Trying to sully a man’s personal reputation by challenging his authenticity and questioning his heritage is not journalism—it’s a low blow.
Unfortunately, this type of tactic has become the norm rather the exception in today’s cutthroat media environment and in this country. Don’t like the other side’s position? Attack them on personal grounds. Try to raise doubts about his or her legitimacy.
Just look at what the opponents of President Obama have written and said about him. They’ve asked if he’s Black enough. They’ve questioned whether he’s Christian enough. They’ve even tried to force him to prove that he is American enough to have been elected legitimately.
The problem with attack journalism is that often, by the time the truth ultimately comes out and the person is vindicated, it’s too late and the damage has been done.
For those who step forward to serve at the highest levels of government they understand what they are getting into and know that it comes with the turf. They choose to subject themselves to unbelievable scrutiny and criticism because they seem to feel that the opportunity to wield power is worth the price they pay on a personal level.
But for others who don’t decide to put themselves out there in the manner of Presidential or Congressional candidates, ad hominem attacks can have true consequences. People get hurt. Careers can be derailed or even permanently destroyed. In the age of Google things never go away and are always just a click away somewhere online, regardless of the real facts or the sorely missing context.
Journalism should be about reporting the facts, not attempting to impugn the character of the person who possesses a different perspective.
Respectful discourse and civility are virtues that are sorely lacking in our media, in our churches, and on our streets. We should commit ourselves to reawakening them. We can and should do better.