The New York Times Discovers the Boy Scouts
The New York Times marks the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America with a truly egregious article and photo that run under the headline "Boy Scouts Seek a Way to Rebuild Ranks."
The best indication of the vast cultural gulf separating people involved in Boy Scouts from people who report and edit the Times probably was in the photo cutline that ran with the story. "Boy Scouts said their pledge at the recent National Scout Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill, Va. The organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year." As any Boy Scout would know, there is no Boy Scout "pledge." There's a Scout Law, and a Scout Oath (or Promise).
It goes in that vein. The Times sneers at the Scouts' size: "In the last decade alone, membership has dropped by more than 16 percent, to 2.8 million." No mention of what has happened to the Times's circulation or advertising over that period, or of the fact that, at 2.8 million, there are still a lot more Boy Scouts than New York Times subscribers.
The story claims that scouting "bars gay people and atheists," though the reality of the matter is less clear-cut. I was a scout for a long time and was never asked any questions about my sexual orientation. I'm not endorsing the scout policy, but if the Times is going to describe it, it'd probably be more accurate to say the organization has a policy of barring openly gay people from leadership positions.
Then the story makes reference to "the secret files that the Scouts' national office in Texas has kept for more than 70 years of claims of sexual abuse by troop leaders and volunteers." Troop leaders in scouting are volunteers, almost without exception. And what non-governmental organization would have such files be kept publicly and risk tarring someone with a false accusation, or inadvertently identifying to the public the identity of a victim? The reference to "secret files" makes it sound somehow scandalous. Had the scouts discarded the information and not kept it on file, they'd probably be accused of negligence or destroying evidence.
If anything, there's probably less of this stuff in Boy Scouts than in public schools or the Catholic Church, and there's certainly no evidence that there's more of it, so there's no reason for the Times to dwell on it the way it does.
The Times also manages to find a picture of Boy Scouts aiming rifles and an instructor certified by the National Rifle Association, when it could just have easily found scouts tying knots or building fires or learning first-aid skills from an instructor certified by the Red Cross. The Red Cross doesn't feed the scouts-are-a-bunch-of-homophobic-gun-loving-rednecks theme as well as the National Rifle Association does, though.
The Times also omits the whole controversy about President Obama skipping the jamboree, which the Washington Post had covered.
Disclosure: I am an Eagle Scout and had a great experience in scouting, though I haven't been active for years.
Reader comments on this item
Comment on this item
Subscribe to the Mailing List