Thursday, June 30, 2005

"Equal Time" on Greater Boston

I try to catch Greater Boston on WGBH as often as I can. My wife refers to it as "your favorite show" and though it is often very well done, every once in a while it coughs up a real hairball. Last night was one of those episodes.

The first segment was on Scientology and its higher profile thanks to Tom Cruise's recent media blitzkrieg. Host Emily Rooney had on a Scientologist, Kevin Hall, and a psychiatrist, Dr. Mary Anne Badaracco. The segment went something like this: Hall would explain how psychiatrists do some horrible thing and then Dr. Badaracco would say that actually what Hall said wasn't true and any good psychiatrist would do something completely different. At one point Hall claimed that there was no scientific evidence that any mental illness was caused by a brain chemistry problem as if he had never heard of a neurotransmitter.

So, fine, if Emily Rooney wants to show both sides of "the story", it's her show. Personally, I think it's lending credence to a movement that doesn't deserve it, but maybe Rooney thinks that giving equal time to both Scientologists and psychiatrists will give viewers the opportunity to sort out the truth for themselves.

So, I was surprised when during the next segment, Rooney paired up Republican Consultant Charley Manning and David Bernstein from the Boston Phoenix for a discussion of Mitt Romney's self assessment he paid to have in yesterday's Globe. What, is there suddenly some shortage Democratic consultants in Massachusetts of all places? If you're going to have a hardcore partisan like Manning -- who worked on both of Romney's campaigns, by the way -- the least you could do is have another partisan representing the other side. Bernstein may be a liberal for all I know (and he probably is) but he's not a paid political operative. Manning has an interest in extolling Romney's virtues whether they're true or not -- so of course by the end of the interview the consensus is going to be that the brochure is great and the Herald piece is just sour grapes.

It just drove me nuts that they went out of their way to put Scientology, which is widely considered a cult, on the same footing as the field of psychiatric medicine and then, not thirty seconds later, gave Republicans a leg up in the discussion of Romney's performance thus far. Has the Democratic Party become so irrelevant that the Scientologists deserve equal time but we don't?

On second thought, don't answer that. I don't think I want to know.