Media examination of conscience…sort of


While they still show that the media professionals are insufficiently self aware of their culpability for what has happened to public trust in what they do, there is some sign that the scales may be dropping for their eyes.
The elephant in the room which they fail to address, and which is at the heart of the distrust in relation to their reporting on this presidential administration, is their inate hostility to the man in the White House. Their distaste for the man, his manners and – for many of them – the conservative values they think he stands for, is seen by the public as colouring everything they write about “all his works…and all his pomps”.

Published on Jan 24, 2018

Response to Iran uprising: shallowness or wilful hypocrisy?


Brendan O’Neill in once again exposes the shallowness – where it is not simply blatant self-serving hypocrisy – of liberal progressive (what misnomers they are) media in its response to the Iranian uprising. The Islamist mullahs seem now about to crush resistance to their regime as ruthlessly as soviet communism crushed the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the Fifties and Sixties respectively – while the rest of the world just looked the other way.

This is O’Neill’s take on our latest perfidy:

‘Where is the world media?’, asked Iranian-heritage actress Nazanin Boniadi this week as people across Iran continued to confront the theocratic authorities. It’s a good question. Iran has been rocked by brave, liberty-demanding revolts, and its Islamist rulers have responded with severe, fatal repression, yet much of the Western media has looked the other way. Liberal hacks in Britain have been too busy poring over Toby Young’s tweets from eight years ago to think about Iranian women fighting for the right to wear what they want and live as they please. Some media outlets, including the HuffPost, have churned out protester-shaming reports that could have been authored by the Ayatollah himself. We are now seeing the extent of Western observers’ disdain for the idea of democracy in this era of Brexit and Trump: they’ve become so convinced that politics is better done by wise, expert cliques, rather than by grubby, ‘low-information’ little people, that they are unmoved, and probably a little horrified, by ordinary Iranians’ democratic revolt against the theocrats and the Guardian Council and the Assembly of Experts. Having demeaned democracy at home, they cannot cheer it overseas.

The corruption of political and social discourse

Brendan O’Neill has done it again with another spot-on column in the Telegraph. He writes:

I have a dream that one day I will open a newspaper and not see any articles about pervy priests or leering politicians. I know what you’re thinking: if only priests would stop perving and politicians would stop leering then perhaps we wouldn’t have to read about them. I think it’s more complicated than that. I think the omnipotence of sexual abuse scandals in public and political debate is not down to the fact that men in positions of power are now more wicked and warped than they were at any point in history. Rather it reflects the extent to which accusations of sexual impropriety have become the key currency of political and moral infighting, the main means through which one dents institutions and people that one detests.

Read more here.

Here and there…on September 30

With hindsight revolutions can look very organised things. We think of them as great turning-points. They may be that but the way they turn is never something certain and determined – as it might seem to have been when we get down to writing history.

The so-called “Arab Spring” is one such phenomenon. There is no question but that what we are watching there is a kaleidoscope of turning-points across North Africa and the Middle East. But who can dare say what the final outcomes will be in those diverse locations. Some might prove to be a flourishing Springtime indeed, but there are real and justified fears that others will result in long cold Winters.

A conference of 30 representatives of Justice and Peace commissions representing European Bishop’s Conferences met in Malta recently to work out some policy options on this phenomenon but failed to solve the quandary which these events always present to outside interested parties when it comes to doing something practical.

But there is good advice. Firstly, don’t apply “trivialising stereotypes” to these events which for so many are literally a matter of life and death. So perhaps we should drop the simplistic “Arab Spring” altogether. Secondly, – and this is where the quandary appears – respect the right of other nations to define democracy in accordance with their traditions and religious beliefs but  at the same time don’t ignore the “need to protect dignity and human rights.”

We could do with a little more of this respect on our home turf as well.

It was all precisely what  the Pope stressed in his visit to the Lebanon – the  importance of working to ensure “that cultural, social and religious differences are resolved in sincere dialogue, a new fraternity, where what unites us is a shared sense of the greatness and dignity of each person, whose life must always be safeguarded and protected.”

Reports are that Pope Benedict XVI is getting it hot and heavy in cyberspace. Andrea Tornelli, the sharpest of sharp Vatican journalists tells us that the Italian reputation management company Reputation Manager has demonstrated this in a study published recently. Using its software system and a dedicated team of editorial staff for the analysis of data relating to the Italian web world, including social media, Reputation Manager compared the digital identities of Pope Benedict and the Dalai Lama. The Buddhist leader gets a much easier ride. Surprise, surprise.

I don’t know what Buddha promised his followers, but we do know what Josef Rattzinger signedup for when he nailed his colours to the mast: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6, 24-26). The true disciples of Jesus are, in fact, a sign of contradiction: “If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world (…) therefore the world hateth you- (…) If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15, 18-20).

So popularity is not what this is all about. Nevertheless, perhaps we need a few more cyber-Christians out there taking on the detractors.

Jeremy O’Grady, editor-in-chief of The Week, draws our attention to an interesting contrast in media coverage of two recent events.  While there are general cries for “free speech” in the commentary on the trailer for the film The Innocence of Muslims which has provoked such outrage across the Islamic World and the deaths of many, including the US ambassador in Libya, there is a whiff of cowardice on the part of the media as well.

There is, he says, much talk about the appropriate policy reaction. Some say governments are is unduly restricting freedom of expression but others that there is too little restriction. But he points out that government are not the key players in this hue and cry at all. “Scouring newspaper web-sites,” he point out, “I can’t find one that has embedded an extract of the offending trailer, an Exhibit A that would let viewers gauge why and whether it warranted so much fuss. Contrast that with the treatment of Piss Christ, the 1989 work, deeply offensive to Christians, of a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine. It’s being exhibited in a Manhattan gallery this week, and to illustrate the news story behind it, every other website has a picture of it. Free expression? This isn’t a question of policy; it’s a question of fear. The sword is mightier than the pen: that’s the truth journalists prefer to deny.” Well said Jeremy. As George Orwell said, to see what is in front of our noses requires a constant struggle.