Friday, October 22, 2021
It's Friday, October 22nd, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Lessons In The Symbiotic Relationship Of Press and Political Elite — Lesson One: Katie Couric Apologizes For Protecting Ruth Bader Ginsberg Over 2016 Interview
Sometimes the key issue to watch for is symbiosis. Now, that's a biological term that has to, with life living off of other life and a cooperative endeavor, but I'm not talking about life. I'm not talking about organisms. I'm not talking about animals. I'm talking about the political class and the media class.
The political class and the media class are both parts of what is just sociologically defined as an elite. To call them an elite is necessarily to criticize them, because every society has elites. The question would come down to whether or not that elite status is deserved and what is the stewardship of that status. There isn't a society on Earth, including the one that declares itself to be most egalitarian, that doesn't have an elite.
Our elites, however, as is the tendency in a fallen world with most elites, tend to reinforce their elite power and their elite perspective. And that's why the elites generally turning in a very liberal direction, and that's, if anything, an understatement. There is a symbiosis in terms of how they deal with certain events and how they deal with each other.
Now, given the same circumstances, it might be that conservatives would do the same thing. But when it comes to the creative class, conservatives have actually never had the opportunity. The symbiosis is with the political elites, but those elites tend to be overwhelmingly Democratic, overwhelmingly liberal. You take the Silicon Valley elites, the cultural creative elites, the media elites, there's the symbiosis. But that symbiosis right now is headline news, and in a most unexpected and unique way. In this case, it has to do with a book.
The book is entitled Going There. It's coming out next Tuesday released by the publisher Little, Brown and Company. The publisher no doubt has invested a lot in this book. It is looking for massive sales from this book. It is a memoir written by Katie Couric. Now Katie Couric, at least for a couple of decades, was a household name in the United States. Is she now? Well, she still has a lot of name recognition, and no doubt the publisher is expecting that name recognition to translate into book sales.
But the symbiosis I'm talking about is the symbiosis that's in her book, in what she writes in her book, and the symbiosis in the conversation about her book. I think you'll find both of these dimensions important. The first has to do with what's in her book. Well, there's a lot in her book that's rather chatty and conversational. There are sections dealing with tragedy in her life and celebrity and success in her life. But there's one particular issue where the symbiosis between politics and the media is abundantly clear.
It has to do with an acknowledgement she made in her book of how she "covered for" one of her personal icons, the late liberal Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The story has to be traced to 2016. Now remember, 2016 was a presidential election year. Remember that in 2016, the Supreme Court was front and center in the nation's political conversation, and in that electoral race.
Why are we talking about it? It's because in her new book to be released next Tuesday, Katie Couric acknowledges that she "covered for" Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a coveted interview. Now she published at least part of what she did in that interview, and yet she didn't release everything. That particular interview took place when Couric was with Yahoo News. But before that she'd had a storied career in American television.
She was at NBC from 1989 to 2006. She was at CBS from 2006 to 2011. She was at ABC news from 2011 to 2014. During the years she was at NBC, in the years 1991 to 2006, she was a keystone on The Today Show. That was NBC's top rated morning program. Millions of Americans watched her every day. At CBS News, she actually became the news anchor, a very significant and historical development, both for ABC and for Katie Couric. Katie Couric had thus were for the news division of all, three of the prestige historic television networks in the United States; NBC, CBS, ABC. But she had also worked for CNN, and then she had that time with Yahoo News.
In that 2016 interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and again, she had acknowledged the late Supreme Court Justice, as so many on the left have, as an icon. She was a personal icon. She respected her tremendously. She coveted the interview. She got the interview in 2016. But, as Eric Wemple reports for the Washington Post, "Previews of the book have fixated on Couric's confession that she wanted to protect Ginsburg," that means Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died last year at age 87. She made an edit. She made an edit cutting out certain statements that Ruth Bader Ginsburg made on video. She cut them out not because they were not newsworthy, because I assure you they would've been. She cut them out because they would've been damaging to the late justice. As Eric Wemple reports, "The edit came about after Couric, then with Yahoo News, asked Ginsburg about NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, kneeling during the National Anthem. The justice responded that this form of protest was 'dumb and disrespectful,' not to mention, she said, 'stupid and arrogant.'"
Now, I'll go back to 2016. Enormous controversy over Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand, and indeed, decision to kneel during the National Anthem. It was a very controversial moment. It still is. But nonetheless, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked about it back in 2016 when the issue was front and center in the nation's controversy in conversation. Let's just be very clear. Her statements were unambiguous. She said that this form of protest was dumb and disrespectful. She used the words stupid and arrogant. Wemple then reports, "Those are marks stirred an uproar, causing Ginsburg to bail on them days later. She said again, days later, 'I should have declined to respond.'"
Now notice, notice by the way that Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not disavow the statements. She didn't come out and say, "That was a stupid thing to say. I want to reverse my position." She said, "I should have declined to respond." But here's the thing. Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew at the time that she had said more than had caused that controversy, more than made the air in the Katie Couric interview, more than Colin Kaepernick knew. Here's what she had gone on to say.
Eric Wemple introduces it by saying, "Yet the public had no clue about the liberal icon's even more inflammatory words. She said that the protest demonstrated 'contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life, which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from. As they became older, they realized that this was youthful folly, and that's why education is important.'"
Now, we just need to note that these words aren't hard to understand, but Katie Couric in her book says that she did not use those statements because she thought that those words were "subject to interpretation". Nonetheless, in the book, Katie Couric says that she did not use those statements because she wanted to protect the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and that means protect the Justice and protect her public reputation and to protect the reputation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and presumably the political left in the middle of a hotly contested presidential election.
Now, how do we know about this? Did someone break the story? Yes. Katie Couric broke the story on herself. In a conversation with Savanna Guthrie of The Today Show about her book she said, "Ultimately, I think should have included it." Couric went on to reflect upon her decision not to run those statements. She said, "I think Justice Brandeis said sunshine is the best disinfectant, and I think the more we can be transparent about the decisions we make and the more we can say, "Maybe that wasn't the right one," we'll be better off."
She went on to say, "I think what people don't realize is we make editorial decisions like that all the time." Again, that in conversation with NBC's Today program. She said, "And I chose to talk about this and put it in the book for a discussion."
Well, that leads to the second issue. The first issue was that symbiotic relationship between the press and the political elite that explains why Katie Couric covered for Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a controversial statement, because in her own words, she wanted to protect her. Now just imagine, and let's just state this as fairly as we can. Had this been a conservative Justice or a conservative political figure, would that protective instinct have existed? Would the same decision be made? It is actually extremely difficult, and I'm stating this very carefully, it's actually extremely difficult, nearly implausible to believe, that the same decision would've been made. And, what's really interesting from the perspective of journalistic ethics and morality is that Katie Couric admitted that she made this decision to protect the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The Symbiotic Relationship Of Press and Political Elite — Lesson Two: The Book Business and Big Media
But that then takes us to the second issue of symbiosis. And you say, "Well, that was troubling enough," well, here's another issue we need to watch. We're talking about this because Katie Couric has written a book. The publisher has no doubt given her a big advance. That's the way these things work in terms of celebrity publications. The publisher needs to have big sales. The publisher works with the press to arrange interviews so that there can be, on programs like Today, a kind of disclosure that elicits some interest that might also spark controversy that might sell books.
Now, in some audiences, this has been primarily the personal level about Katie Couric's personal life, about her career, but here's what we need to note. Everything's intentional. The fact that Katie Couric revealed this years later after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020, the fact is that Katie Couric released this and it was in her book, and that book is a commercial product, and the symbiosis is seen once again.
In a very friendly context of NBC's Today program, Katie Couric talked about this when she knew she was facing very little risk of actually being challenged on the journalistic ethics involved here. Eric Wemple, who writes a great deal about the media as a member of the media, The Washington Post says, "So along with all the condemnations piling up on Couric, some credit must be extended for her decision to now lay out the circumstances with such candor and introspection."
But again, I'm simply going to say, now, now she has nothing to lose. She would've had something to lose had this admission been made years ago. Wemple does conclude with this. "Another explanation, of course, is that she still had this huge Ginsburg scoop burning a hole in her notebook and she wanted credit for it." Yes, that could be a partial explanation. But the reality, it could judge us to be about book sales, and the symbiosis extends to that too.
The Symbiotic Relationship Of Press and Political Elite — Lesson Three: Press Positively Covers Fashion Shift As Politics
But next on The Briefing, Friday is for fashion. Well, no, it's not usually, but it is today, because fashion often reveals worldview, but maybe it's more important today to say that fashion sometimes reveals politics and moral insanity. Wrap it all together, well, let's look first to an article that ran this week by fashion writer for the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman. The headline in the article, "Decoding Kyrsten Sinema's Style," speaking of the Democratic Senator in the front of so much controversy in the United States, Democratic Senator from Arizona. The subhead in the article, "Sometimes a dress is just a dress. On the Democratic Senator, it's also a strategy."
The fact is that Senator Sinema stands out for her dress, and the New York Times says, "The senior senator from Arizona, the first woman to represent Arizona in the Senate, the first Democrat elected to that body from that state since 1995, and the first openly bisexual senator, has never hidden her identity as a maverick. In fact, she's advertised it pretty much every day."
Indeed, we are told that she advertises it by her dress. Elected to Congress in 2013, she was crowned "America's most colorful congresswoman" because of how she dressed both in terms of her clothing and her wigs. But then, "Notice was served at her swearing in on January 3rd, 2019," that would mean swearing in for the Senate, in which the new senator "seemed to be channeling Marilyn Monroe in platinum blonde curls, a white sleeveless pearl-trimmed top, rose print pencil shirt, and stiletto heels. She was never going to revert to pants suit wearing banality."
The paper tells us that she "swept in as a white caped dressed crusader for Donald J. Trump's first impeachment trial in 2020." She presided over the Senate this year on February the 23rd "while wearing a hot pink sweater with the words "Dangerous Creature" on the front." The fashion writer then tells this, "To dismiss that as a stunt, rather than a foreshadowing is to give Miss Sinema less credit than she is due."
Tammy Haddad, formerly with MSNBC says, "She's saying, "I can wear what I want and say what I think is important and I'm going to have a lot of impact doing it." She is unencumbered by the norms of the institution." Well, she's pretty much unencumbered by a lot of norms, including, you would say, traditional sexuality in Western civilization based on the scripture. She is the first openly bisexual member of the United States Senate. She is advertising a lot with her clothing, and this New York Times article says, "Well, you go girl. This is showing your style."
The next person quoted in the article, and yes, you do want to know this, is Lauren A. Rothman, identified as an image and style accountability coach in Washington who's been working with members of Congress for 20 years. Well, full stop there. We are told that this is a job you didn't know about, I didn't know about, I at least think you didn't know about it, and that is an image and style accountability coach. A consultant to politicians about style accountability. And don't we want our politicians accountable?
By the way, when Sinema was elected to the Senate, the Senate changed its rules concerning dress for women members in order to accommodate her flamboyant style. The article tells us that when it comes to fashion, Senator Sinema wants basically nothing to do with the previous Capitol Hill tradition of women wearing Talbots and St. Johns. Instead, she wears flashy clothing, revealing her shoulders and wigs in the colors of Easter eggs. Who knew?
Friedman concludes her article by writing, "All the seemingly kooky clothes that Miss Sinema is wearing aren't kooky at all, they're signposts, and the direction they are pointing is entirely her way." In other words, she is wearing them to gain attention. And she got the attention of the New York Times, the fashion editor, as well as all the political reporting she's getting these days. It's all basically pointing entirely her way.
‘Gender Agnosticism’ On The Runway As Fashion Synthesizes With The Moral Revolution
But last week, the same paper, the New York Times, ran an article that featured two of the very familiar fashion writers for the newspaper, Vanessa Friedman and Guy Trebay, and the article is entitled "The end of gender on runways". That means not airplane runways, where presumably it's not so much an issue when it comes to planes, but rather it means fashion runways. And there we are told that gender is just over, so yesterday. The subhead in the article: "Has the fashion world bid the binary goodbye? Two critics offer their perspectives."
Speaking to each other, Vanessa Friedman says, "Guy, I was thinking of you during the last two weeks of Milan and Paris shows because while they were nominally 'women’s wear,' that term and its corollary—men’s wear—your bailiwick—seem increasingly meaningless. This wasn’t gender fluidity or gender neutrality or dual gender—all hybrids that have been thrown around to refer to shows that combine men’s and women’s collections, say, or feature clothes that are sort of generic and not really identifiable by the traditional categories of gendered dressing. This was something new. Like gender agnosticism. So we’d see classically 'girlie' clothes in bright colors, soft fabrics and lots of decoration, only they were worn by guys."
Well, probably no guys you or I know. And by the way, even before you get to the gender confusion here, the fact is at most of the clothing that is demonstrated in these elite shows in European cities like Milan and Paris, they aren't worn by anybody most people will ever know. This again is an extremely elite world.
But nonetheless, it gets lots of attention, including full-time writers for the New York Times who are working full-time to tell us, number one, fashion is important, and number two, fashion points in a very clear LGBTQ gender non-binary direction. But the term here just shouldn't be missed. It can't be missed. The statement here is that we are now past non-binary, we are past gender fluidity. We are past gender neutrality or dual gender. Now we reach the point of gender agnosticism. It just doesn't matter anymore.
Now, remember the term agnostic, it's tied to the word atheist. Both of them have that a in the front, the Greek alpha. It's alpha privative, it means not that. Atheist means, not theist. Agnostic means, I don't know. Sometimes it actually means, we can't know. Now, of course you hear that related to the question of the existence of God. And in this sense, we're just going to have to say in summary, agnosticism is something like the weaker brother of atheism. It's non-declarative, it is less clear, but it basically is a form of intellectual surrender.
For our purposes on The Briefing the point here is the term. Just as we were surprised to find out that there's a style accountability coach in Washington, it now turns out that gender agnosticism is just the next step when it comes to the fashion world in its symbiosis with the old revolution. But Guy Trebay is all for it. He comes back to the term gender agnosticism and says, "It's just the latest development in a process begun a century ago with Chanel and women in trousers."
But then Trebay goes on to say, "What I've been struck by lately in fashion is a skittishness about the anatomical differences that still, for the most part, differentiate men from women." Well, yes, Mr. Trebay, those are anatomical differences about which most human beings are profoundly not confused. And yes, fashion is going to have to take account of them one way or another.
But then Friedman ends by writing this: "And if we are still freaked out by men in dresses and skirts, as arguably most people outside of this tiny fashion sector are, is that perhaps because we're still clinging to old power structures?" The big thing we just need to note here, we'll note it fast and move on, is the fact that she actually acknowledges that being unshocked by men in dresses and skirts is rather limited to, what she describes herself as, "this tiny fashion sector." That's a rare admission. We shouldn't miss it.
Why Are Cities More Liberal than Rural Areas? — Dr. Mohler RespondsTo Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing
Next we'll turn to the Mailbox. Mark wrote in asking the question, "Why do cities become more liberal the more people come together?" Well, that's an interesting development, especially in the modern world, but even before the modern world, cities were known for their cosmopolitanism. They tend to include people who come from outside the country, and furthermore, once they get in the city, it turns out that the moral code tends to liberalize. Pretty significantly. Cities are more secular than the surrounding countryside. Cities are more socially liberal, and that's old now, old news. That goes back centuries. Just think of Berlin and Paris, even during the time of the enlightenment. Or think of Moscow, even during the 18th and 19th centuries.
A much more liberal culture, Berlin and Paris were famous for it, New York also for that matter. A much more liberal culture. The cosmopolitanism has a lot to do with it. People coming from all kinds of places, mixing together, and that means a mixture of world views. It also means that with cities come anonymity that doesn't exist elsewhere. Anonymity in the city means that you can be in the city who you might not get away with being outside that city.
Furthermore, the city commercializes everything. So, when it even comes to sexuality and sin, it gets commercialized. Just think of a city like Amsterdam in the Netherlands. But there's more to it than that. Another issue is that when you get people together, you tend to have opportunities for sin, and that means a more liberalized culture than you would have in a more agrarian or agricultural area.
Finally, I just want to say this, and I appreciate the question, Mark. There is a very good argument to be made that the further you get an abstraction from an agricultural context, and from just having to go through the process of tilling the land, planting a crop, waiting for the crop, all the rest, the further you get from that agrarian context, either by direct involvement or by, say, concentric circles, the more liberal the culture becomes.
And that goes back to a song that I believe goes back to the '20s, and the flapper era. "How You Going to Get Back on the Farm (Once They've Been to Paris)?" Once they've seen the allure of Paris, how do you get them back to the plow?
Can The Supreme Court Overturn Texas Heartbeat Law But Still Overturn Roe v. Wade? — Dr. Mohler Responds To Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing
Matt writes a question, asking, "Is it possible for the Supreme Court to strike down the Texas heartbeat law, while at the same time overturn Roe v. Wade?" Well, yes, it actually can. Sometimes the Court acts in ways that are inexplicable to those outside the Court. But it has to do to great extent with the constitutional issue, the actual question presented to the court. Remember, the Supreme Court hears cases on appeal. They come from a lower court. The specific question that the Court takes in a case may be rather technical, including whether or not the person who brought the case in the first place has standing to bring the case. Some of the very important decisions handed down by the Supreme Court have basically said, "We're not even answering the question of the lawsuit because the person who brought it didn't legally have standing. Move on."
Now, when it comes to the two big cases of our concern right now, one from Mississippi, the Dobbs case, the Court's going to be hearing that case very soon. The other, the Texas case, there could be different rulings on different questions. But what I share with you, Matt, is the hope that Roe v. Wade is reversed. Most likely that will come in the course of that Dobbs case from Mississippi. Matt, as you say in your letter, the Texas case is very complex. It's going to be extremely important to find out exactly how the Supreme Court will frame the issue as it considers that case in days and weeks to come.
How Should Young Women Pursue Education and Careers Without Succumbing To The Cultural Imperative Of ‘Career First, Babies Second’? — Dr. Mohler Responds To Letters From Listeners Of The Briefing
Finally, a great question was sent in by Sarah, a very concerned Christian mom. She says that she and her husband have two teenage daughters who are now looking at college. "They're excited to study and become proficient in their fields of interest, yet they are also eager to marry and enjoy raising a family if the Lord wills. How do you suggest we counsel them to pursue their interests without succumbing to the cultural imperative of career first, baby second?"
Again, thank you for the question, Sarah. And I appreciate the question coming from you and your husband, and I would say you basically answered the question when you talk about resisting the cultural imperative of career first, baby second. I speak as President of a seminary and President of a college, President of a college with wonderful, wonderful women students in that college.
I believe that those young women need and deserve the very finest Christian worldview college education they can receive. And my wife and I wanted that for our own daughter, who did receive it and excelled in it. And our daughter was amazingly successful in professional life, and she got married to a wonderful Christian man, and now she's the stay at home mom of three of the most precious grandchildren on planet Earth. You're just going to have to take that on my word. They are the three most wonderful grandchildren on planet Earth.
I just want to encourage you with this. You use the words about not succumbing to the cultural imperative of career first, baby second. So, that mean two things, I think, for Christians. Number one, we don't believe that young women should seek a college education without reference to marriage and children. We don't believe that somehow these are two separate lives. We need to believe that somehow God will use that college education and preparation, even in that primary vocation of being a wife and a mother, and I say that without apology?
The second thing is this. There are times and seasons. The immediate concern of so many people in a secular society is that they have to put that college education immediately to work and continue on that career train, less that investment goes stale or be wasted. In a Christian understanding, that Christian stewardship of the mind is never wasted. And furthermore, in times and seasons, there is no telling how the Lord will use that education, even professionally, in the future, in the lives of those daughters who are so precious to you.
Finally, Sarah, next week on The Briefing, we're going to be talking about new research indicating that for many, many young women, it's not just delaying having children, but actually making the decision never to have children at all. And by the way, a society too busy to have children, too busy to invest in those children adequately, is a society too busy to survive.
Thanks for all these questions. Next week, we will get to more of them. But thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.