The Difference Between Listening And Hearing Comparing a couple of quotes about gay marriage shows that while people may be listening, some of them — especially intelligent people — often hear what they want to, which isn't necessarily the same thing as what was said.

The Difference Between Listening And Hearing

The Difference Between Listening And Hearing

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Two famous people recently expressed thoughts on a controversial topic. See if you know who said what, and if you detect a difference of opinion.

"Well I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or another. 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 marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there."

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. Imagine it said in a plummy British accent — doesn't it sound different?

Now who do you think said this?

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

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-blonde California airhead, or worse, a bigot.

If you point out, as I have to a couple of e-mailers, 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 play 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.

It 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."