The current behind the scenes revelations about CNN demonstrate something that challenges our American mythology, but it should not have. The mythology is that reporters and news organizations have a sacred ability to be perfect and so are able to call out anyone else in any other industry for corruption. The problem is not reporting on corruption, the problem is the assumption that reporters cannot be corrupted and that news organizations can maintain a superhuman integrity. This is just not common sense.
Noam Chomsky is not your run of the mill right wing anti-media pundit, in fact, he is not right wing at all he is a far leftist dubbed America’s dissident. One of his targets for the past fifty years is exactly this mythology. I spoke to him one time in the late 1980’s at a meeting in Boston about his claim that the media is biased and I challenged the notion that people sitting in editorial meetings decide what they will tell the audience, and what they won’t.
Chomsky responded to my thoughts that what really happens in editorial meetings is that in order to be promoted in a company, you have to think as the company thinks so that by the time you are at a decision making level, you think the company line and make decisions in that way of formation. So in an editorial meeting, everyone there thinks the way the company wants them to think and makes decisions in that sense. There is no “We will tell the people this, but not this.” There is only: “This is important and this is not.” formed out of the company’s groupthink.
If anyone were to question these decisions consistently along those lines in an editorial meeting of a company that functions this way, I am sure, he or she would be labeled as the rebel. Rebels rarely reach retirement age in a company. They end up parting ways over disagreements with company policy and form their own companies or work that is more in tune with their way of thinking. Often such companies are marginalized by the mainstream.
This is the way all organizations work and even elements of the Church do the same. If you want to be part of the inner circle, if you want to be respected by the higher ups in your company, live the company line. If you do not, do not expect to be promoted and to be awarded employee, manager, etc of the year. It is not going to happen. This is a reflection of Chomsky’s teaching which applies to every organization including the media.
In the media, this creates great problems because when the company is biased in a certain way, everyone who wants to make it in the company will be biased in the same way.
One such example of this is that if you find any group of people and ask them about such things as gay marriage and abortion you will have a variety of opinions. However, when was the last time you heard a variety of opinions out of Hollywood. Every star, with few exceptions, speaks exactly the same political position, to the letter. They are almost all democrats, for abortion, gay marriage, they are anti-religion. The positions repeat themselves over and over again. Why is this true? If you want to make it in Hollywood, you better speak Hollywood speak. If you don’t, then you better make the studios lots and lots of money. The same is true for the universities. Generally, if you want tenure or a department head position, make sure you are an atheist.
The Boston Globe, since being bought by the New York Times and later by John Henry of Red Sox Fame, has the signature position of being anti-Catholic. The reason is that it is intensely pro-abortion and the Catholic Church is a major opponent of abortion and other political positions. An example of this is how the Globe reported the sex abuse crisis, focusing on the Catholic Church while reporting deep in some stories that the percentage of offenders is lower in the Catholic Church than in any other organization. This does not mean it should be excused, but does mean that incidents in other organizations are being passed over. Cardinal Law in his apologies (all nine of them) brought out that he responded to the issue of priestly sex abuse by working with medical experts. No reporter knew enough about religion to ask the questions that would show that there is a line that separates medical positions and spiritual reality, in fact St Paul brings it up in 1Corinthians. Many reporters do not have an interest in understanding the faith enough to even bring that passage up.
But what is more important is that I know of no time the Boston Globe reported that Harvard University supplied the media equipment used by some protesters while innocent Catholic laity attempted to go to Church on Sunday morning in peace. The reporters never wrote on the struggle many innocent Catholics encountered just to attend Mass on Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston or the severe anxiety they suffered every week at the thought of having to go through what they called the gauntlet on Sunday while refusing to be driven from their Church.
Why? The company position of the Boston Globe, and at the time its owner, the New York Times is an anti-Catholic position that needed to follow Saul Alinsky’s words, “if you want to destroy the Church go after her sins” because the political elements working with the Globe wanted to create what was later called Arab Spring in the Church.
I was at the Cathedral as priest during the protests and during that time, I came to the realization that not only was the Church’s position on abortion and other life issues such as embryonic stem cell research the motive behind this Alinskyite movement, it would in time be found that aborted baby parts were being sold and no one wanted the Church to step into stopping that issue. This was a conjecture on my part that later proved to be true. David Daleiden is Catholic. The issue is therefore not what they reported, but what they did not report. Truth is only truth when it is complete.
Many refer to the news organizations as fake news, however, others would have told you that it has been fake news all along. As Noam Chomsky reports in Manufacturing Consent: in a tyranny, consensus is forced upon a citizenry, but in a democracy the media is used to promote consent and they do that by a bias that leads people to think the way the corporations want them to think.
When I was young, I learned the famous story of Philip Nolan, the man who rejected the United States and spent the rest of his life on a ship, never to hear one word about the United States. This was his sentence. He was “The Man Without A Country”. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that it was false. There never was a Philip Nolan, the story by Everett Edward Hale was fiction or even better known as American propaganda published in the Atlantic Magazine in 1863 according to Wikileaks.
We learned it in school as if it was true. No one told us that it was fiction. It was a form of bias and formation. It was not bad to believe the consequences of rejecting your country, it just was difficult to learn that it was fiction and propaganda.
Americans are waking up to learn that their journalists are not gods; they are not perfect and do not have an immunity to the human condition. If the Church is not perfect, the Boston Globe, CNN and the rest are certainly not. It is tragic that like the clergy some believed journalists were perfect.
Fortunately, as a son of a news reporter, I knew along that both were always human, personal safeguards must always be in place aware of this reality. My father developed certain habits that he maintained throughout his life because of because he understood that it was easy to cross that line and hard to cross back. He rarely drank and he never cussed. He always sought to get to the truth of every story and did not take short cuts. If you told him a crash sounded like "a nuclear bomb when off," he would ask you if you ever heard a nuclear bomb explode. When you said no, he would then ask you to describe what the crash sounded like based on what you do have experience hearing.
As a priest, I do not cuss, I will not drink if I am driving at all that day, even less than a mile; the maximum I will ever drink in a day is one beer and then I move to non-alcoholic, that is if I even drink at all which is extremely rare. I maintain an hour of prayer daily including the rosary. It is dangerous in this position ever to do less than that.
That is why Noam Chomsky did not explode any myths for me; he portrayed the truth.
Photo: By Nancy Wong (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons