arguing about who is worse

When the topic of media bias comes up, there always seem to be those like Bill Moyers who claims it is a conservative bias to those who claim it is ‘fair and balanced’ to those who develop measures they can apply to demonstrate thier point.

[referring to ] Steven Taylor, aka Poliblogger dealing with intellectual rivals … Taylor wrote his piece after reading this post by blogger Barbara O’Brien of MahaBlog.

And, above all, realize that political passions can — and do — get out of hand equally, on both sides. [Joe Gandelman. BLOGGING: Which Show More Hate? The Left Or The Right Blogs?. The Moderate Voice. 24 December 2004]

Anyone who offers a measure should provide the referent and the criteria for that measure, subjective or no. Matters of ‘but Momma, everyone does it!” may make one feel good but do not necessarily reflect the actual situation. When it comes to this ‘who is worse?’ measure, the problems become one of weighing the merits of the voice as well as its expression.

There have been numerous studies about political expression in both academia and in the MSM. They are often interesting not only in the conclusions determined but in the measures used. But doing such studies is so much trouble. It is much easier to just conclude that everybody is the same and that differences of opinion are nearly always honest and everyone is equally competent in their views, especially if you have doubts about your side.

The problem is that such assumptions about the equivalence of bias, manner of expression, and integrity of conclusion are measurably false. By asserting such a falsehood to start with, such as Gandleman does, means that learning about the issues is burdened by the need to first dispose of preconceived notions about the preconceived notions that he suggests need to be disposed of to learn about the ‘other side!’

What has to happen first is that people must adopt a defensible means to measure the quality of arguments and the information used to support them. We can then use this measure to determine how we can learn from arguments that are made available to us. When someone delves into generalizations, invokes the ad hominem, uses celebrity endorsements, selects context and particulars with care, or performs other such tactics we should apply an appropriate measure of skepticism.

Surely we can all still recognize the difference between the kind of history that presents the facts according to its own lights, bright or dim, and the kind of propaganda that completely ignores inconvenient facts, or tries to write around them. [Paul Greenberg. The Clinton Library historians. Washington Times. 26 December 2004]

And when someone tries to tell us it is all the same when we can see otherwise, we should also consider it good cause us to be skeptical!

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