Tag Archives: balance

Outrageous, egregious, preposterous


I’ve long maintained that there is a fallacy gap between right and left.  Major right-leaning pundits (Will, Krauthammer, Brooks, and the legions of Am Spec bloggers) far exceed left-leaning pundits (Krugman, E.J.Dionne, and who else is there?) in basic philosophy 101-style argumentative terribleness.

The only evidence I have is my unscientific observations over the past nine or so years.  For some, this view cannot possibly be correct, since “both sides do it” is a logical and metaphysical fact.  It isn’t.  But the fact that most people think this forces any treatment of fallacies, over-the-top rhetoric, etc., to insist on a balance which isn’t there.  Provide your own examples.

Now there is some, but only some, empirical support for my thesis.  Professors  Jeffrey Berry (Political Science) and Sarah Sobieraj (Sociology) of Tufts have written The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility, which takes an empirical perspective on over-the-top political rhetoric.  In an article in Politico, they write:

That said, the data from our analysis still show that the liberal outrage media is no match for the conservative side. Looking at low levels of outrage—say, two to five incidents per episode—we found that left- and right-leaning programs and blogs were roughly equal. However, as the number of outrage incidents per episode or post increased, the source was more and more likely to be conservative. This is most visible at the far end of the spectrum: The most outrageous cases (with 50 or more incidents per episode or post) come almost exclusively from conservative sources.

The outrage measure is itself kind of an interesting notion. But I’ll leave that for another time. In the meantime, check out the article (see if you can spot the balance-mongering!), and the book.

Team players

I pick on "conservative" columnists a lot here.  I've noted elsewhere (click here) why this is so.  Now I am not the only one making this observation. From County Fair:

Last week, I noted that the numerical advantage conservatives have on the nation's op-ed pages doesn't tell the whole story:

There's a huge qualitative difference between the conservatives given newspaper columns and their progressive counterparts as well. The conservatives tend to be more partisan, more aggressive, and more reliable advocates for their "team."

The Washington Post employs as a columnist Bill Kristol, a hyperpartisan neocon Republican strategist who has been a key player in GOP efforts to block health care and start unnecessary wars. Who is supposed to be Kristol's counterpart? Richard Cohen, who opposes affirmative action, supports torture, and attacked liberals who opposed Kristol's war in Iraq?

Now, here's what you see if you turn to the op-ed page of today's Washington Post:

Former Bush speechwriter and current Post columnist Michael Gerson on "The Democrats' Assault on the CIA."

Conservative Post columnist Kathleen Parker on chaos in the GOP.

Former Bush aide Ed Gillespie, misleading readers about his party's historical reaction to Supreme Court nominees by Democratic presidents.

Centrist Post columnist David Ignatius on President Obama's approach to Israel

Liberal Post columnist Ruth Marcus writing about her new puppy.

So that's three conservatives, including two former Bush aides, a centrist, and a progressive. One conservative attacking Democrats, one conservative misleading readers about the Supreme Court and attacking Democrats, one conservative noting disarray in the GOP, and a liberal writing about her dog.

I invite those who hunger for balance on this page to produce the party-line liberal columnists in national newspapers.

A link

A link on the "liberal media"–very much worth a read.

This also sounds like a rewarding (and strangely familiar) activity (via Leiter Reports):

Carlos Mariscal, a graduate student at Duke, wrote last Friday:

While I was watching the convention this week (and last week as well, actually), it astounded me at how often the speakers would resort to obvious logical fallacies.  I counted five false dichotomies and four straw men within the Sarah Palin speech alone.  As a result, I've decided to throw a 'Spot the Logical Fallacy' party during the first debate September 26.  It occurs to me that this would be a good way of showing the use of philosophical training and a fun way to reach out to the community.  So, I'd like to throw the idea out to the Internet in the hopes that a few philosophy departments, clubs, or meet up groups will also decide to throw parties of their own.

It should be a busy and festive event, given the relative role of rhetoric vs. logic in political debates!