Have you ever seen something on the news where they place two ideas against each other, one ridiculous and the other sane, and let the two representing those arguments duke it out as if their logic was on equal footing, then cut to the next story without ever resolving the conflict at hand? Usually this would be something that’s very common sense or can be backed by science, like global climate change, institutional racism, or racial profiling. The career journalist hosting the argument should say something when someone is talking ignorant out of their neck, but they never do. Have you ever seen this? If you have, ladies and gentlemen, you have witnessed false neutrality.
False neutrality is the logical fallacy that exists when a facilitator of an argument allows a debate to take place as if the two uneven arguments are equally balanced in logic, evidence, and facts. If Debater A has a strong argument and Debater B has a weak argument, the facilitator will ensure neutrality by never holding the weak argument to standard. To put this in numeric terms, let’s show this in a point system: if one is over 9000 (!) and the other is at a weak 150, it should be clear who the winner is. It should be clear who has the strongest argument. But this is not the case in mainstream media. In mainstream media, bullshit, for a lack of a better term, totally goes unchecked.
It’s not Fox News this time.
Interestingly, conservative media isn’t the main culprit in presenting a false neutrality. Conservative media are more likely to present themselves as conservative (their selling point), so by default they are not neutral. This false neutrality thing is a pathological problem of the more liberal media engines. CNN, who attempts to be the most middle, does this in spades. This gross intellectual perversion is the reason why sometimes it’s so jarring to the senses to see someone like Don Lemon trolling his audience waiting for “facts” when all the facts are already known.
Let me be clear however — Fox News and conservative media are by no means off the hook regarding intellectual dishonesty. Instead of pretending to be neutral by never resolving easily answered arguments, conservative media prefers to stand up a straw liberal and then knock it down. If the straw liberal is a little more tough than the system had planned, conservative media pundits will quickly out-yell, out-rant (O’Reilly), and otherwise drown out the straw liberal. Conservative media are also not above blatant lies (see O’Reilly again), pulling microphones, cutting off mics and totally editing out someone with a sound argument against a conservative talking point. Conservative media will also specifically select their straw liberals to be at the most nutcase fringe by design (why do New Black Panther Party extremists show up on Fox News the most?) and then slap them down as if they are the core representation of a specific minority group (Hannity). So no, conservatives are not more honest than liberal media. It’s just more brutally jarring to see liberal media throw tactical stupidity at the American public because we expect them to have standards.
Neutrality ≠ Objectivity
I can see the appeal of false neutrality; it looks like objectivity on a superficial basis. More to the point, it looks like fairness and balance. Unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth. One problem I identify with liberals is the fact that liberals are typically weak fighters and from there, false neutrality is a comfortable position to rest in. Liberals prefer concepts like “being nice” and “tolerance”, so it’s not a surprise that false neutrality is a pathology of liberal media. It’s easier to be “nice” and “tolerate” ridiculous and categorically stupid arguments from the right wing, to include those from “CNN contributors” who somehow always find a way to support modern day persecution of American minority people. So yeah, fake neutrality is a liberal pathology because niceness is a liberal pathology. Journalists who favor neutrality over objectivity fear appearing as if they have a bias. A real journalist shouldn’t move to fear and maintain objectivity at all times — and never confuse it with a false neutrality. Facts, matter.
When presented with the opportunity to be objective, the position of neutrality (in journalism) is the position of a coward.
Even further, if fairness and balance — the mission statement of many news media entities — were priority number one, then one can argue that it’s MORE fair and MORE balanced to actually hold weak arguments to standard. It’s not fair to to bestow equal power of credibility to both arguments opposing each other when one is nonsensical and the other is ground on solid facts. It’s not a balance, it’s a false balance. It’s counterfeit balance, in the same manner how writing dollar signs on random pieces of paper doesn’t balance your budget.
In fact, money is a great analogy to this problem. One doesn’t simply give the same high qualified-for-the-loan credit score to a person who doesn’t have enough freaking credit. One argument is clearly more credible than the other, therefore one person can get the loan, and the other needs more credit before we trust him. His argument needs more to be credible.
What CNN does, technically, is allow the weaker person to pad his argument with counterfeit money and it pretty much goes unchecked. Hell, if a fast food cashier making minimum wage can spot fake money, how on earth can a career televised journalist NOT spot fake talking points in an argument? Are the fast food cashiers better at their job than the televised journalists are at theirs?
Faking neutrality is dangerous to a society
Presenting two arguments as if they are always on equal footing for the sake of a false neutrality is dangerous business. It makes people more stupid. For years, trusted news media have presented things like global climate change, police brutality/lack of accountability, vaccinations, war/armed conflict justifications, various conspiracy theories and a vast amount of various issues as if all arguments are on equal footing. People REALLY do begin to think anything can be argued when this is done for over 15 years nonstop. Like the money analogy from earlier? Here’s another: inflation. People are genuinely shocked when their inflated bullshit is called out in real life because quite frankly it’s never called out on television. People will run with bullshit in their hands, wet, stinking, with fumes in their face, full speed, and usually won’t stop until it threaten their jobs and careers.
A serious Presidential candidate actually tried to argue that the Egyptian pyramids were used to store food and grain — something that cannot be verified and has been proven categorically false. While I’m sure this guy is in no danger of becoming President, it’s more frightening on the fact that a sizable amount of people see him fit to represent the United States people as a whole. Holy crap.
The media by the time of this publishing, is currently trying to contain Presidential candidate Trump’s blatant fascism. Fact checkers have clearly proven that most of the things he says are false. But can you really blame him? The media doesn’t hold anyone’s claims to standard as is, so why should any presidential candidate stick to things like the truth and facts when they are totally allowed to blown off reality?
What can we do about it?
False neutrality is exceedingly dangerous to the American public. The sad part is the fact that I really don’t have the power to properly remedy this. All I can do, is continue to call nonsense out where it stands, keep my friends, family or anyone with opposing (or agreeable) claims sharp by actually engaging their statements. It takes a person who isn’t afraid of confrontation and knows how to manage conflict. You of course, have to have the facts in your hands. You cannot correct someone if you don’t know the facts on the matter. If you are a liberal or moderate, you cannot shy away from these things. Simply being nice doesn’t work. I’m tired of seeing “nice”. It would serve the greater good to not allow bullshit to fly. One should place objectivity over niceties. We can all be nice when bullshit ceases to fly. If you see bullshit flying within your airspace, you should commit to shooting that mess down faster than the Turkish Air Force.
As a writer/speaker on AfroSapiophile, I’ll most certainly uphold my part in this. If a stance can be discredited through evaluation of the facts, then this must be the conclusion drawn by the media. Perhaps, mainstream media’s continuance of false neutrality will mark the death of professional journalism, which pushes more people to podcasts and columnists like what’s found here. This is kind of already happening, with people like Deray keeping multiple batteries chargers and documenting everything they see out there on the streets. I’ll just continue to do my part, and hope logic and reason inspires others to do the same.