By Arthur Alpert
As I was saying, power and its distribution by hierarchy – are fundamental. Naturally, the folks atop the ladder fear nothing more than challenges to that inequality.
And now, after the U.S. elite has spent 40 years restoring the rampant inequality of the Gilded Age, with its poisoned fruits, Americans are protesting it – not just the mal-distribution of wealth but the burgeoning political power of those who can afford to buy government.
Just as predictably, the aerie-dwellers are reacting with horror, as to a vampire; summoning their reserves of garlic and crucifixes.
Ah, but what to do when a powerful new voice decrying inequality brandishes his own cross?
The Albuquerque Journal, public relations firm for the hierarchy, didn’t hesitate. It censored the Pope.
Yes, you read that right. The Albuquerque Journal, always extremely respectful of the Roman Catholic Church and of religion generally, censored Pope Francis.
It published no news story on the Pope’s unusual condemnation of certain aspects of corporate capitalism.
Did anybody else not report the story? Well, it’s within the realm of possibility but for the record, the Associated Press and Washington Post, the N.Y. and L.A. Times, the Wall Street Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican did.
I mean how could you not run that story?
True there’s nothing shocking in a Pope calling out “the idolatry of money.” Christianity, Judaism and Islam were born in opposition to materialism.
And it’s true, too, that other Popes also have criticized modern capitalism in general terms.
But Pope Francis specifically condemned the “new tyranny” of unfettered capitalism, the absolute autonomy of markets, financial speculation and the failure to attack “the structural causes of inequality.”
Francis’ Manifesto also decried the current ”economy of exclusion and inequality.”
And he got down to cases:
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”
“This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
On reading that, I conjured up a what-if. What if journalists led the Albuquerque Journal? “Wow!” the editor would say. “The Pope just moved past charity to economic justice, so let’s run with it, guys.”
She would assign a reporter to get Archbishop Sheehan’s reaction and Archbishop Wall’s in the Gallup Diocese. Given that more than one in four New Mexicans is Roman Catholic, she’d next dispatch a reporter to query parishioners-on-the-street outside a church.
Our journalist- editor would seek out comment from leaders of New Mexico’s other religious communities, too, including Protestant (including at least one of the “Jesus came for unfettered capitalism “ churches), Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic, Sikh and such.
And she would ask Washington correspondent Michael Coleman to question Pete Domenici, devout Roman Catholic and “trickle-downer.”
The editor might ask the business staff to compile pithy evaluations of the Pope’s ideas from a range of economists. (“Range” means more than a Rio Grande Foundation-approved “libertarian” and a Samuelson-like ignoramus.)
Finally, she would ponder having Brian Sanderoff’s Research and Polling, Inc. survey New Mexicans.
I’ve no idea what the resulting stories would say, but they’d make thought-provoking reading.
Ah, but that’s not what the Journal is about, is it? No, it’s about advancing a political agenda, not journalism, so none of what I imagined happened.
Which is not say the Journal ignored this global news story.
Management chose to have columnists discourse on the Pope’s ideas.
The editors ran Eugene Robinson’s column first, Nov. 30.
They published Leonard Pitts’ musings next, Dec. 6.
And finally they printed Kathleen Parker’s views Dec. 9.
No story, no account, but opinions.
The first two opinion pieces came from liberal African-Americans who basically approve of the Pope’s arguments. Hmmm. I’m not sure why. You?
Parker, a conservative, defended Francis against Rush Limbaugh (“just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope”) and other rightists.
Meanwhile, the story moved ahead.
Asked about allegations he was a Marxist, Pope Francis told La Stampa, “Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended…there is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church.”
The Journal ignored that, too.
Then the Pope dumped conservative Cardinal Raymond L. Burke from a Vatican committee that selects new bishops, replacing him with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who’s expected to be less so, as reported in the N.Y. Times Dec. 16.
And the Journal ignored that.
Funny, they just loved Francis when he was named Pontiff and acted humbly.
So what do we have here?
A practice familiar at the Journal but journalistically novel – when a story contradicts management’s agenda, don’t publish it.
As I was saying, management’s agenda serves the aerie-dwellers atop the hierarchy, not the readership.
And a Merry Christmas to all.