One Person's Opinion

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Who is this guy, anyway? He's the person at The Corner whose assignment it is to articulate the right wing's claims of media bias. Well, he's really on a roll now. First, he posts an item that simply parrots a flash press release from the Media Research Center, a right-wing group that researches media bias. (That's pretty obvious evidence that Mr. Graham has been assigned the task of whining about media bias from right wing central, isn't it?)

Then, he puts in an item calling for completely biased coverage of the gay marriage decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts-- he wants the media to spin this as "unelected judges versus the democratic minority". Hey, Tim, I thought the party line was you guys wanted an unbiased media that let the viewers decide these things!

But what really drives me nuts about Mr. Graham's post on the gay marriage issue is that he refers to the issue as follows: "Judges favor what proponents call gay 'marriage,' but energized democratic majorities tend to reject it." Notice the use of "scare quotes" around the term "marriage", and also the use of the locution "what proponents call".

As a lawyer, I see scare quotes all the time in legal briefs. (For instance, in a case where one side denies that a contract was ever formed, you might see a sentence like this: Plaintiff contends that the parties agreed to a "contract" to distribute the pencils.) They drive me nuts. The reason is that-- except in certain, limited, obvious situations where the other side is clearly misusing a term-- scare quotes are a substitute for argument, rather than an argument itself. Mr. Graham's post is a perfect example of this. The reason proponents call the issue gay "marriage" is because that is what they are seeking-- a right of gays and lesbians to marry their life partners, and to claim all the public benefits of marriage. If Mr. Graham wants to articulate why he believes, for some reason, that gay marriage isn't really "marriage", that's fine-- but HE HAS TO ARTICULATE THE ARGUMENT. Putting "marriage" in quotes doesn't make the argument, doesn't persuade anyone (which is the point of making an argument), and basically makes the writer look either like he is too lazy to articulate the basis for his position, or doesn't have a basis for it.

In Mr. Graham's case, I would imagine it is a variant of the second alternative-- Mr. Graham thinks that gays and lesbian are so different and alien that any arrangement that they arrive at cannot be called "marriage". Of course, if he articulated that argument, he would look deeply homophobic. So, since he doesn't have a non-homophobic basis for his position, he falls back on scare quotes.

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