TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2021
Speaking quite frankly, there are none: Consider the standards which now control the making of journalistic claims.
More specifically, consider the lack of such standards. Consider a claim by the New York Times' Charles Blow. Also, consider the links supplied by Blow in alleged support of his claim.
In fairness, Blow's claim is supported by our one extant rule of journalism. According to that one rule, any claim is accepted as true if it supports a sweeping denunciation of some group of Others.
In the case of Blow's most recent column, The Others are fingered in his headline: "White Evangelicals Shun Morality for Power." After a string of pleasing non sequiturs concerning Franklin Graham, Blow moves on to the claim which is implied by the highlighted passage:
BLOW (9/20/21): I had grown up hearing from pulpits that it was the world that changed, not God’s word. The word was like a rock. A lie was a lie, yesterday, today and tomorrow, no matter who told it.
I had hoped that there were more white evangelicals who embraced the same teachings, who would not abide by the message the Grahams of the world were advancing, who would stand on principle.
But I was wrong. A report for the Pew Research Center published last week found that, contrary to an onslaught of press coverage about evangelicals who had left the church, disgusted by its embrace of the president, “There is solid evidence that white Americans who viewed Trump favorably and did not identify as evangelicals in 2016 were much more likely than white Trump skeptics to begin identifying as born-again or evangelical Protestants by 2020.”
At some point along the way, was there really "an onslaught of press coverage about evangelicals who had left the church, disgusted by its embrace of the president?"
We can't recall any such onslaught, though that doesn't settle the question. Meanwhile, the Pew report to which Blow refers doesn't describe any such onslaught of coverage.
That said, Blow offers one link in support of the claim that some such "onslaught of press coverage" actually took place at some point. He links to an April 2019 first-person report at Religion & Politics, a relatively little-known online news journal.
In that first-person report, Bradley Oinishi, an associate professor of religious studies at Skidmore College, describes what happened when he himself left evangelical movement for political reasons—when he left the evangelical movement back in 2005.
In the course of his report, Oinishi does refer to “Deconstructing My Religion,” a 26-minute CBS documentary "centered on the stories of the figures who started and have worked to sustain" people who have left the evangelical faith.
The CBS program aired in December 2018, generating little discussion. As best we can tell, it wasn't focused on evangelicals who abandoned their faith due to Trump.
Did that "onslaught" ever take place? Was there ever "an onslaught of press coverage about evangelicals who had left the church, disgusted by its embrace of the president?"
We don't know if any such onslaught ever took place. We do know these two things:
First, no one at the New York Times made Blow offer support for his claim. Also, this is the way our clownish discourse works at the highest levels.
Blow's column is a pastiche of non sequiturs and unsupported claims. This is the way a certain former president plays the game. It's also the way of our greatest journalists at the top of our clownish discourse.
Meanwhile, here's Fred Kaplan at Slate, discussing Robert Woodward's standards of evidence and proof. We may touch on that topic tomorrow—but our national culture, such as it is, is clownish all the way down.
Can a modern nation function this way? As Bruce Springsteen once advised, "Son, take a good look around."