For some time, CNN has been carving out a niche as the centrist, impartial, entirely fair news network. Not too far right, like FOX. Not too far left, like MSNBC.
The CNN definition of fairness fits nicely with what has been for decades the essence of journalistic ethics in America. A few years back, there was a hue and cry over fact checking. Major news organizations resisted the very idea. Calling someone on speaking untruths was not only unfair, taking sides, it was kind of ... unkind. We trust viewers, intoned one television personality, to do their own fact checking.
Fact checking is slowly making its way into the back and middle pages of print. Occasionally television news has been following.
The procession has been cautious. The tenacity of prevailing habit is strong as steel. Fair is the same as balanced. Balanced is the same as equivalent. Criticism of one side has to be matched by equal criticism of the other.
This year's Republican campaign has been a trial for that standard. What do you do when one side is operating fairly normally, occasionally pushing the edge then pulling back in, and the other side is rushing forward with easily documented ... shall we say it? ... lies. One after another in an endless parade.
Paul Ryan's speech slammed President Obama for instituting Medicare savings that Paul Ryan had advocated. Hospitals had been ordered to cut charges, but they went along because costs would be made up by increasing patient flow as more people could afford treatment under Obamacare. Private corporations raised a howl, but they were merely told to stop overcharging. Insurance companies were told to devote a higher share of premiums to actual care and to refund to families whatever was left.
Still, Paul Ryan told the convention and the television audience that President Obama had attacked Medicare, stealing that same 700 billion dollars from the program.
He repeated the workfare lie. In reality, President Obama had granted Republican governors waivers on work requirements, but only by requiring more recipients be moved off welfare rolls and onto payrolls. Republicans have been falsely saying that President Obama had abolished work requirements.
And he came up with a time travel lie. He slammed Obama for allowing a Wisconsin auto plant to close down, after promising to do everything possible to keep it open. In reality, GM announced the closure seven months before Obama took office. It was closed down five months later. Obama was still two months away from becoming President.
Paul Ryan knew all this. He had lobbied the Bush administration for funding to keep the plant open, making presentations, pushing for funds. The Bush administration decided against him.
It wasn't just Paul Ryan, of course. The theme of the Romney campaign, the core, has been a string of similar untruths. Splice and diced, chopped up video show President Obama proclaiming that business owners never built a business. Of course he never said that. He simply said that business owners have a lot of assets that had been contributed. Teachers had taught them. Police protected them. Roads and bridges provided a means of transport to and from. They didn't build that.
Mitt Romney repeated the discredited Medicare distortion. He added a mythical Obama tax on the middle class. In reality, President Obama lowered middle class taxes. He repeated the lie that President Obama had conducted a foreign "apology tour." In reality President Obama has conducted no such tour, although such a tour has been an article of faith among conservative partisans since President Obama took office.
The word "false" is beginning to find its way into first and second paragraphs of news articles, and occasionally even headlines, as news media throw up their hands at the impossible task of pretending everything is equivalent.
CNN bravely presses on, although ever more awkwardly. This is how Tommy Christopher reported on the CNN reporting:
Their commentary seems to indicate that it doesn’t matter if Ryan is a liar. Blitzer begins by calling it “a powerful speech,” then notes, in the same breath, that “I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will.”
Wow, is that ever hard hitting. Way to stand up for truth, Wolf. I happened to catch part of that. Wolf Blitzer went on to add that fact checkers would also be sure to find a lot of points to dispute in Democratic speeches as well.
Balance rules. Equivalence leads to equivocation. Truth is a last resort.
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But if I am going to let some organization do it for me, then I need to trust that its own claims are factual. (Who watches the watcher?) Shall I, a poor ignorant soul, trust Fox News, believed among liberals and moderates to have a conservative bias? Shall I trust MSNBC, believed among conservatives and moderates to have a liberal bias? Or shall I trust some source that strives to be regarded as politically balanced, perhaps at the cost of journalistic integrity in some other sense?
If I primarily seek to confirm my own political views, then my choice is (usually) clear. If I primarily seek to avoid bias or being perceived as someone with biased sources, then my choice is clear. If I primarily seek accurate information, then my choice is not so clear.
The best I can do is:
1.) Develop the critical thinking skills to know when a source, whether biased or not, is using logical fallacies or making mere guesses.
2.) Get my news, political commentary, and fact checking (I like FactCheck and PolitiFact) from different but well-respected sources in order to reduce the chance that I will confuse fact with opinion.
3.) Favor written news over audiovisual news to reduce or eliminate the influence of the speaker's appearance, charisma, social cues, etc. It also allows me to gather and process information at my own pace.
4.) Be mindful of my source's sources.
5.) Be open to change by being emotionally detached from existing political positions and prior information.
Beyond these standards, the results are a matter of luck and the time I put into investigation. Some information will never cross my path.
You certainly have a sense of humor, going to Glenn Beck's "The Blaze" for an objective analysis. Hard to know whether anything else in their long rebuttal to anything that might be critical of Paul Ryan you meant for me to wade through, but I did eventually find some mention of two of the points I had raised.
Next time, you might do me the courtesy of reading your reference material yourself and pointing out what you want me to see.
They acknowledge Paul Ryan's time travel, defending his attack concerning a plant closing partly on the basis of a skeleton crew left to meet tail-end contractual obligations after the rest of the plant was shuttered. They also say that even though it was pretty much closed, it still ... illustrated ... a chose-winners-and-loser philosophy.
Sorry. A time travel lie is a time travel lie. The decision to close the plant and the closing itself happened before President Obama took office.
The 700 billion dollar savings from Medicare remains what I said it was. The Glenn Beck defense does propose that the savings would have gone toward the program under the Ryan plan, but that is not actually true.
The first Ryan plan would have sent pretty much all of it to tax cuts for the wealthy and converted Medicare to a voucher system, complete with coupons. Mitt Romney declared this a good step.
The second plan would have diverted part of the funds back but still would have changed the Medicare system to a "defined contribution" plan, essentially a voucher plan without the coupons.
The Obama plan will indeed use the savings from Medicare to fund health care for an expanded group that will include seniors. Health benefits will increase, not decrease.
Repeating the lie and the accompanying distortion, calling the repetition a fact-check, does not make the desperate attempt any more true.
But keep trying. Obama-hatred does seems to be the core of today's version of contemporary conservatism.
You criticize a "time travel lie" that Ryan attributed to CANDIDATE Obama having said, but you ignore the actual time travel lie regarding Romney being responsible for the death of a man's wife because Bain Capital caused him to lose his job and health insurance. Never mind that the wife still had her job with insurance and that her death didn't occur until six years later.
Interesting, my friend... :)
Actually, I addressed the accuracy of the ad you mention and its manifest unfairness here:
The ad was superficially accurate, but completely unfair.
I made the additional point in the following link, that Mr. Romney should not be seen as responsible for what happened after he left Bain, including any jobs that were created years later:
I'm sure you agree with that, right?
You do realize that this robs Mr. Romney of three quarters of the rationale for his campaign.
Second, Burr you immediately attack T.Paine's source (The Blaze) without even considering the content. This strikes me as irresponsible and unfair, but also what's expected here on the internets.
It's possible that The Blaze has an accurate story. It's possible that a writer for The Blaze will write something you agree with. It's possible that the fact check piece is wrong and The Blaze cleared it up.
You will never know because you assume The Blaze is not objective (it's not) and therefore wrong. Isn't the entire point of your post that we need to avoid bias and pay attention to reality?
There is no fair and balanced; every human being has biases. To undermine a source as not objective is to assume that an objective source exists. Let's stop attacking the credibility of sources and examine facts.
If I understand your first comment correctly, you suggest that, insofar as news is concerned, Americans should consider the source, then do their homework. Moments later, in your second comment, you chastise me for considering the source. You do go further, criticizing me for not considering the content.
You may want to reconsider. If you look more carefully, you may discover that I not only considered the content, I replied to it.
Instead of first attacking the source, find out if the source has something good to say.
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