There are only two types of people in the world: people who think it’s a good idea for the Washington Post to reduce its readers to two types of people neither of which can endure reading opposing viewpoints; and rational people who recognise that such arbitrary binary categorisations are absurd. (There are two types of people in the world: those who think I should keep going with this two types of people thing, and everyone who isn’t me.)
The most noteworthy feature of the new WashingtonPost.com redesign: its opinion section (the world’s worst) now features “Left-Leaning” and “Right-Leaning” tabs, so that you can comfortably segregate yourself in the opinion ghetto of your choice. The Washington Post is now perfectly fair!
Goodbye, nuance. Adios, iconoclasts. Sayonara, free thinkers. WaPo columnists are now assigned one box or the other, and that’s where they’ll stay. (Spoiler: Wikileaks-hating admirer of government secrecy Richard Cohen is “Left-leaning.”) There are also left and right-leaning news feeds and Twitter feeds, to more fully ensure that no one ever be forced to encounter an opinion contrary to one’s own. This, at last, is the full realization of the simplistic and rotten Washington journalistic ethos: as long as we have an equal amount of “left” and “right,” we are completely and totally balanced, and insulated from any legitimate criticism. True journalistic perfection. Anyone whose beliefs fall anywhere outside of these boxes is simply not to be taken seriously.
Obviously the Washington Post doesn’t exactly fall inside our brief here at Pure Poison, but the fallacy identified in the second paragraph certainly does: we also have a national media where “balance” is defined as giving equal space to a crazy, implausible, flat-out-wrong assertion by someone on one side, as to a sensible, backed-up, provable assertion by someone on the other. Balance is equal time! Not equal analysis! We’re not thinking human beings who can assess an argument on its merits and express a view – we’re hacks dividing up a political contest between the two biggest players.
Yesterday the Prime Minister gave a press conference about the situation in Japan, and the press gallery asked her again and again – no matter how many times she explained what a “multi-party climate change committee” meant – who FORCED her to change her mind on a carbon tax. No, really Prime Minister, who forced you? But who forced you? Seriously, yes, who forced you?
Listen, we’ve got a narrative about how there’s some tabloid-selling conflict between you and the Greens, could you just give us a damn quote to hang it on?
(Later that night:
Neither of the extremes in Australian politics can deliver this reform. The Coalition has surrendered itself to fear-mongering and denying the power of markets. The Greens are not a party of government and have no tradition of striking thebalance required to deliver major reform.
Hurrah! shrieks The Age, giving us this headline: “Greens a party of extemists: PM“.)
If you view politics as nothing more than a childish contest between factions, rather than a genuine contest of ideas, then – well, maybe dividing up your publication into teams makes sense to you. Why would Bombers fans care what’s happening to the Pies? Why would Raiders supporters want to read news aimed at Sharks fans? Divide and pander, then neither you nor we will have to think outside our boxes ever again. (And those who support neither team, or are just interested in what’s actually happening on the field? Screw ’em.)
Anyone want to give me a time on how long before we see the Washington Post “innovation” adopted here? (I’m recovering from illness and could do with some more cheery news – please try to make your prediction at least slightly optimistic.)