One Person's Opinion

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Ted Kennedy, as you may have heard, is very ill. In response, a number of people on both sides of the political spectrum have poured out their sympathies. I think that's great. I would hope it would be the same if, for instance, Bob Dole was stricken.

But I noticed that a fair amount of the conservative commentary consisted of self-congratulation and comparison to liberals, who it is alleged never express sympathy for conservatives who are stricken. The evidence of this was scattered comments by anonymous commenters on liberal websites saying that they hope that this or that conservative would die.

Of course, liberals do the same thing, pointing to, for instance,, which is famous for having some rather vituperative commentators. But there have also been recent allegations that perhaps Mike Huckabee and Hillary Clinton have been rooting for political assassinations. (For the record, I think both instances were slips and were not meant to be malicious.)

The point, though, is that this pitch of moral superiority has become a standard feature of American political discourse. Yes, you can say something nice about the opposition, but only as a tool to congratulate yourself and your side of the aisle for its classiness, and pointing out how trashy the other side has been.

There is a variant of this that is the flip side of the coin, which is claims of media bias. Obviously, nobody is going to claim that the media is never biased. But not everything is a matter of media bias. And this is a standard trope when one's own side gets caught with a hand in the cookie jar.

So, when John McCain was forced to disown John Hagee for his remarks about Hitler, plenty of conservatives tried to change the subject to whether the media was treating McCain unfairly and whether a liberal politician would suffer the same punishment for the same sort of activity.

And this comes on the heels of Obama supporters wondering whether conservatives would ever have to pay for their associations with loony pastors in the wake of the Reverend Wright episode.

Now, to be clear, I am not saying that one should never complain about media bias or that such complaints have no merit. What I am saying is that complaining about media bias is not a substitute for evaluating one's own position and the activities of people on one's own side. Democrats in New York, for instance, can complain rightly about the Bush Administration and the media going after Eliot Spitzer for activities that so many politicians are engaged in. There may well be a double standard. That doesn't, however, excuse Spitzer's conduct.

And that's the problem with too many discussions of media bias now. They are an all-too-convenient way to change the subject. And what they share with the moral superiority trope is that in both cases, someone is trying to score a political point rather than confront the real issue.

So let's try to address our political issues without constantly referencing how much better we are than our opponents, or how we get treated so much worse by the media, OK?


Well said. Difficult issues are difficult by themselves without all these distractions.

There's no need to set up superficial lines of arguments just for the sake of easy point scoring.

But hey that's kinda how it works these days though.
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