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April 20, 2005

Vatican Coverage Atrocious

By Andrew Dobbs

I've had a passing interest in the selection of the new pontiff over the last couple of weeks as it is an incredibly important process that I've never had the chance to witness in my lifetime. Unfortunately for me the quality of news coverage of the event has been truly awful.

The biggest problem seems to be that the media seem to regard the process as something akin to American politics, and their mindset is so skewed towards covering American political processes that they shortchange both the conclave and the expectations that people have. Want proof that they are completely clueless? How about this article from the Christian Science Monitor which has the title "Benedict XVI will test religion's 'red-blue' divide" and this quote:

Supporters welcome a global figure unwilling to water down his faith. Others see his election as widening the global religious "red-blue" divide between conservative moral absolutists and liberals of all faiths who say religion must be more inclusive.

I suppose that the idea is valid, but the rhetoric of a "red-blue" divide is so inane as to immediately cause severe nausea in conscientious readers. The fact that the colors chosen by network news broadcasts during the 2000 elections are now being applied to theological debates among the world's oldest Christian church is idiotic at best and downright blasphemous at worst.

And the media's conception of this divide is also completely wrong. The fact of the matter is that if you let Michael Moore and Gloria Steinem pick the most liberal cardinal in the entire conclave, the person would still be against abortion, gay marriage, female ordination, allowing priests to marry and contraception. In any system, including ours, there are things which are so bedrock that nobody within respectable discourse questions their value. Nobody in American politics wants to get rid of the Senate or elect the President for life or legalize child pornography. Those things are so basic as to be unquestionable. In the same way, Catholic teachings on the sanctity of human life, the sexual purity and patricarchal nature of the clergy (and I don't use that term in a derogatory way, simply descriptive) and traditional family strucuture are so basic as to have very little opposition in the mainstream of the Church's hierarchy. To call Benedict XVI or any of the cardinals "conservative" because they support the traditional values of the Church is like calling Ted Kennedy a "conservative" because he doesn't want to legalize heroin.

The American media are forcing American political debates and American political processes on a system that is almost 10 times as old as our Republic and operates on a completely different plane. To define Catholic "liberals" and "conservatives" by the issues of gay marriage, abortion and women's liberation is to ignore the truly salient discussions in the Church- local control versus centralization, liturgical reform, political economy, etc. We need some intelligent discussion on these topics, and God knows (I mean that in the most literal sense) that it won't come from CNN and the Christian Science Monitor.

Posted at 02:38 PM to That Liberal Media | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

The New Republicans strike again

By Jim Dallas

I was pretty revved up about the newest edition of TNR, which has a cover story on health care.

It also sports an otherwise commendable review of Roy Moore's new book by Richard Just, which comes to an enlightening conclusion:

Admittedly, among the reasons to bring freedom to the Muslim world, disproving Roy Moore ranks low, to say the least. But Moore, however zany a character, does speak for a well-organized, if extreme, wing of American politics. Alan Keyes, Zell Miller, Richard Shelby, Oliver North, James Dobson, and Ann Coulter all endorsed his book; one can assume they accept Moore's central argument about the necessary link between Christianity and American freedom. As Moore himself points out, a statewide poll taken at the height of the Ten Commandments controversy showed that 77 percent of Alabama residents supported his decision. Presumably many, if not most, of those 77 percent accept the underlying logic of Moore's argument. We liberals can deride Moore as a nut; but we cannot pretend that he is an isolated nut. An empirical blow to the logic of his view that America is a Christian country would not end the debate over separation of church and state. But neither would it be irrelevant to that debate.

But just as it looks like we're going to get through more or less free of wankery, Just goes and takes an un-necessary gratuitous swipe:

There's a larger point to be made here. It's no coincidence that the spread of freedom in the Muslim world would undermine the arguments of right-wing Christians here at home. The struggle to spread freedom isn't a theological crusade, as the illiberal denizens of the Democratic Party's left-wing have convinced themselves; it is a liberal fight, and it always has been and always will be, no matter the party or the considerable shortcomings of the president who at the moment has managed to make it his own. The success of that fight will undercut the logic of religious fanatics everywhere--in the Middle East, in other regions of the world, and, yes, even at home. Is Roy Moore concerned about the prospect of a liberal, democratic Iraq? Somehow I doubt it. Should he be? If he believes what he argues in So Help Me God, then yes.

There really is no end to this nonsense, is there? For the last time, most everybody on the anti-war left is in favor of more freedom in the Middle East. The only person, of the hundreds of people on the left I've ever met who would be against that proposition is an avowed Maoist, an he hates Democrats for being part of the "capitalist system."

What left-wing Democrats are against is military acion for which "expanding freedom" is only a pathetic post hoc justification.

It is sad that the writers of a national magazine take so much pleasure in beating up straw-men. Maybe when The New Republic is "liberated" by a new editorial staff (one that can make a simple point without trying to knive the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party"), I'll reconsider my animus towards that publication.

Posted at 12:58 PM to That Liberal Media | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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