False equivalence

No More Normalizing! No More Normalizing!

I use a Google Chrome extension called Momentum. When I open a new tab on my laptop,  a screen pops up, with a beautiful photograph of an incredible vista (today’s is of Gullfoss, Iceland), an inspirational quote and the words “Good morning, Cheryl. What is your main focus for today?”

Let me tell you my main focus for today. And tomorrow and likely for the next four years.

I am calling out false equivalence and “normalization” wherever I see it–whether it’s friends, family, or the news media. Anybody or any institution. If I see something, you can be damn sure I will say something.

So here goes.

Let’s start with the protests.  The marches this weekend in NYC were amazing. I do not understand how the media is getting this so wrong. There were TENS OF THOUSANDS of people marching down 5th Avenue on Saturday afternoon, yet most of the stories I read–news reports in the New York Times and USA Today–said there were between 2000 and 5000 participants. Decimal point in the wrong place perhaps?

The Wall Street Journal described the marchers as basically a collection of pathetic losers, former hippies and reenergized communists. I honestly do not know what march the reporter was at. I saw families, and old people, and students and straight people and queer people and couples and men and women of all shapes, sizes and colors.

A Boston Herald columnist called protestors “lowlifes” who show nothing but contempt. These tens of thousands of American citizens exercising their right to peaceful protest are not sore losers pissed off that their candidate did not prevail. They are–I am–concerned that what we lost in this election was civility, respect, tolerance. They are–I am–afraid and rightfully so that those who voted their racist, misogynistic, homophobic preferences are now emboldened to act.

Please do not equate tens of thousands of Americans peacefully marching with those disrespectful few burning American flags. A does NOT equal B. (And if you want my opinion, REALLY? THAT’s what’s got your knickers in a knot??) This is an example of the false equivalence that passes for balance by our media.

Then there’s the growing media “normalization.” Like referring to newly-appointed Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon as the “combative [Trump] campaign chief and former head of the incendiary Breitbart News” (that from the Washington Post).  To quote Seth Meyers, “He’s not ‘controversial.’ Don’t talk about him like he’s pineapple on pizza.” Breitbart is not “hard right” (that from the New York Times.) It borders on hate speech. Bannon himself refers to the site as “Fight Club.” The media needs to accept him at his word.

The Washington Post used this headline on an article yesterday, “United Airlines pilot forced to intervene when political dispute disrupts flight.” What actually happened was this: ” a scuffle broke out when someone with a “‘plaid shirt and camo cap’ said something racist (about being ‘glad to have kept his guns’) to an African American lady”, and the woman began to cry.”

That is NOT a political dispute. That’s a bully. I won’t go so far as to say a racist bully. But a bully for sure, trying to intimidate another human being, in this case a black woman.

And then there’s this story you may have heard about. A director of a non-profit near Charleston, West Virginia posted on Facebook, “It will be so refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels.” The mayor of Charleston responded to the post, “Just made my day Pam.”

Here’s the lede of the Chicago Tribune‘s coverage of this story: “A nonprofit group director and a mayor in a small town in West Virginia have been swept up in a firestorm surrounding comments made about Michelle Obama which have been perceived as blatantly racist.

NO! This is not perception. That comment IS blatantly racist. The mayor’s response condones and approves of that racism. The Chicago Tribune needs to STOP normalizing, stop putting it on the reader to decide when there is no decision to be made.

We rely on the media to inform us. We need the media to report the news, please, and forget about balance. We are in dangerously unbalanced times and we need the truth. Not my truth or your truth. Facts. I will continue to call out normalization and false equivalence, both here and directly, whenever and wherever I can.