Monday, December 3, 2007

Narratives of Partisan symmetry

One of the rhetorical devices for neutering outrage is the assumption of partisan symmetry. If Democrats and Republicans are on opposite sides of any issue, an observer assuming a neutral voice, will treat them as equally, and symmetrically, "shrill" and "extreme" and unjustified in their claims.

As a convention of journalistic practice, this assumption of partisan symmetry often results in almost comically bad reporting.

But, what interests me is that this convention has become, itself, a weapon of partisan advocacy. A Republican partisan can adopt the neutral voice, and use the unfounded assumption of partisan symmetry to push forward the Republican position.

Mark Kleiman provides the following link, where we find the Republican Bradley A. Smith, uses this tactic, to advocate for the systematic disenfranchisement of Democrats. It is a remarkable work in the art of political rhetoric:

What’s at Stake?

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