Got news? Holy Mary gets smashed

Here we go again. In the past few days I have received a mini-wave of emails asking why GetReligion hasn’t commented on the mainstream news media’s alleged refusal to cover some of the controversial religion and anti-religion stories linked to the whole “occupy” movement.

A few of these letters, I am glad to say, have pointed toward some fascinating material.

Take, for example, the interesting fusion of various world religions and “occupy” politics in some of the Wall Street photos at this website. I know that many liberal mainstream leaders are involved in these demonstrations. However, it appears that many, shall we say, “untamed” and freelance groups are there, as well. How are these groups mixing and clashing?

I am sure some viewers would be intrigued by these photos and others would be appalled. Syncretism has that effect on some people. The key journalism point is that something newsworthy is happening on the religious left and it deserves coverage.

Unfortunately, some of the emails are from press bashers who are absolutely certain that there is an ink-stained conspiracy to keep this material out of major newspapers and broadcasts. Here is a sample of what that sounds like:

How come no articles have popped up on the virulent anti-Semitism on the part of many Wall Street Occupiers? Locally there have been clips of some of the most virulent swill along those lines that I’ve seen in years — along with a parade of signs with swastikas, etc. How many times do ignorant toads (even school teachers) have to be recorded talking about Jewish bankers and how rich Jews ought to be run out of the country for the media to take notice? …

I Googled and found virtually no mainstream media coverage of it. …

The problem, of course, is that the primary reason GetReligion exists is to critique — pro and con — mainstream coverage that does exist. We look for the errors, the gaps and the “ghosts”, as well as for stories that really get the job done.

Thus, I asked this angry person for at least one or two links to MSM stories that tip-toed into this subject or, at least, religious-press accounts of the same. In return, I received this:

No URLs for mainstream media because they are ignoring the issue and the anti-Semitic strain in the mob. … All across YouTube I found many different disgusting photos or sound videos. Some of the left blogs are claiming the equivalent of some sort of Jewish Conspiracy or conservative smear. But the ones talking beyond the just anti-Semitic sure sound like leftists. At the very least the mainstream media should be reporting on the “controversy” of where the anti-Semitic voices and signs are coming from (although unlike with the media’s Tea Party smears they will whitewash this, I am sure). Most of the Jewish blogs are at a minimum scared of the direction mob actions of this nature go. …

In other words, no URLs — even to alternative media.

However, The Politico eventually did jump on this story when — of course — it affected the current political shouting on Capitol Hill. This piece does contain some of the key video links, but never take seriously the religious content of these remarks and counter-remarks. It’s just political shouting, you see.

There has been some mainstream news coverage, mainly at the blog level, of some of the anti-Catholic protests linked to the “occupy” activities in Rome. In part, this has taken place because of the riveting video featured at the top of this post.

My take is that, once again, the story has been driven — in “Got news?” fashion — by coverage in religious and/or “conservative” news outlets.

Once again, in other words, there is niche religion news and then there is mainstream religion news. Frankly, I have trouble figuring out how the buttons get pushed that help serious news stories of this kind leap out of the “niche” news and into the “real” news.

Consider this, from the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican has condemned Saturday’s violent clashes in central Rome including an attack by protesters on a church in which a crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary were destroyed.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he “condemned the violence and the fact that a church was desecrated by some protesters who broke in and destroyed some images.” He referred to the clashes in Rome as “horrific.”

The 18th-century church of Santi Marcellino and Pietro is near St John Lateran square where much of Saturday’s violence occurred.

“When I came down, I saw the entrance door had been smashed in,” the church’s parish priest, Father Giuseppe Ciucci, was quoted by Italian media as saying.

“The Virgin Mary’s statue, which was at the entrance, had been taken away and I saw it had been thrown into the street and smashed,” he said. “I went into the sacristy and I saw the door there was also destroyed. The large crucifix at the entrance had been vandalized,” he added.

News? Not news?

“Real” news? “Conservative” news?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Ira Rifkin

    i have been to the occupy dc site and my son has spent time at occupy wall street. i have seen nothing anti-semitic or even anti-israel at dc’s mcpherson square. the only thing jewish in dc was a sukkah, the temporary booth-like structure that observant jews eat and even sleep in during the sukkot festival, which is just ending. i asked a yarmulka-wearing guy staying in the sukkah if he’s experienced any anti-semitic/anti-zionist rants, and he said, no.

    the only foreign nation-specific signs i saw there were about tibet.

    my son has seen a modicum of jewish banker/anti-zionism garbage in nyc but he stresses – as does every piece i consider well-reasoned on the subject (and believe me, i follow this sort of thing very closely)- that its really minimal.

    there’s always a fringe element that trades in this crap whenever the far left or far right gets together, particularly when its a chaotic, uncontrolled gathering – which is what the occupy movement is at this point, and why it won’t amount to much if it doesn’t get organized.

    you want anti-semitism? attend a pro-palestinian gathering, which i also do from time to time. (once a reporter, always a reporter; check out things for yourself whenever possible.)

  • Passing By

    An interesting issue.

    Not sure this is ”mainstream”, but seems relevant.

    Everything else I could find wereblog entries, but the comments are worth a read to get some sense of how people are looking at this issue. I was particularly interested to see the claims that the movement is ”too docile” and should be angrier.

    another perspective

  • Passing By

    Sorry. No idea why that happened.

    Anyway, the linked ”another perspective” also has religious implications.

    Finally, more pictures of Italian docility.

  • Mollie

    I agree with Ira Rifkin’s point about every group having fringe elements but just wanted to point out this story about a woman losing her job over anti-Semitic comments she made at an #OWS rally in LA.

  • Ira Rifkin


    What the story you linked DOESN’T say is that the Abe Foxman-ADL press release made a point of noting that the anti-Semitic rants were a distinct minority and not reflective of OWS’s overall tome.

  • Ira Rifkin

    that’s tone, sorry

  • Ira Rifkin

    one last thing: here’s jta’s (the venerable jewish telegraphic agency news wire) wrap up on the issue:

  • Jerry

    It reads to me that some have reached such a level of emotional frenzy about OWS that they assume and believe the worst in spite of no evidence and expect you to agree with them. And part of the problem is that, at least from liberal outlets, there has been at least one conservative infiltrator in a group so who knows what else the right is doing to discredit OWS? Then you have various groups that want to take advantage of OWS to promote their own agendas, just like religious conservatives joined tea party groups and created organizations like the Tea Party Express.

    So a question for any responsible journalist is to ask about the background of any particular individual or group’s action.

    I am sure some viewers would be intrigued by these photos and others would be appalled. Syncretism has that effect on some people.

    I have to disagree with your use of syncretism because that presumes that what is going on is an actual melding of beliefs. It is also possible that there is a shared worship space that is akin to Pope John Paul II’s interreligious prayer for peace conducted in Assisi 25 years ago. I say that because of the comment in the blog you referred to

    it is still a place for a hodgepodge of symbols left by protesters

    That leads me to want to know more about the religious affiliations of those at the various OWS sites, how different locations might be different and so forth.

  • Mohammed Al-Arabi

    My heart dropped just watching that video. Such blasphemy. Do these people have any sense in them?!

  • Eric Shafer

    We’ve had our crew at OWS New York several times and have found no evidence of anti-semitism. We’ve interviewed faith leaders from various faiths – see – and plan to be back to interview more.

  • Jason Miller

    I see that some people here are dismissing the anti-Jewish (not anti-Semitic, since Semitic also includes the Palestinians) comments as “fringe,” thus justifying their exclusion by mainstream media. Just remember however, if just one person in the tea party rallies made such a comment, the news would be all over it. They did so when some politician claimed the N word was shouted at a rally, despite not a single shred of evidence supporting this, even when a 1 million dollar reward was offered for such evidence. If coverage is to be fair, then this information should certainly be shared in the mainstream media. But they don’t cover these events well and that is why the mainstream media is dying.

  • Brad

    Any time the Immaculata is defiled, it is demonic. Full stop.

  • Dave

    OWS-Rome seems to harbor the bad boys of the movement.

  • Julia

    Then you have various groups that want to take advantage of OWS to promote their own agendas, just like religious conservatives joined tea party groups and created organizations like the Tea Party Express.

    . . . and the small number of indefatigable Lyndon Larouche folks with Hitler signs at Tea Party events. The signs even said Lyndon Larouche across the bottom and still they were presented as Tea Party signs by the media.

  • http://!)! Passing By

    OWS-Rome seems to harbor the bad boys of the movement.

    St. Louis ain’t too charming, neither.

    Seriously, if the Occupy movement is a leftist counterpoint to the Tea Party movement, then it seems to me someone needs to do a meta-analysis (is that the right term?) of media coverage of the two movements. Being pretty conservative, my wont is to think that the Occupiers are getting a free pass, but my bias and filters might be blinding me.

    Wait! I’m not the first person to think of this. Unfortunately, most of the links seem to prove my point about our biases and filters, but there are some interesting points made.