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The False Equivalence of “Far Right and Far Left”

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Fox News is basically a right-wing propaganda machine, but media bias isn’t always that overt. Sometimes it’s a sin of omission. For example, we had a hugely successful food drive last year to help restock food pantries at Moorhead’s three colleges, but when we held a media event to promote our community service, it fell completely flat. Where was Kevin Wallevand when we needed him?

Even when the media are trying for some kind of balance, a subtle bias can creep in. We had a great event in the summer when Gov. Walz came to town to promote early voting, but when I watched the 10:00 news on WDAY (“the most watched news in the region”), it got a few seconds immediately followed by a longer story featuring Michelle Fischbach. Similarly, WDAY felt like they needed to follow their story about our Rally for Roevember with a statement from some arbitrary anti-abortion spokesperson.

In the media’s coverage of national politics, I get annoyed whenever they seemingly feel obliged to lump together “the far right and the far left,” as if they were equally dangerous and crazy. It is essentially buying into Republican propaganda.

The right has a number of favorite targets they conjure when trying to portray the left as full of menace just as bad as anything on the right. Perhaps the most ridiculous is “antifa,” which became an obsession after some confrontations that took place between anti-fascist activists and right-wingers. There was even an attempt to blame antifa for the January 6th insurrection. It’s a great example of how propagandists take a shred of truth and blow it into something far larger and more threatening than it really is.

Among elected representatives, the right loves to call out Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and the rest of “the Squad” to suggest that the left wing of the Democratic party is equivalent to the Republican right wing. Whatever you might think of the Squad, the difference between them and the Republican right was starkly evident in the recent fiasco over choosing the next House Speaker. On the one hand, members of the Squad came to Washington to get things done, and they recognized that in pushing for progressive change, you never get everything you want, so they supported legislation that included compromise. In the final analysis, their support helped to make Pres. Biden’s first two years in office remarkably successful. On the other hand, the Republican extremists in Congress seem intent merely on blowing things up. They behave as if they are less interested in legislating than in auditioning for a spot on Fox News.

Then there’s George Soros, the billionaire donor to the Democrats. Whenever his name comes up, the message is that, sure, Republicans donors like the Koch brothers have poured millions into building up a right-wing political machine, but look, the Democrats have rich donors too. I’m all for reducing the role of money in politics and diminishing the influence of billionaires in both parties, but there is no question which party is more beholden to the wealthy.

It doesn’t really matter that the mainstream media doesn’t explicitly equate antifa and the Proud Boys, or AOC and Lauren Boebert, or George Soros and Charles Koch. The seeds that have been planted by Republican propaganda are there in people’s minds whenever “the far right and the far left” are lumped together. Propaganda that works is insidious, worming its way into our discourse and blinding us to the real threats to our republic.

Paul Harris

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