Sunday, April 2, 2017

And at one time, these two newspapers were actually worthy of their stature

Not anymore.

Take the case of the Washington Post's  underhanded distortion of the remarks of a House member from Texas:

The headline from the Washington Post couldn’t have been more clear: “GOP Lawmaker: The Bible says the unemployed ‘shall not eat.” Shocking, right? Judging by the Washington Post’s reporting, either this lawmaker is a real jerk, God is a real jerk for hating people without jobs, or maybe even they’re both jerks.
Here’s what the newspaper wrote about Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.):
One lawmaker is citing a godly reference to justify changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) recently quoted the New Testament to question the strength of current work requirements.

The biblical passage, 2 Thessalonians 3-10, was a rebuttal to one of the hearing’s expert witnesses, a representative of the Jewish anti-hunger group MAZON. (He referenced Leviticus.) It is also a familiar refrain to anyone who has watched past debates about SNAP.

House Republicans have historically cited the verse — “if a man will not work, he shall not eat” — as justification for cutting some adults’ SNAP benefits. Arrington referenced the verse in a discussion about increasing the work requirements for unemployed adults on the food stamp program. But critics say that advances a pernicious myth about the unemployed who receive SNAP.
There are a few problems, however, with that story from Washington Post reporter Caitlin Dewey: the lawmaker never said that, the Bible never says that, and the Washington Post article never even quotes the Texas Republican as saying that. In fact, the article doesn’t quote Arrington a single time. Not one word. Because democracy dies in darkness, or something.
Not only did Arrington not disagree with the witness who quoted passages from Leviticus requiring the Israelites to leave harvest gleanings in the field for sojourners and the poor, Arrington actually affirmed him and noted that the passage in question is “a great reflection on the character of God and the compassion of God’s heart.” Here’s what Arrington really said:
I did hear, Mr. Protas, your opening remarks where you quoted Leviticus, I believe, and I think that’s a great reflection on the character of God and the compassion of God’s heart and how we ought to reflect that compassion in our lives.

But, there’s also, the scripture tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'” And then he goes on to say, “We hear that some among you are idle.”

I think that every American, Republican or Democrat, wants to help the neediest among us. And I think it’s a reasonable expectation that we have work requirements. I think that gives more credibility quite frankly, to SNAP. Tell me what is a reasonable and responsible work requirement as part of the SNAP program?
At no point did Arrington ever declare that the Bible requires that the unemployed shall not eat. Not once. At no point did Arrington ever say, “The Bible says the unemployed shall not eat.”
Rather, the Texas congressman noted to the witness at his hearing that in addition to commanding God’s people to leave a share of their harvest for the needy to pick up and eat as they moved through the fields, the Bible tells Christ’s disciples not to allow idleness to make them a burden on their fellow Christians. Paul’s letter to the church in Thessaloniki, after all, was not a directive to government officials in Rome, but an exhortation to his fellow followers of Christ in Greece.
You wouldn’t know any of that if you read the Washington Post’s dishonest mischaracterization of what Arrington said, because the Washington Post refused to tell you what Arrington actually said. 
Then there's the case of the New York Times reporter who hasn't even a grade-schooler's grans pf the Constitution:

On Thursday, the New York Times published an article on a vote in the Senate that was headlined: “Senate Lets States Defund Clinics That Perform Abortions.” The article, by Jennifer Steinhauer, bitterly described how a measure under the Congressional Review Act passed the Senate, with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence. A reader pointed out that a correction in yesterday’s Times admitted that the reporter (and any editor who may have read the piece prior to publication) lack a high-school level knowledge of the Constitution:
Correction: March 30, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the circumstances in which the vice president of the United States can cast a vote in the Senate. He can vote only to break a tie, not to vote on significant policy measures that are short 60 votes.
The original version of the article reveals multiple levels of ignorance. Apart from not knowing the Vice President’s constitutional role in the Senate, did the reporter really believe that the Constitution includes a reference to “significant policy measures” on which the Vice President can vote? And she apparently thought that the Senate’s current filibuster rule is embedded in the Constitution.
This is reminiscent of the occasion when the Times bungled the process for amending the Constitution, and then couldn’t even get it right in its subsequent correction.
But that’s not all! The Times also grossly mischaracterizes the Congressional Review Act, the statute under which yesterday’s vote took place:
The measure fell under a somewhat obscure and, until recently, rarely used Congressional Review Act that allows a new Congress to undo actions of the old Congress during the first few months of the year.
Again, the Times’s ignorance is appalling. The Congressional Review Act has nothing to do with “undo[ing] actions of the old Congress.” (A current Congress can always undo the actions of any past Congress, if it has the votes and the president’s signature.) Rather, the CRA provides a procedure whereby Congress can disapprove and nullify regulatory rules issued by federal agencies. It is incredible that the Times employs a reporter who writes for its “Politics” section and does not know this.
The reporter’s error is all the more egregious, since her own article quotes Senator Joni Ernst, who correctly stated the nature of the vote:
“It should be the right of our states to allocate sub-grants under the Title X program in the way that best fits the needs of the people living there,” she said. “Unfortunately, like many other rules issued during the Obama administration, this rule attempted to empower federal bureaucrats in Washington and silence our states.”
This second error has not yet been corrected by the Times.

As someone who makes his living as a freelance writer, I have to believe any editor I've ever written for would rake me over the coals for these kinds of lapses.

But maybe I assume way too much esteem for objectivity on their part. Or maybe my own view that one ought to exhibit basic knowledge of the Bible and the Constitution to be a functioning writer keeps me from finding myself in situations in which I'd find out.

But if the NYT and the WaPo are still widely regarded as standard-bearers, we are in deep trouble.


  1. The NYT printed a correction. Their readers usually keep them in somewhat of a line I personally will continue to read both great newspapers, more for their coverage of everything that's not domestic politics. Critical readers read everything with open minds, seasoned by a grain of salt. If they're wrong they usually promptly admit it. That's more than we get from many politicians.

  2. Neither of these examples are merely about getting facts wrong. They demonstrate a discernible agenda.

  3. I've read their Book Review section since 1971 and I dig it. Here's one to peruse, it's only a doutle check minor venial sin

  4. Sounds interesting, but doesn't affect the point of this post.

  5. Mr. Dings oft has tried to inform the bloggie that it should all be mere Mammon to him.

    "One major question dominates FitzGerald’s treatment, and it is suggested by her subtitle. Why should the faithful try to shape America at all? To a strong believer, God’s kingdom is the one that matters, and it is not of this world; America, from such a perspective, is just a tiny speck in a vast world unknowable to us. Get right with the Lord, not the Republican Party."


  6. Sounds interesting but it really seems tangential at best to the issue this post deals with.

  7. Actually the last paragraph of Wolfe's review bolsters my overall case, characterizing as it does evangelical leaders as "lust[ing] for power" and - this one's a doozy, especially as it comes with no substantiation "worshipping the state." The cat is out of the bag at that point. Then, when one looks at the kinds of journals he has tended to write for - The New Republic, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, NYT & WaPo - one gets the overall sense of the odor wafting off his orientation.

  8. Using the phrases lusting for power and worshiping the state is mere descriptive writing. This is a book review. And where the writer writes might point to a liberal bias, but what's wrong with that? You opinionate and exaggerate all over the place here, only with a conservative bias.

  9. My point is that you can count on the NYT to get someone with that odor about them to write a review of a book like that.
    And no, if you're going to say that evangelicals generally worship the state in the last paragraph of your review with no elaboration, that's drive-by opining.

  10. Kind like giving insulting names to those you don't like and using phrases like reasonable gentlemen, freedom haters, dog vomit, etc. in your own special drive-by opening. Oh well, the globe's still spinning on its axis for now.

  11. For those who claim to know they're heaven-bound, the politically active "saved" sure seem all wrapped-up in Mammon. And they seem more concerned about marginalizing sinners and making life worse for them than saving them. We all know you claim to be worshiping the One True God the Father. We sometimes question many of your secular goals. Is there a "right" way to worship? Is the Paraclete denied to sinners?

  12. Church and state used to be separated, or so I thought.

  13. Here's failed priest but still committed Catholic who says he prays the Rosary daily's take, he claims the Religious Right brung us your detested boy The Donald. All roads lead, not to Heaven, but to the Donald. Avoid his mansion amongst the many mansions, if he gets to build one on the Father's land.


  14. Some figures on the "religious right" went in for DJT, some did not. Some who went in for him later changed their minds. I blogged about some of this.

  15. That book review does bring back fond memories of my History of American Religion course while I was working on my master's degree. Had such fun studying about, and writing papers on, the great revivalists like Whitefield, Barton W. Stone. Alexander Campbell.

  16. But ultimately, the fact that it is off-topic - the topic being how "M"SM "journalists" are less and less Biblically and Constitutionally literate - points up yet another attempt to deflect from the fact that this post is valid and important.

  17. I suppose it is off topic, but my point was that, for me, errors in reportage (retracted in one of the rags you cite) regarding domestic politics do nothing to dim my long-time ardor for these papers, especially the NYT which I have read for all of its great content since 1970 and am not gonna stop now. But that's just me, who also reads rags catering to your ilk as well, just not as religiously, but their opinions mesh less with mine than the NYT and WaPo. Oh well, live and let live, which is what the religious right seems to have a hard time with. I am a Christian and I've been turned off by the religious right's message and tactics since they resurrected in the late 70s.

  18. Yeah, live and let live . . . transgendered bathrooms . . . liberation theology . . . Jesus as merely a "spiritual teacher" . . . "environmental justice" . . . whatever floats your boat, man.

  19. Mere errors in reportage. No larger inferences to be drawn. Tells us nothing about these reporters being emblematic of declining knowledge about basics of Western civilization.