Unification News for April 1997

Irresponsibility of Boston Globe

by Eugene Curtin-Omaha, NE

I do not know Peter Ross, but I admire him greatly for his thoughtful, reasoned, passionate response to the Boston Globe profile on Steve Hassan. [Feb. UNews] Quite obviously, the days are long gone when we as Unificationists stood amazed, dumbfounded and speechless as our faith was once more dragged through the mud by some know-nothing.

His account spurred some thoughts. First, let me get something out of the way. I am a professional journalist. I have worked for the same newspaper for eight years and am currently a senior writer. Certainly I do not work at the exalted level of the Boston Globe. On the other hand, the Nebraska Press Association has seen fit to confer about a dozen writing awards on me over the past eight years. In short, I know a little about the basic craft of journalism.

I know enough to recognize that Peter is mistaken when he assumes that journalists are always required to get the "other side" of a story. "Profile" is sometimes just a $10 word for "puff piece." Puff pieces have their place. When you write a profile of a parish priest who is retiring after 50 years in the ministry, you feel no obligation to track down parishioners who might feel he gave crummy advice in the confessional. When you write about a family whose triplets have all been accepted at Harvard, you feel no need to seek out neighbors who feel that the kids are insufferable snobs.

These are celebratory stories in which we are willing to overlook the warts in order to celebrate the greater picture. They are stories which recognize achievements, pursuits or milestones that are unimpeachably good. It does not astonish me that the Globe would choose to publish such a story.

What is deeply troubling is that the editors apparently chose as an unimpeachably good subject a man whose entire professional life revolves around denigrating religious faiths held dear by hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of fine, law-abiding Americans. I do not dispute that Hassan is newsworthy. If he lived in my community, I might well write about him, and I would most assuredly give him a fair shake. But it is inconceivable, given the controversial nature of his work, that I would fail to give equal consideration to his opponents. After all, it's only a matter of picking up the telephone.

My conclusion is that the Globe does not regard Hassan's work as controversial. That is the only legitimate reason for discarding the journalistic commandment to tell both sides. The Globe must believe that there is no other side. That is astonishing, given the number of reputable non-church experts both religious and secular who think Hassan is a paranoid fraud.

Two things, then. First, it shakes me that a major American newspaper like the Boston Globe values so lightly the religious sensibilities of Unificationists and others that it would regurgitate decades-old calumny. And regurgitate it with no significant opportunity for response. This does not bode well for the mental and even physical security of our children.

Second, what else is new? In the early part of the 19th century, Catholic churches in this country were burned to the ground and priests murdered. The Mormons were hounded into the desert. Jehovah's Witnesses were tossed into prison for refusing to salute the flag. The Boston Globe editors, for all their smug sophistication, are simply infected by a strain of religious bigotry that is as old as Salem. The bigots of old did not see a scared young kid fresh off the boat from Ireland tasked with preaching his faith in a foreign land. They saw only a papist infiltrator seeking to corrupt the minds of Protestant America.

Today's bigots don't see our families as positive entities struggling to raise our kids as God-loving patriots in a world awash with pornography, cynicism and violence. They see only "Moonie automatons" trying to take over the world. Human nature is slow to change.

So, sure, write to the Boston Globe editors and let them know that we know they're a scurrilous bunch of phonies. But more important, let us be about our Father's business. Let's work to raise children who love God and revere their country and who are entirely unimpressed with the hedonistic 20th century.

And then, 150 years from now, we can look down from our hopefully lofty perches at some academic researcher tracking the history of religious bigotry in the late 20th century. With some satisfaction we will watch him make photocopies of a particularly egregious piece of irresponsibility that appeared in the Boston Globe way back in 1997.

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