Married to Those Scare Quotes

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As regular readers of The Washington Times know, the paper puts the word marriage in scare quotes when referring to gay marriage. This rule presumably is based on the premise that homosexual marriage is not true marriage, which by definition involves one man and one woman. (Hence the biblical patriarch Jacob was only "married" to his various wives; ditto the Muslim prophet Muhammad and the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.) The One True Marriage Rule explains why the headline over a story in today's Times, "Senate Halts Marriage Amendment," does not include scare quotes, while the headline over a sidebar, "Same-Sex 'Marriage' Vote," does.

But I'm not sure the paper's editors have thought through all the implications of their marriage ("marriage"?) position. Today's story, for instance, mentions state courts "poised to strike down traditional marriage." The phrase "traditional marriage," of course, is redundant, since marriage is defined by tradition (as long as you don't go back too far) and traditional by definition. And how should a Times copyeditor handle other misuses of marriage, such as "the marriage of sight and sound," "a marriage of convenience between Syria and Hezbollah," or "Anna Nicole Smith's marriage to J. Howard Marshall"?

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  1. It sounds like they’re going out of their way to make sure that their readers know that one-man-one-woman marriage is the definition of marriage. By putting other uses in scare-quotes, then labeling it as “traditional”, they seem to me like they’re desperately sticking a thumb in the eye of anyone who disagrees. When I read those two thing next to each other, I can just see them putting boldface, italics, underline and all-caps formatting on TRADITIONAL. Or, I can see them having a physical discussion with one of their colleagues, and a gay guy happens to be within earshot, and as he says the word “traditional”, he raises his voice level abruptly and stares at the gay guy as he says it.

    It all seems so…elementary-school-ish.

  2. The Washington Times is a reliable source of excellent “news.”

  3. I wonder what the “terrorists” think of our definition of “marriage”.

  4. Not really a conundrum, all they have to do is consult with the boss, the prince of peace, the lord of all earth, who was endorsed by both Hitler and (was it Lenin or Stalin?), who has come to rule in “the fathers name”.

    It’s all so easy when your boss is God’s chosen to lead humanity from its present moral terpitude.

    Isn’t anyone who works there, at least slightly, endorsing the boss’s beliefs? Personally, I couldn’t work for anyone who thinks dead hitler loves them.

  5. “SHARK!”

  6. Why does anyone care what a paper published by Moonies thinks anyway? Further, why would anyone in their right mind worry whether “the paper’s editors have thought through all the implications of their marriage (“marriage”?) position.”

    The ONLY reason they get any notice at all is because most right wingers take support uncritically from any group that appears to share their views.

  7. madpad:

    Unless the group wears white sheets or shaves their head. Those are no-nos.

  8. Only slightly more annoying is Fox News’ insistence on referring to “suicide bombers” (which is accurate and descriptive) as “homicide bombers” (which tells you nothing of the means by which they commit homicide).
    On the other extreme, there are the fuckheads over at Reuters who simply refuse to call people who blow up innocents to advance their ideological ends “terrorists.”

  9. Jamie, while it would be nice to see Reuters change their policy, I think they (like all mainstream media) are more concerned with access. Nobody from Reuters would ever be appointed to another press conference if they ran a story with a headline like “Terrorists kill 24 in Haditha.”

  10. Is anyone’s opinion changed by the addition of scare quotes? Is the factual content of the story altered by their inclusion? Does a supporter of gay marriage rights suddenly change his mind when he sees marriage reported as “marriage”? I doubt it. It’s an issue of bias, nothing more. I’d guess that regular readers of the Times know what they’re getting and have already made up their minds. Like FOX News viewers.

  11. I love everybody.

  12. madpad,

    Have you noticed, I bet you have, how much the editors here at Reason seem to have a love/love relationship with “The Washington Times”.

    I sure have.

    A “news” organization which shares libertarian thought in the same way you might call A.N.S.W.E.R. a conservative organization.

  13. madpad writes: “Why does anyone care what a paper published by Moonies thinks anyway? ”

    Well, the Moonies *do* own a number of Congresspeople, such as Curt Weldon.

    It’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on the house organ of a powerful cult rich in cash and maki rolls.

  14. “And how should a Times copyeditor handle other misuses of marriage, such as … “Anna Nicole Smith’s marriage to J. Howard Marshall”?”

    They’d use ASCII art boobies.

  15. The phrase “traditional marriage,” of course, is redundant, since marriage is defined by tradition (as long as you don’t go back too far) and traditional by definition

    If marriage is defined by tradition, using quotes around the term “gay ‘marriage'” is entirely appropriate. Tradition defines marriage as being an exclusively heterosexual arrangement.

    So it makes no sense to criticize the Times both for its reference to “marriage” and for using the term “traditional marriage”.

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