Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Living Christ in Memphis

Surprising and lovely story this morning on NPR (yes, NPR):

Memphis Churches Leading The Way in Disaster Relief
(Red Cross cautiously pleased. "It's not necessarily a bad thing.")

Aside from my amusement at the Red Cross spokeswoman's clear unfamiliarity with the legitimacy and efficacy of interfaith cooperative efforts, this story prompted two thoughts.

First, thank you, Memphis churches for offering a clear witness to the gospel. Thank you for being the Body of Christ right there in your hometown.

Second, I've been receiving some criticism from my evangelical friends--or rather, from my evangelical friends who tend conservative on political matters--about my public statements to the effect that, if the church does not feed the hungry, heal the sick, and bring relief to the poor, I'm happy for the U. S. government to pick up the slack.

I want to state clearly and unambiguously that the day news stories like the above are no longer news--the day NPR says, "Churches are solving the poverty problem? So what? That's not news," the day Red Cross has no choice but to say, "Well, of course churches are providing the bulk of the shelter/food/clothing here. They always do"--is the day I start campaigning vigorously for an end to all government aid to the needy.

Any and every tax cut you ask me to vote for, I will.

Any and every government program you want to cut, I will be your fiercest lobbyist.


Go ahead. Get busy.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Instantly Erroneous

I've been perusing the usual news sites last night and this morning, along with news sites I don't normally visit, thanks to the furious barrage of links and comments and speculation on my friends' facebook pages.

I've discovered that Fox News was reporting that Usama bin Landen [sic] was confrimed [sic] dead. Half an hour later, someone thought to become a professional and the two misspellings were corrected.

I've seen several websites (including wikipedia) announce confidently that Osama has been dead for a week; most of those sites now report that he was killed on May 1, 2011.

Some sites are currently reporting that Osama has been buried at sea, citing Islamic tradition and a general disinclination among the world's leaders to pollute their soil with his remains. Other sites are reporting that the US is maintaining its custody of his body in order to ensure acceptance of its claim to have killed him. I'm sure when an official statement is made as to the disposition of Osama's body, everyone will revise his website accordingly.

Some of my friends, especially those disinclined to trust anything with a liberal provenance, are already generating conspiracy theories to account for the discrepancies between Obama's official announcement and the maelstrom of unsubstantiated "facts" that overtook cybernews outlets while we were all waiting for that announcement.

Peace, be still, my friends.

There is no need for such speculation.

The explanation is far simpler and far more troubling.

The intentional impermanence of cyberspace combined with the demand for incessantly instantaneous news has created an ethos of irresponsibility in online reporting. Getting it out trumps getting it right.

In print media, the error abides; it gazes up at one, accusingly, preserved in library archives (what is the new microfiche?) for posterity. The penance only perpetuates the failure: the necessary published retraction ensures that there are two artifacts instead of one. The damage to the reporter's and the paper's reputation was tangible.

There is no failure in online reporting. There is no retraction, no mea culpa. There is only perpetual revision. Reputation need not matter.

And, of course, affiliation counts for more than accuracy these days anyway, doesn't it? One's political leanings (whether implied or avowed) are far more important for developing a loyal readership than one's accumulated record.

And if there is no more accumulated record? So much the better.