Does a raging, racist a-hole have a point? We know they have a point of view; they’re happy as hell braying it. But do these guys have a point to make? Do they? Is their racist, ignorant point really one we should take seriously?
Consider the professional criminal. He knows what he’s doing is completely against the law yet breaks the law anyway. The possibility of punishment is just part of the cost of doing criminal business. As the professional criminal — let’s say he’s a car thief with his eyes on your car — deliberately commits a crime (stealing your car) — he has a point of view in this scenario. So do you — now, a car thief’s victim. But the only point the car thief is making here is that your possession can be his. It’s a bully’s way of thinking. Your point of view is a crime victim’s. From the rule of law’s point of view, a wrong has been done you. The rule of law then has a “good point” to make here. Justice must be done. You, the crime victim, also have a “good point”. The injustice was done to you and that injustice needs to be fixed in whatever way we can. As for the perp? He’s the odd man out. The only one here who’s “point” was “bad”. In a court of law? His point describes a criminal.
How the hell did we get to a place where any point of view — regardless of how bad (meaning counter productive, incorrect or just plain illegal) — can be held up as being equally valid to a good point of view? The answer’s the same as why our news media used to present climate science and climate denial as equally valid points. Our news media all did that but no one did it with less self awareness and more counter productivity than our TV news media. At some point, when this is far enough in our rearview mirror that democracy can breathe a little more easily, we will have to give the news media its report card. A few will have passed the course with honors. But only a few. The overwhelming majority of American journalists have failed America completely because they drank the “both sides do it” Kool Aid.
“Both sides do it” insists that journalists be completely “neutral”. Theirs is not to judge anything. If the person in front of them is a cannibal, it’s not for the “both sides do it” journalist to judge the cannibal for being a cannibal. Cannibal and human victim have equal points of view here. The eater and the eaten are exactly the same. The cannibal’s point is as valid as his dinner’s.
The press is quite clear on what the Republican Party are doing to America. Between the breaking news (that’s always breaking) and the talking heads with their hair very much on fire, the point gets made over and over again: the Republicans are no longer interested in democracy because democracy is no longer interested in them or their ideas. The Republicans have a political problem on their hands that the Democrats don’t. Having become almost exclusively a white grievance party, the Republican agenda is focused on retaining power that a rapidly diversifying America is actively voting away from them. E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) is not a political cause, it’s a cultural safe space. It is the real promise of “All men are created equal” (so long as we understand that “all men” means literally “everyone”).
“Both sides do it” journalism insists that since Republicans do everything for political reasons, Democrats must therefore do everything for political reasons, too. So, when a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter’s ability to vote, the thinking goes, both the vote suppressing Republican and the suppressed Democratic voter are BOTH behaving politically. That is utter bullshit. The Republican is openly violating the Democrat’s Constitutional right to vote. They’re committing a literal crime albeit for a political purpose. It’s a crime all the same.
The Democrat here is NOT behaving politically regardless of what “both sides do it:” journalism says. Just like the car thief’s victim isn’t behaving like a criminal when they go to the police, neither is the suppressed democratic voter acting politically when they report the crime being committed against them. But, because our news media assumes both sides do everything for the very same reasons, they fail to see the Republicans’ actions as criminal (since, perversely, the Democrats’ reaction isn’t!) In this instance, they’re flipping “both sides do it” back onto itself. If the Democrats aren’t criminals then neither are the Republicans.
I was sexually molested twice, when I was fourteen, by the religious director of the large northwest Baltimore synagogue where my family belonged. I’ve written about it here. Those criminal acts rippled across my life for forty-five years, causing profound havoc. Fortunately, this demon no longer haunts me — in large part because I stopped seeing it in a “both sides do it” way. I held myself responsible for having been molested. I equated attacker and victim. That, I can tell you, was a bullshit point though it was my point of view.
If I had been so lucky as to have seen my attacker prosecuted for what he did, and if my attacker had been put on trial, both our “points” would have been presented at trial. My point would have been from the victim’s point of view — and it would have been valid. My attacker? What “point” would he make to try and impress the jury that he didn’t do anything wrong? That a fourteen year old boy wanted his attention? The fourteen year old boy would absolutely refute that. That the fourteen year old boy deserved it? The adult version of that boy can tell you absolutely that he did not. The only point my attacker can have or make is that, as he stood behind me on those two occasions, he decided to go with his urges — despite the fact that he knew those urges were wrong and, in fact, illegal.
Stone cold fact: not every point of view has a point. Let’s tweak that to “not every point of view has a VALID point”. And, when our news media — towing the “both sides do it” line — gives validity and credence to points of view undeserving of that validity, they empower bullshit and give bullshit the very real potential to completely overwhelm Truth. That’s how you get a Nazi Germany. A North Korea. A Vladimir Putin.
A Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party.