Entry from December 22, 2010

In today’s Washington Post, Jason Horowitz registers a weary complaint about the Pope.

In Rome The Vatican on Tuesday clarified the remarks of Pope Benedict XVI. Again. In what has become an excruciating ritual for frustrated supporters of the Church, the Vatican issued a lengthy statement to explain what the pontiff meant, this time in comments he made for a book-length interview titled “Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.” The Vatican said Benedict”s comments about condom use had been “repeatedly manipulated for ends and interests which are entirely foreign.”

Frustrated supporters of the Church like, say, Jason Horowitz? Excuse me if I’m not buying it. The Pope’s words had presented no difficulty of understanding to those accustomed to the way in which the Magisterium speaks about moral issues. It was only because so many in the media in their ignorance mistook them for a volte face or climbdown from the church’s well-established moral teachings in the first place that any “clarification” was necessary. It is now a bit rich for them to be blaming the Pope for their own stupidity.

Even at that, we are probably giving the media too much credit. As the Church also teaches, there is inadvertent ignorance and willful ignorance, and the media’s looks to me in this case like the latter. They are eager, as always, to find anything that looks remotely like scandal, and the very idea of the Church’s changing its story, as it were, on such a high profile matter as contraception, would be bound to come into that category. If they didn’t know that there had really been no change, it was because they didn’t want to know, which is why they pounced on the Holy Father’s casuistical argument in Light of the World without ever troubling to inform themselves as to whether it really represented any change or not.

You see them doing the same thing all the time, and the bad habit is one that some of us on the right have picked up as well — witness the kerfuffle that has arisen this week over the mention by Nina Totenberg of NPR that “I was at — forgive the expression — a Christmas party at the Department of Justice.” Because she is well known, like most of the other on-air “personalities” at NPR, for her liberal sympathies, some eagle eyed conservatives immediately leaped to the conclusion that she was carrying political correctness to a new extreme by apologizing even for mentioning the name of Christmas.

Yet anyone alert to the everyday use of irony in speech should have recognized at once that she meant to traduce not Christmas but the very political correctness she was accused of giving voice to, as today’s Post also has painstakingly to “clarify.” Yesterday, a Post blogger writing as Bearing Drift had thundered that “NPR must fire Nina Totenberg.” When I read that, at first I thought, brilliant! Someone else is using irony to elucidate her irony, but when you read a little further into the piece — well, I’ll let Bearing Drift speak for him or herself:

FORGIVE THE EXPRESSION???? Does she consider “Christmas” an offensive word, an untoward word, something she needs to be forgiven for saying? Remember, NPR fired Juan Williams for saying that he gets nervous around Muslims on a plane. Nina Totenberg just declared “Christmas” an offensive term. NPR said Williams’ comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.” NPR certainly wouldn’t take the tact that offending Christians is fine but offending Muslims can get you fired.

If Bearing is only pretending to misunderstand her, he’s doing too good a job. It’s depressing when literal minded conservatives emulate the tactics of hypersensitive liberals and scandal-hungry media types like Jason Horowitz. Eventually, irony itself will have to be outlawed — unless it is as broad as that of Larry David in The New York Times when he writes “Thanks for the Tax Cut!”

There is a God! It passed! The Bush tax cuts have been extended two years for the upper bracketeers, of which I am a proud member, thank you very much. I’m the last person in the world I’d want to be beside, but I am beside myself! This is a life changer, I tell you. A life changer!

So far no one is trumpeting that Larry David has turned conservative.

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