So today, Paul Krugman told it like it is about the newspaper that employs him and its strange "balance via bias" coverage of the Clinton and Trump campaigns, in which the Grey Lady tries to give both candidates equivalent amounts of negative coverage. This requires (or allows) the Times to exhaustively cover "shadows over" and "questions about" the Clinton campaign while outright ignoring outrageous Trump behavior (such as funneling $25,000 to a state DA who was considering whether to sue one of Trump's businesses). The Times has written multiple stories on donors to the Clinton Foundation asking for favors and (wait for it) not getting them, while writing no (none, nada, zero) stories about the Trump Foundation giving the Florida DA twenty-five grand while a lawsuit was being considered. That's fair, right?
And the logic here, as in much of the media coverage, is that Trump has done so many terrible things that there isn't room to cover them all. So if he behaves badly enough, he gets some free bad behavior as an incentive. What journalism!
Then the Times, in a not at all biased piece of behavior, responded like this:
Looks like @nytimes isn't tweeting out Krugman's column, which was basically a subtweet of NYT's campaign coverage. https://t.co/h0l5DT6P3i— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 5, 2016
The Times did eventually tweet a link to Krugman's column, about nine hours after Silver's public shaming. So public shaming, plus nine hours, to get the routine social media promotion that all the paper's op-ed columns get. Nice.
Now, I know some of you will want to get into the weeds about details of Hillary Clinton's e-mails and the penumbras and emanations of the meetings she did not actually hold. So let me switch the topic entirely. Let's talk about baseball.
Sixteen years ago (on August 29, 2000, to be precise), two baseball teams played a game in which an eye-popping eight members of one team, including the manager, were ejected by the umpires, while exactly none of the other team's players or coaches got thrown out. Eight ejections to no ejections. How can that be fair? I have occasionally heard sportscasters ask exactly that question. If one team has eight people thrown out and the other side none, I have heard one Hall of Famer say, something has to be wrong. Obviously, this discrepancy is a sign of biased umpiring, right? Right?
No. Not at all.
On the home team's first at-bat, the visiting pitcher, Pedro Martinez, hit the leadoff batter with a pitch. (Full disclosure: I am an ardent Red Sox fan, and a pretty big Pedro fan. But I will fully admit that Pedro Martinez sometimes threw at guys intentionally. I might be biased in the Red Sox's favor, but in this case all of the pertinent facts are clear beyond question.) The umpires, rightly or wrongly, believed that Martinez had hit the home team player (Gerald Williams of the Tampa Devil Rays) by accident.
Williams, however, chose to run out to the mound to attack the pitcher. This is a clear baseball no-no. It also led to nearly all the players from both teams rushing onto the field, pushing and shoving each other. Have I mentioned that the game had just started? The umpires regained control, sent everyone back to their places, and resumed the game. They ejected one player, the player who had rushed the pitcher's mound, and kept everyone else in the game. That was basically the last eviction that involved the umpires' judgment calls. One Devil Ray ejected, no Red Sox ejected. Still with me?
A couple of innings later, the Devil Rays pitcher hits a Red Sox batter. This, too, may be an accident. But there is a clear baseball tradition of pitchers retaliating for hit batsman by going out and hitting one of the other team's batters as payback. At this point, the home team pitcher is not ejected. But, in baseball parlance, the benches are warned. This means that any further hit batters, or clear throws at batters, will lead to the automatic ejection of that pitcher AND his manager. Automatic. No questions. Great. Each team has hit one batter, one player has been ejected for starting a fight, and now both teams face automatic ejections if someone else gets hit.
Two batters later, the Devil Rays pitcher hits another Red Sox batter, the Red Sox's best hitter, pretty clearly not by accident but that's no longer even the question. The pitcher and the team manager get run off the field. 3 Devil Rays ejections, 0 Red Sox ejections.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox are doing pretty well. They build up a three-run lead and -- this part will be important -- their pitcher Pedro Martinez is throwing a no-hitter. After hitting that first batter, he hasn't let anyone else on base. He has gotten every single Devil Ray batter out, inning after inning. They simply can't hit him. They can't even work a walk.
So, eventually, the Devil Rays pitchers hit, or try to hit, more Red Sox batters. When they do this the pitcher, and whichever coach is filling in as manager at that moment, get ejected. In one memorable sequence (and I still remember watching this), the Devil Rays pitcher throws at one Red Sox batter so that the pitch is literally behind the poor guy. That pitcher gets ejected, taking one of his coaches with him. The Devil Rays bring in a new relief pitcher, let him warm up, and he immediately hits the very same batter that the last pitcher was ejected for throwing at. Four ejections in one at-bat. This is how you get to eight.
Why did this happen? Because, after a certain point, the Rays kept hitting batters because they wanted to bait the opposing pitcher into hitting one of them. If he got upset and retaliated, he would be thrown out of the game. They desperately wanted him out of the game, because he was throwing a no-hitter. But he obviously was not going to do anything to get thrown out of the game for the very same reason: he was throwing a no-hitter, a record-book accomplishment that he had never achieved. He was not going to be ejected if he could help it, and since he could help it, he did.
The team that was getting repeatedly ejected were not being treated unfairly. They were breaking rules that the other team was following. They were doing it to bait the other side into a misstep, and also trying to work the umpires. Should one of the Red Sox been ejected for "balance" every time a Devil Rays player got ejected? If that were true, the Devil Rays could get the Red Sox punished for the Devil Rays' own bad behavior. Which brings us back to the 2016 election.
The Clinton-Trump election is like this. One side is way outside the established rules and falling behind. The other is playing carefully by the rules and winning. The rule-breakers are protesting loudly that things are not fair and many in the media (who now behave, in the worst possible way, like sportscasters) are coddling those complaints and seeking to punish the winning campaign for the losing campaign's misdeeds. This dynamic will only intensify when Trump next falls further behind in the polls. He will do his damnedest to get Hillary thrown out of the game.
To some, including some people who make their living as Serious Journalists, this seems only fair. Because they have lost their sense of what fairness actually entails.