Thursday, April 26, 2012

On Gallicho on Get Religion

The blogging at dotCommonweal seems to have been undergoing a steady decline in intellectual quality over the past year or so, and unfortunately a recent post by Grant Gallicho only serves to confirm my impression on this point. In it he makes an utter fool of himself in responding to a post by Mollie Ziegler at "Get Religion".

What Gallicho apparently has not wrapped his mind around, the point he didn't sufficiently take care to understand before getting into his high dudgeon, is that "Get Religion" is a journalistic site concerned with the specific question of how journalists handle religious news stories. Mollie's post was not presenting her own position; it was looking at the dual questions of (1) what journalists are leaving unclear to readers who are depending on them for information and (2) whether the language used is actually backed up journalistically by quotes, figures, and the like. This is what the "Get Religion" blog does -- while it not uncommonly comes out, because posters try to be above-board, the posts are not about the poster's own views but about what could be done better to present news stories on religious topics. Gallicho, however, apparently can't grasp this concept, and treats the post as if it were some rant; however his own responses to Mollie's questions (which were meant to highlight points that the reports in question are left unclear for readers, not, as Gallicho seems to think, to address the question of how to evaluate the CDF assessment or LCWR reactions to it) merely highlight Zeigler's points -- that there is key information that journalists are not being careful with in delivering, because Gallicho (and this is one of the moves that shows that he doesn't understand what he's criticizing) appeals to information that is not actually made clear by the news reports that were the actual focus of Mollie's post. The absurdity of Gallicho's criticism is merely highlighted by his parting shot, which he no doubt thought was clever: "No one should be surprised by the sisters’ response. Least of all those who purport to get religion." This manages to pack errors, violations of charitable interpretation, and mere obnoxiousness into a single comment. For one thing, the "Get Religion" name and tagline are not claims by the posters that they "get religion" in any special sense; it's a reference to the commonly recognized criticism of religion reporting that journalists don't "get religion", and the point of the blog is to highlight problems in religious reporting, comment on possible ways religious reporting could be more informative, and open the matter to general discussion in order to start improving the situation. For another thing, these last two sentences show yet again that Gallicho doesn't grasp the concept that "Get Religion" is not about what experts, or even people with extensive familiarity, get, but about how the press informs people who know nothing about the subject except what they read, or see, or hear from journalists.

Now, it's entirely understandable that someone should misinterpret a post on a narrowly specialized weblog by accidental inconsistencies in interpretation; but Gallicho's post goes well beyond that -- he shows that he didn't bother to consider the context at all, but was merely reacting with knee-jerk sneering and snideness. Managing to be uncritical, uncharitable, confused, and arrogant all at the same time is quite a feat; and one hopes that this is simply catching Gallicho on a really, really, really bad day rather than the typical level of intellectual thought for Commonweal editors.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.