New York Post

NBC takes on the Epoch Times in bid to push Falun Gong-linked outlet off Facebook

NBC takes on the Epoch Times in bid to push Falun Gong-linked outlet off Facebook

Whenever I see one media outlet go after another, red flags pop up in my mind. The recent spectacle of NBC attacking a conservative newspaper called the Epoch Times is a bizarre head trip in that NBC is pretending to have discovered that the paper was founded by members of the Falun Gong, a spiritualist Chinese group.

“NBC News has exclusively learned that the popular conservative news site The Epoch Times is funded by a Chinese spiritual community called Falun Gong, which hopes to take down the Chinese government,” the network stated on Aug. 20.

Excuse me? Those of us on the religion beat have known about the Epoch Times (ET) for many years. Founded in 2000, it never hid its Falun Gong origins nor its hope that China’s Communist overlords would experience divine retribution.

Why? Ever since 2009, news has been leaking out that the Chinese government is torturing and killing Falun Gong members. I was reporting on this back then, especially after members of Congress began having hearings on Capitol Hill about forced organ “donations.”

Thus, it’s understandable that the ET might be a bit unhappy with the Chinese government and very happy with President Trump who has taken China on. So why has NBC mounted a multi-week campaign against the ET and persuaded Facebook to censor any ET ads, particularly those that support President Trump?

It’s entirely possible that the ET broke Facebook’s rules on transparency and may have deserved its punishment. But NBC’s over-the-top campaign against the Epoch Times goes way beyond whether or not it broke some Facebook rule. No, the newspaper is seen as a dangerous fifth column empowering Trump supporters and for that, it must be taken down.

Let’s start with this NBC newscast that broke the story. The anchor’s opening statement begins as follows:

Exclusive reporting from NBC News linking a Chinese spiritual group footing the bill for some of the biggest pro-Trump advertising on FB. The Epoch Times has spent more than $1.5 million on 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in the last six months alone. …

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Robert Mueller and James Comey: Straight-arrow national prophets for our time?

Robert Mueller and James Comey: Straight-arrow national prophets for our time?

I’ve been fascinated by media portrayals of James Comey and Robert Mueller, America’s newest heroes or, in the case of Comey, a hero-martyr. To the uninitiated, Comey was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation until President Donald Trump fired him on May 9, right when the former was launching an investigation into the Trump team’s Russian connections. 

Mueller is the 72-year-old former FBI head brought in as special counsel a week later to investigate the Trump-Russia connection. Ever since then, the two men have been linked as moral standard bearers in a very partisan town. Mueller’s appointment is one of the few things on which Democrats and many mainstream Republicans agree.

Media folks have been following Mueller around, even covering his graduation address to a small Massachusetts boarding school to see if they can glean any hints of how the investigation may go. CNN talked about how Mueller spotlighted “honesty, integrity” in his speech.

Question: Are there are any religion themes in all of this virtue talk?

The New York Post cut to the chase by endowing Mueller with supernatural powers.

Holy congressional probe!
Former FBI chief Robert Mueller is the hero America needs to investigate Russia’s meddling into the 2016 presidential election, his former second-in-charge said Sunday.
 “A line in New York would be Batman’s back to save Gotham, but I think in this case, Batman is back to save America,” Timothy Murphy told John Catsimatidis during an interview on “The Cats Roundtable.”

Other coverage has done everything from link Comey to the Old Testament prophet Amos to portraying the Trump Administration as something akin to King Richard III

Let's ask where these men are getting their high principles from. I scoured Google and learned that Mueller and his wife, Ann were married in an Episcopal church outside of Pittsburgh; that he was raised Presbyterian but now attends Episcopal churches and that sometime back, he was a regular at St. John’s Episcopal in Lafayette Square. That’s across the street from the White House.

Let’s hope some reporter can figure out which church he’s now attending. Ditto from Comey, who’s a United Methodist

Why do I ask?

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Are most religious kids really 'jerks'? Depends on how you read a survey

Are most religious kids really 'jerks'? Depends on how you read a survey

Headline writers had a field day last week with a story about an international survey involving the attitudes of religious versus non-religious kids. They ranged from “Religious Kids are Jerks” from the Daily Beast to the Oregonian’s “Religious kids are harsher and less generous than atheist ones, study says.”

The survey came out of the University of Chicago, but involved scholars (and kids) from six countries: Turkey (Istanbul), South Africa (Cape Town), Canada (Toronto), Jordan (Amman), China (Guangzhou) and Chicago itself. It involved 1,170 5-to-12-year-olds.

Now for those of us whose experience of grade school was akin to "Lord of the Flies," the thought of interviewing first through sixth graders for proof of moral grounding is pretty laughable. Why not slightly older children who've had a few more years of formation in their family's religion?

Here is how the Oregonian report began:

When it comes to teaching kids the Golden Rule, Sunday school might not be the best bet.
A new study in the journal Current Biology found children in religious households are significantly less generous than their non-religious peers.
At the same time, religious parents were more likely than non-religious ones to consider their children empathetic and sensitive to the plight of others.

Now I took a graduate-level research methods class two years ago, which taught me a bit more about looking to see how studies are conducted. What I found wasn’t quite what certain media described the situation as being.

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Believe it or not: a holy ghost in New York Post exclusive on Jeffrey Dahmer's killer

Believe it or not: a holy ghost in New York Post exclusive on Jeffrey Dahmer's killer

On its front page Tuesday, the New York Post touted an exclusive interview with the fellow inmate who killed serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer two decades ago.

Yes, I know it's shocking to hear that the Post produced a piece of tabloid journalism. And somewhere today, a dog bit a mailman.

But stick with me for a moment, and I'll explain my reason for highlighting this story. There really is a GetReligion angle. Promise.

First, let me share the Post's graphic lede:

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was done in by his uncontrollable lust for human flesh, the man who whacked him in prison 20 years ago told The Post, revealing for the first time why the cannibal had to die.
Christopher Scarver — who fatally beat the serial killer and another inmate in 1994 — said he grew to despise Dahmer because he would fashion severed limbs out of prison food to taunt the other inmates.
He’d drizzle on packets of ketchup as blood.
It was very unnerving.
“He would put them in places where people would be,” Scarver, 45, recalled in a low, gravelly voice.
“He crossed the line with some people — prisoners, prison staff. Some people who are in prison are repentant — but he was not one of them.”

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The inky-fingered Dawn

The inky-fingered Dawn

It is a joy and an honor to join GetReligion, as this site has done much to shape my understanding of the dynamics involved in news coverage of religious issues.

I am a very traditional religious believer with a decidedly unorthodox background. I am also a journalist. Put that together and some people think I'm controversial, especially those with long memories who remember when, as a new Christian convert, I was outspoken on issues relating to sexual morality and abortion. Nearly 10 years ago, that outspokenness -- along with an error of misplaced zeal -- lost me a newspaper job, as I'll relate here momentarily.

But here is the bottom line: having put in years in New York City newsrooms, not to mention decades as a rock music historian, I know the value of a free press, and I want to see mainstream journalists produce accurate, fair, balanced reporting on faith issues. That's why I am here at GetReligion.

New York City is in fact my birthplace (technically: Mom was rushed from New Rochelle to a Brooklyn hospital) and raised Reform Jewish -- sort of. Although I was a bat mitzvah, I was also exposed to various New Age practices after my parents' divorce, as my mother explored the Seventies religion smorgasbord.

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Study: Religious kids believe the Bible and other 'fiction'

Study: Religious kids believe the Bible and other 'fiction'

Is this Clutching at Straws Month? Because I don't know how to dress or what to buy for it. I do know how to celebrate, though. Just publish a study that counters traditional beliefs. And don’t ask questions that might uncover flaws. The latest example emerged this week in the July issue of Cognitive Science. Three researchers alleged that young children who are "exposed to religion" -- gotta love that wording -- have trouble telling fact from fiction.

This claim is in an appallingly brief, 291-word article in the Huffington Post -- which, true to form, swallows and regurgitates the stuff without chewing. We'll get to that in a bit.

First, here's how it went down:

Researchers presented 5- and 6-year-old children from both public and parochial schools with three different types of stories -- religious, fantastical and realistic -- in an effort to gauge how well they could identify narratives with impossible elements as fictional.

The study found that, of the 66 participants, children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school were significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional.

By relating seemingly impossible religious events achieved through divine intervention (e.g., Jesus transforming water into wine) to fictional narratives, religious children would more heavily rely on religion to justify their false categorizations.

“In both studies, [children exposed to religion] were less likely to judge the characters in the fantastical stories as pretend, and in line with this equivocation, they made more appeals to reality and fewer appeals to impossibility than did secular children,” the study concluded.

Now let's dismantle this, starting with the sampling. I don’t often resort to italics, but c'mon -- sixty-six subjects? I saw several times that many kids yesterday at one Vacation Bible School. A sampling of 66 children is pretty small for an attempt to generalize to all children.

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Surprise! Same-sex couples produce happier kids, media say

Surprise! Same-sex couples produce happier kids, media say

Ordinarily, quality journalism benefits from solid information, concrete evidence and a healthy dose of skepticism.

But certainly, major news organizations can be forgiven when they err on the side of a higher ideal, right?

In this week's example, that higher ideal would be acceptance of same-sex parents.

At this point in history, producing a baby apparently — and regrettably, it seems — still requires a father and a mother. But on the bright side, a "major study" has come up with this encouraging news:

Children of same-sex couples are happier and healthier than peers, research shows

That was the headline in the Washington Post. 

The breathless top of the Post story:

Children of same-sex couples fare better when it comes to physical health and social well-being than children in the general population, according to researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

“It’s often suggested that children with same-sex parents have poorer outcomes because they’re missing a parent of a particular sex. But research my colleagues and I published in the journal BMC Public Health shows this isn’t the case,” lead researcher Simon Crouch wrote on the Conversation.

Crouch and his team surveyed 315 same-sex parents with a total of 500 children across Australia. About 80 percent of the kids had female parents and about 18 percent had male parents, the study states.

Children from same-sex families scored about 6 percent higher on general health and family cohesion, even when controlling for socio-demographic factors such as parents’ education and household income, Crouch wrote. However, on most health measures, including emotional behavior and physical functioning, there was no difference compared with children from the general population.

Crouch suggested the greater social cohesion among same-sex families comes from an equal distribution of work. He said same-sex couples are likely to share responsibilities more equally than heterosexual ones.

“It is liberating for parents to take on roles that suit their skills rather than defaulting to gender stereotypes, where mum is the primary care giver and dad the primary breadwinner,” he said.

 

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Bowe Bergdahl: Calvinist, Buddhist, Muslim seeker?

While most of the DC Beltway journalists do that dance that they do (Will the vaguely legal Taliban prisoner swap hurt Democrats in 2014 elections?!), there are some interesting religion-beat questions hiding between the lines in the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. As a jumping-off point, consider the following rather bizarre passage in this New York Post report:

As a teen, the home-schooled son of Calvinists took up ballet — recruited to be a “lifter” by “a beautiful local girl,” Rolling Stone reported, “the guy who holds the girl aloft in a ballet sequence.” The strategy worked: Bergdahl — who also began dabbling in Budd­hism and tarot card reading — soon moved in with the woman.

A BBC explainer has some of that information, but with a few more specifics:

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Untangling the Tsarnaevs' Muslim ties, carefully

On Friday we asked readers to send in thoughts on good and bad coverage of religion angles for the Tsarnaev brothers. And we’ve seen quite a bit of good coverage — too much to go into but I hope you’re seeing it in your local and national outlets. We’ve also heard from religion reporters and others who pointed out problems.

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