The Huffington Post's Jon Ward is a thoughtful reporter and one who uncovers ghosts on his political beat with regularity. Earlier this week he wrote about the tension between evangelical morality and politics as it relates to changing marriage law to include same-sex couples.
Yesterday he wrote about something particularly fascinating. In the video above we see Piers Morgan and Suze Orman and Ryan Anderson. They're debating the topic of marriage with Ryan T. Anderson. Their behavior is somewhat appalling but typical and represents a tension for those who do seek to define marriage in such a way as to include same-sex couples:
Piers Morgan's CNN segment on Tuesday night was a vivid illustration of this tension. Morgan invited Ryan T. Anderson, a 31-year-old fellow from The Heritage Foundation, on his program to debate the issue. But Morgan did not have Anderson to sit at a table with him and Suze Orman, the 61-year-old financial guru, who is gay. Instead, Anderson was placed about 15 feet away from Morgan and Orman, among the audience, and had to debate from a distance.
The message, in both the language used by Morgan and Orman, and the physical placement of Anderson on the set, was clear: they thought him morally inferior. Evangelical leader Tim Keller talks about this dynamic -- opponents of gay marriage being treated akin to bigoted groups such as white supremacists -- in yesterday's piece.
What I liked about Piers Morgan's approach here is that it was just a very transparent and honest approach to that taken by many media figures. As the Washington Post scandal showed, through ignorance or inability to understand the arguments made by marriage traditionalists or some other problem, many in the media are convinced that they're fighting the equivalent of racists and that, as such, horrific treatment of the people and their arguments is justified.
Here's another example of that. Poynter discusses how some media figures took part in that most brave and meaningful public sacrament: changing one's Facebook avatar to support changing marriage laws to include same-sex couples. You can read about it at "Journalists share arguments for, against using same-sex marriage symbols on social media profiles."
My favorite part:
A human rights issue vs. a political issue: Journalists who changed their avatars and were willing to talk about it generally said they view same-sex marriage differently from a regular political issue in which both sides must be presented fairly and objectively.
Matt DeRienzo, an editor for the Journal Register Company in Connecticut, tweeted: “I don’t have a problem with journalists who work for me voicing support for basic civil rights for gay people. Or kids, sunshine, etc.”
And then we get various other quotes from people who are unable to view this issue beyond the "civil rights" paradigm they've adopted.
This breezes right past the central, fundamental question under debate and begs the question. If one adopts a certain view of marriage -- then opposition to that view is akin to racism. If one retains the view that marriage is the institution that governs sexual complementarity and requires male and female then civil rights is the wrong framework and cries of bigotry are uninformed and scurrilous at best.
The problem I see with many of these media discussions is that reporters and editors aren't thinking very much about it. There's a lot of emotion, but not a lot of thinking. There's close to no curiosity about intellectual arguments in play and the end result is some scary behavior on the part of the Piers Morgan types.
In the words of David S. Crawford, the tolerance that will be given to those who aren't on board with changing the basis of marriage from sexual complementarity to sexual orientation will be:
...provisional and contingent, tailored to accommodate what is conceived as a significant but shrinking segment of society that holds a publically unacceptable private bigotry. Where over time it emerges that this bigotry has not in fact disappeared, more aggressive measures will be needed, which will include more explicit legal and educational components, as well as simple ostracism.
The media -- through the stories they choose to cover and the manner they choose to cover them are simply ahead of the game in this Gleichschaltung. Piers Morgan is just one of many attempting to bring everyone into line on this emerging strict morality.
I doubt that journalists are even aware of all the assumptions they've made to get to the point where they're treating as bigots those people who support marriage built on sexual complementarity as opposed to sexual orientation. They sure as heck aren't aware of the implications.
But then they sit around the metaphorical Piers Morgan table and tell everyone else that they're uneducated.
I might encourage skeptics, opponents and proponents of changing marriage law alike to read this paper on the "ubiquitous but unexamined presuppositions" surrounding the marriage debate, but here's just a bit that shows how reason, religion and response to same play a role in the language we use and the prism through which we see the larger picture:
My point then is this: the entire modern conception of law and its meaning favors the mechanistic view of physicality and the separate, bodiless conception of the fully human. Indeed, this view generates the standards of rationality and argumentation employed on all sides in the debate over “gay marriage.” Consider the claim that there is no legally cognizable difference between “same-sex couples” and infertile “opposite-sex couples” or fertile “opposite-sex couples” and “same-sex couples” employing reproductive technologies. To borrow Benedict’s language, this is an entirely “functionalistic” view of the body’s sexual and procreative meaning. It would appear that the body’s procreativity can be entirely replaced by the technical processes of the lab without any real loss of its essential humanity. Rather, its replacement would be an enhancement of the humanity of conception and birth. We also see these assumptions at work in the argument that man and woman are essentially interchangeable for all legally cognizable purposes.
If believing that "God made them male and female" -- as Jesus once put it -- is grounds for the shocking dehumanizing ostracism and taunting of the type we saw deployed against a Princeton-educated, magna cum laude-graduated, Notre Dame-enrolled philosopher, what does that mean for civil discourse and what does that mean about how deep journalism is into some unexamined presuppositions about the nature of man and our personal and social identity as men?
We deserve meaningful coverage on a complex and powerful topic and instead we're getting changed Facebook avatars and journalists who justify ignorance and bullying in the (at best) debatable name of "civil rights."
Have we had enough?