Brexit

This may be a tough question: Does Rupert Murdoch have a soul? Does this question matter?

This may be a tough question: Does Rupert Murdoch have a soul? Does this question matter?

Every semester, in my Journalism Foundations seminar at The King’s College in New York City, I dedicate a night to the role that Stephen Colbert’s Catholic faith has played in his life and career.

It’s important, of course, to spend some time looking at the humorist’s break-out show — The Colbert Report, on Comedy Central. This show was, of course, a satire focusing on the flamethrower commentary of Bill O’Reilly for Fox News work.

With Colbert, every thing on the show was upside-down and inside-out, with his blowhard conservative character making lots of liberal political points by offering over-the-top takes on some — repeat “some” — conservative stances. I argued that to understand what Colbert was doing, you had to understand O’Reilly and then turn that inside out.

Thus, I asked: What kind of conservative is, or was, O’Reilly? Students always say things like, a “right-wing one?” A “stupid one”? An “ultra-conservative one”? I’ve never had a student give the accurate answer — a Libertarian conservative.

I realize that there have been lively debates about the compatibility of Libertarianism and Catholicism. However, it’s safe to say that most Catholics reject a blend of liberal, or radically individualistic, social policies and conservative economics. Turn that inside out and you have what? Conservative morality and progressive economics?

This brings me to the massive New York Times Magazine deep-dive into the life and career of Rupert Murdoch. Here’s the humble headline on this long, long piece (150 interviews, readers are told) by Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg: “How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World.”

So the question: What kind of conservative is Murdoch? Is it possible that there is some kind of moral or even religious ghost in this story?

It opens with a rather apocalyptic scene in January, 2018. The 86-year-old press baron — on holiday with his fourth wife, Jerry Hall — has collapsed on the floor of his cabin on a yacht owned by one of his sons. Is this the end? The big question, of course, is, “Who will run the empire after the lord and master is gone?”

So here’s what’s at stake:

Few private citizens have ever been more central to the state of world affairs than the man lying in that hospital bed, awaiting his children’s arrival.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Anti-Semitism: Journalistically parsing its current upsurge both here and abroad

Anti-Semitism: Journalistically parsing its current upsurge both here and abroad

I recently spent time in Costa Rica where I was able to visit the nation’s central Jewish “compound” in San Jose, the capital city. My guide was a member of one of the country’s leading Jewish families.

I called it a compound — as opposed to a campus — because that’s how it felt. High concrete walls that seemed more appropriate for a military facility than what I actually encountered — a broad, grassy, central plaza surrounded by a small kosher restaurant, a community history and Holocaust museum, a private Jewish school, a large synagogue I was told is filled on important Jewish holidays and for rites of passage, a senior citizens center, and assorted other community offices.

Had I not been escorted by a member of a leading Costa Rican Jewish family, my wife and I would have had to submit, for security reasons, our identifying information eight days in advance of a visit. As it turned out, thanks to our friend, we just show up and were whisked past the armed guards waiting outside the compound’s thick metal doors.

All this in a nation with only about 3,000 Jews — most able to trace their ancestry to World War II-era Poland — and who our guide insisted face relatively little overt anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment. And yet they're fearful. Why?

Because Jews across the world — particularly so in Europe but also in tiny Costa Rica and even the United States —  increasingly feel insecure because of a rising tide of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel actions — the two are often wrongly conflated, by both sides — being reported in the international press, as they should be.

The majority of GetReligion readers, I’m sure, are familiar with this turn of events. But let’s probe a  bit deeper. What’s causing this upsurge today?

Is it an ugly resurfacing of the historical anti-Semitism that Jews have faced since the earliest decades of Christianity's split from Judaism, the first of the big three Abrahamic faiths?

Or is it a product of the further globalization of Islam, sparked in part by Muslim immigrants fleeing poverty and violence in their native lands, and the impact this and their general attitudes toward Israel has had on the societies in which they've resettled?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Welcome to the UnHerd scribes, who also think journalists should, you know, 'get religion'

Welcome to the UnHerd scribes, who also think journalists should, you know, 'get religion'

Now this is what you call an easy weekend "think piece" post.

I had not heard of the just-launched UnHerd blog over in England until a reader sent your GetReligionistas a URL for a post that was guaranteed to get our attention. More on that in a minute.

Here is the top of an article in The Spectator about the launch of this interesting new blog featuring news and commentary.

A new star is born today into the centre-right blogosphere: UnHerd. The latest brainchild of Tim Montgomerie, founder of ConservativeHome, it has launched with a mission statement to ‘dive deep into the economic, technological and cultural challenges of our time’. Its launch blogs show a wide mix of subjects: a YouGov poll revealing the low regard with which the public view traditional news media, Peter Franklin on why we should get ready for Prime Minister Corbyn, James Bloodworth on the crash ten years on and Graeme Archer on how meat-eating may come to be seen as barbaric by our grandchildren.
UnHerd is also marked out by its financing model. It has no paywall; all articles will be free to read with the costs covered by an endowment from Sir Paul Marshall. He is a former Liberal Democrat donor and a Brexit backer -- but, unlike the others, has not run away from the field.

Well, it was another early UnHerd post that caught the attention of a GetReligion reader and, thus, your GetReligionistas. The catchy headline on that short, but provocative, post by religion researcher Katie Harrison of greater London?

Why journalism needs to get religion

You can see how that might get the attention of folks at this here blog.

 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

What were Time editors really trying to say with their White House turns Russian red cover?

What were Time editors really trying to say with their White House turns Russian red cover?

Yes, Russia, Russia, Russia. Russia, Russia and more Russia.

Again.

The big idea behind this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) is that one thing is for certain -- America is not Russia and America is not turning into Russia (no matter that the cover of Time magazine was trying to say).

There is another crucial idea linked to that that I have discussed before at GetReligion and with our colleagues at Issues, Etc. That would be this: Vladimir Putin is a Russian, but Putin is not Russia. Or try this: There is more to Russia than Putin. Or this: One of the reasons Putin is effective -- in his culture -- is that he knows which Russian buttons to push to move his people, even he is not sincere when doing so.

Host Todd Wilken and I ended up discussing this question: What were the editors of Time trying to say with that cover? After all, they thought the image of the White House morphing into St. Basil's Cathedral (standing in for the actual towers of the Kremlin, perhaps) was so brilliant, so powerful, so logical, that it didn't even need a headline.

The image was supposed to say it all.

But it didn't. If you want to have fun, surf around in this collection of links to discussions of all the errors and misunderstandings linked to that Time cover (and CNN material linked to it). Hey, even Pravda jumped into the mix.

All together now: But St. Basil's isn't the Kremlin. And they took the crosses off the top of the iconic onion-dome steeples (so they had to know they were dealing with a church). And this whole White House with onion domes thing has turned into a cliche, since so many other news and editorial people have used it.

So what was the big idea behind that cover?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Journalists: Religious lessons you (could have) learned from Trump win can help explain Putin

Journalists: Religious lessons you (could have) learned from Trump win can help explain Putin

Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.

Everywhere you look in the news right now, journalists are trying to get a handle on Vladimir Putin and Russia. This post is about Russia -- consider it a sequel to the earlier "Dear editors at The New York Times: Vladimir Putin is a Russian, but Putin is not Russia" -- but that is not where I want to start. Please be patient, because I want to start with an American parable.

Surely, some journalists have learned by now that our recent presidential race was more complex than Hillary Rodham Clinton vs. Citizen Donald Trump. There were, fore example, Democrats who wanted to vote for Clinton. However, there were others -- #feelthebern -- who did so reluctantly, but felt they had to vote against Trump.

On the Trump side, there were people who sincerely backed his campaign (including a large number, perhaps even a majority, of white evangelicals). Then there were millions of people (including blue-collar Democrats) who didn't like Trump at all, but supported some elements of his alleged platform, so they voted for Trump. Then there others who actively opposed Trump, but felt they had to vote for him -- think U.S. Supreme Court -- to oppose Clinton. It will be interesting to learn how many people (like me) voted for an alternative candidate.

What does this have to do with Putin? Well, lots of elite journalists (hello, New York Times) have been trying to figure out why so many American conservatives are fond of Putin or think it's important to improve U.S. relations with Putin and Russia. In Times speak, anyone who sees anything positive in Putin's actions and worldview is automatically an "extremist." Thus that recent headline: "Extremists Turn to a Leader to Protect Western Values: Vladimir Putin."

Everyone pretty much goes into that "extremist," pro-Putin bag, including the alt-right, lots of Trump voters, racists, extreme nationalists everywhere, anti-Semites and, ultimately, the Russian Orthodox Church. Was Brexit in there too?

But think of that Trump parable. The problem is that there are lots of people who either loathe or totally distrust Putin (they see him for what he is), but they do not reject everything that he stands for in his warped version of a pro-Russian agenda. Thus, they are sort of "voting" for Putin, or they want America to deal with him more realistically, because the alternative, to be blunt, is the postmodern worldview of the European elites.

The religion angle? The press needs to grasp that, often, Orthodox leaders are not backing Putin when they support elements of Putin's policies that just happen to run parallel with centuries of Orthodox teachings. Oh, and they would really like to prevent the massacre of millions of Christians in Syria and what remains of the church in the Middle East.

This brings me to a recent, and typical, Associated Press report related to all of this. Here is the overture, care of Crux

MOSCOW, Russia -- The Russian Orthodox Church is expanding its influence in what was once an officially godless state -- and President Vladimir Putin appears eager to harness that resurgent power of faith to promote his own agenda.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Are traditional Christian and Jewish beliefs responsible for Brexit and survival of ISIS?

Are traditional Christian and Jewish beliefs responsible for Brexit and survival of ISIS?

Here are two examples -- one Christian, the other Jewish -- of religion's staying power and influence over the entirety of Western culture. They're presented as reminders of why journalists need a working knowledge of religious history to fully connect the dots in today's bleeding world.

I came across the first example not long after the game-changing 9/11 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks. The second's an essay I read just recently.

Let's begin with journalist and author Robert D. Kaplan's "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos." I consider Kaplan one of the more interesting journalistic minds working today.

His book struck me as fascinating, prescient (in hindsight) and disturbing.

My fascination stemmed from its emphasis on the enormous influence that bedrock religious concepts still exert today over critical societal actions. They're there, taken for granted but subliminally directing us. This is so even if we fail to consider, as individuals or even -- tsk, tsk -- as journalists, the importance of these civilizational building blocks.

It was prescient because of what it said that relates to the quagmire we face as a nation today in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It was disturbing because it challenged my liberal American impulses about the limits of ethical warfare.

Oh. And, yes, I agree. "Ethical warfare" may just be the ultimate oxymoron.

Kaplan concluded that to defeat non-state terror organizations that play only by their own brutal rules required a radical change in the military tactics of Western nations, by which he meant those historically and culturally Christian.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

One more time: The death of Father Jacques Hamel is part of two crucial, larger stories

One more time: The death of Father Jacques Hamel is part of two crucial, larger stories

Do you remember that old journalism parable, the one about the cynical poster that is supposedly hanging in a wire-service newsroom somewhere?

The poster, supposedly, explains how the U.S. press covers disasters, in terms of the number of deaths. To be blunt: 1,000 people dead in Afghanistan equals 500 dead in Egypt, which equals 250 dead in Mexico, which equals 100 dead in Japan, which equals 50 dead in France, which equals 25 dead in Canada, which equals 10 dead in Texas, which equals one celebrity/politician dead in Hollywood or Washington, D.C. Or words to that effect.

So why is the death of one Catholic priest at an altar in rural France so symbolic? Why were we still talking about Father Jacques Hamel on this week's Crossroads podcast? (Click here to tune that in.)

I thought of that when I read this summary material in an interesting report at FoxNews.com:

In 2015, more than 2,000 Christian churches in Africa were attacked by terrorists, and more than 7,000 Christians were killed, according to the advocacy group Open Doors USA. Those figures show terrorist groups like ISIS, which claimed credit for Tuesday's attack, as well as Al Shabaab and Boko Haram, will not hesitate to kill inside a house of worship.
"News of the murdered priest in Normandy has shaken many to the core,” David Curry, president and CEO of Christian Watchdog group Open Doors USA told FoxNews.com. “While in Nigeria, an average of five churches are attacked every Sunday, this is the first documented case of Western Christians being attacked by ISIS during a worship service."

Five churches attacked every Sunday. In Africa, that would include Catholics, but also Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostal believers and others. The story notes that, in 2015 alone, 2,400-plus Christian churches were struck by terrorists in Africa. Yes, many of those attacks were by forces aligned with Boko Haram and, thus, the wider Islamic State.

That's a lot of desecrated churches. There must be thousands of victims and eyewitnesses to these scenes of hellish violence. Are we hearing those voices in our newspapers and on our 24/7 digital screens? Are we seeing those images?

Not very often. Yet the death of Father Hamel is part of that ongoing story around the world. That's story No. 2. for those with the eyes to see.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Terror with Tunisian DNA: Wait, how does Brexit figure into this hellish equation?

Terror with Tunisian DNA: Wait, how does Brexit figure into this hellish equation?

While watching various news channels last night as details of the horrors in Nice, France, emerged, I heard a commentator make an interesting statement. I think this was on CNN, but I am not sure, because -- as is often the case on live television -- I have not been able to find a reference online to confirm this.

So let's just talk about the world of TV commentary, in general. I heard the same formula several times on different channels.

While talking about the impact of the truck attack on Europe and the future, someone offered this equation: First there was Brexit and now this. It's hard to know where things are headed.

I don't think this was a statement of moral equivalency. I think the point was that Brexit was an attack on Europe and now there is other new attack, etc., etc.

No one ever stated the question the other way around: Might Brexit have been, in part, a reaction to the rising surge of terror in an increasingly tense and divided Europe? Continue with that logic and you end up with another question: Is the post-9/11 United States -- which often follows Europe, on a slow delay -- a few terrorist attacks away from a more blunt, dare I say "populist" discussion of terror and political, cultural and, yes, religious issues linked to it?

I am not, by the way, talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about the mainstream press.

Let's look at the top of two newspaper reporters about the truck attack in Nice. Which is from an elite American source and which is from a populist source on the other side of the Atlantic?

First there is this:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Musing about Brexit lessons in the literal birthplace of the Spanish Inquisition

Musing about Brexit lessons in the literal birthplace of the Spanish Inquisition

As the repercussions from the momentous Brexit vote play out, I find myself in the charming and more than 1,000-year-old  hillside village of Sos del Rey Catolico in northeast Spain. Ferdinand III of Aragon, who with his wife Queen Isabella I, launched Cristobal Colon on his voyage to the New World -- and the start of the destruction of the indigenous tribes of the Americas -- was born here.

The royal couple also threw the Jews out of Spain and can lay claim to the Spanish Inquisition. Pretty accomplished, weren't they?

A day earlier I was in Madrid. When I arrived, a large banner hung from Madrid's City Hall, proclaiming in English, "Refugees Welcome." The following day, Spain held parliamentary elections in which gains by the conservative establishment made for banner headlines.

And the day after that, the "Refugees Welcome" banner was gone.

Was it a coincidence? A political decision? For all I know the banner lacked official approval in the first place.

But between the banner and my stay in Sos del Rey Catolico -- which, of course has its ancient and now Judenrein Jewish quarter that persists as a tourist site -- it all feels hopelessly tribal.

I've written here before that journalists need to understand that globalization has been and is about far more than cheaper products. That its about people -- people moved by dreams and a desire, perhaps "need" is a better word -- to be the consumers of those products and no longer only the producers. If they were lucky enough to have a job, that is.

Please respect our Commenting Policy