[dropcap]P[/dropcap]lease file this under “More Reasons to be Careful of Internet ‘Reporting’.”
A few internet articles empowered by social media last week proclaimed California Democrat Jackie Speier
wants to federalize a state law to prohibit counseling to change a person’s sexual orientation.
Under the bill’s language, a mental health counselor could be sanctioned if there was an attempt to get a gay individual to change his or her behavior or speak negatively about their behavior as it relates to sexuality.
[pullquote]If you search for “Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) stated that all alternative sexual lifestyles should be protected under the law,” you get numerous identical returns.[/pullquote]The bill calls on states to prohibit efforts to change a minor’s sexual orientation, even if the minor requests it, saying that doing so is “dangerous and harmful.”
When I first saw the report on Rethink Society several thoughts came to mind.
First was the almost complete lack of citation. The Google cache version of the pre-corrected post notes a “quote” from Alcee Hastings (D-FL) with no reference:
Republicans attempted to add an amendment specifying that, “pedophilia is not covered as an orientation.” However, the Democrats defeated the amendment. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) stated that all alternative sexual lifestyles should be protected under the law, and accordingly decided that pedophilia is a sexual orientation that should be equally as embraced as homosexuality.
Was this at a news conference? Was this an interview on Meet the Press? The reader is not told. Neither is the reader told anything at all aboutLisa A., author of the article.
If you search for “Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) stated that all alternative sexual lifestyles should be protected under the law,” you get numerous identical returns. (Click to see screenshot.) This happens when a single post is copied in its entirety with attribution or “scraped” and uploaded to another site.
Further, the use of the present tense “wants” in reference to Speier gave the impression protected pedophilia is at the door. This is simply not the case.
Last week I checked the House clerk website where the status of all bills is recorded. I found no bill introduced or co-sponsored by Speier in this congressional session that had anything to do with sexual orientation.
I called Representative Speier’s office and asked whether she had sponsored such a bill. Her office worker said, “She introduced a bill addressing attempts to change the sexual orientation of minors in the last congress. It was not picked up in this congress.” I asked, “Does that mean it’s in a committee or that it no longer exists?” He responded, “It wasn’t picked up so it will not be scheduled for action.” You can see Speier’s original bill, 112th Congress (2011-2012) H.CON.RES.141.IH.
[pullquote align=”right”]But, then again, the truth is much less sensational.[/pullquote]Speier’s doomed bill (which deservedly managed a sparce 16 co-sponsors) was introduced in November 2012. Rethink Society’s article was posted on February 7, 2013. If I can find out the facts in five minutes I would think Lisa A. could do the same. But, then again, the truth is much less sensational.
When I first saw the article there were 75,000 Facebook shares. As of Sunday night, April 7, there are more than 99,000. However, the article has been edited, corrected and the editors have issued an apology. The apology, though, is not without its own problems.
Author of Rethink Society’s apology, Randall James, writes,
A few days ago, an old article of ours from a few months back received a link from a large organization.
The article was (and remains) dated the first week of February 2013. This was not a five year old evergreen article on how to tune up a car. It was not a few “months back,” but a few weeks back. Further, James’ excuse that “we [are] a small grassroots website with an equally small, but very dedicated, readership. In other words, we were not expecting anywhere near the amount of attention that this piece received.” This is not an excuse. If you write because you love it and count only Great aunt Edna as a reader, accuracy is paramount. The speed at which error is spread can be exponential. The speed at which correction is spread is glacial. As testimony Rethink’s correction/apology post has a mere 100 or so shares.
As self-proclaimed truth seekers, followers of Christ should be more diligent than anyone else at finding it. We cannot continue to wantonly share in social media and email chains poorly researched, carelessly assembled and erroneously propagated “news.” The good news of Jesus should not be obscured by our penchant for spreading error riddled bad news.