Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain:" The Pope in Spain

Maybe you've seen the 1939 "Wizard of Oz" movie - where the "wizard" thunders out, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" (

Something like that happened in Spain recently. Except in this case, my guess is that most folks are dutifully obeying the special-effects talking head.

Not everybody, though.

Old-School News and Reality: a Disconnect

Some folks have very definitely noticed the disconnect between what old-school news media apparently wants us to believe is true, and the somewhat less PC reality.

An excerpt from someone else's blog:
"What the Pope really said in Spain"
Deacon for Life (November 11, 2010)

"From the screeching headlines and sour press reports, you would think Pope Benedict XVI's recent trip to Spain was a colossal flop. What else could you call a visit from an 83-year-old cleric who spent two straight days ranting against gays and abortion amid swarms of angry protesters? And we all know that's what happened, because the mainstream media told us so.

"Never mind that little in the transcripts or live television coverage of the papal visit supported that storyline. Or that those anti-pope protests trumpeted as the trip's most newsworthy event were more minuscule than massive. The gay rights activists who staged a "kiss-in" against Benedict in Barcelona numbered about 200. The pilgrims who gathered to cheer him numbered a quarter million.

"Let's not dwell on numbers. What matters are words, and according to the Associated Press, Benedict devoted his to 'attacking' and 'blasting' Spain's lax abortion and marriage laws.

"Not explicitly, of course. Yet astute observers could detect the angry, political subtext of his Sunday homily in Barcelona's newly consecrated Basilica of the Holy Family. The AP spared readers all that papal mumbo jumbo about the beauty of faith and family and cut to the chase, saying Benedict 'railed against same-sex marriage and divorce' and 'criticized policies allowing for abortions.'..."
There's quite a bit more to that post: I recommend reading it.

Information Gatekeepers in a Changing World

My take on how the old-school press covered the Papal visit to Spain is, perhaps, unkindly: 'It's what they do, it's who they are.'

Being a little more charitable - maybe - I think what we're seeing is partly the result of people in a very insular subculture being forced to encounter a situation which they neither understand nor like. It's the sort of thing you might expect if an expert on the subject of French flutes of the Baroque period were assigned to covering the world heavyweight championship for Sports illustrated.

Information gatekeepers are the people in a society who determine what others are allowed to see and hear. In America, until quite recently, information gatekeepers were people like:
  • News
    • Publishers
    • Editors
    • Reporters
  • Entertainment media
    • Executives
    • Directors
    • Writers
  • Education system
    • Administrators
    • Teachers
  • Print media
    • Publishers
    • Editors
    • Writers
That's not an exhaustive list, of course.

No 'vast conspiracy' involved: just a matter of folks who have a particular worldview being able to decide what 'the Masses' should hear. For our own good, of course.

I've discussed information gatekeepers and some aspects of insularity in another blog:Until the Information Age came along, if the relatively small number of folks who were at the top of the media and education fields didn't like some bit of information: the rest of us probably wouldn't see or hear it.

The information gatekeepers may not even be aware that they're filtering out ideas they don't like. Think about it: when everyone you know agrees on some point, it's quite easy to assume that it's not only true, but indisputable. When all the books you've read, written by folks you know or folks they know, also agree? Well, it's 'obvious,' then, that anyone with an ounce of intelligence must agree on that point. (April 1, 2010)

Back in the 'good old days,' someone with ideas that didn't sit well with the folks who ran publishing houses and studios could communicate with others who were within earshot - and that was about it.

The Internet changed all that. Some guy living in a small town in central Minnesota can write - and publish his thoughts about events. I don't have to hope that an editor, or a review board, or some executive will like what I say - and have room for it in the next issue. Provided, of course, that a roommate from Harvard or a golfing buddy doesn't come along with something he or she wants published.

Cynical? Maybe. But I'm glad that we've still got an Internet where folks are allowed to speak their minds - even if someone in the dominant culture doesn't like it.

Related posts:


Left-Footer said...

Great stuff, and good to read the truth. I start from the premise that anti-Catholic journalists are liars until I have reason to believe otherwise - perhaps unjust, but a useful piece of armour.

You're sooooo right about the value of the internet and blogging, but care should be taken - Father Clifton's blog was closed by threat of libel action, and there have been two unconnected criminal charges of hate crime in uk.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...



Some thoughts: In my opinion, Archbishop Fulton Sheen had it right when he said "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church - which is, of course, quite a different thing." (via Wikiquote)

About liars and lying? There's the a distinction - an important one, I think - between someone who makes a false statement which he or she knows to be false; and someone who makes a false statement, believing it to be the truth. (I discussed that distinction, somewhat heatedly, in "2001 Anthrax Attack: Lies at Fort Detrick" Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 28, 2008))

Having grown up in America's dominant culture, I think there's reason to believe that many reporters honestly believe that the Catholic Church is the sort of vile, hateful, plot that Chic Publications says it is. (" 'Death Cookie' Comic: Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time?" (March 5, 2010)) Even while they assume that outfits like Chic Publications and the Westboro (Topeka) Baptist Church are 'typical' of America's mainstream Christianity. ("Home Schooling, Religious and Moral Instruction, and American Culture" (March 6, 2010))

As for libel? That can be an issue. I see libel actions against non-establishment types as a contemporary equivalent of the McCarthy era black lists. And that's something I'm rather careful about.

Having a background in journalism and marketing helps, I think.

Did I say 'thanks for the comment?' Yep, I see I did.

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.