Newsweek plays worldview chess

NewsweekCoverMarch9.jpgFareed Zakaria has written a thoughtful and creative cover essay for the latest Newsweek. He argues for making distinctions between Islamists who are terrorists and Islamists who wish for Sharia law in their own nations but have not supported terrorism.

Here are two key paragraphs that are bound to provoke debate:

The groups that advocate these policies are ugly, reactionary forces that will stunt their countries and bring dishonor to their religion. But not all these Islamists advocate global jihad, host terrorists or launch operations against the outside world — in fact, most do not. Consider, for example, the most difficult example, the Taliban. The Taliban have done all kinds of terrible things in Afghanistan. But so far, no Afghan Taliban has participated at any significant level in a global terrorist attack over the past 10 years — including 9/11. There are certainly elements of the Taliban that are closely associated with Al Qaeda. But the Taliban is large, and many factions have little connection to Osama bin Laden. Most Taliban want Islamic rule locally, not violent jihad globally.

How would you describe Faisal Ahmad Shinwari, a judge in Afghanistan? He has banned women from singing on television and called for an end to cable television altogether. He has spoken out against women and men being educated in the same schools at any age. He has upheld the death penalty for two journalists who were convicted of blasphemy. (Their crime: writing that Afghanistan’s turn toward Islam was “reactionary.”) Shinwari sounds like an Islamic militant, right? Actually, he was appointed chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court after the American invasion, administered Hamid Karzai’s oath of office and remained in his position until three years ago.

My chief frustration with Zakaria’s essay is in his final four sentences:

The truth is that all Islamists, violent or not, lack answers to the problems of the modern world. They do not have a world view that can satisfy the aspirations of modern men and women. We do. That’s the most powerful weapon of all.

And that worldview would be? Anyone? Anyone?

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  • michael

    “And that worldview would be? Anyone? Anyone?”

    Ah, this is an enticing game, but shouldn’t we define those aspirations before we determine what ‘worldview’ can satisfy them?

    One is tempted to answer ‘to be God’ and there is some evidence for this, in which case–contra Zakaria–there would be no worldview adequate to modern aspirations.

    But this, I am afraid, gives modern men and women more credit than we deserve. The desire to be God is still genuine eros. Whereas I am afraid that modern men and women, who increasingly equate the true with the useful and find little that is genuinely good or evil, find little that is genuinely worthy of either real desire or perfect hatred. Insofar as we are modern, we therefore do not want to be satisfied because there is little desire to satisfy; instead we want to be entertained, distracted, anesthetized, delivered from ourselves and, increasingly, put out of our misery when this is no longer possible. Zakaria’s insinuation is wrong. We don’t aspire to too much; we aspire to too little. But his conclusion is probably more correct than he realizes. Not just Islam but no serious faith can be adequate to these ‘aspirations’ and no serious faith can long survive these aspirations if they themselves are beyond question or change.

  • Jerry

    The truth is that all Islamists, violent or not, lack answers to the problems of the modern world. They do not have a world view that can satisfy the aspirations of modern men and women. We do. That’s the most powerful weapon of all.

    Trying to stuff culture back into a 1400 year old mold is in opposition to modern aspirations. There are obvious moral and ethical challenges with modern technology, but applying a moral framework to how technology is used does stand in opposition to forbidding the technology altogether.

    But Zakaria is actually doing what he accuses the US Government of doing – painting with an overly broad brush. There are Islamists who have a less extreme view of Islam. A few years ago I engaged in a lenghty online debate with one who was at the time and still might be a member of Hizb ut Tahrir. He wanted Sharia law, to be sure, but his view included women getting an education and working in the world. Their view is not the same as ours, but http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hizb_ut-Tahrir#Women shows that they are less extreme than other Islamists but not at what we consider to be a modern view of women.

    But you asked about worldview – the extreme Islamists want to reduce women back to worse than the status they had 1400 years ago and thus deprive a culture of 1/2 of the workforce as well as stop women from being able to install a love of learning in the young because they can’t themselves read.

    They also forbid manifestations of modernity as anti-Islam:

    The Taliban movement is highly fractured and is essentially a loose knitting of commanders who wield ultimate authority in their regions. As a result, some commanders have relaxed strict social rules against technology and now allow TVs and music. But others have ripped down satellites from homes and thrown out TVs from village barber shops and tea houses.

    “All the time with the technology I tried to get them to investigate about the negative and the positive. I thought the positive outweighed the negative,” he said. “I tried, but unfortunately I was not successful.”

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hk77Wi_ryE2Dkz4CIb0h1eyzjglQD96MP42O0

    That should answer your question: forbidding much of modern technology is retrogressive and tries to stuff the country back into a 1400-year old mold. For all it’s disadvantages, modern technology is progressive while trying to forbid science and technology is retrogressive. The trick is to have a moral and ethical framework apply to how technology is used and that is no easy trick, to be sure, but still that is a challenge of our age.

  • michael

    Just curious, but what do ‘progressive’ and ‘retrogressive’ mean and what light do they shed on all of this?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    The worldview: free-market capitalism? The shopping mall? The New York Times editorial page? Comedy Central?

  • michael

    The worldview: free-market capitalism? The shopping mall? The New York Times editorial page? Comedy Central?

    And other than the fact that Comedy Central is probably more truthful than the NY Times, these differ how?

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    Jerry, I’m not sure that being open to modern technology and welcoming women to the workplace quite qualifies as a worldview. Consider how American Heritage defines the word:

    1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. 2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.

    I think Zakaria overreaches in asserting that any one worldview represents the United States or even the West. But, then, perhaps Zakaria defines we more broadly than that in his penultimate sentence.

  • michael

    “Jerry, I’m not sure that being open to modern technology and welcoming women to the workplace quite qualifies as a worldview.

    I think Zakaria overreaches in asserting that any one worldview represents the United States or even the West. But, then, perhaps Zakaria defines we more broadly than that in his penultimate sentence.”

    To the contrary, I would argue that our worldview-and by ‘our’ I would defend something as broad as the US or the modern west–is fundamentally technological.
    Seeing this, though, requires us to understand ‘belief’ not as those propositions which we think we think but as that so fundamentally taken for granted that we scarcely see or think about it at all.

    But at the risk of sounding snooty, which I really do not mean to do, this takes us out of the realm of journalism and into that of philosophy. A great deal of the trouble with articles like Zakaria’s is journalism’s inherent blindness to its own philosophical presuppositions, which are more subtle and more pervasive than the sort of arm-chair philosophy that frequently issues forth as a result.

    This would be a (potentially) illuminating discussion: what philosophical (and theological?) assumptions are built into journalism from the outset? And how might these make journalism inherently incapable of ‘getting religion?’

  • http://willohroots.wordpress.com will hapeman

    And that worldview would be? Anyone? Anyone?

    Knowing the publication, secular humanism.

    They don’t put us Jesusians any higher on the list than Islam. When they say “we” they don’t mean “us”.

  • Jerry

    Jerry, I’m not sure that being open to modern technology and welcoming women to the workplace quite qualifies as a worldview.

    I had assumed Zakaria was operating from an implicit worldview with modern technology and women’s issues being two areas where that world view manifests.

    But in thinking about your point, I went to my oracle, wikipedia, and found http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldview

    According to Apostel, a worldview should comprise seven elements:

    1. An ontology, a descriptive model of the world
    2. An explanation of the world
    3. A futurology, answering the question “where are we heading?”
    4. Values, answers to ethical questions: “What should we do?”
    5. A praxeology, or methodology, or theory of action.: “How should we attain our goals?”
    6. An epistemology, or theory of knowledge. “What is true and false?”
    7. An etiology. A constructed world-view should contain an account of its own “building blocks,” its origins and construction.

    I still think that Zakaria (and I) both spoke from implicit world views, but it would be useful to see this or another framework used to compare/contrast the world views more explicitly

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt

    It strikes me that the cover of Newsweek sets to color radical Islam as a benign factor in the world and not a threat to their/our worldview. Just why is radical Islam termed ‘radical?’ The word doesn’t suggest a benign group of people!

  • will

    The truth is that all Islamists, violent or not, lack answers to the problems of the modern world.

    I find the use of the term modern world by Zakaria in this instant, and others in the secular media when making reference to the current secular western world view, as nothing other than bias. All persons currently alive on the planet, be they secularist or traditional in their world view are by the very fact that they exist at this moment in time, members of the modern world. What other world can anyone of us alive today possibly be a part of? The phrase is a regrettable and not so subtle way of dismissing anyone and anything not a part of the current western secularist world view, as irrelevant; out of touch with reality; in need of change, and perhaps even dangerous.

  • Jerry

    Thinking about my response a bit more, I think I understand what Zakaria was driving at a bit more:

    The West is profoundly forward looking. Whether you are looking for the Second Coming in the future or a technological singularity, the future will, sooner or later, be much better than the past or present. Radical Islamists think the ideal lies in the past in their mythologized view of the time of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. The best society from that perspective results if we return to that time and freeze the culture at that point.

    The West, especially America, is profoundly individualistic. For example, the abortion fight is characterized by those who believe in a woman’s right to choose versus the right of the unborn. There is no serious voice championing an outcome based primarily on the societal impact. In the West, individuality is prized in other areas such as the right of the individual to choose their religion freely. Radical Islamists want conformity to a set cultural and social pattern and to take choice away from the individual.

    Finally, the Western philosophy is very egalitarian; everyone should have an equal shot in life. Radical Islamists believe that in the structural inequality of Islamic rule where non-Muslims are forbidden from certain positions such as Caliph and have to pay a special tax.

    So from that perspective, what Zakaria said about different world views is accurate: we have a forward-looking, individualistic, egalitarian world view opposing a backward-looking, conformist, unequal one.

    It would have been better if he had explored this a bit further. I think he would agree with my analysis, but I’d like to have seen that confirmed:-)

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    I don’t read Newsweek, but sometimes I hear Zakaria on NPR. When I do hear his voice I change stations.

  • Dave

    This would be a (potentially) illuminating discussion: what philosophical (and theological?) assumptions are built into journalism from the outset? And how might these make journalism inherently incapable of ‘getting religion?’

    The basic assumption would be that news is good, that it makes the world, or at least the reader/viewer/listener, better to see or hear news. The philosophy would form around why news is good, and might differ from journalist to journalist. I was a volunteer, amateur, neighborhood journalist, and at the same time a church newsletter editor, for decades, because I thought that the best thing I could do for those communities was to give them a voice so they could talk among themselves and to a larger world about their issues and concerns.

    There’s nothing in this that makes journalists inherently incapable of getting religion; recall that religious journalism is run by journalists. Something besides a basic philosophy of journalism must be added on to explain what happens in the MSM newsroom.

  • michael

    Dave, I don’t utterly disagree with your initial assessment, but I think that the issue is deeper than that, and that it calls your conclusion into question.

    I would suggest briefly that journalism is a form of thought that is, on the one hand, simply incapable (and uninterested) in entertaining or adjudicating certain kinds of claims as ultimately true or false and yet claims, on the other hand, to ‘mediate’ truth. The result is that the world of possible basic truths is only as big as journalism can entertain (the world of relatively unproblematic empirical ‘facts’), and because under its all-seeing eye the world is only that big and no bigger, the invisible standpoint that mediates this world is never called into question. Such questioning doesn’t even make sense. So the very structure of journalism hides its own inherently philosophical presuppositions about all sorts of things–truth, knowledge, the structure of the world–most of all from journalists themselves. At the same time it subordinates and relativizes all other truth claims to its own invisible viewpoint, which admits of no ‘outside’.

    I think this is the deeper sense in which journalism itself is a religion–which helps account for the constant navel gazing among journalists and a preoccupation with their craft that never goes so far as to put the craft itself into question. And it is why ‘getting religion’ isn’t merely a matter of certain reporters or media outlets being elitist, biased, or poorly educated, though of course that is all part of it. It’s because journalism as such can only see what its own structure will admit.

    None of this is to say that there isn’t a place for journalism, that there still aren’t good or bad journalists, or that individual journalists are incapable of ‘getting religion’. After all, nobody is ONLY a journalist, and even journalists are human beings. But it is to say that the capacity of journalism as such to ‘get religion’ is inherently limited.

    One might say that journalism is the definitive thought form of an unphilosophical culture with no transcendent horizon. Wherever this form of thought dominates, it prevents ultimate questions from being treated as such. That’s probably why Nietzsche and Kierkegaard hated it.

    There is a whole lot more to say about this, but I’ve already blown more time than I meant to. Maybe more later if I’m not already on everyone’s nerves and you’re not already bored stiff.

  • Dave

    Michael, I’ll go back to my career as an amateur, neighborhood journalist and run some examples against your outline.

    It would never have occurred to me to cover the conflicting ultimacy claims of the Lutheran and Episcopal churches in the neighborhood because they didn’t affect the neighborhood any more than they affected all humanity. Not my beat.

    Once when the issue of the moment was renovation of a small city park used by a child-minding collective of working moms in the neighborhood, I got a letter from a city official objecting to my earlier coverage and insisting that City Hall was not full of bureaucratic fools. And I got a letter signed by several of the mothers recounting what the city had done and told them lately. I did not attempt to “mediate” their “truths.” Through the magic of xerography/mimeography I ran both letters in the next issue. Let the reader sort it out and reach conclusions.

    I never thought of journalism as my religion — I already had a religion, thanks — but I did regard it as a calling. And the core reason for the calling was the one I said earlier: News is good. (Does anyone here think news is bad?)

    My little monthly mimeographed rag didn’t prevent anyone from treating ultimate questions as such. That wasn’t our business and we didn’t get in the way of those whose business it was. You may be giving journalism too much credit for shaping our culture.

    And, as in my earlier post, there are journalists working in the interest of religious institutions and very much committed to those insitutions’ approaches to ultimacy. They are journalists, too.

  • michael

    Dave,

    Thanks for the example. It gives me an idea of how to try to respond. But it will have to wait at least until after dinner and getting the kids to bed.

  • John McCoy

    So as someone with a rudimentary grasp of Arabic, I note that the cover as pictured in this blog post has the first two words reading (and pardon my non-academic transliteration) “Al-Islaam Al-raadikaali”. It appears that whoever translated the English subtitle (and I presume that the English version came first) chose to render the adjective “radical” as a loanword from English. (Adjectives of nouns with the definite article also take the definite article in Arabic. I believe–but here I’m getting out of my depth–that the “i” suffix on “raadikaal” indicates the word’s function as an adjective.) This raises a question for me: does Arabic not have a good word or words for what we in the English-speaking world call, variously, “Islamicism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamofascism,” etc. without borrowing straight from English, or does whoever translated this not understand Arabic well enough to be able to translate it without resorting to crude loanwords?

    It would seem to me that as countries like Egypt have been wrestling with what we call radical Islam for far, far longer than we have been wrestling with it here in the West (the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928), so I guess it seems unlikely to me that there’s not a native Arabic word or adjective for this type of ideology.

    This is a question I cannot answer, but I’d be very interested to know the answer.

    -John

  • michael

    Dave,

    Sorry I’m late. Assuming this conversation has some life left in it, let me clarify.

    First of all, in calling journalism a religion I am not attacking the subjective sincerity of this or that journalist. There are no doubt many journalists who are sincerely religious, some even, who see a tension between their faith and the assumptions of their craft. Some, even, may be personally holy.

    What I am talking about, rather, is the objective structure of that craft, its ‘form’ if you will.

    Here’s what I mean. Let’s move from your conflict over a city park to some of the more regular fare around here, something like abortion or gay marriage. Opposition to these things by (some) Christians, and certainly by the Catholic Church, is rooted in the conviction that no aspect of reality–not nature, not the meaning of the human person–is theologically neutral. In other words, it is rooted in a take on the meaning of the whole that follows coherently from understanding that the world is creation, which is the only way to understand it on a coherent notion of God. Journalism per se claims no such prerogative. The media only mediate ‘the news’ after all, which is what I take you to be claiming even though you resisted this descrption and which is why a journalist strictly speaking is thought only to require an education in journalism and its techniques to make the world transparent to everyone else. (That is really an astonishing conceit when you stop and think about it.) And journalism as such (which is not the same thing as individual journalists who may have a theological bent or may happen to have an education in philosophy, science, math or literature) has no way and really no structural interest in evaluating whether these claims are true or false.

    ((Digression: To the extent that journalism thinks it does have the tools to evaluate such claims, it regards this as a matter of empiricism or sociology and not philosophy or theology. Hence the frequent insinuation that the church’s teaching on contraception, e.g., is invalidated by the fact that many Catholics don’t abide by it. The empirical standard is the only standard by which journalism as such can grasp something as Catholic, not by whether it’s true. You might sum it up this way: journalism has a formal concern for fact but not a concern for truth.))

    What all this means, then, structurally speaking, is that any ‘reporting’ of such news is done from a viewpoint that takes itself to be neutral with respect to the meaning of the whole, which is to say, a viewpoint which necessarily regards the whole as theologically neutral or, if you like, as meaningless. This has two consequences. First, precisely insofar as this viewpoint presents itself as neutral, it doesn’t present itself at all. It becomes invisible. And in becoming invisible it disguises the fact that to regard the whole as theologically neutral is in fact to take up a non-neutral theological position that has an a priori effect on all other theological claims. This leads to the second consequence. This ‘neutral’ backdrop then becomes normative, and in so doing, relativizes in advance to all other claims to ultimacy. Structurally speaking, which again is not to speak to the subjective convictions of this or that journalist, these claims can never be anything but ‘options’ within the theologically ‘neutral’ reality which the very structure of journalism as a form of thought projects onto the world.

    This is what I meant when I said that journalism as such prevents ultimate questions from being treated as ultimate. This, again, is not to say that there is no place for journalism or that there are no good journalists, but it is to say something about why a culture whose entire view of reality, including its religion, is ‘mediated’ by journalism can be absolutely suffocating.

  • Dave

    Michael, I don’t see any vital point of disagreement with what you say. I simply view it from a much less lofty stance. Journalists — and let’s explicitly stick to the secular press here — must view theologies as options, because the alternative is to choose one theology over the others, and that ceases to be secular journalism.

    Journalism must view theology as optional as well because it cannot give extra weight, in the event of a controversy, to the side that is rooted in theology over the side that is rooted in something like the Bill of Rights or some other product of social contract theory. If it did it would, again, cease to be secular journalism.

    I think that last point sticks in the craw of some of our GetReligionistas. When a post doesn’t point to a specific journalistic failure to get religion, what it boils down to (once the beautifully expressed outrage is stripped away) seems to be a sense that the press should give more props to the side of a controversy that is specifically rooted in theology. I put up with this because it’s not my blog but I really have no use for it at all.

    Getting back to our discussion: Most professionals, in most professions, get completely absorbed in what they do, at least during working hours. Journalists are no different, but their profession is representing the world to the rest of us, so their professional attitude colors the world we see. Given that, I’m just as happy that they don’t go after questions of ultimacy. I’ll do that for myself, thanks.

    As to your points about education, I wasn’t aware that it was thought that journalists only need education in journalism. I’ve often wished journalists were more educated, so they wouldn’t get caught flat-footed by stuff like cold fusion or intelligent design.

  • michael

    Dave,

    Ok, good, we’re more or less in agreement.

    Some (hopefully) final thoughts.

    My basic point isn’t about what journalists need to do to keep their journalistic bona fides, though no doubt they must usually make a pretense of secularity (if not exactly objectivity) in order to do so. It’s about the invisible assumptions built into the craft. The upshot of which is that secular journalism isn’t really secular and that this is particularly well concealed, not usually by malice, but by the structure of the craft itself. Which means that it is probably most well concealed from its practicioners.

    This raises an interesting question which I think you’re pointing to in your third paragraph. The basic assumption around here seems to be that bad journalism doesn’t get religion, and that’s certainly true, so far as it goes. This leads to the familiar complaints about even-handedness, fact-checking, naming of sources, biblical or theological literacy, bourgeois sensibility, and so on which you raise here. The more interesting question which rarely gets asked is whether good journalism could get it and if not, why not? The answer is not a journalistic answer which is probably one reason journalists never seem to pose the question. This is not the same question as whether some individual journalists may get it, and it is a question not limited to religion. Are there inherent limitations and unacknowledged presuppositions that prevent journalism as such from ‘getting’ all sorts of matters of fundamental importance? From even knowing they don’t get them? From even recognizing them as fundamental? Here’s ten dollars that says you won’t turn on your TV Sunday morning to find a group of pundits huddled around navel gazing over those questions, and understandably so. If the ubiquity of journalism reflects a crisis of reason,as I am tempted to say, then of course journalism per se would be incapable of recognizing it.

    And speaking of reason or education,of course individual journalists may have degrees in all sorts of things from physics, to French history, to literature–was it Mollie Hemingway who wrote that she was a mathematician?–and this training may be a great aid to this or that journalist. But the point is that all of this is only incidentally related to being a journalist. No particular education–no specific training in history or even how to think well–is generally required. Journalists may happen to be physicists or their education may derive largely from j-school. What matters is that somewhere along the line, you have acquired a particular technique. The real scandal there is not that this often results in illiterate souls being vested with the authority (and it is authority) to mediate important ideas and events. That is certainly bad–I agree with you–but in fairness there really is quite a range here. Some journalists happen to be extremely well-educated by conventional standards. (Which typically means they’ve got some command of one specialized shard of knowledge that doesn’t really fit into any more comprehesive whole.) The real scandal is the basic assumption that a fairly unreflective technique is all you really need to give an account of the world. There is a world of unarticulated philosophizing packed into that.

  • Ben

    Dave & Michael,

    Wow, fantastic discussion — can I jump in?

    Michael, you had me in post #19 until the last graf. As a journalist I’m touched that you think citizens are in any danger of living in a “culture whose entire view of reality, including its religion is ‘mediated’ by journalism.” Don’t we in fact have quite a healthy blogosphere, partisan/trade press, and academic press? These mediums are not limited by the same structures of journalism. So I ultimately don’t feel like there’s a “scandal” (post #21) out there of people assuming the journalistic technique is the only valid accounting of the world.

    Dave, I agree that some of the writeups on getreligion do come down to whining that a religious side of an argument didn’t get special deference, though an awful lot of the posts are pretty convincing that a key religious argument simply wasn’t understood. If it wasn’t for that, I doubt I’d keep coming back.

  • michael

    Ben,

    Welcome to the discussion. I don’t think we are ‘in danger’ of having our whole view of reality mediated by journalism. I think rather that, as a culture, our whole view of reality is already mediated by journalism, though by ‘mediated’ I don’t simply mean dictated. I mean that the journalistic ‘eye’ which doesn’t see itself, serves as the window through which we are able to view what is not journalism. The limitations to this ‘eye’ then become limitations on that world. There are idiosyncratic exceptions of course, but these are ‘men without a country’ as it were, and they are allowed to appear to view only within the horizon that journalism patrols and reinforces where they appear as already quaint or tamed.

    I am aware of the irony of saying this in this venue, but I don’t exactly think of the blogosphere etc. as healthy and certainly not as somehow contrary to journalism–more like the metastasis of journalism. There is some interesting stuff out there to be sure, but I see scant evidence that we are any wiser as a consequence of the advent of the Huffington Post, or that it has changed our ability to think about ultimate questions, except maybe to make it even sloppier. In fact, I am willing to venture that the cumulative effect of this proliferation of media is to make us more stupid, but I am probably being unneccesarily polemical.

    To make myself clear, though, by ‘journalism’ I do not simply mean that collection of powerful entities or persons typically referred to as the MSM–such that a blog would then constitute an alternative. Rather I am referring to a pragmatic and empirical form of thought (I’d say a concern for ‘facts’ rather than truth, but that obviously would need to be spelled out) of which the MSM is simply the most entrenched and powerful exemplification.

  • Dave

    Michael asked:

    The more interesting question which rarely gets asked is whether good journalism could get [religion] and if not, why not?

    I can answer that with the incidents that made me adhere to this blog once I found it.

    In the ’70s, when I was a Humanist, I read in the Cleveland Plain Dealer a report of a ststement by some right-wing blockhead attributing all sorts of unpleasant things to secular humanists. I called the paper and asked if they’d touched base with any real Humanists before running the story. They said no, I asked what kind of journalism that was, and they said I could write a letter to the editor.

    In the ’80s I had become a Pagan. The PeeDee ran a report of some other right-wing bozo lecturing police departments about “Satanic holidays” which were, in fact, Pagan holidays. I wrote to the paper setting them straight. A few years later a very similar story (with a different bozo) ran again. This time I got in touch with the reporter. She was new on the job and had been given no idea that this was old ground. No institutional memory.

    Pagan-slandering “Satanism experts” have since been put out of business by a Pagan cop who wrote a book on all this for his fellow officers. This kind of story no longer runs because cop shops no longer need to spend public funds to be lied to by right-wing boneheads, not because the PeeDee has learned any better.

    The jounrnalistic flaw here is that the primary interviewee or new-release emitter talks about some other group, and the reporter doesn’t check with representatives of that group for their view. The kind of post on GR when that’s been done to some religious group gets me nodding my head.

    So I would say that good journalism must get religion in this sense, because failure to check this stuff out is bad journalism.

    [[W]as it Mollie Hemingway who wrote that she was a mathematician?

    I thought she said she was an economist. In this day & age that means she can smell stinky statistics a mile off.