Or: If You Could See Them Through My Eyes.
Maybe you heard it, the cosy interview that Scott Simon did with Hanna Rosin and a graduate of Patrick Henry College this morning contained a very fine example of a particularly important tactic of dishonest reporting. The kid, whose name I didn’t write down, is apparently an aspiring film maker, which is fine with me. I’d rather have him doing that than working in the Justice Department. Scott Simon, who seldom passes up an opportunity for sucking up to the Republican establishment, asked Hanna Rosin if there was any difference between a far-right-wing, fundamentalist christian* making a movie advocating a position and Robert Redford making a movie advocating a position. Rosin, answering like a true WaPo, New Republic hack, said that there wasn’t any difference between Robert Redford making a movie advocating his POV and an adherent of the Patrick Henry College** mind-set making an advocacy movie.
Concentrating on the form instead of the content and it's predictable results is a favorite tactic of hack media. By pretending that the content of the two points of view are equivalent you can save yourself mentioning some career hindering reality. There is all the world of difference between advocating civil rights for gay people, women having control of their bodies, economic equality, etc. and trying to “take back the country” in order to deny civil rights and to impose a rigid, anti-freedom agenda on the unwilling. Rosin and Simon pretend to not be able to see the difference but anyone with a brain and the slightest hint of intellectual honesty would see that the two are entirely different. The effects of Robert Redford’s ideas becoming law and the country living under the ideas expressed in the Patrick Henry College’s required “affirmations” would be quite real in a way the form alone doesn’t reveal. And both of these hacks know it.
It has been my experience that when you make this point the next part of the discussion most often goes to questions of legal equity, of the law not making a distinction between the two POVs. Ideally, that is how THE LAW should treat people but since when were journalists or anyone else, for that matter, restricted in their personal judgements of peoples’ ideas? And, it’s also my experience that this phony even-handedness is applied quite unevenly. The dishonesty of a lot of the media in the United States stems from its assertion that the left is supposed to not make those kinds of distinctions but it is a rule that has never been applied to the right.
Hanna Rosin and Scott Simon seemed to be concerned with whether the product of Patrick Henry College believes that Jews go to hell. I, somehow, had the feeling that neither Rosin or Simon was really worried about going to hell, I suspect most people aren’t. But the matter of who is going to hell isn’t something that is in the hands of the “spearheads” of Patrick Henry College and unless you are on your deathbed it’s not a matter of imminent danger. The rights of women, gay people, etc. ARE decidedly in the hands of these christian zealots, whose representation in the Bush junta is rather enormous considering the size of the student population. They are making policy here and now. Pretending that they are cute, cuddly, friendly and harmless might be good for a hack journalist betting on the continued political and economic power of the very far right, but it’s hardly reporting the facts.
* I have read the gospels, I fail to see the teachings of Jesus in the program of the fundamentalists who pretend to base their activities on his words. I will not capitalize the word for them.
** For those who aren’t aware of the place, for once I’d recommend Wiki as the place to begin finding out about the place. Hanna Rosin might not find it disturbing, I suspect most of the people who read this will. I’ve got a feeling that Patrick Henry, a vehement critic of the church and its establishment would protest in the strongest possible way if he knew his name had been given to a place so at odds with his ideas.