Jonathan Chait’s Subtle False Equivalence

Hillary ClintonThere was a lot of talk the last day about whether Fox News is going to admit now that Hillary Clinton really did have a concussion, now that we know she really did. But then Jonathan Chait, always trying to be an iconoclast, tweeted, “If a Republican claimed concussion before testimony over controvery or pseudocontroversy, would liberals believe them? Many wouldn’t.” I have an answer for that.

I would have thought the Republican was lying. Similarly, I thought Clinton was lying. I pretty much always assume that people are lying when it is an excuse for doing something unpleasant. But Chait is not asking the right question.

There are really two issues here. First is the controversy. Do Democrats go around holding trumped-up hearings about anything they can grab on to? The only time I can remember anything I felt the least bit concerned about was the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.[1] But at least there was a real issue there. With the Republicans, especially of late, these hearings seem more like Area 51 conspiracy enthusiast meetings.

The other issue is that while many liberals are cynical just like me, I don’t think this issue would have made it to The Rachel Maddow Show. So Chait is just acting as an apologist for the right wing echo chamber. It is a subtle form of false equivalence.


[1] I want to be clear on this. My primary problem here is that the hearings really should have been about Thomas being totally unqualified for the job rather than his office indiscretions. Although I find his behavior abhorrent (see Blinded By the Right), I don’t think people should be publicly humiliated over changing mores. Of course, in this particular case it was Anita Hill who was publicly humiliated. Thomas got a job he doesn’t deserve. And the Senate embarrassed itself.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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