Winks, nods, and editorials

There are two primary ways to look at the Pioneer Press’ editorial on the same sex marriage amendment: (1) It was a typically Minnesota passive aggressive discussion in which a claim of neutrality is betrayed by intentionally vague writing that provides the writer with deniability while making a position known and/or (2) it’s what you get when you’re too afraid of newspaper’s traditional role in leading a debate by forcefully taking a stand, thus risking alienating a declining subscription base.

A reading of the editorial leaves little doubt that the unnamed writer is endorsing a “yes” vote on the same-sex amendment on Tuesday’s ballot, using the “I’m just saying” style of argument that is more common to Internet trolls than newspapers with rich pedigrees.

Finally, the vote no coalition has been careful to steer clear of any whiff of forcefulness. Their television ads rely on happily married traditional couples advising that for reasons of love you should vote no. They wisely have struck a gentle rather than strident tone. Yet, supporters of traditional marriage are not wrong to point out that religious groups who have refused to make their facilities available for same-sex couples have lost their state tax exemption and that religious groups have been forced to close their charitable adoption agencies as a result of having to choose between fulfilling their social mission and acquiescing to a new definition of marriage. And that whenever schools educate children about marriage they will have no choice but to teach it as a genderless institution. Indeed, some members of the movement are aggressive. In California, activists outed people who gave financial support to that state’s marriage amendment, some of whom lost jobs as a result. And we saw it here in Minnesota when Target Corporation was subjected to extensive protests for having contributed to a gubernatorial candidate who supported traditional marriage. It did not matter that Target had a long record of support for the GLBT community or that its contribution had nothing to do with the definition of marriage. It was about sending a message that those who took the wrong position on marriage would pay a heavy price. In Chicago, the mayor of one of the nation’s largest cities and a former high ranking White House official big-footed a fast food chain and its CEO for his belief in traditional marriage. For those who hold traditional beliefs about marriage, increasingly the force of law will be brought to bear on matters of education, speech and practice. Already in the course of ordinary reporting on this amendment, the Pioneer Press has encountered traditionalists who withhold their names for fear of the possible consequences of addressing the issue. None of which is to suggest that we do not support free speech and the right to protest and transparency in the political process. The point is that the story would be incomplete if it left out any mention of the consequences. And of course these consequences are appropriate or not depending on your stand on the issue itself.

Historically, people in Minnesota generally respect people who make a principled argument if they think they’re being treated honestly and respectfully. An institution long dedicated to a search for truth insults its community’s intelligence when it doesn’t think a declarative truth is something its readership can handle.

They may be right. We’ll never know. Such is the nature of an editorial “wink.”

In any event, the Press lost the one person who may be responsible for online growth: Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, whose essays on his blog were surely page-view gold, the currency of today’s online journalism. He’s quitting his blog at the Pioneer Press site and is looking for a new home for it.

The Press’ editorial also appeared to anger some in its own newsroom. “The Pioneer Press I know values fairness and honesty,” food and ag reporter Tom Webb tweeted today. “Its marriage editorial slights those values, and is unworthy of a fine newspaper.”

He’s not “just sayin’.”