From Eric Boehrlet’s “How The Press Helped Cause The GOP Shutdown: Years Of Bogus ‘Both-Sides-To-Blame’ Coverage Have Emboldened Radical Republicans” at Media Matters for America:
…so it goes within portions of the Beltway press corps who are straining to include Democrats in the shutdown blame game; to make sure “both sides” are targeted for tsk-tsk scoldings about “Washington dysfunction,” and that the Republicans’ truly radical nature remains casually ignored. This media act is getting old. And this media act may be emboldening the Republicans’ extreme behavior.
…The media lesson for Republicans? There’s very little political downside to pushing extremism if the press is going to give the party a pass.
And now, rather than seeing the health care obstructionism as part of an obvious Republican continuum, and rather than noting it followed the gun law obstructionism, which followed the sequester obstructionism, which followed the Chuck Hagel confirmation obstructionism, which followed the Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstructionism, which followed consistent obstructionism on judicial nominees, the press remains reluctant to connect the obvious dots that help paint the portrait of a truly radical Republican party.
Narrowing the scope of ultimate responsibility for the shutdown debacle, Boehlert adds, “It’s a rump faction of as few as 30 hardcore House Republicans who refuse to support a clean bill funding the government (and the GOP leadership which has refused to stand up to them) that precipitated the shutdown.” That’s right, 30 Republican obstructionists have intimidated Speaker John Boehner into holding the country hostage to their unrealistic “kill Obamacare” fantasies.
Boehlert peppers his post with examples of the MSM’s orgy of false equivalence. In addition to Politico’s Mike Allen, who Boehlert cites in his lede:
ABC News’ Jonathan Karl last night reported the pending government shutdown represents “Washington dysfunction at its absolute worst,” not Republican dysfunction. Meanwhile, CBS posted the headline, “Yet Again, Congress Searches For a Short-Term Budget Fix,” while NBC’s First Read went with “Congress – Playing With Fire.”
…On CNN, anchor Chris Cuomo announced “Both sides seem to be saying, forget that constitutional responsibility to pass laws to fund the government. Let’s just take a pass on it this time,” while an ABC News shutdown dispatch reported that “neither side appears willing to compromise to reach middle ground.”
…On and on it goes. A September 20 editorial in the Washington Post cast a wide net in terms of who was to blame, pointing the finger at unnamed “mischievous legislators,” “Congress,” and the “people who run this town.” While noting that House Republicans had initiated the shutdown, the Post warned that “both sides are inordinately concerned” with the politics of the situation and will need to “compromise[e] for the common good.”
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal newsroom has been working overtime to make sure readers think Democrats and Republicans share the blame, publishing generic “Washington” headlines, claiming the “increasingly dysfunctional Congress” is to blame for the shutdown threat (not Republicans), and falsely reporting the GOP’s radical health care maneuvers really just represent “a debate over the scope and size of government.”
The irony is that many of these reporters fancy themselves impartial moderates, while doing the bidding of GOP propagandists. Of course there are exceptions. But would it be too much to ask that national MSM reporters research a little deeper, stop parroting spoon-fed cliches from the Republican message machine and show a little less laziness in informing their readers?
Boehlert quotes Ryan Lizza, who rolls it out straight and clear:
More to the point, as The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza recently noted on CNN’s Reliable Sources, “What we are witnessing in Washington to a large extent is an internal fight within the Republican Party.” He added, “I think it’s hard for mainstream reporters to sort of say that because we want most issues to be nice and tidy. Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame.”
So far, most Americans have not yet been hustled by the false equivalence reportage. As a new Quinnipiac poll finds
Nearly three-fourths of American voters, or 74%, disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their job, according to a Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday. That compares to 60% who don’t like the way congressional Democrats are performing…If elections were held today, 43% of voters say they would choose the Democratic candidate while 34% would vote for the Republican…That 9-point difference is the widest in favor of Democrats since 2009 in the Quinnipiac Poll,
Boehlert concludes, “It does seem hard for mainstream reporters to drop the “both-sides-are-to-blame” angle. Yet every one of them must understand that that tired old trope doesn’t apply to this weird Republican crack up.”