Poor Reporting on the Reason Rally

The Reason Rally was yesterday in Washington DC. I didn’t go due to the uncertain state of my personal finances (re: I’m scared I won’t have money/a job in the near future and therefore am hoarding what money I do have). It seems a lot of papers reported on the Reason Rally, but mostly I didn’t bother to read them. Maybe I should, but there are some things I don’t need more information about – this happens to be one of them. I did read one article…

A Facebook friend posted a link to a USA Today article about the Rally. This is me tearing it apart based on my own observations and those of others.

1. Galileo

Greta Christina, author of Why Are You Atheists So Angry?, attacked every major faith, even the teachings of the Dalai Lama. In a long litany of what makes her angry, she got all the way back to Galileo (overlooking the modern Catholic Church’s restoration of his reputation).

On Facebook someone mentioned that this is a complete mischaracterization of Greta Christina’s speech. That may be so, but not having been there I do not know. What I do know, however, is that the little quip about “overlooking the modern Catholic Church’s restoration of his reputation,” is just plain old ridiculous. The author apparently would have atheists accept that an apology that came hundreds of years late makes everything hunky dory. If religious leaders apologized for burning and banning books and destroying and limiting medical and scientific knowledge thereby becoming responsible for the fact that we are not now far more technologically and scientifically advanced, should we just say, “Oh yes, well, now that you admit it, it’s all all right. We’ll stop pointing to this as an example of negative things about religion in history”?

2. “the truth”

Because every rally seems to include a family that brought their tots to hear “the truth” — religious or otherwise

At least “truth” isn’t capitalized. If the family had said they brought their kids to hear “the truth,” this sentence wouldn’t be a big deal, but the quote from the family says they brought their kids out to be with people who share their views. That’s a little different. They didn’t bring their kids out to indoctrinate them, they brought their kids out to spend time with the nonbeliever community. This probably doesn’t bother many people, I just don’t like the way she worded it.

3. Bad writing

Organized by a coalition of godless groups led by the American Atheists, along with secularists, humanists and niche groups (students, blacks, Jews, etc. ), the American Atheists hold an annual convention in the Washington suburb of Bethesda on Sunday.

Uh, what? Shall we break this down? “Organized by a coalition. . . , the American Atheists hold an annual convention in the Washington suburb of Bethesda on Sunday.” It sounds like she started one sentence and ended with another, forgetting that she was already writing the first, and her facts seem to be confused.

The Reason Rally was organized by a coalition of “godless groups.” The American Atheists did play a big role in the organization of the rally, and there were many other groups that fall under the terms the author named. However, the author makes it sound as if the annual convention has been organized by these groups. It hasn’t. The annual convention is the American Atheists convention, specifically organized by the AA.

The part of the sentence reading, “the American Atheists hold an annual convention in the Washington suburb of Bethesda on Sunday,” sounds a bit odd to me. It seems to suggest on first reading that the AA hold their convention in Bethesda annually. They don’t.

4. Trayvon Martin

Silverman may have gone a bit further in his rhetoric than he intended. In a thundering call for “zero tolerance” for anyone who disagrees with or insults atheism, Silverman proclaimed, “Stand your ground!”

Unfortunately, of course, the phrase “stand your ground,” is in the news this week as the legal cover for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last week. Under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, George Zimmerman could claim he feared Trayvon, a teen armed with iced tea and Skittles, would harm him.

Silverman meant a verbal, not a literal, call to arms here. Still, the line didn’t draw applause as his other take-no-insults charges did.

First of all, Trayvon Martin was killed a month ago. A journalist, even from USA Today, should get this fact correct. Yet she seems to imply with, “the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last week,” that he died last week.

Second of all, why is she even mentioning Trayvon Martin’s death in an article about the Reason Rally? As one Facebook commenter put it, “agenda much?” The words, “Stand your ground,” may be trending with the Trayvon Martin case, but that does not mean that any use of them relates to the case. Standing your ground has been, and will be for some time to come, a popular phrase.

That being said, I am glad she points out that this “zero tolerance” for disagreement didn’t get much of a reaction. What was Silverman thinking? “Zero tolerance” for other ideas is not something a reasonable person should ever encourage.

I think I’ve covered enough of this article, though I could probably keep going. Thanks for that negative portrayal, Grossman.

*Sorry to anyone who might be reading this that happens to love medieval times. Knowledge was rather stagnant in many areas and in some cases moved backwards.

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2 thoughts on “Poor Reporting on the Reason Rally

  1. Nucleargrrl says:

    I, too, wanted to attend the Reason Rally; but decided against it. I made a large purchase in December and want to go to Vegas this fall – priorities.

    That said, I am also irked that the author sought to tie Trayvon Martin’s killing in with the Reason Rally, which are in no way related. People say “stand your ground” all the time. I think she was just looking for traffic on her article. She also seems to be lacking in the fact department too. She says, “George Zimmerman could claim he feared Trayvon, a teen armed with iced tea and Skittles, would harm him.” Martin DID harm him. He went to the hospital to be treated for his injuries. Everyone knows you don’t need a gun to hurt someone. Just look at the guy who was in a comma after the San Fran baseball game.

    I am a little pissed off about the message of having “zero tolerance”. That message is completely counter intuitive to reason. Tolerance for other people’s beliefs is the pillar of our democracy. What would he have us atheists do? Attempt to legislate away other people’s beliefs? That’s madness.

  2. The “zero tolerance” quip, if that is indeed what he said (given the rest of the article, I have to question it), just sort of reinforces my dislike of Silverman. It’s always been a sort of knee-jerk reaction to watching his videos online or reading what he has to say, but now my feelings are justified.

    Madness, indeed.

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