US News Responds re Anti-Catholic Op-Ed; They’re OK with Screeds – UPDATE

The long-awaited statement from U.S. News was released yesterday evening. Editor Brian Kelly has this to say, regarding Jamie Stiehm’s column dated January 7:

Perceived bias on the court is a legitimate issue that U.S. News & World Report has covered for many years, from many perspectives. Our Opinion section has published pieces on the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage from all sides of the debate and, just this week, included pieces from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archdiocese of New York and Concerned Women for America. We are committed to publishing a diversity of views on a variety of topics. Jamie Stiehm’s piece is within the bounds of fair commentary. We have run letters rebutting the piece and will continue to feature a diversity of opinions on this topic and others.

That’s weak; a very shortsighted response. Stiehm’s piece was not a standard professional commentary; it was a full-scale, blanket condemnation of a particular set of people, flavored with a strong suggestion that those sorts of people should probably be excluded from the public square.

Let’s take a second look at what Stiehm wrote, insert words other than “Catholic” into her lines, and we can wonder whether Mr. Kelly would be quite so cavalier about printing the following:

Lesbians often try to impose their beliefs on you, me, public discourse and institutions. Especially if “you” are female.

Jews in high places of power have the most trouble, I’ve noticed, practicing the separation of church and state. The pugnacious Jewish Justice. . .is the most aggressive offender on the Court, but not the only one.

The seemingly innocent Black Sisters likely were likely not acting alone in their trouble-making. Their big brothers, the meddlesome NAACP are bound to be involved. [Blacks] seek and wield tremendous power and influence in the political sphere.

In one stroke with ominous implications, there’s no such thing as Gay justice or mercy for women on the Supreme Court, not even from GLAAD.

The Dome of the Rock refuses to budge on women’s reproductive right. . .

I am going to make a good-faith assumption that Mr. Kelly did not attempt that little exercise before handing down the statement. Had he done so, I find it very difficult to believe that he (or op-ed page Managing Editor, Robert Schlesinger) would still think it fell “within the bounds of fair commentary.”

Or, perhaps they would, and if so they need to admit it. Their readership certainly deserves to know what they stand for, and if U.S. News is going to embrace such a radical editorial policy, they might as well put it out there and say, “yes, we would be just as content with Stiehm’s column if she had expressed exactly these sentiments about Lesbians, or Jews, or African Americans, or Gay men, or Muslims, because we agree that there are some kinds of people who simply should not be trusted to participate in American governance, and it’s time to stop being so politically correct and say it.”

That would almost be refreshing, truth be told.

Until, of course, people understood that this is how jackboots are constructed.

I hope U.S. News will give it another shot. As I said in this piece, the knee-jerk habit of silencing anyone — left or right — who misspeaks or says something stupid or even vile, does not allow for education, reconciliation, enlightenment or enlarged thinking, and I have never supported it. We need to move beyond making people “go away”, because scalp-collecting begs retaliation. And too, we really do need to know what people actually think, not merely what they say. That way, there are no surprises when movements spring up.

But clarity of purpose is required, and as regards this matter, things are still murky. When I asked Schlesinger if he cared to comment further, he declined, so we still need answers: Why, precisely, does U.S. News think Stiehm’s piece fine and fair, as it is, and to what end do they defend it? Are they saying “let ‘er rip” and endorsing full-scale hate speech as something good and necessary — the inevitable corrective to thirty years of hedging language, used in service to ersatz and redefined notions of “tolerance” and “sensitivity”? If that’s what they’re intending, that might at least be interesting and some people may even applaud it; the policing of public language has left us leery of each other, flocking to echo chambers that feel “safe” but have furthered our polarization.

If U.S. News intends a correction in public dialogue, let them own it.

Still, Steihm’s piece would seem a too-sudden over-correction, the sort that usually ends up crashing into something, or causing a chain reaction of destruction. “You mean everyone isn’t special, after all, and it’s okay to hate certain people? Wait, let me get my list…” A more constructive correction might be, “we don’t fire people for expressing their actual thoughts, but we do think Stiehm needs to spend some time with these people she hates, and write what she learns about them, so we can all rightly know each other.” Mindless “celebration” is worth very little; actual understanding is what reveals the true value of diversity.

To be honest, though, it doesn’t seem like that’s the direction in which U.S. News wishes to go, and if America is headed — as I believe she is — to a more statist, over-controlled place, then someone in the press was going to have to begin identifying the officially unacceptable people, so the rest of the country could start falling in line (or standing in them), convinced that they know who the real enemy is. I would have laid odds on the New York Times getting to it first, but then U.S. News always has always had an upstart vibe to them.

Still, if I’m surprised by the outlet, I always knew that the acceptable enemy would, in the end, be the Catholics. To paraphrase Luther, we stand where we stand, and can do no other.

UPDATE I: Deacon Greg, who spent a quarter of a century working for CBS News and understands the value of good journalism, is appalled.

UPDATE II: Ed Morrissey, staying on point, makes some excellent ones about US News’ statement and circumstances. And Frank Weathers chimes in too.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • ladybird

    I like the way you think and write. Your three contributions to this subject should be read by all. Take care of yourself. Your voice is needed!

  • Matthew

    Both links go to Deacon Greg’s site.

  • Manny

    Anchoress, that statement by Brian Kelly was beyond weak. It was a down right insult. He says: “Jamie Stiehm’s piece is within the bounds of fair commentary.” Is he kidding me??? That diatribe against Catholics fo who they are was fair commentary? That was out and out prejudice. Whatever her point was is lost in her bigotry. Kelly just rubbed salt in the wounds. This is where Bill Donohue really does need to earn his paycheck and make an issue of this.

  • Victor

    Anchoress! I’m not sure if I’m off topic here but someone sent me an email asking me to forward it if I was a true Christian titled, Would I leave the church….’ if I was placed in a certain circumstance? The circumstance was of mask persons with guns who rushed into a full church while the priest was about to start his preaching.

    Long story short, they told every body who did not want to die, then they should simply walk out immediately and longer story short, when these humans finished speaking to the crowd, they’re was only about twenty or so left. They eventually took their mask off and told the preacher to continue because the “ONES” Left are truly interested in listening.

    I told GOD (Good Old Dad) in so many words that I would send “IT” off to all my email addresses if that was His Will while asking what Good would “IT” do but provoke more Christian people.

    I had sent that particular email during my old blog but this time and maybe “IT” is because I have read your first born book. Anyway, I’M still waiting until GOD, His Angels and/or The Holy Spirit truly ask my heart of heart for help cause right now, “IT” is probably my ego “IDOLS” of “ME”, “ME”, “ME”, “MYSELF” and “I” who would probably be the”ONEs” to benefit in the long run if YA get my drift now?

    Go Figure people.

    At this time and truth be told, GOD who is all LOVE is the only “ONE” who can deal with Spiritual Vipers who truly don’t know what they do! “RIGHT”? :)

    Happy New Year to you, your family and readers Anchoress and please keep praying for all of “U>S” (usual sinners) especially sinner vic.

    God Bless Peace

  • Chris Travers

    This part struck me: “…if America is headed — as I believe she is — to a more statist,
    over-controlled place, then someone in the press was going to have to
    begin identifying the officially unacceptable people, so the rest of the
    country could start falling in line (or standing in them), convinced
    that they know who the real enemy is.”

    As an American currently living in Indonesia I want to stress the word “more” in your statement. Although majority-Muslim (though with strong Hindu undercurrents), the nation is much closer to Catholic social teaching than anywhere else I have seen. Even employment is widely distributed as around 70% of the nation is self-employed. One regional government in Indonesia (that of Jogjakarta) is a monarchy (that would be like having the Kingdom of Vermont in the US), and the Sultan there is widely respected (the one person I was able to discuss this with in detail was Catholic).

    The US already is over-controlled, or more properly that control is overly centralized. It isn’t that alternative models are less controlled. It is just that the control is spread throughout more people and the consequences tied to the who gets to make the policy. This is something we have lost in the US. Our government is way more centralized than Canada for example and the Canadian health care system shows it (basically, in Canada there are minimal federal rules, and the provinces each set up their own insurance for their residents, but propose doing that in the US, and one gets accused of supporting slavery or something).

    I fear very much for the direction of the US. Centralization and complexity are becoming more and more, but we are less and less able to bear the costs of the complexity we have. Sooner or later nemesis will come after our hubris.

  • Thomas R

    Yeah I linked to her column at a forum that’s very much on the side of the mandate, critical of Catholicism, etc and did so with some nervousness they’d side with her. Instead even they seemed to agree her article was wacky/extreme and possibly a sign of her bipolar disorder. I mean she talks in terms of conspiracies and “pernicious Rome.”

  • Mike

    To a certain extent, the benefit of all of this is at least it brings to the light if day, what has been hidden and subtle bias and bigotry in our MSM during the last several years. For me, it verifies my opinion that most media today is biased and has their own agenda. I agree with Ms. Scalia, don’t silence these people as not only is it hypocritical, but I would rather see in the open, the hate, bias, and bigotry thy exhibit. The answer to all of this from my perspective if I truly want to live the Gospel of Christ is to still love them.

  • Frank

    This is predictable and expected. Why not do something more interesting and hone in on your buddies at America and Commonweal and NCR who are not supporting the Little Sisters – and how about the Nuns on the Bus and their ilk? why their silence? What about Fr. Martin and St. Stephen Colbert? Why not take them on instead? *That’s* far more important than one stupid op-ed writers whose hits and visibility were vastly increased by your attack.

  • MeanLizzie

    thanks, that’s fixed.

  • fondatorey

    1. A few weeks ago, Justice Sotomayor was given a high profile, positive ‘media opportunity’ – she let the ball drop on New Years Eve. I’d have to imagine that this had been scheduled several weeks if not months in advance.

    2. Sotomayor makes a decision in the Little Sisters case.

    3. Shortly after, an over the top, personally insulting article about the Justice is written in a noticeable mid-level forum. It is something sure to come to her attention given the tone and legacy media association. Its the kind of article that the ‘serious’ media people looking at it will say: “well I certainly disagree with the tone, which I abhor, but…” Its an accusation of being a traitor to her real class.

    So, Justice Sotomayor was shown the ‘carrot’: positive media coverage, and also received the ‘stick’ – personal insults in the media that amount to an accusation that she isn’t really ‘one of us’ – after an action by her that indicated a certain amount of independence.

    Contrast this with the lady from Texas, abortions biggest fan, the one with the tennis shoes. She was gifted with entirely positive media treatment (by the MSM) and in fact was flattered. She was treated as if she were a fashion model. 100% carrot.

    The media is used as a weapon and as a reward. Its an instrument. The information transmitted by media is not intended to have an effect on the audience of media, its intended to have an effect on the subject of the media attention. Important to know.

  • Francie

    Such CLARITY of thinking in this article! — No DIVERSITY IN TRUTH!

  • Bob42

    You actually believe the MSM will be fair to the catholic church?

  • David_Naas

    “Show me the money”. — The MSM, nor the rest of the folk y’all complain about, have no real interest in Catholic or Buddhist, or Muslim. All they care about is cold hard cash.
    So, who benefits from such a screed? Who gets richer from such activity? Until you can answer that, you have no idea who your real enemies are.

  • RichFader

    If U.S. News likes screeds, they can go get screeds.