Are NPR and Maggie Gallagher Missing the Boat?

Andrew Sullivan is excerpting a fascinating debate he titles, “Embracing the Bias,” about the dilemma NPR faces over its surprising to no one tilt toward the left.  One of the key bones of contention is whether NPR should just say outright, yes, we are sort of leftish, but unlike Fox News, we’ll own up to our bias and honestly try to be fair rather than just asserting it.

As much as I’d like to endorse that kind of full disclosure, it presupposes, as the lawyers say, a fact not in evidence.  Lesbians and gay men should be more attuned than most to the fact that in a whole lot of cases, people don’t recognize their own bias.  On the contrary, they can understand what others view as bias as some sort of natural order.

When Maggie Gallagher takes umbrage at being called a bigot or worse, she is sincerely expressing her view that the world she grew up in and understands is entirely neutral and correct.  Her incredulity comes from the notion that such a uniform history of acknowledging heterosexual marriage holds no bias against homosexual couples.

And, speaking historically, she is not wrong. I don’t think the long, confounding and ongoing development of marriage came out of a bias against same-sex couples, it just came out of an ignorance of their existence.  It took all of that history, culminating late in the 20th Century, for lesbians and gay men to fully assert their public presence, much less their need for the same legal recognition of their relationships that heterosexuals take for granted.

But just because there was no intent to discriminate against same-sex couples in, say, the 16th Century doesn’t mean that the effect of that unawareness isn’t discriminatory today.  Gallagher has set herself up as the ambassador of that obliviousness.  If history isn’t biased, how could she and her followers be?  What is wrong with people?

What Gallagher can’t see (or won’t acknowledge) is what a gathering majority can no longer blind itself to.  Lesbians and gay men do exist, do fall in love, do form relationships, do raise children.  The law’s neglect of them is now clear to anyone who wants to see it.

But those who keep their blinkers on do, in fact, begin to look biased, look like they really don’t want to see something that is right in front of their eyes.  Perhaps that isn’t really bigotry or hate, but it looks so willful, so harsh, so mean.

Maybe it is always hard for us to recognize our own biases, too easy to mistake them for justice when, in fact, their injustice is only still coming into view.  It would be so nice if Gallagher and NPR and everyone could stand back from their deeply held beliefs and examine them fully.  But history proves that’s hard.

On a lot of subjects, now, we don’t know what bias is.  How can we expect people to admit something we don’t have agreement on the boundaries of?  If NPR doesn’t see their bias as bias, they can do no more about it than Gallagher can, and will be missing many of the same cultural shifts that are happening right under their nose.

19 Comments for “Are NPR and Maggie Gallagher Missing the Boat?”

  1. posted by Houndentenor on

    This is a funny conversation we are having about npr. Yes, the network is run by liberals. It’s also one of the few broadcast sources of news that offer enough depth and context to be considered fair and balanced. The real problem with our news media isn’t bias. It’s that there is little to no fact checking, there’s no challenge to people who say things that are outright lies in interviews, and facts that are correct are often presented without any context therefore allowing them to be misinterpreted. As stories get shorter and more dramatic, the content is displaced by sensationalism.

    Here’s a good example of a lazy reporter (Lisa Ling) not doing enough research to realize she’s being lied to. Ling is not biased towards the group that is lying to her. She just didn’t do her homework.

    Conservatives would be correct in pointing to the sensationalist coverage of the nuclear reactors in Japan. Are the reporters overblowing the story to push an agenda, or are they just trying to keep viewers tuned in? Probably the latter, but that’s hardly an excuse.

    npr going less for sensationalism and more for facts and thoughtful analysis tends to fall into these traps less often and that’s why I enjoy listening. It’s also why it will never rival the commercial sources for viewers because it seems that many more Americans would rather hear an uninformed conspiracy theorist rant and rave.

    • posted by North Dallas Thirty on

      Actually, she likely did her homework and realized that Truth Wins Out and other such organizations are flat-out antireligious bigots.

      Actually, Bob, most “reasonable” people, if we’re using the word with a respect for its root word, “reason,” agree that there is no evidence for God’s existence, and thus no rational REASON to believe that any god or gods have determined ANYTHING, much less morality.
      Comment by Evan Hurst — May 27, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

      Hahahahaha, um. Dude. Seriously? No one in the history of the universe has ever been able to prove that the idea of “gods,” which have always been used to control populations, ever existed. It’s a ridiculous idea, created by uneducated nomads from thousands of years ago.
      GROW UP>
      Comment by Evan Hurst — May 29, 2010 @ 4:13 am

      They all rank “10″ because they’re all retarded and none of them can be proven by any human who’s ever lived.
      God, your questions are really stupid.
      Comment by Evan Hurst — May 29, 2010 @ 4:29 am

      Bob. That means your god is a weak minded little bitch who changes his mind and is definitely NOT eternal or omnipotent. He’s merely a reflection of humanity’s most disgusting instincts.
      Grow the hell up.
      Comment by Evan Hurst — May 31, 2010 @ 4:20 am

      Of COURSE, their idea of god is as a serial rapist. Fundamentalist religious people ARE essentially battered wives. They just act it out on a grander scale without such visible bruises. The really screwed up thing is that their abuser is an imaginary friend.
      But it’s a rapist just the same.
      Comment by Evan Hurst — May 31, 2010 @ 4:22 am

      Ben, everything you said was spot on. Bob’s idea of “god” is a moral reprobate, and a child at that. I wouldn’t worship a sniveling ass like that if you paid me.
      Comment by Evan Hurst — May 31, 2010 @ 4:25 am

      Those are normal, mainstream statements in the gay and lesbian community, fully endorsed and supported by the vast majority of gays and lesbians.

      Ling knew full well that she would be attacked, simply because the vast and overwhelming majority of gays and lesbians are antireligious bigots who support Besen’s statements and will automatically attack anyone of religious faith.

      • posted by Houndentenor on

        So religion is exempt from criticism unlike everything else? I don’t think so.

        Again, you’re ignoring that Exodus flat out lied about what they do and how they operate. But I guess you give them a free pass for bearing false witness since they claim to be doing so for religious reasons?

        • posted by North Dallas Thirty on

          So religion is exempt from criticism unlike everything else? I don’t think so.

          Unfortunately, Houndentenor, you’ve confused your vicious, irrational bigotry towards religious beliefs with “criticism”.

          And that’s why your whining about “lying” really doesn’t carry any weight; you’ve proven that you’re a vicious, irrational bigot, just like Fred Phelps.

          But I’m curious, Houndentenor; why should gays and lesbians like yourself, who clearly hate religion and support discrimination against people with religious beliefs, be allowed to participate in the institutions of society? No one seriously argues that Fred Phelps, who uses the same sort of rhetoric and exhibits the same irrational bigotry as you do, is fit for public office or to teach in schools. What makes you special?

          • posted by Houndentenor on

            LOL. You are the one who makes baseless accusations. No, I don’t share the religious views of the religious right. Yes, I find it laughable that people still believe the earth is 6,000 years old and that men and dinosaurs co-existed and so do most people. Is it wrong for me to say that out loud? Why does religion alone get a free pass for claiming things are true without any shred of evidence? If people want to believe these things, that is their right. They do not, however, have the right to pass off their beliefs as science in a classroom nor do they have the right to impose their moral code, one that they themselves do not personally uphold, on me.

            Honestly, ND30, why do you hate gay people so much? There’s obviously a story here.

  2. posted by BobN on

    Oh, come on. Gallagher vs. NPR and you see some sort of similarity?

    Wow. Just wow.

  3. posted by Ben on

    I’m with you Bob.

    NPR is funded by the public. We’re talking millions. Their secular priests are committed to leftwing groupthink. It’s a religion.

    Maggie Gallagher, by way of contrast, is open about her faith. I think we can all learn from her. And she isn’t taking taxpayers for a ride.

    Of course, if you’d like to demonstrate tolerance, please feel free to post more articles by gays against “gay marriage”. We call this intellectual diversity where I live.

    • posted by BobN on

      Oh, you’re not with me, I assure you.

      As for Maggie, well, if you want a lesson in gross hypocrisy, you could learn a lot from her.

  4. posted by Jorge on

    One of the key bones of contention is whether NPR should just say outright, yes, we are sort of leftish, but unlike Fox News, we’ll own up to our bias and honestly try to be fair rather than just asserting it.

    I fail to see how Fox News is biased, much less how it fails to control for any human error by its opinion hosts and news anchors.

    I shouldn’t have to say this, but in almost every case in which Fox News is alleged to be biased, it turns out to be a case of straight reporting of the facts or bringing a different schema to light in contrast to what the New York Times and the organizations that take its lead happen to be doing.

    For that matter, could you explain to me which major news organization is the best at avoiding any type of intrinsic slant and controlling for error?

  5. posted by Amicus on

    Very interesting way to lead into the subject. (Nagel is worth the journey).

    One of the features that sticks out about Maggie is that she doesn’t seem to have a judicious attitude about it (like Blankenhorn did once?). By that, I mean she’s not willing to admit the possibility, it seems, that she’s wrong.

    This prevents any solution that is a judicious balance of liberties, which one might argue is the heart of the view from nowhere, the eye of a humble reason.

    Indeed, they’ve gone so far that they’ve cast even the notion of a ‘balance of liberties’ as a ‘loss of religious freedom’, rather than as an aspect of the very concept that guarantees freedom.

    We live in dangerous times.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      It’s high noon in the culture wars. Maggie Gallagher and company believe that gay marriage is an assault on their religious freedom. Never mind that it affects their lives not in the least. If they can’t force everyone in the country to pay lip-service to their hypocritical value system, they see that as taking away their rights. There can be no compromise. Some have suggested domestic partnership or civil unions as a substitute but Maggie and company aren’t for those either, so there’s no reason for gays and their allies not to push for full marriage.

      • posted by Amicus on

        Maggie is a tough nut to crack/understand, sometimes. She seems to have moments of lucidity, but they don’t appear to inspire her, for lack of a better term.

        Check out this:

        “This Article is not a complaint [except that it certainly IS in other context]; it is an honest attempt [lucid, perhaps, but we have no foundation to judge honesty] to contribute to this discourse by making visible to gay marriage advocates why so many who oppose gay marriage are convinced that gay marriage is going to have serious consequences down the road36—for themselves, their families, and their faith communities, including religious schools, charities, and ministries.”

        So, I understand, she has anxiety and is willing to propagate/amplify it among others, for either for short-term or perceived long-term political ends.

        But, at another level, it is just absolutely stunning that she honestly believes that the long “oppressed”/denied should have the immediate wherewithal to show compassion to the former oppressors, when there is really no similar gesture on her side of the table in the culture war, is there? It’s not even that she’s asking for consideration, by offering contrition or a willingness to understand the truth of the other. She’s demanding it (or so it seems to me).

        So, the asymmetry runs sort of like this: in the culture war, we reserve the right to relegate you to no relationship recognition at all (preferring, in the ideal, criminal laws on “homosexual behavior”?), but you must promise that, if you win, you won’t relegate us to “bigots” by removing our access to the public sphere in this or that way…

        That might be an accurate, tactical political assessment, but it’s whacked, nonetheless.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          Gay marriage is what these nutjobs fear most. It’s easy enough to vilify the small minority of gays who go to circuit parties and bath houses. It’s not so easy to rail against the boring suburban Lesbian couple three houses down. The truth is that most gay people are as boring and predictable as everyone else and once straight people realize that they stop being afraid and stop scapegoating societies problems on gay people. Will that affect churches. Yes, and it already is. Young people don’t see what the big deal is and are saying so to the elders in their churches.

          • posted by Amicus on

            To locate the core of their phobia with marriage is incorrect (I think). Indeed, as many authors have pointed out, the issues that Mags links to marriage in this essay did not arise because of marriage, but because of simply non-discrimination statutes, i.e. they were a “problem” before marriage was enacted or even proposed to be enacted.

            I would submit for consideration/discussion that the “core” of their phobia is with happy gay people.

            Personally, I don’t think their philosophy is so hard to alter to accommodate that *fully*, but they have spent the lion’s share of their energy in holding onto the old dogma, the old ways of drawing the lines.

          • posted by Amicus on

            and, btw, that bit above might be the most succinct encapsulation of the “view from nowhere” of our opponents, as it relates to the “culture war”:

            Heads: we (Maggie, et. al.) get an illiberal, untoward intrusion of religious doctrine enshrined at law
            Tails: we get the beautiful protections of the society that liberals/Liberals have been fighting for, despite us

          • posted by Amicus on

            And, of course, there is the Libertarian view-from-nowhere, which has the pleasure of being symmetric but …:

            “I think that the paramount claims of individual liberty should not have to yield to democratic decisions intended to impose an alternative enlightened view of public morals.”
            -Rhichard Epstien

      • posted by Wilberforce on

        Yes there is a reason not to push for marraige. A couple of them. One: the public support civil unions. And two: gay marraige could cause a backlash against our allies.

  6. posted by Infovoyeur on

    As to the idea we don’t know our biases, an ugly gem here is Time mag.’s Essay, “The Homosexual in America,” issue of Jan. 24 (or right abouts), 1966. Lest We Forget, take a glance–roundabout self-assured denigration of all aspects of a person’s (an invert’s or deviant’s) life. I’ve been told, “But Time did yellow or beige journalism,” but see, they wrote what sold, eh…
    Society is a puppet theater, we dance to the Puppetmaster’s norms mores folkways, embrace the Truths, shun the Taboos. Then the scene changes and Adm. Mullen etc. can easily blat “equality, equality” because that’s the Climate of Opinion now. “Justice arrives if she does when she does not when she should arrive and she remains as long as she does not always as long as she should.”

    Chester, flaneur and parasexual

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