Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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This got the juices flowing

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Vancouver, just reading the Globe and Mail, "Canada’s national newspaper." You’d think I’d know better, having spent eight years of my life being irritated by this rag. But it was free, and I’m a sucker.

Today’s G & M contains the following column (available only to premium subscribers on-line, but please, please don’t give these people any money):

Pope’s protracted death a PR-boon for Catholicism

Pope John Paul II was the first pope to die in the era of the 24-hour cable-news network. He was not the first celebrity: The mourning of Diana, Princess of Wales, probably came close to rivalling his in terms of sheer broadcast hours. But John Paul took much longer to die than producers had planned, and his dying days pushed the constant-news medium to its conceptual limit....

This event was also the best illustration we have yet seen of how the presence of a constant visual news flow actually shapes perceptions and thus alters history. What the news channels did, out of the necessity of their schedules, was to vastly inflate both the significance of an event and the popularity of a man. [Come again?] They instantly canonized a pope who had up to that point been characterized by the secular media as at best controversial and at worst regressive. they quickly convinced themselves that they were all Catholic. And they probably changed forever how a Pope’s death will be seen and understood.

Let me stop here to catch my breath, for this is breathtaking stuff. Russell Smith, the author of this column (a self-described "skeptical atheistic urbanite"), taxes the media with altering our view of Pope John Paul II, "canonizing" him when the truth (established also by the media, i.e., by those "skeptical atheistic urbanites" like himself) is that he was "at best controversial" and "at worst regressive." O.K., here’s some more, after a brief summary of the Schiavo and Easter coverage :

It has been an extremely good month for the Catholic church, PR-wise. [Which matters to whom?] The sheer number of priests on American airwaves in the last month must itself dispel the notion of liberal media bias. [Which Smith is doing his darnedest to re-establish, bless his heart.]

Certainly, a great many of the world’s one billion Catholics seriously loved and admired the man and feel genuine grief and loss at his death. And this grief, and the gathering of great crowds in churches and public places around the world, is a genuinely newsworthy event [gee, ya think?], and provides a stock of genuinely moving imagery about the power of faith. It is also arguably good for skeptical atheistic urbanites like myself to be reminded that although we may be overrepresented in the media, we really do not represent most people.

It’s tempting to give him this last word, but the next paragraph is just too smug, stupid, and infuriating to let go:

But there are certain other facts which did not appear, at least for the first five days of the death-watch. Such as: One billion is still only one-sixth of the whole. That is, five-sixths of the world’s population--and about three-quarters of the U.S. population--is not Catholic. [Does this mean we shouldn’t care about the death of a world-historical figure, whom many non-Catholics admired immensely?] John Paul II was not, it turns out, a great reconciler and revolutionary, but a hard-line conservative whose refusal to endorse safe sex in Africa makes him complicit in that continent’s holocaust.

I can’t take any more. This guy wins the Christopher Hitchens Award, hands down. Hitchens is at least smart, literate, and witty. Russell Smith lacks any of those (somewhat) redeeming qualities. By his obtuseness, he disqualifies himself as a serious commentator on even the secular significance of the reign of Pope John Paul II.

The column continues for another four paragraphs of ranting and lamenting that religion is getting so much (too much) airtime. While we, of course, should see the Pope for what he was, as defined by the non-sensational, truth-seeking secular print media. Heh.

Update: David Mills thinks this is even worse. He’s right. And this, via Get Religion, ranks with the G & M piece.

Discussions - 11 Comments

Don’t you figure there’s a very special place in Hell for this writer?

That’s interesting. I thought that the Pope advocated sex within a marriage and abstinence as being the true way to promote love, family, and propagation of the human race, not to mention stop AIDS and other diseases. Should John Paul be blamed that people are having sex absent a moral framework to satisfy their own pleasures? He offered them a physical, moral, and spiritual way out of the crisis.

Dear Professor Knippenberg - Fortunately a good many Canadians regard the Glob and Wail as a self-righteous rag. It represents the view of Toronto/Ottawa salons just as the New York Times represents the salons of Manhattan’s upper east side.

The National Post - once owned by Conrad Black and where the mighty David Steyn once wrote - has better coverage of the Pope and just about everything else. Also consult Father Raymond de Souza’s columns there. The NP isn’t as good as when Black owned it, but it’s better than the Glob.

Sorry you had a waste a valuable loonie to buy the Glob.

Tom Cerber

Safe sex in Africa - The U.N. version is starving 10 year old girls until they put out for a candy bar. It is a sin to hate this guy, but what the hell.

I know better than to spend money on the G & M. The hotel hands it out.

Next time you’ll have to go to Calgary. Hotels hand out the National Post there. It’s a much healthier city (politically speaking) than Vancouver and the Left Coast.

Some time ago National Review had an article on AIDs in Africa. One nation among others was making good progress in cutting the AIDs rate. It was Uganda using the "ABC" approach.

Absitnence prior to marriage.
Be faithful to your spouse in marriage.
Condoms for if A & B fail.

The stress was on abstinence and marital fidelity. Guess what? Most AIDs activists despise the program because it puts condoms and promiscuity last.

So iggys that run around claiming the Pope did little to fight AIDs are letting their dogma get in the way of their thinking.

I rarely agree with Mr. Knippenberg but I am Polish and have problems with those who criticize the Pope in a dumb way as the paper mentioned above does. Yes, the Pope could be considered controversial, but his legacy is consistent and his message of love and hope pretty clear. I am proud that my nation was lucky to have a moral leader like the Pope. It is true that is hard to follow his moral teaching recommendations - especially "no to condoms", but I would have hard time imagining any Catholic leader saying: "Here are condoms, have fun". However, on the grand scheme of things condom usage is not considered to be as much of a sin as abortion is.

If people of Uganada used condoms and the rate of AIDS would decline, I have hard time imagining that the Pope would telling them to stop using condoms. Men in Uganda and other African countries don’t use condoms very often not because of the Pope but because condoms make sex less pleasant. Also, we have all heard stories how African men in some countries believe that having sex with the virgin will cure AIDS. Not to mention notorious infidelity of men, which in some African cultures was the norm for so long that now is very hard to fight with. So, blaming the Pope for African holocaust is absued!

Finally, it is offensive to many Catholics and non-Catholics who respected the Pope to read that: "What the news channels did, out of the necessity of their schedules, was to vastly inflate both the significance of an event and the popularity of a man". That event was significant. The Popes don’t die every day. International Popes die even less often. In Poland, we wanted the media to be doing Vatican coverage and I think that most Catholics in America wanted that, too.

Typo: I meant "absurd" in the second paragraph.

These attacks on John Paul are to be expected. The man was conservative and great, and many in the Leftist media can’t stand that combination (not the treatment of Reagan last year). Fear not...history will out. His true greatness shall be known.

The Catholic church is an archaic and regressive institution that does more harm than good in this world. Just ask my friends in Italy.

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