National Commentary

Journalists Must Stop ‘Rightwashing’ Reality

besenmug

One of the largest problems in America today is the inability of many leading journalists to report the facts if they upset right wing sensibilities. For example, National Public Radio (NPR) aired a segment this week that inexplicably claimed, “The debate about the value of conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, has been raging in psychological circles for more than a decade.”

In reality, the debate began to ebb in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 2009, the American Psychological Association conducted an exhaustive study on the efficacy of “ex-gay” therapy. The press release said it all: “No evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work, says APA,” and “Practitioners should avoid telling clients that they can change from gay to straight.”

I’m willing to bet that the well educated NPR reporter and producers knew that science says that “ex-gay” therapy is hokum. Yet, thanks to the Foxification of news, professional journalists eschew truth and accuracy for the false God of “balance.”

It seems to me that too many news reporters appear terrified of the fire breathing right and will compromise their professional standards to avoid their wrath. It was always a problem, but the timidity has only intensified since the rogue Teabaggers spooked members of Congress and the press over healthcare reform at town hall meetings. Now, it seems much of the cowed media bends over backwards to appease “conservative correctness,” even if they know that they are helping to promulgate known falsehoods.

Take the debt ceiling, for example, a calamity that nearly brought down the world economy. Intransigent, tantrum-throwing Teabaggers took our nation hostage and caused an unnecessary crisis. Instead of rightfully placing culpability at the feet of the Republican extremists, many news outlets tried to spread the blame. They ran idiotic stories about how peoples’ confidence in Washington was declining or showed angry Midwesterners wishing that the political parties would stop fighting and just get along. Hmm, maybe that would be possible if the media educated the public on who was actually at fault.

The same can be said for the media’s treatment of voodoo economics, which is the right wing’s fantasy that taxes on the rich can be drastically cut and still lead to increased economic growth and governmental revenues. This fanciful notion is provably false and the media does a disservice to the nation when they don’t outright laugh at Republicans who embrace this failed economic model. The media should stop giving unearned credibility to crackpot conservatism and have the courage to report that some ideas are simply ineffective or bizarre.

The media is even worse with its coddling of Evangelical Christians. For instance, in Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column this week, “Evangelicals Without Blowhards,” he blithely dismisses liberal concerns about the effects of this group on our nation’s political system.

“In these polarized times, few words conjure as much distaste in liberal circles as ‘evangelical Christian.'” Writes Kristof. “That’s partly because evangelicals came to be associated with blowhard scolds,” such as the late-Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Kristof goes on to rightfully extol the virtuous overseas charitable work of some evangelicals. But doesn’t seem to grasp why liberals are upset with this group when he writes, “I’m not particularly religious myself, but I stand in awe of those I’ve seen risking their lives in this way – and it sickens me to see that faith mocked at New York cocktail parties.”

Kristof’s piece is sophistry at its finest. He acts as though liberals are mean and unfairly tarring evangelicals for the bad behavior of two bigoted preachers.

It seems he conveniently forgot how evangelicals played a key role in bringing America the nightmare of George W. Bush. It appears that Kristof hasn’t watched the GOP presidential debates either, where the candidates desperately compete for the evangelical vote by disavowing science and reality. Or, maybe he is conveniently ignoring “Loonypalooza,” the stadium prayer event scheduled this weekend by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And, perhaps, he didn’t read his own newspaper on Sunday, where there was a front-page article about how evangelical dominated southern states are passing laws to outlaw the looming threat of Shariah. From what I hear, all five Muslims in Oklahoma were outraged that their plan of state domination was foiled. (Personally, I’m more worried about “Christariah” in places like Oklahoma)

Instead of licking the boots of evangelicals, why doesn’t Kristof ask them why people who call themselves Christians elect scrooges like Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who give tax breaks to the rich, while strangling the economic life out of the poor and middle class? Why doesn’t he ask these evangelicals why their overseas missions sometimes bring us legislation like the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda?

The truth is, it’s much easier for journalists to “Rightwash,” than ask the tough questions that would engender a vicious conservative backlash.

 


Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”