Facts Aren’t Fair

I was reading an interview with Aaron Sorkin a few days ago where he discussed his upcoming – and, personally, eagerly anticipated – show The Newsroom. He was talking about how the news works now as opposed to in the past, and the culture of everyone being entitled to their opinion.

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.

It’s a fair point. Fair because it’s an opinion.

It ran through my mind earlier today when I appeared on Newstalk’s breakfast show to discuss the issue of equal marriage. I’ve been working with the protest group LGBT Noise for the past few years so am fairly au fait with all the facts and figures, but am always interested to hear what people on the opposing side have to say.

If you want to listen to the piece you can go here (we’re in Part 4 of Tuesday June 19th, around half-way in):


Beyond what was or wasn’t discussed on the day, though, I was more struck by who my opponent was. Susan Phillips is a political analyst who has done a lot of radio appearances on various subjects, but she is in no way a representative of or an expert on the anti-gay marriage lobby. She is simply someone who disagrees with gay marriage.

And this is the problem.

Look, I know that good radio is generally based on getting a group of opinionated, interesting people in a studio to butt heads – and we all listen in and have a bit of fun and maybe learn a thing or two.

But this all must be predicated on the notion of reasonable debate. In the same way that we don’t invite Klan members along to discuss immigration reform because they have strong views, we shouldn’t feel obliged to give voice to dissenting opinions just because they dissent.

Susan Phillips’ only qualification to appear on the breakfast show this morning was that she disagreed with me. And as I kept presenting fact after study after rebuttal her only argument was that she disagreed. That marriage was sacred, that it was her word. In fact, the only time she engaged with facts was to read from the Constitution – a point which reinforced what I’d just said, that there is no reference therein to gender in marriage.

That is not reasonable debate.

So the question then becomes: if a radio station cannot find an informed, reasonable party to represent a point of view, is that view worth representing at all?

We live in a country with 73% support for equal marriage. Countless scientific studies have proven that gay parents can raise children as well as straight parents. Countries around the world have introduced equal marriage and gay adoption with only positive consequences. And the logic of the law dictates that without sufficient evidence it is abhorrent to deny a civil right to a sub-set of the population based on conjecture.

I have no trouble and no problem debating with Susan Phillips on gay marriage. But she is not representative of any real side of the debate any more – and by inviting on bogeymen (or -women) like this, radio stations are avoiding discussions that get into the nitty gritty of gay rights.

Give me twenty minutes of reasonable discussion, Newstalk, and I’ll talk to you about bullying of LGBT kids, the intricacies of IVF and adoption, the plight of immigrant and refugee LGBT people, and the exact steps required to give this country what 73% of it wants and what the whole LGBT community needs – equal recognition.

Instead of wasting my time knocking the legs out from under a straw woman.

Update: You can also listen to me having a more reasonable discussion about LGBT rights on Near FM’s Between The Lines show here.

Update The Second: Sean Moncrieff, one of Newstalk’s top presenters, wrote a piece on this exact topic just this week in The Examiner. Amazing.


I do indeed work with LGBT Noise, but the opinions expressed above are entirely my own.


About alfla

Playwright, screenwriter, sometime improv enthusiast and full-time television lover. You know, in THAT way.
This entry was posted in LGBT Rights, Sober Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Facts Aren’t Fair

  1. You’re damn right Alan – false balance is a particular problem; think this, or vaccination, or medical science, or evolution.. I wrote about how the media can improve this for James Randi’s site if it interests you – link here


    PS: well done!

  2. Barry Morisse says:

    Couldn’t agree more Alan, fabrication of counter-arguments for the sake of ‘fairness’ defeats the purpose entirely. Well said.

    • alfla says:

      Thanks — and was disheartened to see Susan Phillips on Prime Time last night, getting a chance to air her views with nary a fact or statistic to back it up.

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