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I want to talk about how we as a society lost the ability to talk about whether people are acting in good faith or not - because partisanship is apparently a bigger sin than acting in bad faith - and how this is enabling bad faith actions to go unscrutinised. A thread👇
First I'll explain why partisanship has become a dirty word. I've been reading Ezra Klein's 'Why We're Polarized'. It's excellent. He mentions research shows when trying to impress others, people think it's best to say they're 'independents' rather than Democrats or Republicans.
The reason for this, as I experience daily, our society has decided to shame people who are 'partisan', that is people like me who support a particular side of politics or a party, by suggesting 'partisans' are irrational, can't think for themselves, we're emotional and rabid etc
Klein - who is a partisan Democrat - points out that being partisan is actually entirely rational. You identify your values, you can see a future you want for yourself and your community, and you work towards that. Not that there's anything wrong with people who don't do that too
But point is, people like me who are politically active are told that we can't be both partisan and rational at the same time. So, our opinions are framed as illegitimate, our outrage is apparently feigned, and people who claim to be 'independent' look down their nose at us.
Most establishment voices, such as journos and other influential people, see partisans as not credible because they believe to be objective, they must be neutral. In their mind, part of being neutral is being non-partisan so it's not surprising they think partisans are irrational
Another way to see how they view partisanship is that it represents bias - a distorted view. They think partisans' values distort the way we see reality - by denying they have any values, they can see reality more clearly than we can. But what happens when you deny your values?
I believe most journos - those who aren't propagandists such as News Corp who everyone knows are partisan - are so desperate to appear 'neutral' and non-partisan, that they refuse to criticise bad faith actions by partisans in case it looks like they're being biased. For instance
If you can't 'criticise', say, Morrison's govt without perceiving this to be acting as a partisan, and all you can provide is 'commentary', then you're actually not able to scrutinise govt properly. And this is a problem as it is literally the job of the media to scrutinise govt.
This means that journos are denying they have values, which means they don't hold people to account using these values. Values represent many things other than political ideology, including social norms such as telling the truth, politicians should act in public interest etc.
If you're not able to criticise government or politicians generally without feeling like this will make you an irrational and illegitimate partisan, end result is you won't criticise the government. This, incredibly, actually distorts your view of the world.
If you don't have a firm set of values or a moral framework that you use to judge the actions of politicians, it means when people are acting in bad faith, such as politicians acting against the interests of the public, you distort your view so that you don't judge, or criticise.
This means people acting in bad faith against public interest are not criticised by most journalists. This explains why numerous Liberal scandals and evidence of lying are just let through to the keeper. Best media audience can hope for is a quote from a Labor MP complaining.
Crucially, by denying their values, journos turn politics into a game: 'he said, she said', instead of 'he did something wrong and she justifiably complained about it'. It also means they never join dots on bad behaviour to show pattern. Nothing matters, slate is wiped clean.
Since politics is reported like it doesn't matter - without a value base and without a mechanism to call out bad faith actions and judge them for audience, it also means the outcomes of politics are hardly ever mentioned. This means public never learn why politics matters to them
Mental gymnastics journalists do to try to appear neutral also impacts on how they sometimes report community reaction, including twitter reactions to politics. When partisans complain about political leaders acting in bad faith, this reflects our values, not necessarily politics
I will call out Morrison for lying about SportsRorts because lying is bad faith. But we are told our values aren't real, they are just part of a campaign to oppose our rivals. We aren't rational enough to identify and call out bad behaviour for ourselves, because we are partisans
This means when partisans are upset about something - such as PM deserting us to Hawaii / football during crises - our outrage is framed as just more evidence of our partisanship, and not accepted for what it is - human outrage. It is written off as not being real - illegitimate.
It also means audience continue to vent frustrations at media for not calling out bad behaviour. Eg. the media don't call out the blatantly bad faith behaviour of Victorian Liberals throughout pandemic. When there is no consequence for bad faith behaviour, why would people stop?
As a side, this also helps to explain why most journos don't call out other journos who are acting in bad faith. To call out another journo is partisan - bigger sin than behaving badly apparently. Journos are journos first, so Murdoch partisanship doesn't count. Quite a paradox.
This is the odd dynamic which explains a lot of the angst between media audiences and journalists. Perhaps if everyone could reconnect with societal values and put public interest ahead of everything else, and stop assuming partisans can't contribute, we would all get along. End.
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