The narrowness of the US political spectrum

In the US, many people think that the Republican and Democratic parties represent widely different ideologies when in reality, they are very much in agreement except for a few, mainly social, issues. This is not a new development. In the British comedy sketch review Beyond the Fringe from 1961, Dudley Moore tells his friends that he is going to the US and asks them to fill him in on what to expect. You can see that sketch below and the comments about America hold up depressingly well.

At the 2:55 mark, Jonathan Miller tells Moore that the US has two parties: the Republicans that are the equivalent of their Conservatives party and the Democrats that are the equivalent of their Conservative party.

This obliviousness of many Americans to the narrowness of their political spectrum was shown last week when an American conservative Ben Shapiro stormed off the set of a BBC news program, accusing the BBC and his host Andrew Neil of being leftists, much to the amusement of Neil who is a prominent UK conservative and co-owner of the right-wing magazine The Spectator.

Shapiro later realized that he had committed an own goal and apologized.

Neil later defended his line of questioning, saying, “I tend to take the opposite position from those I interview. It’s a useful way to test their positions. It tells you nothing of my own views. What do American interviewers do?”

I can answer that. When it comes to mainstream politicians, US interviewers go out of their way to avoid seriously challenging them, allowing them to filibuster and slide away, so that they will agree to appear again. They are only aggressive when interviewing leaders of foreign countries that are considered enemies of the US . This is why US interview shows are so vapid.


  1. says

    US interviewers go out of their way to avoid seriously challenging them, allowing them to filibuster and slide away, so that they will agree to appear again.

    Entirely agreed. There are so many times when I think that just asking one good question would change everything and provide actual information and interest. It never happens. Or at least it never did. It seems the media has developed a notochord over the last 28 months and in the last 12 months may have asked even a double digit number of real questions of federal officials if you add up all the networks together. (There are, of course, more newspapers, and they might have asked 100 or more good questions over the last year.)

    Of course even a dozen needles are very difficult to find when scattered through a haystack.

  2. johnson catman says

    Wow. That clip of Shapiro clearly shows just what a dickhead he is. It also shows that he is not used to actually having to answer real questions to elucidate his position.

  3. Dunc says

    Now I’m wondering what Jeremy Paxman would have made of him… (For those who are unfamiliar with British political journalism, Paxman was a notoriously combative interviewer, next to whom Andrew Neil is a teddy bear.)

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    Dunc @3: Re Paxman. It would be nice to have combative interviewers who weren’t also smug, self-important arseholes.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    US interviewers tend to bring butter knives to their “knife fights”.

    Ben Shapiro was obviously just done whetstoning his great big Bowie knife when Neil pulled his Uzi.

    He mistook the interview for a debate. I doubt he’ll risk an interview with a UK journalist ever again. Poor weak snowflake

  6. Dunc says

    Rob @ #4: Yeah, it would be, but I guess we’ll just have to settle for what we can get.

  7. says

    That interview was weird. My understanding of “interview” is that there’s a journalist who’s asking questions and there’s a person who’s being interviewed and who answers them. The person who’s being interviewed isn’t supposed to dodge questions by asking counter-questions. More importantly, the journalist’s own political views are irrelevant for the interview and shouldn’t be discussed, they shouldn’t even be mentioned at all. A journalist asking somebody the clarify or defend their views is normal. The person who’s being interviewed is supposed to just give an answer.

  8. Myra Greenwood says

    Any American Journalist who actually interviewed a person would get fired by the corporate media.

  9. Jazzlet says

    Oh my I do miss Peter Cook.

    One of the things British media do do that American media could easily start doing is report when someone was asked for an interview and declined, especially if they issue an anodyne statement or one that clearly contradicts! the news story with no evidence eg “The Department has the welfare of claimants as it’s first concern” or “We take the fair treatment of asylum seekers very seriously”. It doesn’t necessarily make the relevant minister give the media an interview there and then, but it does make them wary of refusing too many requests, as they are essentially called out as cowards unable to defend their policies by refusing multiple interviews.

  10. Jenora Feuer says

    My comment recently on something similar:
    “Anybody who seriously thinks Obama was a socialist has an Overton window that looks like an arrow slit.”

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