Who knew Piers Morgan could be thought-provoking?

Who knew Piers Morgan could be thought-provoking? March 28, 2013

The Huffington Post’s Jon Ward is a thoughtful reporter and one who uncovers ghosts on his political beat with regularity. Earlier this week he wrote about the tension between evangelical morality and politics as it relates to changing marriage law to include same-sex couples.

Yesterday he wrote about something particularly fascinating. In the video above we see Piers Morgan and Suze Orman and Ryan Anderson. They’re debating the topic of marriage with Ryan T. Anderson. Their behavior is somewhat appalling but typical and represents a tension for those who do seek to define marriage in such a way as to include same-sex couples:

Piers Morgan’s CNN segment on Tuesday night was a vivid illustration of this tension. Morgan invited Ryan T. Anderson, a 31-year-old fellow from The Heritage Foundation, on his program to debate the issue. But Morgan did not have Anderson to sit at a table with him and Suze Orman, the 61-year-old financial guru, who is gay. Instead, Anderson was placed about 15 feet away from Morgan and Orman, among the audience, and had to debate from a distance.

The message, in both the language used by Morgan and Orman, and the physical placement of Anderson on the set, was clear: they thought him morally inferior. Evangelical leader Tim Keller talks about this dynamic — opponents of gay marriage being treated akin to bigoted groups such as white supremacists — in yesterday’s piece.

What I liked about Piers Morgan’s approach here is that it was just a very transparent and honest approach to that taken by many media figures. As the Washington Post scandal showed, through ignorance or inability to understand the arguments made by marriage traditionalists or some other problem, many in the media are convinced that they’re fighting the equivalent of racists and that, as such, horrific treatment of the people and their arguments is justified.

Here’s another example of that. Poynter discusses how some media figures took part in that most brave and meaningful public sacrament: changing one’s Facebook avatar to support changing marriage laws to include same-sex couples. You can read about it at “Journalists share arguments for, against using same-sex marriage symbols on social media profiles.”

My favorite part:

A human rights issue vs. a political issue: Journalists who changed their avatars and were willing to talk about it generally said they view same-sex marriage differently from a regular political issue in which both sides must be presented fairly and objectively.

Matt DeRienzo, an editor for the Journal Register Company in Connecticut, tweeted: “I don’t have a problem with journalists who work for me voicing support for basic civil rights for gay people. Or kids, sunshine, etc.”

And then we get various other quotes from people who are unable to view this issue beyond the “civil rights” paradigm they’ve adopted.

This breezes right past the central, fundamental question under debate and begs the question. If one adopts a certain view of marriage — then opposition to that view is akin to racism. If one retains the view that marriage is the institution that governs sexual complementarity and requires male and female then civil rights is the wrong framework and cries of bigotry are uninformed and scurrilous at best.

The problem I see with many of these media discussions is that reporters and editors aren’t thinking very much about it. There’s a lot of emotion, but not a lot of thinking. There’s close to no curiosity about intellectual arguments in play and the end result is some scary behavior on the part of the Piers Morgan types.

In the words of David S. Crawford, the tolerance that will be given to those who aren’t on board with changing the basis of marriage from sexual complementarity to sexual orientation will be:

…provisional and contingent, tailored to accommodate what is conceived as a significant but shrinking segment of society that holds a publically unacceptable private bigotry. Where over time it emerges that this bigotry has not in fact disappeared, more aggressive measures will be needed, which will include more explicit legal and educational components, as well as simple ostracism.

The media — through the stories they choose to cover and the manner they choose to cover them are simply ahead of the game in this Gleichschaltung. Piers Morgan is just one of many attempting to bring everyone into line on this emerging strict morality.

I doubt that journalists are even aware of all the assumptions they’ve made to get to the point where they’re treating as bigots those people who support marriage built on sexual complementarity as opposed to sexual orientation. They sure as heck aren’t aware of the implications.

But then they sit around the metaphorical Piers Morgan table and tell everyone else that they’re uneducated.

I might encourage skeptics, opponents and proponents of changing marriage law alike to read this paper on the “ubiquitous but unexamined presuppositions” surrounding the marriage debate, but here’s just a bit that shows how reason, religion and response to same play a role in the language we use and the prism through which we see the larger picture:

My point then is this: the entire modern conception of law and its meaning favors the mechanistic view of physicality and the separate, bodiless conception of the fully human. Indeed, this view generates the standards of rationality and argumentation employed on all sides in the debate over “gay marriage.” Consider the claim that there is no legally cognizable difference between “same-sex couples” and infertile “opposite-sex couples” or fertile “opposite-sex couples” and “same-sex couples” employing reproductive technologies. To borrow Benedict’s language, this is an entirely “functionalistic” view of the body’s sexual and procreative meaning. It would appear that the body’s procreativity can be entirely replaced by the technical processes of the lab without any real loss of its essential humanity. Rather, its replacement would be an enhancement of the humanity of conception and birth. We also see these assumptions at work in the argument that man and woman are essentially interchangeable for all legally cognizable purposes.

If believing that “God made them male and female” — as Jesus once put it — is grounds for the shocking dehumanizing ostracism and taunting of the type we saw deployed against a Princeton-educated, magna cum laude-graduated, Notre Dame-enrolled philosopher, what does that mean for civil discourse and what does that mean about how deep journalism is into some unexamined presuppositions about the nature of man and our personal and social identity as men?

We deserve meaningful coverage on a complex and powerful topic and instead we’re getting changed Facebook avatars and journalists who justify ignorance and bullying in the (at best) debatable name of “civil rights.”

Have we had enough?

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31 responses to “Who knew Piers Morgan could be thought-provoking?”

  1. I read a comment on another blog yesterday from a user who expressed fear about changing her Facebook avatar to reflect support of same-sex marriage–fear of how some whom she knows would respond. There is, though, as this article suggests, the flip side of that, and it is precisely in this notion that opposition to same-sex marriage is inherently as evil as racial prejudice. One can hardly get to stating an intelligent argument (to one who will listen intelligently), when one is labeled the equivalent of a racist from the get-go. And, of course, one can hardly hope to hear or read an intelligent argument, when the press’s coverage is so heavily influenced by the reporters’ judgments about those whom they report on.

    Another Patheos blog recently quoted someone who compared opposition to same-sex marriage to the racial prejudice he had seen in the deep South. I left a comment that such comparisons were contemptible and were arguments just about as insipid as invoking comparisons to Hitler (as in Godwin’s law). My comment was not approved by the moderator.

    • Ironic that you should make this point about Godwin’s law on a post in which Mollie invokes the term Gleischaltung.

    • I have always thought the most sensible solution was for the government to get out of the “marriage” business entirely. If you want your relationship recognized by the state, get a civil union. If you want your relationship recognized by a religious organization, get married.

      The problem is that there seems to be no political will to actually make this happen. Instead, everyone would rather fight about the word “marriage.”

      • I agree and had often been surprised that this alternative doesn’t come up from either side or from journalists. It always seemed to me to be the obvious solution so what is to stop a journalist from asking about this option when interviewing either side.

      • I like the idea of this, but I don’t see how it would work in practice. Ideally, I would think, you’d want there to be something like “Christian marriage,” which has stricter legal rules (e.g. no no-fault divorce). This would encourage a feeling that the more complete and binding marriage is more meaningful than the idea that a marriage is simply a contract between individuals, to be revoked if either feels like it. It might encourage a woman to wonder why a man was willing to enter a civil union with her, but not the more binding marriage.

        But I don’t see how this could work. Maybe it could work for Catholicism — a “Catholic marriage” could be meaningfully created, though it would have to be separately passed in every state and thus be very difficult to create. But when it comes to Protestantism, you get into the realm of “who gets to be called a Christian for the purposes of deciding who can be ‘Christian married'”.

        You could define marriage in this sense as necessarily being between a man and a woman; but then passing laws which are specifically based on public morality (no matter how reasonable) is not really considered valid by the courts these days, as shown be nearly every gay marriage case. I don’t think it would even be legal to enact this system by that standard, and without some kind of legal enforcement of a more binding marriage, I’m not sure it would accomplish anything. It would just be a label, without any special meaning. And gay activists would sue to coopt the new label almost immediately anyway.

      • Actually, I myself am glad that not too many people are trying to get government out of the marriage business (which, by the way, it seems to my memory is just how Ron Paul liked to phrase it). We have to realize that being in a marriage effects a complex and sweeping change to one’s legal status. There are thousands upon thousands of laws that will treat you differently, if you are married, and that will treat a couple that is married in a particular way on account of the marriage, and a good many of these laws are particularly tailored to the fact of marriage being a man-woman relationship with a high likelihood of conceiving children.

        If you got government out of the marriage business, what would happen, for instance, to all of the married couples who own real property as “husband and wife.” That phrase on a deed means something with legal consequences. What about the courts’ legal presumptions about parentage that only obtain in married relations and that would not correspond logically to a same-sex “marriage”? Would same-sex couples obtaining civil unions then be granted spousal privileges in court testimony? Or would spousal privilege be eradicated altogether? And would either outcome be fair and consistent with the purposes of the privilege?

        And the list goes on. Marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman has a huge body of law specifically tailored to that relationship and the qualities that are particular to it. Getting government out of the marriage business could yield a legal quagmire.

        This indeed also suggests some of the more compelling (and non-religious) arguments against making the relationship of two members of the same sex identical to that of a heterosexual married couple, but we’ve already gone astray of the main point of the article above, so I’ll draw the line here for myself.

        • IMHO, these are hardly insurmountable obstacles. It would largely just be a change in terminology.

          Also, other than the one law that you cite about the presumption of who is the biological parent, I cannot think of any other laws where the actual gender of the parties in the marriage is integral to the underlying substance of the law (none of your other examples require the parties in the marriage be of opposite gender–rather, it is just a matter of terminology). But maybe there actually is a number of laws (and I am just unaware of them, or cannot think of them now)….I am curious if you can point to others.

          • Of course it’s not just a matter of whether two people have to be of opposite sexes in order for a particular law to be enforceable–such as, for instance, the courtroom privilege of spouses. Of course two men, if permitted by law, could possess that privilege. The question such matters raises is why these laws came to be in the first place, and whether whatever those reasons are were specifically suited for opposite-sex couples. If the court has an interest in maintaining the integrity of a married couple by not forcing either spouse to testify against the other, what’s the basis of that interest? Why not extend such a privilege to very dear friends? Or to siblings who live together? Monks living in the same monastery? And so on. A line has to be drawn somewhere. While there are married couples who never have children, having children is the norm in sexual unions between men and women–indeed often without planning–and laws take note of this. Isn’t a particular privilege afforded for the stability of a married couple very particularly geared towards the fact that marriages normally, often inevitably, and by their biological nature have children?

            I am, on another topic, trying a case now where a husband is making a claim against his deceased wife’s will, in which she deliberately granted him nothing. His claim is a source of considerable unhappiness to the deceased woman’s adult children, one of whom is my client. Here in Ohio, though, that widowed husband has the statute on his side to take against the will, specifically because of the marital status.

            Even former spouses can avail themselves of laws that will afford them the ability to step in and take government benefits and rights that flow to them from their deceased ex-spouses, even though they were divorced.

            Married couples can escape a good number of taxes upon transfers, in life as well as after death, that would otherwise be taxable. This too is almost certainly a “family integrity” form of law that emerged specifically for the family that is or results from a heterosexual couple.

            What if the birth (that is “biological”) parent wants to assert rights as a father or mother against a married same-sex couple that has custody of the child? This raises the presumption of paternity I mentioned before. In fact, by the very nature of the relations same-sex couples have to employ some manner of “outside assistance” in order to have children in their households. The structure and origin of the relations is not the same as it is in a married heterosexual couple. So must the law regard the two types of relationships and everything pertaining to children in the household as the same, when they (same-sex couple and opposite-sex couple) are fundamentally different in significant ways?

            I wanted to respond, since you asked an honest question, but I see that my comment is now enormous, and I’m only summarizing these things and leaving, of course, many other things out. I have no doubt that plenty of other relevant information is just not occurring to me at the moment. If I wanted to get into this in the way that it deserves, I suppose I’d just research it, amass some citations, and write an essay about the subject on my own Web page. But I don’t want to do that. In any case, I reply, not to argue the point, but just to suggest the kinds of issues that this thing raises. It seemed the fair thing to do, since you asked.

          • And, by the way, apologies to the moderator for that last comment, which was just further on down the track away from the main article, a fear I expressed in an earlier comment. I’ll stop discussing this now, and I thank mollie for being a gracious host to such verbosity as I have sadly brought.

  2. I hope no one here has had enough. Because we’re going to get a lot more of the same.


  3. Poor Ryan T. Anderson can’t catch a break at CNN. I first saw the interaction between him and Don Lemon (one of the network’s openly gay anchor’s and reporters) while dining out with family, so all I could see was the picture, and no audio. But by simple body language I could tell that Lemon spent most of his time raking Anderson over the coals. The pro-gay marriage advocate brought on to speak spent most of the segment silent with a smug smile on his face as the “moderator” did the work for him. Its quite scary to see the ways in which the media brings the arguments of traditional marriage to the table, only to silence them before they are clearly communicated.

  4. I read the linked article at Humana and wonder how its arguments can be presented in journalism. It draws on the RCC tradition of Natural Law which tends not to be very presentable in simple English. Actually, Natural Law articles always strike me as being inept computer translations. What is ‘sexual complementarity’? I have several thoughts on what this might mean, but am not at all sure what the proponents of this mean by it. At First Things I encountered the word ‘generativity’ and immediately thought of solar panels. For journalism, this requires either a new vocabulary which will probably confuse readers or extensive explanations. We have seen this before at GR in the RC use of ‘scandal’ which does not match the common US English meaning and creates confusion. How can this argument be expressed in common, standard US English as used by most journalists?

    • What great questions, dalea. Or maybe I’m saying that because I’ve been thinking of it, too.
      On the first point, I don’t think you need to be religious to acknowledge that humans are created male and female or that all humans exist because of sexual complementarity. That is to say, we all are the product of male and female joining together in one flesh and working together to produce another human.
      In this sense, male and male can’t join together and female and female can’t join together. They can stimulate each other sexually, but this is different from becoming one flesh — engaging in acts ordered to procreation.

      Should marriage be built on recognition of this sexual complementarity or should it be built on sexual orientation. These are dramatic and different things with some powerful side effects.

      The least would be that children play a dramatically different role in the one understanding of marriage than the other.

      I’m getting astray. All this to say that our entire language is biased toward the “sexual orientation” understanding and it makes even comprehending the reality of our existence as the product of this universal truth about the life-giving, generative aspect of male-female conjugality difficult!

      It’s so obvious but, as you note, the vocabulary is foreign to us.

      The article is also, to be honest, written in an academic prose that further compounds that difficulty.

      At the very least I think we should be able to have a discussion about those who believe marriage should be built on sexual complementarity and those who believe it should be built on sexual orientation.

      Complementarity has always been a difficult topic for some — as jokes about explaining the Birds and the Bees to children attest — but the reality of our existence as the products of it is worth discussing.

      Journalists should jump off the bandwagon for a moment, at least, to consider these very deep and profound statements about our identities.

      • Mollie, don’t forget that not all Christians embrace natural law. Those of us influenced by Karl Barth completely reject it. I know Barthians on all sides of the issue. None would argue from natural law. Now that throws an extra challenge out to journalists.

  5. I really don’t think that there’s that much difference between arguments against same-sex marriage and the ones advanced by pro-slavery, anti- women’s suffrage activists, and those who opposed integration of schools or interracial marriage. Many are religion-based, and many were reported in the press. Consider this:

    Women and men are different, and therefore women should not get to vote in general elections because they lack the intellectual capacity is not an argument dismissed by the pre-1920 media. In fact, Ann Coulter is making the same arguments almost a century later.

    The SCOTUS in Loving v/ VA acknowledged the difference between black and whites, but didn’t find that to be a compelling reason for the handful of blacks and whites who wanted to marry eachother to be denied or penalized for doing so. At that time, 76% of Americans disagreed. And now here we are.

    58% of Americans in the latest polls support legal parity for gay couples on the marriage front. This fight is basically over.

    • Your comment articulates the very point that the post is making.
      One side of the debate (Same-sex marriage side) sees this as about people and there for to oppose it must mean that you must be saying that homosexuals are in some way inferior or unworthy of participating in marriage. Thus the connections to injustices of the past against other groups such a racial minorities or women. While the other side of the debate (Traditional marriage side) sees this as about what marriage “is” at what they see as its fundamental core. On both sides arguments are framed within these premises. When the media is either ignorant of this or unwilling to acknowledge it, then we have a problem.
      Imagine if you gave someone directions without establishing their location, a common starting point, or even understanding where their trying to go. You can’t then blame them for not ending up where you are trying to send them.

  6. Marie, not exactly. Marriage is about people – you can’t really have it without them. And the “traditional marriage” side sees it in varying ways, and therefore cannot claim a consistent viewpoint that needs to be articulated by the media. Divorce and the presence of children as a prerequisite are viewpoints about which anti-gay marriage advocates disagree.

    My point is that we now look at how women and minorities were treated under the law – as supported by religion and clergy – as “injustices” when it comes to slavery, voting, equal access to public education, and the right to marry who they choose regardless of skin color. Was such unequal treatment really an injustice as we view it today? Was the religious justification for it unreasonable or poorly stated? Did the press give it poor coverage? It certainly seemed that the language of “social experiments” and the “downfall of society” was employed both loudly and long at that time in the press, and not just in the editorial pages.

    And what happened as a result? It seems that no amount of journalistic cheerleading led to slavery continuing, women being unable to vote, mandatory separate but equal public accomodations for black people, and miscegnation on a state-by-state basis prevailed. Google will show you that the MSM at that time did a LOT to prevent what is now called progress on those issues.

    Blaming what’s about to happen on the press is really giving it a power that it simply doesn’t have.

  7. Since I’m foolishly procrastinating work, and since I just watched the rest of the embedded video, I’ll add two remarks to my comments above.

    Notice how, at the end of the video, Suze Orman says that what it is really about is the ability of two people to say they love each other. She then gives a sentimental example of sitting around a Thanksgiving Day table and, while everyone other couple at the table is being asked how they met and fell in love and got married, she and her girlfriend get left out. Now, Ms. Orman is not the journalist here, but Piers Morgan chimed in his agreement with what she was saying, and what they were emphasizing (besides being excessively emotional and not much in the way of a real argument) completely ignored a point that Mr. Anderson repeatedly made (and that was repeatedly ignored throughout the segment): that people are free to love and be loved as they wish and even to conduct ceremonies and call themselves what they want. What often strikes me as bizarre in this debate is this implicit idea that the relationship does not become real–no, worse than that: that the love is not fulfilled unless the government recognizes it and confers a legal status upon it.

    I’ll also iterate that among the things that is offensive about, say, comparing opposition to same-sex marriage to advocacy for slavery is that the latter is rooted in the opinion that certain persons are inherently inferior human beings, or indeed are not even human beings at all. The foolishness of this comparison is so obvious it should scarcely even need to be pointed out. I don’t doubt that there are some opponents of same-sex marriage who think bad things about homosexuals as human persons, but I also don’t doubt, for instance, that some Protestants think the Roman Pope is the antichrist and that all devout Catholics are going to Hell: does that mean that all Protestants hold that view, or that all opponents of same-sex marriage are the equivalent of racists, thinking that homosexuals are subhuman?

    Really. This discourse is very badly served by those kinds of comparisons.

    • a point that Mr. Anderson repeatedly made (and that was repeatedly ignored throughout the segment): that people are free to love and be loved as they wish and even to conduct ceremonies and call themselves what they want. What often strikes me as bizarre in this debate is this implicit idea that the relationship does not become real–no, worse than that: that the love is not fulfilled unless the government recognizes it and confers a legal status upon it.

      By this logic, there is nothing wrong with denying blacks the right to marry, as blacks would still be free to love and be loved as they wish and conduct ceremonies and call themselves what they want.

      • Ironically, the whole “blacks right to marry” issue as you put it, which I’m assuming you’re either referring to the historical “black/white mixed marriage” or the hypothetical “all blacks,” centered around or would center around…children, which Orman and Morgan consistently ignored. The issue of the right for “interracial marriage” and “gay marriage” are on two separate planes. The whole reason people opposed interracial marriage was because it would produce more mixed race people, which, incorrectly, were seen as a problem. This can’t be the reason against “gay marriage” since it can’t, fundamentally and biologically, produce children.

  8. Well, Lasseter, you can find extremists on any side of any argument.

    “I’ll also iterate that among the things that is offensive about, say, comparing opposition to same-sex marriage to advocacy for slavery is that the latter is rooted in the opinion that certain persons are inherently inferior human beings, or indeed are not even human beings at all. The foolishness of this comparison is so obvious it should scarcely even need to be pointed out.”

    In general, when one is advocating that gay relationships are not entitled to the same protection under the law as heterosexual ones, one is saying that gay relationships are inferior and not even worth recognizing at all. The fact that these arguments are made in the press should not offend you, and they are not foolish. They are frequently made by religious organizations such as NOM, the AFA, and religious pundits like the Pope and DWI-driving SF Archbishop Cordileone.

    Such arguments with regard to slavery, based on particular interpretations of the Bible, were presented as fact by the press of the day. As to miscegnation, Hon. Bazile stated in 1967 that “God put the races on different continents for a reason, and only man’s interference led the way to this controversy.” The controversy, of course, was the marriage of a white man and a black woman. She was viewed as too inferior to marry a white man, and he was viewed as inferior for wanting to marry her. The press of the day thought that idea was perfectly normal.

    So, not really a foolish comparison at all. More than a handful of anti-gay marriage advocates are willing to state that they believe that gays and their relationships are inferior, and they deserve to have their opinions heard too.

    • Almost every time I have heard this comparison to racism it has been a general comparison. As in, “opposing same-sex marriage is the same as supporting slavery.” That is not citing a particular individual or group that unambiguously says a homosexual person is an inferior human being. That is asserting that the entire position and anyone who holds it as equivalent to racism or a racist, and that assertion is outrageous.

  9. Comments are very far afield of the journalism issues at hand.
    Please refocus your comments on media coverage of this topic rather than the topic itself.
    That still leaves us with plenty of fun stuff to discuss.

  10. Should transparently weak arguments be given equal time ?

    Natural law pretends to be rational and neutral, a straightforward reading of nature, when in reality it is heavily value-laden. Natural Law theory is, in fact, all “ghost”, a way of smuggling religious dogma into a (superficially) secular framework.

    Homosexuality (and bisexuality) are facts of nature. For people who experience same sex attractions complementarity plainly works differently; for them the natural complement to complete their lives is of the same sex.

    Marriage has, historically, always been a multi-faceted, multi-purpose institution. Now, in a radical re-definition, neo-conservatives pretend that there is a unique highest purpose to marriage.
    It must be a coincidence that among all of the many and varied purposes of marriage, the one purpose they fixate on – unassisted procreation – is also the one that homosexuals are incapable of. So why impoverish the definition of marriage so radically, reduce its meaning to the mechanics of breeding, to the subordination of everything else ? Why dehumanise marriage, discard companionship, economic support, creative collaboration, etc from its definition ? Because only by this act of blatant gerrymandering is it still possible to satisfy religious (and especially, Catholic) dogma.

    To repeat my question: Should transparently weak arguments (such as those based on natural law) be given equal time ? They should be given some time, but does fairness require equal time ? Hardly.

  11. regardless of all of the pros and cons, when the male female relationship is declared legally to be no different than any other private relationship, it is the children who will suffer. they suffer now, largely because marriage has become secondary to sexual activity and divorce is easily obtainable. culture has an impact on everyone, but especially children because of their state of dependency. as a culture coarsens, everyone suffers, but those who are dependent suffer the most.