I had thought that nothing could happen that would make me blog about, or even give much conscious thought to, the whole Tiger Woods brouhaha. Once again, I underestimated the ability of Fox News to take any situation and turn it into an opportunity to force their beliefs and morals down our throats. If I were to post a picture of the fingernail I broke earlier today and how I clipped it off, someone at Fox News could find some way to turn it into an example of how Obama’s socialist policies are destroying America, or write some paean about how the religious right’s version of Christianity means I’d never have to deal with another broken nail for the rest of my life.
I’ve come to expect Fox News personalities to say things so out of place with both reality and rational thought that more civilized countries would institutionalize them. I’m still a staunch believer in the First Amendment, and I still believe that the best defence against lunatic ideas is to allow the lunatics who espouse them to state them loudly, and at every possible opportunity, so people can judge for themselves how crazy they are. Granted, I think this would work a lot better if we could take a pair of scissors to this country and cut off the Deep South (they sound like they’d like that right now, anyway), but all Americans, now matter how misguided or misinformed, deserve a right to have their voices heard and votes counted.
That being said, the presence of Fox News in our culture, particularly when it is so dominant in some areas, complicates this matter a great deal. Fox News has always been a partisan tool for the right-wingers of this country to use to influence public discourse, obfuscating opinion and cherry-picked facts with actual journalism, and anyone in denial of this fact is in need of an intensive course of deprogramming. In the past, though, Fox News would at least put on a thicker veneer of objectivity with its Alan Colmeses and oh-so-rare shows that were actually "fair and balanced," although those shows usually came on weeknights at three in the morning. They still pull good ratings, though, because Fox News’ demographic skews so old that at any time in this country, there are probably hundreds of thousands of televisions tuned into Fox News because their owners just died of old age.
That veneer has been steadily thinning since the election of Obama, though. Openly promoting Tea Party protests this past year was a textbook crossing of the line between journalism and advocacy, and although some on the left called Fox News out on this, such protests were nowhere near as vociferous as they should have been. Brit Hume’s comments about Buddhism and Christianity were equally outrageous, and in the past even Fox News knew when to apologize when its personalities said something so out of line to defy description. Instead, Fox News has stood behind Hume’s comments, even going so far as to have him basically reiterate them word-for-word on Bill O’Reilly’s show.
Now, I will admit to not being as well-informed about the intricacies of Christianity as I’d like, but I think it reasonably safe to say that I know more about Buddhism than Brit Hume does. Setting aside the sheer offenciveness of Hume’s comments for the moment, the notion that Christianity is somehow "better" at dealing with forgiveness than Buddhism is just patently and demonstrably false. Hume was speaking of what Tiger Woods would have to do to be forgived not by any actual higher power, but by the "higher power" of the religious right. Nothing short of beocming a card-carrying dittohead would redeem Tiger in their eyes, and for many of us, that would be a far greater sin than his affairs.
Worse yet, right-wingers continue to use the co-opt the language of victimization — something which, in all seriousness, makes me physically ill — and claim that criticism of Hume’s comments are what are intolerant and misinformed, not Hume’s comments themselves. Pretending for a moment that I held any actual cultural or political sway (a huge stretch, I know), imagine what would have happened if I’d written about any of the Republican politicians who got caught in affairs and sex scandals these past two years (I’ve lost count too), and said that what that politician needed to do was embrace Wicca, because Christianity was inadequate when it came to polyamory. My piece would probably be the lead story on The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck’s radio shows for at least five days. Ann Coulter and Michele Malkin would be writing columns calling for my assassination. Brent Bozell would be shouting that my claim showed exactly how Christians are discriminated against in America. This controversy isn’t about Tiger Woods or Buddhism or anything like that; it’s about the religious right and their continuing efforts to make their warped religion the norm against which everything else should be compared.
I’ve come to accept Fox News and the Bill O’Reillys and Sean Hannitys and Brit Humes of this world the same way I’ve come to accept the scar I have on my right calf from when I sliced it open trying to climb a chain-link fence when I was younger: A reminder that stupidity exists in this world, and that it usually leads to painful, lifelong consequences. Even in the context of Fox News’ laughable definition of "fair and balanced," though, Brit Hume’s comments went way over the line, and not just liberals, but moderates and journalists as well should be screaming bloody murder until Hume apologizes and retracts his ill-informed statements about Buddhism and Christianity. If we don’t, then we can expect similar comments from other right-wingers every time anyone not of their ilk gets in the news for anything.