The Lie of “Both-Siderism”


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Anthony Freda                                           

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on December 10, 2018

“I think there are good people on both sides.”

 ― Donald J. Trump


Let's be clear: this article rejects the notion that both the right and left are equally culpable in the endless political battle for hearts and minds. This is sometimes expressed as the "k'rupt duopoly," ""both sides do it," and "voting doesn't matter."  While true that many of the problems afflicting this country span decades and include administrations from both parties, much of what we face stems from the tendency to kick the can down the road and avoid the pain of near term electoral consequences.

Just this week, the unindicted co-conspirator otherwise known by his new nickname, "Individual 1"  noted, that the national debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office, replied, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.”  All too typical.

"Both-siderism" is a feeble, lazy attempt on the part of media to "balance" their coverage by resorting to the trope that "both sides" are equally culpable. This is part of "gaslighting the world," as remarkably expressed above by the work of Anthony Freda.

Both-siderism is false equivalency, a verbal sleight-of-hand which posits that my peccadillo is as grievous as your armed robbery. Trump's "grab 'em by the pussy" was thus answered with, "but her emails," and thus emotionally balanced, neutralized, and quickly forgotten. Both-siderism is a first cousin to "whataboutism," a favored trope of the right and of internet trolls truing to muddy the waters and change the subject in a losing argument. And both derive from the Tu quoque logical fallacy, also known as the appeal to hypocrisy..

One of my many unpaid jobs as Diner busboy and janitor is as primary administrator of the Diner Facebook page. I post articles which appear in the Forum, the Doomstead Diner Daily, and my own musings. I had recently posted an article that  the Office of Trump tax lawyer Edward Burke had been raided by FBI agents, and that the dominoes were starting to fall badly for Trump in an extremely bad week for Making America Grate Again.

One of our respondents, Tony, was quick to offer an object lesson:

DNC grasping at straws. Get ready for more pain in 2020…one way or the other, U.S. politics is a freak show. But this ploy would only work in a week with two Tuesday's.

Contrary, who is one of the admins of the page, replied in reasonably good humor,

Those are some pretty big straws. It's funny how closely Cohen's testimony aligns with the Steele dossier. I'm so loving this. It's like Christmas is coming early… Yep. Raided Deutsch Bank today, too. Deck them halls, we'll have a whole week of Tuesdays!

And then Tony kicked open the lid to the shitter:

What about the Clinton crime syndicate? They haven't fallen, have they? Why isn't Hillary behind bars? How many felonies did she commit, all unpunished? The problem with U.S. crony politics is that crooks can get away with anything in your country, because they have money and power. Another nail in the coffin.

Having nothing to do with the topic at hand. To which I replied,

"Whataboutism" is a crime against nature employed by people who otherwise got nuthin'. I am currently working on an article for the Diner blog about whataboutism and it's twin, "both-siderism." False equivalencies, all. I can't stand Hillary myself, (and hold her class traitor husband in deeper contempt), but the simple fact is that the Clintons have been investigated more than anyone in history, and NOTHING has stuck except a load on a blue dress. Nothing. No Hillary crimes, no felonies, no abuses of the Clinton Foundation. Nothing but rumors and lies spread by the right wing echo chamber. So put your Clinton noisemakers away: they don't work here.

The truth is that one side cheats. One side is the TV villain who grabs a handful of sand and flings it at his eyes of the hero. That's the far right, now identified as "Trumpists" or "the Republican party" (no longer any difference.) Every time you hear someone in the media say, reflexively, "It’s both sides, both sides," you are in the presence of an enabling mechanism for cutting the nutcase out of the truth.

Use of these dodges accelerated last year with Trump's refusal to denounce white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in the wake of the murder of Heather Heyer. Trump famously equivocated the neo-Nazis and their crimes with the counter-protestors. Refer to the lead quote for this article. No fascists, no antifa, but that's not nearly good enough for the far right. 

It's not just for social media or around the Thanksgiving dinner table: both-siderist media fatcats make handsome livings positing false equivalency between left and right, with the left are now represented by what used to be moderate Republicans, and the right are  represented by seething, armed Nazis and Republiconfederates. The media thus provide undeserved moral cover for these retrogrades and effectively move the "center" of political discourse continually to the right.

There are always those who want to "hug it out, bro," and to those I offer the back of my hand. These false equivalency-seekers try hard to find a middle ground in our current politics. But after 40 years of conservative governance increasingly debased by the malefactors of great wealth, the political donor class and their media hey-boys, that "center" is now located in what used to be called "hard right." 

The preening, glossy-coated corporate lapdogs of the mainstream media thus offer legitimacy and a fresh coat of paint to the politically discredited who want to come slinking back to legitimacy after their leader goes tits-up. Trump’s presidency will eventually end, and his current supporters will predictably want to hose away the stench. They will present themselves as appalled by both their party’s past and the Democrats’ present, and will promise a more responsible future based on fresh rebranding.

It happened with Bush: after it became impossible to wash off the stink of Bush politics, the "Tea Party™" was born, and your Crazy Uncle Liberty was washed clean in the blood of the lamb, reborn as an "Independent" in a tri-corn hat along with his Revolutionary War cosplayer friends.

Watch as more rats go careening off the good ship Trump. You already see the Bill Kristols and Max Boots of the world present as "Never-Trumpers," spouting their usual right wing dogma wrapped in opposition to Orange Jesus. (It still amuses me that people insist MSNBC is "liberal.") Corporate media always prepares the lifeboats for these people. Look at what Fuck Toad reportedly did with "Press the Meat" recently: had on a Heritage Foundation rep to refute climate change. 

So when I take over, I'm rounding up the Chuck Toddses, Kathleen Parkers, Jeff Greenfields, David Fucking Brookses, Ron Forniers, Michael Smerconishes and Andrew Sullivans of the world, and putting them on an island where they can bleat "it’s time to denounce the harsh partisans who feed on polarization” to one another while lighting their own farts.

Now, I am not entirely unreasonable, although it's a position I prefer.  Some people do have a mix of affiliations, and assert that both parties are too controlled by their most strident, uncivil, and extreme elements. To which I reply, "Have you SEEN the Democrats?" And to which I raise a chorus of "Which Side Are You On?"

That fact is that both sides don't. Both sides are not responsible for the recent slaughter in Squirrel Hill, or for the spewing of hateful and divisive rhetoric that enabled it.

Both sides don't have a President* who exhorts hate, encourages bloodshed, and who appeals to the darkest aspects of the spirit.
Both sides haven't resurrected a slur used by murderous dictators like Hitler and Stalin to denounce the "Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People" while spewing provable falsehoods every day.
Both sides don't kidnap children, or target them with tear gas when appearing at our border to request asylum. And then accuse the victims of being used as "human shields."
Both sides didn't launch a presidential campaign on the premise that Mexicans are "rapists" and "drug dealers."
Both sides didn't equate protestors with armed Nazis, and post Charlottesville call the Nazis "very fine people."
Both sides didn't didn't call for a "total and complete shutdown” of Muslim refugees entering the country.
Both sides did not assert, without proof, that "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners" had infiltrated the migrant group of several thousand headed to the U.S. after fleeing violence in their home countries. 

One could go on. But to what point?


There is politics. And there is evil. 

Compromise used to be a value in politics, before the Rs, led by Leroy N. Gingrich, redefined politics as war and his political adversaries as enemies to be destroyed. It is hard to negotiate with someone who wants you dead. Recognizing this fact is a necessary survival skill left-leaners are slow to adopt.

No more. 

Those who say "both sides are the same," “all politicians are corrupt” and  “nothing ever changes anyhow,” or "voting doesn't matter" are simply attempting to justify why they don’t have to expend the energy to address injustice or spend the courage to take a stand to affirm the truth..

All this, for what? For winning an argument, a news cycle? No, for winning a war.

The Republican donor class has a long term plan, of which you will hear nothing, but which will be made evident in sculptural relief by their deeds. The donor class has determined the most efficient way of waging war on democracy is on multiple fronts, and on a long term time frame. A gaggle of billionaires are sick and tired of the government telling them what they may and may not do, and have made common cause with any group who hates the government. Which includes wingnuts, bigots, neo-nazis, anti science fundamentalists, gun nuts, militia nuts, homophobes, Proud Boys, serial masturbators and Klansmen. These hateful lunatics despise the government because the government provides a check on their basest instincts. 

This is why the owners of this dark money project support Trump, whom they generally (if secretly) detest. He is a battering ram to enable and consolidate control over the judiciary, by which the donor class can keep a meaty thumb on the scales of social progress and justice. It's yielded two Supremes so far, and has swollen the federal judiciary with Federalist-society-vetted clones. The dark money boys are patient, and like rust, they never sleep.

Control of the judges and the courts is why a bunch of billionaires have paid to harness all these assholes, to put them to work tearing down the government so that they don't have to pay any goddamn taxes. And they'll select judges who will ratify their political vandalism.  

That's the long term game. The failure to recognize it, and to posit a false equivalency between this hateful agenda and democratic norms is why "both-siderism" and "whataboutism" are such pernicious tools wielded by the well-meaning but inept. So to both-siderists, whataboutists and "centrists" of all stripes, I offer the opportunity to kiss my ass. I'll see you in the streets.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

10 Responses to The Lie of “Both-Siderism”

  • AJ says:

    Thanks Surly, 

    This is one of the finest posts on the fallacy of false equivilancy in politics I have read in quite some time.

    AJ

    • Surly says:

      Thanks, AJ. Most writers have the decency to wipe the fosm froim their mouths before publishing. 

      Much appreciated.

  • Dennis says:

    Only having two sides in this complex world is fucking stupid, as is a two party system.  As is an any party system. 

  • Surly says:

    Unfortunately, that's what we have in the FSoA. Any attempt to stand up a third party candidacy elects one of the mainstreamers. Perot helped elect Clinton, Nader elected Bush the Lesser, and Jill Stein helped elect Trump. Pick yer poison.

  • Russ Day says:

    Surely, Surly1, this is far-right on point! I see these right-wingnuts on CNN and MSNBC and I wonder if they lost their ways and curds. Boot (et al.) them off. Your expose has been the talking topic at the dinner table for the last two years. As it used to  be the laff line on "LAUGH-IN" it's unGbelievable what these bad folks will do to being down the republic.  Keep up the good work.  Russ

    • Surly says:

      Thanks, Russ. This article is the distillation of dinner-table conversation between Contrary and me for some years, as well as what seems like decades of yelling at my teevee every time Rick Fucking Santorum pops on CNN, or Bill Kristol or Jennifer Rubin join an MSNBC panel. You know the minute Trump leaves office, they'll go back to spoutiung their n"fuck-the-poor" conservative message.

  • William Hunter Duncan says:

    At risk of standing in the path of the flamethrower…I'm thinking of a nice short peice in The Baffler by Thomas Frank, pointing out how "lifestyle" Liberalism failed, by embracing all things corporate, banking and billionaire, while condescending to those rural hicks and racist rednecks, handing over the mantle of "Populism" which used to be about standing up to monopolist types, thereby handing "populism" over to fascists to be manipulated in favor of said monopolists. 

    My uber-liberal local Minneapolis government put it's boot on my neck, or tried to, when I built a fucking greenhouse out of reclaimed sliding glass doors and lumber. My uber-liberal government cost me thousands of dollars and put me out of work for a quarter of a year because they put the screws to a client of mine who wanted to turn her house into a triplex, even as liberal gov spent the last two years making a plan to allow triplexes in every single residential neighborhood in the city. My liberal state government is fully supporting foreign corporations mining copper/nickle in sulfides in water-rich northern Minnesota, 20 years of mining for 500 years of sulfuric acid in the water. My liberal state government has allowed the waters of this state of 10,000 lakes to become more polluted than any time in history, with their neoliberal cocksucking of all things big ag. 

    So do I hate fascists? OMG how I hate the fascist impulse. Everything you say about the Right and 40 years outmaneuvering the Left is true. You don't seem to get however, what city liberal arrogance and condescension feels like to us rural hicks, and why that has pushed so many to support the sickness that Republicanism has become generally.

    I don't defend anyone who embraces fascist impulses…or exacerbates them.

    So as far as I am concerned, the siderism I see is big money elite putting the screws to most of us, every advantage for the few, austerity for the many, all hail corporations, banks and billionaires or you are a rube and all you get from from globalization is this stupid sweatshop t-shirt, an opioid epidemic, decreased life expectancy and a shit ton of invasive species.

    Gee, thanks  

  • anon says:

    this is something i have been saying for years and years, the whole right/left liberal/conservative narrative is a theater thrown up to keep people from understanding who's on who's side and indeed even where the sides are. 

    This is a struggle of living things versus the machine. it doesnt get any simpler than that. 

    observe actions and behavior, and ignore the words. Judge them _all_ by their actions and by the _same_ criteria. one mass murderer is not 'good' while another is 'bad' because one was supposedly wearing a label you imagine to stand for ideas you think are 'correct'. Indeed, watch out for people who think it's ok to use violence to force people to accept their 'correct' ideas!

     

  • Surly says:

    Anon,

    I've been trying to determine the extent to which I agree with your comment. I remain unclear.

    What I intended by writing is to seert that both sides are not the same. That there is evil, and there is not-evil. I agree that the labellers make it difficult often to assess which is which.

    IMO, most of the policies of the Golden Golum of Greatness are evil on their face. Most non-racist Americans seem to agree. But then, what to make of Trump's assertion that he will withdraw American troops from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq? These are policies that, on their face, I completely agree with. For years I've said, "Support the Troops: Bring them Home." So do I support the GGG in this regard? Hell yes, over the war profiteers and the generals. Puts me ni an awkward place.

    "Both-siderism" remains a lazy trope by journos whose phony-baloney jobs depend on getting Repubs to return their phone calls and show up for the Sunday shows. Cable news segment producers rarely know how to do analysis (aside from Maddow;) if it's not a horse race, they don't know how to cover it.

    And, as regards, "watch out for people who think it's ok to use violence to force people to accept their 'correct' ideas," never forget that at root the state is a group of armed men, with a remarkable array of weapons of coercion.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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