In a brief but fine little article Paul Handley observes
Individuals or groups with a narrow, sectarian interest are frequently represented in the media as representing “Christians”. There are three types of culprit: the unscrupulous reporter or, more typically, broadcast producer, who simply seeks good copy; the busy journalist who has time only to contact those who are readily available; and the “religious pundit”, who has the spurious weight of some sort of organisation behind him or her. Because these together have brought religion in the secular media to such a low pitch, there is a fourth culprit: the sensible, knowledgeable practitioner who understandably puts other priorities above correcting false media impressions.
In this light, we commend the new Theos report on the supposed Religious Right in the UK. Its authors examine the credentials of those organisations most often cited as examples of a right-ward shift, and find, in sum, that they have neither the support, the organisation, the connections, nor the policies to constitute a political movement that corresponds to the Christian Right in the United States, which is, itself, experiencing the doldrums after the recent Republican defeat. And yet these organisations are the source of the persecution narrative that has now been accepted as the normal experience of Christians in the UK.
And best of all
We therefore recognise the sentiments behind this description of these organisations by someone from one of the more mainstream groups, the executive director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, Colin Bloom: “They are so marginalised where it matters that they’re irrelevant. They’re only relevant to a lazy journalistic clique that try and create a polemic for good TV or good radio. . . They want to get the most extreme voices and say, ‘you represent the Evangelical Christian Right’ – and these people are mad!”
This is CERTAINLY exactly what is done here in the States as well. When you hear reports on the news concerning ‘Evangelicals’ you hear only the most extreme voices. These are the most un-evangelical of the Evangelicals. But it’s good tv in just the same way that pseudo-archaeology and bogus fictive claims about the bones of Jesus’ family or the discovery of ‘Noah’s Ark’ are good pseudo-documentary. Garbage sells. The more garbage, the more public notice. And news outlets, cable channels, and many publishers know it. Which is why they produce it.
It’s essentially the same thing as happens when there’s a tornado. The media doesn’t find an articulate soul to interview, they find the inarticulate toothless dullard who lacks a shirt and breeding and they interview that person. It’s good tv.
So when the media tell you something that ‘Evangelicals’ are saying or doing you can be fairly certain that what they’re really describing is something some lunatic fringe group is doing or saying. Hence, what they’re really producing never existed in mainstream Evangelicalism. And that makes it a lie.