Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.
You can learn quite a bit about those who consider themselves leaders in the liberal movement by reading The Huffington Post. Now, as of a few weeks ago, you can learn what they think about religion, too.
I look at the Huffington Post to see today what many in the media will be talking about tomorrow. The news aggregator and blog website was founded by former conservative Arianna Huffington, wife of former GOP Senate candidate Michael Huffington. It collects bloggers of every description, from Robert Rubin to Bianca Jagger. Often, the site anticipate trends, like the “small bank” movement that got some play nationally. Often, the site breaks news stories first.
At its best, the site shows a real concern for the poor, backed up by careful attention to real ways to protect the interests of the downtrodden.
But, like Playboy, the articles aren’t the reason for Huff Post’s popularity. It’s the naked people. That, and the ridicule.
If the Huffington Post is a good indication of what the Left’s leaders are interested in, then yikes. The site’s most popular features have the obsession with sex — and the ability to objectify others — of a 15-year-old boy. Many (but not all) of these features are helpfully labeled “NSFW” (Not Safe For Work). Here’s a headline about a healthcare horror story, next is a headline about a naked exercise video. Here’s a headline about global warming, there’s a headline promising photos of a naked sledding competition.
Other obsessions of Huffington Post have a high school quality:
1. How ridiculous Sarah Palin is. (Here find her every public appearance dissected in “mean girl” fashion.)
2. How absurd Tea Party supporters are. (Never mentioned without a pornographic reference.)
3. How crazy Glenn Beck is. (Yes, a strong case can be made. But it’s another kind of crazy if you need to make that case every day.)
4. Any Jon Stewart video. (The talented class clown of Huffington High.)
5. Any Rachel Maddow video. (The cool, buck-the-system, alternative girl. When I was in high school she was the debating champ who listened to Joy Division on her Walkman.)
Now Huffington Post has added a new feature: “HuffPost Religion.”
It’s not all bad. Norman Lear gave me new appreciation for Edith Bunker and confirmed my disrespect for TV Christology by pointing out that the All in the Family character was conceived as a Christ-like figure. There are some interesting stories linked about “Islam 2.0” and fatwas. Father James Martin is a blogger on the site, and he has many good things to say.
But some the site’s views on religion show a startling contempt. For instance, under a provocative photo of hands draped across a bed, a headline today says “‘Women & Girls’ Religious Pamphlet Claims ‘Ungodly’ Dressed Women Provoke Rape.”
Read the story and you discover that an anonymous pamphlet that someone got handed in Bristol, Va., suggested (a little sheepishly, but unmistakably) that women who dress provocatively might be inviting rape. No information on the extent of the distribution is given; just a single anonymous pamphlet cited.
The way it’s hyped carries the suggestion: “Those crazy Christians are at it again. Look how absurd their beliefs are!” The problem: If a random nutty pamphlet in Virginia is fair game for defining my worldview, let me take you to any major university library and introduce you to some folks muttering to themselves and defining your worldview in pamphlet form.
Ultimately, the problem with Huff Post religion is the regular mainstream media problem with religion: For the most part, clueless people are picking the stories.
It would be like putting me in charge of a sports section. I like sports okay, don’t follow it much, and I have some journalistic judgment of what makes a good story, I think. I would pick some intriguing stories, probably. But true sports fans would shrug off my Sports section as the work of someone who is Not One of Us and Just Doesn’t Get It … and quickly set it aside.
Which you can safely do with the Huffpost Religion. Read Father James at America, and stick with Beliefnet and the NCRegister.com.