Leave it to the New York Times to join the party a little late. I guess it’s better late than never, but the renown publication has finally recognized a difference between how President Obama has been treated and how past presidents have been treated. Good for them. They’ve finally recognized something that most of us have known for a long time. However, they have given into the myth that is equivalency. For those that consider themselves progressives, this has long been called “false equivalency.”
Before we get into why equivalency really doesn’t exist we should talk about what it is and why it is so damaging. Essentially, the idea of equivalency is that we shouldn’t criticize those that criticize because both sides do it. It’s like a math equation. The jackass over there is just the same as the jackass over here, so we shouldn’t call anyone a jackass out of fear that we will be branded partisan. So, when conservatives bad mouth the president and deny the office the respect it deserves we shouldn’t say anything because progressives used to do that to George Bush 43 (and 41 before him I suppose).
In the strictest sense of the word, they are correct. Yes, there have been people that poked fun at Bush’s intelligence and there were those that wouldn’t recognize his victory in the 2000 election. So, I suppose we can say that both of the last two presidents were criticized and made fun of. So, in that lazy world we can drop all of journalistic integrity and simply white wash the whole affair. After all, if we actually called people on it then we would be labeled more liberal than we are. However, the claims of equivalency ignore two important points.
Volume can refer to two different phenomenon as it corresponds to President Obama and his detractors. First, it corresponds to the volume on the radio and television dial. If enough people yell something loud enough then that has a different effect than people saying it in the wilderness. The Secret Service has reported that they have had more death threats against President Obama than the past few presidents combined. So, yes, progressives groused about Bush, but few threatened to kill him. Of course, the Secret Service’s numbers also amplifies the second point on volume. In addition to the level noise, there is also the sheer amount.
Try to think back to the election of 2000 and the immediate aftermath. How often did you hear complaints about the fact that Bush shouldn’t be president? Yes, you heard them often, but let’s compare this to the whole birther fascination with Obama and his birth certificate. We are still hearing about that several years later and likely will hear about it until January 19th, 2017.
One of the most hilarious things about the claim of liberal media coverage is to look across the landscape at conservative media. 99 percent of talk radio is conservative, Fox is certainly more successful than MSNBC and very unapologetic about their conservatism. Add to it all the “think tanks” and other outlets for conservative “thought and ideology” and we can see that the idea of a monolithic liberal media is not only a myth but a classic example of Sigmund Freud’s projection.
Let’s consider not only the volume of the criticism but also consider who is criticizing. I’ve seen plenty of sites that are mean-spirited on both sides of the ledger, but consider the source. If Wedge Fickus starts his own Word Press based website and rails against conservatives then what kind of legitimacy are we talking about? How does this compare to members of the United States Senate mailing a letter to Iran saying they should negotiate with them instead of the president? How does it compare to a member of the U.S. House of Representatives standing up and yelling “you lie!” in the middle of an address to both chambers? There is a difference when commentators say something and when duly elected representatives and Senators say it.
We could even break commentators down into various levels. Admittedly, no progressive should get too worked up over what Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck says. The same is largely true of Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, or Michael Moore. They are entertainers that occasionally get off a few zingers. I would no more hold conservatives to what Limbaugh says than they should hold us to what Stewart says. Ironically, both sides do exactly that.
However, when you have the name Fox or MSNBC by your name then you have a little more responsibility. Listen to both for awhile and get back to me about which one sounds more reasonable. Let’s forget about agreement of disagreement and just focus on reasonable. Who is more respectful of their opponent? There is certainly contempt on both sides, but how many elected officials on the progressive side are asking about Ted Cruz’s birth certificate? How many are asking whether he is even eligible to be president? Think about that the next time you want to throw out the whole “both sides do it” mantra.