12 gennaio 2010

Brit Hume's sin: he believed what he said

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There has been a torrent of news, blogging, raging, and opinion-shucking going on over Brit Hume's remarks about Tiger Woods, Buddhism, and Christianity, (the best I've read so far is by The Anchoress), so I thought I'd toss my thoughts into the great vacuum of blogdom (or is it "wheel of blogging dharma"?). My take on the aftermath is fairly simple: Hume offended three notable groups of people:

1) Those who claim that news is meant to be completely objective and free of any opinion whatsoever.
2) Those who cannot fathom someone making an unapologetic public remark about their belief that Christianity is objectively true.
3) Those who hate FOX News.

An example of #1 is Baptist pastor Welton Gaddy on the WaPo blog, "On Faith":

The picture on the television screen and the audio of reporter Brit Hume's words struck me as contradictory. Just below the image of the reporter's face, the insignia "Fox News" appeared in three different places. Yet, the content of Mr. Hume's comments was not that of a news reporter so much as that of a televangelist.

Strangely enough, I found it disconcerting to read a piece by a Christian pastor criticizing a Christian making a positive statement on an opinion panel on FOX News, especially when that critical opinion piece was under the insignia, The Washington Post. Did I miss something? Have we lost all sense of irony? Or just commonsense?

This would make a bit more sense if, in fact, news networks and programs of all ideological persuasions were obviously dedicated to objective reporting. But, sorry, that seriously ill bird fell out of the coop, oh, many years ago. Does anyone with half a brain really think that CBS News or CNN or MSNBC is really honed in on giving us "just the facts, ma'am"? In fact, on the rare occasions that I do watch network news these days, I find that within two minutes I am being lectured (sometimes obviously, sometimes with attempts at subtlety) by some perfectly coiffed, immaculately manicured talking head with the personality of an iceburg about what ordinary, middle-class Americans should be doing and thinking when it comes to, say, carbon footprints, universal healthcare reform, immigration, President Obama, Democrats, George W. Bush, Republicans, taxes, big business, /terrorism/ man-made disasters, education, taking care of pets, driving in the snow, nutrition, buying cars, movies, summer vacations, traveling to Europe, dieting, watching television, cell phones, and surfing the Net. What, exactly, is the difference between, say, Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey? Well, yes, Oprah might just be a better reporter. Who can really tell?

A perfect example of #2 is John Aloysius Farrell, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, who writes:

It takes a religious zealot to strap explosives around his or her waist and, murmuring prayers, blow up a CIA facility in Afghanistan, or take down an airplane over Detroit, or steer a jet into the World Trade Center. Or, for that matter, to treat the world to Crusades and Inquisitions and the kind of faith-based savagery we've seen in places like Belfast, Bosnia, Beirut, and Jerusalem. That is what made Brit's comments so creepy: the self-certainty that "my god is better than yours."

Because, you see, the man who is completely certain that "self-certainty" about a matter of religion is the doorway to violence and savagery is himself a noble and sophisticated creature. His certainty, be assured, is completely unlike the creepy and barely contained barbarism (nay, terrorism!) hidden within Brit Hume's dapper suit. How do we know this is true? Because he said so! Hey, Farrell is a thoughtful reporter with an opinion, unlike Hume, who is a thoughtful reporter with, uh, an, um, opin—never mind.

A number of folks have rightly noted that if Hume had suggested Woods take up yoga, practice TM, undergo counselling for sex addiction, or read an Eckhart Tolle book, no one would bat an eyelash. Again, it is the Christian claim to objective truth (and the inherent call to conversion) that upsets so many people. After all, they know for a fact that objective truth doesn't exist.

While making a little 2,600-mile drive a month ago, I listened to quite of a few sports radio programs (they keep me awake, for some reason), most of them fixated on the Woods story. Again and again various "experts" and pundits were asked to offer what they thought Woods should do to recover, to rebuild his image, to get his life in order, to address his problems, and so forth. The responses were all over the map, ranging from thoughtful to funny to stupid to incredibly stupid. Each of them reflected, even if not openly, a particular belief system (often very confused and amoral). So, why should one's beliefs about the basic nature of reality, morality, and truth be off limits when it comes to considering opinions about the news? Peter Wehner makes this very point in an NRO piece about Hume-inspired Sturm und Drang:

Rather than being mesmerized by the stupefying consensus that matters of faith — especially orthodox Christian faith — ought never to be raised in public, people like Buckley and Muggeridge (and Hume) should refuse to accept it. Not because they want to advance tired religious slogans and worn-out phrases; rather, because people are interested in dealing, in an authentic way, with the deepest questions of human existence, of which faith is often a key part. “The life of religion as a whole,” William James said, “is mankind’s most important function.” That, I think, is in part what Hume was getting at.

Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time on shallow discussions about largely inconsequential and evanescent issues; talking honestly about matters of faith and meaning shouldn’t be off-limits. In fact, we should welcome such conversations more often, in more forums, and in a more relaxed, comfortable, and confident way. It might actually interest people more than the latest daily tracking poll by Scott Rasmussen or the latest mutterings of Harry Reid.

Amen to that. Oh, as for group #3: turn the dial. But remember, using Mr. Farrell's logic, no news outlet is any better or worse than another.

Source: http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2010/01/brit-humes-sin-he-believed-what-he-said.html

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