Donald Trump is a liar. His lies must be confronted.

Trump corona

All president’s lie. But these lies were not amplified through media echo-chambers in the way they are today. Here is Eric Alterman’s recent piece at The Nation:

Trump knows, as all tyrants do, that without the accountability provided by an independent media, a powerful politician can get away with almost anything. America’s founders bequeathed the press its special status and protections under the First Amendment for exactly this reason. Trump’s insistent accusation that the media are the “Enemy of the American People” and constant protestations of “fake news” are intended to undermine confidence in the press and thereby undermine its ability to hold his administration answerable to the public.

But it did not matter how frequently or how egregiously Trump and his administration lied to journalists or how viciously they insulted their character, their professionalism, or even their ethnicity—reporters for mainstream outlets kept returning for more abuse and precious little truth. “We’re not cheerleaders for the president nor are we the opposition,” argues New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker. He further insists, “What we shouldn’t do is let the noise overcome our journalistic values.” But all too often, what was offered as a defense of old-fashioned commitments to provide “both sides” of any given controversy devolved, in practice, to running interference for Trump’s dishonesty. Many journalists were so insistent that they were not in a fight with the president that they were failing to inform the public of just how serious a threat he posed to the country’s freedoms.

Even were Trump to respect the constitutional constraints on his office, he would still enjoy an awesome degree of potentially destructive power. Beginning with the birth of the atom bomb and the ever-expanding ideology of the “national security state,” the prerogatives of the presidency have grown beyond anything the founders could have possibly imagined. With America’s nuclear arsenal at his disposal, Trump could, of course, end all human life and destroy the planet. Less dramatically, he could invoke any one of the emergency powers contained in the 123 statutory provisions that give presidents near-dictatorial powers. Trump might, for instance, seize control of “any facility or station for wire communication,” should he decide to proclaim “that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States,” and order it to broadcast only his voice and his orders. With Trump’s power and dishonesty, the institutions charged with protecting American democracy and civic life should err on the side of vigilance rather than complacency.

Read the entire piece here.

Andrew Sullivan is bringing back “The Dish” in a weekly format


We covered Andrew Sullivan’s departure from New York Magazine here.

In his final column at the magazine, Sullivan announced that he will be returning to independent writing through a new version of his popular blog The Dish.

Here is Sullivan on why he was ousted at New York Magazine:

What has happened, I think, is relatively simple: A critical mass of the staff and management at New York Magazine and Vox Media no longer want to associate with me, and, in a time of ever tightening budgets, I’m a luxury item they don’t want to afford. And that’s entirely their prerogative. They seem to believe, and this is increasingly the orthodoxy in mainstream media, that any writer not actively committed to critical theory in questions of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity is actively, physically harming co-workers merely by existing in the same virtual space. Actually attacking, and even mocking, critical theory’s ideas and methods, as I have done continually in this space, is therefore out of sync with the values of Vox Media. That, to the best of my understanding, is why I’m out of here.

Two years ago, I wrote that we all live on campus now. That is an understatement. In academia, a tiny fraction of professors and administrators have not yet bent the knee to the woke program — and those few left are being purged. The latest study of Harvard University faculty, for example, finds that only 1.46 percent call themselves conservative. But that’s probably higher than the proportion of journalists who call themselves conservative at the New York Times or CNN or New York Magazine. And maybe it’s worth pointing out that “conservative” in my case means that I have passionately opposed Donald J. Trump and pioneered marriage equality, that I support legalized drugs, criminal-justice reform, more redistribution of wealth, aggressive action against climate change, police reform, a realist foreign policy, and laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. I was one of the first journalists in established media to come out. I was a major and early supporter of Barack Obama. I intend to vote for Biden in November. 

And here is the announcement:

So, yeah, after being prodded for years by Dishheads, I’m going to bring back the Dish.

I’ve long tried to figure out a way to have this kind of lively community without endangering my health and sanity. Which is why the Weekly Dish, which launches now, is where I’ve landed. The Weekly Dish will be hosted by Substack, a fantastic company that hosts an increasingly impressive number of individual free thinkers, like Jesse Singal and Matt Taibbi. There is a growing federation of independent thinkers and writers not subject to mainstream media’s increasingly narrow range of acceptable thought.

The initial basic formula — which, as with all things Dish, will no doubt evolve — is the following: this three-part column, with perhaps a couple of added short posts or features (I probably won’t be able to resist); a serious dissent section, where I can air real disagreement with my column, and engage with it constructively and civilly; a podcast, which I’ve long wanted to do, but never found a way to fit in; and yes, reader window views again, and the return of The View From Your Window contest. I’m able to do all this because Chris Bodenner, the guru of the Dish in-box and master of the Window View contest, is coming back to join me. He’ll select the dissents, as he long did, in ways that will put me on the spot.

Read the entire piece here.

Where Do White Evangelicals Learn About the Coronavirus?

Trump corona speech

From Donald Trump.

Political scientist Ryan Burge reports on a survey that asked people: “Which of these sources do you rely on most for news about the coronavirus outbreak?

Here is how white evangelicals responded to this question:

Trump: 51.7%

National News: 45.4%

Local News: 44.3%

Public Health Officials: 41.7%

Governors: 31.8%

Here is how the rest of the nation responded to this question:

National News: 57.9%

Public Health Officials: 53.1%

Local News: 46.5%

Governors: 36.4%

Trump: 26.7%

Read more at Christianity Today.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”


Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer, co-authors of Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974, argue that the outrage displayed by television anchor Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network (and revived on stage starring Bryan Cranston) should not surprise present-day Americans.

Here is a taste of their piece in The New York Daily News:

The current play and the original film are clever parodies of the news industry. When the movie debuted in 1976, audiences were entertained by its prediction of a dark future of the evening news — a dystopia driven by commercialized, sensationalized, and celebrity-driven formats for delivering information.

At the time, ABC anchorwoman Barbara Walters insisted, “There’ll never be that kind of show-biz approach to the news. The entertainment side of television is more respectful of the news side than at any time in the past.”

Seen in 2019, however, Cranston’s performance largely confirms the reality of what we see and read on a daily basis. As the star said in an interview about the show, “talking about the packaging of news and manipulating audiences . . . being addicted to our televisions . . . that’s exactly what is happening.”

Beale no longer surprises us and, in some ways, even seems a bit tame. (One reviewer noted that the character doesn’t have access to Twitter, which would make things even worse).

While contemporary commentators have noted the ways in which the news industry has become increasingly partisan, they have not given enough weight to another, equally important aspect of the industry’s modern history — the ways in which news has become sensationalized.

Read the entire piece here.

Book Coverage is on the Rise

Book Reviews

As an author, I am happy to learn that media outlets are starting to devote a little more attention to books.  Sam Eichner tries to make sense of this rise in book coverage in an interesting piece at Columbia Journalism Review.  Here is a taste:

IF IT OCCASIONALLY FEELS like nobody reads books, anymore—that we are indeed witnessing the slow death of the literary novel, and the rapid decline of leisure readingand the steady increase of American non-readers—why is it that mainstream publications are writing more about them?

Since the beginning of 2017, The New York Times has continued to expand its already robust book coverage. More recently, New York announced that it would triple its book coverage. In October, The Atlantic launched a Books section and a newsletter, “The Books Briefing,” with plans for “additional products.” Even BuzzFeed is getting in on the action: in November, they launched an online book club, complete with an attendant Facebook group and newsletter.

For the Times and The Atlantic, the changes arrived at a moment of substantial growth for each publication as a whole.

Read the rest here.

The Influence of Christian Media


Jason Bivins, a Professor of Religious Studies at North Carolina State, reflects on the power of Christian media to shape American evangelicalism.  Here is a taste of his op-ed syndicated at The Conversation:

The power of these programs is more than simply the stories covered or guests interviewed – it is their social impact on religious beliefs.

Christian news is effective in conveying its views because it repeats claims that viewers already believe, and provides them with particular emotional experiences that are described as facts. This way of viewing the world has moved closer to the center of conservative politics since the 1980s, a period of time when the Christian right acquired more influence in American politics.

Consider how in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan began to be depicted as God’s agent on Earth. In the 1990s, the growth of multinational corporations and trade deals was decried as part of a demonic “new world order.” And today, when Islamophobia is on the rise, Christian television channels depict and celebrate President Trump as the fighter-in-chief, who defends Christians despite his personal faults.

The growing regularity of such examples has significant implications for American politics.

By presenting itself as authoritative, trustworthy journalism, Christian news reassures viewers that they do not need to consult mainstream media in order to be informed. More dangerously, it authorizes a particular, often conspiratorial way of viewing the world. It denounces neutrality or accountability to multiple constituencies as burdensome or even hostile to Christian faith.

Sadly, tens of millions of its viewers are left without a sense of two of democracy’s most necessary foundations: the value of multiple viewpoints and shared political participation.

Read the entire piece here.

Trump: “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Janesville

When Lesley Stahl asked Donald Trump in an off-camera meeting to explain “his barrage of insults aimed at journalists.” Trump responded:

‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you…So, put that in your head for a minute.”

Read all about it here.  This guy is a tyrant.

Trump Has Given More Interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network Than to CNN, ABC or NBC


Trump shakes hands with Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network

Ruth Graham has a great piece at Politico Magazine on the love affair between Donald Trump and Christian broadcasting.  Here is a taste:

When “Huckabee” made its debut on TBN last fall, it immediately became the network’s highest-rated show, with more than a million viewers for a typical episode. Unlike every other show the network has produced, it is overtly political and squarely focused on current events. It has a variety component, with musical guests and comedians, and Huckabee occasionally breaks out his own bass guitar on stage. But in its six months on the air, Huckabee has also interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump-defending Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, anti-abortion activist Serrin Foster and former Senator Joe Lieberman. The very first guest on his very first show, last October, was President Trump.

A generation ago—even a few years ago—this would have been unthinkable. Christian TV was largely the province of preachers, musicians, faith healers and a series of televangelism scandals. Politicians were leery of getting too close. To establishment evangelicals, not to mention the rest of America, Christian TV was hokey at best, and disreputable at worst.

But in the past two years, largely out of view of the coastal media and the Washington establishment, a transformation has taken place. As Christian networks have become more comfortable with politics, the Trump administration has turned them into a new pipeline for its message. Trump has forged a particularly tight marriage of convenience with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which since early in the 2016 campaign has offered consistent friendly coverage and been granted remarkable access in return. Trump personally has appeared 11 times on CBN since his campaign began; in 2017 alone, he gave more interviews to CBN than to CNN, ABC or CBS. Trump’s Cabinet members, staffers and surrogates also appear regularly. TBN has embraced politics more gingerly—it is still not a news-gathering organization—but Trump has made inroads there, too, starting with his kickoff interview on “Huckabee.”

Read the entire piece here.

Donald Trump, a politician, is now shaping the agenda of conservative evangelical television.  Another example of how politics and culture influence and shape the character American evangelicalism.  Trump should be getting credit as an unofficial producer for these shows.

How Major Media Outlets Covered Billy Graham’s Death

Duisburg, Veranstaltung mit Billy Graham

Via Wikipedia commons

I haven’t watched much television today, but I have noticed that every time I tuned into CNN on my computer I found very little coverage about the death of Billy Graham, arguably the most famous person in the 20th-century world.  Granted, there are issues related to guns and school shootings in Florida and beyond.  I thus fully understand why Graham took a back seat on my preferred cable news station.

So I decided to cruise around the Internet a bit.  On CNN’s website, I needed to scroll down a bit before I found a link to Graham’s death.  The same was true for MSNBC, Fox News, and The Washington Post.

Graham’s death is front and center at the websites of the BBC, The New York TimesLos Angeles TimesUSA TodayThe Wall Street Journal.  On the BBC site I was able to click on links to two articles on Graham without having to scroll down.

Conservatism and the Media in Historical Perspective



William F. Buckley interviewing Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1971 on Firing Line


The Way of Improvement Leads Home correspondent reports are rolling in this morning!  Here is William Cossen‘s report on a fascinating session on American conservatism.  Read all of Cosseen’s posts from the AHA in Denver here.  –JF

On Friday, I attended an excellent AHA panel, “Supplying Conservatism: Media Infrastructure and the Rise of the New Right.”  This panel’s four papers shed new light on a subject of continued importance, especially given last year’s presidential campaign.

The first paper, Nicole Hemmer’s “‘Hatchets with Soft-Covered Sheaths’: Conservative Publishing and the Goldwater Campaign,” examined the birth of an early 1960s trend among conservatives toward independent publishing of paperback books.  Examples of such books include Phyllis Schlafly’s A Choice Not an Echo and John A. Stormer’s None Dare Call It Treason.  These books and similar titles were at the center of what Hemmer (the University of Virginia’s Miller Center) described as the creation of an unmediated, conservative, grassroots publishing movement.  Conservative bookstores played an important role, Hemmer argued, in serving as “alternative distribution systems” to mainstream publishers.  Why did these independent bookstores and books – which were printed in the millions – appear when they did in 1964?  Hemmer explained that many conservatives had become impatient with a GOP establishment that they felt had become too conciliatory and complacent in the face of growing liberalism.  This provided fertile ground for the rise of alternative conservative media.  “This isn’t just populism,” Hemmer argued.  “It’s populism plus.”

The second paper, Heather Hendershot’s “Firing Line: Steering Wheel and Compass of the Modern Conservative Image,” described William F. Buckley’s important role through his long-running television show Firing Line in making conservatism not only respectable but also “stylish.”  Hendershot (MIT) did a fine job weaving film clips from the show throughout her talk, reminding audience members just how entertaining and informative Buckley’s show was at its peak.  Hendershot explained that the show’s premise was to figuratively place liberals on the firing line.  Firing Line drew a diverse political audience.  Interestingly, many liberals would tune in and then walk away from the show with a deeper resolve to promote liberalism.  However, it also played a critical role in constructing the intellectual framework of the New Right.  Buckley’s urbane, witty manner, which was also evident in his magazine National Review, served, Hendershot argued, as “walking, talking proof of the insufficiency” of Richard Hofstadter’s paranoid style thesis.

The third paper, courtesy of my Penn State graduate school colleague Paul Matzko (congratulations on your recent graduation, Dr. Matzko!), “Polish Ham, Talk Radio, and the Rise of the New Right,” explored an early 1960s protest against and boycott of consumer items – especially Polish ham – originating in communist Eastern Europe and being sold in the United States.  This protest was led by conservative women and facilitated by religious radio broadcasters, groups often absent from general histories of the rise of the New Right.  Matzko explained that while figures like Buckley played important role in the growth of conservatism in the second half of the twentieth century, radio broadcasters may have had a far larger numerical impact in terms of audience size than Buckley’s National Review.  The rapid spread of right-wing radio stations in the 1950s and 1960s laid the organizational groundwork for the New Right alongside Buckley’s intellectual contributions to the movement, the latter of which were described in Hendershot’s paper.  This growth of conservative broadcasting, coupled with conservative women’s grassroots organizing, came together in response to President John F. Kennedy’s promotion of increased trade with communist countries.  Polish hams came under attack as almost apocalyptic symbols of an alleged communist takeover of the United States.  The ensuing boycott had a massive economic impact.  Matzko recounted a Polish embassy estimation that the protest led to a $5 million loss in trade with Poland – in just a few months in 1962 alone!  Matzko concluded that actions such as the Polish ham boycott were the “stuff” of which modern conservatism was made.  The protest, much like the independent book publishing described by Hemmer, revealed the power that hundreds of thousands of dedicated, non-establishment political figures could have in elections and in the formulation of public policy.

The panel’s final paper, Michael McVicar’s “Surveillance – Dossier – Exposé: The Infrastructure and Technique of the Anticommunist Blacklist,” provided a revealing glimpse into the nuts-and-bolts methods used by conservatives from the 1920s into the 1960s  to infiltrate, uncover, and eliminate what they perceived to be a growing communist threat in the United States, which dovetails nicely with Matzko’s paper.  McVicar (Florida State University) explained that early religious, anticommunist activists built on organizational techniques and classificatory charts pioneered by late nineteenth-century management experts to construct extensive databases that sought to connect liberal Protestants with communism and alleged communist front groups.  These archival materials have been underutilized by historians, and McVicar’s research promises to provide a more nuanced genealogy of the New Right reaching to the years immediately following the First World War.

President-elect Donald Trump’s electoral victory has clearly been on the minds of many historians attending this year’s AHA, serving as the subject of not one but two major conference sessions.  This panel on the New Right was not responding directly to the outcome of election, as it was organized much earlier than November.  Still, the speakers’ contributions to the subfield of New Right history provide many useful insights into how this political movement and its legatees have continued to thrive, and the panel itself was a model of thoughtful organization and planning that brought together four papers complementing each other exceptionally well.

We are Only NOW Realizing That Our Democracy is in Trouble?

Final Presidential Debate Between Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Held In Las Vegas

At Wednesday night’s debate Donald Trump refused to say that he would concede the election to Hillary Clinton if she defeats him in November.  Then yesterday he said that he would accept the election results, but only if he wins.

The media is going crazy over Trump’s remarks.  Last night on CNN,  historian Douglas Brinkley, political adviser David Gergen, and law professor Alan Dershowitz were talking about how Trump’s comments, if he acts on them, undermine American democracy.  These commentators and others are correct.  The peaceful transition of power is vital to the success of American democracy.  On November 8 the people will speak through the ballot box.  They will elect Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  Democracy works when the loser concedes to the will of the people.

What strikes me the most is that the media is just waking up to the fact that our democracy might be in trouble.

Let’s remember that for a democracy to thrive, citizens need to learn how to live together with their differences.  Today, sociologists, cultural critics, and public intellectuals often connect the success of democratic life to the cultivation of a civil society.  A civil society is one in which citizens foster a sense of community amid their differences.  Such a society, as writer Don Eberly describes it, “draws Americans together at a time of social isolation and fragmentation.”  A successful democracy rests on our ability to forge these kinds of connections and behave in a civil manner toward one another.

A democracy needs citizens–individuals who understand that their own pursuits of happiness must operate in tension with obligations and responsibilities to a larger community.  Citizens realize that their own success, fate, and ability to flourish as humans are bound up with the lives of others.  Such commitment to the common good requires citizens who are able to respect, as fellow humans and members of the same community, those with whom they might disagree on some of life’s most important issues.  It requires empathy, the willingness to imaginatively walk in the shoes of our neighbor.  As Mary Ann Glendon puts it, “A democratic republic needs an adequate supply of citizens who are skilled in the arts of deliberation, compromise, consensus-building, and reason-giving.”

The sixteenth-century writer Montaigne once said, “Every man calls evil what he does not understand.”  Our everyday lives will always be filled with disagreements and misunderstandings, but a democratic society will survive only if we are able to live civilly with them.  We are correct to believe that in the United States we have a “right” to our opinions and beliefs, but there are also times when we must rise above private interests and temporarily sacrifice our rights for the greater good of the larger community.  Such a view of the common good, which the late Pope John Paul II called “solidarity,” requires that we see others, even those who we may believe are “evil,” as neighbors and “sharer[s] on par with ourselves in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.”  To put an alternative spin on Montaigne’s quote, “The more you know about another person’s story, the less possible it is to see that person as your enemy.”

Because we all have our own views and opinions, civil society requires conversation.  We may never come to an agreement on what constitutes the “common good.,” but we can all commit ourselves to sustaining democracy by talking to and engaging with another.  As author and activist Parker Palmer puts it, “Democracy gives us the right to disagree and is designed to use the energy of creative conflict to drive positive social change.  Partisanship is not a problem. Demonizing the other side is.”

The inner working of this kind of democracy is described best by the late historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch in his book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of DemocracyHis description of the mechanics of democratic conversation is with citing in full:

“The attempt to bring others around to our point of view carries the risk, of course, that we may adopt their point of view instead.  We have to enter imaginatively into our opponents argument, if only for the purpose of refuting them, and we may end up being persuaded by those we sought to persuade.  Argument is risky and unpredictable, there educational.  Most of us tend to think of it…as a clash of dogmas, a shouting match in which neither side gives any ground.  But arguments are not won by shouting down opponents.  They are won by changing opponents’ minds–something that can only happen if we give opposing arguments a respectful hearing and still persuade their advocates that there is something wrong with those arguments.  In the course of this activity, we may well decide that there is something wrong with our own.”

These are the virtues necessary for a democracy to thrive.  I am glad that the media is talking about the fate of democracy.  The peaceful transition of power is important, but there is so much more needed to making democracy work.

(This piece is drawn partially from my book Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past).

E-Book: A History of Mormons in the Media

More and more established scholars seem to be publishing e-books.  The latest is by award-winning historian Jared Farmer.  Check out his free Mormons in the Media, 1830-2012.   I just downloaded it and was blown away by the images. The book includes chapters with the following titles:

“Founding Impressions”
“The Whiteness of Mormons”
“Utah’s Americanization”
“Mormon Villainy”
“Mo Mockery”
“Strangely Normative”
“Secretly Sensational”
“A Mormon President?”

Thanks to John Turner for bringing it to my attention at Religion in American History.

Here is the description:

Welcome to Mormons in the Media, a free educational e-book archive of nearly 500 images about Mormons and Mormonism in U.S. politics and the public sphere, from Joseph Smith to Mitt Romney. Select one of the two formats, and click on the appropriate icon to begin downloading. (Please note that these large files may take several minutes to load.)

This unique visual collection comprises magazine illustrations, book covers, photographs, political cartoons, movie posters, film stills, sheet music, broadsides, advertisements, postcards, websites, and other ephemera. Mormons in the Media considers both outside views of Mormons—including historic anti-Mormon propaganda—and media images promulgated by Latter-day Saints themselves. This topical reference work also features a preface, a fact sheet, a list of suggested readings, and bibliographic citations.

Your curator is Jared Farmer, professor of history and prize-winning author of On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Harvard, 2008).

Defending Palin’s Reading Habits

I am no Sarah Palin fan.  If she were elected the next president of the United States I think it would be fair to interpret it as a crisis in our democracy. 

Of course Palin has been a favorite target of liberals in the media and the latest point of criticism has been her reading habits. Lately Palin has been telling reporters and interviewers that she has been reading C.S. Lewis.  This has prompted all kinds of attacks from pundits.  On MSNBC, commentator Richard Wolffe ridiculed Palin for reading Lewis.  So did comedian Joy Behar.

Frankly, these comments by Wolffe and Behar say more about Wolffe and Behar than they do about Sarah Palin.  I will let Michael Flaherty, writing in the Wall Street Journal, explain.  Here is a snippet of his op-ed:

Mrs. Palin is on the right track by giving C.S. Lewis a prominent place on her reading list. Yet Ms. Behar and other Palin critics have dismissed Lewis’s work, forgetting that Lewis was a medieval and renaissance scholar at Oxford and the author of several brilliant Christian apologetics. Ms. Behar’s dismissal of children’s books as less than important makes her a modern-day Eustace, the type of bully who mocks readers of fairy tales as simpletons.

Lewis thought quite the opposite. He thought that fairy tales were the best way to convey truth for children and adults alike. He wrote about this quite often in his letters, and took no shame in reading fairy tales out loud in British pubs with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Nowhere is this more poignantly expressed than in his dedication to Lucy Barfield in “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” 

“You are already too old for fairy tales,” he wrote to the young Lucy, “but some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Hopefully that day will come soon for Ms. Behar as well.

Wolffe and Behar have no clue.

John Wooden: Christian

Get Religion” is a blog that monitors the mainstream media in an attempt to show, as William Schneider has written, that “The press…just doesn’t get religion.”

Now I have no real stake in the culture wars and I usually have little patience for culture warriors trying to show “media bias.” A lot of it strikes me as the worst kind of whining. But I do have a stake in fair and honest reporting. In today’s post at “Get Religion” veteran religion writer Terry Mattingly reveals how the Los Angeles Times salute to John Wooden dances around his deep and abiding Christian faith.

Here is a taste:

So, the Los Angeles Times has published its giant salute to the life and times of John Wooden and, unless I have missed something, the bottom line is that he was an amazingly nice man of sterling integrity and a sense of honor and values that came from the American heartland.

To cut to the chase, he appears to have been “spiritual,” but not “religious” — at least not “religious” in any specific way that could be cited in a newspaper. Was he a “Christian”? The Times is totally agnostic on that issue.

Take, for example, that final essay on the essence of the man, the one that ran under the double-decker headline that proclaimed:

Remembering John Wooden: Simple principles, such as honor and family, were his guides

He always clung to his homespun roots. And even though he left UCLA, he never stopped teaching those values

Here is one crucial passage about the values that Wooden inherited from one of his few heroes in life — his father.

Wooden came by it honestly. His father, who lost his farm in the Depression, taught him a set of life principles, which the coach carried on a piece of paper: “Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day.”

The problem, of course, is that the Los Angeles Times has horribly misquoted that precious fragment of paper that Wooden carried with him at all times. At best, it could be said that the team of journalists that worked on this story edited the list — while leaving no sign to the reader that the list was edited. You can find the full quotation all over the World Wide Web, including the obituary in that bastion of Christian content, The New York Times.

“Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day. Pray for guidance, count and give thanks for your blessings every day.”

Spot any crucial difference in these two lists? The edits kind of look intentional, don’t they?

Backstory on the Tea Party Movement

If you are unfamiliar with the radio show “Backstory with the American History Guys,” you really should be. University of Virginia history professors Peter Onuf (“18th century guy”) and Brian Balogh (“20th century guy”) and University of Richmond president Ed Ayers (“19th century guy”), with support from the Virginia Foundation For the Humanities, have put together an informative and entertaining show that brings history to life and connects it to contemporary issues.

I just finished listening to the most recent edition of “Backstory.” It deals with the Tea Party Movement. Here is a description: “In this podcast, the History Guys take a closer look at the Tea Party Movement, and ask what, if anything, 2010 has in common with 1773. They also consider what the history of American populism portends for the Tea Party’s future.”

The highlight of the show is Peter Onuf’s interview with Ben Carp, author of the forthcoming Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America.

Where Do You Get Your News?

A recent study by Pew Internet concludes:

On a typical day:

  • 78% of Americans say they get news from a local TV station
  • 73% say they get news from a national network such as CBS or cable TV station such as CNN or FoxNews
  • 61% say they get some kind of news online
  • 54% say they listen to a radio news program at home or in the car
  • 50% say they read news in a local newspaper
  • 17% say they read news in a national newspaper such as the New York Times or US Today.

Where do you get your news?