Saturday, June 6, 2009

End-of-Week News Wrap-Up: Mainstream Media's Tilt to Right, Another Arrest Following Homphobic Frenzy Whipped Up by Bishop William Lori

An end-of-week wrap-up posting that ties together recent events and commentary with previous postings on this blog . . . .

In a posting earlier this week, I noted that, despite abundant evidence challenging this narrative, the mainstream media persist in speaking of the U.S. as a “center-right” nation. I noted that this mythic narrative, repeated ad nauseam in our media, assures that our political discourse is constantly skewed to the right, and provides right-wing thinkers who do not represent the center with gate-keeping and veto power in our political deliberations.

E.J. Dionne offers a similar analysis of the role of the media in our political culture in an op-ed piece this week in Washington Post. Dionne notes that the constant tilt of mainstream media to the right is “closing off political options that should be part of the public discussion.”

Dionne notes that Rush has only to sneeze or Newt to tweet, and the media hurl their machines into motion to cover the story. By “regularly treating far-right views as mainstream positions and by largely ignoring critiques of Obama that come from elected officials on the left,” the mainstream media assure that figures like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich continue to have gate-keeping power in our important national political conversations, and veto power over all of our futures, though neither man holds office or reflects the views of a majority of Americans.

In postings about the shooting of Dr. George Tiller in Topeka last Sunday, I noted the thinness of mainstream media coverage of the ideological and religious background of Scott Roeder, the man charged with this murder. I pointed in particular to connections between white supremacist groups and Christian groups employing a dangerous, bloody apocalyptic theology that encourages violence against people of color, women, gays and lesbians, and those perceived as pro-abortion.

In light of those observations, I recommend an article at the Alternet site today—James Ridgeway’s “brief history of the radical violent right.” Ridgeway notes Roeder’s ties to the Freemen movement, whose theology is informed by an ideology known as Christian Identity, “which holds that Jews, blacks, and other minorities aren't actually people and therefore don't deserve constitutional rights.” Rights are for real people, those who aren’t three-fifth of a person, those created by God to rule and to define the humanity of “inferior” human beings: rights are for “white Sovereigns.”

As Ridgeway notes, it might seem curious that pro-life Christians have found themselves edging closer and closer to such far-right racists, whose theologies hardly reflect mainstream Christian views. But when it comes to abortion, evangelicals and Catholics increasingly find themselves connected to extremist groups like the Freeman, because of one important “bridge”: the connecting point joining mainline Christian pro-lifers and far-right groups like the Freemen is misogyny. The Freemen are attracted to the anti-abortion cause because

[t]he Sovereign crowd viewed women as chattel, and the prospect of an independent woman deciding to seek an abortion didn't sit well with them. I gained some insight into this line of thinking in another piece I once wrote about a young woman in Oklahoma who aspired to join the Christian Identity group, hoping that its followers would teach her to shoot and become a guerrilla. Instead, the men asked her for sex. When the woman replied that she wanted a relationship first, one of them replied, "Women are for breeding."

I’ve said it before and I have to say it again: the U.S. Catholic bishops have ended up in bed with some very strange bedfellows, in the “pro-life” cause. And that alliance—with racist, misogynist, homophobic thugs whose core values in many areas, including the economic sphere, are starkly at odds with Catholic values—is radically undermining the credibility of the pro-life movement. As long as the Catholic bishops are unwilling to address the violence their perfervid rhetoric about abortion is producing, and the ties to some of the most ungodly sectors of our culture with which the bishops seem willing to live as they preach the gospel of life, the bishops will not convince many of us to share their outlook on life.

And speaking of those ungodly ties and those unseemly bedfellows: there has been yet another arrest in Connecticut, following the choice of Bridgeport bishop William J. Lori (and Archbishop Charles Chaput in Denver) to whip up a homophobic frenzy this spring, as Lori and Chaput sought to torpedo legislation that proposed to place oversight of Catholic parish finances in the hands of layfolks rather than priests.

This week New Jersey police arrested radio host Hal Turner on a Connecticut warrant, after Turner posted a statement on his website threatening openly gay Connecticut legislators Michael Lawlor and Andrew McDonald. Turner stated,

It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die.

These are, of course, the very same two openly gay legislators that Bishops Lori and Chaput targeted in their spring crusade. The word “beastly” is codespeak for gay, in the work of violent right-wing homophobes from Michael Savage to Fred Phelps. Just as I predicted months ago, Lori and Chaput’s homophobic rhetoric links them to some of the most violent anti-gay people in our nation, and is continuing to elicit threats against the two gay legislators Lori and Chaput chose to target.

As Daniel Altimari notes in a Hartford Courant article yesterday,

The remarks on the blog [i.e., Hal Turner’s blog] were a reaction to the recent controversy over a bill before the legislature's judiciary committee that would have changed the way the Roman Catholic Church is governed, taking power away from church officials and turning it over to lay members.

Turner is enraged, it appears, because it has recently been announced that the Bridgeport diocese is under investigation by the Connecticut Office of State Ethics for possible violation of state lobbying laws, after Lori organized the rally at the state capitol challenging the potential legislation regarding parish finances.

The church’s response? The Bridgeport diocese has just filed suit against the state to seek an injunction against the Office of State Ethics.

And the diocese’s ally, Hal Turner, now facing charges for inciting violence against Michael Lawlor and Andrew McDonald, the same two openly gay legislators Bishops Lori and Chaput targeted back in March? He’s a well-known white nationalist and white supremacist, known for his outspoken anti-Semitic views, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center has characterized as a radio “host of hate.”

Strange bedfellows, Bishop Lori and Archbishop Chaput—shameful bedfellows for Catholic bishops to climb into bed with. I continue to call on the U.S. Catholic bishops to challenge the noxious use of homophobia by some bishops to achieve political ends, and to exercise fraternal correction by calling to accountability their brother bishops who continue stooping to such low and dangerous tactics.

Otherwise, somebody’s going to get hurt—really hurt—and those who fomented the violence will have blood on their hands, as will those who stood by in silence and said or did nothing as the ugly words poured forth.