"Antipathy Toward Homosexuality" Among Christian Conservatives?
The title of contributing writer Russell Shorto's predictably slanted cover story on gay marriage for the Sunday Magazine poses the question: "What's the Movement to Outlaw Gay Marriage Really About?"
The answer: Traditional-marriage advocates think homosexuality is a disease, of course. That theme is made clear in the story's subhead: "Maryland's anti-gay-marriage crusaders share this with organizers nationwide: They say they are fighting a disease."
Shorto makes a jaunt to the headquarters of the Family Research Council and notes a novel display case: "This shrine to marriage as a heterosexual, Judeo-Christian institution is a totem of conservative Christianity's mighty political wing and a flag marking its territorial gains in what its leaders see as a decisive battle in the culture war."
There are more loaded labels: "But as I learned spending time among the cultural conservatives who are leading the anti-gay-marriage charge, they have their own reasons for doing so, which are based on their reading of the Bible, their views about both homosexuality and the institution of marriage and the political force behind the issue."
Then Shorto moves in for the kill: "Their passion comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: it seeks to spread itself."
He manages to use the term "conservative" when describing Maryland's politics: "I could have gone to any of these places to learn how the people who are most deeply opposed to gay marriage think. But Maryland is an interesting combination: it is traditionally a blue state, but it has a strong core of social conservatism. There is a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled State Legislature. And the A.C.L.U.-backed lawsuits filed by gay couples have fanned the flames of activism and outrage."
In all, the term conservative comes up 23 times in the long cover story. Liberal? Zero. This in a story involving gay marriage and the ACLU.
"The other main avenue by which homosexuality tries to propagate itself, in this view, is by indoctrinating children via the education system. Conservative Christian groups in many states - including, currently, Maryland - have protested efforts to introduce sexual orientation as a topic in school curriculums."
What Shorto doesn't mention: A judge agreed with them, as did the school board, which scrapped the proposed curriculum after the judge found it may violate constitutional protection of free speech and religious freedom.
Shorto claims: "Gay rights leaders say that gay marriage has become useful for their counterparts on the religious right in part because it allows them to tap into an antipathy toward homosexuality."
He appears to agree: "In this calculation, gay marriage serves as a vessel for containing opinions that many social conservatives have but which in the past they might have felt were socially unacceptable to voice. Robert Knight, the director of the Culture and Family Institute of Concerned Women for America, conceded as much. 'People feel liberated,' he said. 'They feel like we don't have to go along with this stuff anymore, the idea that we're repressed backwater religious zealots just for wanting a decent society in which our children can thrive. It's O.K. today to say that marriage is between a man and a woman. Saying so does not make you a hater or bigot.' Indeed, a constant refrain among the anti-gay-marriage forces is that they are motivated not by hate but by love."
Later, Shorto casually equates the civil rights movement with gay rights: "The Lawyers' Mall, with a statue of Thurgood Marshall as its centerpiece, is the logical place for such rallies, so you have to put it down to coincidence that the crowd was grouped around a figure of the Supreme Court justice most identified with the extension of rights to minorities."
Lastly, there's an attempt (condescending enough to be insulting) at mainstreaming a gay family: "I stopped in at the Baltimore home of the lead plaintiffs, Lisa Polyak and Gita Deane, a lesbian couple who have been together for more than 20 years and have two daughters.Their quaint house is white-painted brick with a picket fence. The hardwood floors are covered with Oriental rugs; the living-room bookshelf is crammed with kids' books and photo albums.If you are one of the many millions of people who are vaguely opposed to gay marriage - who perhaps have no problem with homosexuality but also think marriage is simply a uniquely male-female enterprise - sitting in Polyak and Deane's living room might put that notion to the test. Watching their kids play, listening to stories of how, for their family, small things like taking a child to the pediatrician can become huge headaches, you might come around to thinking that this is, after all, a matter of giving a particular minority certain basic rights and along with them legitimacy and stability."
Again, there's the automatic equating of gay marriage with civil rights: "When I last spoke with Lisa Polyak, she said she was pleased that the Legislature had shown courage in addressing the civil rights of gay couples but sickened that conservative activists and the state's governor wanted to deny them those rights."
Dawn Eden points out Shorto's snobby contrasts: "When [a couple's] fellow traditional-marriage activists come over to meet Shorto, the Clarks prepare quite a spread: 'sliced lunch meats, hamburger buns, tomato and onion slices, bowls of pretzels and chips, cookies and several two-quart plastic bottles of soda.' What, no sushi? Guess there's no Dean & Deluca in the Clarks' little '70s time-warp nabe. Contrast Shorto's descriptions of the Clarks and Grays with that of the one homosexual couple he spotlights."
Eden concludes: "The point is not that conservative Christians are in fact icons of hip. The point is that Shorto feels a clear need to stress their gaucherie (like leaving Christmas lights up) in order to make them look foolish. If a news article stereotyped homosexuals the way that the Times and many other media outlets regularly stereotype Christians, gay-rights advocates would quake with rage."
For Shorto's full "anti-gay" expose, click here:
Bill Moyers, Liberal? Where's the Proof?
In Saturday's "Official Had Aide Send Data to White House," PBS beat reporter Stephen Labaton reveals: "E-mail messages obtained by investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting show that its chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, extensively consulted a White House official shortly before she joined the corporation about creating an ombudsman's office to monitor the balance and objectivity of public television and radio programs."
In another apparently disturbing development, he notes: "Investigators are examining the role played by the White House in the creation of the ombudsman's office at the corporation, an office Mr. Tomlinson said he advanced as part of a broader effort to ensure balance and objectivity in programming. Executives in public television and radio have said his actions threatened their editorial independence. Under investigation are $14,170 in contracts signed by Mr. Tomlinson with an Indiana man who monitored the political leanings of the guests on 'Now' when Bill Moyers was its host."
To demonstrate that the research done by the "Indiana man" was faulty, Labaton provides a single example, care of a liberal Democrat: "In a little-noticed speech on the floor of the Senate this week, Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said that in response to his request for the reports on the 'Now' program, Mr. Tomlinson provided him with the raw data from reports. Mr. Dorgan said that Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, was classified in the data as a 'liberal' for an appearance on a segment of a show that questioned the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq. Mr. Hagel is considered a mainstream conservative with a maverick streak and a willingness to criticize the White House."
In Tuesday's follow-up, in which he reveals more about the "Now" project, Labaton repeats the anecdote and uses nearly identical sentence to describe "maverick" Hagel: "Last week Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said that in response to a request, Mr. Tomlinson sent data from Mr. Mann's reports. Mr. Dorgan said that data concluded in one episode of 'Now' that Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, was a 'liberal' because he questioned the White House policy on Iraq and that a second 'Now' segment on financial waste at the Pentagon was 'anti-Defense.' Mr. Hagel is known as a mainstream conservative member of the Senate and a maverick who has at times been critical of the Bush administration."
If those are the most blatant anomalies Sen. Dorgan could come up with, the data must be pretty sound. And did Hagel make liberal-sounding arguments when he questioned White House policy on "Now"? Labaton doesn't say.
Here's a recent quote from "mainstream conservative" Hagel about Iraq, from US News & World Report: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."
It's particularly odd for the Times to get picky about ideological labeling, givenit's long-standing aversion to admitting that liberals exist.
Returning to Tuesday's scoop about the "Now" project ("Public Broadcasting Monitor Had Worked at Center Founded by Conservatives"), Labaton writes breathlessly: "A researcher retained secretly by the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to monitor the 'Now' program with Bill Moyers for political objectivity last year, worked for 20 years at a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union and a conservative columnist, an official at the journalism center said on Monday. The decision by the chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, to retain the researcher, Fred Mann, without the knowledge of the corporation's board, to report on the political leanings of the guests of 'Now' is one of several issues under investigation by the corporation's inspector general."
Later he briefly gets around to conservative complaints, but while he labels "conservatives," ultra-liberal BillMoyers is left untagged as just plain old "Mr. Moyers": "Mr. Moyers has been a source of agitation for Mr. Tomlinson and other conservatives. They say that 'Now' under Mr. Moyers (who left the show last year and was replaced by David Brancaccio) was consistently critical of Republicans and the Bush administration."
For Saturday's story, click here:
For Tuesday's follow-up, click here: