Fact-checking humor

David Sedaris is a humor writer who has a standing gig at National Public Radio news shows.  His schtick is based on his array of personal experiences, such as the time he once worked in a department store as Santa’s elf.  But NPR got burned when it turned out that Mike Daisey’s expose of conditions at an Apple Computer factory in China was largely made up.  And now it has come out that some of Sedaris’s anecdotes–including his  time as an elf–did not, strictly speaking, actually happen.  Sedaris says his material is “real-ish.”  So now NPR is undergoing a crisis of conscience about the extent to which they should fact-check Sedaris’s funny stories.

The David Sedaris dilemma: A fine line between ‘realish’ and real – The Washington Post.

Fiction, of course, by definition is made up.  Sedaris presents his stories as experiences, though the nature of humor is going to require exaggerations, caricatures, and embellishments.

Do you think NPR is being responsible or over-scrupulous?  What is the difference between what Sedaris does and what Daisey did?  Could you propose some guidelines for NPR?

Was Mitt Romney a high school bully?

The Washington Post has a big story of the sort that opposition researchers love, an event from the past that can discredit a candidate with voters.  Reportedly, when Mitt Romney was in high school, he and some friends jumped a guy with long hair–someone who was also teased as being gay–and cut his hair.

Romney does not remember the incident, but has apologized anyway.  Meanwhile, some bloggers are questioning the story, noting at least one big contradiction in the account.

First of all, is this a legitimate story, or is it biased gotcha journalism with a political purpose?

Second, is it fair to use a person’s childhood or adolescent behavior to discredit him as an adult?

Third, does this incident disclose a character flaw that should disqualify a person from public office?

Fourth, do you think this report could harm Romney’s squeaky-clean image, to the point of making voters–who often care more for image than for issues–think that he’s mean and so refuse to vote for him?

Finally, is this story a portent that  journalism, political discourse, and our democratic republic are all doomed?

 

via Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall pranks, but also troubling incidents – The Washington Post.

Lutheran Anglicans

I met an Anglican priest the other day who, it turns out, was a big fan of Spirituality of the Cross and my other “Lutheran” books.  As I talked with him, I was astonished at how much he was into Lutheranism.  He explained that there is currently a strain in Anglicanism that is seeking to recover its Lutheran roots.

He said Anglicanism generally has had four theological strains:  (1) The mainline Protestantism of the Episcopal Church in America; (2) Anglo-Catholicism; (3) low church evangelicalism, which is often distinctly Reformed; (4) the charismatic movement.

But now, he says, a number of  Anglicans, especially young theologians, are rediscovering Luther, who was a major influence on the founders of Anglicanism, especially Thomas Cranmer.   They are finding that it is possible to be both sacramental and evangelical, liturgical and Biblical.  Above all, they are discovering that the Gospel as Luther understood it–radical, liberating–speaks powerfully to our own times and to the specific struggles of both Christians and non-Christians today.

The main force in this movement of Lutheran Anglicans or Anglican Lutherans is the Mockingbird Ministry, run by David Zahl and friends, whose main presence is the blog known as Mockingbird.  (Read the FAQ for why it’s called that.)  I have been reading and linking to it without realizing its role in a movement.  It’s a brilliant website, in both design and content.  Much of it is taken up with commentary on music, film, literature, and the culture as a whole.  But it’s also full of discussions of the distinction between Law & Gospel and the Theology of the Cross vs. the Theology of Glory.

It draws on ELCA theologians who are still Lutheran, such as Stephen Paulson and Gerhard Forde (who inspires a regular feature called “Forde Friday”), but also Missouri Synod stalwarts such as C. F. W. Walther and Rod Rosenbladt (who is called “our hero” and a formative influence).

And the design and tone are very cool and cutting-edged, not stodgy but young, sophisticated, even avant garde.

I’m not saying it’s all completely on target or could in every instance pass Missouri Synod doctrinal review–a recent post quotes Rudolph Bultmann, though one in which the liberal theologian sounds Lutheran–but it’s a good site to visit.

And it’s a challenge to us Lutheran Lutherans to remind us that, even as some of our own churches play it down, outsiders are finding our theology compelling.

 

Life Full Voice

Some of you may remember Lori Lewis who occasionally has frequented this blog.  At one point she was all involved in radio and contemporary Christian music, but then she became a confessional Lutheran and an outspoken critic of that musical scene.  More recently she has gotten involved with opera, both as a singer and as a popularizer of that artform via radio and writing.  Her latest project, though, is a webzine entitled  Eveyday Opera.  It’s not  about opera; rather, it uses opera as a metaphor for what she describes in the site’s slogan as “Life Full Voice.”  Here is how she described it to me:

A little over 2 years ago I started Everyday Opera out of the need to find a platform for my own art.
I had gone through a down time but out of it grew this idea…Making Classic Art an Everyday Event.
Personality driven, non intimidating, but with the theory that Art lifts us in our everyday experience.  In a culture full of junk food, and I eat plenty of my share, I’m a mini-evangelist for expanding one’s horizon’s.
Opera is the metaphor here for living Live Full Voice. That is how an Opera Singer sings…Full Voice
We encourage the thinking that all of life can be lived Full Voice, whether you are a great singer,
a great chef, wine maker, farmer, mother, teacher, and on and on. (Isn’t it really modeled after
The Spirituality of the Cross? The book that help me be free as a christian to be free as a person.)

Kind words about my book.  She makes an interesting connection between Christian freedom through the Gospel, personal freedom, and vocation.  Anyway,   Eveyday Opera has articles about travel, food, art, literature, wine, music, and other pleasures of life.  It doesn’t get into theology, as such, though I’d say it has a Christian view of the world, though many Christians have arguably hung back from living life “full voice.”  (Why is that, do you think?  Do you agree that Christians are freed to appreciate things like these?)

Anyway, Lori has enlisted me to write for the site occasionally, so I wrote a piece on literary style that I’ll link to in a separate post.

We’re on Issues, Etc. today

My daughter and I will be on Issues, Etc. radio and web-radio program today to talk about our book Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.  We’ll be taking the book section by section today and for the next fourMondays.  The show runs from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Central Time, but it will also be archived.  Go here to listen live (though our part will be taped).

 

Coming Up on Issues, Etc.


Monday, April 16, 2012
Family Vocation, Part 1
Deaconess Mary Moerbe and Dr. Gene Edward Veith, authors, “Family Vocations”

 

 

Rumors crossing into journalism

The internet can serve as a vast gossip network, a way to spread rumors and falsehoods.  That’s bad in itself, but especially when the falsehoods get taken up by the ostensibly legitimate press.  And people and their reputations can get hurt in the process.  That’s what happened to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.  Kathleen Parker tells the story:

The rumor — that Haley was about to be indicted for tax fraud — was so delicious that other bloggers, tweeters and even some mainstream media outlets felt compelled to repeat it.

Except that it wasn’t true. Not even a little bit. Some twit apparently thought it would be fun to start a rumor and see what happened next. . . .

The New York Times tracked the path of the Haley/tax rumor to show how quickly it traveled from a small spark in the fevered brain of a political enemy into a bonfire of inanity. It began with a blog item, then was tweeted by the Hill, a Washington political newspaper, and reported in a short article by the Daily Beast.

All of this happened March 29 between 12:52 p.m., when the blog post went online, and 1:12 p.m., when a reporter for USA Today decided to call Haley’s office and actually find out if the story was true. Give that reporter a raise! But the rumor was retweeted at 1:14 by a Washington Post reporter and later picked up by online outlets Daily Kos and the Daily Caller. By 3:29, the Drudge Report linked to the Daily Caller article featuring the headline: “Report: DOJ may indict SC Gov. Nikki Haley for tax fraud.”

The next morning, The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, had a front-page story. All in a day’s whisper.

What is abominably clear is that this sort of thing can happen to anyone at any time. And much worse things can be said that can’t easily be disproved. Haley extinguished this fire by releasing a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that there was no investigation.

via Whispering campaigns can take flight in new media – The Washington Post.


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