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Here's the non-news direct from Seattle: An abortion activist video for kiddies

Here's the non-news direct from Seattle: An abortion activist video for kiddies

I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw a feed belonging to Dae Shik Kim Hawkins, Jr., a Seattle writer who specializes in religion and homelessness. That’s an unusual combo.

In one tweet, he was applauding a video he helped produce that aired Dec. 28. It markets abortion to kids; a job he called “the Lord’s work.” Only in Seattle is abortion seen as a kids ministry.

So what is the journalism question here? This is another one of those cases in which we are dealing with a story worthy of mainstream coverage, which GetReligion would then critique. However, that would assume that mainstream newsrooms have produced mainstream news coverage of a topic this hot and, to my eyes, controversial.

So what kind of coverage is out there?

Sure enough, conservative media have been fuming about it all. CBN said:

A YouTube channel for kids is facing controversy after posting a video of a pro-choice activist working to convince children it's ok to have an abortion.

Amelia Bonow, the woman who started the social media hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion, appears in the video talking with children about her abortion experience and sharing her views on the issue.

The popular organization known as HiHo Kids has more than 2 million followers on YouTube. HiHo published the video online on Dec. 28 entitled "Kids Meet Someone Who's Had An Abortion." It's already been seen by more than 200,000 people.

In the eight-minute video, young children squirm as Bonow tries to indoctrinate them with her pro-abortion worldview. She compares having an abortion to a bad dentist appointment and a bodily procedure that's "kind of uncomfortable." She also tells one child that she believes abortion is "all part of God's plan."

HiHo Kids, known as a “children’s brand” produced at the Seattle offices of Cut.com (where Hawkins works), provides edgy programming that features different cuisines kids can try plus the occasional Interesting Person kids can meet. The abortion activist was one of a lineup that included a ventriloquist, a gender non-conforming person, a transgender soldier, a person who’s committed a felony, a ballerina, a hypnotist, a deaf person, a drag queen, a gynecologist, a teen mom and, well, you get the idea.

I guess the idea is that by familiarizing these kids with these various life choices or conditions, the youthful listeners will quickly learn to accept them all. Think they ever get to meet a rabbi, priest, pastor, a nun, imam or Mormon elder? I doubt it. That would not be newsworthy. Then again, the production of this video appears to be “conservative news” — period.

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Why is Jordan Peterson everywhere, right now, with religious folks paying close attention?

Why is Jordan Peterson everywhere, right now, with religious folks paying close attention?

Jordan Peterson is a very hard man for journalists to quote.

Some journalists have learned, the hard way, that he is also a very easy man to misquote.

Readers and “Crossroads” listeners (click here to hear this week’s podcast): Perhaps you are among the millions of YouTube consumers who witnessed his famous “Gotcha” moment on Channel 4, during a somewhat tense interview by British journalist Cathy Newman.

This was the viral clip that launched the University of Toronto psychologist even higher into the cyberspace elites. Read the following, from the Washington Times, but know that this is news media territory — on the issue of pro-trans speech codes. This was not an example of what this man is saying in the online lectures that have created a massive digital community:

“Why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?” the reporter asked at the 22-minute mark of a 30-minute interview.

“Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now,” the psychologist answered. … “You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable. … You’re doing what you should do, which is digging a bit to see what the hell is going on. And that is what you should do. But you’re exercising your freedom of speech to certainly risk offending me, and that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.”

Ms. Newman paused, sighed and struggled to find a response until her guest interjected, “Ha. Gotcha.”

“You have got me. You have got me. I’m trying to work that through my head. It took awhile. It took awhile. It took awhile,” she said with a repetitive concession.

I will admit that there is a guilty-pleasure factor, when watching reporters try to grill this man.

However, that’s not the point of this week’s podcast or my two recent “On Religion” columns on this topic for the Universal syndicate — “Jordan Peterson: The Devil's in the details of all those YouTube debates.” Click here to read Part II.

It’s obvious why Peterson gets so much analog news ink — his digital ink numbers are simply astonishing.

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How not to cover a YouTube story: Seeing isn't believing in the Greek baby baptism

How not to cover a YouTube story: Seeing isn't believing in the Greek baby baptism

The Internet furore over the violent baptism of a Greek Orthodox baby has seeped into the mainstream press.

The story in itself is amusing, but it also provides a teaching moment on how not to do journalism.

The difficulty is how to report on YouTube videos. Is seeing believing? How do you report accurately and fairly on a video that cannot be authenticated?

On my Facebook and Twitter feed I received a post linking to a video of an extraordinary baptism. Within a few days the story made its way into The Sun, The Daily Mail, The MirrorNews Corp., and other television and press outlets. 

The British tabloid The Sun, which was reprinted in News Corp.’s Australian and New Zealand papers, had this story, opening like this: 

A GREEK orthodox bishop has come under fire after appearing to baptize a tiny tot a little bit too vigorously. In the footage that has appeared online the man of the cloth repeatedly dunks the naked baby into the baptismal font.

The tot is rapidly dunked three times into the water before being handed back to his unperturbed parents. According to reports the footage was taken in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, at a Greek Orthodox church.

With the church, baptisms are usually done ‘forcefully’ which is seen as a solution to the declining birth rate. Many online commentators have criticised the bishop’s rather rough approach.

The article closes with a summary of comments and criticisms of what viewers saw in the film. The Daily Mail ran a condensed version of the story, omitting the word “Greek” from the text as well as the extraordinary assertion that aggressive dunking results in a population boom. The Mirror kept the cleric Greek Orthodox and promoted him to archbishop.

What nobody appears to have done is ask the Greek Orthodox Church about this baptism.

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Yes, Virginia ... There IS more Santa Claus-related Clickbait, and it's context-free!

Yes, Virginia ... There IS more Santa Claus-related Clickbait, and it's context-free!

The lot of a newspaper general assignment reporter these days -- even in the tony precincts of the Washington Post -- can't always be a happy one. You're slapped around by the day's events: a Cadillac TV ad "casting call" for an "alt-right" type one day, the tragic story of a guy who turned his life around, only to die while attempting to help someone in distress the next.

It's a tough spot, particularly when one appears to be tasked with aggregating news that happens far from your desk. That generally involves looking at, collecting, paraphrasing and linking to stories from external sources. (Your commentator does something similar with Utah-related business news five nights a week, Sunday through Thursday; I understand a bit of what's involved. Trust me on that.)

So one can have a bit of empathy for Cleve R. Wootson Jr., the Post reporter in question, when it comes to the question of a clearly idiosyncratic individual in Amarillo, Texas, one David Grisham, who apparently feels led to share the "good news" that there is no Santa Claus.

To children. At a mall. While they are waiting in line for interviews with the aforementioned non-existent Santa.

Can you say "clickbait"? I knew you could! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

At first, the parents try to ignore the screaming man at the mall telling their children they’ve been lied to about Santa Claus.
Then it becomes clear he’s not going to stop.

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God help us: How will our digital supermen define what is and what is not 'fake news'?

God help us: How will our digital supermen define what is and what is not 'fake news'?

We have two important journalism subjects -- both linked to religious issues -- that are currently generating lots of heat in the "America after 11/8 cultural meltdown" among America's chattering classes.

No. 1: What is "fake news" and how can it be stopped before it generates more help for Donald Trump?

No. 2: What, precisely, does the term "alt-right" mean and how can the enlightened powers that be in digital technology and mass media (think the gods at Twitter and Facebook) crack down on it to prevent dangerous people from continuing to pump their views into the body politic.

Of course, for some experts, "fake news" (they aren't talking about Rolling Stone) and the alt-right overlap quite a bit. There are times that truly nasty stuff in the alt-right filter up into the mainstream through websites that may not be alt-right themselves, but they run lots and lots of paranoid fake news.

Now, before we get to the religion angles of all of this fake news stuff -- the subject of this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to tun that in) -- let's face another blunt reality: How people define the terms "alt-right" and "fake news" often tell you as much about their beliefs and convictions as it does the folks who genuinely deserve to be covered with those nasty labels.

So what does "alt-right" mean? Let's ask the online version of an Oxford dictionary:

alt-right
(in the US) an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content:

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Wait a minute: Does Islam’s Quran really say that husbands can beat their wives?

Wait a minute: Does Islam’s Quran really say that husbands can beat their wives?

THE QUESTION:

What does Islam’s holy book, the Quran, say about husbands beating their wives?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

The Guy is posting this item himself rather than our usual answer to a question posted via the Website because this oft-discussed matter has become an important public dispute. In heavily Muslim Pakistan, the nation’s Parliament is advised by a Council of Islamic Ideology, experts assigned to make sure laws fit the faith’s mandates. The Senate’s human rights committee now wants to amend the constitution in order to abolish the Council, in part because it ruled that husbands are allowed to beat their wives.

Muslim authorities emphasize that only beating “lightly” is permitted, The Wall Street Journal said, reporting this explanation from Council Chairman Muhammad Khan Sherani: “In Islam you cannot hit a woman in a way that bruises her, or break her bone, or hit her on the face, or cause bleeding.”

Amid widespread concern over spousal abuse, feminist and Christian critics of Islam regularly cite concerns about the Quran passage the Council relies upon. As with modern Jews and Christians dealing with violent Old Testament passages that disturb modern sensitivities, Muslim interpreters warn Muslim husbands about harsh misapplication of the teaching.

Here is the scriptural text involved, from Majid Fakhry’s literal-minded English translation (New York University Press) approved by Sunni Islam’s chief seat of learning, the venerable Al-Azhar University:

“Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made some of them excel the others, and because they spend some of their wealth. Hence righteous women are obedient, guarding the unseen which Allah has guarded. And those of them that you fear might rebel, admonish them and abandon them in their beds and beat them. Should they obey you, do not seek a way of harming them, for Allah is Sublime and Great!” (4:34).

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Check this out: This New York Times analysis takes ISIS at its prophetic word

Check this out: This New York Times analysis takes ISIS at its prophetic word

If you go to YouTube and do a search for the terms "ISIS" and "prophecy," what you will get is several pages of material that has next to nothing about what the leaders of the Islamic State believe is their role in the future of Islam and the world.

Instead, what you will find is links to videos that examine ISIS in light of prophecies about the end times that some Christians see in the Bible. If you are looking for a likely candidate to ignite the apocalypse, ISIS is at the top of almost all of the lists.

But what about debates INSIDE ISLAM about what has or has not been revealed about the future and the end of all things?

That was the subject of a recent analysis piece at The New York Times that dedicated a refreshing amount of attention to a controversial issue in Islamic thought and tradition. The headline: "U.S. Seeks to Avoid Ground War Welcomed by Islamic State."

The starting point in this equation: ISIS elites want the United States to get involved in a ground war in the Middle East.

Why? That's the complicated question.

... When the United States first invaded Iraq, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the move was the man who founded the terrorist cell that would one day become the Islamic State, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He excitedly called the Americans’ 2003 intervention “the Blessed Invasion.”
His reaction -- ignored by some, and dismissed as rhetoric by others -- points to one of the core beliefs motivating the terrorist group now holding large stretches of Iraq and Syria: The group bases its ideology on prophetic texts stating that Islam will be victorious after an apocalyptic battle to be set off once Western armies come to the region.

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Huffington Post explores YouTube's wooing of anti-ISIS Muslim videographers

Huffington Post explores YouTube's wooing of anti-ISIS Muslim videographers

In the crush of religion stories in the past week or two, a jewel of a Huffington Post article about YouTube’s battle against ISIS got lost in the shuffle.

Which is too bad, as it was a meticulously researched piece by Jaweed Kaleem that deserved some attention. So into the GetReligion file of guilt we go. Before everyone clicks on yet one more Pope Francis piece, or another trip into Kentucky culture wars, do give a listen to some inside information on how some of the techies are warring on Islamic extremists.

On a Thursday night late last fall, after leaving the Manhattan office where he works as a digital products specialist, Aman Ali -- a well-known comedian in American Muslim circles -- received an unusual email from YouTube.
“We need you,” read the note, which invited Ali to the company’s sprawling, 41,000-square-foot production facility in Los Angeles and promised a free flight and two nights in a hotel. “Muslim community leaders [are] struggling to have their voices heard against the overwhelming extremist and bigoted content currently surfacing the web.”
The words “Islamic State” appeared nowhere in the note asking Muslims like Ali to “change the discourse,” but the message was clear. The terrorist organization's vast media arm, with its slick recruitment videos, was winning the propaganda war. Muslims needed to figure out a way to fight back and “get your voices heard.”
YouTube, facing pressure after unwittingly hosting execution clips before the company could realize and take them down, was offering its helping hand.

What follows is a behind-the-scenes account of how 70 Muslims from around the country showed up at a YouTube studio (I am assuming it was in Manhattan but the story doesn’t say)  and tutored on how to produce short, snappy videos that’d be more enticing for young Muslims to watch than ISIS recruitment fodder.

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Washington Post's stunning look at ISIS, social media and the First Amendment

Washington Post's stunning look at ISIS, social media and the First Amendment

As a rule, GetReligion readers do not respond well to posts that praise articles in the mainstream press. Readers do not leave comments or rush to share these links with their friends on Facebook or Twitter.

Over the past 11 years, I've spotted similar patterns when I have written posts about articles that are quite long. That's pretty easy to understand, since we are all busy and in this digital age we are bombarded with information from many sources, each competing for our attention.

The folks who do journalism research also know that American readers, as a rule, are not very interested in international news. We are more driven to read stories about conflicts, controversies and culture wars in our own back yard.

I know all of that. However, what you are reading right now is a positive post about a very long article in The Washington Post focusing on the tensions that the Islamic State's campaigns in social media are causing for digital entrepreneurs who are, as a rule, fierce defenders of the First Amendment. Please read this Post article and do that mouse-click thing you can do, passing this URL along to others. This is a very important topic if you care about journalism, free speech and freedom of religion.

Why does it matter so much to me? As faithful readers know, I am -- as a professor -- fascinated with how technology shapes the content of the information in our lives. With that in mind, let me ask this: How many of you have used the online Wayback Machine that allows you to flash back in time and look at archived webpages? Now, how many of you have pondered the impact of the nonprofit Internet Archive in San Francisco on ISIS communications efforts?

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