Columnists > Voices

Dereliction of duty

Mainstream media ignore both the facts and their journalistic task

Issue: "Iraq: The other caucuses," Jan. 31, 2004

Suppose for a moment that new statistics came out next week suggesting some profound link between the traditional Christian celebration of communion and the incidence of leukemia. Let's say a new study in an important medical journal, in this imaginary scenario, claims that the incidence of leukemia is 50 percent higher among Christians who celebrate communion regularly than it is among the population at large.

What do you think the media response would be? How might The New York Times or CNN or "60 Minutes" play it?

To a certain extent, you don't even have to engage your imagination. Just a few weeks ago, the "CBS Evening News" demonstrated in real life how it actually did respond to such a development. In what has to be one of the most reprehensible pieces of journalism in the last year, CBS did a prominent report on what it headlined as "the dark side of the home-schooling movement." In its report, CBS highlighted a murky story based in rural North Carolina in which a sometime home-schooling family had been charged with child abuse. CBS was happy to pass on the implication-based on that tiny sample of one-that home-schooling and child abuse were obviously joined at the hip.

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Can you imagine what the same news team would do with a report that might seem to implicate all Christians?

So what do we make of the profound media silence over an issue that is by no means imaginary? If it can be documented-and it can-that male homosexuals in North America have a statistical life expectancy that is not much more than half the life expectancy of the population at large, then why is there not an outraged blitz from the media on that topic?

So that you don't think this is just a whimsical topic I dreamed up this week, try this exercise. Go to the Google internet search engine and enter the three simple words: "homosexual life expectancy." Within five seconds, you'll find thousands of entries under that topic! No one seems to disagree with the main conclusion: that male homosexuals live significantly shorter lives than do other people. Psychological Reports said bluntly in a 1998 article that "the average life expectancy of homosexuals is 20 to 30 years less than heterosexuals." You will find a host of professional journals that have reported similar findings with virtually no experts taking issue.

So why isn't there an uproar in the media? One liberal media friend, a defender of the homosexual agenda, tells me that my concern is a tempest in a teapot. "When the life insurance companies start asking applicants to report their sexual preferences, then maybe you'll have a point," he told me. "But not until."

At first, that seemed to be a fair objection. It is in fact a typically reliable indicator on just about any subject to check in and see what the insurance companies think. They usually gather vast banks of data-and then they have to put their money where their mouth is.

But neither are life insurance companies exempt from the pressures of being politically correct. Scholar and columnist Walter Williams observes: "I think I know the answer. Life insurance companies would be charged with lifestyle discrimination. [And] some forms of discrimination are politically acceptable, while others aren't."

While Mr. Williams is certainly right, I think there's a little more to the issue. If homosexuals made up 8 percent to 10 percent of the population, as they want everyone to think they do, even political correctness wouldn't allow the insurance companies to overlook so profound a matter. But since in fact they constitute only 1.5 percent or so of the population, according to the most accurate studies, the impact on the insurance companies' liability and ultimate payout isn't worth the hassle of bucking the politically correct trend.

The big news media don't enjoy the same excuse. They're supposed to be telling us the truth about such matters, regardless of the pressure they face from a super-organized and well-entrenched lobby. Right now, though, and for a decade and more when the statistics have been as plain as the nose on your face, they've ignored both the facts and their journalistic duty.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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