The LA Times reports that Mississippi’s Attorney General has put a halt to gay marriage in that state in spite of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling legalizing gay marriage. This is no surprise. Everyone knew that the high Court’s decision wouldn’t come down without some resistance. A similar thing is happening in Texas right now as well.
But it’s important to note that the AG’s effort is not going to work. At least not permanently. At best, this is a delaying tactic. Gay marriage will go forward in Mississippi just like it will in every other state of the union.
The story itself, however, is not really why I am drawing attention to it here. The eye-popping part was the slanted way that the LA Times chose to analyze what was happening in Mississippi. Here’s the explanation:
To understand Mississippi’s resistance to gay marriage, it helps to look at its legacy as a deeply religious and conservative state. This is where three civil rights workers were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s; where James Meredith became the first black student to enroll in Ole Miss, but only after a violent confrontation; and where the Confederate symbol is still part of the official state flag.
It is where 59% of residents described themselves as “very religious” in a 2014 Gallup Poll, higher than any other state, and where 86% of voters in 2004 approved a ban on same-sex marriage.
Did you catch that? If you want to understand why so many Mississippians oppose gay marriage, alls you gotta do is remember how Christian they are down there. And what evidence does this report adduce to demonstrate this deep religiosity? Ku Klux Klan murders from the 1960’s. Read the paragraphs again. The Ku Klux Klan murders are not invoked as evidence of Mississippi’s racist past (a point that is beyond dispute). Ku Klux Klan murders are put forth as evidence of Mississippi’s “deeply religious and conservative” present.
For most readers this is probably a throw-away paragraph—something they’ll read and not think about again. But that is exactly the problem. Whether they realize it or not, readers have just imbibed a heavy dose of propaganda—a malignant slander not only of Mississippians but also of all “deeply religious and conservative” people. At bottom, it’s an allegation disguised as a straight news report. It goes like this.
Mississippians resist gay marriage because they are deeply Christian. We know they are Christian because of their history of murderous racial animus. That animus explains the way they feel about gay people now.
You don’t have to be a professor of logic to see how tendentious and absurd this argument is, but there it is nevertheless. How many people will even notice that there is a problem with this kind of “report”?
I expect we’ll see more slanders like this in coming days, surely too many to catalogue here. I’m flagging this one to alert readers that they need to be discerning. And they need to be aware that not all straight news reports are indeed straight. Even reporters can sometimes be unaware of their own biases that make them oblivious purveyors of poisonous propaganda. This is how the propaganda works.