Saturday, July 30, 2011

The cult of 'balance' discernible in US media also infecting our politics

I was struck by an article by Paul Krugman writing in the NY Times. He writes:

"The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation."

It does not stretch credulity too far by suggesting the same is happening here over the carbon tax imbroglio. The difference is that Abbott has not been able to take Australia hostage yet, but it is not through a want of trying. Krugman goes on,

"Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault."

Now that resonates with our experience. Our media has caught the same virus that sees extremist wing-nuts being trotted out on mainstream media platforms to sprout their propaganda, all in the name of 'balance'. On the ABC we get reactionary commentators and think tank apparatchiks spruiking extremism on a daily basis, lambasting the PM and vilifying the science on carbon warming. Cogent debate is sidelined by gross misrepresentation of facts, and shock jocks are given more credence than serious investigative journalists. Krugman again, with inserts by moi:

The problem with American/Australian politics right now is Republican/Coalition extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

1 comment:

Patricia WA said...

"The problem with Australian politics right now is Coalition extremism!"

Keep saying it, Mark!