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Newsbusters Targets Children

Posted in Editorials on June 10th, 2012

Recently, Ellen hosted Rainer and Atticus – two charming red-headed children who know a lot about the Presidents of the United States. (Disclosure: In real life, I am acquainted with Rainer, Atticus, and their parents.) Apparently their age and their cuteness do not shield them or their mother from attack by the right wing media.

During the clip, Ellen asked Rainer what was happening this year. He said he thought that Barack Obama should win reelection because,

“Barack Obama said that men and men can marry each other and woman and woman can marry each other and I think that’s right.”

You can watch the whole thing here:

Newsbusters, a conservative website touting itself as, “the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias” published a post in response to the clip. I don’t see why this was necessary. Young Rainer was simply stating his opinion; “I think that’s right” – even at the age of six he knows not to phrase an opinion as a fact.

What’s more disturbing is the way the post attacked the boys,

Rainer and Atticus are liberally raised by their literary parents Matt Pasca and Terri Muuss. (The little fact they use their mother’s surname signals the feminism.) Muuss is a survivor of incest and travels with her own stage show called “Anatomy of a Doll.”

Let’s count the layers of this attack:

1. There is something wrong with having parents who teach children their own, liberal values.
2. There is something suspect about a woman keeping her name when she gets married, or naming her children after herself instead of her husband.
3. There is something wrong with being a feminist.
4. If a woman is open about being an incest survivor, she is an unfit parent.

I contacted Tim Graham, the author of the post on Twitter, wondering how someone mean-spirited enough to write a shallow hit-piece on small children would respond.

Elizabeth: “Nyah-nyah your mommy’s a feminist!” You dont have to respond to children as if you were one yourself.

Tim: I’m merely stating that Ellen put on cute little kids who just happened to tout Obama and gay marriage. My, what an accident.

Elizabeth: I doubt families opposing Obama or same sex marriage are beating down the door to have their children on Ellen.

Then it got weird.

Tim: As if they had the chance?

As if they had the chance? What family who opposes same sex marriage would want their children to appear on television with a lesbian? Conservatives frequently attack any positive portrayal of GLBT people in the media. Why would they want to expose their children to people they think are depraved and evil? Is there some kind of conservative group I haven’t heard of – the Million Moms Who Want Their Kids On Ellen?

Elizabeth: All people teach their children values, be they liberal or conservative.

Tim: Yes, I acknowledge my kids would have been cute little Catholics at that age. I haven’t really drummed my politics at them.

This is ignorant at best, but I think it’s plain intellectual dishonesty. Catholicism is a religion first and foremost, but the teachings of Christ, especially as explained by the Catholic Church are deeply political – even at the level a child could understand them. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a conservative tell a story about how they explained to children why they shouldn’t give money to homeless people. I was a small Catholic when I was Rainer’s age, and I wanted to help poor people – because of what my family, my Sunday School teacher and the priests at church had told me about Jesus!

Chatting with Tim on Twitter was illuminating in that it revealed two additional assumptions – firstly that Ellen was somehow “biased” in choosing Rainer and Atticus to appear on her show. Ellen’s website asks anyone to submit a show idea or to make their case as to why they should be a guest. But Ellen is in no way obligated to include homophobes on her show. The idea that this is necessary for “balance” is ridiculous and hurtful.

Secondly, Tim draws a distinction between values and politics. A family’s religion might be a part of their values, but somehow their politics cannot be. Politics and policy are the way we transform our values into reality – be they power, liberty, charity, lower taxes, freedom of speech, or anything else.

As the public increasingly supports same sex marriage, conservatives have the choice to accept this, or to be left behind. Their exaggerated reaction to a child who believes differently than they do reveals the weakness of their argument.

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