Not a revelation: our news media sucks. It’s broken. And “both sides do it” (BSDI) brand journalism broke it. Not all journalists practice BSDI but enough do that their journalism prevents We The People from ever getting the truth in real time. Healthy journalism depends on skepticism. Doubt. But, hey – bring receipts? Doubt can become trust. Skeptical journalism both reveals the truth and guides its audience toward benefiting from the truth. Healthy journalism produces a healthy democracy. By stark contrast, “both sides do it” paints everyone with the same damnation. We’re all rat bastards in its bleary eyes. Scale and proportion never enter into it. The journalist, smugly perched on their own moral superiority (their “neutrality”), sits in judgmental non-judgment of us all. That may be satisfying to write; it ain’t journalism. Alas that difference – cynicism v skepticism – is killing our democracy.
All Men Created Equal?
In America, the two sides could not be more different. The GOP has made itself into the party of white, Christian nationalism. Originalism wants to trap America in amber – stuck in time at the moment of its founding. That assumes that America had achieved some sort of perfection worth trapping in amber. We most definitely had NOT!
“All men are created equal” didn’t mean quite what it says. America’s founders were all white, Christian men – most of them land owners. That club – that’s what they meant by “All men”. Just men – like them. America is a great idea poorly executed by its founders but hardly irredeemable. Our founders also made “E Pluribus Unum” our motto. Out of many, one. In other words, “diversity”. It was and remains America’s “secret sauce”.
Rising Tides v Rising Ties
Democrats and Republicans are not the same people. We don’t think the same way. Our priorities are very different. The future that Democrats want for America is the rising tide that lifts all boats. By contrast, Republicans want to drag America into its past. That’s when white, Christian land owning men had all the power.
The rest of us knew our places.
How “Both Sides” See The World
“Both sides do it” is a very conservative way to see the world. It’s cynical – and so is conservatism. By its very nature. Conservatives – as their name says – want to conserve. But, what? It ain’t the future. If conservatives could literally go back in time and have us live in the past, they would. Minus that, they can only dig in their heels at the present. Their goal: keep as much of the past that exists in the present and refuse to let go of it.
Why? Because the past was safe (for them). For white guys. So, all thinking flows from the idea that what’s good for white guys is good for America. Conservative thinking insists that only white guys have the chops to run the world – so give them all the power and all the money. Alas that’s not even remotely true. But America was a conservative country for a long, long time. Our diversity is changing us – quicker and quicker.
Diversity Is Our Secret Sauce
That’s the rub, ya see! Diversity has always been America’s destination. E Pluribus Unum! But the white men who held the reins for two hundred plus years don’t want to give up those reins. Sharing power is hard. That’s why democracy is so difficult to pull off for long periods of time. It demands that everyone trust the collective will. At the very least, it demands that those holding power be willing to surrender it because the people say.
America’s genius is that anyone can “become someone” here. They can reinvent themselves – or just invent themselves period. The one caveat: they’re gonna have to work for it. America really is special that way. We’ve built our country on an ideal rather than some family’s lineage (what makes blood “royal” anyway?).
Why The Press Matters
Our Constitution mentions only one non-governmental job – the press. Their assignment: be the last check on power. A skeptical journalist can do that. A cynical one can’t because they’re already sitting in power’s lap. Carrying so much conservative water has “Tuckered them” out.
We need America’s J-Schools to start teaching old fashioned skepticism. And we need them to take all the “both sides do it” curricula and bury it in the deepest hole they can find. That won’t be a tough assignment – any Republican’s cynical soul will do.