Thursday, January 08, 2009

I have questions

Here are some random questions I can’t answer. Maybe one of you can:

Why does the media always talk about “polygamy” when they really mean “polygyny” (a man having multiple wives)? This is what Mormons of old did and current-day fundamentalist Mormons in the linked story still do. The practice led to the amusing anti-Prop 8 signs carried by lesbians: “Joseph Smith had 33 wives. I only want one.” Anyway, a woman who has many husbands is never in the news (and that’s called “polyandry”, by the way). So why the generic term for people with multiple spouses when that’s never what they mean?

Why do liberals condemn (rightly, I might add) racism in all its forms, but turn a blind eye to homophobia? The condemnation of Rick Warren remained largely among GLBT people until it was revealed he was a cheerleader for the Syrian dictatorship; then heterosexual liberals talked about what a terrible person Rick Warren is. In a similar vein, they’d never, ever permit an avowed racist to deliver the invocation at any president’s inauguration, but a man who has consistently and repeatedly attacked the human rights and dignity of GLBT people is okay. Why is that, exactly? And why, exactly, are gay liberals like me supposed to shut-up and accept this mistake as an okay thing? Would you, Mr. or Ms. heterosexual liberal, say that if it was a KKK chaplain? No? Then why should I accept Rick Warren’s speaking as a “good” thing? The fact is, to many heterosexual liberal Democrats, a “fag” is a homosexual gentleman who has just left the room. We expect that of our enemies, but our friends?

Why does the mainstream media let the christianist right get away with promoting lies, distortions or just utter nonsense? The list is unimaginably long, but let’s take one recent example: The myth that African Americans passed Proposition 8. That myth was absurd when it was first promoted (and, sadly, too many gay people bought it). The christianist right has a lot to gain by causing division between the GLBT and African American communities (if we’re divided, they rule). The mainstream media lets them get away with it.

A study commissioned by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute (via Joe.My.God) has buried the myth once and for all. By looking at real, actual voting results (and not stupid exit polls), the study found that “party affiliation, political ideology, frequency of attending worship services and age were the driving forces behind the measure’s passage on Nov. 4. The study finds that after taking into account the effect of religious service attendance, support for Proposition 8 among African Americans and Latinos was not significantly different than other groups.” So there, wingnuts and your friends in the media. Can we now finally stop repeating the bullshit? (To download a copy of the study, click here for the PDF).

Finally, are there any liberal Christian preachers? I mean prominent, appear-on-TV-to-offer-commentary preachers, not some neighbourhood minister. On a recent podcast with my friend Jason, neither of us could name any, but we knew the names of plenty of far right preachers. The only prominent liberal Christian I can think of is retired Episcopal Bishop John Spong. Are there any liberal Christians left? Or are they all too frightened to take on the christianist right? Anyone?


Nessa said...

I don't have an answer to one and four, but I have the same answer to two and three. And my answer leads to more questions which may never have appropriate answers. But my answer is fear. I think in both cases the christianist right is considered such a bully that the majority of liberals and media are afraid of standing up to them.

I think money is another factor for media. It doesn't matter what they say, it's how much they pay.

Roger Owen Green said...

1. Americans can't spell words with three y's
2. I'm old enough to remember when the media cast a blind eye on racism. It was only when the very overt form showed up (fire hosing children) did it get covered. I contend that institutional racism STILL doesn't get coverd adequately.
3. In part because they bought into this bill of goods that the Christian right WAS Christianity.
4. I don't know, but I suspect that it's the same reason that liberal talk radio fails (Air America notwithstanding).

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Thanks for helping! You both help to clarify some of what I've been thinking, which for me is a very good thing.

Nessa: I actually think what you said may apply to number four, too. It could be that there are liberal Christians who aren't offered the chance to comment on TV because the networks are afraid of the christianist right, and because there's more money in pandering to the right.

Roger: Best explanation for one I've heard yet! I suppose it could also be the popularity of using generic words, like when brand names come to be used for a whole category (like "Kleenex" for all "facial tissues"). We Americans in particular tend to like language simpler, which is okay as long as meaning isn't lost or deliberately hidden.

I completely agree with you about institutional racism and the lack of proper coverage. My real point was how (mainly white) heterosexual liberals will make big noises (even if it's only noise) about racism, but will bend over backwards to accommodate homophobia and homophobic bigots like Rick Warren. The media does this, too, but my gripe here is with liberals who are "fair weather friends" who—to go farther than I did in the post—insist that I support every item on their political agenda, but refuse to acknowledge that I even have the right to object to their accommodation of homophobic bigotry.

You are so right about the media buying into the christianist right as definition of "Christian". We see it most blatantly when they parrot the phrase "people of faith", using it the same way the christianist right does, to mean only fundamentalists. If the newsmedia can't recognise they're presenting only one point of view, how can they fix it?

I think this relates to number four, as well—they don't even realise they're excluding other points of view. And your point about four ties in with what Nessa was sating about money: Right wing stuff makes them more money than moderate stuff. If there was money to be made on a liberal counterpart to Fox, you can bet the media companies would do it. But that doesn't excuse their current bias in their coverage of stories with religious aspects.

epilonious said...

1. The same reason that newscasters always pronounce the un-accented 'forte' 'fortay' and not 'fort'. Because the language is changing due to a misuse and it annoys you ;).

2. Because most of the reigning (voting, policy-making, news-creating) liberals of today fought for civil rights and not gay ones. I predict that in 30 years it will be career suicide to use the word 'fag' somewhere but words like 'redneck' and 'Mexican' will be the new slurs much to the chagrin of 20-something immigrant and southern activists. Meanwhile 'negro' will become more colloquial than pejorative and 'nigger' will still find itself a really naughty word to use against black people. (Much like 'bitch' and 'cunt' are used today this long after the woman's rights movements).

3. Because it's their belief, and questioning beliefs is a big no-no.

4. Yes, but they aren't marketable right now.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

1. Actually, the only changing aspect of language that truly annoys me is misuse of apostrophes. In this case, I just find it odd that the newsmedia implies that it's anything other than one man with multiple wives.

2. That's the best explanation I've heard yet.

3. Yes, but there's a difference between religious belief, which they're entitled to, and using lies, distortions and utter nonsense in the promotion of a political agenda. The newsmedia seems incapable of telling the difference.

Having said all that, the christianist right constantly questions the beliefs of more moderate (and definitely liberal) Christians. Seems to me they ought to be able to take some questioning of their beliefs in return.

4. It does annoy me that the quality of coverage of public issues comes down to money. No wonder so much public affairs programming is shallow.