by David Kopel
After fretting that the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah may give the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) too much publicity, because medal ceremonies will be held in the church's Temple Square, a front-page Denver Post article on July 1 sniffed that the Utah Olympic committee "is striving to depict Utah as a cultural melting pot - even though the state's percentage of black, Hispanic and Asian residents is far below the national average." According to the Census Bureau, though, Utah is far above the national average in terms of its Indian population, and has seven times the national average of Pacific islanders.
Historically, Utah has also had large populations of Greeks, Italians and Scandinavians. But apparently in the Post's view, all white people are the same, regardless of whether they're from Rhodes or Lapland. And regardless of whether their ancestors were so persecuted that they fled to Utah in the first place to find freedom. Would the Post say that a state lacked diversity if most of the population were white and the leading religion were a faith that was a small minority elsewhere - such as Buddhism, Wicca or Islam? So why doesn't the Post credit Mormon Utah for enhancing diversity?
Until last Thursday, no one had reported a shred of evidence indicating that the murder of a high-school drop-out named Fred Martinez in Cortez in mid-June was a "hate crime" against gays. Yet that didn't prevent lavish newspaper coverage speculating on the motive for the killing of Martinez, who was half-Indian and sometimes dressed like a woman. The front page of the July 7 Colorado and the West section, for example, found the Rocky Mountain News obsessed over a speculative "hate crime" yet, ironically, rather tolerant of a known hate criminal.
The News devoted much of a lengthy article on the Martinez murder to describing the victim's sexuality, and speculating about whether the murder was because of his sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, right next to the News article wondering about whether a brutal murder was a "hate crime" (does murdering people only count as "hate" when the criminal also happens to be a bigot?) there was another article filled with sympathy for an actual hate criminal. In 1994, former Longmont resident Peter Mueller left for Germany when it was discovered that during World War II he served as a Waffen SS Death's Head guard at the Natzweiler slave labor camp.
The article did include four paragraphs quoting an Anti- Defamation League official who said that Mueller shouldn't be allowed to return to the U.S., but the rest of the article was sentimental and sympathetic to Mueller and his wife.
Mueller claimed that he was "an innocent bystander" who didn't choose where he was assigned. It might not be possible to disprove Mueller's claim, but the article could have provided more factual information about the camp. It called Natzweiler a "labor camp," although "slave labor camp" would have been more precise. The article did not mention that Natzweiler also had a gas chamber, that it was the site of gruesome Nazi medical experiments, and that members of the French resistance and the Lithuanian intelligentsia were tortured to death there.
Mueller's American wife went to live with him for three months in Worms, Germany. But "she couldn't stand the inconveniences. Only 4 gallons of hot water for showers. Restaurant menus limited mostly to noodles and dumpling. Rude and unfriendly people." Puh-lease. The slaves at Natzweiler had to put up with rude and unfriendly guards, and they never got hot showers or dumplings.
If a person is apathetic and doesn't pay attention to something, then he is "uninterested." That's bad. If a person is fair and neutral - like a good judge or referee should be - then he is "disinterested." Post columnists Chuck Green (criticizing Wellington Webb) and John Henderson (criticizing the Seattle Mariners baseball club) called their targets "disinterested" - when they really meant that Webb and the Mariners were "uninterested."
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recently gave a speech questioning the death penalty, and criticizing "zero tolerance" laws and huge contingency fee awards for plaintiffs' lawyers. The Post, however, ran a Washington Post article that mentioned only the death penalty item. The Associated Press article that included the full breadth of O'Connor's remarks would have been a better choice. The News ran the AP article - but they too snipped out O'Connor's words on zero tolerance and trial lawyers.
The Post's Sunday video games columnist previewed Microsoft's forthcoming entry into the video game world, the X-Box, which will compete with products from Sony and Nintendo. Microsoft "seems to have never taken on a fight that it lost," the columnist told us. Well, what about Microsoft's (now-defunct) "Bob" operating system; the Microsoft Network - which tried to challenge AOL in the on-line service business and got creamed; Microsoft's SQL Server software, which has a mere 15 percent of the relevant market; or Microsoft Money, which remains a distant second behind Quicken in the personal finance software business?