Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Patriot Guard

My brother Raj sent me this link describing a group of riders who travel the country defending the honor of those fallen in Iraq from nut-job Christians who think God is punishing the US for allowing homosexuality. I didn't know whether to cry seeing the types of religious idiots we now harbor in America, or to smile knowing that some people will go to great effort to support our military. I guess both are appropriate. From the article:
They call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, and they are more than 5,000 strong, forming to counter anti-gay protests held by the Rev. Fred Phelps at military funerals.

Phelps believes American deaths in Iraq are divine punishment for a country that he says harbors homosexuals. His protesters carry signs thanking God for so-called IEDs -- explosives that are a major killer of soldiers in Iraq.


Blogger Kathleen said...

I've never commented on a blog before, but couldn't resist this one.
A quick on-line search on the Westboro Baptist Church reveals that the Phelps group numbers about 100-200 people who are mostly related to Phelps by blood or marriage.
Yes, this is a hate group.
Yes, this is a nutty family. It is not in any way representative of Christianity. Sadly, we find the media leaving out needed perspective in stories involving Christian extremists. Why does the article's author mention the number of Patriot Guard members (5,000) without mentioning the number of extremeists in this so-called "Baptist Church?" Perhaps there is an anti-Christian bias at work here. Whether intentional or just sloppy, this and many other articles in the mainstream press are perpetuating an ugly image of Christians. Taken together articles like this one are not just lacking quality reporting, they are linking an image of hatred and intolerance to Christianity in general where none is deserved.
Granted, the author mentions that the members of the group are mostly related to Phelps, so the reader might reason that the number can't be very large. But that information is pretty far down in the piece. As I see it, the average reader is more likely to conclude that the group is large based on the number of Patriot Gaurd members mentioned at the top. The author also states that 14 states are considering passing laws, while, even if true, suggests the protests are nationwide.
Think I'm getting picky?
Okay, just try to imagine being a journalist (as I was for 20 years) and writing this article without mentioning the size of the group. To me, it is almost inconceivable. Journalism 101. Now imagine being the editor. Your reporter comes to you with this piece, and you don't notice that any reference to the size of this group is missing? What's wrong here? This didn't appear in a school newspaper, it's on CNN's web site.
Now that you've tried to imagine what it would be like writing this story and leaving out the size of the group, try putting the number in:
Five thousand Patriot Guard members are going around the country trying to shield the families of fallen soldiers from the protests of 100 - 200 nutty members of an extremist family in Topeka, Kansas.
Sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? Hats off to the bikers who are clearly a compassionate bunch, but it wouldn't really take 5000 of them, would it?
This is not to make light of the hate message against gays which is obviously very serious, hence the justifiable listing of this group as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
But more perspective is clearly needed in this piece and many others. The lack of it is unfairly eroding the image of American Christianity.

6:36 PM  

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