False Equivalence Watch: A Keeper From the L.A. Times

By James Fallows
Will get to security-state news of all sorts later today. For now, quite a remarkable illustration of the spread of the "false equivalence" outlook. For background on that concept, start here. The gist is:
  • for most of American history, the U.S. Senate has operated on a simple majority-vote basis, except for treaties, impeachment, and other limited cases;
  • since the GOP lost control of the Senate six years ago, Mitch McConnell's Senate minority has used filibuster threats at an unprecedented rate, requiring not a simple majority of 51 votes but a supermajority of 60 to get even routine business done or routine appointments approved;
  • the minority has sought to portray this approach not as a historical aberration but as perfectly routine. Thus every press account saying a measure "lost" rather than that it was "blocked" or "filibustered," takes us closer to this de facto Constitutional change. For more on why that matters, see this (and, for a positive example, this).
Comes now the Los Angeles Times -- a paper I've read and loved since boyhood, my original employer when I had a newspaper route and then when I phoned in high-school sports scores [my point: I'm not a LAT-knocker]  -- with a story on attempts to put a cap on interest rates for student loans. Here was the headline:
LATimesJune7A.png

And here is the bulk of the story, setting out the details:
LATimesJune7B1.png

So we have two plans, from the two opposing parties, each following a path to defeat. Sounds like one more case of everyone's-to-blame "gridlock." Then, in paragraph eight, we get this:

LATimesJune7C.png

Right; both plans "failed." One because only a minority of senators voted for it; the other, because a majority voted for it but not enough to surmount a filibuster threat. It's impossible to say which side is being more obstructionist; the issue is "unresolved" and is one more sign of modern dysfunction. [Thanks to reader MR.]

This may violate some corollary to the Godwin Rule, but once again I give you George Orwell:
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/06/false-equivalence-watch-a-keeper-from-the-la-times/276643/