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The Fallacy of Faulty Analogy

New York Times reporter Josh Barro ditched the traditional concept of the “impersonal reporter” and let his visceral bias bleed across cyberspace this summer. On July 23 he tweeted, “Anti-LGBT attitudes are terrible for people in all sorts of communities. They linger and oppress, and we need to stamp them out, ruthlessly.” Reporters aren’t supposed to interject their personal bias into news coverage. Nor should they be making public commentaries on social issues in any venue, at least if they want to be taken seriously as journalists. But Barro’s out-of-the-blue tweet is no mere lapse in professional judgment. It’s a confirmation of what many Americans have long suspected: The nation’s elite media-makers are no mere reporters of the news.

The attitudes of journalists like Barro are shaping the mindset of the American public, especially regarding same-sex marriage, the political hot-button issue of this decade. Truth be told, there’s no real surprise here, especially among NOR readers. What is surprising is that Barro would have the temerity to bandy about this kind of brazen intolerance. When one proclaims that certain attitudes or views ought to be “ruthlessly” stamped out, that’s a succinct way of saying there’s no room for dialogue, debate, or dissent. In fact, critics could not be blamed for interpreting Barro’s proclamation as a kind of call to action — possibly a violent one.

To be fair, Barro later clarified that he isn’t calling for anyone’s death, just that “we should make anti-LGBT views shameful like segregation. Not saying we should off people.”

But who could be blamed for thinking that Barro is a wee bit fanatical and not a little illogical and inconsistent? Someone needs to get this memo to the Times journalist: No one uses the word ruthlessly with stamp out unless he is advocating the use of excessive force without regard for mercy or tolerance. The idea that “intolerance will not be tolerated” is so oxymoronic as to make the mind spin.

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