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Arianna Huffington's Political Tap Dance

Thursday, April 07, 2011 - 11:04 AM

WNYC

I stopped by Borders the other day, and picked up a book I had been meaning to read called 'The Political Brain', by Drew Weston. In the introduction to the book, Weston talks about an experiment he did in the run up to the 2004 election. Openly partisan test subjects were shown glaring examples where a politician made contradictory statements, and asked to rate how contradictory they thought those statements were.

Unsurprisingly, the subjects that were of the same variety of partisan as the politician in question were significantly more likely to explain away their unethical behavior, with the mirror opposite being the case with the figure on the other side of the aisle.

There are those who are solidly partisan and really do attempt to overcome our tribal, and very human, urges to see figures we perceive as being "one of us" in a more positive light than they might deserve. Then there are commentators that focus on defending their opinions, rather than merely analyzing and reporting. Most of these are not at all ashamed of their ideological badges, often wearing them on their proverbial sleeves.

Arianna Huffington, on the other hand, is one of the worst examples of partisan blindness around these days. She's said a lot of things over the years that illustrates this, but one of the more frequently used was repeated in an interview with Andrew Goldman at the New York Times recently:

Goldman: You’ve been saying recently that The Huffington Post is not a lefty publication?

Huffington: Actually I’ve been saying that for three years. The tag line that we’ve used a lot is “Beyond left and right.”

Later in that interview Goldman aptly responds to her insistance that Huffington Post isn't "lefty" by saying , "It’s as if you’re trying to tell me that Smurfs aren’t blue."

In the aforementioned book, the author talks about how the brain reacts to politically threatening information in an emotional way that distracts people from factual reality. Arianna Huffington is either lying about how liberal her site is, or she is so far gone down the rabbit hole of ideological blindness that she goes much farther than the partisan test subjects in the example above - refusing to even admit that her own work is partisan in nature.

Politics Daily, one of the publications that Huffington Post is replacing in the constellation of Aol's network of websites, was an excellent example of online journalism and analysis. Replacing it with such a partisan blog site, and putting someone like Huffington in charge of their content, is the online equivalent of putting someone like Tucker Carlson (conservative co-host/pundits on the old political debate show Crossfire, and current owner of the conservative blog Daily Caller)  in charge of the Washington Post, Politico or the National Journal. It might be a good business decision for Aol, but it a giant step backwards for the world of online journalism.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.

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