Dumb, Uneducated, And Eager To Deceive: Media Coverage Of Religious Liberty In A Nutshell
Most Reporters Are Simply Too Ignorant To Handle The Job
By Mollie Hemingway
February 28, 2014
In the aftermath of the abominable media coverage of Arizona’s religious liberty bill, an editor shared his hypothesis that journalists care about freedom of speech and of the press because they practice them. And journalists don’t care about freedom of religion because they don’t.
But one of the most interesting things about modern media’s deep hostility toward the religious, their religions, and religious liberty in general is that press freedom in America is rooted in religion.
The John Peter Zenger case of 1735, argued successfully by Andrew Hamilton, wasn’t just an important legal event but an important symbolic event in the development of American freedom of expression. We remember Hamilton’s now-famous plea that truth should be admitted as a defense.
But perhaps we don’t understand that the members of the jury ruled in favor of press freedom because of their belief in the foundational importance of religion and religious liberty. The Zenger press freedom case was a “disputation on truth and on how truth is revealed to man,” noted David Paul Nord in 2006′s “A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers.” This is another way of saying “religion.” In the Cato letters printed in Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal, it was argued that each individual had not just the right but the duty to seek truth in his own way. From the book (emphasis mine):
“Every man’s religion is his own,” Cato declared, “nor can the religion of any man, of what nature or figure soever, be the religion of another man, unless he also chooses it; which action utterly excludes all force, power or government.”
The media now call people who agree with this notion “bigots” or “Jim Crow” types. Sometimes they’re more nuanced and just write shockingly biased articles about religious liberty issues. (My favorite was the time a media outlet — Religion News Service, of all places — defiantly put scare quotes around “religious liberty” and then defended the obnoxious practice.)
Anyway, back when individual reason and conscience were the way to divine truth, the authority of human law could never be absolute. Nord wrote that Americans have been “strangely intolerant libertarians, often suppressing individual liberties in the name of a more transcendent freedom.” Or we used to be, at least. Now we hear from some of media’s biggest elites that transcendent freedoms are to be obliterated in favor of individual liberties, and that opposition to this notion is the real enemy. More on that in a bit.
The First Amendment begins with religious liberty because (and even our non-traditionally religious Founders agreed with this), all freedom of expression — speech, press, assembly, etc. — is rooted in the importance of man determining truth according to his own conscience.
So What’s That Have To Do With Our Modern Media?
Moving forward nearly 300 years, we have a press that loathes and works actively to suppress this religious liberty, as confident in being on the “right side of history” as they are ignorant of natural rights, history, religion and basic civility.
A broad religious liberty bill — renamed by a juvenile and nakedly activist press as “anti-gay” — gives us a good opportunity to see this dynamic in action.
Perhaps a framework for understanding the truth-avoiding goat rodeo the media participated in is in order. Here’s one provided by Jon Swerens, which he calls the “OOOOOPSI” model:
Opportunity: First, we need a hot-button event that is a proper catalyst for the cycle. Recent examples were supplied by Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Susan G. Komen, and now, Arizona’s proposed law.
Outrage: Next, those on the opposite side of the culture wars make a lot of noise about “fairness” and “bigotry” and “tolerance.” Maybe they have a point, or maybe not, but it’s an important step in the news cycle.
Opposition: Then, the national media by and large adopts the definitions brought to them by the outraged. For example, in this week’s Arizona story, the media labeled the bill “anti-gay,” without the scare quotes. Such labeling was a tremendous victory for the outraged.
Oversimplification: As a part of its coverage, the media fails to add any nuance to the debate or closely examine the actual facts of what’s being argued, preferring to cover the horse race of two competing interests beating each other up.
Overreach: At some point, a mainline media outlet gets too cocky and goes a step too far in its boosterism. Other media momentarily shrink back in embarrassment.
Pendulum: Prompted by this misstep, a few media commentators rub their chins and publish thoughtful analysis pieces that ask if everyone is being a little too hard on the accused. The accused is still wrong, mind you, but we can be nicer about it.
Silence: After this, coverage ceases as the nation’s attention runs elsewhere.
Introspection: Finally, months later, on a Sunday news program, journalists will gather and ruminate about how they unfairly overstated one side of the debate. They pledge to do better next time.
Let’s agree to pretend that the media ever hit the Introspection stage and let’s also set aside the Opportunity and Outrage issues. Note the key point in “Opposition,” which is that the media adopt the labels of one side in a dispute. This couldn’t be more common, which explains why “religious liberty” gets scare quoted but “same-sex marriage” does not. In most cases, the media only scare quote those things they think are highly debatable or untrue. So even though religious liberty is fairly well ensconced in the Constitution and in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and what not, it gets scare quotes. “Abortion rights,” which opponents believe is an oxymoron since no one actually has the right to take the life of another, even if the Supreme Court of the United States say otherwise? Well, missy, that’s settled law. And if you’re confused about it, you can ask the Susan G. Komen Foundation what we in the media do to people who don’t toe the line. We destroy them… for fun. On this issue, we help our friends (Wendy Davis, Kermit Gosnell) and we destroy our enemies (War on Women, anyone?).
Or take marriage, which natural marriage supporters believe is a euphemism, more or less, for “penis+vagina=elaborate consequences.” So for them, “same-sex marriage” is an ontological impossibility, or at the very least an issue on which some thought should go into the consequences of redefining that equation. After the media malpractice on this issue, one wonders if we’ve been fully brainwashed away from even understanding this topic in any way. Basically, some people, known colloquially as “all people throughout all space and time in all religions and lands until 15 minutes ago,” believed that marriage was a nice way of saying “men and women are different and complementary and this is the way we organize their relationship in all its complexity, including all the norms and benefits and dangers that occur when a penis enters a vagina.” Marriage used to be the way we said that, more or less. And the penis and vagina parts are actually key to this entire shebang. See: human history. Or, if you are in any way confused about this, ponder how your own existence came about. Hint: penis and vagina. In any event, it’s easier to remove scare quotes, adopt the language, and hunt down and vilify all those who disagree.
For a particularly crafty look, here’s CNN redefining religious liberty not as “religious liberty” but as the “‘freedom’ to discriminate.” Brilliant. Even if, you know, terrifying and Orwellian. And I do mean Orwellian. Here he is on the matter:
At any given moment, there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas, which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that, or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it . . . [And] anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, whether in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.Continuedhttp://thefederalist.com/2014/02/28/dumb-uneducated-and-eager-to-deceive-media-coverage-of-religious-liberty-in-a-nutshell/