Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Media Bias Toward the New Pope

In a post just yesterday, we stopped short of complete assurance that the media would react hostilely to the selection of Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope. We speculated that the media might be willing to accept a fait accompli, that they might defer to the sensibilities of Catholics in their audience and that they might even hold out the hope that the new Pope will “grow” in the job – which is how the media describe it when a conservative turns into a liberal.

We were naïve.

As documented by the Weekly Standard and by the Media Research Center, there is no papal “honeymoon.” Consider for example, the rhetoric used by CBS, as reported by the MRC:
All of the networks, broadcast and cable, on Tuesday afternoon and evening, focused at least some coverage on the conservative theological views of the new Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, and the disappointment by some Catholics, particularly women, in his selection. But none were more egregious in applying labels than the CBS Evening News which led with Mark Phillips asking: “He has taken the name of a healer, but where will this arch-conservative lead the Catholic Church?” Anchor Bob Schieffer tagged Ratzinger as “very conservative” before John Roberts described him as “a doctrinal conservative” and “an unswerving hardliner.” Phillips then declared that “the cardinals picked the most polarizing figure in the Catholic Church” who has been “labeled by some as ‘God’s rottweiler.’” After all of that, Sharyn Alfonsi, whose story featured a Catholic woman lamenting how the new Pope is “very conservative,” relayed how “some say...people have been too quick to label this Pope.” Nonetheless, Schieffer proceeded to tag Ratzinger as a “hardliner” and insisted that “a lot of American Catholics were looking for a Pope who might liberalize some of the rules of the Catholic church.”
Readers, ask yourselves:
  • How many times have you heard the mainstream media describe the gay lobby as “polarizing?”
  • How many times have you heard an environmentalist described as a “hardliner?”
  • How many time have your heard a feminist described as an “archfeminist?”
On the face of it, labeling Pope Benedict a “conservative” seems perfectly fair, since that’s what he is. The problem arises from the fact that these same media consistently refuse to label liberals as liberals.

That’s doubtless because for mainstream media liberals, liberalism isn’t any particular sort of ideology, it’s just common sense.

The good news is that Pope Benedict understands the game that the secular media play quite as well as we do.

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