Sidestepping Truth: The Nature Of Bias genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


Lanny Davis writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that the liberal left has embraced the tactics of “McCarthyism". He provides a few examples of comments from a couple of the more prominent netroot blogs to support his contention.

I don’t support the hyperbole of invoking McCarthy anymore than I support similar invocations that routinely pepper the media in order to make otherwise reasonable arguments. The reason I’m opposed to these comparisons is that they simply provide a distraction as both sides subsequently debate the appropriateness of the correlation…fully detracting from the underlying issues. Frankly, it seems to me that if a situation possesses the makings of a notable event, it will soon acquire its own nomenclature…and that is as it should be.

As I’ve looked at the reality of Davis’s accusations as well as the efforts to refute his contention, it is clear that both sides embellish in order to discount and indict…what I would call the kitchen sink mentality such that the combatants are simultaneously tossing and dodging large porcelain objects. Since neither side has the wherewithal, the evidence, or the moral high ground to inflict the fatal and final blow, ad hominem attack dominates the dialogue leaving little hope for a constructive outcome.

As always, the truth lie somewhere in the middle…a place neither side sees as advantageous so it is therefore abhorred and avoided. The truth in Davis’s accusation is that left-leaning blogs have become more of a magnet for those inclined to vent anger than for those who seek to engage in reasoned debate. There are clearly exceptions but by and large that is the case. I’ve seen very few comment threads that haven’t succumbed to personal attacks in short order as regular commenter’s often act to identify and extinguish dissention…the troll patrol if you will. Consequently, a biased groupthink mentality is often embraced and enforced.

While I see such situations as counterproductive, it is nonetheless the legitimate prerogative of the blog operator to conduct the site as they see fit. However, I don’t understand why they feel subsequently compelled to object to others characterizing the site as it is...a partisan and frequently hostile community. The protestations simply demonstrate an effort to have it both ways…meaning a number of blog sites want the legitimacy that comes with objective discussion and debate yet they also want the traffic that is achieved when unfettered dialogue goes unchallenged.

The problem facing the blogosphere is the inherent contradiction. They seek to condemn the bias that exists within the mainstream media while building their journalistic influence upon the bias of their readership. In the end, those they represent cannot provide unquestioned credibility absent the same scrutiny they seek to impose on the mainstream media. In that regard, Davis has every right to raise doubts and expose inconsistencies.

The blogosphere simply can’t define what they represent without acknowledging who they represent. That would be akin to asserting that Fox News has no philosophical or ideological connection to their viewers so they cannot be criticized based upon the predominant beliefs and behaviors of the viewers their content attracts. That is simply intellectual dishonesty. Clearly Fox and the blogs are not responsible for the actions or the comments of their viewers or their readers…but they also can’t pretend that the association is a matter of chance. If someone attacked an “activist judge" tomorrow, few will conclude that individual was aligned ideologically with Daily Kos. Similarly, if someone were to throw a pie in Ann Coulter’s face, few will conclude they are a regular Fox News viewer.

On the other hand, Mr. Davis and his candidate are not beyond reproach. Joe Lieberman has embraced and endorsed many of the positions supported by the President and the ideologues within the Republican Party who routinely foment anger and animosity at groups and issues they deem to be politically advantageous. They, like the blogosphere, seek to foster the bias they hold and they clearly work to impose that bias through obtaining and asserting power.

Joe Lieberman, through his actions…whether tacit or intentioned, is equally guilty by his associations. His principles hold no more noble value than those held by notable bloggers and he must accept the criticism that comes with affiliating with those who have exhibited inappropriate comments or conduct. Again, my remarks are not intended to negate Lieberman’s prerogative…it too is a legitimate right to act as he chooses…so long as he accepts the consequences.

In the end, indignation on both sides serves little purpose. I find the actions of both sides to be insulting and manipulative. This race and so much of the American political terrain is littered with bias disguised as righteous outrage…all the while intending to deceive the voting public in order to assume the power necessary to impose chosen beliefs.

As long as the debate continues to be presented as an either-or equation, both sides mock the ability of individuals to make important discriminations while fomenting conflict and anger. Neither side holds a monopoly on hegemony…but that sure as hell looks to be the goal. It’s time for reasonable American’s to assume the responsibility to say enough. Nothing less than the “truth" is at stake.

Daniel DiRito | August 8, 2006 | 3:09 PM
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