The Washington Post – where democracy dies in darkness – is under deserved fire for a hostile and unfair article aimed at conservative thinker Ryan T. Anderson and his upcoming book on the transgender fad in America, When Harry Became Sally.
On Friday, journalist Ariana Eunjung Cha published an article that was obviously designed as a partisan hit piece. Within the opening paragraphs it became clear that Cha had neither read the book, bothered to contact the author for an interview, or actually set out to seriously understand the perspective of the man she was attempting to discredit.
Being as fair as possible, this is trash journalism.
For all the talk amongst print journalists these days about how legacy newspapers must be preserved as they offer the only remaining vestiges of serious investigative, thorough, and objective reporting amidst a culture of biased bloggers and wannabes, they continue disgracing themselves with uninspired advocacy pieces like this.
In fact, it is actually because of the power of new media – including those supposedly untrustworthy bloggers – that the Washington Post had to walk back their hackery within the same day of its release. Here’s how it happened as documented by Professor Matt Franck.
Early in the morning, the Post published Cha’s attack on Anderson entitled, “Ryan Anderson’s book calling transgender people mentally ill is creating an uproar.” Keeping with its headline, the piece included this accusation in the second sentence:
In the 264-page book, “When Harry Became Sally,” Anderson makes an inflammatory claim – that transgender people are mentally ill.”
Except that isn’t accurate. Amazingly the Post’s journalist knew so little about the book she was condemning that her second sentence, as well as her title, were utterly fake news. And that wasn’t all. Further down in the article, Cha wrote:
“Anderson is known for his advocacy of “ex-gay” conversion therapy, which has been scientifically discredited, and wrote about the issue in 2007 for First Things, a journal on religion.”
That also is a completely false statement. What would make Cha and her editors at the Post think they could get away with such deception? The best case scenario is that this is a case of passionate advocacy leading to sloppy sourcing. We can hope that Cha committed the error of trusting people she agrees with about transgenderism – the radical LGBT political lobby and its allies – rather than researching the claims she was making about Anderson and his book herself. How sad is it that this is what we have to hope for from supposedly reputable newspapers these days?
This seems to be the most plausible explanation anyway, as Cha litters her column with quotes from people like Zack Ford, a prominent LGBT activist with a record of misrepresenting Anderson, and Matt Baume, an LGBT writer with a history of specious claims himself.
Worst case scenario is that Cha and the Post editors knew that what she had written was false, but trusted that even if they were forced to issue a correction later, far more traction would be received by the initial claims than any later rectification.
Whatever the case, by late-afternoon the Washington Post had been embarrassed to the point of having to change their story. The title was adjusted to read, “Ryan Anderson’s book on transgender people is creating an uproar.” Notice the false claim about mental illness is nowhere to be found. It was also corrected in the article's second sentence to say:
“In ‘When Harry Became Sally,’ Anderson makes what some feel is an inflammatory case against transgender people.”
And the accusation about conversion therapy was deleted completely. The corrected story also managed to squeeze in an actual quote from the man the article was originally designed to attack in the first place. Still, the humiliated Post couldn’t even bring itself to issue a correction. They merely mentioned that their story had been “updated.”
Again, this is tabloid journalism. In fact, it’s worse than that. It's the very kind of yellow journalism that (far more than technological advances of the internet) is killing legacy papers like the Washington Post. For the sake of democracy, truth, and specifically for all the tortured souls Ryan T. Anderson’s book could help, the sooner that happens, the better.