On the Other Hand…Nothing: The Trouble with Even-handedness

Eric Alterman

The decades-long class war being waged by corporate America and the superrich on the rest of us has been aided tremendously by the media’s tendency to treat both sides as if they are guilty of what only one side is doing. Even the best newspapers will all too often run misleadingly evenhanded headlines above stories that reveal a decidedly less balanced reality. For instance, on 
June 13, beneath the headline “Campaign Aid Is Now Surging Into 8 Figures,” the New York Times ran a story demonstrating that it was only Republican campaign aid that was doing so. Well down in the story, we learn that “Democrats have since sought to match Republicans’ super PAC advantage, but with little success. The Adelsons’ $35 million is more than the three leading Democratic super PACs have raised combined.” In fact, nobody at all has given the Democrats a single eight-figure contribution, but the casual reader of the paper—which is most of us—will turn the page with a false understanding of what is no doubt the key dynamic of our politics.

Ditto the story on CBS.com running beneath the headline “A record amount of money spent on Wisconsin recall.” Again, the reader must wade into the story’s fifth paragraph to learn that the words “record amount” actually mean that Governor Scott Walker raised and spent more than seven times the amount of his opponent, Tom Barrett, and bought himself re-election.


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