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Classic Stephen Bates et al: never let the truth get in the way of a good story

Friday, June 27, 2008 • 4:54 pm

Bates, objectivity personified, is at it again in his latest piece, “Vicious hot air currents”, subtitled, “Homosexuality is a useful unifier for the conservative flocks who agree on very little else”.

Stuff like this only goes to prove what we claimed a while ago, that Bates really doesn’t like people who get serious about their religion, not enough to represent them fairly, anyway.

Here’s a little sample:

Maybe it’s being in a company of saints - a most un-Anglican communion of the like-minded. But the rhetoric of the gathering of conservative churchmen in Jerusalem seeking to wrest control of worldwide Anglicanism from the woolly nuances of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the wicked, gay-friendly liberalism of the Church of England and US Episcopal Church is already spiralling upwards on a vicious current of hot air.

Two days into the great realignment, we’ve already had the archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda denying that gays are ever persecuted in their countries - and failing to find the words to condemn the violence if they are; voices calling for biblically lethal punishment for homosexuals; and lip-smacking assertions that the old church has fallen prey to apostasy, brokenness and turmoil, in its attempt to “acquiesce to destructive modern, cultural and political dictates”.

Now we’ve been through this before. When did you stop beating your wife, Stephen? If you go to the press conference he’s referring to you’ll see ++Jensen make a very clear statement on this issue and, as he does so, watch ++Akinola and ++Orombi - they’re nodding vigorously in agreement. But, of course, that doesn’t make good copy for Bates.

But I think what is most comical about this sort of piece is that, for a journalist, it’s just bad journalism. Here’s Bates’ central thesis:

Theirs is an insurgency united in what they don’t like - homosexuality - and elevating it to a litmus test of orthodoxy in a way that other divisive theological issues - divorce, say, or women’s ordination - have not been. The thing is that many conservatives know women - some have even married them - and not a few of the righteous have been divorced as well. They don’t know gay people, and what they think they know of them is viscerally distasteful.
Homosexuality is a useful unifier for conservative flocks. The little-noticed irony is that those meeting in Jerusalem agree on very little else: some American conservatives are more high church than the Pope, whereas the conservative archbishop of Sydney says he could never see himself attending mass.

Now that’s hilarious. Let me tell you why.

I’ve seen a draft of the communiqué. I can’t tell you what’s in it, for very obvious reasons, but here’s something I will tell you: there is an incredible level of unity across the theological spectrum represented at GAFCON. A level of unity that blows Bates’ thesis out of the water. What’s more, the communiqué hardly touches on the sex issue - it is far more interested in general questions of authority and doctrine.

Now, of course, those of you who have spent even a small amount of energy watching all this Anglican stuff over the past few years will not be surprised by that. When Greg posts articles such as this or this none of us exclaim “but we want to talk about sex!!!”. No, on the contrary we recognise what the deeper rot is.

And so it’s hilarious that Bates, quality journalist that he is, doesn’t get it.

And so, ultimately, his article demonstrates that either

  1. He’s that bad a journalist that despite covering this whole thing for years he still hasn’t a clue what it’s all about
  2. . or
  3. He’ s that bad a journalist that even though he knows what the truth is, he has no intention of reporting it because it gets in the way of his agenda.

Either way, if I were on the editorial board of the Grauniad (UK joke) I’d be wondering where my money was going and what I was getting for it.

Especially since when the Communiqué is released on Sunday all the UK press, currently touching down in Heathrow and Gatwick, are going to be kicking themselves that they didn’t hang around. They waited for a “schism” that never arrived and then, having not got what they came for, nicked off. Shame really, but that’s what you get when your story is inconvenient enough not to match the facts.

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But the cool thing about the level of malevolence and spite that Bates descends to in his articles is that he’s angry—and that level of anger occurs when someone is threatened and fearful.

And, of course, the level of bile and hopeful negativity from him is transparently obvious not merely to the conservatives, like me, but other readers as well.  So the folks who might buy his rhetoric—are already the folks who are like him anyway.

I’m unconcerned therefore.

[1] Posted by Sarah on 06-27-2008 at 06:49 PM • top

“lip smacking assertions.”

a new low.

[2] Posted by GoodMissMurphy on 06-27-2008 at 06:51 PM • top

I vote for #2.  I think he knows exactly what is happening and because he doesn’t like it is spinning a tale for his readers.  Too bad he doesn’t live in the “No spin zone” of Bill O’Reilly.  GAFCON is not going according to his agenda, so he is creating news out “hot air”.

[3] Posted by terrafirma on 06-27-2008 at 07:05 PM • top

Mr Bates should just pack up and go home before he says another stupid thing.

[4] Posted by Cennydd on 06-27-2008 at 07:10 PM • top

The challenge will be to get the real news of GAFCON to the world. We can be sure the MSM will have their own stories and the “progressives” of the church will be there to add confusion and proclamations to dismiss the meeting as trivial and backward.

It is interesting to watch Episcopal Life at this most eventful time and their selection/emphasis of stories.

[5] Posted by Dr. N. on 06-27-2008 at 07:14 PM • top

Bates seems to totally unenlightened.  Maybe he will learn something about the Church this Sunday. We should pray for him.

[6] Posted by Dr. N. on 06-27-2008 at 07:19 PM • top

What a puny, pathetic little man.

[7] Posted by Greg Griffith on 06-27-2008 at 07:34 PM • top

Really, this isn’t journalism.  It’s more of a temper tantrum in print.  And the whole piece can be reduced to one sentence:

“You #$%^& pre-modern reactionaries should take your ^&*%$ pre-modern reactionary theology, get the %^&** out of my inclusive tolerant church, and go live under a #$%@# rock with your %$#^& pre-modern reactionary god!”

Or something equally as literate and civil.


[8] Posted by carl on 06-27-2008 at 08:40 PM • top

Bates knows his audience, and dumps a great bucket of bright red chum into the waters for them.

[9] Posted by Jeffersonian on 06-27-2008 at 09:53 PM • top

Before Standfirm criticizes others for lack of journalist integrity it should look to its own sins first.  At least the left sticks together.  There is other Gafcon coverage that has been getting the story out every day and has been ahead of the curve, but you wouldn’t know it if you were to read Standfirm.

[10] Posted by George Conger on 06-28-2008 at 06:11 AM • top

Rev. Conger, I think SF has done a pretty decent job in providing an overview of the GAFCON coverage on both sides.  No they’ve not posted every single article that’s been written (on either side), but have given a good sampling.

In case you’re referring to lack of posting of your own articles, several of them have been posted.  Here for example:

I really don’t understand what you’re criticizing.

[11] Posted by Karen B. on 06-28-2008 at 06:23 AM • top

Rev. Conger,
Please, would you post links to the articles you mention? 

I had not read Bates until it was posted here, but I was quite taken aback and disappointed with Ruth Gledhill’s extreme intentionally inflammatory accusatory divisive words and her lack of sympathy for those who are seeking to restore Anglicanism in the face of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s continued support for the US and Canada innovators and his lack of concern and protection for the orthodox.
I naively thought journalists were committed to neutrality, yet Gledhill wrote from a consistently slanted viewpoint.

[12] Posted by Theodora on 06-28-2008 at 06:39 AM • top

Yes, some other sites have scooped SF in publishing items more quickly.  That, however, simply cannot be construed as equal to publishing murky, misleading and even downright WRONG (as in lies) information.  I trust SF to get it right before it goes up.  AND, there is the added advantage of respecting the trusted SF posters who will provide their take on the item, very important to lay folks like me.

Besides, I have the links, a mouse and a good arm.  I can and do skim the whole slew of them every now and then.  I applaud SF’s coverage, especially the work of Fr. Kennedy and his wife, who by this time must be exhausted and really missing their other three babies.

[13] Posted by GoodMissMurphy on 06-28-2008 at 06:44 AM • top

It’s possible for mulitple parties to be “wrong” and none to be “right” in a given dispute.  In this case, George Conger may be reacting to an ongoing perception that SF bloggers and readers don’t give Bates a fair shake.  Read the comments to article 13281 linked by David at the top; George and Andrew Carey both rose to defend Bates’ character (if not his words.)  I will make plain what they implied: we have an awful tendency (perhaps even an eagerness) to judge others, and we do it according to our own standard.  It seems it’s not enough to criticize Bates’ essay, so we move on to impugn his character, intuit his motives, and dismiss his dignity.  Jesus won’t stand for it. 

All of that is not to defend Bates’ writing.  I think it’s self-evident that he engages in the same things for which I’ve just criticized “us”.  It’s in the choices of what to leave out, what to leave in, and how to phrase it.  His reporting tends to drip with contempt, and serves as a way to passive-aggressively lead the reader to pass judgment on the Africans/orthodox/reasserters in a manner that gives him plausible denialbility regarding any specific judgments of his own.  And it is very proper for SF and anybody else to draw attention to that.  But let’s be careful not to fall into that snare ourselves.

[14] Posted by Connecticutian on 06-28-2008 at 07:20 AM • top

If you go to the press conference he’s referring to you’ll see ++Jensen make a very clear statement on this issue and, as he does so, watch ++Akinola and ++Orombi - they’re nodding vigorously in agreement.

Ha. I like your definition of ‘vigorous’. Which video are you watching? The one on the GAFCON website doesn’t even show +Orombi, while +Akinola only gives an extremely unconvincing nod of the head followed by looking uncomfortable and drumming his fingers on the table.

[15] Posted by Mick on 06-28-2008 at 08:30 AM • top

Stephen Bates writes a column that is a tissue of lies and political bias.

In other news, the sun rose in the east this morning, and water remains wet.

[16] Posted by st. anonymous on 06-28-2008 at 10:01 AM • top

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