Monday, February 16, 2009

Mindset Journalism

In his book, The Death of Free Speech, John Ziegler examines how the news media have created arbitrary, biased, and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena. Ziegler limited his investigation to secular events.

But his observations hold true for media reports of religious matters. Is it laziness or a propensity for steel-trap thinking that develops the rigidity all too evident in the common media? It is akin to censorship. Two recent examples.

1.   Pope Benedict XVI recently lifted the excommunication on a number of Catholics, one of whom, Bishop Richard Williamson, was later exposed as a holocaust denier. No matter what the multitude of Catholic news agencies reported, the secular press refused to acknowledge that the lifting of the excommunication and the holocaust denial were in no way related. The media linked the two events, often in the same sentence.

2.   The reportage of the profoundly troubling sex scandals within the Catholic Church is another example of mindset thinking. Child Maltreatment 2006, a report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states that 66 per cent of sexual abusers are parents, other relatives, unmarried partners of parents, friends or neighbours, and that only 0.5 per cent are "professionals." And clergy are a subset of "professionals," and Catholic clergy a subset of clergy.

The 2007 Annual Report of U.S. Catholic bishops, prepared by outside auditors, identified 15 allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the American Catholic Church from 2000 to 2007, an average of fewer than two per year. A 2007 investigation by the Associated Press identified 2,500 public school teachers who from 2001 through 2005, had their teaching licences revoked or restricted as a result of sexual misconduct with minors -- an average of 514 per year. The ratio of abuse in American public schools to that of the Catholic Church runs as high as 275 to one.

This in no way excuses any of this behaviour. All perpetrators must be prosecuted. But this does illustrate the media bias as to how these dreadful incidents are reported.

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