Thursday, December 16, 2004

Meacham's Folly

Hugh Hewitt credits the blogosphere with a sound debunking of Jon Meacham's attempted debunking of the story of the first Christmas in the December 13 issue of Newsweek. Actually Hewitt gets a lot of the credit for mobilizing bloggers to analyze Meacham's rather silly effort. His symposium on the article resulted in a condign thrashing of Meacham's limp attempt to undermine the credibility of both the gospels and Christian tradition.

In any event, here's part of what Hewitt says about it in his Weekly Standard Online column:

Newsweek put Christmas on the cover of its December 13th issue, and the reaction among orthodox Christians was widespread and emphatic. Once again a leading member of the legacy media had produced a hit piece on Christian belief, employing many deceits, including the use of false dilemmas, the employment of only scholars with radical views, and the omission of evidence in support of the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus.

The author, Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham, didn't even try very hard to conceal his bias, becoming to religion reporting what Dan Rather has become to political reporting. My favorite line is this gem: "To many minds conditioned by the Enlightenment, shaped by science and all too aware of the Crusades and corruptions of the church, Christmas is a fairy tale." Meacham goes on to immediately declare that "faith and reason need not be constantly at war," but makes it clear that this is possible only when faith surrenders pretty much everything that defines it as orthodoxy. No explanation is ever given as to why the Crusades have any bearing on the legitimacy of Luke's and Matthew's accounts of the Nativity.

Within 10 days of Meacham's article's appearance, his credentials had been reviewed for all to see by Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The article itself had been painstakingly--and fairly--sliced and diced by accomplished theologian, pastor, scholar, and author, Dr. Mark D. Roberts, whose double Harvard degrees, including a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, make his careful and complete criticisms of Meacham's reporting hard to dismiss.

After interviewing both Mohler and Roberts for two hours on the air, I then posted links to the Newsweek piece and their criticisms, and invited bloggers from around the internet to weigh in via a virtual symposium I term a "Vox Blogoli." Dozens of bloggers accepted the invite, and an astonishing array of piercing reviews of Meacham followed. Among many favorites are the Evangelical Outpost and Tapscott's Copy Desk, but all of them are well worth the read. (The complete list of symposium posts can be read here.)

What the blogosphere allowed to happen is the organization of dissent which is focused, credentialed, complete, and--crucially--publicized. No fair reader of Meacham's piece and the commentaries on it can conclude that Meacham produced good journalism. It is simply too one-sided, too agenda-driven, and too ignorant of serious scholarship to qualify as anything other than a polemic.

The exposure of Meacham's folly doesn't guarantee that Newsweek won't stumble again, but it surely must give others in his position pause. The blogosphere has experts and megaphones. As Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost concluded "the mainstream media is only able to retain their influence by convincing the populace they possess special skill and knowledge. But as the Internet continues to fill with . . . debunkers, the media continues to lose credibility, influence, and power."

We're a little miffed that Hugh didn't mention Viewpoint's humble contribution to the symposium as among his favorites, but, nevertheless, if any of our readers missed it they can check it out here.


President Bush has taken a lot of criticism for refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global greenhouse gas emissions. Now, according to Nick Shulz at National Review Online, it appears that the president's decision is being validated by events:

President Bush rejected Kyoto for a few simple reasons. First, it would impose significant economic damage on the American economy (a Clinton administration report on the costs of Kyoto put the tab at $300 billion per year). Second, the reduction targets and timetables were impractical from a technological perspective. Third, the treaty exempted developing economies such as India and China from any restrictions even though their emissions are rising rapidly. Instead, the Bush team under Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham charted a different course, which involved investment in basic research, technology transfer to poor countries, and bilateral agreements.

Critics cried foul at President Bush's "unilateral" decision and questioned his motives, saying he was ignoring scientific evidence and rewarding fossil-fuel producers and users who supported him politically. It's too bad the critics focused on the administration's alleged motives and not its arguments. As it turns out, several key players in the climate-change debate are starting to come around to President Bush's view.

The rest of the article explains who the players are and how and why enthusiasm for the Kyoto treaty appears to be waning.

Republican Brutality

Michael Moore quotes from a woman who has it all figured out as to why the Democrats lost in November:

Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the 'new' language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"

And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before. They will tell you: Every single day.

The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.

As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.

Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).

And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.

This unfortunate lady goes on to offer advice on how to break this awful cycle of abuse visited upon the poor, defenseless Dems by those horrid, cruel Republicans. The politics of victimhood. That'll be a winner in 2008, we're sure.

Meanwhile, the Republican batterers must be in a beer-soaked rage in the south. The GOP now holds 22 of the 26 Senate seats in 13 Southern states. Before Bush took office in 2000 the GOP had 18. The GOP has now won the last 10 open-seat Senate races in the South. In the House, the GOP had 27 seats before Bush took office in 2000, now they have 40.

Gosh. Isn't there a hotline or something that terrorized victims of Republican violence can call? Isn't there a shelter or refuge somewhere for abused Democrats to which they can flee to escape the brutality of Karl Rove's minions stomping across the land in their mindless fury? Our hearts go out to these people.


This may be of interest to readers over 50. After a recent physical exam turned up cholesterol levels in President Bush's blood work that were well within acceptable limits he was nevertheless prescribed a statin. The article talks about why.