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June 08, 2004

On Double Standards

It seems to me that double standards evolve in the following manner:

1) In the beginning, the double-standard exists, but those who practice it are not really aware of it. People are always much more sensitive to unfairness towards they themselves than unfairness to other people. Those who practice double-standards initially are unconscious of them, as the unfairness falls to groups they are unsympathetic to.

2) After some time, the existence of the double-standard is brought to their attention. They ignore the charge, chielfly because the beneficiaries of the double-standard are groups or people they're sympathetic to, and those injured by the double-standard are people or groups they're hostile to. In their minds, no harm, no foul.

3) At some point, the existence of the double-standard is well-documented enough, and complained about loudly enough, that they can no longer simply ignore it. At this point, the practitioners of the double-standards simply begin lying. They claim there is no double-standard at all.

This, of course, is where most of the liberal media is right now, and in fact has been for 20 or 30 years.

4) Finally, the existence of the double-standard can no longer be denied with a straight face. At this point, rather than strive for fairness and the abolition of the double-standard, the proponents of the double-standard simply begin inventing reasons as to why the double-standard is necessary and justified and right.

That's the classic trajectory we've seen in the academy. Academics spend long hours explaining why it's necessary to treat one group differently than another. Whether it's "white skin priviledge" or the "residual psychological effects of historical oppression" or the claim that "girls aren't as aggressive as boys in raising their hands in class," there always comes a point at which the defenders of the double-standard half-drop (but only half drop) their claim that there is no bias and simply begin explaining, with patient bemusement, why that bias is necessary and good.

The media is now beginning to enter stage four. Paul Krugman has been claiming for years that treating Republicans "fairly" is not really fair at all, since all we do is lie and cheat and con and kill. You wouldn't try to treat Hitler fairly, he notes.

The Post's ombudsman now finds Paul Krugman's theories about the need and justification for the pro-liberal, anti-conservative double-standard very "interesting" as well.

Pretty soon this will become conventional liberal wisdom, and the liberal media will begin arguing along two tracks: No, there is no bias and Whatever "bias" there is is perfectly justified, because conservatives are liars and, in the words of the Simpsons, "We Want What's Worst for Everyone."

Now, that's sort of bad, because people will commit crimes more frequently when they believe they have a philosophical justification for doing so. People may do bad things, but they do bad things less frequently, and less blatantly, when they believe these acts are indeed "bad things."

Once they're given a philosophical justification for engaging in bad acts, Katie bar the door.

And the left always gets around, eventually, to providing a faux-intellectual framework for justifying its bad acts.

But, in another way, all this is good, because

1) it's more honest

2) we can finally have a debate over bias when they begin admitting it actually exists (even if they do go on to justify it) and

3) the admission of bias will allow news-consumers to actually evaluate whether or not our unbiased media can be trusted.

So, cheers to Paul Krugman and the Post's ombudsmen. At least they have the honesty to admit what 90% of the media believes and acts upon.

The media knows it's biased. The media, however, believes that its bias is good for society. Let us get past these childish denials and have a discussion about what the media actually believes.

Something that may "interest" the Post's ombudsmen: CBS News recently reported that "Kerry says" we've lost 2.2 million jobs, whereas "Bush says" we've now only lost about 1.1 million.

CBS reported both claims uncritically. It was a He Said, He Said, situation, which CBSNews could not adjudicate.

Trouble is, of course, we have the numbers. They are not subject to debate. Kerry is wrong. Bush is right.

I'm sure the Post's ombudsman finds it equally "interesting" that, in a debate in which Kerry was clearly wrong and Bush clearly right, the reporter took a perfectly neutral stance between the competing claims.

Apparently liberal reporters are required to aggressively debunk "misleading" conservative claims -- because reporting such claims strictly neutrally might be "fair" to the claim but would be "unfair" to the truth -- but are not similarly obligated to debunk flat-out dishonest claims from John Kerry.


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posted by Ace at 02:59 PM

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