Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Asymmetry Challenge

Here at WTBP, we sometimes wonder if a fair shorthand for the current political mess would be - "Liberals inquire, 'What If', But Conservatives Shout 'F**k You!" (WIFY)Now, if that happens to be true, then there is important asymmetry between the parties which leads the following logical consequences, among others.
If asymmetry can be proven, then the he said/she said/ both-sides-do-it balanced model used by the mainstream objective media giants breaks down.
If the model for media balance breaks down, it needs to be replaced.
If the media fairness standard needs to be replaced, with what?
You can almost see Adolph S. Ochs spinning in his grave.
Begin with context and research meaningful patterns of behavior. Pay attention to patterns of speech, too. With Trump and Clinton as candidates this year, the media was handed a generous gift, two opposing candidates with long records of activity in the public sphere. Lots of information at your fingertips. Lots of living people who can talk about their experiences with them. Build a model of that candidate yourself, based on the available evidence. And when an accusation is made about the other candidate, test it against the portrait of the candidate you have built under the new fairness model. Only report the accusation in context, if at all!

Context Alert: Donald Trump is someone who has spent a lifetime taking advantage of weaknesses in the systems in which he operates. Those weaknesses often derive from the principle that most people act in good faith in their dealings with others throughout their lives. In business, a man with four bankruptcies has used and abused the system. So has a man with a history of using his charities to pay off his debts, even when those charities collected funds only from others. He certainly seems to be a man who refuses to pay his bills mostly because he hates to part with his money so much. The list goes on. If many people who knew Ted Cruz throughout college and law school could not stand his personality, Donald Trump has stood out in business as someone who achieved success through intimidation and shaking down bill collectors to accept less. And now, at least since 2011, he first took advantage of the weak "fair and balanced" reporting standard of our objective press in pursuing the "birther" accusations, and then, in 2015 and 2016, he took advantage of weaknesses in the Republican primary system that reward candidates for outrageous statements and promises and avoiding clear expressions of policy.

What can be done? We point to two groups. The press who refuse to examine context first. And the moderates who happen to still be Republicans who succumb to tactics as policy.

Extreme example of context: So telling that at almost precisely the moment the WaPo posted their article on Trump's week of lies, NYT posted their article on Trump's week of lies. Imagine. These two outlets needed Trump's extreme three-pronged insult to feel that they had permission to call him out. But this was not the first week like this. Nor will it be the last. But such was his power over the press. Imagine what coverage would have been like if the press had been using that prism all along.
More to come on WIFY in an upcoming post.

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