The impression is that the news media are obliged to present both -- indeed, all -- sides of a story equally, which is to suggest, fairly, and which is to imply, inevitably, that both (or all) sides have equal legitimacy.
This is nonsense. In the first place, a free and unfettered press as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution is under no obligation to be fair, unbiased or even factual. You just can't make stuff up with the intent to hurt someone. That's why there are so many unreliable sources of information in this country making money while posing as responsible journalism. Take Fox News, as Henny Youngman said, please.
The idea of the press being responsible and reliable as a source of useful information has evolved over time with the most responsible sources establishing themselves with readers and listeners through dedication to one thing overall -- truth. Not truth as a publisher sees it. Not truth as a big advertiser sees it. Not truth as a politician, even a president, sees it. And not necessarily truth as everyone on all sides of an issue would like it to be seen.
Just the plain and simple facts of the matter. Here's what happened. Here's what people did. Here's what people said. And yes, here's what we think based on all those facts.
The United States and its allies fought a worldwide war to defeat Naziism, anti-semitism and the belief that certain fair-haired, light-skinned people were born superior to others and that millions of those "others" had to be murdered to protect the so-called super race. The U.S. and its allies won that war, at great cost. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to defeat Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, anti-Semites. Fact.
There is no "other" side. Those who sought to subjugate and slaughter others because of their religion, nationality, or race were rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Those who defended or sought to appease them were rejected. Some were sent to prison.
The United States also fought a bloody Civil War to defeat white supremacists who believed they were born superior to people with dark skin and, thus, could use and treat those "other" people as property, as slaves. Many Americans, including President Abraham Lincoln, disagreed. Some people in the South tried to argue -- still do -- that the "other," legitimate, side of the story was that the war was over states' rights. That's only if you consider that the "right" the Southern states sought to protect in seceding from the Union and starting a war (treason) was to own and treat people of color as slaves. The South lost. Fact.
Hate was rejected. White supremacy was rejected. Slavery was rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Anti-semites were rejected. Case closed. We did not agree to disagree. In words the current president of the United States might understand, Americans agreed that bigotry and racism were "bad." That the KKK, neo-Nazis and other white-supremacist groups were "evil." That there were no "fine people" who support such groups and their hateful messages. That America stands for inclusiveness. That our differences make us stronger. That it is the primary job of the president to spread that message and to make sure it is enforced.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating -- "alt-right" is a bogus word created to give a veneer of legitimacy to white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers and wannabe fascist bullies. These are hate groups parading under the absurd banner that white men have been somehow denied their due because of the color of their skin. To deny this absurdity or to remain silent about it is to give these groups a false standing. It suggests a moral legitimacy that hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to deny.
This is a time of serious unrest in America, stoked by the divisive language and actions of Donald Trump and those who advise and enable him. There is no other side to that story either. He was elected on a campaign built on lies, bigotry and bullying. The Republican Party allowed it. They continue to allow him to shred the fabric of this nation. They own him even though he is not and never has been one of them. That is the price of silence in the face of fascism.
There was never any chance that Trump was going to "grow into the job" of president. He has not grown emotionally in his 71 years. Regressed, more likely. He must be removed from office, by Republicans or Robert Mueller, the special counsel. More likely the latter.
But ultimately every American has a stake in this fight against authoritarianism. Trump has disgraced the office of the president. He has failed at every opportunity to display moral leadership. Congress, world leaders, his own staff do not respect him. At most, the white supremacists in his circle use him for their own agenda.
This is not a theoretical exercise. It is personal. The question for every American is: Do you support the statements from the president that "both sides" bear responsibility for what happened in Charlottesville, Va.? In sum, do you grant neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Klansmen moral standing to the point that you create words like "anti-Nazi" and "antifa" (anti-fascist) when all that used to be necessary was "them" and the rest of us. Evil. Good.
I have spent more than half a century in journalism, three decades writing editorials about every possible topic. This is simply by way of saying that I am programmed to look for both sides of any story and then write about it. For this, because he is uncomfortable with any straight reporting of the things he says and does -- including pointing out inconsistencies and lies as well as insults -- the wholly unqualified president has declared me and my colleagues to be an "enemy of the people." That's a line used by every fascist in history about the press.
Trump should not be president. Those who voted for him were wrong. Many have had the honesty to admit it. Some, for their own reasons, never will. History will remember those who allowed him to disgrace this nation. It will not be a pretty tale. There's only one side to this story.