The Sunday Talk Shows Are Only Interested in “Fair and Balanced” Blame, Even if Untrue
Norm Ornstein is a Republican who’s as inside-the-Beltway as you can get so this is really something:
Last month, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein published an Op ed and a book making the extremely controversial argument that both parties aren’t equally to blame for what ails Washington. They argued that the GOP — by allowing extremists to roam free and by wielding the filibuster to achieve government dysfunction as a political end in itself — were demonstrably more culpable for creating what is approaching a crisis of governance.
It turns out neither man has been invited on to the Sunday shows even once to discuss this thesis. As Bob Somerby and Kevin Drum note, these are among the most quoted people in Washington — yet suddenly this latest topic is too hot for the talkers, or not deemed relevant at all.
I ran this thesis by Ornstein himself, and he confirmed that the book’s publicity people had tried to get the authors booked on the Sunday shows, with no success.
“Not a single one of the Sunday shows has indicated an interest, and I do find it curious,” Ornstein told me.
Ornstein also noted another interesting point. Their thesis takes on the media for falling into a false equivalence mindset [also known as “fair and balanced”] and maintaining the pretense that both sides are equally to blame. … What’s more, some reporters have privately indicated their frustration with their editorial overlords’ apparent deafness to this idea.
“The piece focused on press culpability — it would be hard to find a more sensitive issue for the media than the question of whether they’re doing their job,” Ornstein said. “We got tons of emails from some of the biggest reporters in the business, saying, `We’ve raised this in the newsroom, and editors just brush it aside.’”
This is curious. Is “experts confirm that, yes, one side is more to blame than the other, and journalists should say so” really too hot a topic for the Sunday shows?
This is so illustrative of the media’s obsession with presenting e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in a “fair and balanced” way. Sometimes one side or another is more responsible than the other for a thing that happens but that can’t be acknowledged because the media is terrified of being called biased. No, they’re terrified of being called “liberal,” thanks to Republicans jumping down their throat at any hint of that for the last 30 years. We live in an era of “he said, she said” or “Democrats said, Republicans said” journalism.
Facts are facts and Ornstein and his co-author Thomas Mann have made a case that Republicans are largely responsible for the deadlock in Washington but in the “liberal media,” that’s untouchable because it isn’t “fair and balanced.”