False Equivalence in Politics and Newspaper Publishing

Having been the target of many clever mechanisms of rhetoric including false dichotomy, ad hominem dismissal, etc., I found James Fallows’s [@JamesFallows] article in The Atlantic yesterday on the origin and manifestations of “false equivalence” to be enlightening.

One quote in particular from Shreeharsh Kelkar of MIT echos a complaint directed at me by a fellow city commissioner awhile back (before Mayor Lane and the Scottsdale city council in their infinite wisdom euthanized that panel of experts):

It seems to me that our political discourse also contains a similar kind of boundary work — between “politics” and “policy.” Our politicians will always say: What I’m doing is just plain old common sense or the right thing or just good policy, or just the solution to a problem; whereas what my opponent is doing is playing politics. And if one sees politics as actually a way of managing relations between conflicting groups of people, one can see why they do that.

Kelkar continues by offering a theory and historical perspective as to the decent of the editorial press into mediocrity…or worse. It’s an interesting read.

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