Kilroy Was Here
August 21, 2004
The Curse of Evenhandedness
Last night on the Newshour, Mark Shields and William Kristol debated the effect of the Swift Boat Veterans attacks on John Kerry.
WILLIAM KRISTOL: This is not anonymous rumors. These are not mysterious ads popping up from nowhere. These are people stepping forward, volunteering to appear on every television show in the country, speaking into the camera on these ads, putting their names and reputation behind them. Some of them have been hurt because it turns throughout have been inconsistencies.
Some of the charges have I think held up quite well and they're willing to debate these charges against anyone. I think you found this last night against people who know a lot about it; it's really unfair, Mark. You're really slandering someone like John O'Neill who is a perfectly decent man who strongly believes....
MARK SHIELDS: I'll be happy to take on John O'Neill.... Where was John O'Neill --
WILLIAM KRISTOL: The Kerry campaign won't, though. If you asked the Kerry campaign to put someone up, another Vietnam vet to go up against John O'Neill, they won't put him up.
MARK SHIELDS: John Kerry has said to George Bush, you want to make Vietnam this... let's debate it.
WILLIAM KRISTOL: John Kerry's problem is not with George Bush. John Kerry's problem is with his fellow Vietnam vets.
This is the curse of subsitituting evenhandedness for objectivity.
In the realm of objectivity, truth is determined by many factors: official records, scientific method, historical research, objective facts, evaluation of sources,etc. In many ways, truth is persistent phenomena, leaving it's deep impressions across the landscape like fossils.
Unfortunately, the pursuit of truth in the realm of objectivity is hard. It requires research. It requires methodology. Ir requires discipline, resources, and time.
And these are things our modern media doesn't have.
So we substitute objectivity for evenhandedness. And in doing so, we regress 3000 years to the agora of Athens. Truth is no longer something supported by facts. Rather, truth is discovered by dialogue, argument, and rhetoric. In the realm of evenhandedness, we no longer have to strive with such difficult things as public records, or political agenda.
The pursuit of truth becomes easier. All we need is two contrary opinions. Then the viewer can make their choice. We no longer have to consider the public record that's stood for 30 years on John Kerry's medals. We no longer have to weigh the processing for awarding medals, the testimony of crewman, the institutional memory and pride of the Navy, the bueracracy of any large organizations, the ties of the Swift Boat Veterans with partisan groups, the inconsistencies of statements, etc. etc. That's too hard. And we may find after all this hard work, we don't even have much of a story.
No, if we want to know the truth, Kristol suggests, all we need to do is let these Swift Boat Veternas debate with Kerry. Why work so hard with all this research? Let's just have them on Larry King, mano a mano, and in 40 minutes, the viewers can decide for themselves.
Plus it makes such great TV.
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