As America has tragically become more violent, the phrase “drive-by shooting” first appeared in 1968. From that came the spin-off expression “drive-by media,” in which reporters swoop in on a story; publish sensational, incomplete, and perhaps untrue accusations; inflict damage on innocent people; then fly off to “cover” another story leaving wreckage in their wake.
“Drive-by media” sprang to my mind as I read the July 11 Roanoke Times article “Trump-appointed Patrick Henry grad garners attention with eyebrow-raising tweets”.
It was about a former PH student of mine, Merritt Corrigan, whom I taught some dozen years ago. The article quoted me and handled my comments honestly; for that I am thankful. However, I found the overall tenor of the piece unfair and misleading and thus feel compelled to write this today.
I enjoyed teaching Ms. Corrigan (and many other fine youth from great families) during my eleven-year stint at PH, where my primary assignment was team-teaching in an honors program called The Center for Humanities. I taught 9th grade world history and coordinated instruction with an English teacher in the same classroom.
Gleaned from ten months of classes five days a week, I personally observed that Corrigan was bright, articulate, diligent, skilled at working with her classmates, able to make connections, and able to view situations from multiple perspectives. This is why I found the Roanoke Times’ mis-characterization of her as some “bogeyman” so bizarre and unfair. In particular, I disagree with these points from the article:
It cites quotes without much context. Some of Corrigan’s comments seem “eyebrow-raising,” but most had scant context or background given. Without the context of the larger discussion, it is hard to know what Corrian was really saying or meant. When it comes to lifting snippets from a bigger conversation, the door swings both ways. In 1993 then Senator Joe Biden called members of a Confederacy group “fine people,” but don’t hold your breath waiting for the Roanoke Times to play up that little nugget.
The article also cited Facebook chatter as a source. Negativity and name-calling on social media are sadly endemic; it’s gotten so bad, many of us have sworn off it to detox. However, the article used several unflattering comments about Corrigan… as if that proves anything. A quick glance at most any social media today and you can find people trash-talking most anyone or anything. No news there.
It bashes an earlier America. One unhelpful remark was, “She was 1950’s oriented, even though she graduated in 2012.” I am not old enough to remember the 1950’s personally, so of course neither is Corrigan. The Fifties were not a perfect era–obviously no era is!–but at least it was less violent than America today. Let’s face it: that was the decade before someone coined the phrase “drive-by shooting.”
It ignores its own irony and self-contradiction. Some of her detractors claim Corrigan opposes women in the workforce. Maybe she does, but if that is true, why has she taken the professional route to go to college and work for the Hungarian embassy in DC and now the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)? It’s ironic: some of the people who claim to celebrate women working professional jobs are demanding her resignation from USAID, which would take a woman OUT of a professional position. Those who scream “Discrimination!” are themselves practicing viewpoint discrimination against Corrigan. Also, those same people who claim to celebrate women being independent-thinkers and speaking their mind are torqued up by this woman who dares to . . . (gasp!) think and say things they disagree with.
For most of my life I’ve heard the lament, “How can we encourage Roanoke Valley youth to be successful after school and go make their mark in the world?” Maybe one place to start is to celebrate those who go after their dream, even if we don’t agree with everything they say or do.