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...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, April 18, 2005

MSM Coverage of the Pre-Conclave Mass

Let's get one thing clear before I start covering the Papal Conclave on the blog, all this week.

I am a traditionalist. I am hierarchical. I respect history. I like my Church.

And like millions of people, I'm also not particularly religious. But I am comfortable with religion, and find those who wish not only for a separation of Church and State, but for a separation of Church and Society, very silly people. These two weeks must've been a nightmare for them. Heh.

The one good thing about bloggers is that we do not have hidden agendas like Mainstream Media are frequently accused of having. As my reader, there is no need for you to parse my words, or read between the lines, trying to ascertain just which way I "tilt".

I have said dozens of times I loathe politics, and especially talking about politics, but even the most casual observer of my writings cannot fail to have noticed before, what I have just typed up top, since their essence permeates every part of me.

So I'm up at the wee hours of this early Monday, agog, excited, marvelling at the process to elect a Pope, as the Mass Before Conclave sends us off to s/elect the 263rd Pope of the 265th Pontifcate. The discrepancy is due to one Pope having been elected 3 times, which his High School Yearbook entry actually predicted: "Most Likely to be Papabile". Those damn Debate Club Presidents.

As such, I turned on and recorded via my increasingly precious DVD-R, all the 3 US cable news networks' coverage of the Mass, officiated yet again by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the influential Dean of the College of Cardinals.

Because he has been such a visible, even charismatic presence these past 2 weeks, several Italian dailies have been putting forth his name as a favourite to be Pope. In fact, the right-of-centre Roman daily, Il Tempo's post-John Paul II funeral headline had his photo and Angelo Cardinal Sodano's facing each other, picking them as frontrunners.

But you know, people are wily, and sometimes even want to jinx events, as anyone who has ever heard Pele's weirdo World Cup winner predictions can testify. He never ever picks Brazil, because obviously, that's who he wants to win. I'm still trying to figure out his WC 1994 Spain prediction though. I mean, really -- even for him.

And then there are people who actually take the opposite track, and just go against a person they dislike hammer-and-tongs. That's why all this week story after story has been making the newswires about Ratzinger's "Nazi" past.

I'm not even going to go into the veracity of this abominable slur. You can read the anti-Ratzinger articles here, and especially here.

That's the Sunday Times article which baldly states that if Ratzinger (the "Panzer cardinal") had REALLY really wanted to, he would've nein'ed his way out of the Hitler Jugend. And serving in the war, despite deserting in 1944? Pfff, Ratzinger obviously didn't heed Mrs. Reagan's injunction to 'just say no'.

(My mother's family are German/Austrian. My great-uncle was almost incarcerated for not giving the Hitlergru -- the Heil Hitler gesture -- to his tutor at school. He was 17. Only his family's high-born connexions prevented the severest consequences, not just for him, but for the WHOLE clan. But hey, Cardinal Ratzinger is a conservative, so for certain people, that means he's fair game. I guarantee you that no one will speculate if Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino of Cuba was ever a Pionero or not)

But no matter, we have the Jerusalem Post coming to Ratzinger's rescue with this stirring leader (op-ed piece), defending charges from the Sunday Times article that he is a "theological anti-Semite". Oh please, don't even start.

Unfortunately for Cardinal Ratzinger, he'd better be prepared to face the collective cold-shoulder of the progressive press in the few hours before he enters the Sistine Chapel -- for in his sermon in Italian during the Pre-Conclave Mass, he made sure his fellow cardinals understood that they should not be tempted to heed the calls of passing ideologies. He further intoned,

We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognise anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

You are privy to my position on relativism vis-à-vis Political Correctness already, so you know this is manna from heaven for me. I literally jumped in my chair when I heard him say that, aghast at this man's singular courage to say this in front of millions of people. He reminded me of the late John Paul II so much at that moment, when the he went to Nicaragua, and shook his finger at the Liberation theology priests, telling them figuratively and literally, don't you do this to our Church.

Movements, politics, even Popes come and go. The Roman Catholic Church remains.

The television presenters said this inference was aimed directly at the 115 eligible Cardinals (2 too ill to attend), for them to digest it well, but though I'm sure that is true too, Cardinal Ratzinger also meant it for US, the viewers. Have no doubt of that, since for the past 2 weeks, he has been in charge of many Vatican meetings and has had ample opportunity to meet with his fellow Cardinals. They know. No. That specific line was for us, Catholics world-wide.

It was such a powerful statement that Christiane Amanpour went back to it time and again, making sure her panelists took the time to critique it, even speaking over and drowning out the Mass, and at one point, the translator had to speak over her comments on Ratzinger's bombshell homily.

Having just mentioned Amanpour, this is as good a time as any for a recap as to how I perceived the cable news coverage of the Mass, real-time.

CNN - Is there a more insidious journalist on television than Christiane Amanpour? "A deeply divided Catholic Church", "Can the Catholic Church afford to ignore North American and European securalism for much longer?". Oh right, I forgot Peter Jennings with his sniping little asides and moues at those he doesn't like. Mrs. Jamie Rubin was partnered by two lay commentators, one of whom was John L. Allen, Jr the author of Conclave (a book I read last year). I only mention this because CNN is the only TV news entity who didn't think having a Catholic priest on the panel was important, or at least, needed. MSNBC actually had 3. Fox News had 2. CNN, a great big goose egg. No big deal, you say? Okay sure. No doubt next time CNN has another Terri Schiavo incident, they won't trot out the medical doctors right and left, because, you know, what do insiders who actually live the life, not just write about it, know? And for those who say there is no bias, let me let you in a on a secret. MSM have a little quirk when they want to slant something to their viewpoint, but want to be perceived as impartial nonetheless. They start out by the usual journalist practise of point-counterpoint, supporting quotes for each. That's fine and dandy. But the real kicker is the very last sentence, paragraph, or thought which ends a piece. MSM realise that a reader pays attention to the first bit, and the last bit, and it's the last part that they want to make sure sinks in. This is why you astute observers of President Clinton and Senator Bob Dole's little viewpoint end-segment on CBS' "60 Minutes" noticed that President Clinton ALWAYS got the last, more pithier word. And this isn't just a bitter remark about the elite media. Fox News, WSJ, the Telegraph do that too. Armed with this knowledge, take a look at this CNN article about the Pre-Conclave Mass and see if you can spot the slap at the end. That's nothing. Amanpour spent two hours saying the same thing, as she always does. We're on to ya, Christiane. Oh and your buddy Wolf too.

MSNBC - Had on the always professional Chris Jansing, who I actually spoke to a few times when she was down here during the Elian crisis. As mentioned, she was surrounded by a gaggle of priests, handome priests at that, mama mia, *wolf whistle!* Okay, I'd better stop that line of thought before I have to traipse to the Confessional again. MSNBC, who now sport the Fox New-like slogan "fair, balanced, and ACCURATE" (ooh, they're accurate! So who do think is INACCURATE, hmm, hmm?), having re-invented themselves from the days when they used to be called Mess-NBC, and are now a cross between the secular CNN, and the more orthodox Fox News -- were the most silent during the Mass of the three news networks. They didn't "opine" overmuch, letting the viewer take in the ceremony, and they certainly didn't take a commercial break like CNN did a few times. Have to please those advertisers, dontchaknow. The problem is of course, that their coverage, whilst ACCURATE, was also bland. They're the tapioca pudding of the Big 3. You can take it or leave it without it much affecting your taste buds.

FOX NEWS - In which case, Fox News are definitely the Chili-Con-Carne of the Big 3. They either fill you right up, or give you massive heartburn. I'll say this for Chris Wallace though, who anchored the graveyard shift during the Mass: he makes Ted Kopple's mop look absolutely dishevelled. I haven't seen such careful combing since ABC'S Sam Donaldson and his toupée retired. And as you would expect from such a picky brusher, his commentaries were factual, to the point, and always sought out from his panel guests, the most minute detail of what we were seeing. And the graphics on Fox! Man, Pixar had better watch out. I felt like I was IN the Vatican! Right there, sleeping next to Moses and his horns. All kidding aside, Fox News may have something against Royalty, but they surely are the most comfortable-with-the-Catholic-Church entity on US television. They didn't get to the Ratzinger homily until the very end, and then it was only to mention loosely how powerful a statement it was, and how it was bound to make an impression on its listeners. The translator (that Slavic-sounding lady again) didn't have to interrupt them once. When that white smoke juts out of its chimney, I'm tripping over myself to turn on to Fox. Judy Woodruff can make squinty eyes all she wants. I'm not budging.

So there we are. A peak at what you sleepy heads missed from 4 AM-6AM EDT. Just stick with me, kids. You won't miss a trick!

More anon.


  • vbspurs,

    Very good post. It's good to hear someone critique the MSM so eloquently. I too am fed up with many of the networks and how they feel the need to offer their oh-so-insightful opinions during mass. I wish they could just keep quiet for once so I can actually watch and listen to what is happening in the Vatican! I certainly don't need Christiane Amanpour or any other anchor to tell me what they think.

    Anyway, great post! And I completely agree with what you say about Cardinal Ratzinger's message to us. Keep up the good work!

    By Blogger Jimbo, at Mon Apr 18, 05:25:00 pm GMT-4  

  • good substance of heartful read.

    By Blogger S A J Shirazi, at Mon Apr 18, 11:03:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Ooh, Jimbo, the co-owner of the excellent PopeBlog.

    (At first, humourously, I thought you were a close friend of mine whom I call Jimbo. Then I realised he's more the teasing than praising kind, and would never write such a praise-worthy post ;)

    But as you say, I don't need news analysis to constantly interrupt what should be a simple news presentation.

    Honestly, with MSM, it feels as if we're being talked down to, and led by the hand sometimes, as if we were little idiots.

    I concede that it's difficult to present news in such a way as to make it informative for 260 million different people, of such varying backgrounds and educational levels, but Fox News have themselves a good recipe going on.

    You know where they stand, and there's no need to hammer points during live events. The way you present it (either respectfully or full of carping) speaks volumes instead.

    Thanks for coming down to my blog, Jimbo, plus the kind remarks -- and hope you can return in the coming days.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Apr 19, 12:33:00 am GMT-4  

  • Thanks as ever, Shirazi. Being such a good writer, your opinion really resonates with me. :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Apr 19, 12:33:00 am GMT-4  

  • you nailed it...

    From what I saw, Fox presented commentators from an orthodox Catholic viewpoint that would never see the light of day at any other network.

    Also remember that Fox's comfort with the Catholic Church comes from a number of unique factors:

    -Rupert Murdoch is/was (although I suspect not very religious) a Catholic convert, I believe (ex-wife was VERY Catholic and a major donor in LA)

    -A number of major Fox stars (O'Reilly, Hannity) are Catholic-school boys (Hannity actually went to high-school prep seminary on Long Island!) who still practice (Sean talks about his parish on Long Island, St. Pats, all the time)...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Apr 19, 01:42:00 pm GMT-4  

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