Who? What? When? Where? Hunh?

I am confident I found the weirdest religion news story of the month.

The This Is Somerset (UK) news site had a story about a darts fan who “bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus” getting “kicked out of a major tournament as he was putting off the players.”

Bearded darts fan Nathan Grindal was kicked out of a live televised final after the 4,500-strong crowd interrupted play by chanting about him.

Mr Grindal was enjoying the clash between Phil Taylor and Kim Huybrechts when some of the audience spotted his likeness to the traditional portrayal of Jesus.

Chants of “Jesus” quickly spread through the rowdy crowd packed into the venue on the Butlin’s resort at Minehead on the Somerset coast.

Security staff were called amid fears that Mr Grindal’s presence was upsetting the concentration of ex-world champion Taylor and his Belgian rival.

The labourer was close to tears as six bouncers removed him from the Cash Converters Players’ Championship, which was being broadcast on ITV4.

As he left, a chant of “Stand up if you love Jesus” broke out, with many of the crowd getting to their feet.

Mr Grindal, 33, was escorted to a nearby bar where the security staff bought him a pint and told him to watch the rest of the final on television.

Absolutely the only problem with this story about darts fans spotting a Jesus look-alike in the crowd is that, far as I know, the man in question bears precisely no resemblance to popular or even unpopular depictions of Jesus Christ. Unless having hair on your head counts for being a look-alike.

The article explains all the key details, including what Grindal thought of getting ejected for doing nothing wrong. The quotes are almost as if the piece is attempting to be an Onion-type satire, but I don’t think it was. I was sure the entire This is Somerset web site must be for laughs, but it’s not. For what it’s worth, I found the story when it was picked up by ABC News.

Now, if the guy in the photo — which I went ahead and clipped from (source here) — looked like Jesus, no additional explanation would be needed. But unless there are wildly popular depictions of Jesus as a blonde man with a ginger beard, the story definitely needs to explain what in the world was going on.

It would take a lot of alcohol-fueled darts excitement to confuse this guy for Jesus, no?

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Telling Newtown’s story sensitively

I hope you can see the picture here. If you can’t, please click here for a larger image. I saw it on Adam Gabbatt’s Twitter feed on Dec. 15. He’s a reporter for The Guardian. He added:

Now at special service at St John’s church in Sandy Hook. Bunch of over-zealous photographers were just asked to leave

You don’t say! I can not imagine what it would be like to be trying to worship in peace at a time of such horrific tragedy while a half dozen cameras were pointed straight at my face. I can’t imagine being a video or photo journalist and thinking such behavior is appropriate.

I have some questions on this, but first will mention I’ve had a great deal of difficulty writing about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. I think it must be very difficult to be a reporter covering this story. I want to be humble about the challenges they face while having a discussion about how the media have performed on this story.

It’s also true that I can’t remember a story where almost every detail initially reported turned out to be wrong. Throughout Friday and Saturday, I was reading stories that directly contradicted each other. The mother of the shooter was a kindergarten teacher, then a 1st grade teacher, then, no, she was just a teacher’s aide. Someone was quoted saying she had never worked at the school. Someone else was quoted saying she was wonderful to work with there. I found the whole enterprise incredibly frustrating even in a world where we know early reports on tragedies are problematic.

To that end, I rather enjoyed this New York Times story about the town’s invasion by media figures. It mentioned the many problems with the early reports.

And then there were the reporters interviewing children. They were asking grieving parents “How do you feel?” The whole enterprise was unseemly. Of course, a few bad microphones can spoil the whole vocation.

The New York Times looked at this. From the beginning of the story:

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Wolf Blitzer understands that his presence here is not appreciated by some local people, who wish that the TV satellite trucks, and the reporters who have taken over the local Starbucks, would go away and leave them to ache, grieve and mourn in peace.

But he also knows that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School ranks with the national tragedies he has covered: Oklahoma City, Sept. 11, Virginia Tech. So for now the most intimate and heartbreaking of catastrophes and the insatiable, unwieldy beast of global news media are locked in an awkward union in a bucolic New England town that never expected to encounter either.

Mr. Blitzer, the longtime CNN anchor, said the few exhortations to go home he had heard while working here had been far outnumbered by comments from people who thank him for telling Newtown’s story sensitively and who want the world to know what happened here. Still, he said, Newtown is providing a particularly vivid laboratory of how the media report this kind of tragedy.

“If you have people bringing dolls or flowers to makeshift memorials and they’re crying, that’s a powerful image, it’s part of this story, it’s part of our history right now, and we have to deal with it,” he said on Sunday.

This town, of course, has been transformed by unimaginable tragedy. But in a more mundane and presumably transitory way, Newtown and particularly the small community of Sandy Hook have also been transformed by those coming to report on it, a news media presence that has clogged quiet roads, established glowing encampments of lights and cameras, and showed up in force at church services and public memorials.

I think the line above about “telling Newtown’s story sensitively” says it best. I don’t much like the descent upon this town or the general frenzied approach to most media coverage. The key, if you’re on this story, is to tell it sensitively, no?

It’s not specific to religion, but you may also be interested in this, where the BBC’s Charlie Booker examines the problems with the way the media hype tragedies. For a different take, the Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple tries to defend the media.

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Not all ‘nones’ are atheists

In England and Wales, there were 37.3 million Christians in 2001, representing 72 percent of the population. In the most recent census (2011), that had dropped to 33.2 million or 59 percent of the population.

Religion News Service had a brief story about this that included these graphs:

Figures from the 2011 Census show the number of people declaring themselves to be atheists rose by more than 6 million, to 14.1 million.

“It should serve as a warning to the churches that their increasingly conservative attitudes are not playing well with the public at large,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. “It also calls into question the continued establishment of the Church of England, whose claims to speak for the whole nation are now very hard to take seriously.”

However, those statistics are not right.

As reported in The Telegraph:

The number of people specifically identifying as Atheists was 29,267, while over 13.8 million refused to identify with a faith at all, ticking the “No religion” box on the census form.

While reporting no religion might sound similar to atheism, there is no way for journalists to know if respondents are atheists, agnostics, unaffiliated or otherwise.

But there is a big difference between 29,267 reporting atheism and 14.1 million. For more on the rise of the nones, check out The Friendly Atheist’s blog post here.
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Got news? Judge ‘mocks’ Obama’s religious-liberty move

The most control the media have in the news process is determining what stories get hyped and which get hidden, which get a ton of coverage and which get downplayed. A week or so ago, I read on the editorial page of the Washington Examiner about a rather juicy ruling by a U.S. district court judge. He said that the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate may proceed.

Judge Brian Cogan mocked the “accommodation” on religion liberty outlined by President Obama in regards to his health care law’s contraception mandate while ruling against a Justice Department motion to dismiss the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit against the regulation.

“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution,” Cogan wrote in his ruling against DOJ. “To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.” …

As Cogan noted, though, the rule has not formally been changed.

I figured I’d look at the mainstream media news coverage once it came out. You might not know it from the curious way the media have covered this story, but there are dozens of lawsuits working their way through the courts on religious liberty claims against the mandate. Some reporters and media outlets scare-quote this as a “religious liberty” issue or otherwise downplay the religious liberty concerns. Here’s a judge saying the religious liberty concerns are legit. Surely we’ll see coverage.

But have we? Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote about the media coverage in his latest blog post:

Did you hear about the decision last week by U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan in the lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of New York, ArchCare, (the agency coordinating our Catholic healthcare in the archdiocese) and three plaintiffs from the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, against the administration for the unconstitutional HHS mandate?

You probably did not, as there seems to have been virtually no mention of the decision – in favor of the archdiocese, by the way – in any local newspaper or on television.  As far as I can tell, and I’ve looked rather carefully, there hasn’t even been a story in the New York Times, which couldn’t wait to publish an editorial this past October, admonishing the bishops, when a federal judge in Missouri found for the administration and dismissed a similar case brought by a private, for-profit, mining company.   (The Times also didn’t have much to say last week, when the appeals court temporarily blocked the bad Missouri decision the Times had gushed over.)

Judge Cogan’s decision last week turned back a motion by the administration to have our lawsuit dismissed.  You’ll remember, perhaps, that back in May, the Archdiocese of New York, ArchCare, the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre, and Catholic Health Systems of Long Island filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn, one of more than two dozen similar lawsuits filed around the country that day.  These lawsuits argue that the mandate from Health and Human Services would unconstitutionally presume to define the nature of the Church’s ministry, and force religious employers to violate their conscience or face onerous fines for not providing services in our health insurance that are contrary to our consciences and faith.

The judge’s decision doesn’t settle the case, but allows the case to proceed so that it might be heard in court…  That’s significant, because the administration has been successful in getting some of the other cases dismissed, but in his decision Judge Cogan found that there was very real possibility that we plaintiffs would “face future injuries stemming from their forced choice between incurring fines or acting in violation of their religious beliefs.”

And what of the administration’s contention that the suit should be dismissed because they were going to change the HHS mandate to address the concerns of religious employers? As Judge Cogan wrote, “…the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”

I couldn’t believe that Dolan’s claims were true. Had the New York Times really not covered this, even briefly? What about other national media?

Well, this GoogleNews search shows the story was much bigger among Catholic, conservative and pro-life press than secular media. I didn’t find it in the Times.

There were wire reports from Bloomberg and Reuters, however. So kudos to them. The Reuters story is quite good.

As for why so few covered the court’s decision, not even the local paper that bills itself as the newspaper of record? I can’t begin to presume the answer to that.

Photo of judge’s gavel and scales of justice via Shutterstock.

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The Pope joins Twitter #HabemusPapam

YouTube Preview ImageEven though the Pope joining Twitter has been news for weeks, I was still surprised at what a big story it was yesterday. I’ve been on Twitter for years (joined the morning after an epic anti-Twitter rant at the local pub) and I don’t even have 4,000 followers. Even before the Pope had issued his first tweet, he had more than 1 million followers. He tweeted his first item yesterday. Or as Rocco Palmo put it, #HabemusPapam.

And yes, everyone got super excited. The cool thing was that there was some really great coverage of the piece. And I’m not talking about The Onion‘s hilarious “Pope To Identify With Catholic Youth By Giving Up On Catholicism” satire. We’ll get to the better stuff in a minute.

One religion reporter sent us something that she thought was not so hot. She was too kind. It read like it was written by a teenager who thinks he’s a lot funnier than than he is. Headlined, “Mockery outweighs piety after pope’s Twitter debut,” the AFP story begins:

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s debut on Twitter got off to a bumpy start on Wednesday, with mockery outweighing piety in reaction to the first tweets from the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.

The pope’s second tweet — “How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?” — prompted a string of tongue-in-cheek- answers.

“With some nice cold chocolate milk. And the Lord?” wrote one user tweeting in Portuguese with the handle @tensoblog.

Another distinctly sin-minded user, @binnie, joked: “Hookers and blow.”

Hardy har har har har har. Anyway, the claim made by the news outlet is that mockery outweighed piety. The story doesn’t even come close to substantiating this claim. It doesn’t even try. It leaves out information that might have thrown the claim into question. For instance, there’s no mention that the Pope had, say, 50,000+ “retweets” or close to 20,000 “favorites.”

Is a story about the friendly jokes — and the unfriendly mockery — worthwhile? Perhaps. Perhaps that’s what you want to emphasize. But to claim that the Pope’s Twitter debut got off to a rocky start and that mockery outweighed other reactions is more media wishful thinking than reality. Let’s stick to reality in journalism, please. And if you do want to do a story about people who curse, mock, tweet risque pictures at the Pope, could you at the very least move it beyond the “OMG! Naughty words to B16!” level of discourse? What does this say about people who would do such a thing? How does it make Catholics feel? What do the Pope’s people think about this? Etc.

Leading up to the big day of the Pope’s first tweet, I rather enjoyed this whimsical take on “Spiritual wisdom in 140 characters or less,” first published in the Plain Dealer and sent out by Religion News Service. The Washington Post had an interesting take last week headlined “Ask the pope @pontifex: With Twitter account, Benedict XVI just a tweet away.” It’s about how the Twitter account makes him more reachable. Sarah Pulliam Bailey also had a look forward at Odyssey Networks.

The Washington Post had a different take yesterday, noting that the first tweet from Benedict came about because of Twitter outreach:

It may look as if Pope Benedict XVI’s first tweet on the auspicious date of 12/12/12 will be a divine act. But orchestrating the pontiff’s debut on Twitter has been a far more earthbound effort, involving an elaborate behind-the-scenes production…

The effort is part of Twitter’s powerful — not to mention low-cost — strategy to expand its influence and rack up more users by getting the world’s biggest names in sports, Hollywood, government and religion onto the Internet’s leading megaphone for self-promotion.

But man is that a bad opening line, right? Why would it look like a divine act? Why is 12/12/12 “auspicious”?

The Post‘s On Faith section also had a great reaction roundup from a variety of different observers. Sample:

Matt Archbold writes for the National Catholic Register and blogs at the Creative Minority Report.

The pope’s Twitter feed is going live. I’m excited. While this is an excellent opportunity for young Catholics to encounter the church’s teachings, I suspect that this open line of communication will be utilized by some to be able to curse directly at the pope. Do you know how many four-letter words you can fit in a 140 character limit? I don’t have a calculator handy but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot!

But Christians are quite familiar with lion’s dens. Have been for a while. And let’s face it, real lions don’t just curse in ALL CAPS and use clever hashtags.

But the pope getting on Twitter does raise some interesting issues. If you don’t retweet the pope, is that a sin of omission?

If the pope “follows you” doesn’t that really set the Church hierarchy upside down? Do I really want that kind of responsibility? I don’t even have a mitre.

And if you get blocked by the pope is that a 21st century form of excommunication? Are we really about to see the birth of the excommunitweet? Because that would actually be pretty awesome.

Among his other observations are that the Beatitudes are written in 140 characters or less.

Actually, rather than doing this entire roundup, I should have just directed you to Cathy Lynn Grossmann’s comprehensive look in USA Today at the Benedict’s first day on Twitter. She looks at whose questions got asked, the specifics of how questions to the pope got answered, the Vatican’s use of Twitter up to this point, selections from Archbold’s comments, and more.

 

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Islamist crimes against humanity in Mali

The Washington Post has a tough, but very important, read on the deteriorating situation in Mali. The first point to make is to thank the paper for devoting the resources necessary to bring to light this story about terrorism against vulnerable people. It can’t be easy and it’s deeply appreciated.

The story begins with Fatima Al Hassan being sentenced to 100 lashes with an electrical cord for giving a male visitor to her house. We’re told that “Islamist radicals” who’ve seized the north are to blame. We’re told that a coalition of Western and regional powers are preparing to retake northern Mali within the next year.

But such an action, if approved by the U.N. Security Council, is unlikely to begin until next summer or fall, U.S. and other Western officials say, and political turmoil in the south is adding to the uncertainty. That has raised fears that the extremists could consolidate their grip over the Texas-size territory and further terrorize civilians, particularly women and children.

“The people are losing all hope,” said Sadou Diallo, a former mayor of the northern city of Gao. “For the past eight months, they have lived without any government, without any actions taken against the Islamists. Now the Islamists feel they can do anything to the people.”

Refugees fleeing the north are now bringing stories that are darker than those recounted in interviews from this summer. Although their experiences cannot be independently verified — because the Islamists have threatened to kill or kidnap Westerners who visit — U.N. officials and human rights activists say that they have heard similar reports of horrific abuses and that some may amount to war crimes.

I had previously criticized a piece for writing about the horrors in Mali using a single anonymous source. I liked the way this reporter acknowledged the limits to verifying reports, while doing a great job of working around that problem.

Early in the piece, I hoped we’d learn about what religious beliefs separated these Islamists from the Muslims they’re terrorizing. While that was not as well fleshed out as I may have hoped for, we did get specifics about what the Islamists are doing:

The refugees say the Islamists are raping and forcibly marrying women, and recruiting children for armed conflict. Social interaction deemed an affront to their interpretation of Islam is zealously punished through Islamic courts and a police force that has become more systematic and inflexible, human rights activists and local officials say.

We’re told that the radicals have “imposed a hard-edged brand of sharia law, echoing Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, in this West African country where moderate Islam has thrived for centuries.”

I have suspicions about how moderate sharia and a hard-edged sharia differ but could have used some help spelling it out. Is it a difference in degree of punishment? A difference in what is deemed worthy of punishment? Something else altogether? And the things these radicals are doing — depriving people of basic freedoms, destroying historic tombs, denying children education, ridding the country of doctors and nurses and clinics — what, exactly, is the religious defense for these things? We’re told they’re doing them for religious reasons but I could use some info about the particular religious reasons.

Anyway, the situation sounds just horrific. Roving police squads scour neighborhoods for violations. A healthy amount of the story is devoted to the practices of rape and forced weddings.

[T]he Islamists have … encouraged their fighters to marry women and girls, some as young as 10, and often at gunpoint. After sex, they initiate a quick divorce. In an extreme case that has shocked the country, a girl in Timbuktu was forced last month to “marry” six fighters in one night, according to a report in one of Mali’s biggest newspapers.

“They are abusing religion to force women and girls to have intercourse,” said Ibrahima Berte, an official at Mali’s National Commission for Human Rights. “This kind of forced marriage is really just sexual abuse.”

In a telephone interview, a senior Islamist commander conceded that his fighters were marrying young girls.

“Our religion says that if a girl is 12, she must get married to avoid losing her virginity in a wrong way,” said Oumar Ould Hamaha, the military leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the three radical groups ruling the north. The other two are al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the network’s North and West Africa affiliate; and Ansar Dine, or “defenders of the faith.”

And kudos for getting a military leader on the phone to admit to the practice and explain the religious loophole. We’re also told how the radicals manipulate Muslim sentiment to buy children:

“They give $10 to impoverished parents to recruit their children in the name of defending Islam,” said Gaoussou Traore, the secretary general of Comade, a Malian children’s rights group. “The Islamists tell parents that their children will go to paradise, that they will benefit in the next world.”

I like the use of quotes to quickly explain how this practice works.

A section of the story deals with the practice of destroying or vandalizing businesses deemed unIslamic:

Inside his barbershop, Ali Maiga, 33, had a mural of hairstyles favored by American and French rappers on the wall. The Islamists sprayed white paint over it, he recalled, and warned him that he risks being whipped if he shaves off anyone’s beard.

This just reminds me of my requests for additional information on the trial of Nidal Hasan. He’s claimed he can’t shave his beard for religious reasons. I’ve wondered why this claim hasn’t been explored by journalists. Which schools of Islam teach this?

Anyway, this piece is well worth a read. It’s well written and well reported. The ending is quite powerful, too.

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Savita’s tragic death and media ethics

The tragic death of Savita Halappananvar continues to produce headlines, particularly in Europe and India. We looked at some of the initial coverage three weeks ago, where I noted that the US media had adopted the pro-choice movement’s certainty about the circumstances surrounding Savita Halappanavar’s death.

I wondered whether about the journalistic rigor being applied to the story, both in terms of the medical statements being made prior to a review as well as the blame being assigned the Catholic Church. In short, the claims that were made about what happened in the hospital and the blame assigned to the Catholic Church weren’t exactly matching up with evidence or with Catholic teaching.

None of this stopped the rather dramatic rush to judgment. To that end, I wanted to share a few links about recent updates to the story regarding the initial journalism.

Here’s the top of Christine Odone’s report in the Telegraph:

The journalist who broke the story about Savita Halappananvar’s tragic death now admits that the facts were “a little muddled”.

In an astonishing radio interview, Kitty Holland of The Irish Times admits that her report was based on the husband’s version of events, but that in fact there may have been “no request for a termination”. Her earlier account stated that Mrs Halappananvar, an Indian in Ireland who was expecting a baby, had begged for a termination when complications arose with the birth; hospital staff denied her the abortion, allegedly saying: “This is a Catholic country”.

Holland’s exclusive tale of the tragic death made headlines around the world. Pro-abortion groups seized upon the story to condemn any review of abortion laws. Protesters chanting “Never again!”marched in Irish cities. Holland’s report ensured that abortion was hailed as a life-saving operation; that it should be cruelly denied a young woman was further proof (if any were needed) that the Catholic Church was backward and barbarian.

Except that none of this may be quite as it seems.

You’re probably not even surprised at this point. More on the Holland interview here. In a Catholic Culture piece headlined ” In Ireland, the case for legal abortion is built on fraud,” we’re told:

There is no evidence that Savita Halappanavar sought an abortion. There is no evidence that an abortion would have saved her life. There is, in fact, no evidence to support a connection between the abortion issue and this poor woman’s death. The reporter, Kitty Holland, told an RTE broadcast audience that her story never claimed an abortion would have saved the young woman’s life.But the headline—“Woman denied a termination dies in hospital’—certainly conveyed that impression. And in the days since the story appeared, dozens of Irish politicians and pundits have joined in clamorous calls for an end to the country’s abortion ban.

The reporter goes on to talk about Catholic teaching and Irish law. He adds:

If they genuinely wanted to prevent another such tragic death, Irish reporters would be scrambling to learn what actually happened in the Halappanavar case. But there is no competition to expose the medical facts. On the contrary, media outlets appear willing to let the exploitation proceed unchecked. The Irish Independent learned that the proponents of legal abortion learned about Savita Halappanavar’s death 3 days before the news became public, and held a strategy session to discuss how they might capitalize on the tragedy. That cynical manipulation went unreported elsewhere; other reporters were too busy taking their cues from the abortion advocates.

The article ends by saying that honesty in coverage would help:

What would it take to stop this political juggernaut? Just one thing: honesty. But as we Americans can testify, when it comes to the abortion debate, honesty is in short supply.v

No one could look critically at the deception and manipulation at the beginning of this year with the media’s treatment of Planned Parenthood and Komen and say otherwise.

In Tim Stanley’s piece for the Telegraph, he raises some important points about media ethics:

Perhaps what was most disturbing about the Savita story is how it was leaked to pro-choice activists before it was broken by the Irish Times. At least three days before the story went public, Irish Choice Network was notified by email that “a major news story in relation to abortion access is going to break in the media early this coming week,” and that it would be followed by a pre-arranged protest. We can infer that someone at either the Irish Times or the Health Services Executive conspired to use a private tragedy to push a political agenda. It’s all very Alinsky.

Run a news search on Savita’s death and you’ll find very little in the mainstream press that addresses these problems or, more importantly, corrects earlier false reports. It’s as if the story never happened. Perhaps it would have been better if it hadn’t. Rather than waiting for a proper investigation of what went wrong, some chose to broadcast the opinions of understandably distressed family members as if they were indisputable facts. And the commentary accompanying the journalism drew a straight, short line between an individual’s death and the Catholic Church. The takeaway: Catholicism kills.

There’s much more in his column about media treatment of Catholicism.

Finally, Breda O’Brien’s piece in the Irish Times headlined “Line between journalists’ opinions and reporting increasingly blurred” is also worth a perusal. There’s this interesting bit about how at least 37 Irish journalists, including nine from the Times and others from the nationalized broadcaster RTÉ, tweeted that they were taking part in pro-choice marches: The end of her piece is fascinating, though, and speaks to how the media shape the way we think about social issues:

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate in economics, … believes that we have a dual-process brain, which he dubs System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is lightning fast, intuitive, and non-linear. Without it, we could not survive, because System 2 is slow, linear and energy-intensive.

We believe that we operate from System 2, in other words, that we are rational and objective, but we are operating most of the time from System 1.

Kahneman speaks of “self-sustaining chains of events”, that activate System 1 and virtually neutralise System 2. They often start from media reports, but lead to public panic and government action.

“The emotional reaction becomes a story in itself, prompting additional coverage in the media.” Anyone urging caution is accused of a “heinous cover-up”.

It is simply a fact that the majority of people working in the media share a particular worldview on social issues. For example, think about how often panels in RTÉ consist of people who share pro-choice views, with perhaps a token pro-life voice.

Now think of any time you heard a panel consisting of a majority of anti-abortion advocates.

Does the latter seem preposterous, and the first normal? Kahneman would smile. System 1 to the fore, once again. But the role of reporters, presenters and producers is not to start “self-sustaining chains of events”.

Or at least so their codes of ethics would seem to suggest.

System 1 is at the fore here in the States, too. I hope that there is still a desire to approach news rationally and objectively, though.

Angry man with hammer image via Shutterstock.

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Should Fox News be telling you to lie and steal?

I realize I’m the fuddy duddy around here who is always telling kids to get off my lawn, but there have to be other people who were saddened by this FoxNews.com story headlined “Hotel confidential: Secrets to scoring hotel freebies.”

It’s just a silly, cheesy story about someone’s new “memoir of hotels, hustles and so-called hospitality,” published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Late in the story, we’re told about how to tip the concierge:

The Concierge: For something like directions around $2-3 will suffice, but if their getting you reservations at a popular restaurant you should give about $10-20. Even in the era of the Internet and smart phones, concierges still have firsthand experience with the best places in town. “You can try calling for a table yourself, but they’re the ones that will have good connections and real pull to get you that reservation,” [Jacob] Tomsky told FoxNews.com.

Their? I realize I’m a typo queen, but this is why copy editors are super important. Anyway, the next section is:

Extra Freebies: Tomsky says the overstocked and overpriced mini bar charges are the most disputed on any bill. Although it’s hard to believe in a world where most mini bars have become censored, he insists that all you have to do is tell the front desk you ‘never touched the minibar’ and they will wipe away the charges. “It would be a weird desk agent to say ‘you sure you didn’t have these?’ That’s a terrible stance to take,” Tomsky said.

Apparently free movie rentals are also easy to score. “Once you’ve finished watching your movie just call down to the front desk and tell them the movie just froze in the middle or it turned off suddenly,” Tomsky told FoxNews.com. “Usually there is a subscription fee that they pay for the hotel as a total so they’re not losing any money.”

Lastly, the luxurious and cozy bathroom robes. Of course they sell them for an outrageous amount in the hotel gift shop but Tomsky says you can take one home for free. “They’re supposed to have robes preset in each room but you can call up and tell them your room is missing a robe. In the time it takes someone to come up and deliver you another one, you can stash the extra robe right into your suitcase.” Tomsky told FoxNews.com.

I don’t know what a censored mini bar is, so I assume we’re going for “sensored.” But so much more importantly than these typos, for the love of all that’s holy, what is Fox News doing telling people they should steal from other people?

If I were an editor and was presented with a subject pitching a book about how to lie and steal — under the guise of how to get the most out of your stay in a hotel — I would never in a million years give it any publicity of the non-condemnatory variety.

What if the author pitching the book were talking about how to cheat on an exam or how to rape someone or how to commit voter fraud or how to hide a body — what’s the line that FoxNews won’t cross here? Am I just an old fuddy duddy who thinks that the mainstream media shouldn’t run stories about how to lie and steal?

Ten Commandments image via Shutterstock.

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