s