It’s a hell of a thing when a murderous dictator can get a glossier send-off from the New York Times than the president of the Mormon church.
Thomas Monson, who served as president beginning Feb. 3, 2008, died this week. He spent his life engaged in charitable works and public service.
Yet, this is how the Times reported his passing: “Thomas Monson, the president of the Mormon church who rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died Tuesday at 90.”
Thomas Monson, the president of the Mormon church who rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died Tuesday at 90 https://t.co/NKEHpAXzb1— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 3, 2018
Here’s the thing: None of that is inaccurate. Monson did oppose those specific issues. Still, it’s an odd thing for the Times to use an obituary announcement to highlight the deceased’s perceived controversies or failings. At least, it’s odd that the Times doesn’t apply this standard consistently. It’s odd that a faith leader who opposed same-sex marriage would get this treatment when someone like, say, noted pornographer Hugh Hefner didn't.
When Hefner died, the Times announced the breaking news with this headline: “Hugh Hefner has died at 91. He founded Playboy magazine in 1953 and became inseparable from his brand.” The paper also published this: “Hugh Hefner created Playboy magazine and spun it into a media and entertainment-industry giant.”
Surely it’s worth mentioning the inherent controversy of the Playboy brand. If Monson’s political and theological positions are worth mentioning, surely Hefner’s provocative positions regarding sexual ethics, or even the allegations he ran the Playboy Mansion like a nightmare brothel, are worth mentioning in his obituary headline. How about a mention of the high-profile murder of one of his treasured Playmates, Dorothy Stratten?
The difference in how the Times covered Monson and Hefner is weird enough. If you want a real trip, take a look at the gentle treatment the paper gave Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
“Fidel Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Who Defied U.S., Dies at 90,” read the headline.
Viva la revolución!
The headline can be forgiven. Perhaps the authors and editors wanted something to capture the moment, and they didn’t think it would sound so glossy.
But here’s how Times begins its Castro obituary: “Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on Friday. He was 90.”
It continued, claiming the Castro era was one of "medical advances," a dubious claim that resounds in the propaganda of Cuban communists. The paper also hailed the regime for "improving education and healthcare for many Cubans," and claimed that "admirers from around the world, including some Americans, were impressed with the way that healthcare and literacy in Cuba had improved."
Notably absent from this saccharine send-off for Castro are detailed mentions of the violence he used to achieve power, and how many people were imprisoned, tortured and murdered during his long reign. A Harvard-trained economist "estimates that almost 78,000 innocents may have died trying to flee the dictatorship," the Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady reported. "Another 5,300 are known to have lost their lives fighting against communism in the Escambray Mountains (mostly peasant farmers and their children) and at the Bay of Pigs."
Here’s how they covered Monson: “Thomas S. Monson, who as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2008 enlarged the ranks of female missionaries, but rebuffed demands to ordain women as priests and refused to alter church opposition to same-sex marriage, died on Tuesday at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90.”
The obituary goes on to focus almost entirely on Monson’s positions on same-sex marriage and women as priests. Mentions of his charitable and philanthropic work are few and far between.
Well. Okay then.