Caitlin Flanagan

Andrew Sullivan: You want to see hate? Why did media Twitter-verse want to punch out some kids?

Andrew Sullivan: You want to see hate? Why did media Twitter-verse want to punch out some kids?

Your GetReligionistas could have run nothing the past week except for news and commentary about the Covington Catholic High School teens and we still would not have looked at half of the worthy stuff that was out there.

I could run 10 think pieces today on this topic and they all would be worthy of your attention.

The bottom line: This disaster is turning into a watershed moment in media-bias studies, one that — for people of good will in the middle of American public discourse — is increasingly being seen as a parable involving more than read MAGA hats.

Then again, debates about the Covington Catholics would be snuffed out like a candle if Ruth Bader Ginsberg announced that she was retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court. At that point, screams about Loud Dogma would drown out everything else.

Back to the Covington teens. At this point, there’s no reason to read people on the far left or the far right. The ruts there have been dug pretty deep by this point.

Thus, I would urge readers who care about the mainstream press, and religion-beat news in particular, to seek out voices toward the unpredictable middle of American public discourse. For example, see the Caitlin Flanagan piece in The Atlantic that ran with this headline: “The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story — And the damage to their credibility will be lasting.”

The must-read essay that journalists really need to ponder, however, is by Andrew Sullivan, a political and cultural commentator whose voice is hard to label — other than the fact that he is an old-school liberal on First Amendment issues. The New York magazine headline: “The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate.”

On one level, Sullivan’s piece focuses on the same question that I put at the center of this week’s “Crossroads” podcast: “Why did Covington Catholic boys instantly become the bad guys?” As opposed to what? As opposed to the Black Hebrew Israelite protesters whose verbal attacks on the Catholic teens lit the fuse on this entire media exposition.

How did elite media handle the stunning direct quotes — they’re on videotape — packed with hate that these bullhorn screamers aimed at the Catholic boys?

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Sex crimes and sins in the past: Pay attention to Bill Clinton's skilled use of the faith card

Sex crimes and sins in the past: Pay attention to Bill Clinton's skilled use of the faith card

Long ago, I was a strong supporter of Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, in part because of his early willingness -- as a Bible Belt Democrat -- to seek compromises on government policies linked to abortion. I was even more hopeful about the future of a young politico from Tennessee, Sen. Al Gore, whose pro-life voting record came in at 80-plus percent.

Yes, there was a time when both men were, in the context of the Democratic Party, clearly to the right of center on moral and cultural issues. They weren't "blue dog" Democrats, but they were close.

Things changed.

Now Bill Clinton is creeping back into the news during America's tsunami of headlines -- justified, methinks -- about sexual harassment and worse in Hollywood, inside the DC Beltway and elsewhere. On the cultural and political left, those who are concerned about the Harvey Weinsteins of this world, as well as accusations against one Roy Moore of Alabama, are being asked if they are rethinking their views on former President Clinton. As in this New York Times headline: " 'What About Bill?’ Sexual Misconduct Debate Revives Questions About Clinton."

This is an important story (ditto for this strong online essay at The Atlantic by the always readable Caitlin Flanagan). But as you read it, please see if you sense -- as I do -- the presence of a "religion ghost" (to use the GetReligion term).

You see, Clinton never really repented of his sins -- in legal and political terms. He outlasted his critics, on that front, and survived. Instead, as a progressive Baptist, he did his repenting in religious language that connected with Americans, but had little practical impact. I think that's a crucial element of the story of his survival.

Here is the overture of the New York Times piece:

WASHINGTON -- Another woman went on national television this week to press her case of sexual assault by a powerful figure. But the accused was not Roy S. Moore or Harvey Weinstein or Donald J. Trump. It was Bill Clinton.

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