Today’s growing trend of advocacy journalism, now happening along the broad liberal-to-conservative spectrum, has resulted in a media that is now more one-sided than ever. Media outlets often hear one side of a story and, if it fits their pre-determined narrative, will run with it uncritically and without a full fact check. By not covering both sides, the final report becomes a casualty of not covering an issue in a fair and balanced way, often combined with a lack of diligence in research.
One-sidedness has also become a more common phenomenon among atheist bloggers and organizations. The Freedom from Religion Foundation and American Atheists, who have a political agenda or worldview to promote, use the many media channels at their disposal. Following the pattern of the mainstream media in one-sided reportage of biblical Christianity, atheist groups and secular bloggers have become even more unfair and hostile in their treatment of ministries like Answers in Genesis. In fact, over the years, we have reported on several instances where secularists have tried to set us up, often by pretending to be journalists or reporters when they were actually just blogger/agitators.
Sadly, over the years, many such agitators have tried a variety of methods to infiltrate, undermine, and set traps for AiG, trying to damage our reputation. They simply do not want organizations like AiG to have the freedom to exist. These anti-Christian opponents have been exhibiting an increasing intolerance of anyone who does not agree with their beliefs.
Squashing a Rumor
As one example, we have been attempting to squash a rumor that made the round this past week as atheist bloggers and others once again misrepresented AiG’s Ark Encounter. We certainly don’t expect secularists (who in their worldview ultimately have no basis for absolute morality and truth) to follow the admonition of Proverbs 18:17, where we are instructed to hear both sides of a story before coming to a conclusion. However, even by basic journalistic ethics and standards, seeking balance and fairness in reporting is the right thing to do, even for bloggers.
Even by basic journalistic ethics and standards, seeking balance and fairness in reporting is the right thing to do, even for bloggers.
A simple incident at the Ark Encounter was recently totally blown out of proportion as atheists and other secularists went public in a viral way, without getting the other side of the story. In fact, they have been perpetuating a lie.
A gentleman who visited the Ark Encounter on March 5 possessing some recording devices is the type of guest we want to visit the Ark: a non-Christian. There was no issue at all with the man recording his experience at the Ark, until he violated (probably unintentionally) a park policy about videotaping our videos shown inside the Ark. In fact, he had already been through much of the Ark exhibits, and it wasn’t until he was at the bow of the third deck that he was engaged regarding the Ark policy. Here is what really happened, regardless of what atheist bloggers might claim.
The guest, who has his own YouTube channel, visited the Ark last Sunday. The problem occurred when the man started recording the videos that we show on the Ark’s screens and monitors. On the third deck, which is the end of a visitor’s Ark experience, the guest was spotted recording the film The Interview. (We have the incident saved on video.) A public safety officer courteously informed him that, by policy, he could not record such films, as well as exhibits where Ark videos were a part of the display. That is because many of the images seen in these Ark videos are copyright restricted—i.e., we do not own the rights to many images, like the photographs and certain video clips that we purchased the rights to use. Thus, we can’t transfer the rights to another party to use the images in their videos, even if it’s for noncommercial purposes.
The Ark’s videotaping policy is printed on the brochure that every guest receives when they purchase a ticket. Attractions like Disney World and Universal Studios and museums like the Smithsonian all have detailed written policies concerning the taking of photographs and videos. Most have various restrictions depending on the attraction or exhibit. Some museums forbid photography and videotaping altogether.
On the brochure Ark guests receive, the policy clearly states, "Please do not record the video presentations." It's understandable that guests may not read the entire brochure and will miss this policy. So, if a guest unwittingly records the copyright-restricted Ark videos and it comes to our staff's attention, we will respectfully ask the guest to comply with the policy and not record those videos since they contain licensed copyright material that we don’t have the right to share. Even though the guest was asked not to shoot the videos shown inside the Ark, he was still free to videotape 99% of the rest of the Ark. In one of his posted videos, you can see staff noticing that he was recording our exhibits but were not concerned because they are aware that videotaping of the exhibits is permitted. Very few attractions allow as much videotaping and photography as we do at both the Ark and Creation Museum attractions—AiG very much wants people to take information home with them to continue their Ark experience.
The guest claimed that he was stopped because he was videotaping a dinosaur exhibit. As we assured the man later in a phone call, that was not the case at all. Thousands of people have probably videotaped or taken photos of that particular exhibit without incident since we opened last July. The issue had everything to do with the guest’s videotaping of our videos and films. In the video that he posted, the guest himself shows a clip of the officer stating that he could not record an exhibit “with video in it.” He repeats the policy a few seconds later, that guests could not “video the videos.”
The guest was not arrested as he falsely claimed and as has been reported on many blogs. Instead, he was asked to step into a side room, away from the exhibit area (to avoid the possibility of creating a public scene). That room is where he was asked to stop recording the video presentations. While in the side room, and after the officer twice informed the man that he could not “video the videos,” the guest was asked to delete the portions where he had videotaped the Ark videos. (He did not have to delete his entire recording of the Ark exhibits.) The guest responded to the officer’s request, “That’s not going to happen.” Our public safety officer firmly but politely (as verified by both video and audio recording of the incident) informed the guest that because he would not abide by the video policy, he would have to leave the premises.
At his consent, the guest, who was never arrested, was transported in an Ark public safety vehicle back to his truck in the parking lot. The man even stated, "Wow, I get first-class service."
Previously he had remarked on his YouTube video that the Ark staff was "extremely nice and helpful." The only thing that changed in the service he received occurred after his refusal to accept a public safety officer’s courteous warning about the park’s prohibition of recording Ark videos. He received a warning and would have been allowed to continue videotaping inside the Ark (except for the videos), but he chose not to accept the policy (which was printed in the brochure that he had held in his hand). Therefore, he was asked to leave.
Thankfully, it is rare for guests to be escorted off the property. We welcome everyone, skeptics most of all, to take in the experience of our attractions and be exposed to a different worldview that is largely censored from the public arena. To this end, we market the Ark heavily in the “secular” media as well as Christian media. Indeed, we want skeptics and other non-Christians to remain on-site to hear our messages. But they must follow the park’s reasonable policies as well as copyright law, and must heed the instructions of the park’s public safety officials. If not, they may be asked to leave.
Too Much to Ask for Fair Reporting?
It should be noted that each year we have had hundreds of thousands of people with varying religious backgrounds and of different cultures visit the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. Rarely do we encounter a problem with any guest. But just like any attraction, guests must adhere to a park’s policies. It’s important that we enforce any copyright restrictions placed on us for the sake of our own integrity as we comply with our agreements with copyright holders.
We fully expect many of those who don’t agree with us to publish reports criticizing our beliefs.
We fully expect many of those who don’t agree with us to publish reports criticizing our beliefs. But is it too much to ask that they report honestly and do some fact checking so they don’t spread false information, as has happened in this Ark instance? I wonder if someone who was escorted from Disney World for refusing to heed a park policy would get some bloggers up in arms as we have seen in this Ark instance? Or is it because we are a Christian group with a Christian message? When someone claims something (even if false) and our good name is attacked, it is immediately accepted by secularists and spread through the Internet—creating more fake news and another urban legend. And as secularists know very well, once a rumor (no matter how false) spreads through the media and Internet, it is almost impossible to retract or counter.