Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Better of Two Hyperboles?

Ordinarily, I have great respect for Media Matters, but there are times when their partisanship completely overrides their message, and with each such instance they are incrementally losing my admiration of their work. It’s fine if your political leanings influence your narrative so that your criticisms have a tendency to focus on one group rather than another, but only if the skewed perspective fits your narrative. I understand if you miss some things because you were busy peering closely at the opposite side of the aisle, but there is never justification for twisting your narrative to fit your partisan loyalties. That is exactly what the organization did with the Media Matters Minute yesterday.

The latest installment of the sixty second daily update mentioned that North Carolina governor Beverly Perdue had said at a meeting of the local Rotary Club that Congress should postpone elections in order to focus on the economy, rather than campaigning. I assumed that that meant she was the target of the day’s Media Matters criticism, and that when they said that a spokesperson claimed she was just using hyperbole to illustrate a point, that they would reject that assertion. Quite the contrary, they apparently took that for granted, and proceeded to indicate that “right wing blogs were not as forgiving.” Gee, no kidding? Bloggers who make careers out of opposition to Democrats and liberals didn’t shrug their shoulders, shake their heads affably, and forget all about the woman in the opposite political camp who just said that it might be a good idea to play fast and loose with the foundations of our democratic system?

Media Matters, would you have been so forgiving if Ms. Perdue had carried an (R) next to her name, rather than a (D)? It’s not as though the reason they were willing to give her that pass while the right wing blogs weren’t was because they thought the proffered defense was a good one. The way they concluded the minute makes that perfectly obvious. No one, they pointed out, took the nasty criticism of the stupid, unreflective Democrat farther than Rush Limbaugh, and to prove that they played a clip of him stating that her idiotic suggestion characterized the Democratic Party, and that, “far be it from me to [draw any connections or comparisons], but Adolph Hitler would agree with Beverly Perdue.”

See, Media Matters, you’re losing a large share of my respect now because you’re putting me in the awkward position of having to defend Rush Limbaugh. It’s not as though I think his commentary is any more measured or any less foolish that Governor Perdue’s poorly-thought-out rhetorical suggestion, but the fact is that if you want to defend one and not look like an utter hypocrite, you have to defend both. Rush Limbaugh was engaged in hyperbole. If a spokesperson for him had any good reason to defend the right wing blowhard against your criticism, he would tell you just that: that he was exaggerating in order to make a point. His hyperbole was far over the top, irresponsible, and intellectually deficient, but so is suggesting that we arbitrarily postpone the democratic process. Apparently Media Matters felt that the fact that Ms. Perdue probably didn’t mean it literally was reason enough to deflect criticism away from her. Why was it not good enough for Limbaugh?

Media Matters, please decide what you stand for, because if you mete out your criticisms this selectively, it’s not for accountability in media. If there are rules for what people are allowed to say on the air, they need to apply universally. Either nobody is allowed to say something ridiculous then bullshit their way out of admitting that they ever uttered it or nobody is. I don’t mind if your ulterior motive is to see that your side wins the game, but I care deeply about how you accomplish it. And you’re not going to get anywhere by trying to establish a harder set of rules for one side than the other. It belies your confidence in the truth and virtue of your favored politicians if you imply that they can’t win in a fair contest of ideas.

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