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“The Both-Sides Game”

Let me introduce you to the “Both Sides” game

You may already know it, but I’ll tell you all the same

You see it on TV and the printed page

It’s always so useful, it’s become all the rage

You use it to prove that your side’s never wrong

It’s just another viewpoint, different words for a song

If you want to sell papers, or get them to stay tuned,

You can’t upset either side, or else you’ll be ruined

So whatever the issue, whatever the claim,

You’ll just “both-sides” it, so they both are to blame.

You don’t value logic, you don’t look for truth

You let them decide that in the voting booth

There’s nothing that’s wrong, there’s nothing that’s right

It’s all just perspective, what’s day and what’s night

One side says this, another says that,

And you give them equal merit, like slips in a hat

Now, I’ll give you an example, just so you can see,

That no one “both-sides” better, than the famed NYT.

(Jonathan Weissman, writing in the New York Times: “Democrats see East Palestine as action and consequences: rail regulations were gutted, blame assigned. Republicans see a more operatic narrative, a forgotten town in a flyover state struggling against an uncaring mega-corporation and an unseeing government.”).

So you take a tragic story, and go past the narrative,

To get to your usual theme of both-sides comparative.

You say that Democrats want to focus on the sequence,

While Republicans see operatic themes, which gives them depth and credence.

You say that Democrats are stuck on the train off the tracks,

While Republicans have an aesthetic sense, which their rival lacks

What you always want to do when you play a “both sides” part,

Is to concentrate just on style, like reviewing a piece of art

Thus, what actually has happened, is less important to know

Than the fact that in your words, they each see a different tableau

To the Democrats, it’s the faulty train, and the governor’s toxic burn,

While Republicans want to give it a more elegaic turn

The effect of this, of course, is that it’s just another contrast,

No one’s right, and no one’s wrong; the train recedes into the past.

So you can “both-sides” anything, by taking out the gist,

And inserting in your story, your own psychological twist

Both sides are flawed, you say, they can only see a part

Of this complex reality that’s at this story’s heart

So Democrats can’t escape the blame, in some cosmological sense,

And Republicans have an equal chance to win their audience.

You can do this endlessly, with every theme or story,

Ultimately you frame it all as just another quest for glory

And no matter what’s at stake, or what anyone might say,

Your goal is to cancel it all out, so as to write another day

You know the Right will hate you if you ever give them blame,

And you want your job, and you want your perqs, and you want your front-page name

So you wait for the newest piece of news, and you know just what to do,

You’ll immediately write the both-sides piece that your bosses want from you

But one day you’ll find that “both-sides” means only the powerful will win,

And then there’s only one side, and they won’t let you in.

But for now, it’s a comfortable living, where you try not to tell dark from light,

And you’ll never admit that it’s not just a game, and that usually only one side is right.

At the end, when you count up your money, or think of your status or fame

You’ll realize that you lost us the country, by playing the “Both-Sides Game.”