Bias? You be the Judge
Anytime This is True runs stories with (shall we say) controversial subjects, it generates letters. But nothing brings more letters than the division between left- and right-wing politics! Some of the people who read the column on President Clinton's White House Intern 'Fornigate Scandal' thought I was unfairly biased. (One, from Arizona, said I'm a "fascist right-wing conspirator" and a "Christian Coalition prevericator (sic)"! Oh, my! How quickly they forget!)
Weekly Weird News
I get much more mail from conservatives ranting about supposed left-wing bias than the other way around! (The difference, though, seems to be that liberals' emotions get out of control, leading to name-calling, while conservatives tend to do the tsk tsk tsk thing, telling Randy he'll go to hell if he doesn't shape up.) So, in the interest of fair play (since the Clinton piece is posted on this web site), and in the spirit of the "Republican Response" speeches that the media carries after a speech made by our Democratic president, I offer:
The Liberal Response
Written 5 February 1998 (Text not updated since)
©1998 by Randy Cassingham, All Rights Reserved.
Is True biased against liberals? I think it depends entirely on your perspective. Read these stories, all run in This is True the past few months, and make up your own mind!
When right-wing politicians try to thrust their conservatism upon others, sometimes it blows up in their faces:
Be All That You Can Be
Earl Christensen, 18, a Montrose, Colorado, high school student, was assigned to write an essay about "why government doesn't work". He wrote it as a letter, which he mailed to State Sen. Ben Alexander, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. In his letter, "I said I didn't like the way the military was presented to youth," Christensen told reporters. "I said I thought it's not the war on drugs, but it's war on the American public that choose to use drugs." Alexander was so upset with the student's critique he asked Christensen to meet with him. At the meeting, Alexander lectured, "A lot of people fought and died so you could stay here and waste your life on drugs," and added that Christensen was a "worthless piece of shit." Christensen walked out, and won't take Alexander's calls of apology. (Denver Post) ...Sounds like Alexander is a few troops short of a battalion.
Conservative readers sometimes get upset when I point out that pastors have human failings:
The Chama First Baptist Church in Santa Fe, N.M., has won their legal battle. A jury ruled the church was not liable for the actions of Louis Day, a former pastor, for alleged negligence in his marriage counseling of two church members. Pastor Day admitted he was regularly having sex with the female half of a married couple who came to him for counseling. The jury said church officials did enough by confronting Day when they learned of the affair, causing the married minister to resign his post. Day says he cannot remember how often he and the woman had sex inside the church. "I don't keep notches in my Bible to keep a record of such things," he testified. (Reuter) ...Then what do the notches signify? The number of parishioners he took behind the altar?
Thou Shalt Not Steal, Except
The Rev. John Papworth, a part-time pastor at St. Mark's Church in north London, said it is OK to shoplift. "I don't regard it as stealing; I regard it as a badly needed reallocation of resources," he told parishioners recently. "Jesus said love your neighbor; he didn't say love Marks and Spencers," he added, saying one shouldn't steal from small local grocers, but from large chains. Church of England officials called Papworth's position "untenable" and dismissed him from his position. (Reuter, AP) ...They just wanted to cut him off before he got to his interpretation of "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
But what really gets right-wingers to write is when I defend the right of homosexuals to exist. They didn't think much of my labeling homophobes "bigots":
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, We Hate the Gays You Know
"We want Mickey to come home," said one of the protesters outside the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. "We don't want him to have a dress when he gets here." The group was demonstrating against Disney's "pro-homosexual policies" -- health benefits for same-sex partners of employees. Disney employees at the studio reacted by giving the protesters water, soft drinks and cookies: it was 100 degrees in the parking lot. A Disney spokesman noted that the company is committed to "values that include tolerance and compassion and respect for everybody." (AP) ...Even, apparently, bigots.
Liberals sometimes think conservatives are insane. Sometimes, I agree they appear to be just that:
Me? Skeptical? I Trust You Have Proof
Colorado State Sen. Charles Duke of Monument says someone is picking the lock on the front door of his house and coming in to take things, such as his tax returns, even when he is home. Duke, a defender of the patriot movement, says he knows who is behind the break-ins: fellow Republicans Newt Gingrich and former Education Secretary Bill Bennett, with the assistance of the local telephone company, which, he says, has also been tapping his phone "for years". Duke says he has filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission -- the government agency which oversees stock brokers. (UPI) ...Just because some "patriots" are paranoid doesn't mean "they" aren't out to get them, but in this case....
While I don't recall ever taking on Rush Limbaugh, I got a lot of angry mail for taking on another well-known traditional-values-promoting talk show host:
You're On The Air
A newspaper columnist says popular radio psychotherapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger is "snooty". Maryln Schwartz of the Dallas Morning News reported that "Dr. Laura," as she likes to be called, rejected three rooms at a hotel before settling on a fourth, and rejected rides in several cabs, because of their "smell". In Dallas to give a talk to the Jewish Federation, Schlessinger didn't win over the audience, either. "She was nasty, arrogant, insulting," one attendee said. "Her remarks were disgusting. She was putting down everyone in that audience." When she heard the criticism, Schlessinger broke down crying during her radio show. Dr. Laura is the author of the book, Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives. (AP) ...Physician, heal thyself.
One of my favorite themes is ranting at people who insist others must believe in the same things that they do. When I disagree, readers write to insist I should believe the same things they do. sigh! Here's one that brought on that kind of response:
A Mormon missionary was saved by police in Samalaiulu on Savaii island, Western Samoa, when villagers didn't take kindly to his meddling in local affairs. When officers arrived, villagers had already tied Lupe Lio, 33, to a stake in the village square, and were piling kindling around him to light on fire. (Reuter) ...Apparently, his phrase book didn't have a translation for "No, thank you. Go away."
Not to rant on Mormons or anything, but one reader complained that this story "promoted premarital sex". How it does that, I have no idea:
In His Image, Which Art Obscene
An exhibit of Rodin sculptures has been censored at Brigham Young University. The Mormon church-run school removed "Saint John The Baptist Preaching" because the nude depictions of the prophet, "The Kiss", "The Prodigal Son" and "Monument to Balzac", "are such that the viewer will be concentrating on them in a way that is not good for us," said BYU Museum of Art's Director Campbell Gray. Gray rejected interpretations that the statue of Paul simply showed his mortality. "Everyone knows the prophet is mortal," he said. "But this conception... doesn't show the prophet side of the man at all." (AP) ...Right, just his front and back.
A few thought these two stories, which ran together, were "disrespectful" of Catholics' religious beliefs:
The Vatican has issued a proclamation to clarify the roles of the laity in the Catholic church. Due to a shortage of priests, lay helpers have been taking an increasingly larger role in church functions, even assisting in weddings, funerals, and Sunday services. But never, the church says, in celebrating Mass, which must be done by a priest. (AP) ...In summary, priests do more than lay people.
The Vatican's newspaper, Osservatore Romano, quoted "staunch moralist theologian" Father Gino Concetti as saying, "Homosexuals do have the right to be considered to be different, to practice their homosexuality, to live together, to make up a couple and to have children. They do have the right to adopt children and even to demand social rights." An angry Concetti sought an explanation: he said that wasn't what he wrote for the paper. Editor Gianfranco Grieco claims a computer virus removed several "nots" from the article. "These things do happen," he claimed. (AFP) ...Now that is news: The Vatican has a shortage of "nots"!
"Gimme that Back!" Growls an Outraged Jessie Helms
Newt Gingrich Finds Dinosaur Bone
This one didn't generate a lot of mail, but the mail that came in was very, very angry, including a not-very-thinly veiled death threat from someone who thought I was making fun of pro-life (aka anti-abortion) politics. Where that came from, I don't know, considering abortion wasn't mentioned, or even thought of, in the writing of this story:
Don't Worry, Be Happy
A Louis Harris Research survey shows that most women think they are happier than their mothers were at the same age. The survey, conducted in the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, found that the number one reason women cited for the happiness boost is the increased availability of contraception since their mothers' time. (Reuters) ...Translation: "I think my mother would have been happier if she could have prevented my birth."
A favorite conservative theme is strong law and order. What happens when they take it too far? I take them to task:
What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate
Smith County, Texas, Sheriff J.B. Smith has acquired two military surplus 13-ton armored personnel carriers to supplement his department's weapons against crime. "We could use them in hostage situations, dangerous standoffs and even for crowd control," gushed Smith. "These carriers would make any criminal think twice. We can just back them up to a building and knock down the door." (Reuter) ...Naw. He's just hoping he can attract "Waco II: This Time We're Really, Really Ready" to his county.
Conservatives often bemoan the stories with a sexual theme, such as these. They tell me that I am "displeasing God" when I run such "filth":
Show and Tell
Britain's first Erotica Exhibition was a success. People queued around the block to get in to see the "Fetishist Village", condom stands, body piercing, chocolate-flavored body paint, and all the usual toys and gadgets. "Sex is fun. That is our message," said organizer Brian Wiseman. "Throw off your inhibitions. Come. Laugh. Enjoy and Smile." (Reuters) ...Though not necessarily in that order.
Picture Perfect Politician
Mayor Craig S. Johnson, 41, of Snow Hill, Md., has been arrested for allowing a woman to pose naked on the top of a sheriff's squad car assigned to him. The mayor, who also worked as a deputy sheriff, allegedly contacted the operator of a pornographic Internet web site and offered to help do the photos as a "prank" since he was leaving the sheriff's department. The photos came to light when local high school students found the pictures on the web site. The mayor was charged with two counts of misdemeanor misconduct in office. (AP) ...He offered them his honor, they honored him his offer.
But that's nothing compared to the "blasphemy" of making fun of sex and religion at the same time:
Big Bang III
Israeli Cabinet Minister Rafael Eitan says Palestinian suicide bombers have been lied to: there are not 72 virgins awaiting them in heaven after killing themselves in attacks on Israelis. "Tell those boys, 'Listen up! Nobody ever screwed in heaven. All that is lies and old wives tales'," he says. (AP) ...True, that's not heaven, it's hell. Consorting with suicide bombers is the punishment dictated for the virgins.
Isn't That What Got Her to the Altar in the First Place?
Manila's Auxiliary Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr. is a bit upset with what he is seeing at weddings in the Philippines. He complained on a radio show that the necklines on bridal dresses are plunging too low, and are too revealing. "There are times when instead of saying the body of Christ, I am tempted to say, 'Christ, what a body!'," Bacani said. (UPI) ...Thou shalt not cover thy neighbor's wife.
And if you dare defend a hooker against religious moralizing, look out!
When Kansas City, Mo., officials used the city's cable TV channel to show the mug shots of a group of men arrested for soliciting prostitution, civil rights groups argued the men's rights were violated since they were being punished -- by being held up for ridicule -- without first being convicted of any crime. But the finger-shaking moralizer Rev. Jerry Falwell says he supports the city's actions. "Those 44 men deserved the humiliation," he declared. "Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them." (UPI) ..."The whore is despised by the hypocritical world because she has made a realistic assessment of her assets and does not have to rely on fraud to make a living." --Angela Carter (1940-1992), British author.
After this one, I got complaints from conservatives claiming I was "promoting polygamy" -- as if there were something wrong with the idea!
Pull Out a Spare
A Saudi Arabian man with kidney disease didn't have to go on a waiting list to get a new kidney since both of his wives volunteered to donate one, each vying to outdo the other. "There was a degree of competition between the women as to who the donor should be," a Saudi newspaper reported. "(The) hospital administration was forced to draw lots between the two wives" to decide the second wife would be the donor. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Joseph was the keynote speaker at a conference of the Utah chapter of the National Organization of Women. She told attendees she has discovered the ultimate feminist lifestyle: polygamy. Ms Joseph, who shares her husband with seven other wives, said she "was able to go to law school 400 miles away, knowing my husband had clean shorts in the morning and dinner at night" thanks to the other wives. "I've maximized my female potential without the tradeoffs associated with monogamy," she explained, such as delaying education in order to raise a family. "Polygamy is an empowering lifestyle," she declared. (Reuters, AP) ...Wives are great. Everyone should have one.
(I should, of course, have said there, "Wives are great. Everyone should have a few." Such is the problem of dealing with deadline pressure!)
Sometimes, the same story pulls in complaints from both sides of the political spectrum! Not only did conservatives rant about my "promoting drug use" in this story, I was also accused by liberals of being Politically Incorrect for "not respecting Native Americans' right to practice their non-Christian beliefs":
Soldier, Your Button is Missing
A recent decision by the U.S. military "marks the first sanctioned use of a hallucinogen by members of the armed forces," says an official of the Native American Church of North America. The decision, to allow Native American members of the church to use peyote in the pursuit of their religion, applies to over 9,000 servicemen and -women, and allows them to answer "no" when asked if they have ever used drugs. Allowing service members to practice all aspects of their faith "promotes and enhances military readiness," says the executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplain's Board. When used in religious services, peyote is "a sacrament, not a drug, just as sacramental wine is not considered a drug," a Pentagon spokeswoman added. (AP) ...Sounds good, until someone invents a crack-smoking sacrament for the "Our Lady of the Perpetual High" congregation.
Some conservatives really get mad when I "twist the meaning of Bible passages to further your promotion of inmoral (sic) behavior":
German photographer Manfred Schonlau expected a big turnout for an unusual photographic project: he wanted a picture of hundreds of naked people posing in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. But only two showed up, a man and a woman, who wore strategically placed fig leaves. It wasn't exactly a lonely moment, though, since about 300 spectators showed up to watch. (Reuter) ..."And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." --Genesis 2:25.
So: What's the point of all this? Considering the size of my readership, both online and in-print (and I ask newspapers to publish my URL with the column to facilitate comments), and considering that True is, after all, a news commentary column, I get remarkably few complaints. But I realize (and I hope you do, too) I cannot possibly please everyone, and not all the time. When it comes to stories, I call them as I see them. The story selection, and comments, are necessarily colored by my own background: I'm a color-blind (as in race) equal-opportunity (race and sex [for "sex", read "gender" and "choices"]) pro-democracy free-market free-speech egalitarian. I thus make no apologies for comments based on those factors.
As for the stories themselves, please remember that they are all real stories that have appeared in real newspapers! If they are good enough to appear in mainstream newspapers, they're good enough for a news commentary column. If I see outrageous behavior in the news, I reserve the right to be outraged by it. If you're outraged by my outrage, that's fine. As far as judging me, that's fine too -- all I ask is that you judge me by the whole of my work, and not by any particular item that pushes a hot button for you: the one thing I do not accept is a person who laughs at nearly everything, but then cries foul when everyone else laughs at their particular pet issue. That I get rants from both the left and right extremes of the political spectrum makes me believe that I'm doing a good job at staying in the middle.
Last, I like to point to the words of comedian and social commentator Dennis Miller: "We should question it all; poke fun at it all; piss off on it all; rail against it all; and most importantly, for Christ's sake, laugh at it all. Because the only thing separating holy writ from complete bullshit is your perspective." I hope this page provides some perspective and food for thought for you. Cheers.