Sunday, September 06, 2009

Susceptible Nazis and bad journalism

A short while ago, I read an article in the Washington Post titled: Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile.

With that title, you can kinda guess where this is going. WaPo staff writer Monica Hesse talks about Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM... ya, rly).
Brian Brown speaks to these people (moderates). He has a master's degree from Oxford, and completed course work for a doctorate in history from UCLA. He shoulders the accusations of bigotry; it's horrible when people say that your life's mission is actually just prejudice. He tries to help people see that opposing gay
marriage does not make them bigots, that the argument should have nothing to do
with hate or fear, and everything to do with history and tradition.
The reason Brian Brown is so effective is that he is pleasantly, ruthlessly sane.

Hesse goes on to write the portrait of a man we should pay attention to. Not because he's right, but because he's so gosh darn nice and polite... Sorry, but there's nothing "sane" about bigotry.
"I have gay people who are friends and family," he says. "We can disagree on all sorts of things and still care about each other." And later, "Of course, I have to take their arguments seriously. This issue is important. Ideas have consequences."

Awww, see? He's got gay friends, so he can't be a bad person. The article goes on like that for 4 pages. It's pukerrific.

Anyway, I wrote to Monica Hesse and asked her: "Are you smoking crack, a lazy journalist or are you a bigot yourself?" I didn't really care about getting an answer, I just wanted to give her my two cents. But lo and behold, I got a reply!
Thanks for writing. I'm sorry it's taken me a few days to get back to you. I was out of the office last week and am just checking email for the first time in several days.

I expected that I would return to some angry emails about this article. To be perfectly honest, I thought they would come from anti-gay marriage conservatives. This is what I thought they would say: "How dare you write such a snide article on Brian Brown."

It's possible to read my piece and come away thinking, "Brian Brown is a nice guy whose beliefs are correct." Another interpretation could be that Brown's "niceness" is precisely what makes him so threatening to the pro- same sex marriage movement. "Nice" does not equal "right" after all. And sometimes apparent sanity is more dangerous than ranting and raving.

I could have quoted several pro- same sex marriage supporters saying precisely this. I interviewed several of them -- Joe Solomese at the HRC was, as usual, articulate and helpful. Ultimately, I thought the piece would have more impact if the reader heard Brian's voice. They could then decide for themselves whether they found his arguments persuasive, or whether they found his "rationality" chilling, absurd and irrational. It's impossible to tell, before an article is published, how readers will interpret the tone of an article. A lot of factors can influence reader's interpretations--the headline, for example (I don't write my own headlines, and had I been in the office I probably would have protested this one).

For better or worse, I try to keep my personal views and biases out of any article I write. But since I've gotten several emails from people accusing me of attempting to carry out a homophobic agenda, you may or may not find this useful: My current partner is a man. Before him, my partner of two years was a woman, with whom I discussed health insurance, kids, houses, and marriage. You can bet that I found the fact that our marriage wouldn't have been legal to be wrong as heck. That doesn't mean that what NOM is trying to do and how they are trying to do it are not important to hear about.

Again, thanks for writing.

Monica

What exactly was snide about her article? But it's the last paragraph that fucking kills me. Can we take behind the shed this notion that journalists are supposed to be virgin births of holy objectivity? Did these guys learned nothing from the past 8 years??? If you're on FOX News and wanna bitch about hippies and fags, that's fair and balanced. But if you wanna call a bigot a bigot, oh shit, that's a leftist liberal bias and you're making baby Jesus cry. So let's be polite and non-judgemental towards the people who hate us and our modern civilization. And she's bisexual too. Which answers my question, she's a lazy journalist.

Now, since she doesn't deny smoking crack, I'm gonna guess she either does also smoke crack, or this is a copy/paste. Which means she probably received a lot of angry mail. Which she did, as confirmed by an article from the WaPo's ombudsman:
'Sanity & a Smile' and an Outpouring of Rage

The Post recently featured a story by reporter Monica Hesse that ran on the front of the Style section while she was on vacation. The day before returning, she logged on to check e-mails -- and wept.

OMGs, she cried??? Maybe you need to write for People or the National Enquirer. The ombudsman goes on the explain that the article was probably poorly written, but Monica is such a good writer and we're being mean to her. Something's not right here...

Anyway, one thing seems clear from reading Hesse's reply and the ombudsman's explanation. They were sure the criticism would come from the right. They made the portrait of a bigot, but they were so afraid of pissing off said bigots that they went soft on him. As I said above, this is sadly classic mainstream journalism. The hippies are right, but they smell; at least the Nazis are clean.

Which makes me think of a character in Inglorious Basterds: private Fredrick Zoller, a German sniper who becomes famous for killing 300 allied soldiers. In the film, Zoller falls in love with a French girl who's secretly a Jew. So of course the girl wants nothing to do with that Nazi creep, but Zoller doesn't get it. Sure, they might have different views, him being the occupier and her the occupied, but he's such a Nice Guy®.

This fascinates me because it's something you often see with these people. You can't eat your cake and eat too. You can't hate your neighbor and then expect them to invite your at their BBQ. You can't sign a public petition against gay marriage and then ask for the list to be private. "yeah but I have gay and black friends!" Well I suspect your concept of friendship is probably a lot different than mine.

Also, the Washington Post sucks balls.

5 Comments:

Blogger Kai v3.0 said...

There's a reason I only read the comics section.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

100% agreed the papers only good for 2 things now of days, to start my BBQ Fire and to read the daily comic strips

8:14 PM  
Blogger Kai v3.0 said...

Don't forget the movie listings and showtimes.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes your right once more... ^^

11:45 AM  
Blogger ward said...

Objectivity is just a part of good journalism.

What has happened here is not a case of objectivity but sanitization. The writer took what she was going to say and replaced it with "nice" words. Truth be told, I've done this before, and I had to fool myself into thinking I was using irony to do it.

Example: "The PTC is such a reasonable organization, whose concerns regarding the content on television are very legitimate and entirely sane."

9:57 PM  

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