Ed Driscoll

The Gray Lady Continues That Voodoo That She Does So Well

Back in 2002, ex-New York Timesman John Corry reviewed Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism, written by William McGowan, another member of the MSM willing to explore its stagecraft in depth. Corry’s review memorably began:

Liberal delicacy has its moments. Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., once paid the Most Reverend Prophet Alpha Omega Bondu $12,000 in state funds to drive the evil spirits from a Haitian psychiatric patient who had hacked his girlfriend to death. The Rev said the patient was afflicted by seven evil spirits, and that he had chased away four. Alert to cultural sensibilities, however, the New York Times declined to call this an exorcism; it reported that the $12,000 had been spent on “religious counseling.”

As an example of journalistic malfeasance, that may not be much; by Times standards it’s nothing at all. But it does hint at the problem: Whole groups and classes of supposedly oppressed people — voodoo priests among them — must be presented sympathetically in news coverage. Few in our major news organizations admit this, however, and even if they acknowledge the existence of P.C. journalism, they seem to believe it is practiced only by others. In fact, however, virtually everyone obeys the rules of the dominant P.C. culture, and makes news judgments accordingly. A dissenting judgment will be dismissed automatically as uninformed or wrongheaded, but it may also be denounced as a sign of racism, misogyny, or homophobia.

Flash-forward to the present, and the Gray Lady continues to get her Haitian voodoo on:

The New York Times is pro-voodoo, or perhaps they are just an informal Voodoo Anti-Defamation League. On Saturday, religion writer Samuel G. Freedman wrote a story headlined “Voodoo, a Source of Comfort in Haiti, Remains Misunderstood.” For political junkies, this passage was the most indulgent:

In American political rhetoric, “voodoo” functions as a synonym for “fraudulent,” going back to George Bush’s description of supply-side economics. Would any public figure dare use “Baptist” or “Hindu” or “Hasidic” in the same way?

Freedman also lamented this religion’s mistreatment at the hands of Hollywood movie executives (not a normal complaint from the Times if the movies are raucously caricaturing Christianity). The intolerance emerged from a 1929 book titled Magic Island:

The resulting image of voodoo as sinister sorcery has, amazingly enough, survived into the present multicultural age. A sensitive book about voodoo in modern Haiti, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” by the ethnobotanist Wade Davis, was transformed by Hollywood into a fright movie that recycled every intolerant cliché about the religion.

In the past year, the animated film “The Frog and the Princess” featured a voodoo magician as its villain. The movie was produced by Disney, which if anything has been relativistic to a fault. But voodoo, apparently, does not even merit the condescending sort of exoticization that Disney afforded American Indian polytheism in “Pocahontas.”

Freedman began by deriding Pat Robertson’s commentary about Haiti being cursed by the devil, and included Beliefnet columnist Rod Dreher suggesting that it’s arguable “Haitians would be better off at the Church of Christopher Hitchens rather than as followers of voodoo.”

Freedman then lines up a cast of voodoo-sympathetic college professors to rebut the Dreher dismissal: Diane Winston of USC, Leslie Desmanges of Trinity College in Hartford, and Patrick Bellegarde-Smith of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who is an “expert in voodoo as well as a voodoo priest.”

Their complaint: “For scholars whose expertise runs somewhat deeper, such words have understandably provoked indignation. Worse still, the dismissive attitude about voodoo follows a tawdry history of misrepresentation in American journalism and popular culture.”

But never at the Times, where, as Corry wrote eight years ago, “Liberal delicacy has its moments” — but politcal correctness is forever frozen in amber.