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Many people believe that the hallmark of good political journalism is where both sides are presented. I hear this opinion often, but it is never explained what both sides are. I know that both implies there are two. I presume that sides refers to Republicans and Democrats.

People who call themselves independents seem to be particularly infatuated with hearing both sides. They have come to the realization that both the Republicans and Democrats spin (or lie) a lot. They believe that they can determine the truth by hearing both sides of the focus group tested spin carefully crafted by Republicans and Democrats.

They reason that the truth lay somewhere between both sides presented in a fair and balanced manner. It should be obvious to any sane adult that this logic is faulty. Two half-truths don't equal the whole truth any more than splitting the difference between two deceptions will yield reality.

For example, suppose the Republicans claim all Martians have blue flying saucers and Democrats claim all Martians have yellow flying saucers. Does one infer that Martians exist since both sides mention them? Would it make sense to believe that Martian saucers are probably green because blue and yellow produce green?

The both sides concept is also challenged by the fact that there are differences of opinion within the Republican and Democrat parties. Also, there are many issues where the official party lines of Republicans and Democrats are virtually indistinguishable. The idea that there are only two points of view regarding any given issue is extremely shortsighted.

Americans are not well served by media that presents only both sides. People should be insulted that the political elite and the corporate media treat them as children incapable of comprehending anything more complex than two similar and simplistic sound-bites. Unfortunately, many people truly are incapable of serious analysis of political issues.

Rather than examine an issue and develop an opinion based on personal knowledge and experience, far too many people wait to be told what to think. While the so-called independents want to hear both sides, many people only want to hear one side. Those who strongly identify with a particular political party often wish to be told what they are supposed to think.

Partisans often feel they must reject the ideas of "the other side" automatically. Rather than think through an issue, it is much easier to adopt the opinion of a favorite pundit. Especially confusing to non-thinking partisans are issues that transcend typical polarizing wedge issues.

Issues such as war and privacy rights are especially divisive. Within the Republican party, conservatives and neoconservatives are divided over many issues. While many Democrats oppose the war at the grassroots level, most of the party's leaders are hawks. Partisans unable to form their own opinion can avoid thinking too hard by simply supporting their leader.

The both sides adherent can become very confused when presented with ideas outside the realm of the typical Republican/Democrat paradigm. Libertarian ideas are especially confusing to both partisans and independents. A libertarian position might set forth the idea that government make NO policy regarding a particular issue rather than a one-size fits all policy.

The individual may then be confronted with a range of personal choices as opposed to having only the Republican or Democrat policies to choose from. To the conservative partisan, libertarians often seem to be liberal and liberal partisans often think libertarians are conservatives.

Adding to the confusion are conservatives that say they are libertarian on certain issues and progressives who agree with libertarians on certain issues. Confusion abounds when a Green and a Libertarian agree on decentralization. Conservatives who think that libertarians are liberals and Greens are socialists also claim to support decentralization, but find themselves supporting Republicans who support large centralized government.

Those who only want to hear both sides shortchange themselves and society by ignoring the ideas of everyone except the political elite. Those who expose themselves to the official spin of only one party are so intellectually bankrupt that they are in effect refusing to think for themselves.

Polls routinely report that a clear majority of people believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction. It is a fact that Republicans and Democrats have been running America for generations. With that in mind, isn't it strange that people even bother to listen to both sides (or only one side) if they feel the nation is heading in the wrong direction? Even stranger are the people who insist on hearing both sides that call themselves independent - yet they will not listen to independent voices or vote for independent candidates.

One thing is certain - there will never be significant political change while people confine their thinking to both sides. If you think the nation is heading in the wrong direction, you might try rejecting both sides and exposing yourself to a wide range of ideas. Remember, your elected representatives are supposed to represent you - not the other way around.

This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.