Sunday, June 1, 2008

lengthy response to controversy elsewhere

I have found myself in a controversy, a heated discussion, on another blog, and considering the nature of such a discussion in such a place, there is little if any chance to deal with the topic in a reasonable way there. So, in order to get some measure of reasonableness into it, and to give a reasonable defense to my ideas concerning it, I have decided to do so here.

A few weeks ago, when the whole Cyrus photo stink was going on, I knew about it, but didn't go out of my way to know more about it. I did listen to an Albert Mohler radio show podcast where he dealt with it, and thought he gave some good thoughts, such as why wasn't it treated as a case of child pornography, but outside of that it mostly came and went without much notice by me.

And to an extent, most of that is unimportant in the present discussion elsewhere, in which I am embroiled. Although she is mentioned, the discussion is much less about her, then it is about what someone else said about her, and how the people at this other place by-and-large think of those remarks.

The blog I'm commenting on is called CRN.info, and the one the comments were taken from is called Slice of Laodicea.

For the record, I'm not a huge fan of Slice. In an earlier incarnation of the Slice blog, one which had moderated comments, I made some comments in disagreement with some things said there by the blogger. One involved some comments about churches which have nice chairs instead of pews, which I considered a non-issue, and another was a rant against Veggie Tales, which I happen to like and think are good. A recent controversy involving Ravi Zecharias and the National Day of Prayer was one that I think got out of hand, and caused far more damage then the issue was worth. It was one thing for Slice to voice disagreement, but someone like Zecharias has proven his stripes, and in that issue a degree of grace even in disagreement would have been good.

Enough for that. I've already said that the current controversy involves things said about a celebrity, one still in her teens. Here are links to the articles in dispute.

Where Have All the Little Girls Gone?
**Update 4-28**On Reporting in an Age of Liars

And here is the discussing I'm in the middle of.

Miley Cyrus 2 1/2 Ingrid 1/2

I want to try to sum up the controversy in a few question or things we are contending over, so as to make things clearer. Please read what we are saying, in order to discern whether I am doing this accurately.

1. One point being made is that Cyrus is still very young, only 15 years old. But even if that is so, should we still have a reasonable expectation that a girl of such an age should know better then to pose in that way for such a photo? Or to put it another way, is a 15-year-old morally responsibly for such actions?

2. Another point being put forth is somewhat unclear. Are the commentors at CRN.info telling us that we should not say anything about the controversy? Since CRN.info has at least two threads about it, I doubt that is what they are saying. Are they saying that we should not be critical of her? I doubt that, too, though not as strongly as the first. Perhaps to put it broadly, we are debating about how such a controversy is to be handled.

So, for example, should we discuss the actions of a 15-year-old differently then we do the actions of an adult? Does that girl's celebrity, fame, and potential influence warrant a more public discussion? What about that girl's claims to be of the Christian faith, and the potential her actions may have to influence Christian kids of her age to act as she does, in good and bad ways? Is rebuke of her and/or those who are suppose to be watching out for her warranted when she stumbles in such a public and obvious way?

3. Another point of controversy is what responsibility a blogger has when a cited source turns out to have been wrong. Such is what seems to have happened at Slice. Not having read that first article, I can't comment directly on it, but apparently Slice started out with one entry which cited a news source, which then proved to have had incorrect information. Slice acknowledged that in a later entry, took down the entry with the link to the incorrect information, but did not give an apology for the other article, and still gave other information which supported their original contention.

Questions that could be asked about that, then, are...Does a blogger have the responsibility to apologize when a theoretically trustworthy source gives wrong information? If the blogger owns up to the mistake and tries to correct it, is that enough? Especially when the mistake is not their own, but the sources? And must that blogger back down and be forced into silence on a issue when such a thing happens, especially if other information is available and can be cited? Is it reasonable for someone not in that blogger's sphere to demand more of an apology?

4. When might one's rhetoric go over the line? Who decides whether it does or not? What right does one blogger have to comment on the rhetoric of another blogger? What about when comments are made about the supposed intentions of another blogger? And are those who express outrage at one blogger's strong language then allowed to use similar language in response even as they say the first is wrong to have done so?

Concerning no. 1 above, there is a tricky element to the age question. I think that the contention that "She's only 15" is only half a point, if that. I think that we are right to have a reasonable expectation that a girl of 15 years of age should know better then to pose in such a way for such photos, and that she is morally responsible for her actions. And to link in no. 2, considering her fame and influence, the possibility that it could mislead other kids of her age should not be downplayed.

Aren't most teens these days already oversexed? Do they not already have to deal with sexually charged messages on tv, in books, in movies, in their classes even, and from their own classmates? For those who may have seen Cyrus as a good example, does this not tear down that view? How does that effect them? Even if, as with her, we must seem them as responsible for their actions, doesn't the influence of a Cyrus not have some effect, too?

As such, then, it is certainly something that people should be concerned about. And in regards to Christian bloggers, one would hope they would comment about it in a disapproving way, even as they may feel pity and concern for the girl.

Because the "She's only 15" argument does have some part of a point. She is responsible for her actions, as much as any other 15 year old is responsible for sleeping with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or for dressing in revealing and provocative ways, or for doing drugs, or even for simply cheating on an exam. But she is still not an adult either, at least by our cultural standards, and the adults over and around her still have authority and influence over her, as well as responsibilities to and for her, and in this case something happened, and it broke down, and she was left both literally and figuratively exposed. One may in fact be grateful that worse didn't happen, though what did happen is certainly bad enough.

So, I think that it is a fit subject for online debate and comment. Her age, while taken into account, does not preclude her from rebuke. She is a celebrity, one of the most popular and public figures in this country, and perhaps even the world, at this current time, and whether wisely or not many kids of roughly her age look up to her and see her as an example. As such, then, her actions have a large degree of influence on them, so her allowing herself to be photographed in such a way has influence on them, and sends a message to them. And it is a message that she should not have given.

To her credit, she has issued apologies, and as far as I can tell, they seem to be sincere. There is grace, then, that can be shown, for we have all sinned and stumbled. Hopefully what was intended for evil God will turn to good.

Having dealt with 1 and 2, let us now deal with 3, the issue of how Slice should have handled the circumstance of having learned that a cited source gave incorrect information.

In regards to this, I would point out how Slice did handle it, which is in one of the links above. Slice acknowledged that error, and took down the entry where that information was cited. Slice did not now, however, apologize for having used a source that they considered to trustworthy. Here are the comments...

The source lied about the pictures and every major media outlet reported it as
truth. I have deleted the story accordingly on my blog. The story, that is,
about the photos. The Fox News story that reported on Miley’s erotic dance moves
at the concert remains fact, as there have been no reports of a body double at
the event. Yet. I will not apologize for linking to stories from major media
that are presented as fact.


I am operating somewhat in the dark here, because I did not read that original post, and so do not know what news source was cited that later proved to be incorrect. Was it a major news source? The comment above says it was. Was it one the most people would expect to be accurate in its news accounts?

Since I can't say anything for certain about the source, I can only give a somewhat broad statement. If the source was one that we could expect to be accurate, then if an apology is owed, it is an apology from them, not necessarily from anyone reading their news and thinking they were reading a true account.

Does Slice owe its readers an apology? I would point out that Slice did acknowledge that the source was wrong, and did take steps to correct things. As such, I think responsibility was taken for their own actions. Should an apology have been given as well? To my mind, it may have been nice, but I'm not sure I can say it's necessary. As long as the mistake was fixed, I'd have been happy with that, and would not feel the need to demand a apology.

In regards to the concerns raised in 4, we are dealing with a realm that is more subjective. By that, I mean it depends much one's level of comfort and experience with some rhetoric that may be considered strong. I do not mean profane, or vulgar, but simply strong.

Here are the two main things that were written at Slice, that seem to have provoked the most response on CRN.info...


Miley is the archetypal evangelical today. Holiness of living, separateness from
the world and its value system, a narrow way described by Jesus? No. Jesus is a
fashion accessory. He’s a life enhancer. He rocks, Miley says. This is the
evangelical spirit of the age and it is antithetical to biblical
Christianity.

and the other...

I grieve for the painted little girls of Sodom today. Their mothers and fathers
have not protected them but have thrown them into the dangerous stream of
popular culture. They will be destroyed by that stream—pulled under by the
powerful currents of lust and greed and hedonism that wait beneath the
glittering surface.

The consensus at CRN.info is that Slice's rhetoric was in these places is, to put their opinions mildly, too hard. Is that so? Upon what basis can such a judgment reasonably be made?
I'll deal with the second one first, since that seems to be the one that has the CRN.info most riled.
The idea over there was that in using the term "painted little girls of Sodom", Slice was refering to Cyrus. Or if one factors in the plural, then that at least she was included. In reading the entire article, though, I think such an interpretation may not be true.

Read the whole thing, please, but I'll give some excerpts here, emphases mine...

Over 12,000 fans screamed in ecstasy this last week as rocker Miley Cyrus, aka
Hannah Montana, strutted her stuff on stage at the CenturyTel Center outside
Shreveport, Louisiana. Most of the fans were little girls between the ages of
6-12. Outside the arena before the concert, thousands of little girls gathered
in anticipation as speakers blared their favorite star’s biggest hits. Swinging
their hips and mouthing the words to the hit, these girls could easily have been
years older in their behavior and dress.
One anxious fan, still missing her
front teeth, lisped to a reporter how she was preparing to "go nuts" when she
saw her beloved rock star. Huge earrings and eye shadow were the norm among
these small girls.
Their entire world had obviously been shaped and molded by
the media-created sensation of Hannah Montana. As I watched the news video of
the event, I was struck with sadness at what has become of the world of young
girls today. The word "tragedy" comes to mind.


The era when little girls were allowed a latency phase in which to grow up
emotionally and physically is gone. Sexuality and its burden did not used to be
a part of childhood. Those who sexualized children used to be called criminals.
Now they are called pop stars. Today we have stupid mothers and fathers who push
their little girls onto the latest consumer bandwagon designed by marketers to
make money. Who cares what little girls are learning? Who cares what messages
they are receiving about their worth? Not Mom and Dad who are online buying
tickets for the latest kiddie rock concert.

Our daughters need to seek to please Jesus alone and to turn their backs on the
world’s value system. They cannot do that if what they learn about girlhood
comes from the entertainment media.
Parents will be held responsible by the Lord
for the influences they allow and the examples they set in their homes. It is a
very serious matter.


Considering the context, then, the phrase "painted little girls of Sodom" is not about Cyrus at all, but about those young girls who act and dress as described above, those who are fans of hers. It's about those young fans who look up to her, emulate her, think highly of her and celebrities like her (the article also makes mention of the Spice Girls and the influence they had).

Still, does such rhetoric go too far? I certainly will not blame anyone for not being comfortable with it, and for myself it is a turn of phrase that I would not be comfortable using. But as someone who has some experience with truly hateful and insulting rhetoric, I have to say that it doesn't fit that bill at all. I think it is not insulting, but her trying to show how she sees how the pop culture is causing these kids to lose their innocence.

That article was posted last year, well before the currect flak over the photos. But are the concerns expressed there unreasonable ones?

I am struck as well by the insertion of the word "grieve" into the statement. To put it bluntly, that whole article is more a plea for parents to judge wisely concerning the things their kids, particularly daughters in this case, do, and the people they look up to and emulate, as well as expressing sadness at what is happening to such young girls today.
One of the other commentors on CRN.info asked this of me...

Show me one clear sentence from Ingrid in all this that show reconciliation and
love for the "painted little whores" or whatever Ingrid calls these girls


I would say that the answer is right in front of him when he visits that link, if he would bother to really read it.

Now, in the interest of fairness, Slice's comments may be rightly critiqued, too. Whether such an idealized vision of childhood as is expressed in one paragraph ever really happened, or was widely available, is a just subject for debate. The past, I suspect, had it's own share of problems and trials, though it may not be unfair to say that things have escalated since then. I could look at my own childhood experiences, and see things that were far from any ideal. And whether allowing children to listen to such music and go to such concerts is a sign of bad parenting is a judgment I am not comfortable making, though the charge to parents to be more discerning and involved in what their kids are listening to is not unreasonable.

The first statement can also be better understood in it's context. Again, please read the whole article.

I further stand by my contention that Ms. Cyrus has no business displaying
herself in a carnal manner in front of millions of impressionable little girls
and a whole lot of adolescent boys and then attributing her sexy moves and
humanistic song lyrics to her "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". As Napoleon once
told a wayward soldier who bore his same last name, "Change your name or change
your ways." I think the same here. You can’t love the world and love the Lord at
the same time. Flesh and spirit do not mix. Self-promotion does not go with the
command from Christ to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow him. Miley
is the archetypal evangelical today. Holiness of living, separateness from the
world and its value system, a narrow way described by Jesus? No. Jesus is a
fashion accessory. He’s a life enhancer. He rocks, Miley says. This is the
evangelical spirit of the age and it is antithetical to biblical Christianity.


In the article is a video of the dance that is suppose to have raised eyebrows by any and all. View it, and determine for yourself if such are appropriate.

All things considered, then, I am surprised that these statements have generated the heat at CRN.info that they have. The one about "painted little girls" has been taken out of context there, perhaps not intentionally so, but if any had bothered to really read them they would have seen it. But considering the nature of the site, their "interpretation" fits their own view, and so it was accepted by the consensus.

I will, then, point any reader who wished to go there, to how those same CRN.info people who got all twisted in knots over Slice's comments, themselves have in their comments said things far worse then that about the writer at Slice, Ingrid. That discussion is linked to, and you can read those things if you have the stomach for it, but here is some examples.


I wonder if Ingrid ever has angry dreams where she walks around the house
slapping herself and mumbling things like "Hannah
Montana….argghfieifhfgargle…naughty dancing …..bberghahtgrgleldjfjkfkd….No,
daddy, that’s my pony, you can’t ride it! bhafdhflakfhdlfldhfld…"

ME: Sweetheart - when you get a chance to do a photo-spread for Vanity Fair,
please make sure that the photographer and your publicist don’t do anything that
would look racy. Also, I need to remember not to leave the set before the photo
shoot is done, because our publicist, as nice as he is, doesn’t have your best
interests in mind.
HER: What’s a publicist?
ME: Sweetie, I need you to
know not to do what Miley did.
HER: Oh - OK. When do I get to be in Vanity
Fair?
ME: Never. But I need you to know that Miley did something wrong and
all of the salacious details so that I can be self-righteous about it warn
you.




Ingrid should be ashamed to place herself as one that acts like the Grace God
gave to all of us who are not righteous… ("no one is righteous not one") She
acts like ssince she recieved Grace she still can go out and bully people…




Miley Cyrus wears underwear?!?! And she has friends?!?!
Ingrid would never
wear underwear or have friends!
(This condemnation thing is so intellectually
incoherent…)

As someone who received a decent share of the bile as well, and since it has been a public debate and those remarks can be viewed by the whole world on the blog, I have few qualms about sharing those examples with any who want to see them.

And that doesn't even deal with some of the bad thinking going on there. Such as that on a blog whose very reason for existence it point fingers and accuse certain other websites, the notion that we should not accuse has been put forth and even supported. Or the fact that some of those who have spoken out most strongly against Slice rhetoric have not spoken out over such remarks as are above, or worse did so in a way that can only be considered mocking and insincere. And the repeated notion that since one side is using such rhetoric, then they are allowed to use it too, even though they condemn the other side for using it.

A few months ago, I left off writing on that blog for a while, because of the feeding frenzy and hate-fest they had concerning a man who runs an organization working to keep gay marriage legislation from becoming reality. That opened my eyes, and sickened me. My feelings have not changed, and this latest bash-fest of Slice has only confirmed it and may even have made those feelings stronger.

When I was leaving that time, one of my last statements was that they are becoming the things they hate. In that, I may have been inaccurate (should I apologize for that?)--they are in fact becoming worse then the things they hate.

If I had one hope for all of this, it's that the CRN.info people would wake up and see that they can't continue like that. Perhaps the role they have taken for themselves has its place, but if so, it is one that demands fairness and integrity, and at the moment their desire to score points (which no one counts), and to mock and ridicule, has trumped the need for truth and accuracy, not to mention real concern for those they think are wrong.

Where I a betting man, I would lay odds that such a thing will not happen. Instead of examining what I've written and examining themselves in light of it, one or two things of a real or imagined nature will be latched on to, I will be labelled, my statements and claims dismissed, and they will continue as before, if not become worse because that is the nature of such errors.

But as I think it was Han Solo put it, "Don't quote me the odds". If there is even a small hope for something good to come of this, let that hope remain, until such time as it is either fulfilled or shot down.

The rest is now in God's hands.

2 comments:

Rick Frueh said...

All the principles concerning worldliness, provocative situation, suggestive dress, and shallow commitment to Christ could have easily been made without attaching them to one little 15 year old girl who is mainly the product of adult coronation.

The only reason her name was used because it is salacious and appears on gossip rags in the grocery store. Mrs. Schlueter is harsh and uncompassionate and posts scathing pieces about almost anybody without having the full facts.

She recently appologized for harshness about some beauty queen giving a testimony in church which she had to apologize for, but she doesn't see why these things happen.

Nick S said...

The problem is Mrs. Shlueter calls herself a "news" outlet. She needs to be held accountable for that.