Paleolithic Origins of False Equivalence, Starring James Carville

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For anyone with the slightest interest in modern politics, the full two-minutes-plus of this clip from The War Room will be an irresistibly rewarding glimpse back at life two decades ago. But the 20-second soliloquy by James Carville that starts around time 1:40 shows the bright thread of false-equivalence thinking that runs from that time to our own.

 


"We say 50 + 50 is 104, they say 50 + 50 is 104,000, and the press will say, 'Well both of 'em are stretching the numbers a little bit.' "

Thanks to reader RM.
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Bonus update for math/coding folks in the audience. A reader in Corvallis, Oregon writes:

A previous reader said:
"I often feel that the true expression is:
    "Democrats: 1+1 = 4
    "Republicans: 1+1 = 12
    "Press: 1+1= 10, probably, though some experts disagree."
In this case, the press is correct. They are just using "sophisticated' language to prove their superiority.

"There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't."
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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