Journalists ‘Protect News,’ Says Pope

Posted by Tom Camfield

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32

I had another blog all written, but upon reading a story about the Pope, I decided to switch instead to one of the subjects that were verboten in the Elks Club bar back when I was young—religion (the others being sex and politics).

Anyone who knows me halfway well knows my attitude on religion. Mine is perhaps a bit of a mongrel personal religion. To me, a supreme being was a creation of man, a necessary unifying force against evil. But I support the virtuous precepts that were thereby given strength and have survived over the millennia. I respect the churches that keep these precepts at the fore of human existence. 

I respect the Bible as a unique presentation of very early history and basically a force for good—although it obviously involves embellishment, exaggeration, metaphor and imagination. Even an atheist can learn and benefit from it.

I revere Jesus of Nazareth as the world’s greatest-ever social activist, support and attempt  to follow the precepts of the organized religion that he galvanized.

I have my own ideas on the nature of a spirit—a “higher power” than my individual being—that guides us. It is the unified virtuous side of human nature manning the bastions against evil. I also have trouble grasping the concept of an “immaculate conception.” I do figure Joseph and Mary did a great job in raising their kid. And even though raised Presbyterian in my youth, I sometimes really dig Pope Francis. I’ve never been a fan of some of his church’s dogma—especially the foot-dragging on the matter of pedophiliac priests. However, Francis has liberalized numerous restrictive mandates in other areas during his tenure. Overall, he’s wise, socially active and speaks out in a manner that has real meaning to the peoples of Earth. He recently took up the subject of “fake news.”

Fake news, he said, began with the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Reading this real-news report in the morning’s Seattle Times, I mentally cheered and applauded. Too bad, however, that thousands of years later, I told myself, we’ve come full circle—to sort of a serpent in the garden when it comes to sin and human principles . . . and the spreading of fake news.

Am I stooping to politicize the Pope? I don’t think so. I’ll just let his words speak for themselves. “We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place,”  the Pope wrote in a May document just released by the church. He argued that the “crafty” serpent’s effective disinformation campaign to get Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge “began the tragic story of human sin. . . I would like to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news.”

He defined fake news as “the spreading of disinformation that is intended to deceive and manipulate . . . for political and economic interests.” It insidiously mimics real news and grabs people’s attention by exploiting “emotions like anxiety, contempt anger and frustration.”

He levied his charges largely at social networks. “fake news often goes viral, spreading so fast that it is hard to stop . . .  because it appeals to the insatiable greed so easily aroused in human beings.”

Now, if you’re an at-the-ready troll somehow spinning all this into some sort of  “I told you so” endorsement of snide tweets out of the White House referring to the mainstream media as purveyors of fake news and “the enemy of the people,” read on. As old Bill Shakespeare said, “The ending is the chiefest thing of all.”

The Pope said the most “radical anecdote” to the scourge of fake news lies in “purification of the truth.” 

Quoting further from the news article (by Jason Horowitz of The New York Times):  “To achieve a climate of open-minded dialogue, Francis exalted journalists, who have been generally demonized by President Donald Trump and other leaders in efforts to undercut critical coverage. The Pope called them the ‘protectors of news’ and characterized their profession as ‘a mission’.”

 The Pope’s remarks were written in May, the same month that Duplicitous Donald visited the Vatican. The news of the day then was how Francis never cracked a smile throughout the visit, even for posed group photos. He frequently had criticized some of Trump’s policies. (Look it up on the Internet.)

MORE ON DAVOS (yahoo.com, Jan. 26)—Donald Trump wasn’t finished when he wrapped up his pro-America speech to the world leaders gathered at Davos on Friday. The U.S. president held the crowd at the World Economic Forum with a continued crusade against the “nasty, mean, vicious and fake” press, and it was met with boos, hisses and laughter.

Trump told the founder of the annual forum, Klaus Schwab, that he has “always seemed to get, for whatever reason, a disproportionate amount of press or media.” When he was just a businessman, Trump said, he was “always treated well by the press, the numbers speak and things happen, but I've always had a really good press.” It was only when he ran for office, he said, that he “realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be — as the cameras start going off in the background.” 

Oh, really, Donald? The press has been covering your misdeeds as far back as the early ‘70s when you were rejecting black tenants applying to rent apartments in the New York City Trump complex—and eventually settled a lawsuit. The stiffing of cheap foreign labor in construction of the Trump Tower, your business bankruptcies, etc. (Look it up on the Internet). You just didn’t always have the bully pulpit you have today, from which you can lie and insult to your heart’s content (but also get called to account for it by the news media). Now as in earlier days, the empowered Free Press remains right on the money; it must be frustrating that the media are something with which you can’t “cut a deal.” 

DONALD AND IMMIGRANTS 1980: And when it comes to Donald, illegal immigrants, labor practices and reports on him personally, here’s a story to consider: “In 1980, under pressure to begin construction on what would become his signature project, Donald J. Trump employed a crew of 200 undocumented Polish workers who worked in 12-hour shifts, without gloves, hard hats or masks, to demolish the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue, where the 58-story, golden-hued Trump Tower now stands.

“The workers were paid as little as $4 an hour for their dangerous labor, less than half the union wage, if they got paid at all.

“Their treatment led to years of litigation over Mr. Trump’s labor practices, and in 1998, despite frequent claims that he never settles lawsuits, Mr. Trump quietly reached an agreement to end a class-action suit over the Bonwit Teller demolition in which he was a defendant . . .”  The settlement cost him $1.4 million. For continuing detail, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/27/nyregion/trump-tower-illegal-immigrant-workers-union-settlement.html

“We were working, 12, 16 hours a day and were paid $4 an hour . . . Because I worked with an acetylene torch, I got $5 an hour. We worked without masks. Nobody knew what asbestos was. I was an immigrant. I worked very hard.”

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