Take that! No, you take that! (cue: slap)

times building2

Well now. Please note that almost nothing in the current torrent of debate about the Rod Dreher column has anything to do with the purpose of the original blog article, except that this is a demonstration of how hard this kind of bitter debate is to cover in a newspaper.

Try to imagine writing a story in a newspaper that deals fairly with the voices on both sides of this major-league slap fest.

But there is a factual question here that is central to the work of the blog. The MSM is, consistently, much harsher to the cultural right than to the cultural left. Please check out the media bias studies on this, going back to the classic Los Angeles Times study on abortion coverage. Check out this Oliphant cartoon.

What we have been trying to do is compare the levels of invective in the mainstream news media toward the religious right and the religious/secular left, in the wake of the 11/2 election. That is, after all, what this blog is about — press coverage of religious issues. Also, we are interested in editorial pages, but not as much as we are interested in the news pages. We jumped on The New York Times op-ed freak out theme because this was so symbolic of the general attitudes in that elite newspaper.

But, let me stress, even at the Times where was some fabulous journalism going on out in the main columns. There were outbreaks of information about both sides. There were voices quoted that told us something new about what was happening. Good. Anyone want to note some other exceptionally good stories that we have missed?

But I continue to think that the undercovered side of this debate is the hardcore religious left. Or maybe not. Maybe that is what we are reading on the editorial pages.

Meanwhile, here is a recent letter that cuts very close to the larger news story that remains uncovered. Can anyone imagine a major cultural issue compromise by the religious left? This is just as hard, or harder, than to imagine one on the right. Here is the letter.

Name: Charlie
URL: http://www.anotherthink.com

The truth is that, Patricia Ireland’s apparent unwillingness to compromise notwithstanding, the Democrats could pick off a great number of orthodox conservatives if they came out strongly in favor of a few compromises on abortion, such as a uniform standard for parental notification for minors, a short waiting period, and a serious educational effort aimed at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, done in a way that is respectful of Catholic views on contraception. In doing these things, Dems would be moving the abortion wars to a more acceptable middle ground, and the radical left like Ireland would have no choice but to continue to support the Democrats — where else would they go? To the Republicans?!

If the Dems could manage to stop insulting people of faith, and could take a few steps towards the center on moral issues like abortion, marriage, the Pledge, embryonic stem cells, Israel, they might be able to claim to be the party that is seeking balance in a pluralistic society, leaving the Republicans to appear to be the party of the extremes. But such compromises would infuriate the hard left, and would probably take more moral courage than the Democrats are able to muster.

As a life-long Democrat who long-ago abandoned my party because of its positions on abortion and other “respect for life” issues, I am still not comfortable with the Republican positions on capital punishment, health care for the poor and other social justice matters. If the Democrats were smarter, they could entice people like me back into the fold.

Now, has anyone seen Charlie’s voice show up in the news pages? Perhaps a Hispanic Charlie? An African-American Charlie? A born-again, Bible Belt Charlie?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Kassandra

    Moby: Split America into “Northeastistan,” “Pacificstan” and “Redstateistan”

    World Entertainment News Network

    Posted November 4 2004

    Democratic party supporter Moby wants to split America into three nations, following George W. Bush’s Nov. 2 victory over Sen. John Kerry in the presidential election.

    The disappointed dance star concedes President Bush received the majority of votes nationwide, after claiming vast swathes of middle America and the Deep South — but argues California and New York should be granted independence from Bush’s administration, because they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Kerry.

    “America is essentially a right-wing Republican country. We might resist this fact, but it is a fact. It’s not a fact in Manhattan. It’s not a fact in L.A. or San Francisco… but for 100 plus million people it’s a fact,” he said.

    “We live in a divided country. Can’t we have the breakaway republics of ‘North-east-istan’ (north-east Us) and ‘Pacific-stan’ (west coast)?

    “Wouldn’t the red (Republican) states be happier without us? We could still travel freely and trade freely with them, but can’t we just leave?

    “Then you could have 3 countries: Northeastistan – Pacificstan – Redstateistan.”

  • Clement Ng

    As many others have suggested in the past, one of the ways to compromise on the contentious issue of abortion is to allow states to decide for themselves whether or not to criminalize or protect it.

    Joe Klein on Air America:

    Klein: “I’ve been talking to a lot of Democrats and I believe the only way to take social issues off the table is to localize them. It’s ridiculous that the whole Democratic agenda has to be held hostage to abortion and gay marriage. Why not have these battles at the state level? Utah outlaws abortion? Fine. Texas doesn’t recognize gay marriages? Fine-”

    Interviewer: “The South secedes from the Union? Fine!”

    Klein: “Well that’s an extreme example of what I’m talking about but the fact remains that the Democratic party has been getting crushed.”

  • Scott

    “The MSM is, consistently, much harsher to the cultural right than to the cultural left.”

    So? The right wing evangelical media is as harsh as anyone. The LAT is “mainstream” only because more people are willing to read harsh commentary against the right than are willing to read harsh commentary against the left. Otherwise, the right wing media would become “mainstream” themselves. Either more people choose the anti-evangelical “mainstream” media, or they don’t and so the pro (or not as anti) evangelical media is mainstream also, undercutting your argument.

  • Clement Ng

    Scott wrote:

    “Either more people choose the anti-evangelical “mainstream” media, or they don’t and so the pro (or not as anti) evangelical media is mainstream also, undercutting your argument.”

    What exactly is the conclusion of Terry’s argument, as you see it? That the mainstream media isn’t really mainstream, and so all of us have been applying the wrong description? That Christian newspapers and TV stations have just as many readers and subscribers as the major dailies and networks combined? (surely no one believes *that*) That the mainstream media doesn’t really speak for the vast majority of Americans (again, is this what you think Terry’s conclusion is, given what he wrote above)?

  • Scott

    “What exactly is the conclusion of Terry’s argument, as you see it? That the mainstream media isn’t really mainstream, and so all of us have been applying the wrong description? That Christian newspapers and TV stations have just as many readers and subscribers as the major dailies and networks combined? (surely no one believes *that*) That the mainstream media doesn’t really speak for the vast majority of Americans (again, is this what you think Terry’s conclusion is, given what he wrote above)?”

    Basically, either:

    1. There’s a reason the mainstream media is mainstream – most people agree w/ the evangelical bashing.

    or

    2. The left-bashing media gets plenty of readers/viewers and so can’t be excluded when complaining about how the ‘media’ treats evangelicals.

  • Clement Ng

    Thanks for the reply Scott – but you seem to be giving me the conclusions of your argument, when what I asked for was the conclusion of Terry’s argument as *you* see it.

    Do correct me if I’m wrong, but I think what you want to argue is either A) The mainstream media is justified in treating evangelicals and conservative Catholics the way it does, because it is supported by a wide readership and viewership, or B) Terry ought to acknowledge that many Americans abhor the moral sensibilities of evangelicals and conservative Catholics and he should consider this when he complains about media bias against religious conservatives

    Yet even if “there’s a reason the mainstream media is mainstream – most people agree w/ the evangelical bashing”, this reason wouldn’t show that engaging in such activity is fair and balanced (and, of course, Terry does not think that such engagement is fair and balanced). If 90% of Americans engaged in gay-bashing or Canadian-bashing, would the mainstream media then be justified in joining the game, and start bashing gays and Canadians too?

  • http://www.joe-perez.com/weblog.htm Joe Perez

    “Can anyone imagine a major cultural issue compromise by the religious left?” What, pray tell, do you mean by “the religious left”? If you’re talking about abortion, I know plenty. Certainly very few in my circles are extremists on abortion.

    But then again, I also reject your bifurcation of the religious into right and left. I think there are right and left on one level, and then there’s also a second-tier of folks on another level whose politics would have to be counted as a Third Way approach beyond right and left. I for one count myself in the latter group. :)

  • Scott

    “Terry ought to acknowledge that many Americans abhor the moral sensibilities of evangelicals and conservative Catholics and he should consider this when he complains about media bias against religious conservatives.”

    Close enough for govt work. His complaints about “the media” only hold water if “the media” only reflects a small minority. If 90% of Americans engaged in Canada-bashing, it would be the country’s problem, not a problem with “the media”.

  • http://wetzell.blogspot.com/2004/10/idea-to-help-depoliticize-and-prevent.html dlw

    We need to depolicize abortion, pronto.

    Check out my idea for how this can be done.

    http://wetzell.blogspot.com/2004/10/idea-to-help-depoliticize-and-prevent.html

    It also needs to be made clear that homosexuality is both chosen and not-chosen; the facts are more complicated than either side cares to admit. The reason why there is so much heat over the issue stems from the significance given to legal gay-marriages by both sides, as implying that their side was “right”.

    Kerry should have gotten better counseling on how not to inflame the cultural wars issues so as to help get a strong religious right turn-out.

    http://wetzell.blogspot.com/2004/11/ive-got-so-much-to-say.html

    dlw

  • Paul Barnes

    I did not choose to be attracted to women. What I do choose is how I interact with women.

  • http://wannabeanglican.blogspot.com/ WannabeAnglican

    Charlie and Joe Klein are on target. The liberal Democrats slavish adherence to such outrages as partial birth abortion show they aren’t just evil, they are also stupid. Sand off some of their more outrageous stands and they would become more electable.

    That and stop nominating poofy hair Massachusetts liberals for president. ;^)

    mark

  • http://idouthett.typepad.com/i_douthett/ Molly

    ” …and a serious educational effort aimed at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, done in a way that is respectful of Catholic views on contraception. ”

    What would this look like? Not being RC, my understanding of Catholic views of contraception runs toward Monty Python’s “Every Sperm is Sacred”. Funny, but not terribly helpful nor respectful.

    I think Charlie is on to something about the left getting off the stick on abortion if the right would be willing to get off the stick on contraception. Possible?

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com/ Dwight

    “Can anyone imagine a major cultural issue compromise by the religious left?”

    Btw..I appreciate that you actually include us in the mix of your coverage, something which is rare in most religion news stories about this election.

    Some of the issues though that are listed as key for the religious right such as gay marriage to me are not extraneous issues. They are not dispensable depending on electoral results, because they are central moral principles for many of us. That’s something which cannot be toosed aside for expediency’s sake.

    I think this may come as a shock because some on the right don’t believe that we hold to these positions because we honestly think that they are the right thing to do. Given that we’re in the losing end of this election, undoubtedly there will be no calls to understand us and our values (or that we even have them and desire to stick with them).

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