Media Opposition (Or: If You’re Right the Royal Commission’s Wrong)

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Image: George Pell (Source: http://www.optuszoo.com.au/news/top/herald-sun/priests-not-above-the-law-mps/840633)

Opposition to a royal commission is professed by only 3% of Australian voters. Only about 1% of mainstream journalists and media commentators do the same. The leading apologist for the Catholic Church here appears to be Mr. Andrew Bolt whose column appears in many large-circulation dailies. His views give a pointer towards the likely arguments by the Catholic Church at the enquiry.

His general viewpoint can be obtained by his statement concerning a previous allegation of child sexual abuse against Cardinal George Pell (pictured above), “It’s been the excuse for a great onslaught of hate in the media directed at the Catholic Church – its traditions, its practices and its most effective advocate in this country.”

In a reference to the complaints against Susan Sharkey (see earlier post), the psychologist associated with the Catholic Church’s “Melbourne Response”, Mr. Bolt begins his signature attacks on the credibility of victims. He states that this is “Yet another warning in this fervid witch-hunting time that allegations are not proof, victims aren’t always to be believed, and it’s easier to destroy the innocent than restore their reputation.”  When writing about the royal commission he further presses this line saying that “Royal commissions and similar inquiries are not like normal court hearings”, and that they “treat allegations as proof.” Finally, “The climate of moral fervour is often much hotter, feeding a destructive culture of denunciation.”

The next tactic in the strategy of casting doubt on the core issue of victim credibility it to claim that it’s all about church-bashing. Here, victims are supposedly spurred on by anti-church forces. For example, victims’ rights organisation, Broken Rites, is just an “aggressive lobby group.” Mr. Bolt declares that the royal commission “risks going badly off the rails and becoming not a force for good but of cultural destruction”, and becoming “an anti-Catholic crusade.”

The media is apparently behind all of this, or the “liberal” media at least. The US–based MediaReport gleefully reprints Mr. Bolt’s articles, and those of Alexander Downer,  noting that “The breathless reporting by Australian media, however, presages a media narrative in which reason, facts, and logic are ignored, and the media feeds on sensationalism, exaggeration, and anti-Catholic bigotry.”  Mr. Bolt himself chimes in with “There is an edge of hysteria to some of the reporting this past week that is very ugly and bodes very ill.”

Mr. Bolt’s diatribe against the non-extreme media continues with “Many in the largely anti-clerical media want to use this excuse to smash a church that lectures on modesty, duty, faithfulness and other fun-killers. And already we have journalists and politicians demanding priests betray the secrets of the confessional if they hear someone admit to child abuse. It would be a tragedy if the Catholic Church was to be broken by this inquiry.”

Next in the firing line are the lawyers representing victims’ interests. “By offering big payouts to abuse victims, the Catholic Church has played into the hands of those who chase money rather than justice. I fear we may see even flimsier accusations made against hapless priests—so long as their kick-me church keeps offering dollars to denouncers.”

Finally, when all else fails, Mr. Bolt introduces the standard “It ain’t just us” line. “In fact, has not the sexual abuse of children here also occurred at the hands of Anglican priests, rabbis, state school teachers, welfare workers, stepfathers and the feral many?” he asks. Then comes the clincher from Mr. Bolt (who has had his problems with the Racial Discrimination Act in the past – see link below), “The truth is that churches no longer are – if they ever were – where the worst child sex abuse occurs. Aboriginal communities are.”

Another widely-published journalist, Piers Ackerman, takes a different approach, claiming it is all about politics. Guilt of the church is not explicitly denied by him, but rather it is all a plot of guilt by association against the opposition leader, Tony Abbott. Abbott is indeed very vulnerable here given that he originally trained for the Catholic priesthood and is a long-time confident of Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney (see picture below). Putting any political preferences aside, it can be noted that a Labor government tactic has been to associate Abbott with negative causes. He is a “misogynist” according to the PM. He is associated with “negativity” as “Dr. No”. Now, according to Ackerman, Labor is painting him as a supporter of pedophiles, with “this Machiavellian abuse of political power.”

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Image: George Pell and Tony Abbott (Source: http://noplaceforsheep.com/tag/royal-commission/)

Ackerman goes on to suggest that “It is about another Labor Party effort to smear the Opposition leader Tony Abbott, a practising Catholic, and to paint him as a member of an organisation which turned a blind eye, at the least, to child abuse. For weeks now there has been a concerted effort to link Abbott with scandals associated with Catholic organisations. Labor’s strategists ….. hope that the media will pummel Abbott over his Catholicism in coming months and that voters will believe that he has somehow been engaged in the most disgraceful behaviour the commission uncovers.” Read – if you support Abbott, then you must oppose the royal commission.

For Gerard Henderson (see image below), director of the Sydney Institute and frequent media columnist, it’s all about lefties at the ABC (the national broadcaster). He writes that “These days the ABC should be regarded as hostile territory for Catholics who follow the teachings of the Vatican. The ABC is replete with disillusioned current or former Catholics,” and that “The special focus on the Catholic Church turns on the fact it is being targeted by disillusioned Catholics along with anti-Christian secularists.”

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Image: Gerard Henderson (Source: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/papal-pundits-should-repent-of-unforgivable-ignorance-20130218-2enda.html)

Peter Craven, a regular contributor to The Australian newspaper also follows the Catholic-bashing line with, “There is also the suspicion, widespread in some quarters, of Christianity in general and of a celibate Catholic clergy in particular. The kind of evangelical atheism that sees any form of religious belief — but especially Christian belief — as life-denying and degrading is naturally inclined to take the crimes of a small fraction of Catholic priests and brothers not as aberrations but as quintessential, if extreme, expressions of the delusion that religious adherence represents. Dreadful instances of sexual abuse involving the church do not prove the church is a corrupt institution.” Here, Craven also uses the minimalist approach to incidents within the churches.

While Piers Ackerman uses the approach that Labor is attacking Abbott, Paul Kelly, Editor-at-Large of the Australian newspaper, uses the parallel line that Labor is using it to boost its own popularity. He states that “The dismal, populist and doomed quality of Australian governance has been on display this week with Prime Minister Julia Gillard announcing an in-principle royal commission into child sexual abuse, a panicked Tony Abbott falling into line and an ignorant media offering cheer upon cheer.”

Kelly uses the standard anti-Labor line that it acts without thinking, just as Ackerman uses the standard anti-Abbott line of “Mr. No”. We are told that “Rarely has an Australian government embarked on such a sensitive and vast project in profound ignorance of what it was doing, with virtually no serious policy consideration and driven entirely by politics.” Read – If you’re against Labor then you’re also against the royal commission, which is the same as Ackerman’s line of – if you’re pro-Abbott then you’re also against the royal commission.

Given that 25% of Australians are catholic and the Labor government is sitting on only about 30% support, these writers are the true popularists – except for the obvious, and unavoidable flaw, that virtually every Australian favours the royal commission.

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Seventh Day Adventists

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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