For No God's Sake

Wolf Blitzer in Oklahoma

The nightmarish aftermath of the Moore, Oklahoma EF-5 tornado is in rebuilding and rebounding mode. People are digging out of the mess. Survivors located. Businesses re-opening.

And the stories emanating from the Prairie are running the gamut. From heart warming to predictably dire. The human spirit seems both undaunted and inexplicable. 

But because the world we live in now has around the clock news cycles and a plethora of channels devoted to same, sometimes the mavens of media reveal themselves to be a sorry lot. So was the case of Wolf Blitzer--a CNN talking head of much experience--and his interview with a local named Rebecca Vitsmun whose response to a question posed by Blitzer threw him.

Blitzer asked Vitsmun if she thanked the Lord for presumably sparing her life and that of her baby. She replied (nervously) that she didn't as she was an atheist, quickly adding that she didn't blame people that did.  

It was quick and she was good humored about it. But there's something really rancid about Blitzer's question. The subtext isn't theological or even sociological. It's bigotry--Oklahoma is a deeply religious state with an enormous Evangelical community, so Blitzer assumed without asking that this woman must be one of those people.

This is no different than asking someone with an Irish surname what beer they drink, or a Mexican their favorite recipe for salsa or any number of stereotypes. The presumption that this woman is religious without asking (did the same question arise in New Jersey after Sandy?) pigeonholes Oklahomans as one-dimensional fanatics.

If you are a person over a certain age (40 say), ask yourself if newsmen asked these questions in our long gone youths. They didn't. It would have been seen as trivial, leading and out of place. But because our culture has been "Tebowed" to death by loud public declarations of fealty to the Lord, this kind of piffle is not only manistream, it's encouraged.

The moment passed, but it seems to have ignited the standard back and forth over the existance of a God or not. Not the issue (although asking someone whose home was razed if they thank the presumable force behind the razing does seem a little absurd). Religion is a matter of faith, conjecture and wishful thinking/culture. The news is supposed to be facts. I know that Blitzer has to filibuster to fill space, but c'mon, man--everything has its place. 



The mistake people make with them is assuming that they are universally true without exception.

So not every Irishman drink but many of them do. Not every Mexican likes salsa but many do. And so on.

Just like there is no smoke without fire, there is no stereotype without some kernal of truth underlying it.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

He lives in this bubble, I guess you could say. He figured that since it was a "red state" that A, B, and C filters should automatically apply. Journalists like him recycle in their systems certain ideas or themes that are more often than not a product of the jaded workplace or world they circle in. It's quite possible that she was an evangelical or a RepubliCON or many others that odds are we would find there. But she wasn't and it he simply tried to pander (for the lack of a better word) with those he was interviewing that day.

Should he have even asked that type of question? No. It's a question I would expect to see from say a local journalist/news person or something off camera. But there's a bigger story here that you are only touching the surface. Here is a mom, in the middle of an area with folks in a perceived conservative area facing a tragedy where emotions can be high, yet what does she say? She's an atheist. I am skeptical that such a revelation would be made on air ten or twenty years ago. It shows that things are changing.

Maybe the areas we take for granted as conservative bastions aren't as "conned" as we think. Of course, conversely, we can ask the same for some perceived liberal areas. But this is Oklahoma, and we are starting to see some similar progressive twinges in Texas (they elected an open Lesbian as mayor) where the talk is less red and more purple. And this was a young person who said this on the air, so are we also seeing a generational cultural change? Decades ago baby boomers in their 30-40s in the region were the vanguard of the Evangelical/Conservative Movement. That movement's majorty is now getting old, and the younger ones barely replacing them are not as conservative. Did we just get a peak of history repeating in reverse?

Posted by Johnny Venom on May. 22, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

Starting to think so, despite the fact that they appear to exchange posts with each other.

Isn't that an internet no-no, i.e. using sock puppets and dopplegangers?

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

But how do we know you're not him either??

Posted by Johnny Venom on May. 24, 2013 @ 12:25 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

but then you do it.

Blitzer just asked a question, you have no idea his bias around that, you are assuming. Then here you make all kinds of generalizations.

Hanlon's razor

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.


never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence

Posted by Matlock on May. 23, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

Valid point, Matlock. I tip my hat to you.

Posted by Johnny Venom on May. 24, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

time to go out and get some fresh air, dude?
you're becoming as hysterical as Tim when it comes to nonsense non-stories

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

Blitzer assumed he was talking to a fundie because he was in OK.

Walk up to any dude in SF and ask him if he's a top or a bottom.

After all, it is San Francisco, the "gay city", right?



Posted by JohnnyW on May. 22, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

Especially as it now seems that you don't actually live in Sf.

SF is at least 90% straight. It's just that the gays make more noise.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

would seem to be you.
everyone is OK is a "fundie"?
WB was having a conversation with the woman, towards the end, he asked about the Lord.

hmm, how many times this weekend did two guys in a bar in the Castro have a conversation and the topic of top/bottom come up? I'm willing to bet more than once. a stupid analogy in a stupid column. Keep up the good work!

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 5:40 am

As such, the highest percentage in a major city.

Seriously--go up to any male in the Castro (did that help?) and ask "so are you a top or a bottom?"

After all, that isn't a wild assumption in the gayest city's gayest neighborhood.

And I know you'll love the response, because there's nothing people like more than being pigeon-holed, especially by someone they don't know. Really--you'll have so many new friends, you won't know what to do!

Posted by JohnnyW on May. 22, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

And therefore posting as a reply.

Tim will surely give you a raise if and when you ever master the basics.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

I don't find what WB asked to be rude, the woman certainly did not look offended, and should be filed in the Not a BFD drawer. But I get it. You have keys to the car and are hot to take it for a spin, so you'll just keep posting nonsense like this. I'm sure in short order Steven's articles will be the only ones worth reading around here. It's a shame

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 5:36 am

In other words, the opposite of everything Wolf Blitzer is. I'm amazed that
a) she had the courage to say that in Oklahoma. It is downright oppressive to be a non-Christian in Oklahoma
b) she was so positive
and c) she tried to make Blitzer feel comfortable, when in fact he should have felt very *un*comfortable saying what he said.

I would've been less charitable. I would have told him, "No Wolf. The lord had nothing to do with it. Whether people live or die is a matter of luck, preparation, and good government investment in infrastructure. I do, however, want to thank the first responders, and the unionized teachers who used their bodies to shield those kids. I'm sure our governor will give them a commendation, but what they really deserve is decent pay and benefits."

That's *if* I had the composure to say that while my house was in a pile of rubble behind me. I might've just lit into him.

Posted by Greg on May. 22, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

When out with friend' do you hector that one person about their choices and assumptions at every turn?

Posted by Matlock on May. 23, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

Get help.

Posted by Greg on May. 24, 2013 @ 8:52 am

Johnny's in LA.

He's writing about Oklahoma.

He's arguing with people in SF.

Aren't Internet chat rooms wonderful?

My question: Why is the SFBG (formerly a newspaper weekly) becoming an internet chat site?

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 7:04 am

I thought the tornado killed all the atheists. Go figure!

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 11:10 am

And I remember religious shows on the networks and the local TV stations, there was a lot more religious non-sense on the TV back in the 70's.

Everything in the world isn't about some nefarious agenda of the secret cabal.

As an atheist I quit being offended by that area of the world in my teens, people like the various deities.

This "issue" is like the rights weird war on X-mas.

Posted by Matlock on May. 23, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

Poisons everything. Name one thing that isn't infiltrated by blind belief in The Mighty Hand?

Posted by Guest Marcus Parrish on May. 26, 2013 @ 1:33 pm