Some assumptions are silly and easily corrected. Others are subtle and far more pernicious. They invade our language and our discussions, creating sound bites and effectively preventing thought. At the heart of the message of "empowerment," which my stepdaughter and her friends encounter every day, lies the image of woman as capricious little girl, forever victim, without real responsibility or real power.
Consider the notion of "safe sex." After all, many states now pass out condoms to fifth graders. Put aside, for the moment, the prevailing and appallingly condescending opinion that our children are not human beings with free will, but rutting beasts who will do what they will do. Stick to the phrase, "safe sex." "Safe" for whom? "Sex" for whom? Surely the two words are ludicrously contradictory? Sex can be many things: dark, mysterious, passionate, wild, gentle, even reassuring, but it is not safe. If it is, it's not likely to be very sexy. (I always envision that marvelous shot in Naked Gun Part 2 of Leslie Nielsen fully encased in a gigantic condom.) How abandon oneself to another, how give your body into someone else's care and control, and remain safe? The world of "safe sex" is an exclusively male world of in and out. It's slam, bam, thank you ma'am, and to the extent it isn't, it isn't safe. It's a world without passion or foreplay, where the female is once again mere passive receptacle. Scared, cautious, tepid, always under control. Do I wish for Stella that she experience that kind of sex? No, I do not.
Some will say, would you rather she have unprotected sex and risk getting pregnant, risk death? I am foolish enough to hope that because we have talked openly and completely-not in half-truths and slogans-when she chooses to have sex, it will be with someone to whom she is committed and loves. Someone to whom she can say, "All that I have is yours," and to whom she can give of herself and her body freely, wildly, and without fear. But most of all, Stella deserves the truth. The rest is up to her. Sex is dangerous. It's supposed to be.
The women's movement has been, of course, very much behind the "safe sex" campaign just as it has succeeded in turning "date rape" and "sexual harassment" into causes celebres. Colleges now have written regulations specifying that the sexual act must be explicitly and verbally consented to in order to prevent rape. The man must hear "Yes, I want to have sex with you" before the action may continue. One can only imagine the dampening effect of this bit of verbiage in the heat of the moment. But reality aside, the implication, of course, is that a woman is such a fragile and delicate flower she can be forced into anything by the big, bad male. She might not really want to have sex but is only doing it to please him. The reasoning behind such rules is a truly frightening combination of idiocy and genuinely chauvinist assumption. "Yes," it seems, is not enough, but "no" always means "no." Really. Tell that to Lord Darcy, Heathcliffe, Vronsky. On the one hand, we are asked to believe that women always know their own mind and say so (unlike the rest of humanity), and on the other we are told that women are so easily pressured into unpleasant acts that there must first be explicit consent. No wonder men are so confused.
But when distinctions are blurred and reasoning fuzzy, the real losers will be women. If so many situations can be interpreted as rape, then the real horror of violent rape is trivialized. A woman who drinks too much and ends up in bed with a man cannot later claim rape just because her thinking was blurred. A man who takes advantage of such a situation may be ungentlemanly but he is not behaving illegally. She cannot simultaneously claim to be a free, moral, responsible agent and not take responsibility for having consumed too much alcohol. Only if women do in fact see themselves as essentially weaker and inferior to men will they also interpret regret the morning after, or changing one's mind, or an unpleasant experience as rape.
Similarly, the brouhaha about sexual harassment has succeeded largely in blurring distinctions and trivializing the real problem. How draw the line between unsuccessful flirtation and sexual harassment? Surely the answer must be quite straightforward: when something specific (job, grade, award) is lost or threatened because he or she would not have sex. When this definition is broadened to include any number of situations, we become hopelessly and endlessly mired in the complexities of human relationships, and the genuine and all too common problem of authentic sexual harassment gets lost in the shuffle. If a woman is indeed so fragile that she cannot handle lewd or sexual comments and overtures, hateful though they may be, one can only advise her to stay out of the public square.
Here again, the women's movement has been behind the hype and hyperbole every step of the way. Indeed, one of its foremost heroines in recent history is Anita Hill. Young women everywhere are encouraged to see Ms. Hill as an inspiration and "role model." I, too, was grateful to Ms. Hill-for three days of riveting television-but I didn't believe her then and don't believe her now. Still, we will never know the full truth, so let us suppose for the sake of argument that everything she said was true. Is this, then, someone from whom to draw inspiration?
This is a woman who continued to receive promotions and assistance from a man who had lewdly harassed her, who took trips alone with him, and who, later, corresponded with him. More important, she allowed a man she considered to be guilty of sexual harassment to remain in a position of power and influence, a position that demanded a person of high integrity. She warned none of her female colleagues, informed no one in authority, about Thomas' behavior. This ambitious young lawyer kept her story to herself-thus subjecting who knew how many other women to similar treatment. When Ms. Hill finally did come forward, after years of silence during which Judge Thomas continued to rise in prominence, it was only at the end of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings and under enormous pressure from various interest groups. Even if one considers Ms. Hill's conduct from the most charitable position possible, one must still conclude that she is at best a coward, at worst a liar. Certainly the source of her fame is her status as victim. Is this really the message we want to send to our young women? (But then logic, that creation of dead white males, was never supposed to be our strong point.)
In perhaps the defining "women's issue," abortion, our vision of ourselves as victims produces an especially devastating result. Victims of nature, we feel entitled to wield what little power we possess over the real victim-the unborn child. Finally, we have found something so defenseless it cannot fight back, and we zealously guard our "rights" to that bloody power.
When we see ourselves as victims of nature rather than blessed participants, as victims of men rather than partners in life's complex tale, we harm only ourselves. Convinced of our own inferiority, we strive neither for virtue nor for love, neither for great deeds nor for caring families, but only for that empty substance, "empowerment." Only those who believe they truly have no power speak of being "empowered." We seek to create a bubble world in which everything is under our control, everything is safe. Sex can be safe and without consequences. Sexual relationships can be legislated, defined, wrapped up in bows-each of us experiencing the world hermetically sealed in Leslie Nielsen's giant condom.
Where should my stepdaughter look for help in charting the mysterious waters of womanhood? Wherever else, surely not in those pamphlets and self-help books so readily available. Not in the slogans and sound bites brandished everywhere like weapons. She will be far better served by listening to the voices of women past and present who speak with their minds and their hearts: women who search for truth in the very midst of the complexities of human relationships-not by avoiding or denying reality but by embracing it. Let her read, among many, many others, Madame de la Fayette, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, the Brontes, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Sigrid Undset, Margaret Mitchell, Dorothy Sayers, Margaret Drabble, A. S. Byatt, Mona Simpson. But first, she might start by re-reading an old favorite, Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit.
"What is Real?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?" "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
As an alternative, Peterson suggests that pastoral care is an art that requires a poet's sensitivity to concrete detail. Along similar lines, Alasdair MacIntyre has said that novels are better guides to the surfaces and depths of human life than even the most refined statistical studies. Literature's ability to express the subtly layered dynamics of human interaction and motivation, its capacity to hold a mirror to nature, makes it a valuable tool in the development of mature pastoral care.
More than any other play, Hamlet is Shakespeare's mirror to nature. Hamlet is a notoriously knotted problem play. First, there are textual problems: editors must work from three early texts that vary widely in length and detail. Further, even the most complete text that can be constructed from the early editions has glaring lacunae and apparent contradictions. Aside from relatively trivial matters such as Hamlet's age and Horatio's nationality, major thematic questions are left unanswered. If, for example, Gertrude's marriage to Claudius was incestuous, why were Hamlet and the ghost the only ones to notice? It never becomes clear whether the ghost bears a message from heaven or hell, whether he is a redeemer or a tempter. What, moreover, did Gertrude know-and when did she know it? And, of course, there is the famed question of the prince's "delay," a problem for which critics have provided a plethora of medical, Freudian, and moral solutions.
The problems of Hamlet have led many critics to conclude that it was composed and revised in some haste. Especially in regard to minor details, this explanation of the play's rough edges is probably accurate. That Hamlet is thirty is not revealed until the final act, after four acts in which a reader will likely have envisioned a younger man. It seems plausible that Shakespeare's conception of Hamlet evolved, and that the texts we possess fossilize disparate elements from various stages of the evolution. Lacking time and perhaps the inclination to tie up loose ends, Shakespeare left Hamlet as it was and moved on to other things.
Whatever the plausibility of this explanation, there are also clear signs of careful composition. The doubling of character types (Gertrude and Ophelia as "unfaithful" women; Hamlet's and Ophelia's madness), even tripling (Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras as vengeful sons; Claudius, Polonius, and King Hamlet as fathers) tie together what might have become a labyrinth of minor plots. Dead fathers keep turning up, a ghost at the beginning and corpses in the middle and at the end. The appearance of Fortinbras in the first scene and, triumphantly, in the final scene provides an ironic inclusio on the theme of revenge. Imagery of traps, secrecy and spying, "poison in the ear," serpents and gardens harness minor scenes and speeches to the main action of the play. The intricate interweaving of themes and imagery belies T. S. Eliot's judgment that Hamlet is an artistic failure.
Given these indications of unity, one might offer a more sympathetic interpretation of the play's anomalies. Instead of "contradictions" and "loose ends," we could style them "mysteries" that serve the overall thematic purposes of the play. On this interpretation, difficulties are not problems to be solved, but devices to enrich and deepen the play's realism. Holes give the play its depth.
In particular, the unanswered questions reinforce one of the major themes of the play-the opacity of the human heart. The reasons for Hamlet's delay, after all, are hidden not only to the reader but to Hamlet himself. Hamlet's soliloquies are full of bewildered self- reproach. When the First Player weeps for the fictional Hecuba and when Fortinbras risks death in Poland for "an eggshell," Hamlet asks himself why he has not acted on the ghost's instructions, but never answers his own interrogation. As Cedric Watts explains it, Shakespeare seems to have deliberately avoided providing an answer so as to "generate the sense of a deep, inaccessible region in Hamlet's nature." Watts adds that modernist literature and criticism has abandoned the traditional assumption "that if a character asks a big question about his own nature, the text is obliged to supply the answer." Modernist critics are therefore comfortable with the conclusion that "the function of such a question may be to draw attention to the absence of an accessible answer."
Hamlet drives home a similar point in the pipe playing scene with those two irritating ciphers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. When Guildenstern protests that he cannot play the pipe, Hamlet rages: "You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ; yet you cannot make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?"
It is Hamlet's emphasis on what has been called the "incomprehensibility of man" that makes the play something of a cautionary tale for the modern pastor. Of course, as Thomas Oden points out, when a parishioner asks his pastor for counsel, he has a right to expect a specific, and a specifically Christian, answer; Christians should not shrink from claiming that, at least on the biggest questions, they have the answer. But in an age dominated by technique, Hamlet is a healthy reminder that the care of souls is not a mechanical matter of input and output, and pastoral counsel is not a question of applying a handful of rules. The infinite variety of human pain cannot be redeemed by the application of twelve simple steps.
Curiously, the most anti-secular of American Protestants have often been the quickest to adopt the latest "scientific" techniques in pastoral care or church growth. Shakespeare's play informs the evangelical pastor especially that understanding, much less guiding, sinful humans is an exceedingly complex, frustrating, difficult, all but impossible proposition. The cure of souls is difficult because the disease of the soul runs deep and takes myriad forms. Hamlet would doubtless have resonated to the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can know it?"
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
- Alice in WonderlandAre journalists irreligious, and does this affect their coverage of religious news? For some years a number of media critics have been arguing that such is the case. Early in September 1993, in an obvious effort to counter such critics, the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University published Bridging the Gap: Religion and the News Media, a study by John Dart and Jimmy Allen, based on a survey of the views of journalists and religious leaders about press coverage of religion. (The survey was conducted by Robert Wyatt.)
The work of S. Robert Lichter, Linda Lichter, and myself, especially our book The Media Elite (1986), figures prominently in Bridging the Gap. The authors conclude that we are responsible for much of the contemporary misunderstanding of media coverage of religious news. As John Seigenthaler, the Chairman of the Freedom Forum, notes in his introduction to the study:
Data compiled by Dart, Allen, and Wyatt provides valuable information that should serve to destroy another false impression about the media: that its members are basically irreligious. This erroneous view grew out of a limited, misused, and misunderstood survey known as the Lichter-Rothman study. . . . The false impression that study created has festered as coverage of religion has continued to focus almost exclusively on conflict and controversy. That survey was based on interviews with only 240 of the several thousands of journalists who work for seven major news agencies in two cities, Washington and New York. Because 86 percent of those 240 journalists told the researchers that they seldom or never attended religious services, the Lichter-Rothman survey has been read as finding that the national news media is irreligious. . . . In fact there are news media representatives in Washington and New York who are offended by the suggestion that their religious faith, or lack of it, is represented by the 240 Lichter-Rothman interviews.In the September 8, 1993 New York Times, Peter Steinfels reported on the survey and assumed that its results provided a corrective to our earlier findings.
The authors of Bridging the Gap are better informed than Mr. Seigenthaler, knowing as they do that a random sample of 240 journalists is perfectly satisfactory if the universe of those being studied consists of several thousand. After all, most regularly conducted surveys of the 250 or more million inhabitants of the United States rely on samples of 1,200 respondents or less. Indeed, Messrs. Dart and Allen agree that our findings probably describe "East Coast" reporters accurately. Their expressed concern is that our data have been taken by others to apply to journalists as a whole, and they argue that we, too, sometimes imply that our results are applicable to all American journalists.
In our study we asked journalists, "What is your present religious preference?" Half those interviewed replied "none." On the other hand, the authors of the Freedom Forum Study report that only 4 percent of the managing editors they surveyed chose that response, as did only 9 percent of the religion reporters surveyed. On the basis of that question and another that asks respondents how important religion is to them, Allen and Dart conclude that reporters are as religious as the general public.
Before comparing our study with that of the Freedom Forum, we should describe its nature and purpose. The truth is, the study of journalists' religious attitudes and reporting of religious news was not a central concern of our work. The Media Elite was the first of a series in a project of which I am the director. My colleagues and I are studying various elite (leadership) groups in the United States, including journalists, businessmen, military officers, and bureaucrats, as part of an attempt to understand contemporary social change. The theory underpinning this approach borrows from Max Weber, Daniel Bell, Harold Lasswell, and Robert Dahl, among others.
Since the appearance of The Media Elite, the Lichters, now co- directors of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, and I have published a variety of books and articles about other leadership groups and are writing a volume placing our work in historical and theoretical perspective. In addition, I am, with two other scholars, completing a systematic study of changing social and political themes in motion pictures, a study that includes Hollywood's treatment of religious matters.
Thus, in writing The Media Elite, we were not concerned in particular with journalists' coverage of organized religion (though the Lichters later completed a study of elite media coverage of the Catholic Church), much less the "fairness" of that reporting- a very difficult matter to evaluate. Rather, our concern was to understand the nature and causes of the changes taking place in American journalism and to discuss these in nonjudgmental terms. Our treatment of the religious attitudes of journalists is part of a comprehensive profile of their backgrounds and attitudes. Bridging the Gap, on the other hand, is a full- scale study of journalists' religious beliefs and their relation to the coverage of religion. The two studies, therefore, are not strictly comparable. Nevertheless, they can be juxtaposed for the purpose of understanding the differences between some of their findings and ours.
The major difference between the two studies has to do with the population sampled. We did not merely interview "eastern" reporters. We interviewed journalists at what were, at the time, the country's leading media outlets. These were the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, the three television networks, and PBS. One need not belabor the importance of these outlets: the selection was dictated by scholarly studies demonstrating their impact on elites and the general public. Seventy-four percent of the people we chose for our sample completed the full interview.
Wyatt, by contrast, mailed questionnaires to a sample of members of the Religion News Writers Association, and members of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association. As Dart and Allen note, the managing editors who responded are decision-making executives on newspapers in small to midsize cities. No television broadcasters were surveyed. The response rate for the editors was only 48 percent. When the response rate is this low, survey researchers routinely conduct follow-up interviews to help determine whether those who responded hold attitudes different from those who did not. (For example, a belief that religion is important may be correlated with a willingness to fill out and return a lengthy questionnaire on this topic.) Unfortunately, Dart and Allen do not appear to have followed this standard research procedure.
Even if one does not question the accuracy of the results they obtained (more on that later), Allen and Dart are comparing apples and oranges. Our sample is a far better indicator of the attitudes of important journalists than that sponsored by the Freedom Forum. Religion writers- according to the authors' own findings-are responsible for covering no more than 30 percent of stories on religion in papers like the New York Times. Frequently they cover routine events in special sections of the newspapers for which they work, and are not widely read. Further, it is really difficult, in this day and age, to believe that managing editors of newspapers in small and medium-size cities are the real movers and shakers in the media.
John Dart and Jimmy Allen assert that other studies support their views. However, they mention only one systematic survey of a national sample of journalists, i.e., that of David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Willhoit. The other commentators they cite offer only opinions or anecdotal evidence. For some reason the authors, throughout the study, weigh the opinions of persons they consider knowledgeable observers no differently than they do systematic evidence. Further, they fail to comment on the many studies that support our general findings, several of which are summarized in our book, including the well-known Los Angles Times Survey (1985). (Incidentally, Lichter analyzed the Weaver-Willhoit results. The views of journalists at the leading media outlets in their sample were not very different from those in our sample.)
In summary, the findings of the Freedom Forum study differ from ours in part because its organizers and authors studied something else. Readers must decide for themselves which group of journalists it is more important to study if one wishes to understand the nature of the American mass media and the messages it conveys.
In addition, they and we asked somewhat different questions. We simply asked for current religious preference and left it to the respondents to answer as they wished. The comparable Freedom Forum survey question was broader in some ways and more constricted in others. Respondents were asked, "What religious category do you currently belong to or are most closely associated with?" The questionnaire offered a number of alternatives including the vague term "mainline Protestant." The only nonreligious response permitted was "nonbeliever or humanist." It is reasonable to believe that non-observing editors are less likely to choose that alternative than a simple "none."
Thirty-five percent of their editors state that religion is personally important to them. However, no questions were asked about church attendance. Pace Seigenthaler, church attendance, for Christians at least, is a good measure of commitment to organized religion.
One final note on Dart and Allen's critique of The Media Elite. At one point the authors intimate that our use of the term "media elite" is an attack on journalists designed to discredit them. But surely, as educated persons, they know that elite is a widely used term of art in both sociology and political science. Our study is part of a tradition concerned with the role and influence of various leadership (elite) groups in our society. No one has ever suggested that we are being insidious when we describe the results of our studies of the business elite, the bureaucratic elite, etc.
Bridging the Gap has other weaknesses. The Lichters completed a carefully designed and methodologically sound systematic study of elite media coverage of the Catholic Church. In the Freedom Forum study, Dart and Allen do not deal directly with their work, but rather cite others who argue that the Lichters' study was not sufficiently nuanced, at least in part because a substantial proportion of the stories covered noncontroversial matters, something the Lichters themselves point out.
The authors' treatment of the Lichters is not untypical of their handling of related issues. In discussing actual news coverage they give roughly the same weight to systematic evidence, anecdotal evidence, and "knowledgeable" opinion. However, one can find anecdotes that prove almost anything, and those whom we regard as knowledgeable are often those who agree with us-or at least there is that danger.
Even when they cite the few supposedly systematic studies at their disposal, Dart and Allen make no effort to evaluate the methodology of such studies. For example, was the scoring blind? What were the coding categories? Did more than one coder score the stories? What was the level of coder agreement? The Lichters are always careful to report this information. Their (and our) codebooks are publicly available, the scoring is blind, and high levels of multiple coder agreement are required, usually .80. This care is necessary if the studies cited are to be considered seriously.
Bridging the Gap is a peculiar study in other ways. Citing commentator after commentator, the authors conclude that religious reporting is not what it should be. They are not quite sure why, but initially they argue that ours is a secular society. In such a society reporters, like others, do not regard religion as all that important; they are ignorant of religion rather than hostile to it. In other sections of the study, however, Dart and Allen make a rather different case. A few brief quotes will give the flavor of their argument.
Millions of Americans are attuned to spiritual matters. . . . For most people, faith is a spiritual melody that gives meaning and definition to life. . . . Yet, many journalists are tone deaf. To them, religion in all its complexity is either a disturbing cacophony of sounds or innocuous background music easily tuned out. (p. 7)
To the extent that the news media unthinkingly reflect secularized culture and discount the validity of committed beliefs contrary to secular culture, coverage of religion and religious influences sinks below journalism's own standards of fairness and insightful perspective. (p. 17)
Religion news finds no niche on TV and normally receives superficial treatment-a formula that too easily leads to blandness or mischaracterization. News broadcasters are no less assimilated into a secularizing culture than are press people. (p. 21)The authors then quote Bill Moyers who argues that journalists are not biased. Rather they are simply ignorant. Thus Moyers notes, if you want to discuss religion on national television, "you get people who are offended by the parochialism of the very idea. I just don't see any way to do it on the national level." (p. 21)
In contrast to their earlier statements, the authors now seem to be arguing that journalists, whatever their professions of religious belief and its importance to them, are essentially secular persons who have no feeling for the beliefs of most Americans to whom religion is important. Consequently they fail to understand institutionalized religion in its own terms and describe religious activity in ways that are inaccurate-if, that is, they describe it at all.
In other words, Dart and Allen's analysis seems to differ little from ours. It is not clear, then, why they criticize our work. They prefer the word "ignorance" to the word "bias." We, too, do not like the word bias. In our analysis of how journalists treat various issues we have always emphasized that their reporting flows out of certain assumptions about "reality," which, with the best will in the world, sometimes lead them to report events inaccurately. As Dart and Allen describe the situation, the ignorance they ascribe to the journalists is associated with a certain indifference if not some hostility toward organized religion. At first blush, then, Dart and Allen's difference with us would seem to boil down to a question of terminology.
Actually, the key issue between us is rather different. However, in order to understand what that issue is we must examine the general reception given The Media Elite by journalists and professors of journalism.
That reception has been checkered. The Media Elite is a carefully wrought social science study, and academic reviews have, on the whole, been favorable. We relied on a random sample and a variety of traditional measurement instruments that command respect in the profession, as well as a few we designed and tested ourselves for use in the study. Our language in the book is nonjudgmental. We make no recommendations.
We believed that we had demonstrated, both by our questionnaire and careful content analyses, that journalists, as hard as they may try to be accurate, allow their own views to determine what "news" they cover and to some extent how it is reported. Since journalists are "liberal cosmopolitans," coverage, over the long haul, and in ambiguous situations, tilts in that direction.
When our study was discussed in more general periodicals and newspapers the responses were usually, though not invariably, unfriendly. The Columbia Journalism Review entitled a sharp critique of our work by Herbert Gans "Are Journalists Dangerous Liberals?"-not exactly an accurate description of our analysis. Gans has continued to pursue our efforts in essays in which he attacks us personally as being involved in some sort of sinister conservative plot.
Some newspapers whose staffs we surveyed even denied that the interviews had taken place. Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post claimed that he had asked many journalists on the Post if they had been interviewed, and only one said yes. The Washington Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, Al Hunt, also denied that interviews had been conducted with his staff. Barry Sussman, the Washington Post polling expert, asked us for additional computer runs, clearly designed to check whether responses to other questions fell into a plausible pattern. Fortunately, the interviews for the study (and coding of the results) had been conducted by Response Analysis, a highly reputable survey firm, and charges that the study had been faked were soon dropped. In addition, the data we sent to the Post must have been persuasive. We never heard from them again.
What sin had we committed? It was simply this: we had presented solid evidence that journalists were not simply objective professionals with a social conscience, but that they, like everyone else, perceived and described the world in terms of a particular Weltanschauung. They did not stand above the fray. They were part of it. Such an argument is, of course, lese majeste. Journalists do not have thin skins-they have no skins.
The truth is that, for reasons nicely outlined by Daniel Bell in the mid-1970s, the cultural elites, including journalists, are still at the cutting edge of a cultural revolution that is transforming America. This revolution involves indifference (and sometimes hostility) toward many traditional institutions, including religious institutions. As is the case with other liberal cosmopolitans, criticism from what is perceived of as the left does not seriously bother journalists. Those on the left are believed to have their hearts in the right place, even if they are not always practical. On the other hand, criticism from what are seen, accurately or not, as conservative sources is not to be countenanced, for they are among the seriously misinformed, if not wicked, of the earth. Thus, to return to Bridging the Gap, criticisms by a bona fide liberal like Bill Moyers are acceptable, while those by, say, Michael Novak are less likely to be so.
One final word. I begin to wonder to what extent journalists' attitudes will be measurable in the future. As they become increasingly conscious that they, too, are under the microscope, will they, like other subjects of experiments, begin to respond in ways that project the image they wish to project? My guess is that increasingly they will. Indeed, as a recent study demonstrates, this is already occurring in Germany, where scholars are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain reliable responses to social and political questions from journalists.
Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written concerning me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms and the Koran and the I Ching and the Upanishads and Zulu tribal sagas and The Color Purple must be fulfilled."
Matthew 23:25-26 Woe to you, hypocrites of any denominational affiliation! Visually challenged fools! How can a sighted person lead one visually challenged? Will he not patronize him?
Mark 9:14-29 And one in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has Satan's Syndrome; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they were not able." And Jesus said, "O generation that lacks positive imaging! Bring him to me." And later when he had entered the house, the disciples asked him, "Why could we not cast it out?" And he said, "Because of your narrow-minded reliance on Western medicine! This kind cannot be driven except by carob therapy."
Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26 Behold a ruler came and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter is ontologically challenged; but come and lay your hand upon her, and she will live." And Jesus rose and followed him. And when he came to the ruler's house he saw a tumult, and a multitude weeping and wailing loudly. And he said to them, "Why do you weep? Know ye not that death is but the final stage of growth?" And seeing where the child was, he went in and laid his hand upon her. And she sued him for sexual harassment.
Matthew 5:27 You have heard it said by the dead white males, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say unto you, whoever looketh upon a woman as a sex object hath committed sin and should hasten to make himself a eunuch for the People's Republic of Heaven's sake.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 Justicelove is impatient; it taketh no crap; it insisteth on its own way. It giveth no quarter to denominational bureaucrats; it shouteth down; it condemneth not the gay, forbeareth not the straight. Justicelove believeth all things are ok if they serve its ends. Justicelove never ends; as for scriptures, they will cease; as for the family unit, it will pass away; as for moral norms, they will end. For our ideology is imperfect, and our rhetoric could use a little work, but when liberation comes, the patriarchal, oppressive notion of perfection will cease. When I was a victim of false consciousness, I spoke patriarchally, I thought patriarchally, I reasoned logocentrically. When I came out of the closet, I put away patriarchal things. So liberation, conscientization, and justicelove abide, these three, and none of these is the greatest because that would be elitism.
Matthew 26:26-29 Now as they were eating, Jesus took multigrain bread, and blessed it, and nonviolently broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Comrades, take and eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks to the Goddess, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the Second Testament, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of guilt feelings. I tell you I shall not drink of it again until that day when I drink it without sulfites in the People's Republic of God."