Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Unbalanced Center

By Dan Hagen
Let's be clear about this —  there isn't any "middle of the road" and there isn't any "centrism," because centrism is a dodge, not a philosophical position. 
For example, what's the "centrist" view on torture — only do it every other time?
There aren’t any “centrist principles," because positioning isn't principle. It's just a convenience for people who want to avoid thinking too deeply or confronting the truth too squarely. 
If you stop halfway between left and right, you will not find the home of truth. That's the address of cowardice and intellectual laziness. Many people take a wrong turn and get lost right around there. 
It's also idiotic to say that "both sides" are the problem. "Both sides" weren't the problem in World War II, and they aren't the problem now. The fascist side is the problem, then and now.
This allegiance to false balance has infected corporate journalism, which finds it a safe way to hide from the discomfort that a search for the actual truth would necessarily produce.
‎"(T)he real problem in a nutshell (is) the assumption, unexamined and taken as gospel by most of Washington, that the solutions to our major problems are somehow to be magically found by splitting the difference in the middle," observed Arianna Huffington.
"It has always seemed to me that one of the most dangerous errors of American journalism is mistaking the center for neutral," wrote former Los Angeles Times reporter Laurie Becklund, co-author of two books and winner of a team Pulitzer. "The center is a mid-point on a sliding scale. Its place is determined by opinions and prevailing winds.
"Neutral is, or should be, the radical willingness to find and communicate what's true, no matter whether that truth lies in the middle or to one side."This is hardly a novel notion, and no decent journalist wants to be unfair or wrong. Often, we don't know the facts. But, when was the last time you read a “for the record” from a news organization apologizing for tacitly reassuring the public, often over and over again, even after the facts were in, that it had missed reporting the very heart of the matter?"
Robert Parry wrote, “CNN, which the right has sometimes smeared as the ‘Communist News Network,’ can now cite its collaboration with the Tea Party as valuable right-wing ‘cred.’
 “When I was working at PBS ‘Frontline’ in the early 1990s, senior producers would sometimes order up pre-ordained right-wing programs – such as a show denouncing Cuba’s Fidel Castro – to counter Republican attacks on the documentary series for programs the Right didn’t like, such as Bill Moyers’s analysis of the Iran-Contra scandal. In essence, the idea was to inject right-wing bias into some programming as ‘balance’ to other serious journalism, which presented facts that Republicans found objectionable. That way, the producers could point to the right-wing show to prove their ‘objectivity’ and, with luck, deter GOP assaults on PBS funding.
“Similarly, in the 1980s, New York Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal vowed to steer the newspaper back to ‘the center’ – by which he meant to the right – to counter criticism that the Times’ role in publishing the Vietnam War’s Pentagon Papers and Seymour Hersh’s reporting on CIA abuses amounted to ‘liberal bias.’
“So, CNN’s behavior fits into a larger pattern which has frequently denied the American people the relevant facts and the clear analysis that are needed in a democratic society – because to do otherwise would invite devastating right-wing attacks on the journalists.” Marketing values, and not the professional journalist's mission of providing accurate information to the public, now completely dominate the American news media. Balloon Boy flies as Rudy Giuliani lies that no terrorist attacks happened during the Bush administration, safely unchallenged by the supine, compliant, corporate "journalist," who knows it's unforgivably rude to contradict powerful liars.
This sacrifice of journalistic credibility to propaganda and amusement finally adds up to a form of societal suicide, like walking along a cliff's edge drunk, with your eyes closed.
If liberals said water was composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, while conservatives claimed that water was composed of a single hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms, the corporate news media would dutifully report their "dispute." That's how a blind journalistic neutrality permits falsehood to gain dangerous and undeserved ground

Halfway between left and right is not the address of truth. That's the home of intellectual cowardice and laziness.

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