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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Friday, November 21, 2003
What did Mitt mean? We've got
answers! On Thursday, Media Log asked what Governor Mitt Romney
means when he says that same-sex marriage contradicts "3000 years of
recorded history." What paradigm-shattering event took place around
The Media Log challenge attracted
an avalanche of e-mails. (Okay, five.) And I believe we have the
answer. But I'm saving that for the end.
First, we hear from J.B., who
writes: "It was the last time the Cubs and Red Sox were in the World
Series?" J.B., show some confidence. Lose the question mark! Indeed,
I thought maybe he was on to something. But it turns out that World
Series archeological records only go back to 500 BC, so scientists
can't say for sure. Still, this remains a real
On a more serious note, J.R. sends
What don't you understand?
The human species started writing things down on parchment or
stone approximately 3000 years ago. Those are the earliest
writings we have. We have no way of knowing what happened before
that. Why are you assuming something happened in 1000 BC to change
our thoughts on marriage? What the hell does that have to do with
starting to write things down? Your question is ludicrous! What
are you ... 12?
To paraphrase Our Only President,
we will reveal our age at a time and place of our choosing. As for
the substance of J.R.'s e-mail, he is only off by a few thousand
years -- recorded history goes back to 3000-4000 BC. For more, check
out, from something called the Evolution
It's safe to say that if J.B.
suffers from a self-confidence deficit, J.R. has a surplus. Perhaps
they should get together and trade.
Next up is M.P., who, judging from
his e-mail address, is a Harvard boy. Well, even Harvard types can
get it right occasionally, and it looks like he may have hit the nail
on the head. He writes:
is this a serious question
you're asking? because the answer seems obvious to me: the
reference is to the bible. what else in ancient history (and
certainly 3000 years ago, before classical greece and rome) are
people such as romney even aware of? the '3000' is merely his
rough estimate as to when the text was written or when it purports
to have occurred. of course, anyone familiar with the ancient near
east, for instance (this is my field) would know that we have
abundant records for marriages which stretch back much earlier.
[Media Log aside: Read it and weep, J.R.!]
of course, it's also true that
for the same '3000 years of recorded history' (at least in the
bible and subsequent judeo-christian tradition) homosexuality has
been considered a sin -- so romney's position on 'the necessary
civil rights and certain appropriate benefits' is itself a
'contradiction' of that history. so much for THAT tortured
In a similar vein, A.W. sends this
My guess is that Gov.
Romney is referring to Biblical assertions regarding the age of
the earth, although I believe they usually declare the world is
6,000 years old, rather than three thousand.
Whenever I read or hear remarks
from people who oppose gay marriage on how it will destroy our
society, I'm always reminded of the movie "Ghostbusters".
The Mayor of New York asks the Ghostbusters what they mean
by a disaster of Biblical proportions, and they begin reeling off
the various disasters -- fire and brimstone, forty years of
darkness, the dead rising from the grave. At which point Bill
Murray declares in his most sarcastic Bill Murray voice, "Dogs and
cats, living together!"
Finally, K.S. offers
I actually heard another
anti-same-sex-marriage commentator on CNN Tuesday say that the
ruling flew in the face of 5,000 years of marriage. It seems
arbitrary figures are being thrown around in an attempt to say,
"It's always been this way" in a more concrete fashion, and other
people are being far too lazy by just repeating the assertions.
The bad journalism of our times.
Bad journalism, but maybe bad
political rhetoric, too. In other words, maybe Romney talks about
"3000 years of recorded history" because it sounds good, and
because he and everyone is too lazy to think it through.
Thanksgiving hiatus. Media
Log will be on a holiday schedule until Monday, December 1. I might
post a couple of things, I might not. In any case, see you
posted at 11:41 AM |
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Thursday, November 20, 2003
So, Mitt, what was it that
happened in 1000 BC anyway? It seems that every time Governor
Mitt Romney opens his mouth to denounce same-sex marriage, he makes
the same observation: that the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling goes
against 3000 years of tradition.
For instance, here
is what he said on the Today show on Wednesday morning,
according to this morning's Boston Globe:
I agree with 3000 years of
recorded human history, which frankly is a contradiction of what
the majority of the Supreme Judicial Court said. Of course, at the
same time, we should [be] providing the necessary civil
rights and certain appropriate benefits.
What does this mean? What great
event happened in 1000 BC that allows Romney to refer to "3000 years
of recorded history"? He hasn't said. Yet not only is no one
questioning him, others are agreeing.
Globe columnist Adrian
Walker, who supports same-sex marriage, writes
today, "Governor Mitt Romney, who wasted no time stating his
opposition to the ruling, thundered that his position has 3,000 years
of history behind it. That's true ..."
It is? Says who? What facts can
anyone point to showing that marriage as we know it did not exist in,
say, 1200 BC, but was a thriving institution by 800 BC? What is
Romney talking about?
If anyone knows, pass along your
thoughts to Media Log at dkennedy[a]phx.com.
In other news on the
-- There's no sense debating
Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby on the merits of gay marriage.
He's against it, and he's not going to change his mind. Today,
though, he makes
an unsupportable assertion: that the way was paved by earlier steps
such as the Equal Rights Amendment (passed in Massachusetts, though
never made part of the US Constitution) and the state's gay-rights
law. Thus, he argues, the Goodridge decision will inevitably
lead to constitutional protections for, say, three-partner marriage,
or for incest.
That is, on its face, ridiculous.
The SJC did not base its legal reasoning in any way on those earlier
actions. What led to this week's landmark decision was not a
"slippery slope," as Jacoby contends, but, rather, a radical change
in cultural mores -- a change for the good.
I suppose it is possible that, one
day, those mores will change again to embrace polygamy,
brother-sister marriage, whatever. (I hope not.) But if it happens,
Goodridge will have absolutely nothing to do with
-- Supporters of same-sex marriage
face a terrible dilemma. Marriage is now their constitutional right,
and they have every reason to insist on it, and not to let the
legislature and the governor to water it down with a civil-unions
law, as seems likely (Globe coverage here;
Herald coverage here).
Yet, if civil unions were to become
law and the SJC were to rule that they were close enough, that would
forestall the very strong possibility that the voters will pass a
constitutional amendment in 2006 that would ban same-sex marriages,
civil unions, even basic domestic-partnership rights.
Principle matters, which is why I
hope the gay and lesbian community holds out for nothing short of
full marriage. But I worry about the consequences.
is an analysis of what may or may not happen on Beacon Hill by the
Phoenix's Kristen Lombardi and Susan Ryan-Vollmar.
-- Editorial round-up: the
York Times gives
same-sex marriage a thumbs-up; the Washington
Post is sympathetic but
muddled; the Wall
Street Journal is
against it (sub. req., but here's the lowlight: "It is four liberal
judges on the Massachusetts Supreme Court who, egged on by
well-connected and politically powerful gay rights activists, have
imposed their own moral values on the rest of its citizens."); the
Angeles Times is for
it, but worried about a backlash; and USA
Today, weighing in
yesterday, is dubious, and also worried about a backlash.
Yesterday, the Globe said
and the Herald said no,
although it appears sympathetic to civil unions.
New in this week's
Phoenix. A new book on Howard Dean is the result of
between two of Vermont's most respected independent media
Also, speculation over
next at the newly downsized
posted at 9:20 AM |
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Saddam and Osama, sitting in a
tree. Q: What would be the one thing -- other than nuclear
weapons -- that would have justified the war in Iraq?
A: Real evidence of ties between
Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, especially if those ties extended
to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
That's why the hot insider story in
the Washington media right now is a Weekly Standard
story by Stephen Hayes,
accompanied by the hyperbolic headline "Case Closed," reporting the
existence of a classified memo that concludes such ties really did
exist. The memo even revives those stories about 9/11 bomber Mohamed
Atta's supposed meeting(s) with a top Iraqi intelligence official in
So why is this an insider story
instead of leading the nightly news? There are various theories.
Slate's Jack Shafer thinks
it's because the liberal media can't wrap their minds around
something that so contradicts their preconceived notions. Josh
Marshall argues -- on his weblog
and in his column
in the Hill -- that it's because Hayes is recycling
And the plot thickens. The Defense
Department has attempted to discredit Hayes's scoop, leading Hayes to
on the Standard's website.
So who's right? Who knows? But
logic suggests there may be a lot less to the memo than meets the
The author of the leaked memo was
Defense Department official Douglas Feith, currently under
considerable fire for his previous efforts at exaggerating the threat
posed by Iraq. Feith, in other words, is a man with a track record,
and it's not a good one.
More important, even allowing for
the fact that the White House has to protect certain intelligence
assets, can we agree that the Bush administration would be moving
heaven and earth to get this information out there if it had any
confidence in it? After all, the Bushies are getting pounded day
after day for phonying up the case for war. Presenting convincing
evidence that Saddam Hussein had a hand in 9/11 would shut up a lot
of people -- just about everyone, in fact.
Instead, the last time the Dark
Lord, Dick Cheney, made such an assertion, George W. Bush felt
compelled to take
No, not every loose end has been
wrapped up. Edward Jay Epstein, writing in Slate,
that evidence of the Atta meeting in Prague has never been adequately
Still, it's reasonable to expect
that the White House is capable of making its own best case. That it
has not only failed to embrace the Feith memo, but has actually
distanced itself from it, suggests that this is all little ado about
The Phoenix takes on
same-sex marriage. Tomorrow's Phoenix will include an
extensive package on the Supreme Judicial Court's decision to allow
same-sex couples to marry. It's
My piece argues
that the Democrats ought to get off the defensive and claim same-sex
marriage as their very own wedge issue.
Plug, plug. The website
Voices has an
with me about Little
People. It's in Windows
Also, the new Online
Journalism Review has a
interview with bloggers and
media critics, including yours truly. Unfortunately, they mixed up my
photo with Bill Powers's.
posted at 4:16 PM |
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003
A big day in the same-sex
marriage wars. The Associated Press reports
that the state's Supreme Judicial Court will rule at 10 a.m. in the
Goodrich same-sex marriage case.
Also known as an "outside
agitator." Not that I mind, but somehow I doubt that the
Boston Globe would refer to Ron Crews as a "transplant" in a
headline if he had come north from Georgia to fight in favor
of same-sex marriage rather than against.
The headline accompanies
profile by Yvonne Abraham,
who portrays the former Georgia legislator as a modernist hatemonger
-- that is, he hates lesbians and gay men, but apparently not
African-Americans, since he got in trouble with his constituents down
South when he voted against the Confederate flag.
You might also want to check out
of the transplant's organization, the Massachusetts Family
posted at 8:42 AM |
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Monday, November 17, 2003
Herald publisher Pat Purcell disputes an assertion
I made last Friday, a day on which he announced the elimination of 19
jobs, that "it remains to be seen whether Purcell can now right the
ship and return his struggling paper to profitability."
"I have a bone to pick with you. We
are profitable," Purcell told me this morning, adding that the
Herald was profitable even before Friday's cuts.
Purcell declined to discuss the
numbers regarding his privately held Herald Media company.
posted at 11:53 AM |
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Toward a new kind of talk
radio. Former Narco News Bulletin publisher Al Giordano
has an idiosyncratic take on efforts to launch a liberal and/or
leftist talk-radio presence. His "Talk
Radio Manifesto" is posted
at the website Salón
No comment today on the details of
Giordano's manifesto; that will have to wait until I've digested it a
little more thoroughly. But I do have a couple of general
First, I would love to see a
left-of-center talk show succeed, and if someone like Al Franken or
Michael Moore (or Giordano) were to host such a show, I'd certainly
give it a half-hour of my time while driving home. But I'm
Like it or not, liberals (as
opposed to genuine lefties) already have their own radio network --
National Public Radio. ("Gag me," writes Giordano.) The two drive-time
shows, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, have
about 15 million to 20 million listeners -- about the same as or a
little more than Rush
Limbaugh, the noted drug
addict who brings his special brand of hypocrisy back to the airwaves
No, NPR's offerings are not
particularly liberal in content, but I would argue that's not
what most liberals are looking for. Rather, NPR's mix of news,
commentary, and cultural stories, delivered in that laid-back
monotone, appeals to liberal sensibilities (including mine). In other words, the
reason that there's never been a liberal Rush is that, if there were,
he would fall face-first into his stash of OxyContin.
It's not that liberals aren't
looking to have their politics reinforced. Certainly the success of
Dean's website show that.
But, mostly, I suspect that talk radio appeals inherently to
conservatives and libertarians more than it does to liberals and
But I hope Giordano -- a former
Phoenix political reporter and former talk-show host himself
-- can point the way to a new reality.
And here I always thought that
stupidity causes racism. The Boston Globe's Gareth Cook
that it may be just the opposite.
posted at 8:50 AM |
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MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.