There is one talent the liberal believes he possesses that the conservative lacks. It is an appreciation of "the other," an understanding of and appreciation for society's outcasts. Yet when it comes to addressing the beliefs of conservatives, particularly the Christian ones, it's an altogether different story. For so many liberals, Christian conservatives are there only to be caricatured as dangerous, superstitious tyrants.
Reporters are especially burdened with the conceit of superiority. After all, they've seen all the hard-knock lives and plumbed the depths of the human condition. But give them the challenge of getting to understand Christian conservatives and they just can't get their highly rational brains around it.
Every day, we see little examples of the chasm between the media and the religious right. Proof? The Family Research Council couldn't get an ad against gay marriage placed in California newspapers because it contains fire-in-a-movie-house words like ... "homosexual activists." The gay-marriage push has now stalled a bit there, but who's pushing gay marriage in California? It is the homosexual lobby which is, by definition, activist. Armed with millions of dollars from all their Hollywood friends, they can push their agenda, and no one is allowed to call them precisely, even objectively, what they are.
The Traditional Values Coalition received a too-typical call from National Public Radio reporter David Kestenbaum. He asked: Have you gotten a call from the FBI in their anthrax investigation? Puzzled by the question, they said no, and asked why. Kestenbaum's reason: Since Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy had gotten anthrax letters, and TVC had protested Daschle and Leahy when they began dropping the phrase "so help me God" when swearing in witnesses at hearings, and well, NPR put two and two together. Kestenbaum was comfortable enough with this nutty conspiracy theory to put it out on the radio without any proof, courtesy of the American taxpayers.
But these anecdotes are just morsels next to the writings of Rick Weiss of the Washington Post, who, like Kestenbaum, fashions himself as an expert on health and science. In the middle of a "news" story on the new White House commission on bioethics, Weiss announced that the ethical battlefield over new scientific frontiers was getting ever more complex: "In November, researchers announced that they had made the first human embryo clones, giving immediacy to warnings by religious conservatives and others that science is no longer serving the nation's moral will." So far, okay - though the news sent shivers down many spines, not just those of religious conservatives.
But in the very next sentence, Weiss took a horrifying fact and made a very insulting turn: "At the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives who were denounced for imposing their moral code on others."
What is it with the Washington Post? Almost exactly nine years after reporter Michael Weisskopf made a catch phrase out of calling the Christian right "poor, uneducated, and easy to command," the Post still has all the sensitivity and brains of Howard Stern. Charles Krauthammer, Leon Kass, or George W. Bush are morally equal to Osama bin Laden?
As if that didn't already mix a heady cocktail of malice and ignorance, Weiss declared he's found experts who said "if the new panel supports the other major line of reasoning - that human embryos are inherently deserving of protections - such support could legitimize an effort to codify fundamentalist views into law." It apparently does not matter whether you believe in God or not, or whether you are Catholic, Jewish, or Mormon. If you believe a human embryo is human, and not a laboratory rat, you're Taliban - a "fundamentalist."
What insinuating sentences like these reveal is the liberal fear that somewhere, someone is letting his faith inform his political views. Religion is swell if it leads the civil rights revolution, but don't bring that God stuff into our inexorable march into the glorious reign of Science, free of any fog-bound fundamentalist impediments. But it is the secularist arrogance of Weiss that foregoes journalistic rigor and leaves in its place only sloppiness and ill will.
The real danger for these liberals in the coming months is that America will weigh the latest scientific and ethical arguments and decide that not only are human embryo farms morally repugnant, but that research on human embryos, just like all the huzzahs over fetal tissue research, could be a scientific dead end, too. Certainly, if scientists discover that the earliest human life isn't destined for profitable exploitation, scientific minds like Weiss's won't conclude that in that design might rest the hands of God.