Entry from August 30, 2018

Let’s play a little game of guessing what is the paper — and what is the editorial position of the paper — in which the following “news” headlines have recently appeared. No peeking by clicking on the links prematurely:

1. President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days.

2. The New York Times Joins Effort to Combat Trump’s Anti-Press Rhetoric.

3. Critics fear Trump’s attacks are doing lasting damage to the justice system.

4. Trump’s War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust in the Law.

5. Bruce Ohr Fought Russian Organized Crime. Now He’s a Target of Trump.

6. With call for pope to resign, divisions within the Catholic Church explode into view

7. Vatican Power Struggle Bursts Into Open as Conservatives Pounce

Answers below:

OK, Number 1 is a gimmee. Who else could it be but the merry band of Washington Post’s Stakhanovite “Fact” checkers, led by Glenn Kessler? In other news, President Roosevelt’s assertion that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” rates three Pinocchios because it is unsupported by any evidence.

Number 2 is a trick question. Of course it is The New York Times itself, which is always ready to break the old rule about not becoming part of the story if there’s any chance of its doing damage to President Trump. The arrogance of citing its own publicly proclaimed opinion as a news story might also give you a hint about. . .

. . . Numbers 3 and 4, which are obviously a pair. But did you get that it was the Post which still feels the need of the fig-leaf of “Critics fear. . .” and the Times whose arrogance now runs to reporting opinion as fact in its own voice and without relying, at least in the headline, on “critics” or “experts”?

Number 5 could be either paper, but for the sheer chutzpah of its disingenuousness, you’d have to bet on the Times again, which would be correct. What else do you suppose Bruce Ohr might have been doing, besides fighting Russian Organized Crime, to make him a “Target of Trump”?

Numbers 6 and 7 are also a pair, but, relying on what we have observed so far, you might tentatively conclude that it is the Post which at least alludes to the scandal “With call for pope to resign,” whereas the Times, having assumed that the scandal is only a pretext for “Conservatives” to “pounce” sees no need to mention it in the headline. If so, you would be right.

But for both papers, the story is not, for a change, about the scandal itself — what did the Pope know and when did he know it? — but about the evidence for dissension within the Church, the whistle-blower in this case being a “conservative” who supposedly sees in it no more than a means to discredit a comparatively liberal pope. To further minimize the scandal, the Post quotes Fr James Martin S.J. as saying that “a lot of this is homophobia” — i.e. no #MeToo-type scandal here, not when the predator is a homosexual priest, even if he is an Archbishop.

The Times also quotes Fr Martin and, on its own bat, opines that

an ideologically motivated opposition has weaponized the church’s sex abuse crisis to threaten not only Francis’ agenda but his entire papacy. At the very least, it has returned the issue of homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church, which many conservatives are convinced lies behind the abuse crisis, to the center of debate.

In other words, forget about the scandal. Pay attention instead to the way in which people we don’t like are using it against people we do  — just as we use all the alleged Trump scandals (to which you should pay attention), as an ideological weapon against him. Could it be that the Times editors are  judging the “conservative” churchmen by themselves? No prizes for guessing the answer to that one.

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