I think it's important to realize that when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.
Sometimes I worry that my squeamishness about making sharp judgments, pro or con, makes me unfit for the slam-bang world of daily journalism. Other times I conclude that it makes me ideally suited for newspapering—certainly for the rigors and conventions of modern 'objective' journalism. For I can dispose of my dilemmas by writing stories straight down the middle. I can search for the halfway point between the best and the worst that might be said about someone (or some policy or idea) and write my story in that fair-minded place. By aiming for the golden mean, I probably land near the best approximation of truth more often than if I were guided by any other set of compasses—partisan, ideological, psychological, whatever... Yes, I am seeking truth. But I'm also seeking refuge. I'm taking a pass on the toughest calls I face.
Live free or don't.
"It's called the gray fallacy. One person says white, another says black, and outside observers assume gray is the truth. The assumption of gray is sloppy, lazy thinking. The fact that one person is diametrically opposed to the truth does not then skew reality so the truth is no longer the truth."
- Tycho Celchu, Isard's Revenge
When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.
Sophie: I hate infection. But then again, who likes them? Maybe the people who make penicillin.
Alex: Well, there's two sides to every story.
Sophie: That's true. Except for the Nazis. I can't really see the other side of that argument.
A veteran science journalist recently wrote: "Reporters are messengers — their job is to tell, as accurately as they can, what has been said, with the benefit of such insight as their experience allows them to bring, not to second guess whether what is said is right." That's rubbish. If you are not actually providing any analysis, if you're not effectively 'taking a side', then you are just a messenger, a middleman, a megaphone with ears. If that's your idea of journalism, then my RSS reader is a journalist.
Ed Yong, Not Exactly Rocket Science
There's kind of a notion that 'everyone's opinion is equally valid'. My arse! A bloke who's a professor of dentistry for forty years does not have a debate with some idiot who removes his teeth with string and a door, right! It's nonsense! And it happens all the time with medical stuff on the television. You'll have a doctor on, and they'll talk to the doctor and go 'oh, doctor this' and 'doctor that', and 'what happened there' and 'doctor, isn't it awful, right?' And then the doctor will be talking about something with all the benefit of research and medical evidence. And then they'll turn away from the doctor in the name of 'balance' and turn to some... quack witch-doctor homeopath horseshit peddler on the other side of the studio! And I'm sorry if you're into homeopathy — it's water!
"He considers all enthusiasm as a degree of madness, particularly to be guarded against by young minds; and believes that truth lies in the middle, between the extremes of right and wrong."
—William Hazlitt, "On Common-Place Critics"
"'Be fair,' say the temporizers, 'tell both sides of the story.' But how can you be fair to both sides of a rape? Of a murder? Of a massacre?"
—Edward Abbey, A Voice Crying In the Wilderness
"'So you're telling me that Copenhagen is located in Denmark, and I think it actually lies in Norway. The Truth, as always, has to be somewhere in the middle.'"
—Tage Danielsson, Grallimmatics - The Physiology and Technique of Balderdash
Jeff: I just think we were both wrong.
Annie: Really? Because I'm an eighteen-year-old girl and you made me cry in public.
Jeff: Hmm. Okay, maybe I was a little more wrong.
Jon: But that's just innuendo, and that can't be the only thing in a news story!
Stephen: Can't it? I ask you: Does Jon Stewart orally pleasure teamsters for pocket change?
Stephen: Well, you are certainly entitled to that opinion. But I bet I can assemble an impressive panel that thinks you do. The truth lies somewhere in between. Let's talk about it for eight weeks and let the public decide.
"Understanding is a three-edged sword."
— Kosh, Babylon 5
"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"
— Barry Goldwater
"And I am proud to announce, that in the deepest tradition of democracy, that everyone walked away [from the budget negotiations] unhappy. No one got everything they wanted. The Democrats were unhappy about programs being cut. The Republicans were unhappy that the cuts weren't deep enough. The tea party was unhappy about the placement of the cuts, and also that I was not born in America."
"Suppose I say we need a hundred foot bridge to cross a hundred foot chasm. That makes me an extremist. Someone else says that we don't need a bridge because we don't need to cross the chasm in the first place. That makes him an extremist. The third guy is a centrist because he proposes building a fifty foot bridge ending in mid-air. As an extremist, I'll tell you that the other extremist has a much better grasp of the situation than the centrist. The two extremists have a serious disagreement about what to do. The centrist has no idea what to do and doesn't want to bother figuring it out."
—Jonah Goldberg, The Tyranny of Cliches
Laverne: (during an argument over the war in Iraq) Ted, what do you think?
Ted: I think both sides have valid points.
Dr Cox: Way to take a stand, sweat-balls.
"If youíve ever been in the same room with a complete weasel and a mediator or counselor, itís a sure lose situation unless youíre an even bigger weasel. The mediator will approach things from the unshakable paradigm that the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. The weasel wins big Ė he makes you look far worse than you are and he ends up looking far better than he is. You end up being pushed down to the same level as the weasel."
- Steven Dutch Suckered by Intelligent Design
"If CNN did sports reporting, every game would be a tie."