I know that some people believe that “honest journalist” is a contradiction in terms, but I personally know lots of honest journalists. They tell the truth. When they quote people, they do it accurately and provide the context of the quoted words so that no false impression of what was said will be created. When they quote someone quoting someone else, they make that clear, too. When someone is responding to something someone else is saying, they also make that clear.
I point these things out in order to invite readers to look at this column by veteran New York Times writer Thomas Edsall. It is mainly an attack on Attorney General William Barr for the controversial speech he recently gave at the University of Notre Dame. But he also takes shots at two other conservative Catholic writers, Mary Eberstadt and me. Here’s what he says in reference to me:
“Not to be outdone, Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence and the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, declared in a speech at the Catholic Information Center’s annual dinner on Oct. 23 that the sexual revolution has produced a paganism reminiscent of pre-Christian Rome: “The neo-pagans are in no mood to be accommodating,” George said: “Christians and others who dissent from progressive orthodoxy can expect ‘the hard line approach’. We are to be treated like the defeated Germans and Japanese after World War II.”
Well, yes, I did say that “we are to be treated like the defeated Germans and Japanese after World War II.” But I was expressly quoting a respected and influential mainstream left-wing scholar at Harvard Law School: Mark Tushnet. And it was Tushnet who explicitly called for treating social and religious conservatives with a “hard line” like the defeated Germans and Japanese were treated by the victorious allies after the Second World War.
Here are Tushnet’s words (which I quoted–expressly noting that I was quoting them–in the speech to which Edsall refers):
“The culture wars are over; they lost, we won. … For liberals, the question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. That’s mostly a question of tactics. My own judgment is that taking a hard line (“You lost, live with it”) is better than trying to accommodate the losers, who – remember – defended, and are defending, positions that liberals regard as having no normative pull at all. Trying to be nice to the losers didn’t work well after the Civil War … (And taking a hard line seemed to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945.) I should note that LGBT activists in particular seem to have settled on the hard-line approach, while some liberal academics defend more accommodating approaches. When specific battles in the culture wars were being fought, it might have made sense to try to be accommodating after a local victory, because other related fights were going on, and a hard line might have stiffened the opposition in those fights. But the war’s over, and we won.” (Mark Tushnet, blog post, “Abandoning Defensive Crouch Liberal Constitutionalism, May 6, 2016)
Edsall’s omitting the fact that I was quoting Tushnet (and taking him at his word) was deeply dishonest. It’s the kind of conduct that gives journalists and journalism a bad name, and gives conservatives good reason to doubt the honesty of outfits like the New York Times.
Here’s Edsall’s column:
Nothing would please me more that for readers to read the column, my speech, and Tushnet’s blog post and judge for yourselves.