There are times I wholeheartedly agree with Gerard Henderson, but I do think he is often shrill. His correspondence with ideological foes is painfully pedantic and repetitive.
Nonetheless, I read his Media Watch Dog blog because it keeps me alert to a media bias which is so overriding that it might otherwise become undetectable. “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.”
This week he reviews ABC Radio’s coverage of Pope Benedict’s resignation. He was dismayed to hear one guest after another criticise the outgoing pontiff — not because he doesn’t like contrary opinions, but because he expects the ABC to provide a balance of opinions. Linda Mottram, Paul Collins, Fr Frank Brennan, The Tablet‘s Robert Mickens, and Fr Bob Maguire are by no means a uniform chorus of voices. But as you can easily imagine, they do harmonise on the note that Pope Benedict is “too conservative.”
So in an hour and a half across several ABC Radio outlets, only critics of the Vatican were heard discussing Benedict XVI’s papacy. The prevailing ABC group-think did not lead to a realisation that there are some Catholics who support the Church’s teachings and some non-Catholics who admire Pope Benedict XVI.
Henderson especially gets stuck into Linda Mottram’s claim that Pope Benedict “has been very divisive.” And he praises Scott Stephens, ABC Online’s religion and ethics editor, for his defence of Pope Benedict’s legacy:
Scott Stephens: Wow. I’ve heard Peter Fitzsimons say some pretty stupid things about the Pope but I think that just about takes the cake. And I’m sure that we could find some better, some more intelligent, certainly some better informed people to assess the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI apart from someone like Christopher Hitchens. Some really awful and ill-informed and derogatory things – [Interrupted]
Peter FitzSimons: [interjecting] Go on get to it, what? What? Spread ‘em out.
Scott Stephens: What, what? For instance, I’m not sure if Paul Collins would agree but it seems to me from the research that I’ve done – from the immense reading that I’ve done on this topic – that there’s no one in the life of the Church today that can claim to have done more to eradicate the cancer of sexual abuse – and that’s Pope Benedict’s own phrase “The Cancer of Sexual Abuse”, from the life of the Church and the whole culture of cover-up and craven and cowardly bishops from the life of the Church than Joseph Ratzinger – in his initial role as prefect and his subsequent role as Benedict XVI.
Peter Fitzsimons: So was Hitchens wrong? Was Hitchens wrong in what was published in the Sydney Morning Herald?
Scott Stephens: Absolutely.
Peter Fitzsimons: So Hitchens was wrong?
Scott Stephens: Absolutely. My God! Absolutely. As wrong as someone like Richard Dawkins who described Pope Benedict as this ‘leering old villain whose first instinct when he heard of children with their pants down was to cover up the crime,’ and as wrong as someone like Geoffrey Robertson QC who described the Pope as –
Peter Fitzsimons: [interjecting] If I may —
Scott Stephens: — No hang on — as ‘the global CEO over a global paedophile trafficking network.’
Peter Fitzsimons: Okay.
Scott Stephens: This is quite preposterous.
You can read Henderson’s column at The Sydney Institute. . . If you can bear it.
Here’s something for people who like G.K. Chesterton’s writing. Or Christopher Hitchens’ writing. Or European history and politics.
Perhaps you’re like me, and you like all of the above. In that case, you really must read this.
It is a cliché of pop psychology that we are least able to tolerate people who remind us of our own selves. There’s only room for one Life Of The Party and we feel a twinge of antagonism toward anyone whose excellence threatens to outshine our own. I was reminded of this when I read Christopher Hitchens’ posthumously published review of a biography of the great British journalist G.K. Chesterton.