an online story today in the Louisville Courier-Journal today about Fayette County Family Court Judge Tim Philpot's recent remarks critical of same-sex marriage to a religious group over the next couple of days. In the meantime I'll just remark that the dishonesty of the media reaches proportions that are sometimes epically astounding.
The CJ titled the online version of the piece, "Family judge: Gay marriage like 'jumbo shrimp'."
I'd love to attribute the headline to the simple ignorance of the kind I encounter all the time when I use an analogy about a relationship between two things and the person responding just doesn't get the difference between the similarity of two things (which is not what this kind of analogy expresses) and the similarity of two relationships between two pairs of things (which is what this kind of analogy does express).
For example, in a discussion the other day, a person protested my comparison between the idea that you can choose your gender based on your feelings and that you can choose your race based on your feelings. If the latter is unacceptable, then why is the former acceptable? The person's response was: "You cannot try to compare race with ... sexual identity. What you are doing is called a logical fallacy."
Uh, no. Sorry.
A comparison of the process by which you determine gender and the process by which you determine race is not a comparison of gender and race. You are not saying "Gender is comparable to race"; you are saying "The relationship between the way we feel about our gender and what our gender actually is is the same as the relationship between the way we feel about our race and our what our race actually is.
A is to B as C is to D—Not A is similar to B.
And the similarity of these two relationships is unmistakable, which is why someone who is actually male who thinks he is female is just as preposterous (in fact, even more so, since gender goes deeper than race) as Rachel Dolezel, the former chairman of the NAACP who, despite actually being White, claims she is Black because she feels Black—a point not dissimilar to the one Philpot was making.
The fact that people no longer get this is a commentary, not only on the general decline in the ability to think, but in the decline of the ability to think analogically. Maybe this is why the College Board took analogies out of the SAT after years of declining scores in that section.
Of course, I'm not averse to attributing ignorance to journalists. It abounds. In this case, however, the obfuscation of Philpot's position in the way the headline was written was clearly the result of media bias against anyone who questions the Politically Correct position on gender, which, if you're on the lookout for goofy things, ought to stick out like a sore thumb.
So, while much of the story is quite fair and some of it not entirely unflattering, the CJ (I don't know whether it was Andy Wolfson or an online editor) was clearly banking on peoples' ignorance about how analogies work to distort what Philpot actually said. They also had to know that, however fair much of the story was, the headline is what people will remember.
This is the subtle way that media bias works, and it's a commentary on the integrity of newspapers like the CJ that they do this kind of thing on a regular basis.