Truth, CitizenLink and “Reliable People”

What does Focus on the Family do when they get caught in a lie? They tell three more.

Jim Burroway

July 3rd, 2007

We reported last week about Focus on the Family’s strange ability to see into the future when they reported — using the past tense — about the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference when it hadn’t occurred yet.

Well, they don’t like being called out as liars, so they are trying to defend their report. But CitizenLink associate editor Jennifer Mesko ends up digging the hole even deeper:

The article I wrote on Thursday included this line about the Exodus conference: “The meeting, which began Tuesday and wraps up Sunday, has drawn close to 1,000 people – and no protesters so far. Across town, a counter-conference drew about 100 people.”

Apparently miffed at the reference to “100 people,” [Ex-Gay Watch’s David] Roberts accused me of “supplying attendance figures seemingly out of thin air.” But I got the numbers from reliable people who attended both conferences – although their thinness is not a matter of record. [emphasis mine]

You see, she’s lying again. She admits that she wrote the article Thursday. That’s June 28th by my calendar. The conference didn’t start until Friday June 29th. I should know. I actually did attend both conferences, but I couldn’t say that until the evening of the twenty-ninth — more than twenty-four hours after her miraculous past-tense reporting.

That’s the same point David Roberts made at Ex-gay Watch, a point that Mesko utterly ignores.

So yes, she’s outright lying. Her “reliable people” simply couldn’t have “attended both conferences” when she wrote her story because the second conference hadn’t ocurred yet. Either she’s lying or her “reliable people” are lying, in which case they aren’t terribly reliable.

And so you see, since the conference hadn’t occurred yet, there is only one source her attendance figures could have possibly come from — thin air. Any associate editor who doesn’t have the simplest ability to check her facts should reconsider her occupational choice.

Ah, but it doesn’t end there. She cites this photo as proof that there were only “50 smiling counter-conferees.” Go ahead and click on the picture to get the full size version. Can you make out the little green dots on the badges? I know it’s hard to see, but look anyway.

Like at the Exodus conference, there was a strict rule at the Ex-Gay Survivor’s conference: only those who gave their permission to be photographed were photographed. Those who didn’t, weren’t. The green dots on the badges meant that they were giving their permission. Not everyone sported a green dot. No green dot, no photo. Mesko’s “reliable people” somehow missed that.

And besides that, the photo was taken at the end of the day. Many had left by then, including Mesko’s “reliable friends” and the other handful of people from Exodus who attended the Ex-Gay Survivor’s conference. By the way, I don’t think any of the visitors from the Exodus conference had green dots on their badges.

But of course, Mesko’s “reliable people” didn’t see that either. Maybe because they weren’t there. They must have gone to some other “counter-conference” that took place on June 28th, but I wouldn’t know which conference that was. After all, it was a full day before the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference.

Now, you’d think I’d be finished with Ms. Mesko, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong. There’s one last thing:

Other bloggers claimed the conference (which resembled, but was not a counter-conference), scored close to 1,000 people.

This is the first I’ve seen anyone claim that figure. I challenge Mesko to find any serious blogger who says there were anything close to 1,000. MySpace and Friendsters don’t count.

How many attended? I don’t know. I haven’t seen any figures. But I’d guess that probably something more than a hundred, maybe something less that 150. Beyond that, it’s a guess. (Update: Peterson Toscano says they counted about 175. Christine Bakke has even more attendance info. It looks like our little conference was nearly three times the size of the first Exodus conference.)

My own little workshop alone, one of three taking place concurrently, outdrew Exodus’s first conference. They drew only sixty-two people according to Exodus’s official history pamphlet I bought at their conference. Not bad for a first effort.

Mesko says this:

As Christian journalists, we adhere as best we can to truth and accuracy. But many of those on the other side of the issues we fight – particularly bloggers – aren’t guided by those principles.

Bloggers can post whatever they want, whenever they want. I admit, it often seems credible. They seem like real journalists. Only without the degree. Without the editors. Without the accountability.

Standards of truth and accuracy would mean that if you’re going to write about a conference that already happened, you’d actually wait for it to happen already. Not a full day before it even started. That’s a pretty fundamental standard. Apparently Ms. Mesko thinks Christian journalists aren’t guided by those principles.

Jennifer Mesko can post whatever she wants, whenever she wants. But the more she posts the less credible she becomes. These Christian journalists could probably stand to have a different editor. A real editor. With accountability. And maybe even an ounce of integrety.

Hat tip: Scott H.

See also:

Focus on the Family Associate Editor Protests Being Corrected, by David Roberts, at Ex-Gay Watch.

Peterson Toscano

July 3rd, 2007

Hey Jim, I heard from Kara, our the registrar for the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference, who said that with all the people who registered and attended on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we counted 175 (plus the Exodus folks and a few others who dropped in and didn’t register and all the folks who only came for the events in the evening that were free and open to the public).

We announced the conference in April of this year (less than three months ago), so we were thrilled with these numbers. Folks from Australia, Canada, England, Florida, New York, etc.

But more importantly really thrilled with the deep conversations, the sharing and the healing that took place.


July 3rd, 2007

People have a choice when they speak or write things:

1). tell the truth
2). lie
3). say nothing

Ms. Lesko has a choice, she should carefully consider which one is most important to her.


July 3rd, 2007

Anyone should have serious questions about an organization that claims Christian values and has a consistent pattern of misleading and distortion in its postings on the Internet. And even more so when the writers of those postings do not take responsibility when they make a mistake. In this case, CitizenLink got it wrong and should take responsibility for that, particularly given their stated principle (per Ms. Mesko) of adhering to truth and accuracy. But no, we get a copout, an attempt to deflect the discussion with a cheap shot at the integrity of bloggers and the smug assumption that I would just take the bloggers’ word for it. Well for the record, I knew the time and location of the Survivors’ Conference long before I read the post at XGW. So when I read the CitizenLink article dated 6/28/2007 about a conference that didn’t start until 6/30/2007, I knew the article was inaccurate there and then. I didn’t need any of the bloggers Ms. Mesko thinks are so biased to tell me what my own eyes showed me. To put it another way, I knew the truth, and what CitizenLink tried to pass as truth was nothing of the kind.


July 4th, 2007

Nice to hear you had a good turnout Peterson.

I’m guessing 80% of your 175 were ex-ex-gays.

I’m also guessing that the Exodus conference didn’t have that high a percentage of ex-gays at their conference. If the crowd was anything like the Love One Out crowd I witnessed in Palm Springs, it was mostly parents of gays, concerned church goers and ministers.

I’ll bet if we could find a way to screen those people out of Exodus’ attendance figures, you guys probably ended up with more people who were actually a part of the ex-gay/ex-ex world.


July 4th, 2007

Actually, we just got an update that there were almost 200 people there because we had not been including walk-up scholarship folks. (And these numbers do not include those who came to the free events on Friday and Saturday nights).

This number counts those who were only able to come for Saturday afternoon and Sunday, and those who were only able to come for Saturday morning, so someone walking through the grounds at a break time might say they only saw 150 people, and they’d probably be right.

I just put the numbers here for those who are interested, but personally, I don’t really care about the numbers.

If we had 25 people come, I would have felt the conference was a success. It was not about the numbers for us, it was about creating a space to help folks.

We had so many people who felt that their lives were changed from this event, and others who saw some hope for their future because of attending. To me, that’s the true measure of success.

Jim Burroway

July 4th, 2007

Unlike Mesko’s “reliable people” I actually did attend both conferences.

The Exodus conference is very different from Love Won Out. I’d say most of the people there (more than 80% by my guess) were “strugglers.”

Everyone has abandoned the term “ex-gay” at Exodus. But Exodus leaders don’t have an alternate word. Ordinary folks however often outrun their leaders in coining terminology, and Exodus is no exception. They call themselves “strugglers,” although I suspect the leaders are still casting about for a more marketable term.


July 4th, 2007

Oh, and P.S.

Obviously, at $40 for the registration fee, the numbers do not mean anything to us because we never intended to, or thought we could, break even. This conference will be paid for almost entirely by donations (um, we hope).

So I think folks can rest assured that when I say I didn’t care much about the numbers as an indication of success, I am being honest (and actually, those who know me will know that I am almost incapable of lying anyway).

Of course, we did want as many former ex-gay folks to attend as possible, because our goal was not to create a statement with our numbers, but to further healing and wholeness, and attempt to undo some of the damage for those in attendance.


July 5th, 2007

It seems rather chic these days for just about anyone to claim the name “journalist,” a term which has become a widely-used description for anyone engaged in wholesale propaganda.

Just as anyone can claim their dedication to “truth” and “accuracy” is even more profound because they claim to be “Christian,” adherence to certain professional standards is what separates irresponsible reporting from wholesale manufacturing of the news. Mesko apparently happily falls into the category of manufacturing, not only staining the profession but managing to tarnish an entire religion as well.

The inability of an “associate editor” to distinguish between wished opinion and supportable fact (characterized by references to unnamed people as attribution) would normally not meet any journalistic standards for publication. And Mesko’s attempt to link “Christian” and “journalist” as if the two terms together arrogantly translates to some higher professional standard looks more like evidence that Mesko is likely unrelated to either of those terms.

Which part of the “Christian” religion mandates deliberate lying?


July 5th, 2007

Let’s just stop calling it Christianity and just refer to it as the Jesus Mob or the Cosa de Nostra Cruces. Its just the Bonnano family with government approval and a tax exemption to boot.

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