The Lazy, False Equivalance in Craig Gilbert’s Analysis

A lazy, false equivalence runs through Craig Gilbert’s (@WisVoter) over-reliance on claims of hyper-partisanship. At the Journal Sentinel, he writes that ‘Nakedly partisan, rhetorically vicious’: Trump impeachment is echo of Clinton’s from two decades ago. The same conflation diminished Gilbert’s analysis in a 12.2.19 story (‘For voters in this purple part of Wisconsin, the impeachment fight is a symbol of broken politics’).  For a response to Gilbert’s earlier story, see Forget the Tender Feelings of a Pernicious Faction.

In his latest story, Gilbert claims 2019 has ‘echoes’ of Clinton’s impeachment: ‘The Trump impeachment carries broad rhetorical echoes of the Clinton impeachment. It features similar arguments about the virtues and perils of impeaching a president, but with the parties reversing roles.’

It’s all in the rhetoric, you see…2019 sounds like 1998 to Gilbert. Margaret Sullivan, at the Washington Post, writes that weak analyses slip into “Equating the unequal: In an unceasing effort to be seen as neutral, journalists time after time fell into the trap of presenting facts and lies as roughly equivalent and then blaming political tribalism for not seeming to know the difference.”

No, and no again — it’s not mere division, it’s not mere rhetoric, it’s GOP bad faith arguments & actions that created the division. Jay Rosen of NYU sees this clearly: “My current rule is that all discussions and news stories framed as, “Why are we so divided? America can’t even agree on common facts…” should be framed instead as: how did the Republican Party arrive at this place?”

Gilbert’s approach ignores the wide difference between the underlying conduct in the two impeachment votes, from 1998 and 2019.

It’s easy to write the way Gilbert does; it’s also shallow.

In this, Gilbert is like a man who insists that all noises are the same, and so doesn’t distinguish between the sounds (and relative dangers) of squirrels, raccoons, or wolves.

(This post is adapted from a recent Twitter thread critiquing Gilbert’s latest article.)

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