WPost: Yes, we fear and loathe religious traditionalists

On Feb. 15, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton made a startling statement:

It is possible that I’ll be The Washington Post’s last independent ombudsman and that this chair will empty at the conclusion of my two-year term Feb. 28. If so, that will end nearly 43 years of this publication having enough courage and confidence to employ a full-time reader representative and critic.

His column today may give some insight into why. Or, as reporter Byron York wrote:

WaPo ombudsman publishes emails revealing paper’s mindset on social issues. No wonder they want to get rid of him. http://ow.ly/hYSgJ

Friends, it’s bad. And I’m not really talking about the column, although the column is bad, too.

The column covers an exchange between a reporter and a reader. The latter understands what journalism should be and the reporter reveals some breathtaking bigotry about the people he or she is supposed to be covering. Simply quoting that bigotry from an unnamed Washington Post journalist is devastating. Just devastating. If you wonder, sometimes, whether any reporters drip with contempt for religious conservatives, this will not disabuse you of that notion. Pexton sets it up:

I get a steady stream of e-mails and phone calls from readers who assert that The Post has a “pro-gay agenda” and publishes too many “puffy” stories about gay marriage, and that it even allows too many same-sex couples to appear in the Date Lab feature in Sunday’s WP Magazine.

“The conservative, pro-family side gets short shrift,” as one reader recently put it, and The Post “caters slavishly to Dupont Circle.”

Indeed, that reader got into a vigorous three-way e-mail dialogue with a Post reporter and me over the issue, an exchange that goes to the heart of the question of whether The Post, and journalists in general, are hopelessly liberal and genetically tone-deaf to social conservatives.

He quotes from the dialogue:

The reader wrote that Post stories too often minimize the conservative argument: “The overlooked ‘other side’ on the gay issue is quite legitimate, and includes the Pope, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, evangelist Billy Graham, scholars such as Robert George of Princeton, and the millions of Americans who believe in traditional marriage and oppose redefining marriage into nothingness. … Is there no room in The Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?”

Replied the reporter: “The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that’s the ‘view of the world’ that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law.”

The reader: “Contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness.

“Good journalism also means not demeaning conservatives as ‘haters.’ ”

The reporter: “As for accuracy, should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn’t marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn’t be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right?

“Of course I have a bias. I have a bias toward fairness,” the reporter continued. “The true conservative would have the same bias. The true conservative would want the government out of people’s bedrooms, and religion out of government.”

That discussion is most revealing about journalists.

Why, we all know how much the Washington Post cares about civil rights, right? I couldn’t even begin to quantify how much ink has been spilled advocating for an entire class of humans deemed not deserving of even the most fundamental right to life. Why, sometimes I think the Washington Post almost cares too much about the scourge of abortion, don’t you? Oh wait, that’s right, they actually don’t care about that civil right at all. What’s more, they don’t even agree that the unborn human’s right to life *is* a civil rights issue — at least for the unborn children involved.

And guess what, unnamed reporter and your army of close-minded scribes: Whether or not there *is* a civil right to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples or other groupings is precisely — precisely — the debate at hand. In other words, some people make the claim that changing marriage law is a matter of civil rights. They claim, along with the the ruling in the California Prop. 8 decision, that bias against gays is rooted in religion (a claim with amazing and, to this point, completely unexplored implications). Others say that same-sex marriage is an ontological impossibility — that gender complementarity is an essential part of the definition of marriage, and therefore there is no civil right for marriage to be redefined as something for which gender is not essential.

Failure to understand the basic (and, frankly, not even that difficult to understand) arguments of those who oppose redefining marriage is inexcusable bigotry, particularly after years of witnessing what happens in the coverage of this debate. Reporters close their eyes, slam their fingers in their ears and shout “racist!” anytime a traditional marriage defender opens his or her mouth.

This is certainly close-minded and simple-minded advocacy, as evidenced by our unnamed reporter above. But it is not journalism. It bears almost no resemblance to journalism, which should be about reporting news in all its complexity and context and not pushing your dogma down people’s throats.

Pexton’s column becomes something of an embarrassment, too. He reveals himself as blind as the reporter to any angle on this story other than the one advanced by advocates of redefining marriage. The only “fairness” story he can see is from the perspective of same-sex couples wanting to change marriage law. He can’t even imagine how redefining marriage law would affect marriage norms, business law, religious liberty, the rights of children, or any of the other myriad “fairness” stories that a truly diverse and open-minded press might be able to stumble upon in the midst of the cheerleading for change.

Pexton goes on to admit that he doesn’t even understand the arguments of traditional marriage advocates (an admission that comes, unsurprisingly, after he mischaracterizes an argument related to social norms and ignores the vast majority of what traditional marriage defenders have to say about marriage law). Before that he writes:

And because our profession lives and dies on the First Amendment — one of the libertarian cornerstones of the Constitution — most journalists have a problem with religionists telling people what they can and cannot do. We want to write words, read books, watch movies, listen to music, and have sex and babies pretty much when, where and how we choose.

Oh come on. Religionists? Religionists? Who are we, Andrew Sullivan? There is, first off, no excuse for the use of this slur (which means religious zealot) by any professional journalist. Oh, and that First Amendment? Anything in there about religious liberty?

As for whether everyone in the world has a moral code that involves limits or whether it’s just those with “religious zeal,” Pexton’s statement reveals just how blind he and his colleagues are to how changes in law have many intended and unintended consequences that affect everyone’s freedom.

To sum up then, Pexton and the unnamed Post reporter refuse to hear the arguments of those who oppose redefining marriage, make incorrect claims as to what those arguments are, issue slurs of racism and religious zealotry against those who disagree and then, amazingly, we’re told:

That’s why many journalists have a hard time giving much voice to those opposed to gay marriage. They see people opposed to gay rights today as cousins, perhaps distant cousins, of people in the 1950s and 1960s who, citing God and the Bible, opposed black people sitting in the bus seat, or dining at the lunch counter, of their choosing.

He ends by saying that despite their feverish and idiotic Bible-thumping ignorance, perhaps the Post — when doing basic journalistic work — should treat them better.

Wrong. Here’s what needs to happen. Right now. Every reporter — no matter the beat, no matter how much in the tank for redefining marriage, no matter how close-minded they’ve been to this point — every reporter needs to stop what they’re doing and read “What is Marriage.”

It’s a very easy-to-read book that succinctly explains the traditionalist arguments surrounding marriage. Refusing to learn the arguments of those who oppose changing the law must end. It simply must end. The ignorance and bigotry with which reporters have covered this topic is a scandal. It’s destroying civil political discourse, it’s embarrassing and can’t continue.

Reporters don’t need to change their deeply-held biases in favor of changing marriage law. But they do need to learn even a little bit about the arguments of those who oppose such a change.

No reporter working today should ever make the error of comparing arguments against marriage redefinition with anti-miscegenation laws. It’s clownish and easily disputed.

I thank Pexton and this unnamed reporter for revealing their ignorance and bigotry when it comes to coverage of this topic. It is helpful to have this transparency. But the solution lies not with zealous indoctrination by media types about how “fairness” requires redefining marriage. The solution to the problem of the bigoted way that reporters handle this topic lies with reporters themselves. Reporters: open your mind to the actual (not imagined) arguments of your opponents. Learn to report their views as accurately as you would want someone to report your own beliefs.

When it comes to news writing — and not voting or op-eds — stop thinking of people who retain traditional arguments on the institution of marriage as your opponents. And, most importantly, start doing your jobs.

Image of reporter seething with contempt for traditional marriage advocates via Shutterstock.

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  • Thinkling

    I am all in favor of intellectual honesty, which includes using your intellectual adversary’s strongest argument to benchmark one’s own position, not their weakest argument. And of course I am in favor of journalists being intellectually honest as I am of anyone.

    That said, you will take some flak for the disproportionate commentary relative to the religion component. And I would agree the flak will have some merit.

    I will keep one foot in both camps here by noting I too have widelyheard the George/Anderson/Gergis book is -the- resource for exposition of the traditional marriage point of view. But I have also widely heard that its arguments are purely secular. (Yes it is on my reading list)

    • mollie

      It is absolutely true that the George/Anderson/Girgis arguments are not religious. However, that doesn’t mean that the material above is void of a discussion of media coverage of religion.
      You’ll note, of course, that one of Pexton’s main points was that these secular arguments in defense of traditional marriage are the work of “religionists” — not just a slur but a fascinating one given the same point you make *and* the fact that arguments in favor of removing gender as an important component of marriage *do* discuss religion. If you doubt this, do a quick search of Vaughn Walker’s ruling on Prop. 8. Discussions of religion are actually a major part of it.
      Some people make the mistake of accusing traditional marriage defenders of doing so solely because of religious reasons. While it is true that all religions throughout all cultures (except for some smaller bodies that are just in recent decades changing their doctrine at least partly in response to changing social mores) have held marriage as a heterosexual institution, that’s not an accurate presentation of their arguments. Discussions of religion do happen to be a fairly important part of the argument in favor of redefining marriage, however. That happens to be the major religion angle to the post above.
      Finally, though, bigotry against religious adherents, such as what we saw from reporter and ombdusman, is an unrelenting part of the story about media coverage of this topic. That overall situation can’t be ignored.

  • George Yancey

    Very interesting post. I have been doing some research an Christianophobia or unreasonable hatred and fear of conservative Christians. A component of it is concern about homophobia. Concerns about homophobia may lead to Christianophobia or people with Christianophobia may learn to use accusations about homophobia against their hated out-group. I suspect that both happen but do not have a way of determining which happens more. Likewise I cannot determine which is the path this reporter has taken. But work like this is importnat as there needs to be a recognition of Christianophobia if we ever are going to deal with it.

  • FW Ken

    I got confused from the line

    That discussion is most revealing about journalists.

    Was what followed the unnamed reporter’s thoughts or Pexton’s. Mollie, you are saying they are Pexton’s, but the writing is unclear to me. I do think they get down to one core issue, which is whether same-sex attraction is a normal variant of our humanity (like race) or an abnormality. That is an issue that generally goes un-addressed.

    Perhaps a side-issue, but perhaps relevant. The Washington Post made money last year, but their circulation dropped:

    Daily circulation at The Washington Post declined 8.6 percent, to an average of 471,800 for all of 2012, and Sunday circulation dropped 6.2 percent, to an average of 687,200.

    http://tinyurl.com/bauovvz

    Finally, a bit of papal goodness from the Post:

    http://tinyurl.com/b4qysps

    • mollie

      They were Pexton’s thoughts. The exchange was bad but Pexton’s response to it is odd.

  • Peterk

    years ago I complained to a previous WaPo ombudsman about the paper’s failure to report about military personnel who had been awarded medals such as the Silver Star, Navy Cross etc. while at the same time they were actively reporting on the anti-war movement. needless to say the discussion and complaint were never resolved. she always had some excuse for not following up

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Mollie, let us know how you really feel.

    But you’re right, and you should be outraged. It’s as if the MSM are relegating religious “conservatives” (I hate that term) to the status of second-class citizen simply because the “conservatives” disagree with the prevailing MSM opinion.

    At least, though, he hit the nail on the head by stating, “We want to write words, read books, watch movies, listen to music, and have sex and babies pretty much when, where and how we choose.” Such is the infantile attitude that is pushing our society to the brink of disaster, because when they don’t get their way, they throw their temper tantrums and demand everyone give in to what they want, and if they don’t, they take them to court. So thanks, Mr. Pexton, for obviating what so few people see.

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  • Brian Westley

    So a journalist should not be partisan, but this journalism weblog (as it refers to itself under “Policies”) can make partisan statements like “No reporter working today should ever make the error of comparing arguments against marriage redefinition with anti-miscegenation laws” and supports it by linking to a conservative think-tank.

    Gotcha.

    • Patrick

      How is that a partisan statement?

    • Darren Blair

      Dude – that wasn’t a partisan comment.

      That was a statement of fact.

      You see, any reporter who would jump between issues like that is, in essence, seeing shadows where none likely exist.

      There are a variety of stances concerning homosexual marriage, something that gets missed when reporters jump to conclusions like that. When they do so, they do a disservice to not just the people being covered but also their audiences.

      • Brian Westley

        Sorry, your definition of “fact” doesn’t match mine. It’s clearly a political opinion whether arguments against gay marriage can legitimately be compared to anti-miscegenation laws, and calling it an “error” is taking sides.

        Yes, there ARE a variety of stances concerning homosexual marriage, including ones that consider anti-gay-marriage arguments to be on par with anti-miscegenation arguments.

        • Darren Blair

          Wait a sec –

          Sounds to me like you’re approaching the matter solely from the position of “pro” and as such you automatically regard there as being no valid arguments for “con”.

          That about it?

          • mollie

            In Brian’s defense, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s defending the use of arguments that compare opposition to redefining marriage to include same-sex couples with arguments against interracial marriage.
            What we should all do, however, is not focus on the arguments so much as journalistic use of them. I went off on the reporter for using his love of that argument (his love that doesn’t extend, apparently, to understanding why it’s not accepted by others) as an excuse to fail to do his job. I could have worded my take on this better but I was just trying to point out that the “refusing to redefine marriage to include same sex couples is like oh my gosh totally just like that blip in time when racists wouldn’t let white people marry black people” statement has problems and that failure to engage those problems while making that assertion is lazy and ignorant.
            It seemed like literally just saying those “la la la shut up you are just like racists” words was totally sufficient for the reporter to refuse to do journalism and for the ombudsman to more or less agree that this is why reporters suck at their jobs on covering same-sex marriage arguments.
            But, again, I could have stated this more clearly. Heck, I could state it more clearly even in this comment. I’ll go get more coffee.

    • mollie

      Well, it’s fine for a pundit to actually refute or attempt to refute the arguments about why it’s an error of logic to compare anti-miscegenation laws with laws defining marriage as a heterosexual institution. But it’s clownish to act like that comparison, that high-school level of thought, is sufficient — particularly in defense of trading in journalism for one-sided, unhinged advocacy.
      Of course, punditry should best be left to pundits, not reporters. Still, I’m sure that people would love to read a response to the post I linked to. Even though it came out years ago, the response to it has not been to challenge it so much as ignore it. Telling.
      Again, though, journalism is not about offering dogmatic opinions without substantiation. Journalism is not about failure to acknowledge people whose views differ from your own. Even good punditry is not about that. But whatever in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks the unnamed reporter above was doing, it was not journalism.

      • Brian Westley

        And for that sentence, you weren’t doing journalism either, Mollie; you were editorializing.

        • mollie

          It was, however, media criticism. The post above is not journalism, but criticism of how the mainstream media is doing its job. In particular, it was criticism of how one Washington Post reporter and one ombudsman are doing their job and justifying their bigotry. Just understand my comments in that context.
          Again, this is not about personal views. My own views on this are fairly extremely libertarian. This is simply a call for reporters to do their job, understand the various competing arguments (there aren’t just two and there isn’t just one issue being debated, I should note), and not letting strongly held personal opinions lead to laziness or ignorance.

          • Brian Westley

            This is simply a call for reporters to do their job

            No it isn’t, not when you call a common argument by pro-gay marriage advocates an “error.” You are not merely saying that journalism is slanted, but that one type of argument used is definitively wrong, which is you injecting your opinion into the argument.

            You further try to inject your own opinion as some sort of ‘fact’ by claiming that an obscure article by a conservative think-tank hasn’t been “challenged” when anyone with google can find 100,000 pages containing both “gay marriage” and “miscegenation” and twice that if you use “interracial marriage” instead. There might not be a direct response to your pet article, but there are articles published by The Atlantic and University of Virginia School of Law that point out that opponents of both have used many of the same arguments. Regardless of whether you agree, you can’t ignore that a lot of people do consider the arguments to be similar.

          • andy

            It may be that racial and homosexual bigotry are comparable and have similar arguments, but I don’t think the reporter’s analogy is valid. On a news piece on African-American citizens would you quote a racist? No, of course not, because it wouldn’t be relevant in this day and age. However, gay marriage is still a very hotly contested issues with large numbers of people on both sides of the debate. Because a journalist personally disagrees with one side of a debate does not give them license to ignore that viewpoint.

          • Mark Baddeley

            It is an error to present that argument as though it is *the* word on the debate, Brian.

            It is bad journalism to not communicate that people opposed to same-gender marriage view the argument that their position is parallel to racism as fundamentally an error.

            It gets frustrating watching people defend the most ludicrous failures of journalism by attacking Mollie’s critiques using standards of precision in language that are extremely high – so high that if such standards were applied to the original thing being critiqued, it would even harsher criticism.

          • George Yancey

            Mark,
            This is also true in the social sciences. Any scientistic work that provides scholarily support for same sex unions it passed as reality no matter how badly flawed it is. Scientitic work that indicates that there may be problems in these unions is villified and the scientist can be investigated. There is a powerful double standard surrounding this issue that is unlike any other political or social issue in our society today and it makes me question anything I hear on the subject.

    • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

      “So a journalist should not be partisan…” Exactly correct. “…but this journalism weblog…can make partisan statements…” Exactly correct. And there is no contradiction there. You need to understand the difference between journalism and opinion or criticism, so here’s a tiny bit of a course in Journalism 101: Journalism reports facts and viewpoints; it doesn’t make up, interpret or analyze facts and viewpoints. Opinion or criticism interprets facts and viewpoints according to the person’s own viewpoints. So the WaPo is a newspaper and is supposed to practice an American brand of journalism by reporting the news in an even-handed way, while GetReligion is a blog of media criticism and does not style itself a reporting outlet. Hope that helps.

      • sari

        One thing to be careful of, though, is not to trade one kind of advocacy for another. Many GR blogposts seem to support that goal, not balanced, impartial coverage.

  • Julia

    Marriage existed long before religions. The reasons are very practical – to prevent communities from having to support vulnerable mothers and children. Marriages are listed in the paper for merchants to see who they can stick for the bills if a spouse doesn’t support his/her children. The government doesn’t care who sleeps with who – but it does care who is going to be responsible for the resulting pregnant spouses and children. The arguments for marriage of opposite sex couples are not all religious. Adoptions by same sex couples and turkey baster babies are rather new in the world and are not the natural consequence of biology, but something new in the world. Perhaps “matrimony” can be reserved to the unions where a child could possibly be the result. Civil unions can be used for other unions or those opposite-sex unions where the parties are uncomfortable with eons-old marriage. Why not admit that there is a redefinition of “marriage” going on ?

    • dalea

      By what standard are ‘turkey baster babies’ and same sex adoption ‘new in the world’? I have known lesbians who had such babies in the twenties and thirties. Were I older, I probably would have known some even earlier. Same sex adoption was an established practice in NYC back before the Civil War; well to do gay men would adopt a much younger man who would then carry on the family business. Horatio Alger is one example, but standard GL histories give many more. These are not stunningly new things. They have been around for decades if not centuries.

      The journalistic problem I see here is that journalists appear to have a greater grasp of and understanding about GL history than their critics do. One example is the frequently repeated GR claim that SSM advocayc is a new issue. I first encountered arguments for SSM in the middle 60′s when I was in college. The topic was presented at the first Libertarian Party convention in 1971. The push for SSM really picked up steam in the 1980′s with the HIV epidemic. There began to be a widespread consensus among gay people and those involved in fighting HIV that only marriage solved the problems gay people were having.

      The situation here seems to be that journalists have been learning about gay people and our concerns and histories for a long time. Now that the issues are coming to the fore, it appears to those who have not been part of the discourse that there is a rush to something. But we are looking at the results of a very long drawn out discussion.

      There exist numerous GL histories that touch on these issues. If desired, I can link to bibliographies.

      • mollie

        Friends, please remember to keep comments focused on media coverage as opposed to tangential issues. Thanks.

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  • John M.

    Wasnt Tipper Gore the last mainstream politician to advocate music censorship? I mean, in what world is book or music censorship a meaningful part of the American political dialogue? It’s like these people actually believe their own echo chamber when they say conservatives are just like the Taliban.

    And Pexton’s column is very odd. I’d sum it up as, “yes, I agree that our paper should cover all of you wackos and your proposed anti-miscegenation laws. Or whatever unfair thing it was that you wanted.”

    -John

    • mollie

      Last night at a party of journalists, one mocked that particular line by saying, “If only religionists tell others what to do, please explain New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”

      That someone could write that line about “religionists” and not think of, say, Tipper Gore or Michael Bloomberg or, frankly, almost everyone else in the world engaged in public policy is horrifying.

  • Chris

    Is the Ombudsman supposed to advocate for journalism ethics or speak to reader concerns (not suggesting they’re mutually exclusive). But would it be wrong for the ombudsman to advocate for stories (including their slant) that appeal to the majority of readers?

    • mollie

      Honestly, I think he is supposed to do both. The challenge of an ombudsman is to represent reader concerns while at the same time understanding the constraints of a newsroom. My own view of ombudsman-ing is that advocating for stories based on their appeal to the majority of readers would be too narrow an approach. There’s much more that should go into the position and the value it can provide than simply that.

  • FW Ken

    It’s pretty clear that the connection between same-sex marriage and inter-racial marriage is, according to the Post, the correct frame for describing opposition to same-sex marriage. That makes the Post an advocacy journal rather than a newspaper.

    Mr. Wesley, your comments about Mollie and the linked are entirely ad hominem. Perhaps your intent is to argue that the Post is correct to advocate for same-sex marriage.

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornell

    It would help if we taught the true virtue of tolerance
    http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/teach-the-true-virtue-of-tolerance/

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  • FW Ken

    “lalalal you are all bigots” is not the only thing shaping coverage at the Washington Post. Sally Quinn is the secularist’s Jack Chick. I recognize that she’s an opinion writer, but the sheer folly of this column makes it worth a read:

    http://tinyurl.com/atwra4b

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  • Thomas Paulick

    This is very good. NRO linked you. My “comment” is only a test to see if you can use HTML tags in place of asterisks if you want to. If you don’t want to post it, fine. It doesn’t say anything anyway.

  • Matt

    I think the most telling thing about the article is what the “journalist” thinks his or her job is – to advocate justice. That sentiment right there is the primary reason you simply cannot trust the press that exists in this day and age. Blogs and online news sources have picked up the slack but when a large percentage of Americans still get their news from mainstream sources AND believe fervently that those mainstream sources do not and cannot shade the “news” in such a way as to support their ideology, we’re kind of screwed. I recall a commercial for (I think) the news with Brian Williams and the blurb was something along the lines of “These issues are complicated, so we explain them to you.” The media no longer reports and lets us decide, it has to “explain” the news to we the idiots.

  • Dan

    The mindset of journalists concerning genderless marriage explains not only coverage of the so-called culture war but also of religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Given that the Catholic Church is far and away the most visible opponent to genderless marriage, can one who views opposition to genderless marriage as bigotry have anything other than contempt for the Catholic Church? The reporter raises the question about whether journalists should “make room for racists.” And it is true, there is a societal consensus that racism is out of bounds and racists are to be ostracized. But if society is going to ostracize a group for its beliefs, society had better be darned sure that it is right. It is one thing for society to ostracize genuine bigots, but quite another to ostracize someone for holding beliefs that are true. The latter constitutes a persecution. Can anyone doubt that we are on the verge of a press-supported persecution of “religionists”? The risk is especially grave given that the ideology behind genderless marriage denies the validity of “religionist” concepts such as mercy and truth.

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  • Charles

    I don’t get the journalist and ombudsmen can talk about supporting such metaphysical ideas as ‘fairness’, ‘justice’, and ‘equality’ and then accuse someone else of imposing moral values. Do they really think ‘fairness’ is a neutral, amoral position? I’m sure they sleep well, feeling so self-righteous and all, but such hypocrisy and deceit – only my moral values are acceptable – would keep a more honest person up at night.

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    Well posited, Mollie. Well done!

    You also made the top of the RealClearReligion list for today.

    I think Rod Dreher had the best excuse for this “inexcusable” dereliction of journalistic duty: these reporters are so insulated in their exposure to “outside (out of the newsroom)” life, that they actually believe what they write: that fully half of the nation are ignorant religious racists. And, since so few of us “irr’s” write them to correct their erroneous views, they remain unconvinced, in their insularity, that we may have valid points-of-view.

  • Steve Silberman

    Mollie, how would you feel about a journalist who wrote an article about abortion that, in every case where the word “abortion” would appear, instead inserted the phrase “a woman exercised her right to choose”? As in, “Two months into her pregnancy, she exercised her right to choose.” It would grate on your ears. You’d think it was a mockery of journalism, not journalism. The bias and agenda of the writer would be utterly transparent.

    Yet that’s precisely what you do proudly here, by consistently using the phrase “redefining marriage,” which is a blatant dog-whistle to the anti-gay crowd, coined by anti-gay marriage groups like NOM so they wouldn’t have to actually mention the minority group they’re marginalizing with their efforts to pass laws against gay marriage.

    My husband and I didn’t “redefine” marriage. We simply got married. We participated in the same tradition we grew up respecting, just as you did. We uphold the traditional virtues of marriage by embodying them.

    Little dishonest sleights-of-hand like this, which are amazingly consistent across the board in arguments against gay marriage, are why you’re losing this battle. Most journalists see those rhetorical tactics for what they are — hypocrisy, at attempt to sway the reader by misrepresenting the issue at hand, rather than representing it clearly, in truly neutral terms. Even as you bewail a lack of neutrality among journalists, you’re using a dishonest term coined to obscure the denial of basic human rights to a stigmatized minority. People notice that kind of thing.

    • dominic1955

      That’s the issue, though. Calling triangles “circles” does not make it so, unless we are throwing out the meanings of words and redefining them. Thus, “redefining marriage” isn’t a tainted term-its just calling a spade a spade. “Gay marriage” means nothing really different, its a term like “square-circle” . You didn’t “marry” your “husband” according to any traditional definition of the term. You did it according to (recent) governmental or liberal-ecclesiatical fiat.

      Marriage has always been understood as the union of two persons, a man and a woman, giving exclusive rights over each other’s bodies for the purposes of rearing and educating the children which generally result. You have to gut this to say you uphold “traditional” values of marriage, which I’m guessing have been reduced to something like love or stability or some other combination of secondary and tertiary ends of marriage.

      The reason why marriage “traditionalists” are not “winning” the “argument” is that people have long abdicated their use of logic and reason.

    • Charles

      Under new statutory language and depending upon the state, new titles for spouse A and spouse B. Those changes constitute a legal redefinition. There’s no debating that. Whether the legal redefinition has or will result in further legal changes or social consequences is another matter. But mollie is correct to claim the legal process of expanding access of marriage to homosexuals requires redefining what marriage is.

  • JB13

    I’m a little surprised that no one else seems to have noticed the truly egregious statement from the unnamed WaPo “journalist.” This “journalist” actually believes it is the duty of “journalists” to see to it that “religion” is removed from government! This “journalist” apparently doesn’t just believe that “religionists” don’t have a right to speak about gay marriage. “Religionists” in this worldview, because they are akin to racists, apparently don’t have the right to speak on ANYTHING! Got it? I hope believing and practicing Christians, Muslims and Jews are paying attention: Those who hold this view will not rest until you have no rights to participate in our national governance AT ALL. You will be free to be a Christian/Jew/Muslim, if you wish. But, apparently, you cannot have BOTH the right to believe and practice your religion, AND the right to speak and participate in government. You. Must. Choose. Get it, yet?

  • P Fan

    This back and forth is so revealing in so many ways it is uncanny. I believe an entire book could be written, with chapter after chapter, using just this one example.

    Sorry if someone already made this point, and it is made somewhat in the article. The tragic irony of this exchange is, if they would spend some due diligence investigating about/from the other side, they would already know, ALREADY UNDERSTAND the other side’s view. The only thing that should be qualified as “fair” regarding their job, is their reporting both sides accurately, “fairly”, and this is just another example that they do no such thing. And instead of even attempting, they, as this article shows, resort to exclaiming they are right and any/all who disagree are not only wrong but bad, and shrink to name calling and horrible accusations or implied accusations by straw man comparisons, and just about every other thing the right has been accusing them of. They are so biased they are unable to do the very job they are supposed to do, yet claim they are doing. It is all right there in plain view. Since they are no longer reporting news, but, as this exchange plainly shows, merely writing their opinions, it should no longer even be classified as a newspaper.

    What this all boils down to is that they are indeed cheerleaders for the left. Therefore, by default, because they write about the political happenings of the day, they are indeed no more than an extension of the dnc and the obama administration. This article could just as easily been about illegal immigration, the deficit, gun control, or any other topic of disagreement in the headlines today. It is also the perfect example of why nothing can get done in DC anymore, as obama and/or the left refuse not only to compromise because they feel they are right and anyone/everyone who disagrees is wrong, they wont even try to comprehend, understand, investigate, or even listen to the other side. Just listen to anything that comes out of obama’s (or the left’s) mouth, demonize, demonize, demonize, blame, blame, blame. It’s their way or the highway because they feel no matter the topic, they are right and all others are not only wrong but bad, and shut down any/all opportunity for discourse.

  • P Fan
  • Julia

    Everybody is starting to do the kind of arguments that make up closing arguments in trials. No compromise or understanding the other’s point – only characterizing facts in the way most favorable to their own viewpoint – no matter how twisted the effort required. Courtrooms are adversarial, can’t we get into negotiation mode where we try to understand the opposition’s points? When did the press join the bar? It was supposed to give us the facts on all sides without advocacy.

  • Julia

    Pressed the button before saying: . . . except when clearly labelled as opinion.

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  • http://derekjohnsonmuses.com DerekJohnsonMuses

    If the conservative view point is so out of touch and uninformed, then why does the lifestyle left just report it so honest citizens can see that it is?

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  • http://queeringthechurch.com Terence Weldon

    I haven’t read the book “”What is Marriage” – but the title gives it away, in it’s obvious assumption that marriage “is” any one thing. Just as you assert that opponents of maintaining one particular understanding of marriage should read this book, perhaps supporters should do some homework of their own, with an investigation of the history of (Western) marriage, and of marriage in other cultures. They would soon find that there never has been a single understanding of marriage, universally applicable always and everywhere. The common understanding of “traditional” marriage, as a commitment for life between one man and one woman, based on romatic love and freely entered for the procreation and raising of children, is not really traditional at all, but a relatively recent invention.

    Social anthropologists, whose business it is to understand these things, simply cannot agree on a single definition of marriage – and even church historians have shown how the religious (Christian) approach has changed across the many centuries since Christ advised his followers to leave their families – and the early Christians valued celibacy more highly than marriage.

    • Ted Seeber

      Social anthropologists might not be able to, but there are biologists who can. There are even other species than human that are solely monogamous and heterosexual.

  • Tom Wiley

    Excellent, well written article Mollie. Thank you!

  • http://none Bob Stith

    It is interesting that this confirms the obvious. Bernard Goldberg wrote of this attitude is his book
    “Arrogance”. He said “Somewhere along the line too many otherwise smart liberals became entirely too illiberal. And that goes for liberal journalists, too. On gay issues, for example, they now revert to name-calling at the drop of a hat in order to shore up their own close-mindedness and orthodoxy. They don’t give credence to the “other side,” because deep down, I suspect, they don’t think there is another side. Not a legitimate one, anyway.”

    They just really can’t see it. And keep in mind that Goldberg was/is not some “wild eyed” conservative. As he said in “Bias” he just got tired of the obvious slant that was so constant.

    • Will

      Or as Buckley wrote, “Liberals talk a lot about seeing other points of view, but it shocks them to learn that there really ARE other points of view.”

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