Equal Time? Really?

Orlando Ferguson, 1893 via Wikimedia

Orlando Ferguson, 1893 via Wikimedia

The idea of “equal time” or “balanced coverage” in the media is one of those concepts that sounds good in theory but in actual practice can be borderline stupid. Let’s take one specific example to illustrate WC’s point.

Apparently, a number of Americans think the world is flat. No, seriously, while it wasn’t the 33% that YouGov reported, Scientific American‘s review of the data from a 2018 poll shows that about 15% of 18-24 year olds aren’t certain the planet is round. That’s a shocking number, to be sure. Depending on your world view, you can hoot with derision or wring your hands in dismay. Or even smile at the Millennials giving ironic answers. But that’s not WC’s point.

Should we give equal time to the Flat Earthers? When there’s a television report about a new NASA achievement, or a story in improvements in the satellite-based Global Positioning System, should the television report include time for a Flat Earther to opine it’s all nonsense, that the Earth is really flat? Should we all be forced to waste our time listening to opinions that are objectively, conclusively false? At what point is something so clearly established that any rationale for “equal time” fails?

The issue can be framed another way. Lately mainstream media have been interviewing the various neo-Nazis, White supremacists and other intellectual trash that feel empowered to act out in this Trumpian era. What the bigots all have in common is that they are arguing battles that are lost. Quite apart from the moral bankruptcy of their positions, there were wars about their ideas. And their ideas lost. The Civil War. World War II. Has anything changed to make their ideas important now, let alone deserving of equal time? Doesn’t the question answer itself?

The other thing the willfully ignorant Flat Earthers and morally bankruptcy racists and Neo-Nazis have in common is that they are almost exclusively white and male. It’s embarrassing for a white, male blogger. But WC promises not to appear in the mainstream media to whine about it.



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