You know a story is going to be bad when the headline is "National Organization for Marriage crusading against gay nuptials in NY." Crusading! Hide your kids! Hide your wife! But the headline to this New York Daily News article by Douglas Feiden might actually be the highlight. It quickly goes downhill from there. Take the lede (please!):
A shadowy group run by religious fundamentalists is bankrolling a pitched crusade against same-sex marriage in New York.
Um, yeah. So, uh, yeah. Not really sure what to say about this. This article might seem like an Onion-like satire of how unfair the mainstream media regularly is when discussing support of traditional marriage. But it's not. It really ran in the New York Daily News. Just like that.
The article claims that the National Organization for Marriage works to keep its donor lists secret. I don't know why, although this article might ironically suggest an answer. But oddly, the article doesn't even attempt to ask the group -- National Organization for Marriage -- its motivation, much less quote the group. I mean, I was reading recently how Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington doesn't disclose its donors, which is odd if you know about their work. But perhaps a less hit-job piece and more informative piece would put donor disclosure in context.
We last discussed media coverage of the National Organization for Marriage when the Washington Post apologized for condescendingly calling its president sane. They apologized not for the condescension, mind you, but for the "sane" part. Let me be clear: I'm not in any way joking or exaggerating right now. This is just the way the media has lost its ever-loving mind when it comes to covering this topic.
OK, so how about the "fundamentalist" smear? Now we all know that "fundamentalist" is a word with, you know, an actual meaning beyond, "people I disagree with" (or even the slang curse, "sumbitch"). And for mainstream journalists, the actual guidance from the Associated Press is:
fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. … However, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians. In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.
The article doesn't attempt to define the group's backers as some subset of Protestantism. It doesn't really try to substantiate the charge at all. Except to say, somewhat laughably:
The National Organization for Marriage board includes prominent members of Opus Dei, a cult-like Catholic group portrayed in Dan Brown's, "The Da Vinci Code."
Come on, New York Daily News. You're not Conspiracy Central but a quasi-legitimate media outlet, right? Maybe the New York Daily News thinks that The DaVinci Code was a documentary. I don't know. But Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. Its founder has been canonized. There is no need to call it cult-like, either by demonization standards or basic journalism standards.
On that note, check out the second to last line of the article:
The group's champions say it's been unfairly demonized.
Yeah, fancy that. I wonder why they would say such a thing?
The thing is that while individuals affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage might be personally religious, the group itself is not religious. It argues for retaining marriage law based on natural law and not from a religious argument. So the tenuous article is worse than histrionic.
There is a serious problem with how the mainstream media has covered the debate surrounding redefining marriage to include same-sex unions. There's no need for this. The reporter should not have set out to demonize those groups he personally loathes but, rather, to report an interesting story about one group's participation in the debate.