(The Root) — When I sat down to write this article about the “Say Anything” election, I wondered if I should give examples of President Obama participating in #SayAnything2012 to even out my critique. I thought of it because in today’s climate, in order to call BS and not have the core of my argument dismissed, I have to give out equal critiques. But that creates its own issue that we see in media all the time: the false-equivalency trap. To make a point, we have to attack everybody because “both sides do it!” If we don’t show both sides doing something, we have a bias!
I disagree with this idea. I believe that both parties have their own problems, but they don’t engage voters the same way in the same areas. If Fox News simply reported on issues with the Obama presidency — all backed up with proof and facts — it wouldn’t be the joke it is today. Fox News’ malicious framing of stories and use of what The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead refers to as the “wondering aloud” news technique — when you don’t have facts and just wonder on air about a topic — that’s their problem. MSNBC, on the other hand, has a liberal slant but doesn’t engage in reframing entire narratives. Oftentimes they allow Fox News and conservatives to frame the argument.
Just recently we watched the media’s false equivalency when dealing with the ad wars of the presidential campaigns. The majority of MSNBC anchors claimed that Romney’s hit on Obama concerning taking work out of welfare was a lie, but added that Obama said Mitt Romney killed a woman! See! Both sides are negative!
I’d argue that there are some serious differences. An ad from a super PAC (which, as we learned from Mitt Romney during the GOP debates, a candidate can’t control and is legally barred from conversing with) about a woman dying because of a lack of health insurance is different from a Romney 2012 campaign ad that claims Obama did something he simply did not do and stokes the very resentment that led to the questionable welfare reform of 1996.
Bottom line: Everybody can be guilty of #SayAnything2012, but that doesn’t mean it’s at the same levels for both sides. Creating a false equivalency to dilute the issue doesn’t fix anything.