The elite media’s disdain for faith.
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While this weird essay contains no direct insult to any particular faith by name, its whole subject matter, in such a forum, amounts to a deliberate flouting of the morals important to just about every faith tradition on earth. How a newspaper editor approved it is beyond belief. The deliberate nose-thumbing at social and religious mores is astonishing.
But, as has been shown by a spate of post-election columns even by nominal “conservatives” blasting the “religious right” without even evincing the slightest understanding of who the religious right’s adherents are or what they actually believe, this sort of thing is par for the course in the establishment media. When the media isn’t obliviously offending traditionalists, it is outright sneering at them, insulting them, or even describing them in terms usually reserved for evildoers like the Red Brigades or the Gestapo.
NINE DAYS AFTER the Post’s one-two punch, the Wall Street Journal ran a book review by Vincent Carroll of the Rocky Mountain News of a book called Blind Spot, a collection of essays well described by the book’s subtitle: “When Journalists Don’t Get Religion.” Carroll cites a number of the book’s examples of journalists treating faith and religion with about the same level of understanding as an ordinary American would show for Egyptian hieroglyphics. When jihadist terrorists, for example, target Jewish centers or kill Christian hostages while sparing Muslim ones, news outlets such as the New York Times or CNN International proclaim that the terrorists’ motives were unclear.
As an example of missing the obvious, that’s akin to reporting that it is unclear why Red Sox fans boo when a Yankee star steps to the plate. But for the establishment media, it’s a common occurrence. The media not only fails to understand basic things about religions and the motives of various religiously driven newsmakers, but doesn’t even appear to want to understand.
As Carroll concludes in his review, the result isn’t merely a snubbing of the faithful, but a failure of basic standards of journalistic competence. Failure at least to understand religion and to take it seriously means, Carroll writes, that “the news media will continue to miss a vast dimension of mankind’s story.”
This state of affairs is nothing new, of course, but the problem seems to have become even worse, if possible, than it was in 1993 when the Post infamously described Evangelicals as being overwhelmingly “poor, uneducated and easy to command.” It was in the same year, I believe (my files have gotten misplaced, but the quotation is seared in my memory), that one of the major new magazines (I think Newsweek) featured a lengthy article well summed up by its subtitle: “The Surprising Unsecularity of the American Public.” Note that “secularity” is seen as the norm (despite the fact that 90 percent or so of Americans continually call themselves at least somewhat religious), so that the magazine felt compelled to invent the ungainly word “unsecularity” rather than use a perfectly good, and more accurate, word such as “faithfulness” or even “religiosity.”
And for anybody who has spent more than about three months in these United States to find our level of faith “surprising” is for that person not just to be so unobservant as to be wholly unsuited for reporting, but to be almost willfully blind and deaf to the religious dimension of the lives most Americans lead.
Such willful blindness amounts either to a fundamental dishonesty or to a fundamental failure of both the imagination and the empirical skill-set any journalist should boast — or to a combination of all three of those fundamental flaws.
Such flaws amount to failures of character or training, or both. On the training side, the establishment media today increasingly reserves its jobs for highly degreed graduates of famous colleges. Indeed, in Deborah Howell’s farewell column as the Washington Post’s ombudsman last Sunday, she acknowledged a growing problem: “Now journalists are highly trained, mobile and, especially in Washington, more elite. We make a lot more money, drive better cars and have nicer homes. Some of us think we’re just a little more special than some of the folks we want to buy the paper or read us online.”
That superciliousness, that false feeling of superiority, ought not be what is produced by a liberal education. And it raises a deceptively probing question. It was a question asked several times in LWW by the old professor who was amazed that some of the Pevensie children refused to believe the reality of magic occurring almost under their noses.
“Bless me,” said the Professor, “what do they teach them at these schools?”
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