WaPo's Shales Lauds CNN for Bringing 'Compassion' to Gay Parenting, Avoiding 'Angry Zealots'
By Tim Graham | June 22, 2010 | 07:23
It does not, as the cliche goes, "explore all sides of an issue," but instead offers an intimate and affecting portrait of what happens when partners in a same-sex marriage set out to secure for themselves a blessed event, the limits of biology notwithstanding.
[CNN's Soledad] O'Brien has the men recall the history of their relationship from the beginning, when, like it says in "Some Enchanted Evening," they saw each other "across a crowded room." They had a wedding outside of New York state because the legislature refused to pass a bill acknowledging same-sex marriages. Demonstrators outside the courtroom repeat the canard about gay marriage being a "threat" to the institution, but Gary and Tom [sic] justifiably want to know how they are a threat to anybody.
The "threat" argument seems to presuppose that everyone would be homosexual and take up with husbands or wives of their own gender if not for the social strictures placed upon such behavior. And that goes back to the never-ending argument about whether homosexuality is learned or inherited, a "lifestyle" or a genetic predisposition. O'Brien is wise not to rehash all that; it's not a subject that brings out the best in those who never seem to tire of debating it.
You do have to wonder: Could an opponent of same-sex marriage, or even a homophobic extremist, watch the documentary, see Gary and Tony in paternal bliss with their child, and still want to deny them this happiness -- even deny them the right to cohabit? Or, for that matter, to hop into the same sack?
If this documentary is carefully constructed to send the message that all opposition to homosexuality and "gay marriage" should cease, then it is the opposite of objectivity: it is meant to shut down a debate and declare the liberal side the winner for all eternity.
Shales is certainly disturbed that the "homophobic extremists" and "angry zealots" are still talking. They are simply crazy people. But it's truly crazy to insist this is not advocacy journalism:
Asked by the reporter whether they worry about how peers and angry zealots may react to Nicholas when he gets older and attends school, Gary says, "We won't live our lives in fear of what a crazy person will do." That is some kind of courage, isn't it?
"Gary and Tony" is not technically advocacy journalism, [!] but in showing a same-sex couple who successfully navigate the mine field and adopt a baby that one of them helped create, O'Brien makes a case for, at the very least, compassion -- a case that has to be made again and again in this society, or so it seems.
Shales concludes by painting a scene that shows that religious objections to the sin of homosexuality make just enough of an appearance on CNN to be mocked as failing to be inclusive:
During their courtship, when Gary and Tony were first considering some version of marriage, Gary was appalled to hear a priest rail against same-sex marriage at the church in central Pennsylvania that he attended. Pamphlets were distributed that urged people to "Join the Campaign to Save Marriage in Pennsylvania." Instead of having anyone inveigh against the campaign, the producers simply cut to a tell-tale sign that sits outside the church: "All Are Welcome."
Not really. Not quite.
This Shales column made the front page. Last Tuesday, his column was buried deep inside Style to lament that there was all this coverage of this massive oil spill, and how the narrative became "Can Obama win back the media smarties who seem to be deserting him?" He likes Obama more than the media and more than any sense of green compassion:
At some stage, Ghastly Pelican No. 204, or some poor gull or fish gone stinky as well as inky (the oil smells bad, correspondents have told us, even as they brave the malodorous gunk in their dry-cleaned jeans), serves as the tipping point at which outrage and umbrage give way to a world-weary sense of futility. We've seen it before in other long-running disasters, including the trend-setting Iranian hostage crisis -- the one that started the genre and turned seldom-seen correspondent Ted Koppel into the Mr. Marathon of network anchors.
Now we're seeing it again. It gets less pretty with each new exposure, and that's about as pretty as poor little Oily McDuck. The media will grade and judge Obama according to how well he comes across, applying the standards of a performance to his gesture, as if "gesture" is all it could possibly be.
"Have we all gone crazy?" CNN's Fareed Zakaria asks in the Huffington Post, presumably rhetorically. Zakaria finds the preoccupation with "presidential emotion" to be borderline obscene and fundamentally absurd. Thousands of lives and livelihoods are threatened by an ecological nightmare-come-true, and the press wants to know whether the president is shedding real tears or the crocodile kind. It's a kind of crock, all right, and a sign that when the public starts to show lack of interest in a story, and the press goes hunting for a new angle, even hero-worshiped presidents had better watch their tails.