Defining the Debate
Note: This was originally posted to my Tumblr blog on 26 Oct 2010.
Against my better judgement I stopped by CNN.com to see what was going on in the world of the traditional media (I started getting part of my news from CNN.com when I was in high school, old habits die hard).
I found an article about a (conservative) newspaper in New Hampshire (where gay marriage is legal) that has refused to print a marriage announcement for a gay couple.
Gay Couple: "You guys are the biggest paper in the area and we want to announce our pending nuptials to the widest audience possible."
Newspaper: "You're both dudes, sorry, no dice."
Gay Couple: "Are you kidding? This is New Hampshire not Alabama!"
Newspaper: "Sorry, First Amendment, we don't like gay marriage, never have, never will."
Fine. Whatever. We can't expect everyone to agree all the time. As far as I can tell everyone acted pretty much like grown-ups.
Then I get to the end of the article...
In what seems to be part of CNN's last desperate attempt to stay relevant, they always ask the readers to comment on the stories, usually by posing a question or presenting a controversy. This article was no exception:
What do you think? Should the paper give gay couples the same chance to announce their weddings? Or does freedom of the press override that, and allow the newspaper to make the decision it did? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Read it again.
Is CNN really suggesting that if a person feels the newspaper should print the announcement then they cannot logically believe that the paper has a constitutional right not to print the announcement?
Personally, I answered "yes" to both questions. Yes, the paper's policies (along with, I suspect, its editors) are clearly bigoted and illogical. And yes, they have a constitutional right to print or not print whatever they see fit.
Apparently I'm a crazy person.
This is part of the reason our political dialog is so muddled and full of stupid statements. The traditional media (and the part of the modern media that is dedicated to political hit jobs) tells us that certain ideas can't go together.
We are told that a person can't believe that people should be free and that people should be free to do things that are wrong. We are told that we can't look down on the government and its officials while honoring our country and those who have sacrificed for it. Most of all, we are told that we must pick a side, Democrat or Republican, and if we don't we are labeled "undecided" voters; which of course implies that we will eventually pick a side.
In short, the media improperly characterizes the actual questions and controversies under debate.
In this case the CNN writer either failed to understand the English language as it is most commonly used, or failed to clearly and logically identify the actual issues at the heart of the controversy.
The second is a more frightening (and more likely, in my opinion) possibility. But either way, why would anyone trust these people to inform them about the important goings-on of the world?