Fake symmetry carries instructions for its own perpetuation.
Obama spoke to the American Society of Newspaper editors this week. Here’s what he said about fake symmetry in political journalism, after being asked this question: ”What can you say to the Americans who just want both sides to stop fighting and get some work done on their behalf?”
I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented — which reinforces I think people’s cynicism about Washington generally. [The debate over deficit reduction] is not one of those situations where there’s an equivalence. I’ve got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it. And we couldn’t get a Republican to stand up and say, we’ll raise some revenue, or even to suggest that we won’t give more tax cuts to people who don’t need them.
About the part in bold he is absolutely right. And I have seen no recognition by anyone in political journalism that Obama had a point.
But appreciate how well-defended the system is. For journalists, the whole point of “they’re equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle” is to advertise how unswayed you are by either side. If one of those sides, Mr. Obama, tries to persuade you that you’ve entered into a destructive pattern—like, say, fake symmetry—and you listen to him, conceding that he might have a fair point, then… you’ve been swayed!
But remember the reason you got into the fake symmetry biz in the first place. To show that you cannot be swayed. Therefore the pattern teaches you how to discount criticism of the pattern. It’s kind of the obverse of “the system contains the seeds of its own destruction.” Fake symmetry is a system that comes with instructions for its own perpetuation.
Bonus link: Gloria Borger of CNN makes Obama’s point for him. Perfectly, I mean.
(Photo of Obama speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors by Steve Buttry. Used by permission.)
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