Newsweek Writer Plays Psychologist--On GOP Only

Newsweek's June 19 edition had an interesting web-exclusive “Mind Matters” column by Wray Herbert called “Toothless is Beautiful,” which was about social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson's new book, “Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me).” The book and the column concerned the “psychological process known as cognitive dissonance.” Sound like an unlikely candidate for bias? Keep reading.

Cognitive dissonance is “the extreme emotional discomfort we feel when two important beliefs, attitudes or perceptions collide. Humans cannot tolerate dissonance for long, so they ease the tension by making a change in belief or attitude—and justifying the change.”

Somehow Newsweek and Herbert, a fellow at the [Jimmy] Carter Center for mental health journalism still managed to somehow throw in a little liberal bias, with a vague reference that does not make clear whether Newsweek or the study's authors named only Republicans (surprise!) as examples of public figures with cognitive dissonance. After naming a series of recognizable GOPers, Newsweek also got in dig at Bush and those who still support the “misbegotten war”(emphasis mine):

What if you make a choice that is really bad and you can't hide from it? What is the mind's strategy for dealing with a colossal mistake? Well, as Tavris and Aronson note, public figures from Henry Kissinger to Ronald Reagan to Scooter Libby and Alberto Gonzales have opted for a simple phrase that deflects all responsibility: mistakes were made.

So, there were no Democrats who Herbert could have listed? None? At all? Not even Bill Clinton and his refusal to get involved in the Rwandan and Sudanese genocides and a lack of reaction to terrorism in the '90s? Hillary Clinton still pushing the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy myth (if only she knew about the hourly email updates directly from Karl Rove and Sam Walton's ghost). Sandy Berger? John Kerry?

What about Jimmy Carter and his history of rationalizing the actions of terrorist groups, dictators, suspected terrorists and thugs or blaming factual discrepancies, plagiarism and misrepresentations of the truth in his recent book about Israel on failing memory? Those aren't examples of cognitive dissonance among Democrats?

That last paragraph continued with a criticism of what are described as self-deluded public figures who not only can't admit they are wrong but believe it all the more:

But just as commonly, people who don't want to own up to a mistake become even more entrenched in their belief once it is proven wrong. They throw good money after bad in the market, grab for straws in a dying relationship or send yet more troops to fight a misbegotten war.

Again, the description fit Carter, yet he was not mentioned. No mention of a man who still backs Hamas even after the recent violence? Don't his positions on terrorist groups, dictators, suspected terrorists and thugs fall into this category?

Surely Newsweek's absence of Democrats and targeting of Republicans wouldn't have anything to do with the author's position at the Carter Center?

The article made it seem as if only Republicans are supposedly engaging in cognitive dissonance. A medical news beat wasn't the same as foreign policy, but it was still journalism. When journalistic bias was so blatant in an article that was not really about politics or even Republicans, it calls into question the impartiality of the rest of the magazine.

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