Misrepresented by CNN

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I have a history of being misrepresented by media outlets. The student newspaper at Brown University came to a Christian function, and the reporter asked me my opinion about a video that was shown that had something to do with a Christian view on sex. I said I agreed with most of the things in the video. She then asked me if I also thought people might feel excluded or offended by things in it, and I said that some people would be, but that wasn't a reason not to show it. She then quoted me, with actual quotation marks, as saying something very similar to, "I agree with most of what the video said, but I think someone who doesn't believe such things would be offended by it." That's clearly misrepresentation. It makes it sound as if the comment I wanted going on record was not my emphasis, and the one she wanted put into my mouth was my main point.

The Syracuse University student newspaper did something similarly awful. They published a letter to the editor that I wrote. I was complaining that they had criticized the Christian organizations on campus for not going to a Jerry Falwell event about 20 miles north of Syracuse. I wrote that the Christian organizations on campus are non-political and include a number of liberals as well as many who would call themselves part of the religious right, and I pointed out that Jerry Falwell is a fringe element that most evangelicals are embarassed by regarding an event called Jesus Week on campus. I had defended the Christian organizations in my letter. They put a headline over my letter making it sound as if I thought the groups I was defending misunderstood Jesus. My whole point in One of my two main points in writing the letter was to defend them. They'd given a ridiculous criticism of some groups, and I pointed out how ridiculous those criticisms were. It didn't help that they'd also removed a few crucial sentences from my letter. [See the comment below for more detail. I didn't want to make the post any longer by adding the whole story, and I didn't want to delete what I had already said here because of I'm not entirely sure they didn't do something similar with the Falwell letter too.]

Well, it's happened again, and this time it's no student newspaper. It's CNN/Netscape News. I've been misrepresented by the big media misrepresenters. Their website has highlighted my criticism of attacks on the Harriet Miers nomination. Judging by their headline ("Bush's Base is Foaming at the Mouth"), they seemed to have liked the fact that I referred to a certain portion of Bush's base as "foaming at the mouth", but they seem to want to make it appear as if I'm talking about the whole of Bush's base. I would have thought it obvious that there's a foaming at the mouth component of the right wing and a foaming at the mouth portion of the left wing, and all I said is that the one on the right has been saying some pretty dumb things about this nomination. It doesn't follow that I think Bush's base is foaming at the mouth. After all, I'm part of that base, and I don't think I'm foaming at the mouth. I appreciate the link from a major news outlet. Actually, I was shocked to see them giving any attention to my blog. I'm not even offended by this, which wasn't true of the other two instances. I'm much happier for the link than I am regretful of how it summarizes my post. Still, it's unfortunate that the headline linking to my post would misrepresent what I'm saying.

Update: Their link to me is showing up again in this story today. The headline for it is the same. Also, I want to correct what I said above about the Syracuse University letter-publishing incident. I had remembered it as the wrong letter. See my comment below.

5 Comments

Well, as they say, no publicity is bad publicity... At least you got a link from CNN. Too bad it's a distorted one.

Wow! I think it's pretty exciting indeed to be misrepresented by CNN!

NEVER believe what you see in the press. I have been quoted twice by reporters and each time they played with my words to match what THEY wanted to report.

Here is the larger context of the letterI wrote to the Syracuse University newspaper that led to my being misrepresented. They've published at least three letters I've written. I did write the Falwell one, and they did print it, but I'm wondering if there was a problem with that one as I had thought, because. I found a different lette rthat they had published with a deceptive headline.

It was about Jesus Day, an event organized by a few of the Christian groups on campus. I was responding to an editorial that week that had criticized the actions of those groups. The author had misstated contemporary views on when the New Testament was authored, which I corrected him on, and he had presented a skewed and inaccurate view of the motivations of the people in those groups. I know, because I was a member of one of them. I criticized some elements of what he had thought he had seen there but insisted that what he was talking about wasn't at all the motivation or the desired effect.

The headline they put over my letter said "Column, group misunderstand Jesus". The headline was 100% correct on the first part and 100% wrong on the second. My letter was a criticism of their columnist on two of his points, and they apparently wanted me to be correcting some facts while agreeing with him in spirit. I think the idea was to take some of the blame off their guy. Anyone who read the letter would know otherwise, however. Here is the entirety of the letter as they printed it (which they edited by removing one or two crucial sentences, as I remember it, but I don't have the original:

John Murray, in his March 1 column, dates "the first written record of Jesus' teaching and his actions" to "almost a century after his death." Most scholars today think the gospels existed before the year 100. One scholar (who denies their historical accuracy) argues that they were completed by the 60s, only thirty years later. Mainstream scholars think many core teachings and accounts were written by then. From the late 50s, I Corinthians, [ed.: The comma was almost certainly not in my letter. I've never been the sort to put a comman between a subject and verb. This might be a sign that they pulled out some phrase that I'd set off with commas but forgot to remove the comma. This letter was submitted electronically.] describes Jesus' death and resurrection. Whatever the origin of these accounts, people who knew Jesus would have been around to refute them.

We have no manuscripts (just fragments) earlier than the second century, but that's exceptional for ancient documents. Most have few manuscripts, the earliest from 1000 years after their composition, whereas the Greek Bible has thousands, some from the second century. [ed.: this is almost certainly from another paragraph, and I think they left out something in between] Mr. Murray says "the propaganda of video tapes, Bibles and seminars" show a "one-sided view of a group trying to gain new members." This is one-sided to anyone familiar with these groups. [ed.: my letter had made it clear that I was saying that his view of the groups was one-sided. They edited it to make it look as if my sentence could have been agreeing with him, but the context shows how unsuccessful they were.] They wanted these sorts of questions raised. Most students, even ones calling themselves Christian, know little about the Bible and might benefit from closer scrutiny.

I dislike commercial religion, but offering free information and asking people to think needn't be commercial or merely group recruitment. Perhaps some Christians don't investigate their faith, but many evaluate their beliefs far more deeply than Mr. Murray's investigation of Jesus and of the groups sponsoring Jesus week.

The majority of the press appears to simply be the arm of Satan. Every story appears to be promoting an agenda, regardless of the facts. Good luck finding an article that mentions Christianity that does anything but criticize it..either directly or in an indirect backhanded manner.

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