June 19, 2005

Gray Lady Can't Distinguish Between Fact And Fiction (Part 37-B)

An alert CQ reader, Roger H, noticed a strange comment in an otherwise silly column on parenting in today's New York Times. Randy Cohen -- "The Ethicist" for the Paper of Record -- was aked by a reader about his recent trip to the Caribbean with his young children, where he planted coins on a beach to allow them to find "buried treasure" on their vacation. After doing so, doubts about this action began to plague him. Cohen writes back:

It's a fine thing to play with your kids but a dubious thing to lie to them. ... With kids, it's trickier, a problem every parent grapples with when deciding how to answer a child who asks if there really is a Santa Claus or if the coin under the pillow really comes from the Tooth Fairy. Is the child eager to continue a kind of game, or is he or she requesting honest, if game-ending, information? Such a question requires intimate knowledge of a particular child's thinking, development and desires. To answer it requires all the insight and understanding a parent can muster. ...

If it's any help, when my own daughter asked about her tooth money, I looked her in the eye, thought about her cognitive development and told her that I won it in a poker game with Spider-Man, a unicorn and Jesus. And I'm sure that with a few more years of therapy, she'll be just fine.

Heaven forbid that a mere blogger should point out what the Paper of Record's many levels of professional fact-checking seems to have missed, but Jesus of Nazareth is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. Whether or not one believes Jesus to be divine, His existence as a person is in no doubt. Josephus, who hardly could be considered a source friendly to either Christians or Jews, wrote contemporaneously of Jesus in a short portion of his writings on the Roman Empire considered to be reliable and accurate.

Equating Jesus with unicorns and Santa Claus not only shows remarkable insensitivity to the paper's Christian readers, but also betrays the NYT's multicultural posings as a sham. Can you imagine anyone writing for the Times making this same mistake with, say, Mohammed? Why, Dick Durbin might have called them Nazis and worse. But apart from multicultural sensitivities, we expect newspapers to get basic historical facts correct, even if Senator Durbin couldn't find them with both hands and a flashlight. Randy Cohen and the editors at the Times appear to belong in that same category.


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