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|>>In 1995, the Times-Mirror Company surveyed national journalists and the public on a number of hot-button issues. It found: “Nowhere do press values differ from public values more strikingly than on homosexuality. While the public is split on whether the homo- sexual lifestyle should be accepted, the media overwhelmingly said that lifestyle is acceptable.”
Specifically, only 41 percent of the public found homosexuality acceptable, versus 83 percent of the national press corps. Does this monolithic opinion affect coverage? You bet it does.
On this issue, the media are so relentlessly partisan that it shames me as a media professional and as someone who’s devoted nearly 20 years of his life to the trade.
To understand why coverage of the gay rights debate is so flagrantly biased, you must first understand that from the media’s perspective there is no debate –– at least no legitimate debate. They have internalized each and every premise of the homosexual movement.
The movement says, “We are a minority, like blacks and women. This is our nature and its carved in stone.” The media say, “But of course it is.” The movement says, “We’re oppressed. All forms of discrimination against us, even by private, voluntary associations, must be abolished.” The media say, “Absolutely, we could not agree with you more.” The movement says, “Any differentiation between homosexuality and heterosexuality –– in law or private conduct –– is irrational, unfair, inherently evil and must be banned.” The media are in danger of giving themselves a severe case of whiplash nodding their heads so vigorously in assent.
The movement says: “Those who oppose our agenda are Christian right fanatics, bigots who are blood brothers to cross-burning nightriders of another era. Moreover, failure to fully embrace homosexuality as natural and good, and the tendency to make moral judgments about gay sex, promotes violence against us.” The media fall all over themselves agreeing.
In a brief talk, it’s impossible to do more than touch on all the ways the media distorts and misrepresents the most crucial social policy debate of our era. I’ll mention just a few recent instances of pleading thinly disguised as reporting.
News of the movement is managed with excruciating care. The media go out of their way to sanitize coverage, discreetly averting the gaze from the more bizarre antics and outrageous advocacy.
Take the Millennium March, which occurred in this city six weeks ago [April 30, 2000]. The media reported the event as Mr. and Mr. Gay Middle America Goes to Washington. A New York Times piece noted the celebrities present, the messages of congratulations by the president and vice president and the appeal by Dennis Shepherd, father of the murdered Matthew Shepherd. The focus was on gay cops, gay veterans and couples marching with strollers. The article was illustrated with a photo of demonstrators holding signs that read “Stop Hate Crimes.” Oh, all right, if you insist.
The Times might have regaled its readers with the wit of comedienne Margaret Cho, a featured speaker at the march, who gushed, “I am so excited today that I am going to use the Washington Monument as my own personal strap-on…” well you can guess the rest.
It might also have noted some related activities, like the Dungeon Dance described as “The Premier Leather-Fetish S/M event during the Millennium March on Washington,” according to the march’s official website. Its flyer (also posted on the website) is illustrated by a picture of a bare-chested stud wearing a military cap grasping the buttocks of a naked man in chains. There were no baby strollers or signs about hate crimes in this picture.
The media are continuing a venerable tradition. In coverage of the preceding gay march in the district (1993) there was no mention of topless lesbians, simulated anal and oral sex, cross-dressers, Dykes on Bikes, lesbians chanting “Viva la Vulva” (not a reference to the Swedish car), transgendered entertainers, a counter-demonstrator who was urinated on, and a speaker who said she desired carnal knowledge of the first lady, in slightly more explicit terms.
Howard Kurtz, a Washington Post writer, did a revealing piece for that newspaper about coverage of the event. Kurtz wrote, “The flamboyant behavior and vulgar language… were bleached out of most news accounts.” James Ledbetter, a media critic for the Village Voice, added, “There was an attempt to package this event as a mainstream, broad-based and largely benign movement. And that means not presenting some of the more outrageous and militant voices.”
Speaking of what isn’t said in articles on homosexuality, how often do the media present dissenting voices. Rarely. Never, if they can avoid it–– and they almost always can.
A classic example is a March 30th article in the Boston Globe, covering a vote by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (the rabbinical arm of Reform Judaism) embracing gay marriage.
The story began, “Breaking with three millennia of tradition, the world’s largest organization of rabbis (it isn’t by the way) voted overwhelmingly yesterday to support ceremonies, including weddings, for same-sex couples.
The story somehow neglected to tell us exactly what those traditions are (the happen to include very explicit Biblical injunctions against same-sex sex), nor did it mention, even in passing, how much of Jewish law Reform Judaism has rejected since its founding in the 19th century, or how Reform’s current policies are more a reflection of the liberal ethos than the Torah worldview.
Later, the article mentions in passing that the development was “denounced by conservative and orthodox Jewish movements,” without telling us who objected, why the objected (other than an allusion to “Biblical teaching”), or who they represent, although it did quote Reform leaders extensively on what a joyous moment in history it was and how the development supposedly was in keeping with something they designated Judaism.
Is it possible that the reporter, Michael Paulson, was unable to locate anyone in the Jewish community to offer another opinion? Is he unaware of the existence of the Orthodox Union, Lubavitsch, Agudath Israel or the Rabbinical Council of America? Then again, opposing views would have detracted from the indoctrinational value of the piece.
Because no one in the media was interested in its opinion, Agudath Israel (the Orthodox social service/lobbying group) was forced to take a quarter-page ad in The New York Times on April 14th, setting forth Jewish law on homosexual liaisons. The ad observed: “The Torah, the very basis of the Jewish faith, explicitly considers such acts and relationships deeply sinful, condemns them without qualification and leaves no room for their formal recognition.”
Since the media by and large refuses to present the other side, that side is reduced to buying access in the form of paid ads.
I wish this article was an aberration. It isn’t. Consider the way the Globe covered a recent development in the lynching of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. By the way, if you think I’m picking on the Globe, the other paper in Boston, you’re absolutely right. But coverage in most metropolitan newspapers and on network television is every bit as bad.
The article ran on May 12th. Even the headline –– “Canada Silences Dr. Laura On Gays,” was deliberately low-key. Not censors, not gags, but merely “silences” –– like a mother hushing an unruly child.
The piece reported that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has censored the talk show host for her hateful views on homosexuality. It explained that the council feels “respect for gays is a more fundamental value than free speech” and that calling homosexual behavior “abnormal” could “ignite anti-gay violence.” (We’ll return to this theme later.) The article quoted the council’s chairman, discussed Canadian law, and included comments by one of the individuals who filed a formal complaint against Schlessinger. (He’s on “Cloud Nine.”)
Are there no family advocates in Canada who disagree with the ruling? What about civil libertarians, there or here, who are appalled by this jackbooted fascism? In almost any other situation involving state suppression of speech, the views of the American Civil Liberties Union, or its Canadian counterpart, would have been solicited. On this issue, dissenting voices aren’t merely inconvenient, as far as the media are concerned, they’re nonexistent.
When the media attempts at balance, the results can be hilarious. In its April 21-23 issue, USA Today [Weekend Magazine] decided to have a debate of sorts on whether the Boy Scouts have a right to exclude homosexual leaders. The piece was timed with oral arguments in the pending Supreme Court case.
Arguing against the proposition was Jonathan Capehart, a columnist and editorial writer for the New York Daily News, who is a homosexual.
To defend the Boy Scouts, the paper chose Andrew Sullivan, former New Republic editor and author of the book “Virtually Normal,” who’s also gay (though, conveniently, neither man was identified as such).
After setting forth his view that there’s nothing in the Scout’s code to prevent homosexuals from leading troops of impressionable adolescents, and charging that the founder of Scouting, Baden Powell, was probably a closet queen, Sullivan wrote, “The point of freedom is that people are free to do things that are dumb, cruel and even self-defeating.” He concluded, “Freedom, after all, means that the irrational and the fearful have rights as well.” In other words, the Scouts are a bunch of dumb, sadistic, paranoid bastards, but they have every right to be dumb, sadistic, self-defeating, bigoted and paranoid. This is what USA Today [Weekend] considers presenting the other side; you can imagine what its one-sided coverage is like.
In this election year, the media have resumed their long-running love affair with the gay Log Cabin Republicans –– whose Republicanism is an incidental, while its homosexuality is primary. The media can’t stand the thought of one party objecting to the gay agenda –– timid, half-hearted and equivocal though those objections may be. Their objective is to demonstrate that one can be a good Republican and still attend the Dungeon Dance. Besides there are millions of gay voters and contributors out there who the Republicans are mightily offending by their dumb, sadistic, paranoid, self-defeating positions, the media urge.
According to their website, the Log Cabin Republicans have 10,000 members in 43 local chapters. On the other hand, the National Federation of Republicans Women claims more than 100,000 members in 2,000 clubs nationwide. In the national media, which do you suppose receives more coverage –– say by a factor of 10? When the issue is the GOP and the gay agenda, which does the media run to for comments and rebuttals? In case you haven’t guessed, these are rhetorical questions.
Even on those rare occasions when the media get it right –– after years of spreading disinformation and myth –– there’s still an attempt to spin the story. An article (headlined” “The fading ‘gay gene’) appeared in the focus section of the Boston Globe on Feb. 7, 1999. That’s right we’re back to the Globe. I can’t help myself. Its like shooting fish in a barrel. –– with an uzi.
The article says that around 1993 it really looked like a gene for homosexuality would be isolated soon. And that, the paper editorialized (in a news story) would have been a very good thing. “The idea of a ‘gay gene’ offered an ironclad defense of homosexuality; if it was genetically predetermined, then being gay could not be cast as ‘deviant behavior, something ‘correctable”.
But six years later, the gene has not been found and an interest in the quest, among scientists and activists who are frequently one in the same, has faded, we are told.
The article then mentions some elementary logic that many of us were arguing, to no avail, a decade ago –– that sexual tendencies are shaped by a broad range of factors, including early environment. Also, the paper reports, there’s the problem of the studies of identical twins. If one of a set is homosexual, there’s roughly a 50 percent chance the other will be too. However, the Globe explains, if genetics is everything, the overlap among these twins (who have the exact genetic code) should be 100 percent. Again, elementary logic that somehow eluded the movement’s media apologists for most of the 1990s.
Another seeming refutation of gay genetics is bisexuals. Do they have two sets of genes, that they switch back and forth like changing gears on a bicycle? And what about the 20,000 individuals in the ex-gay movement? Did they change their DNA?
But now the media have decided that nature vs. nurture vs. life experiences is really irrelevant. The piece approvingly quotes Kerry Lobel, [now former] executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: “Our position is that, to us, the gene may be a scientific question but it is not a political one. Gene or no gene, every person deserves full civil rights under the law.” In other words, the media spent years uncritically mouthing the movement’s pseudo-scientific clap trap; they’re proven wrong; and then they decide it really doesn’t matter.
Doubtless the most disgraceful aspect of media pandering is their mindless repetition of the slander that social conservatives are accomplices in crimes committed against gays.
In the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepherd, in the fall of 1998, this hysteria reached a fevered pitch. On the Today show, co-host Katie Couric invited a wild-eyed Elizabeth Birch of the [leading homosexual lobby group] Human Rights Campaign to explain how conservatives and other proponents of traditional morality created, in Couric’s words, “a climate of anti-gay hate” that lead to the Wyoming student’s death. Birch willingly obliged.
At the same time, Deborah Mathis of the Gannett News Service raved, “The Christian Right per se and some particular members on Capitol Hill have helped inflame the air so that the air these bad people (that is, the killers of Shepard) breathed that night was filled, filled with the idea that somehow gays are different, and not only are they different, in that difference, they’re bad and not only are they bad, they are evil and therefore can be destroyed.”
The badly mixed metaphor (“inflamed air”) aside, I’ve never met anyone in the Christian right per se who said homosexuals are evil, unless you equate “wrong” with evil. By the way, when a woman throws her newborn in a dumpster or toilet, as happened recently at Logan Airport, the media do not attribute this to the devaluation of life fostered by the pro-choice movement, which treats unborn children as things to be disposed of at will.
And when, in 1997, a high school student in Paducah, Ky., shot and killed three of his classmates in a prayer group, the media did not attribute this to organizations like People for the American Way which spent the preceding decade telling us that evangelical Christians were a danger to democracy.
It’s only pro-family activists, and right-to-lifers in the case of clinic violence, who are responsible not only for the logical consequences of their actions, but the illogical consequences as well, even crimes they explicitly and forthrightly condemn.
What the movement and their media cohorts are saying is this: unless you are willing to deny reality and disavow your faith, unless you are prepared to pretend that the naked emperor is beautifully attired, every time some goon commits an act of violence against a gay, you are to blame. Ayn Rand used to call this the argument from intimidation. The fact that the media regularly resort to this smear tells us how deeply wedded to the homosexual worldview they are (speaking of gay "marriage").
One of the things that impresses me the most about the way the media mangles coverage here, is the total lack of curiosity among a profession supposedly famous for its inquisitive nature.
The media have accepted the dogma that homosexuals are the boys and girls next door, apple-pie normal in every way and that saying someone is gay says nothing about his or her conduct.
If so, then answer the following:
If homosexuals are no more promiscuous than heterosexuals, why, according to the International Journal of Epidemiology, gay and bisexual men have a life expectancy (at age 20) 8 to 20 years less than all men do. Might it have something to do with those nasty microbes running rampant in the “community,” and how did they get there? It also might be related to a comment by Andrew Sullivan (defender of the Boy Scouts) that gay “marriage” can serve as a role model for heterosexuals, because, “There is more likely to be greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman.”
Along the same lines, in 1994, researcher Judith Reisman did a comparison of 10,000 personal ads that ran from 1998 to 1992, well into the era of AIDS, in The Washingtonian (a mainstream magazine with a mostly straight readership) and The Advocate, a gay periodical. Both are published in Washington, D.C., and have nearly identical demographics.
Reisman found 87 percent of Washingtonian personal wanted long-term relationships, while 98 percent of Advocate advertisers sought casual sex.
Commonly used abbreviations in The Washingtonian included “S” for single, “NS” for non-smoking, and “J” for Jewish. In the “Advocate,” ISOs (in search of’s) typically were looking for “B/D” (bondage and discipline) and “S/M” (sadomasochism) or represented themselves as “daddies” in search of “sons.”
A mantra of the gay movement is that homosexuals are no more interested in sex with minors than heterosexuals, perhaps less so. And yet there is no North American Man-Girl Love Association.
How does the movement deal with pedophiles in its midst? Exhibit A is an editorial in the [now defunct] gay San Francisco Sentinel published on March 26, 1992. The editorial trashes a lesbian reader who complained about the inclusion of NAMBLA (that is, the North American Man-Boy Love Association) in gay pride parades.
Calling the reader a “homo-homophobe,” the editorial observes: “NAMBLA’s position on sex is not unreasonable, just unpopular…When a 14 year-old boy approaches a man for sex, it’s because he wants sex with a man…The love between men and boys is the foundation for homosexuality.”
Or, if they were the least bit curious, the media might consider and even report what homosexual activists say among themselves or to a largely sympathetic audience, like author Michael Warner, writing in the Village Voice (Jan 31, 1995) who sees something fundamental about the swing back to unprotected sex among homosexuals. Warner argues, “The appeal of queer sex, for many, lies in its ability to violate the responsibilizing frames of good, right-thinking people.”
Paula Ettelbrick, now with the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, agrees. In a chapter in the 1992 book “Lesbians, Gay Men and the Law,” Ettelbrick proclaims, “Being queer is more than setting up house, sleeping with a person of the same gender, and seeking approval for doing so….being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality and family, and in the process transforming the very fabric of society”
On December 15, 1999, Andrew (“Virtually Normal”) Sullivan defended himself from the degrading charge that his support of gay marriage is in any way an endorsement of monogamy. In the online journal, Salon, Sullivan insisted that he has always “defended the beauty and mystery and spirituality of …anonymous sex.” Moreover, “on a personal level, I have never been in a long-term romantic relationship, and am perfectly happy without one.” Thanks for sharing, Andy.
Like the movement, on the orientation front, the latest media campaign is for gay “marriage” or, at the very least, civil unions. My colleagues never, but never, consider the logical implications and likely ramifications of this.
If two men or two women “marry,” why not a heterosexual three-some, four-some, or more-some? (The Utah ACLU is currently challenging that state’s anti-bigamy law on the grounds that what’s good for gays is equally good for straights.) Why can’t a man marry his sister or his Siamese cat? If one form of love traditionally considered deviant must be institutionalized, why stop there? There may not be a drive for group “marriage” or incestuous “unions” just yet –– give it time –– but once we accept the premise of same-sex “marriage,” how can it logically be opposed?
This is a brief and, of necessity, cursory overview of the way the news media slants, editorializes, preaches, proselytizes and manipulates in the guise of covering gays. As with so many other issues, my colleagues in the Fourth Estate have determined that the debate is over. What is there to discuss when on one side stand the forces of reason, tolerance, science and compassion, while sulking on the other, flaming torches in hand, are the minions of irrational fear, bigotry and malice.
They are, or course, mistaken. The debate isn’t over; it’s only just begun. They may ignore us; they can’t silence us. We will take every opportunity to tell the public that what is presented to them as reporting of gay rights is a fraud, that the thought police are running rampant, swinging their truncheons. We will demand fairness, and we will keep insisting that we not be treated as pariahs. Ugly name-calling, sneers and attempts at intimidation, are not forms of dialogue.
Like Jimmy Stewart in the Capra classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, exhausted, our voices giving out, we will hold the floor and we will continue to speak, even if the media refuse to listen. And, like Jefferson Smith, we will take comfort in the knowledge that lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.