The Hype of Covid-19

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As Covid-19 makes its way across the globe, we have witnessed a truly astounding degree of hysteria. Face masks are in such short supply that there are not enough for doctors; toilet paper has become a scarce commodity in many Western nations; severe restrictions on individual liberties have been imposed by most countries; and we are continually bombarded by the media with the idea that Covid-19 is a most severe illness.

This message has been dinned deeply into the minds of many people. Since cleverness in the 21st century is characterised by uncritical assent to authorities and the broad messages of the media class, this has led people to react as if the Bubonic Plague were on the march again.

Rare indeed is it to find anyone who musters up the intellectual fortitude to question the prevailing narrative. If you should encounter someone who is capable of thinking differently in this day and age, they should be seized upon as if they were gold. Unfortunately, even Christians have singularly failed to live up to the command of St. Paul to be renewed in our minds, and thus exercise independent rational thought that is strong enough to oppose that which is popular and current.

If the exhortation “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” means anything, surely it means (in part) just this.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great evangelical preacher of the 20th century, in a sermon on this topic observed that he had lived to see a trend whereby experts and authorities had been accorded the properties of a high priest.

“In the old days,” he said, “a patient would see a doctor and the doctor would tell the patient what he thought was wrong. The patient would then make an effort to understand the problem, and the treatment, and would believe himself capable of making up his own mind as to whether he should do as his doctor suggested.”

But, the good doctor opined, he had lived to see a great change take place in society where the patient comes to believe his mind is so much the inferior to that of the doctor that he would meekly accept whatever he is told without expending any effort at all to understand the treatment to which his physician will subject him.

Part of renewing our minds, Lloyd-Jones insisted, is to be determined to think differently from the world around us. To be independent in thought and reason, as guided by the word of God. It is to understand that our God-given brains allow us to critically weigh what we are told, and to critically consider the reliability even of experts and authorities.

This leads me to the sheer nonsense of mortality figures for Corvid-19 that abound.

A reputable Stanford epidemiologist has written a calm rebuttal to the general hysteria, and the mishandling of statistics by journalists (and others) who simply do not understand how to make sense of them.

Professor John Ioannidis says that if we were unable to test for coronavirus, it would be undetectable and unnoticed against the “background noise” of regular influenza. At worst, he says, we might perhaps casually note that flu season was a bit more severe this year than normal but we would not otherwise detect anything out of the ordinary.

He points out that the death rate of the virus has been wildly inflated by journalists who have adapted mortality profiles from cruise ships carrying a disproportionate number of elderly people. These statistics have then been applied to society at large. Other statistics are largely based on the cases presenting at hospitals, which are inevitably the most severe. To date, none of the statistical calculations grapples with the fact that there is an unknown number of very mild or asymptomatic cases.

Given this, how the heck can anyone develop a meaningful mortality profile without knowing the sum of cases in existence? It defies fundamental mathematics.

The professor estimates the average mortality rate at around 1% – consistent with increasing evidence across jurisdictions – and possibly as low as 0.5%. Essentially a bad cold, regardless of what a sensationalist and a panicked government might try to suggest.

This entire crisis is manufactured by fear, irrationality, melodrama, and paranoia. It is fuelled by apocalyptic visions of overburdened hospitals and mountains of dead. Even supposedly reputable media outlets have suggested “millions will die”. There has been a welter of the most dire predictions based on selective statistics as if these were predictions. But statistics are not predictions. They merely tell us what has been counted in the past. They are, essentially, historical data sets. Not prophecies.

Then selective manipulation of data does the rest. One of the worst instances of this has been the commentary about Italy.

Remember, as high as the mortality rate in Italy may seem (to use but one example), 3,400 deaths from coronavirus over several months* is dwarfed by the normative death rate from all causes.

In Italy there are 10.6 deaths per 1,000 head of population, which translates to 53,000 deaths per month or 650,000ish per year. Would the country really have noticed an increase in mortality of a two or three thousand more per month distributed over the whole country if nobody knew anything about coronavirus, if nobody could test for it, and if there were not relentless panic and worry from all quarters? Would it have been noticeable if there had been a monthly count of 56,000 deaths instead of 53,000?

Certainly, Italians may have noticed that their chaotic medical system was more chaotic than usual, but this is the side effect of poor administration in a nation with the second oldest population in the world, and not necessarily the disease itself. Disease is often a matter of context. For instance, healthy adults do not typically fear outbreaks of Whooping Cough, but if this disease were to appear in nurseries full of small infants we would quickly need emergency care for many small patients. We might find shortages of necessary equipment and we might witness similar chaotic scenes to those of Italian hospitals, especially if a medical system were mismanaged. That does not inevitably mean that such a disease is so much a threat that we need to grind the economy to dust to stop it.

The problem is, the bombardment of this poor quality information comes from sources people unquestioningly and uncritically believe. Indeed, the average person who flatters themselves as wise these days has been conditioned to believe that not thinking for oneself and simply accepting a version of reality from an authority is actually a sign of intelligence.

*Figure current when this article was originally circulated on social media

Oberlin College’s War with Gibson’s Bakery

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Oberlin College is again in the news and for all the wrong reasons.

The college has become infamous for its dealings with a small shop that has been owned by the Gibson family for 134 years.

The problems began in 2016 when a black Oberlin student attempted to steal alcohol from the shop. One of the part-owners detected the theft and asked him not to leave the shop while he phoned the police. The student decided to leave. The clerk chased him down. When he caught up with the student shoplifter, he was assaulted by the student and his two female friends. This assault, according to the Quadrant, included kicking and hitting.

The following day hundreds of Oberlin students gathered at the Gibson bakery shop for a protest. They claimed the shop was “racist”. Their protest was supported by a number of college officials.

From the Quadrant:

In November 2016 an under-age Oberlin student stole a bottle of wine from the shop. When the shop’s store clerk and co-owner, Allyn Gibson, noticed this theft, he chased the thief in the street, and was then hit and knocked to the ground, punched and kicked by this student and two of his student friends, all of whom were black. The next day, hundreds of Oberlin students gathered for a mass protest, across the street from the shop, aided by its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, and other college officials. Raimondo and others passed out flyers claiming of Gibson’s, “This is a racist establishment with a long account [sic] of racial profiling and discrimination”, and urging a boycott of the shop. The next day, the Oberlin College Senate voted to boycott the shop. The college also urged the shop not to punish first-time shoplifters. This affair occurred the day after Donald Trump was unexpectedly elected president, an event specifically deplored in a memo by Dean Raimondo.

The Chronicle gives a blow-by-blow account of the original incident:

Oberlin police reported that Aladin tried to buy a bottle of wine Nov. 9 but Allyn Gibson, whose family owns the bakery, refused to sell it to him. Gibson confronted Aladin about the two bottles of wine the student allegedly had hidden under his shirt.

The police report said Gibson told Aladin he was calling the police and not to leave. Aladin allegedly tried to leave, and Gibson told police he took out his phone to take a picture. That’s when Gibson said Aladin slapped the phone from his hand and the device hit Gibson in the face. Police have said Aladin then ran from the store, dropping the two bottles of wine to the floor.

Gibson chased after Aladin and the two men got into a physical confrontation outside.

When police arrived, they reported seeing Gibson on the ground with Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone hitting him.

Days of protests followed the incident when the students insinuated that Gibson’s actions were racially motivated as the students are black and Gibson is white.

Before the sentencing, Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone each read statements acknowledging that Gibson was within his right to detain Aladin and that his actions were not racially motivated.

Students from Oberlin College had cost the small shop a considerable amount of money with a constant string of thefts and shoftlifting:

Gibson’s shop has existed for five generations, owned by the same family for 134 years, and has no history of “racial profiling”. Between 2011 and 2016, forty persons were arrested for shoplifting there, of whom thirty-two were white and thirty-three were Oberlin students. The three students involved in the assault themselves claimed that Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated. Shoplifting is a problem costing tens of thousands of dollars a year to Gibson’s and other small businesses in the town. Many, perhaps most, shoplifters are Oberlin students, a large number of whom come from affluent homes.

The college, it was alleged by Gibson’s in court, then engaged in a deliberate and concerted attempt to boycott the shop and bankrupt it, leading to a loss of many thousands of dollars and requiring the shop to lay off most of its staff. In other words, a college with 2850 students, 327 academic staff, and $900 million in the bank, attempted to put a small local shop out of business for mendacious reasons stemming from its prevalent left-wing ideology, an egregious example of bullying and intimidation.

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Justice dollars at Gibson’s: In 2016, people flocked to Gibson’s Bakery in a conspictuous display of support. The Chronicle reported: “They came on foot and on motorcycles, in cars and trucks and from all corners of the state to Gibson’s Bakery for doughnuts, coffee and, in their words, justice.” It is anticipated that Gibson’s Bakery will again receive widespread community support as it weathers legal attack by Oberlin College.

The courts upheld the cause of Gibson’s shop, which successfully argued that the claims of racism were unjust, unfounded, and amounted to libel and torturous interference. This had cost the business a lot of money and the family their peace of mind.

From CNN:

Then in November 2016, the lawsuit stated, Oberlin College said it severed its business ties with Gibson’s Bakery. The shop had provided baked goods for the school’s dining services through a third-party company.
While those business ties were reinstated three months later, the shop had already suffered severe consequences, the suit said.
The combined effects of the “defamation, boycotts, demonstrations, and refusal to do business with Gibson’s Bakery was having a devastating effect on Gibson’s Bakery and the Gibson family,” the lawsuit stated.

A jury ordered that the shop pay 11 million dollars in punitive damages. This was not something the college was particularly pleased about. In their view, Oberlin’s officials had only sought to protect their students’ “freedom of speech”. Oberlin took the view that Dean Raimondo was merely policing the protest and was simply there in a protective capacity. Clearly, Gibson’s Bakery represented a threat to the student protestors whose freedom of speech could be denied them at any time. Therefore  it was obviously necessary for Dean Meredith Raimondo to attend the protest in order to prevent the students being robbed of their right to free speech while they committed an act of libel and damaged the business.

But Donica Thomas Varner, Oberlin vice president and general counsel, wrote a letter to members of the Oberlin community.

“We are disappointed with the verdict and regret that the jury did not agree with the clear evidence our team presented,” the letter said.

“Neither Oberlin College nor Dean Meredith Raimondo defamed a local business or its owners, and they never endorsed statements made by others. Rather, the College and Dr. Raimondo worked to ensure that students’ freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful, and they attempted to help the plaintiffs repair any harm caused by the student’s protests.”

It’s not clear whether Oberlin will appeal the costly verdict.

“Our team will review the jury’s verdict and determine how to move forward,” Varner wrote.

Meanwhile, the students who staged the assault – Jonathan Aladin and Endia Lawrence – pled guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespass. The third student, Cecelia Whettstone also pled guilty but her case has since been expunged.

trioCrime and punishment: Cecelia Whettstone, Endia Lawrence, and Jonathan Aladin appear before Judge James Miraldi. According to The Chronicle: “Jonathan Aladin, 20, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted theft, aggravated trespassing and underage purchase of alcohol. Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, both 19, pleaded guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing.” They were required to each pay $334 to cover the expenses of the victim, Allyn Gibson.

Having had time to review the verdict, Oberlin College has decided that it is the victim after all. Today the College Fix reported that the college will sue the shop using some extremely high powered legal representation:

Ballard Spahr’s Lee Levine and Seth Berlin, based in D.C., are two First Amendment veterans with six decades of experience between them, including arguments before the Supreme Court and many federal appeals courts. Berlin also teaches at Georgetown’s law school.

They join appellate attorneys Benjamin Sassé and Irene Keyse-Walker from the Cleveland office of Tucker Ellis. Sassé (not to be confused with the Republican senator) and Keyse-Walker are Ohio specialists, having argued many times before the Ohio Supreme Court and appellate courts.

There is no clue given as to how much the college will pay for these legal services, but it is estimated to run into many millions of dollars.

The reasons the college gives for this new legal action are twofold:

“The decision is grounded in the board’s fiduciary responsibility to the College’s long-term financial health,” said Board Chairman Chris Canavan. Left standing, the verdict could also set a troubling precedent for those institutions, like Oberlin, that are committed to respecting free speech, he said.

Yet, Oberlin declined to settle with Gibson’s shop for 1 million dollars when it had the chance – a bargain deal in comparison with where they ended up – and they give no indication how they intend to recoup their enormous legal costs from a family-owned local shop if a court rules in their favour. At the very least, it is likely to take many years to recover a fraction of their outlay. This is not fiscal responsibility.

Oberlin also declines to explain how the defamation of a shop on the basis of complete fiction – a totally false narrative – in response to a shop justly protecting its goods from theft, is a free speech issue. Should people be allowed to say whatever they like, even if it is utterly false? Should businesses be ruined because someone cooks up a rumour about them? Gibson’s shop points out that there are limits to freedom of speech, and under law, libel is one such limit. Torturous interference is another. We are not permitted to say what is false about others in order to punish or destroy them.

Oberlin College is notoriously liberal and jealously protects that image. It has obviously decided that it has invested too much in that image to allow it to crack apart at the hands of a local retailer. There is something nearly aristocratic and imperious about this action, as the college appears to think that protecting its image as a champion of constitutional freedoms is more important than actual justice.

It certainly looks terrible for Oberlin to end up as the Goliath in a David and Goliath battle – to be publicly identified as the oversized brute bullying the little guy – but the more legal action they take, the more people will come to this conclusion.

Support for Gibson’s Bakery is enduring and international. On August 6, 2019, the Facebook page for the bakery gave a heartfelt thanks to its supporters. Given the new action by Oberlin, it will be necessary for the family business to once again rely people around the world for support against the bottomless depths of Oberlin’s resources.

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Battle of a lifetime: David Gibson thanks supporters, college students, jurors and others for their support and compassion. He also announces his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. 

The New Breed of Politician

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets a lot of air time in the media. In the progressive press she is lionised for her authenticity (she speaks to supporters on live stream while preparing dinner in her kitchen), and for the rags-to-riches story that she has made part of her political narrative. She seamlessly markets her personal life as part of her brand so that in addition to lifestyle coffee, we now have the lifestyle politician.

In the conservative press, however, Ocasio-Cortez is routinely disparaged for her ludicrous policy ideas that are unhinged from the real world of economics. When challenged she tries to overturn questions on the financial and technical details of her “Green New Deal” by assuming the costume of moral superiority. Anyone who wants anything more specific than blue sky vision statements has simply failed to grasp the scale of environmental apocalypse.

Predictably, Ocasio-Cortez is often pilloried for her preference of style over substance and her symbolic feel-goodism over nuts and bolts happenings. A classic example of this behaviour was seen her bizarre speech made to an audience of African Americans earlier this year in which she used an accent she does not normally use. With great indignation, she responded to critics that this was “code-switching”. She hinted that her critics did not understand why a person might use a completely different accent because they were not from the Bronx as she is.

The millennial generation is getting older and now starting to ascent to positions of power. Ocasio-Cortez is an example of the kind of politician that is emerging from the 1980’s and 1990’s era. These are reared on amoral TV shows like Friends and Buffy, and their values are shaped by their gender studies professors rather than religion.  So, if we want to get an early snapshot of our future politicians, Ocasio-Cortez is a petri-dish specimen of what is soon to come. This is not a comforting thought for the believer who already has cold shivers from seeing the sheer lack of intellectual engagement that new politicians exhibit.

Nonetheless, for the time being Ocasio-Cortez is easily disregarded by Christians because she is so evidently naive and intellectually ill-suited to leadership. Her petulant outbursts, the abundant self-esteem the gallops heedlessly past her mediocrity, her conviction that no valid criticism of her positions exist, and her regular retreat into the cocoon of identity politics is, if anything, an irritation. For the moment, she seems to pose no threat. She can be dismissed as a hapless cartoon character whose ludicrous schemes always hilariously unravel. She can sprinkle some ACME GO-SLO pellets along roadrunner’s path, or try to excite a roadrunner revolution by planting ACME dynamite at key locations, but in the end her wily schemes will go haywire and she will end up lodged in a cactus. Cue general laughter and merriment.

I think this sentiment is dangerous and misleading. We would be unwise to imagine that the upcoming generation of politicians are just comic relief who can do no lasting damage and do not imperil the Christian Church. The millennial politicians coming down the pipeline combine Ocasio-Cortez’s hostility to the foundation stones of Western civilisation with a ruthless willingness to bully and persecute anyone who dares to dissent.

This brings us to Brian Sims. A homosexual Democrat politician sitting in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who hectors and abuses old ladies and teenage girls who disagree with him about abortion.

A few weeks ago, Sims spotted an older lady silently praying her rosary near an abortion clinic. Note that well, silently. This lady was not speaking. She was not waving placards. She was not even wearing clothing with slogans or logos. All she did was silently pray. It is about as inoffensive as you can get, and in a healthy pluralistic democracy, she should have been able to do so without being accosted.

Brian Sims could not bear the sight of this. He berated, insulted, and harassed her for about nine minutes:

During the course of Sim’s nearly nine minute video in which he stalks, taunts, harasses and accuses the unnamed woman, the state representative repeatedly attempts to shove his smartphone camera in the woman’s face. She quietly walked up and down the sidewalk during Sim’s outburst, seemingly unperturbed as she prayed a rosary.

By the end of his video, Sims had hurled the words “Shame,” “Shameful,” or “Shame on you!” at the woman at least 18 times; He said what she was doing was “Disgusting,” or “Grotesque” more than a half dozen times; He accused her of being “racist,” and repeatedly attacked Christianity.

Sims then makes a truly bizarre statement:

Sims said to the woman that although she has a Constitutional right to protest, “that doesn’t  mean you have a moral right to be out here.”

Morality is very important to Mr Sims. Or rather, his morality is very important to him because it apparently confers upon him the right to bully, harass, and attempt to intimidate women on the streets whom he has judged have errant religious views. One cannot help but conclude that Brian Sims rather enjoyed bulling this woman. Bullies pick their targets carefully. In this case, the lady was hardly likely to turn around and pop him one, and her apparently meekness served only to galvanise the brave Mr Sims. He captured the whole exchange on camera and personally uploaded the video. He seemed to think that it made him look like a hero.

During his big moment, Sims repeatedly attacked Christianity. It is here that his comments reveal the real issue. Sim cannot stand Christianity and its moral teaching. He does not like Christianity that holds an unbending resolve in the face of hostility; a concern for doing what is right in the sight of God at all costs. It is this sort of muscular, manly Christianity that people like Brian Sims both fear and despise. His reaction to it is exactly what we witness in the New Testament in opposition to our Lord.

As the Western world sinks deeper into a terminal paralysis of sin out of which no person or movement can rescue it, we should expect to see this hated for the Church and for Christians to increasingly manifest in politicians. An unchurched and uncatechised generation will have no regard for Christ and no respect for his teachings. They will do what rebel sinners always do when elevated to power over Christians: they will persecute. The only restraint that prevents these politicians from doing more harm to the Christian community, at least for the present, is the decaying restraint of law.

At one point Sims insists, without the slightest hint of irony:

There’s no faith that tells you ‘you are right’ and everybody else is wrong.  There’s no faith that tells you it’s your job to stand out here and shame people for something they have a right to do.

It’s self-referential satire. Brian Sims is a parody of himself. He is the Spanish inquisitor who sets out to roast other supposed inquisitors for their crime of supposedly roasting inquisitors. He is blithely ignorant of the fact that he is acting in precisely the way he describes this woman of doing.

Although Sims acknowledges that this woman had a right to be on the streets praying her rosary, he still appointed himself to the task of shaming her for it. Apparently in his world, his totalitarian, take-no-prisoners moral code allows him to believe he is right and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong. But nobody else may have such absolutist convictions.

It is amazing how entitled, self-regarding these uber-progressive warriors have. Their self-awareness is minuscule because they are not evidently in the habit of robust scrutinising themselves. Over and over again, they blast away at other people while demonstrating the same poor behaviour they claim to repudiate.

Christians should look carefully at Brian Sims behaving like a goon. We should listen to his sinister ranting on the streets and see in this the face of the coming generation of politicians. It is a generation of politicians that will think nothing of standing on the streets arrogantly haranguing folk about what Christianity supposedly is. They will not hesitate to directly target our faith. For millennial politicians know what Christianity is and woe betide any Christian who prefers the teachings of… well, the actual risen and ascended Christ to their warmed up puree of authoritarian progressivism in faux virtue.

“Iniquity,” the psalmist tells us, “surely abounds when the vilest men are exalted”. We must sadly live in the certainty that more of this sort of politician is on the way.

The Throne Wobbles: The Political Assassination of Pope Francis

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Once more sexual scandal rocks the Roman Catholic Church. But underneath the surface a vicious civil war is being fought in a deeply divided church. Allegations of cover-up are the daggers. And Pope Francis faces a political assassination.

The Roman Catholic Church has fallen upon hard times of late.

Across the world, sexual scandals are exploding like ACME dynamite in a Looney Tunes skit. Each one rocks the church to the core.

Just in this year alone there have been scandals in Chile, Australia, Pennsylvania, Guam, and Honduras. There are dozens of victims – if not hundreds – going back over decades. Investigators have identified hundreds of perpetrators, which now include some of the highest ranked clergy in the world: bishops and cardinals. Some of these have been convicted in secular courts. A cardinal awaits sentencing in Australia.

And it is not only children who have suffered from clerical abuse, but also seminarians. These young men, some of them scarcely more than teenagers when they began their priestly training, have been abused by men who claimed to be their shepherds. They were harassed, groomed, and coerced into sexual relationships with clergy who were old enough to be their uncles. It has been revealed that rampant homosexuality is virtually the norm in some seminaries around the world.

In July of this year, Lifesite News reported the claims of seminarians in Honduras. They complained:

“We are living and experiencing a time of tension in our house because of gravely immoral situations, above all of an active homosexuality inside the seminary that has been a taboo all this time,” continued the young men’s letter, “and by covering up and penalizing this situation the problem has grown in strength, turning into, as one priest said not so long ago, an ‘epidemic in the seminary.”

An article published by the National Catholic Register, also in July, made the following claim:

In a letter written to the seminary’s formators that was subsequently circulated in June to the country’s Catholic bishops, the seminarians asserted “irrefutable evidence” exists that a homosexual network pervades the institution and is being protected by its rector.

The article goes onto allege that high-placed clergymen had sexual relationships with young seminarians. This is not only a breach of Roman Catholic doctrinal teaching on sexuality and a violation of the vows of celibacy that priests are meant to take in the sight of God, but surely a clear instance of more powerful individuals taking advantage of inexperienced and relatively less powerful young men:

Similar to the charges surrounding Cardinal McCarrick, who reportedly engaged in a long-standing practice of pressuring seminarians into sexual activity with him while he was serving as bishop in two New Jersey dioceses during the 1980s and 1990s, Auxiliary Bishop Jose Juan Pineda Fasquelle of Tegucigalpa has been accused of engaging in homosexual interactions with Tegucigulpa seminarians.

And, just as the revelations regarding Cardinal McCarrick have provoked troubling questions about what his brother U.S. bishops and the Vatican knew about his interactions with seminarians and about why nothing was disclosed publicly for so long, the Honduran allegations call into question the actions of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

While Cardinal Maradiaga — a key confidante of Pope Francis who is coordinator of the “C9” group of cardinals advising him on reforming Church governance and the Roman Curia — is not himself the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct, he is now under fire for appearing to have disregarded a wealth of evidence of homosexual misconduct by Bishop Pineda, whose resignation as auxiliary bishop was accepted by Pope Francis July 20.

The Honduran seminarians’ letter reportedly was not met with praise for having come forward in June; Cardinal Maradiaga instead accused the seminarians of being “gossipers” who wish to portray their fellow seminarians in a bad light, according to sources in Honduras.

The same article reports allegations that more than half of the seminarians in the diocese are homosexuals – something that could never be known if these men were celibate.

These are not victimless sins. This is evil that damages people’s lives forever. Sexual abuse and harassment inflicts terrible wounds on people’s souls and mangles their capacity for trust and faith. Nothing could be more aptly described as the work of Satan than the sexual abuse of children and the sexual coercion of young people since it fundamentally destroys and impairs their human flourishing.

It is not only the horror of the sexual perversion itself that is nauseating. It is also the rank hypocrisy.

The perpetrators and their abettors are the same men who claim for themselves some kind of apostolic authority, and therefore some kind of moral privilege. They even dare to take unto themselves the title alter Christus – that is, “another Christ”. Could there be anything that better qualifies as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? When a man preys upon the vulnerable like Satan, and at the same time to pretends to be “another Christ”, he has reached a degree of hypocrisy never approached even by the Pharisees.

St. Jude tells us that such men are: “…wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” These words surely affix themselves to these grotesque moral and religious mutants. The text also comforts the Christian with the reminder that judgement will most assuredly occur.

THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE

The conclusion is inescapable. Dark cesspits have formed within the Catholic organisation. They steam and bubble and release the fetid odours of sin which until now have remained out of the public eye due to an active effort of concealment.

But a great exposure is taking place. This is not just driven by the findings of courts. It is also being driven by high-ranking clerics effectively spilling their guts to the media. They have sought to “out” each other. They have targeted each other with accusations. They have stamped question marks over each other’s reputation.

It is a vicious political bloodletting that in a previous age would have resulted in piles of bodies, unceremoniously tossed into graves, jewelled daggers firmly inserted into backs.

It is now transparently clear that the Catholic hierarchy is at war with itself. Cardinals are taking potshots at each other. Bishops and priests are weighing in. Both traditionalists and liberals within the church have tried to cast the blame for cover-up and deception upon the other camp. Herein we see the principle that you should never let a good crisis go to waste. Both sides are using it to damn the other.

Some clergy are jockeying for position. They sense that fresh vacancies will soon be open in the upper ranks when senior clerics are purged. Others have battened down the hatches in the hope that the storm will pass and their careers will be unaffected. Still others are spinning their wheels so fast to rewrite history that they have nearly started a small tornado.

Much of the heat has arisen due a former Apostolic Nuncio by the name of Carlo Maria Viganò.  A few weeks ago, Viganò released a lengthy testimony that named prominent and powerful clergy who, Viganò claims, knew of the deplorable behaviour of Cardinal McCarrick but did nothing to stop him.

Most damning of all Viganò has claimed that Pope Francis was told about McCarrick as far back as 2013, and singularly failed to take action. The letter seethes with a spirit of moral retribution. If you want people to resign for their failures, Viganò says, then begin with yourself! Viganò seems to suggest that if Pope Francis wants heads from among the top then he will most certainly get heads: and one of the first to roll will be his own.

It is the first time in living memory that any highly-placed member of the hierarchy has publicly denounced the head of the pyramid: the pope himself. The Roman Catholic Church operates under a strict code of secrecy and silence, which Father Raymond de Souza outlined in the Catholic Herald just a few days ago:

Whatever the truth or falsity of the claims made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in his “testimony” calling for the resignation of Pope Francis, it is indisputable that he spectacularly violated the pontifical secret he swore an oath to keep.

That is an earthquake for the Vatican diplomatic corps and the Roman Curia. The “pontifical secret” which binds them is not the confessional seal, nor is it as grave as the conclave seal for the cardinal electors, but it is most serious. After Viganò it will never be the same.

Archbishop Viganò justified the revelation of details he learned on the job on the grounds that his conscience did not permit him to keep corruption hidden. He brazenly invoked the mafia term omertà to speak about the code of silence he was breaking.

Curial officials and Vatican diplomats take their oaths very seriously. I have known dozens of them, many as close friends, and the norm is that they quite punctiliously refuse to discuss even routine matters that cross their desks.

For example, 10 days before the papal trip to Ireland, I asked an old friend, a current official in one of the Vatican congregations responsible for bishops, whether in fact there were any tribunals set up to judge bishops foreseen in the motu proprio of Pope Francis, Come una madre amorevole. He would not answer. I had not asked for any particulars, just whether it was even happening. (Pope Francis confirmed that such a case was underway on his return flight from Dublin.)

And the Vatican takes the oath seriously too. The VatiLeaks affair of a few years ago involved stolen and leaked documents by one who violated his oath, the butler of Benedict XVI. He was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced (though eventually pardoned).

Supporters of Pope Francis argue that the accusations have arisen primarily from the traditionalist camp of the church because so many traditionalists loathe the pope. Viganò is sometimes described as a traditionalist.

Indeed, supporters of Pope Francis turned their guns on Viganò very quickly. There are now allegations that he also is tainted. The New York Times reported that Viganò has been accused of hindering a sexual misconduct investigation in Minnesota. If this is true, it marks Viganò out as another hypocrite trying to stiff the pope.

The progressives in the Roman Catholic Church see the traditionalists as people who want to turn the clock back to the medieval period; to go back to Latin, arcane rituals, and a loveless moral legalism. They claim the “trads” feel threatened by Pope Francis because his vision of a humbler, more humane church is a threat to their power and their vision.

A lot of traditionalists made their careers, after all, by being public warriors of a hard Catholic morality. They mouthed the conservative lines of the previous popes with an eye to getting a bishop’s mitre or a cardinal’s hat. With Pope Francis, all that work seems to count for nothing! That’s why they are so happy to torpedo a reigning pope, the progressives say. It is an act of revenge. It is spite.

There is probably quite a bit of truth in this.

On the other hand, the opponents of Pope Francis claim that something shady has been going on. They say that Pope Francis has done little to combat the abuses in the church and his public speeches of contrition and prayers are not enough to deal with the problem. The traditionalists accuse Pope Francis of being a scarcely-Catholic ultra-liberal left-winger, influenced by liberation theology. They claim his theology is scrambled and unclear. They also view him as an ecclesiastical tyrant. The pope is political animal, they claim, who fights with the viciousness of South American cutthroat politics. He stacks the Vatican with his own “yes men” and engages in petty retribution.

Pope Francis is possibly all of these things. It is hard to know for sure, given the crackling hostility within the Vatican. This “Holy City” is a hothouse, steamy and humid with petty grudges and politicking. It is a jungle where senior clerics hate each other venomously.

Father John Zuhlsdorf alluded to this very atmosphere on his blog earlier this week:

When I working in a Curial office I was at first rather taken aback by the style of letters I had to write, with flowery – to American ears – phrases and formulae. Why not just get to the point? What’s with acknowledging receipt of “Your Excellency’s is most esteemed letter under date of…”?

I eventually figured it out. The elaborate courtesy and formulae allowed people to sincerely disliked each other and vehemently disagreed to continue to communicate and get things done.

Francis is certainly in a difficult position because he heads a church that is rapidly becoming ungovernable.

The Council of Trent worked hard to give the See of St. Peter the illusion of a divine mandate and thus the guarantor of unity. But the 16th century polish – although very hard-wearing and long-lasting – can be softened and removed by modernism. Thus the shine is off. The papacy is fast regressing to the murderous intrigues of pre-Reformation skulduggery. The papal office itself is now contested territory.

Up until now, the crackle of gunfire has been muted. The war has been fought behind curtains. Shots in the dark. Whispers and rumours. Political signals and coded snubs.

But now the conflict is in the daylight. There has been a drive-by shooting at high noon. The gunman that pumped the trigger is Viganò.

And his ambush has worked, at least so far. Pope Francis is politically and morally crippled. Discussion about his fitness is omnipresent from the Catholic in the pew, to the secular media, to the clergy themselves. Benedict XVI proved it was possible to resign the job, and he quit due to age. Why couldn’t Francis step down too?

The question now on everyone’s lips, which Pope Francis has so far publicly refused to answer, is: “What did the Pope know and when did he know it?

According to the Spectator, the evidence is mounting that Pope Francis knew about McCarrick. Yet Pope Francis has given no denials. Instead he flatly refused to address the Viganò testimony, telling journalists that they should judge the credibility of the accusations for themselves. He has also preached a homily recently in which he spoke of silence sometimes being the only acceptable response to false accusations.

The implication, with all the subtlety of a sack of hammers, is that the accusations are preposterous and beneath the pope’s dignity.

Now, it is quite possible that Pope Francis is a hapless casualty of the internecine conflict within the Roman Catholic Church. It is also quite possible that Pope Francis is as stained and tarnished as large numbers of senior clergy appear to be. We simply do not know.

All we know for certain is that Pope Francis has plenty of enemies. Many are his religious “brothers and sisters” – what a lovely lot! We know that there are large numbers of conservative Catholics who see Pope Francis as dangerous and heretical. Some have even prayed for his death, as one Polish priest was disciplined for doing recently.

We also know that Francis has plenty of friends who play hardball and show no mercy.

There’s a lot of water left to flow under this bridge.

We must take Solomon’s wisdom to heart and judge the case with balanced scales. This means we must let the situation run its course and sensibly, patiently, and intelligently wait for hard evidence to emerge before arriving at conclusions. For nobody deserves a trial by media, not even a pope, and nobody deserves to be condemned and hanged on the basis of Tweets, rumour, innuendo, and hearsay.

Newspaper Cartels: When the Media Combine

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Last Thursday, led by the Boston Globe, about 350 newspapers ran coordinated editorials to criticise Donald Trump.

Despite the breathless, celebratory reporting by the liberal media who tried to make it sound like a tsunami wave of dissent was washing across the American landscape, this campaign did not involve the majority of newspapers in the United States. According to Wikipedia – whose lists are usually credible – the United States has more than 1,300 newspapers. This means that only around a quarter of the United State’s print media participated in this protest.

For the most part, the participants and their shtick were predictable. The Guardian, for instance, reported it as a “defence of press freedom”, despite there being absolutely zero legislative effort to curtail the freedom of the press. In amongst its story, it added:

The Guardian has also joined the effort and has published an editorial alongside outlets around the United States.

Which is laughably redundant. Was there ever any doubt? Just as a manure seller goes in search of dung, and a jackal is drawn to rancid carrion, so the Guardian is irresistibly drawn to any fashionable liberal shibboleth and any anti-Trump crusade.

This mass media protest appears to be the brainchild of the Deputy Editor of the Boston Globe, Marjorie Pritchard, who “put out the call” to other newspapers. Most newspaper ignored the campaign and a few reacted by strongly distancing themselves from the project. It seems likely that Pritchard hoped this would be a watershed moment of media solidarity.

As Geoff Caldwell of the Joplin Globe wryly observed:

I’m sure when she dreamed it up, she thought it one of those “Yes, that’ll show ’em!” moments.

In an interview with NPR, Marjorie Pritchard emblemised the problem with the modern media. Her remarks demonstrate an extreme narrowness of thought and a worldview that is built over the rubble of mere assumptions.

One gets the impression from listening to her comments that many modern journalists are not very bright and, as a profession, have experienced tragic decline from the trailblazers who went before them. Gone are the trenchcoat-wearing, fedora-capped stalwarts skulking around dark alleys armed only with a notebook and pencil. The sun has set on the days when telling the truth to the public – and properly informing them – was the high calling of the profession.

In the NPR interview, Marjorie Pritchard insisted:

This editorial project is not against the Trump administration’s agenda. It’s a response to put us into the public discourse and defend the First Amendment.

Pritchard simply assumes that the First Amendment is critically endangered in the United States but she never explains why. If an alien beamed down and heard this comment he might justly wonder, “Is there some law being proposed to squelch the freedom of expression?” The answer is no.

Despite the liberal media’s persistent demand for other people’s opinions to be criminalised or marginalised, neither the United States Congress nor the United States President has even hinted that they would yank on the levers of power to trammel the freedom of the press.

It seems in Pritchard’s ivory tower, scrutiny and criticism of the massed media is a form of unconstitutional attack. There is no other way to interpret her remark here.

She goes on:

He’s calling the press a domestic enemy. And we are fellow countrymen. And our profession is to hold the powerful accountable.

The self-indulgence is off-the-charts. Now that the liberal media has had a taste of public excoriation, it suddenly wants to be accorded respect as “fellow countrymen”. Pritchard argues that the media should not be subject to pillory and savage rhetoric because, after all, they are fellow citizens too. They are citizens who just happen to have a different view.

Hypocrisy rises from these words like dust clouds from a third world mining operation.

This is the same liberal media that through their poisonous writings have mercilessly persecuted Christian bakers, florists, teachers, CEOs, and marriage certificate issuers.

This is the same liberal media that fanned the flames of racial tension by uncritically supporting narratives that later proved to to be false.

This is the liberal media that has subjected both the President and his supporters to violent pillory from the moment he was elected. The Guardian, for example, commended the actions of the Red Hen restaurant that threw out Sarah Sanders.

This is the same liberal media that showed a Vaticanesque reluctance to publicly expose horrific instances of child abuse and predatory sexual harassment within their own profession, even when the perpetrators were widely known.

And on it goes.

The media have been a toxic influence on the culture for decades. To now tremulously hold out the hands that have bloodied others and plead for cordiality as “fellow countrymen” is to ask for the sort of civility that the liberal media has never accorded its victims. For all his faults (and they are numerous) Donald Trump represents a justifiable outpouring of disinfectant upon this whole cartel. He has opened it up to the sunshine of scrutiny, factual critique, and overdue scepticism. In other words, journalists are discovering they are not immune from being judged and weighed in the balances.

But the delusions of grandeur get even worse.

In the NPR interview, Pritchard tries to suggest that the media must “hold the powerful accountable” as if they were latter-day John the Baptists denouncing a modern Herod.

But Geoff Caldwell rightly points out that the reason the public is unimpressed with the liberal media is precisely because it does not tell the truth. Instead it lies in order to service its own narratives and agendas.

Neither does it hold all powerful people accountable. It only holds some of them accountable, those it does not like. A good many powerful people get a free ride in the press. Genuinely shocking evils are left hidden even when they would be easily discoverable, simply because liberal journalists have no desire to find them.

Caldwell writes:

It wasn’t Trump who spread the Michael Brown, “Hands up; don’t shoot,” lie around the world from Ferguson, Missouri.

It was The Washington Post, not Trump that falsely reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the nation’s electrical grid via a Vermont Utility.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a week ago Saturday night, NBC News reporter Cal Perry and crew were attacked by radical left antifa protesters in an event Perry documented on Twitter as it happened.

Yet the next morning, on NBC’s own “Sunday Today” show, none of Perry’s footage of the attack was shown and reporter Garrett Haake referred to it as but “tense moments in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with far-left protesters heckling the media and chanting anti-police slogans.”

He goes on to add:

Where was that accountability for eight years of a Barack Obama administration? Where was that “truth to power” as Hillary Clinton and staff erased servers, destroyed phones and refused to turn over information duly requested by investigators?

Where is that dedication at this very moment regarding the glaring amount of questionable activities by a multitude of FBI, Department of Justice and intelligence figures that let Clinton skate and brought a sledgehammer to the ice pond against Trump and crew?

Not surprisingly, many of the protesting newspapers looked faintly farcical in the end.

The Morehead News in Kentucky ran a piece that began with a quotation from Josef Goebbels, the minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany. It was all downhill from there with the editor invoking Hitler and Nazis left and centre.

At one point it was asserted:

We believe the Nazi tactic of “the big lie” is alive and well at the White House because of President Donald Trump’s continuing “fake news” claims since the 2016 presidential campaign.

It should be clear to most Americans that Trump is relying on another Goebbels’ principle of propaganda:

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The glaring disanalogy seems to have passed over the top of the editor’s head.

In Nazi Germany the state tightly controlled the media. The example of Goebbels only has any relevance in a system where journalists are coerced by force to be complicit with the state. But this is 21st century America. In contrast to Goebbels, poor Donald Trump has no capacity to dictate to the media at all. If anyone needed proof of this, you need only look at this selfsame vanity project where editors pretend the President of the United States is a clear and present danger to the press freedom!

When Trump criticises the press, he is not angling to control it. So spouting off about Nazis and Goebbels is merely a crude editorial effort to manipulate its readers.

But, the editors at the Morehead News are not only illogical, they are also wrong.

The above statement – apparently written with a high school generalist level of historical knowledge and perhaps a Facebook meme as a source –  is a misquotation.

There is no record that Goebbels ever said what the Morehead News claims. The statement was first attributed to Goebbels in Publications Relating to Various Aspects of Communism (1946), by the United States Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Issues 1-15, p. 19. But no reliable source has been found in which this attribution can be credibly said to have originated from Goebbels.

Furthermore, when Hitler wrote about “big lies” in the opening chapter of Mein Kampf, he did not recommend it as a political strategy but instead argued that this was the methodology of Jewish Marxists and their alleged 1918 “stab in the back” of the German army and General Ludendorff. The Jews, Hitler claimed, were widely believed because their lie about the weakness of the German army was so incredible nobody would ever dream it could possibly be false.

Goebbels also wrote about “big lies” but he directed his comments toward the English:

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

(Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik, published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel on 12 January 1941.)

The Morehead News‘ historiography is flatly wrong. It may not be a big error, but it is a falsehood all the same. It also shows precious little fact checking. Five minutes of Googling would have yielded the above information. Moreover, the tormented application to an inverse modern situation makes for a dizzying display of irrationality.

This, then, is the quality of a journalistic rebuke in 2018 against the term “fake news”: a rebuke that includes demonstrable fakery. You really could not make it up.

Meanwhile, the Guardian adopted the standard liberal stratagem of arguing that viewpoints and opinions it detests are potentially dangerous to society. Not for the first time, the Guardian virtually suggests that Trump’s comments about the media is putting journalists at risk of being murdered:

The anti-media mood at some Trump rallies has been intimidating. Social media trolling, violent abuse and threats to journalists (especially sexual threats to women journalists) have reached unprecedented levels. The United Nations human rights commissioner warned this week that Mr Trump’s attacks on the press are “very close to incitement to violence”. In June, five staff members at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were shot dead by a local man with a local grievance. They may not be the last.

As the Prophet Hosea warned, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). And likewise St. Paul cautions, “Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap in return” (Galatians 6:7). If is true that the liberal media now feel the pressure of public opprobrium, they must examine themselves to find the cause. For it is the liberal media that have sown the wind.

It is the liberal media that have long published reams of material that can only be viewed as a calculated (and at times cynical) effort to create fear and division. They have sought to manipulate social outcomes by sacrificing truth. They have even tacitly tried to inflame segments of society and aim them against others.

They have emboldened violent and intimidating movements (like Antifa) with soft soap reporting. They have attacked law enforcement over one-sided BLM narratives. Many liberal media outlets have approvingly promoted every nonsensical, shrieking, finger-pointing movement that comes down the insane pipeline of the left wing. They attempt to silence or delegitimise people who speak against the liberal agenda (e.g. Dr. Jordan Peterson, Lauren Southern, or Stefan Molyneux). They support speech codes and advocate for censorship in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Now they are reaping a taste of the whirlwind.

It is simply stupid to imagine that Trump has created a resentment toward the media out of whole cloth. Of course he has not. But he is a convenient scapegoat for a profession that knows it is under siege. On the one hand it is frightened by declining circulation as the New Media displaces the Old (hence their desire to censor the social media space). On the other hand they are battling fresh outbreaks of public contempt.

Donald Trump has tapped into this existing wellspring of anger. He has given that attitude a voice. Even some of the dissenting newspapers recognise this to be true. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined:

Just as his lack of restraint has often been the president’s self-inflicted wound, the bias of some of the press has hurt journalism, at the very moment when it is most needed to save itself… It is time for a truce.

The Horn News was even more cutting in its analysis:

Polls show Republicans have grown more negative toward the news media in recent years: Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in June 2017 that the news media has a negative effect on the country, up from 68 percent in 2010.

When is the “fake news” going to wake up to the damage their rhetoric is causing this country — and their own professional integrity?

One must ask some questions.

Who do these 350 newspapers think they are appealing to and what do they really hope to achieve? Certainly, there is an obvious profit motive. Many of the newspapers implored readers to subscribe to their papers in order to “defend a free press”. As a stunt, this does have the potential to give the bottom line of the account books a bit of a bounce.

But are these coordinated editorials going to persuade Trump supporters or even Trump-opposing conservatives? Highly unlikely. Conservatives of every sort have long decried the liberal media. That’s one of the reasons Fox News exists and survives. Is it going to appeal to the young to buy newspapers so as to fight the power? Hardly. Young people do not read newspapers, neither do they typically pay for their news. The media can channel the vibe of the French Revolution all they like, but it is not going to save their papers from the inevitable end.

Even critics of the current President think this gesture is a grand form of virtue signalling to fellow liberals that highlights the groupthink of the media class. Jack Shafer at Politico writes:

Another problem with a nationally coordinated pro-press catechism is that the audience likely to reap the greatest benefit from the haranguing—Trump and many in his base—tends not to read newspapers in the first place. While there’s always value in preaching to the choir—that’s why churches hold services every Sunday—the combined weight of 200 pro-press editorials is not likely to move the opinion needle or deter Trump from defaming and threatening reporters.

Most newspaper editorials are already a watered-down product of groupthink. It’s unlikely that expanding the size of the group and encouraging everybody to bake and serve a tuna-fish casserole on the same day will produce editorials that are more interesting and persuasive than the normal fare.

But maybe I’m wrong. If a single day of pro-press editorials is a good idea for a collective assignment, then maybe newspapers should set aside next Saturday for 200 editorials on tariffs and next Sunday for 200 editorials on global warming and next Monday for 200 editorials on Afghanistan. Surely these issues are as compelling and urgent as press freedom.

If anything, this stunt has proven that a large segment of the media really is an ideological cartel – a kind of informational mafioso – that is largely isolated from the grit of the wider society. It shows what a slanted view of the world they have; what disrespect they have for opposing viewpoints; and a chronic over-estimation of their own importance to democracy. It shows what microscopic interest they have in perspectives that differ from the liberal buzz. They have become propagandists.

Fortunately, newspapers are doomed to largely vanish within a generation. Liberal journalists already stand in the centre of the small shrinking islands of their readership. They wish to salvage their credibility without any material change to their stinking methodology. As a result, each time they attack they end up injuring themselves. Like a bumbling knight who falls in his armour and spears himself with his sword or an inept soldier who accidentally shoots his fingers off, the liberal media seem intent on ever-more grievously wounding themselves.

I can remember shortly after Trump’s election, the Guardian (and many other liberal media outlets) started to bitterly report on “fake news”. I could hardly believe that such a term was getting such circulation within the media. If an organisation of heart surgeons exists somewhere, I am very sure they would be careful never to popularise the concept of “fake heart surgeries”. They would avoid any such suggestion because the slightest doubt regarding the efficacy and value of surgery would do irreparable harm to their profession as a whole. Yet though it runs contrary to all common sense, the liberal media promoted such a concept and in the process, effectively undermined their own franchise.

The media confidently assumed that the “fake news” terminology could be safely quarantined. It would be a spear that would be thrown only at conservatives, social media news, or other sources of information that they disliked.

But the term would never remain static. Overnight, it was weaponised against the liberal media, and because of the super-abundance of double-standards and transparent agendas, has become irrevocably associated with the liberal media. They kicked a goal for the opposition.

It is not difficult to see that the Boston Globe and the 350 news outlets have done the same thing here. Again. They have lent fuel to Trump’s fire. He accuses the media of being in cahoots against him. They are the “opposition party”, says Trump, who are working together to destabilise the presidency, torpedo our agenda, and spread misinformation. Thanks to the Boston Globe, the liberal media have just handed him a perfect exhibit for his case. He will forever be able to point to the 350.

They have also just confirmed in the minds of sceptical people that large and disparate media companies will band together to forward a common agenda when they sense that their survival is at stake, or when their politics is threatened. Pritchard’s project will promote the popular anxiety that media groups are merely different branches that spring from the same root. Can any be trusted? For there are few things that so greatly arouses concern among the public than coordinated efforts by big industries, powerful people, influential institutions.

Lastly, the hyper-ventilating and hand-wringing from a profession that are not widely respected will only magnify the impression that the media are worried. They are weakened. They are fighting for survival. In the minds of many people, if the liberal media is worried it is surely because they have something to be worried about. Moreover, it will reinforce the view that whatever is going on with this presidency, it is significant, even historically unprecedented. Unlike anything in living memory. After all, you only get special denunciations from special events, from unparalleled developments, and personalities hitherto not seen before in high office.

Whatever happens, people will be able to point to the participating newspapers and say, “There’s the collusion. There’s the groupthink. There’s the fake news.”

Free Speech and Mr Jones: The Old Media Resorts to Censorship

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If you have not heard of Alex Jones by now, you certainly will before too long.

Articles about Jones have appeared seemingly everywhere over the last few days.

His name has appeared in every media outlet from the Daily Telegraph to Breitbart; from the Washington Post to the Weekly Standard. Even international outlets like the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera have referenced Jones.

He has been at the centre of countless opinion pieces published over the past few days. In the process, he has become a symbol of the precarious future of free speech. The Empire of the Old Media is striking back. They want to dictate your content choices.

But let’s start at the beginning: who is Alex Jones and why is he suddenly noteworthy?

Well, frankly, Alex Jones is a bit of a nutter. He is a conspiracy theorist who rides a white horse at the head of the pack of the international conspiracy sub-culture – now involving millions of people – that reject established historical and scientific facts.

Sociologically, he is grit in the machine for he reveals one of the great paradoxes of an unrighteous age: that just as mankind gets a super-abundance of easily accessible information, we also get bizarre conspiracy theories by the truckload. Our culture now pumps out spittle-flecked nuttiness faster than a bicycle factory in China. And within this irrational world, Mr Jones is a star in the firmament. An information-age Stakhanovite.

Alex Jones promotes so much paranoia he practically sweats.

He says that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. He maintains that a shadowy “new world order” is taking over the planet. He argues the moon landings were falsified. He criticises vaccinations. He has claimed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates secret concentration camps. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he said the shooting was a false flag operation by supporters of gun control. The survivors of school shootings, he declared, were “crisis actors”.

Selecting a broadcast at random, and clicking to a random time index, immediately yielded the following quotation:

Do you understand the grave danger of the Jacobins? We are in grave danger of total Illuminati revolution. And what does the Illuminati call for in their own writings? That are in the Encyclopedia Britannica? Murder; death; mayhem; a boot stomping on the human face; human sacrifice; fires; burning cities; slaughter; death! Because that’s what they like. The journey is the destination for these people.

It seems there is scarcely a single anti-government, anti-authority, anti-science narrative in existence that Jones does not uncritically embrace. It is no wonder that Rolling Stone magazine titled him “the most paranoid man in America”.

One feels a bit sorry for the Mr Jones. It must be exhausting to live in a world so full of malevolent schemes. It must be terrifying to see the long hand of sinister people at work in every joint and fold of the social structure.

It’s tragic that any man’s life could end up in low orbit around such ideas. But this is where Jones has ended up. One wonders what life experiences led him to such a mental void, because Alex Jones gives himself mind and soul to this stuff. He lives and breathes conspiracy. Conspiracy is his life mission. Conspiracy is his consuming passion. He is inextricably deep in the sub-culture, like a miner buried under a hundred feet of rock. You get the impression that Alex Jones will not return to the land of the clear-headed any time soon. For Jones and his legion of disciples, conspiracies serve as substitute religions.

For those who tune into his radio show, he is regarded as a latter-day prophet from whom comes a steady trickle of truth. He commands a following in the hundreds of thousands. But despite his big fan club, Alex Jones has been booted off Facebook, Spotify and Youtube. He still has his website, radio show, and other means of communication so it is not quite the same thing as the smashing of Protestant printing presses by the counter-Reformation. Yet, there is a deeply unsettling dimension to this.

The silencing of Alex Jones on these platforms was greeted with thinly-disguised triumph by a range of commentators who work in Old Media outlets like the Guardian and CNN.  In fact, it has been quite remarkable to witness the degree of collusion among the Old Media against the operators of the New Media.

This is because the New Media is a threat to the Old. Its power is growing.

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Part of the attraction of the New Media is that anyone can be a journalist. If you have worthwhile and interesting things to say, you can get a loyal following that would be the envy of many newspapers. But even more disconcerting (from the viewpoint of the Old Media) is that the content produced by “amateur” journalists is mostly free. It is also mostly uncontrolled. People can say anything, and they do. There are no corporate bean counters; no bottom line; no CEO; no bosses; and no “party line” that needs to be followed. The New Media has remarkable independence.

As a result, the New Media reflects a true diversity of opinion – far more so than any of the Old Media organisations. In other words, thanks to tools like Facebook, Youtube and delivery systems like Spotify, what has emerged is an exercise in true democracy. It is the creation of an open marketplace of ideas where the best ideas gain traction, and the worst ideas are pilloried and ridiculed. It is wild and untamed land, but reflects the rational democratic ideal far better than any Old Media news organisation can possibly do with their rigid, simplistic, stuffy command-style approach.

The attacks on the stars of the New Media follow the failures of the Old Media to really tap into the online world and get a loyal following. Mind you, they tried once. A lot of news organisations built online websites, created new content streams, published apps, and tried to “buzzify” their news stories so they sounded hip, edgy, and too-cool-for-school. But this was always doomed to fail. The social environment has changed. At the rate things are going, Old Media influence will wane within a generation.

But worse than all of this – again, from the view of the Old Media – is the disintegration of their social power. These vast media empires once could break politicians. Like Pope Gregory VII who left the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow for three days in penance, the Old Media establishment could leave leaders sweating and grovelling too. They could ruin the lives of celebrities and commoners alike. They could break men like twigs. They could call the shots of social policy.

But those days are passing and the empires are collapsing. Increasingly, the Old Media is being heavily scrutinised, criticised, and at other times completely by-passed. The most powerful man in the world – Donald Trump – has identified the Old Media establishment as the “opposition party” and he goes for the jugular. Other Republican politicians have adopted the same tactics. Internationally, other politicians are using the same approach. A minister in the Hungarian government recently openly rebuked the BBC for their ideological interview methods.

Brilliant new thinkers appear on Old Media talk shows and make the journalists look wooden-headed and deeply unintelligent – one only needs to consider the fate of Cathy Newman and Patrick Gower whose names are forever linked to disastrous, self-righteous interviews that went very sour. Other media organisations are embattled from their own readership. The frequent rift between the readers and the opinion pieces in “quality newspapers” like the Guardian is striking.

As our Lord once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). And a left-wing news organisation that cannot even count on the affirmation of its own left-wing readers cannot surely endure for long.

Throughout the world, media organisations continue to hemorrhage millions of dollars of advertising, and thousands of readers, fans, and consumers. Time and again, cash strapped news organisations announce rounds of job cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes, and efficiency shuffles. Each time they streamline they promise this will make their organisation “leaner” and better able to “meet needs going forward”. And yet, no organisational change seems to prevent the decline of circulation – the New York Times, for example, has seen a 50% decline in print circulation in the last 12 years. Readers may click onto the websites and even pay subscription for iconic boutique news, but digital subscribers are nowhere near as profitable as print news consumers. Furthermore, like other Old Media companies, the New York Times share price in 2018 is about half of what it was in 2002 which means the market does not consider the company to be anywhere near as worthwhile as it was at the turn of the millennium.

As for the Guardian, in April of this year it published a financial update in which it reported that its losses were less than expected. They only made a 19,000,000 pound loss in the year to the end of March. This is distinct from the 38,000,000 pound loss they made in the previous financial year.

At present, the Guardian is in the midst of a three year plan to reach their grand objective of “breaking even”. That is to say, to make a profit of exactly nothing, while at the same time adding nothing to their debt. “Breaking even” is usually only ever a goal for a business that is so derelict that the investors one forlorn hope is to be able to walk away without a loss. If “breaking even” is the operating goal of a media organisation, it suggests severe stagnation.

The Guardian is now principally supported by donations from its readership as if it were a charity. It trumpets that reader contributions now earn it more money than advertising, as if this is a good thing. What it really means is that advertisers know which way their bread is buttered. With additional costs, the Guardian will make a total loss of around 24,000,000 for the year. Another rousing success story for the Old Media.

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The Old Media – and the left-wing professional class that is allied to them – have responded to the ground-level revolution of the New Media by making the case for censorship. It is truly staggering to read articles in the Guardian and other liberal media outlets that use sophistry and pretended-rationality to argue, at basic, for a person to be unable to use social media platforms – although they try to re-badge this as “corporate responsibility”. In their view, social media corporations that host so much of the New Media have the responsibility to monitor and regulate the opinions that circulate so that nothing they find objectionable will ever be encountered in that social space.

They argue – usually without a shred of evidence – that people like Alex Jones produce “hate speech” and therefore ought to be de-platformed. This is a chilling precedent indeed, and can be understood as a protective measure by the Old Media in response to the fundamental shift that is occurring in regard to their social status.

It was heartening to read on the Guardian website this morning the sheer number of readers who were able to express disdain for Alex Jones and yet vehemently support his right to express his opinion untrammeled by politically-correct tyranny. Many recognise, (despite the fog of progressivism), that free speech should be a value enshrined in any democratic practice; and to the greatest extent possible in the arts, pursuits, and behaviours of a democratic people. It should be expanded and guarded. And the inverse – censorship – should not be celebrated and promoted.

But the Old Media is not a consistent beast. It will howl against the alleged censorship of bakers refusing to make cakes for same-sex couples, yet demand its use against people they dislike. And we may be certain it has not finished its assault yet. Some predators are most dangerous when they are wounded, and we can predict with some confidence that the Old Media establishment will champion censorship and the control of information more aggressively and zealously before their sun finally sinks below the horizon.

If Alex Jones has performed a service to the age, it is the demonstration of how fragile free speech is becoming. If a relatively harmless nutter cannot be allowed to broadcast his preposterous beliefs in peace; if a conspiracy theorist is referenced by a CNN journalist at a Facebook press conference as if this was a pressing concern, it will surely not be long before any one else with views that do not fit the cultural orthodoxy (like Christians!) will find themselves fighting for a voice too.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux Make New Zealand Reporters Look Foolish

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At the airport entrance Southern and Molyneux mime being blocked by a “force field” as a witty rejoinder to the radical left who declared that the pair would never be allowed into the country. Observe that the archway is decorated by Maori symbols. It surely does not take a genius to imagine how one New Zealand TV reporter interpreted this bit of fun. (Clue: Racism! Disrespect!)

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux are forging successful careers by demonstrating the absurdity and contradictions of left-wing shibboleths.

They are also riding the wave of the future, for increasing numbers of intelligent people are seriously questioning the worldview at the top. And a growing percentage of these are young people. A generation is rising that are not spellbound by buzzwords.

They reflect what is happening in the culture. People are wondering why some hard facts are now taboo. Why are we not allowed to articulate scientific reality about certain topics without it being labelled “hate speech”? Why can’t we speak up about certain medical truths? Why do people get stamped with the label of “fascist” for having common sense views about immigration or gender? When did established historical facts become a minefield that we must tiptoe through for fear of offending someone?

And why is free speech regarded as dangerous – and in desperate need of being monitored and restricted – by that small army of academics, politicians, movie directors, judges, teachers, lawyers, and students who constitute the professional class? The “elites” who tell the rest of us how to live, lecture us, and tell us how to take our freedoms.

It seems to more and more people that we are free to speak our minds so long as we echo the identity talking points and arrive at “the correct” conclusion. Which is always the politically correct, left-wing conclusion.

Yet the leftwing certainties of the elites and the young radicals who are their disciples, are now so ridiculous they can only survive outside of scrutiny and objective fact.

The worldview of the left-wing elite is hilarious.

Just look at modern universities which are the breeding grounds for so-called “progressive” politics.

Students now need “trigger warnings” before they open a book. University campuses are dangerous battlefields full of “microaggressions” – worse than Iraq! Students need “safe spaces” where they can hyperventilate into brown paper bags, and calm themselves down with biscuits and milk. Students introduce themselves with the phrase, “And these are my pronouns“.

As St. Paul forecast, “they think themselves wise but have become fools“.

Surely modern campus life stands as a powerful symbol of the intellectual sterility and the glass-like fragility of identity politics. This is not cleverness. It is utter stupidity. It is moronic. It is unscientific. It is irrational. It is worthy of pillory.

It is dangerous to let it go unchallenged. Right-thinking people; moral people; intelligent people have a duty to their society to question it. Mock it. And combat it.

That’s why identarian politics has become a staple of comedy. That is a warning sign for any political ideology. When your ideas become the punchline of jokes you can be sure that those ideas are beginning to crumble. If you want to destroy a political idea, laugh at it, and invite others to laugh as well. This is why dictators have no sense of humour.

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Thus, memes comparing Premier Xi to Winnie the Pooh are now censored in China. The Communist Party understands that laughing at the elite is to delegitimise them.

Political correctness and Social Justice Warriors are the material for enormously popular Youtube channels dedicated to capturing their idiocy on camera. It is this idiocy that Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux confront with calmness, patience, and a rather good eye for the entertainment value of the perpetually offended.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux have just completed a sold-out tour of Australia where they exposed (once again) that the politically correct are unintelligent beings whose capacity for critical thought has atrophied. The pair encountered quite a range of foolish people, including a very silly policeman and a group of students who repeatedly screamed “racist dog” at Lauren Southern even when they were given the chance to actually discuss issues, make a case, and offer an argument.

The pair also had to contend with Australian TV interviewers. These journalists were desperate to display their politically-correct credentials during interviews. At the same time, they tacitly recognised the star quality of these wonderfully articulate North Americans. They were practically queuing up to secure interviews with them. This is not at all surprising because Southern and Molyneux are now internationally famous people who command more name-recognition (and respect) than most Australian journalists could ever dream of.

Now the pair have gone to New Zealand. Just when you thought the media class could not be more unintelligent and dimwitted than that found in Australia, we discover that there are dark depths of unmitigated, blood-curdling cretinism hitherto not plumbed in modern history.

Yes, it is true. There are television interviewers that make Cathy Newman look positively sharp. Remember Cathy Newman? She is now chiefly famous for her disastrous interview with Jordan Peterson who calmly dismantled her politically correct talking points and left her literally lost for words.

The Southern and Molyneux interview currently doing the rounds is with a journalist by the name of Patrick Gower. When I first watched the interview, my first thought was that it could not possibly be real. The interviewer, I told myself, must be an actor or perhaps this was a bit of film caught off-interview. Maybe Southern and Molyneux were casually talking to one of the behind-the-scenes studio employees or a cleaner? But no. This is actually a real thing. This is a real interview.

Patrick Gower (I understand) is one of New Zealand’s premier political reporters. If this is true then New Zealand is in grave trouble. For I have seldom come across an interview that was so obviously intended to rebuke people for their “incorrect” opinions, and one which so boringly repeated stale left-wing talking points that no longer have traction.

Perhaps Gower lives in a bubble and does not read much news outside of his own persuasion. Perhaps he assumes that anyone on the so-called “alt-right” are hillbillies and hicks and thus easily tripped over. Perhaps he thought he did not need to do much preparation since he was combating them on home turf. Perhaps he assumed they would be easy to ridicule and tear to pieces.

Except they weren’t.

Gower discovered that both Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were intelligent and rational people. They could think on their feet. They were reasonable in their outlook. They had done their homework. They were erudite and switched on. Articulate and personable. They were lively, sparkling, and above all interesting people who were saying interesting things. Instead of the boring, recycled, warmed up, microwaved, politically correct sludge that usually features on such TV interviews.

In contrast to his guests, many noted that Patrick Gower seemed shockingly unprepared for the interview and seemed to struggle to understand even very rudimentary points. At one place in the interview, he asked three times for a joke to be explained to him. He gave me the overwhelming impression of being very far away, perhaps on another planet altogether, trying hard to understand incoming signals on an antiquated and degraded radio set. Except he was sitting about two metres away from his guests.

Unsurprisingly, the comments on the video are scathing. Many claim an apparent chasm of intelligence between the interviewer and his interlocutors. Other comments show an increasing cynicism about the media altogether:

What was wrong with the host? Lauren and Stephan had to literally explain the same joke, in detail, 3 times before he understood it.

To which someone sarcastically replied:

Oh he understood it, but he was trying his best to twist it into something that would outrage the public. He has power and he is playing his role to keep and gain more power. The whole identity politics movement (as with most political unending movements) is a power grab.

Another commentator posted:

I’ve seen some pretty cringe worthy left wing reporters before, but he has to be the worst, he was completely intellectually out of his depth.

Another cuttingly wrote:

Do they actually pay that guy to do interviews? He must be somewhere on the bell curve to fulfill their equal opportunity.

Perhaps these comments may seem harsh but they are expressions of justifiable disdain and anger.

The media peddles unrighteousness. Much of the media (especially left-wing media) supports and advances a dangerous and totalitarian ideology – political correctness – and this attacks and vilifies traditional families, the Church, normality (as God created it), godliness, the integrity of a society, law and order, the integrity of a nation, appropriate penalties for crimes, common sense, discipline, and so on and so on. Politically correctness also attacks the most productive members of a community. It is inherently anti-science. And anti-reason.

The media personalities that support this dying creed are the inquisition of our time. They want to police ideas; lecture people like a classical schoolmarm for the “wrong” ideas. Yet if the new wave of anti-politically correct politics proves anything, identity politics and political correctness is running out of time.

It is bereft of ideas; it is intellectually sterile; and it is moribund. Overnight (it seems) this interview has become a symbol of the stupidity of recreational outrage; of the politically correct brain fog; and even the political senility of the elites.

Watch it here.