Aaron Sorkin and the Both Sides Meme

In a fascinating interview with New York Magazine's Vulture, Aaron Sorkin revealed his motivations behind writing the upcoming HBO series The Newsroom and also offered a critique of what we now commonly refer to around here as The Both Sides Meme.

That is to say that "both sides" are crazy and stupid and say and do outlandish things. The strategy employed by the media to falsely equivocate both sides of the political spectrum to avoid accusations of bias.

Two excerpts:

So what’s the bigger problem, then?

The thing that I worry about more is the media’s bias toward fairness. Nobody uses the word lie anymore. Suddenly, everything is “a difference of opinion.” If the entire House Republican caucus were to walk onto the floor one day and say “The Earth is flat,” the headline on the New York Times the next day would read “Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.” I don’t believe the truth always lies in the middle. I don’t believe there are two sides to every argument. I think the facts are the center. And watching the news abandon the facts in favor of “fairness” is what’s troubling to me. [...]

But back to my point. It seems very important that if someone on the right in the news screws up in a really bad way, that the media find someone on the left who screwed up in some kind of way so that we can have a “One From Column A, One From Column B” kind of situation. And that if there are five from Column A, there can’t be only three from Column B, because then they’ll be accused of liberal bias.


With both of those characters, you seem to be exploring the problem of whether an intellectual can also be a leader. Is that a kind of dramatically animating question for you?

It really is. Right before this, I had Hardball on in the background. They were talking about how even though Obama polled well in the exit polling against Romney in the Wisconsin recall election, he did lose ground among white men. So there was a discussion about the problem that white men see Obama as too professorial, not gritty enough, not rugged enough, not what they want to see in a president. For me, that’s a divide that I feel like I’ve been watching my whole life. The Democratic Party has been feminized by the Republican Party—if you’re smart, that means you’re a wimp.

The feminizing of the Democratic party and the idea that being intellectual makes you an Arugula-eating wimp is something Bob has regularly discussed here and it's something we've all witnessed at one time or another.

I look forward to The Newsroom's debut on June 24th.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    Updated version.

    Obama: World is round.
    Romney: World is flat.
    Mainstream media: Obama, Romney disagree on shape of world.
    Fox: Obama lying about shape of world?
    Limbaugh: Obama lying about shape of world to push far-left agenda.
    Malkin: Liberals spew hatred at Americans for disagreeing with Obama on shape of world.
    Hannity: Obama arrogant, thinks he knows shape of world.
    Gretchen Carlson: I find it interesting that Obama somehow thinks he knows shape of world.
    Pat Robertson: God, not Obama, decides shape of world.
    Tea Party: Round world = socialism.
    Tea Party: Round world = communism.
    Tea Party: Round world = fascism.
    Tea Party: Round world = Muslim.
    Tea Party: Round world = big government.
    Tea Party: Round world = tyranny.
    Liberal: Obama not doing enough to make world more round.
    Far-left liberal: Vote Romney to teach Obama and Democrats a lesson to try harder to make world more round next time.
    Far-far-left liberal: Vote Romney to teach Obama and Democrats a lesson to try harder to make world more round next time. And, drone strikes. And, Gitmo. And, kill list.
    Paulite libertarian: Let free market decide shape of world.
    Birther: Round world includes Kenya.
    David Gregory: Let’s welcome Senator John McCain. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press. What do you think about President Obama’s statement that the world is round, when it seems, and I think a lot of Americans would agree, that the world certainly appears to be flat, and does this make the president arrogant and elitist and out of touch with the majority of Americans?
    Palin: Well, you know, President Obama is saying that the world is round, and there’s something I think Americans should be very concerned about there, because many Americans in this great nation of ours have the freedom and the liberty and the right to free speech and are entitled to believe what is in their hearts and in their souls of this great country of ours and it’s not the President’s place to tell people, you know, you have to believe what I say, and you don’t have that freedom, that the world is any particular shape, because there are many shapes of Americans and many different walks of life in this great country of ours. Also.

    • Corebela

      The Palin part is exactly how she would talk in that discussion. Exactly.

    • muselet

      Spot-on except for the Palin part. Too coherent and too on-topic (take out “that the world is any particular shape” and you’re frighteningly close).

      I’m impressed.


    • I don’t know why the rest of us even bother commenting sometimes. Spot-fuckin’-on. 🙂

    • KanaW

      Absolutely brilliant.
      Only one quibble: wouldn’t Palin have mentioned “our brave troops”?

      • villemar

        Actually my only quibble is the use of punctuation; everything out of her mouth is one run on sentence. Other than that, the best comment I’ve read in I don’t know when.

    • LK3

      May I share this? It is spot-on!

      • GrafZeppelin127


  • More people need to do what Jamie Kilstein did: whenever some right-wing blow-hard starts spouting off tough guy or violent rhetoric, just challenge them to a fight. You know, put up or shut up.

  • Corebela

    I haven’t been so excited for a t.v. show since The Walking Dead. And even more after reading Sorkins words in this post. Only 6 days!

  • pgeorge

    And also on Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on how increasingly young men shy away from displaying intelligence because it is no longer “manly” – to be manly is to drink, play video games and not pursue higher education. The degrees are increasingly being earned by women. I believe the statistic was that 77% of class valedictorians are now female. It isn’t just in the humanities anymore – women are taking the lead in math and science.

    When was the last time you heard a Democratic politician directly challenge a Republican to say what is WRONG with being “elite”?

    • D_C_Wilson

      What we need to do is to take back the definition of “elite”. Somehow over the last 20-30 years, it got warped into meaning, “Smart and educated”, when it should be, “members of the 1%” You know, the people whose bidding the GOP does with every breath they take.

    • Brutlyhonest

      The anti-science/anti-education crusades are related: keep them from thinking critically, and the will stay easy to manipulate.

      • bphoon

        Keeping people ignorant is arguably the most important factor in keeping them pliant.

        • villemar

          Well, that and keeping the public addicted to shitty foods, tons of corn syrup, and garbage information (not only on the “news” side of things but on the entertainment side with shitty reality shows, History Channel programs about aliens in the bible, etc. In a normal society no one would know who Snooki or Kei$ha or Kloe Kardashian are.)