Disclosure

Originally posted yesterday morning:

Let me open this by acknowledging that I’m a community member of Marriage Equality Rhode Island and the separate but associated action group Providence Equality Action Coalition (see Facebook page), who are acting as local organisers for Equality Across America. I am a longtime gay activist with a number of prior affiliations, including once moderating an LGBT discussion board when I was on the Board of Directors of Ocean State FreeNet.

Disclosure is an important part of public discourse, particularly in media and political spheres, where a person’s involvement and affiliations communicate important information about their role in subjects of discussion. While most ordinary citizens can’t be expected to fully understand this and act accordingly, in media and politics failure of disclosure is practically a crime.

In a letter in Saturday’s ProJo, one Dr. Michelle Cretella offers a mostly pointless remark in reference to the ongoing battle over gay marriage in Rhode Island. Her actual remarks demand little attention (just another reason, besides ProJo’s awful and unfriendly website, not to link it here), but her lack of disclosure does, as both she and ProJo failed to disclose that she’s on the Advisory Board for the National Organization for Marriage’s Rhode Island chapter (NOM-RI).

Readers might also care to know that Dr. Cretella is a pediatrician practicing in Hope Valley, and a member of not one, but two largely discredited professional organisations deeply opposed to same-sex marriage, gay parenting, and, to some extent, gays in general: NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (where she’s a member of their Ad Hoc Committee on Homosexuality and Scientific Research); and the American College of Pediatricians. (In fact, she’s on the Board.)

Associated with ex-gay and conversion groups Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality and Focus on the Family’s ‘Love Won Out,’ NARTH advocates therapy to help people overcome unwanted homosexuality — a position recently criticised by the American Psychological Association as possibly harmful to subjects’ mental health. The American College of Pediatricianss was set up in 2002 for those pediatricians who reject gay parenting as endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (60,000 members), and shares similar views to NARTH.

These groups feel strongly that gay parenting is unhealthy, and homosexuality in general probably is, too. It’s only natural that a pediatrician with these affiliations would oppose gay marriage, and that’s probably why Dr. Cretella has signed on with NOM-RI. But it’s still ultimately a personal position on her part, and it would be fair of her to alert readers to these affiliations.

For those curious, here’s the complete list of NOM-RI’s Advisory Board. (See note at bottom about sourcing.)

David Carlin, Ph.D.
– Former R.I. State Senator (’81-92) and once Senate Majority Leader. Author of Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?: How the Party I Loved Became the Enemy of my Religion, and The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America. Currently teaching at CCRI Newport.

Michael Casey
– (Not sure who he is, and it’s a common name. Anyone know? A couple rumours I’ve picked up suggest that he’s either a business teacher at RIC or a business reporter in South County.)

Joseph Cavanaugh, Jr., Esq.
– R.I. native. Former hockey star and NHL Hall of Famer. Represented ProJo during Klaus von Bulow trial. Twice selected a Super Lawyer. Currently managing partner of Blish & Cavanaugh, Providence (who were a sponsor of NOM’s Marriage and Family Day). Firm currently represents ProJo in First Amendment cases. (ProJo thoughtfully did disclose this.)

Stephen Ciolfi
– Longtime (30 years) USPS employee. Longtime Knights of Columbus member, achieving State Deputy (highest state-level office). Board of Directors for McGivney Foundation for Vocations, and Advisory Committee of Alzheimer’s Cure Foundation.

Rev. John C. Codega
– Pastor of Church of Christ the King (RCC) in Centreville, West Warwick; Chaplain of R.I. Men of St. Joseph (a men’s support group that he has likened to Promise Keepers).

Michelle Cretella, M.D.
– Pediatrician in Hope Valley. Member of NARTH and Board member of American College of Pediatricians. Outspoken critic of gay marriage and gay parenting; has written or co-written several pieces on these and related issues.

Daniel Harrop, M.D.
– Psychiatrist and president of R.I. Catholic Medical Society. Board of Ocean State Policy Research Institute (along with Sue Carcieri). Member of Knights of Columbus. Former chairman of R.I. Libertarians. Ran for Mayor of Providence as Republican (against Cicilline).

Ralph Miech, M.D., Ph.D.
– Associate Professor, Emeritus, Brown University School of Medicine Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology. Best known for supposedly discovering that Ru-486 is dangerous (though his conclusions are disputed). Has devoted his life to developing a form of conception that comports with Catholic morality.

Scott Spear, Esq.
– Partner in Blish & Cavanaugh (see above). Formerly agent for charitable Bess Eaton Foundation, before company sold out to Wendy’s. This is probably how Tim Hortons got draw into the sponsorship controversy over NOM’s Marriage and Family Day, as Tim Hortons in Rhode Island is in essence the successor to Bess Eaton. Also, the Downtown Providence branch of Tim Hortons is in the same building as NOM-RI head Christopher Plante’s law office, which serves as the contact address for NOM-RI. In The Good News Today, Plante credits the Marriage Day to Spear as his “brainchild.”

And last but certainly not least..
the Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence (RCC)
– You already know him, presumably

This list is from information they provided on paper at last month’s Marriage and Family Day. It does not appear on their website (which is only one page). The only other place I’ve seen it is in the ProJo, who probably got it the same way. The bios come from my own research, and may contain errors. Corrections welcome.

6 thoughts on “Disclosure”

  1. Annie Messier

    Err, last line was meant in a non-creepy, non-Google kind of way ; )

  2. Annie Messier

    Wesli: this is a wonderful list that others haven’t bothered/dared to print.

    Mangeek: yikes! The evils of marketing. Good for you for not trusting your instincts on whichever post that was.

    Frymaster: always Pulitzer potential somewhere!

    General comment: it’s not just blogs that need to be taken with a grain of salt. There’s an interesting article in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education on how ghostwriters with special interests are endangering the integrity of medical journals. Seems some companies are selling/offering their services to provide data to overtaxed, under-resourced academic writers–that are secretly backed by pharmaceutical companies trying to influence readers toward its own research or products. Who knows what other forms of writing are influenced by money/power as much as/more than a desire to voice their thoughts? Lots not to trust out there. I do like the Daily Dose, though–good opinions, disclosures the few times they’ve been necessary, and Providence is small enough that it’s possible to meet or find out about most of the PDD community.

  3. MG, over on Confused of Calcutta, mega-uber-geek JP Rangaswami has a mini-post that’s mostly a quote from Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide…) about – YOU GOT IT – trust on these interwebs. An excerpt:

    –> “What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.”<–

    Wess, I think you sell us short. Some one of us could certainly win a Pulitzer, if we did the work. I think serious bloggers are far too solicitous of journos. Just look at the example here – utter failure to deliver the full story! Screw objectivity – it would be fine if ProJo had said “Dr. Cretin leads the RI chapter of NOM, the greatest, purest, most Godly organization in all Creation, endorsed by 3-out-of-4 archangels…” At least they would have put out the facts. Did the journo not know (possible), not care (probable) or did the Eds just cynically cut out that IMPORTANT FACT (likely) as if we’d never know.

    To quote Bill Burroughs: Are we supposed to take this like a greased and nameless a**hole?!?

    Hell, no! We push back (see above for example), and that’s our job. We should doubt the MSM, we should doubt scammy/spammy commenters, we should doubt ourselves and our own limited understandings. But we shouldn’t be shy about saying what we think is important – fact or opinion – so it gets in the mix.

    As to real and actual objectivity, you’re right, Wess. No person (human being) can be objective. Objectivity can only come in the aggregate.

  4. Blogs have their own problems, though. For instance, when I pointed out in a comment by the user TONIGHTINRI that the comment sounded like a marketing pitch rather than a grassroots endorsement, I was told that I was being silly, and that the user is just your average Joe giving advice on where to eat.

    I had to do some digging (including talking to ‘clients’ of theirs, getting names, and googling phone numbers) to find out that they’re actually a promotional company, paid to market their clients on this blog and their own site.

    Unfortunately, my comments were deleted since the person who publishes an article has ultimate control over all comments made on it.

    There are similar issues with ‘mommy blogs’ that get paid cash or goods from companies to curry good reviews for their products. You never know who’s lurking behind these online monikers, it could be a regular person, or a team of PR personnel sitting around a laptop in a conference room at Exxon.

  5. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

    I should note that blogs are fundamentally different from mainstream media in the area of strict objectivity. While MSM holds itself to strict rules of objectivity, we mostly don’t pretend to in the blogsophere. (The original version of the above article, which I wrote for a private blog, includes some very nonobjective remarks. The above is actually digested from my much more fact-oriented commentary at ProJo, though those comments also include a lot more personal discussion on the philosophy of disclosure, which is mostly omitted here.)

    At the Agenda, we also freely acknowledged that we were not strictly objective. While MSM strives for objectivity, journalists as humans are all but incapable of true objectivity. We embraced our bias and proudly extolled it, often in strong language meant to inspire emotional responce. This is how we all are in real life, after all.

    I don’t disclaim the pursuit or intent of objective journalism: in fact, I champion it. But I will also acknowledge that it’s extremely hard work, and really worth doing only if you’re getting paid for it, which most of us are not. It’s also nowhere near as fun, though I’ve been repeatedly assured that it can be extremely satisfying in the afterglow, and it’s also the only way to win awards and professional plaudits. None of us at Agenda, PDD, Motif, or the like are ever going to win a Polk or a Pulitzer.

    But what we can and do accomplish is the bold recognition that all viewpoints are ultimately personal and inherently biased, and real public discourse is the difficult and often uncomfortable balance of the personal with the universal — how I feel, compared to how you and everyone else feels. And that society is the struggle to share a world we’re all stuck on together, whether we like each other or not.

    I might suggest that in that context, the main distinction of views is that liberals recognise this unfortunate necessity, while many conservatives feel it’s probably okay if some of us either die or go off to live on some other planet if we don’t want to live like they think we should. I won’t disclaim the latter out of hand, but I do suggest that until it’s actually possible for anyone to move off planet without having to die, it’s a very unhelpful and inconsiderate way of thinking — after all, I might be happier if some of them died or moved offworld instead of me.

    The U.S. does not belong to the churches or the religious conservatives. It belongs to all of us. I have my own views, and they’re no more or less valid than anyone else’s. I think the main point that sets mine apart from Mr. Plante’s is that I feel we have to get along and share this constitution, while he feels less inclined to fairly share the benefits of a cooperative society. The fruits of civilisation in his view are that those carried forward from the past (however one imagines it) belong to those in power, and others may go hungry. He may be dismayed when the balance of power shifts, as it inevitably must.

  6. I said this over on Matt’s Cranston half-way house story, and I’ll just go ahead and repeat myself.

    THIS. IS. WHY. BLOGS. RULE! Actual facts published for the betterment of the community. What’s that called…? Oh, right. Journalism. (Try it, ProJo. It’s quite tasty.)

    Sure, there’s only a dozen of us that read PDD, but AT LEAST THE DATA PERSIST!

    Sorry to yell, but I get worked up about how awesome we all are.

    Thanks, Wes.

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