This Is So Interesting (With False-Equivalence Implications)

By James Fallows

I am simply piggy-backing here on a very popular item by Alexander Abad-Santos on The Atlantic Wire. But on the off chance that you have not seen it, this really is worth a look.

It's a comparison of results on a basic factual-knowledge test for consumers of different news organizations. The Wire item (understandably) contrasted the results for Fox viewers versus those who watched no news at all. To me an even more dramatic contrast is Fox-v-NPR*.

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To relate this to "false equivalence": during the Juan Williams inbroglio and passim, the Fox rationale has been that they are "balancing" a presumed bias from the rest of the media, notably NPR. Unt-uh! As I argued at the time, the more profound difference is that NPR aspires actually to be a news organization and to provide "information," versus fitting a stream of facts into the desired political narrative.

That contrast may lack surprise value at this point. Still, it's worth noting that anyone who attempts to equate, say, NPR and Fox, in the fashion of "they're all biased, you just pick your perspective," is once again not looking at the actual data.

Another illustration, which I'll plan to expand on tomorrow (if I can do it before the dawn flight to Shanghai): a very, very powerful illustration  of how strong the impulse toward false equivalence is, even among the most erudite and eminent. More soon.
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* Routine disclosure: I have never been an NPR employee but have contributed to various programs over the years, most recently Weekend All Things Considered with Guy Raz.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/05/this-is-so-interesting-with-false-equivalence-implications/257612/