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The Difference Between Listening And Hearing

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The Difference Between Listening And Hearing

The Difference Between Listening And Hearing

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Two famous people recently expressed thoughts about a controversial topic. We've asked other people to read their words. See if you know who said what, and if you detect a difference of opinion.

Unidentified Man: Well, I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what? In my country and in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there.

SIMON: Now, who said that? Some Cambridge-educated novelist? Or a free-thinking Anglican bishop who still abides by his church?

Actually, it was Carrie Prejean, who this week retained her title as Miss California. The clip of her answer at the Miss USA pageant has been sent around the world — and widely lampooned. Doesn't it sound different in a plummy accent? Now, who do you think said this?

Unidentified Woman: I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.

SIMON: Is that line left over from Miss California? Or some young missionary at an evangelical conference? As a matter of fact, it was President Obama.

Donald Trump suggested this week that people who ridicule Carrie Prejean for opposing gay marriage should remember that she has the same position as President Obama. Yet many people who like and admire the president see him as friendly to same-sex marriage. Ms. Prejean has been mocked as some kind of beach-blond California airhead; or worse, a bigot.

If you point out, as I have to a couple of emailers, that the president's opinion on gay marriage is more or less identical, the same people dismiss it as a painful insincerity he is forced to adopt — because of people like Miss California.

Which is a terrible insult to President Obama. It suggests that while Miss California speaks her mind because she doesn't know better, the president knows better but is being disingenuous.

I played this little exercise this week because it may show how people — especially intelligent people — hear what they want to. They like the president and know he's smart so they assume he agrees with them, even when he says otherwise. People who are sure they would never slur someone because of religion or race will belittle a 22-year-old because she's a beauty queen, and cannot possibly hold the same opinion as someone they admire.

Makes it a bit harder but more important to do real journalism, and sometimes tell an audience we know what you think you know. But listen to this.

(Soundbite of song, "Falling in Love Again")

Ms. MARLENE DIETRICH (Singer): (Singing) Falling in love again, never wanted to, what am I to do, I can't help it. Love's always been my game…

SIMON: The great Dietrich.

This is NPR News.

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