Quotes of the Day

Actually, they’ve both been hanging around my tab bar for a couple of days, and they’re both brought to my attention thanks to Deacon Greg Kandra. And they’re both Must Reads:

1) “The news media, despite their claims of impartiality, and despite the good work they often do accomplish, are just as prone to prejudice, ignorance, bad craftsmanship and tribalism as any other profession. But unlike other professions, the press has constitutional protections. It also has real power in shaping how we think, what we think about and what we like, dislike and ignore. America’s media, including its news media, are the greatest catechetical syndicate in history. And if that kind of power doesn’t make us uneasy, it should at least make us alert.”

— Archbishop Charles Chaput, offering what may be the best and most thoughtful analysis of the American media yet penned by a Catholic bishop…or anyone else, for that matter. Must read.

And some more Catholic commentary on media

2) “We now record fetal heartbeats at 14 days post-conception. We record fetal brainwaves at 39 days post-conception. And I don’t expect you to answer this, but I do expect you to pay attention to it as you contemplate these big issues. We have this schizophrenic rule of the law where we have defined death as the absence of those, but we refuse to define life as the presence of those.”
— – Sen.Tom Coburn, speaking to Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor at confirmation hearing, July 15, 2009.

I confess, I have never thought of Coburn’s argument. He’s quite right.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • joseph

    Thanks for the article from Archbishop Charles Chaput.

    Something he said set off a lightbulb in my head on something I have been thinking about for awhile.

    We get our news from the “Forth Estate” and one liberal Main Stream Media has made demi-gods out of our news anchors.

    Why do we assume that we cannot look indepth at the live of these news reporters ? Why do we not expose them with their infedelities and aberrant lifestyles ? In other words why not show the world in a Christian light the kind of lives they live – these so called EXPERTS who mold so much of our lives and the environment in such a dangerous way ?

  • dry valleys

    It’s funny because I regard the media as being very much pro-religion, including the “liberal” media which not only persists in telling us how good Islamism is, but has also started going dewy-eyed over Christianity in recent times.

    These assaults on the “new atheists” are typical. They simply dismiss any criticism of (a) truth claims made by religions & (b) the effects of religion in the world out of hand.

    We’ve even reached the point where atheist books are having a hard time getting out of the printing press because publishers self-censor, in particular through fears of Islamic reprisals, but also because of the church, which seems to have been given a new lease of life in assertiveness by the growth of Islam (presumably thinking that if religions can cow non-believers into doing their bidding, they might as well join in) is flexing its muscles through the blasphemy law in Ireland & the operations of the likes of Stephen Green, who demand that the law be changed to enshrine their outrage & shut down any criticism of their assertions.

    Any utterance by Richard Dawkins, or anything that can possibly be attributed to him whether he said/did it or not, is pounced upon by those who decided long ago that they hate him & will react to any outright fabrication about him by saying “I knew it all along, etc. etc.”

    I am very much a fan of the blogosphere for these reasons. I laugh my head off when people moan about a decline of standards, when you look at the shoddy journalism practiced in the MSM by those who are so used to having their assertions go unquestioned that they simply can’t handle it when they get pulled up.

    We can get unmediated access to professionals’ statements. I read blogs by doctors, teachers, policemen, scientists, academics etc. straight from them, as well as educated laymen. I no longer need to have some journalist trying to sell copies of his paper “interpret” findings. (Science coverage is especially bad, with the woeful “debate” about climate change perhaps the very worst offender of all).

    I think it is a very good thing that people financially support their favourite blogs. I hope investigative reporters can come to be employed by blogs. I think there is definitely a future for print journalism but they must accept that their arrogance of old was never warranted & has finally become unacceptable & unviable, which is good.

    PS- I am “asquith” on them links if you do click.
    PPS- I probably ate more than strictly necessary at dinner & can’t guarantee that I’ll be in a serene, benevolent frame of mind, which may make me a bit bitchy :)

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    I can’t say I’ve found the media particularly non-partisan or liberal. Over the past thirty years, print and tv have been taken over by corporations. As with health care, when the bottom line is the profit margin, you have to know the product is likely to suffer.

    Senator Coburn may be jumping the gun somewhat. From what I remember of human embryology (and I did have a college course in it) heart functions begin at about three weeks’ gestation.

    Brain waves are more difficult to pin down. While there is a certain amount of nervous system activity at six to eight weeks, what we identify as brain waves analogous to that of an infant don’t occur until about 21-24 weeks’ gestation.

    Unless we pro-lifers get out facts straight, especially when issuing challenges like this, we can’t expect people to take us seriously.

  • Suzanne

    We are very blessed to have Dr. Coburn (yes, he’s an OB/Gyn) and Sen. Inhofe representing Oklahoma in the senate.

  • Brian English

    I think Todd is right about brain waves not being present until about 20 weeks (I am a lawyer, not a doctor, so I may not be aware of new advances in this area).

    However, I have never understood the brain wave fixation by abortion supporters. I understand that we determine brain death by the absence of brain waves, but an unborn child’s brain is not dead before it has brain waves. The brain is developing, its functioning has not ceased. It has just not developed to a certain level yet.

    I do not see how the presence or absence of brain waves tells us anything important about the humanity of the unborn child. Is an unborn child at 18 weeks fundamentally different from an unborn child at 21 weeks who has brain waves? Is any difference so significant that it is justifiable to say you cannot harm the 21-week old, but you can destroy the 18-week old for any reason?

  • http://lowlytuber.blogspot.com tim maguire

    Todd, my wife, who is a former reporter, thinks the same way. And for direct evidence, she can cite her own famously conservative publication, whose reporting staff is as liberal in their views as any other.

    I can’t really respond to that except to note the fact that reporters are about 9:1 Democrats and self-identify as liberal 3:1 over the general public. I cannot be convinced that this does not color their reporting. A large majority of media outlets support the liberal side of every issue in the public debate regardless of what their parent corporations think (which is part of the reason why they are in decline–they regularly insult a large portion of their potential audience).

    As for abortion, more informed minds can quibble with the specific dates cited by Coburn, but these quibbles do not undermine his point. Abortion cannot be supported by facts or logic, only by self-interest. That is the hill pro-lifers must climb–not winning an argument over facts, but getting people who support abortion rights to care enough to choose against their own interests.

    Unfortunately for fetuses (fetii?), only the opinions of the born matter so there is no personal benefit to being pro-life and no cost to being pro-abortion. It’s a popular choice because it’s the easy choice.

  • Jack

    If strands of DNA were found on Mars, the world would be electrified. If single-celled organisms were found there, and they were dividing, the whole world would triumphantly claim that we’d discovered life on Mars.

    And yet, here on earth we have unique combinations of human DNA in cells that are just starting to divide. That is human life, and a unique human being.

    If we have a human being there, then that is where that human being’s “human rights” logically begin.

    Kill this, and you kill a human being.

    That is why you should care.

  • http://kimpriestap.com Kim Priestap

    Senator Coburn’s statement is clarifying and in your face. Good for him for saying it and in such a highly viewed public forum where people who may not have considered such facts before had the chance to hear it.

  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    “Abortion cannot be supported by facts or logic, only by self-interest. That is the hill pro-lifers must climb–not winning an argument over facts, but getting people who support abortion rights to care enough to choose against their own interests.”

    Well, and legally getting past the fourteenth amendment, a clause about people being “born.”

    People have eventually been persuaded to overcome self-interest, but yes, I have no problem granting that the vector of American society over the past thirty years especially works against altruism.

  • harry angstrom

    Isn’t it time someone learned to distinguish between what reporters may be politically and what editorial writers and publishers are politically?

    If I am a liberal reporters, I will not gety hired or will have to hew the line at a job with, say the Moonie owned Washington Times. But I would be merely reporting. I am not going to drag in political positions I have. But the editorials and the slant of that or other papers is determined by the owner of the organ.

    Want a free press? Buy one.

  • Gerry
  • CV

    Well Todd,

    I’m going to have to dispute your experience with one college course in human embryology with my personal experience.

    After a three year struggle with infertility (and treatment for a what turned out to be a fairly simple blockage, thank God), I became pregnant with my oldest child. Because of my medical history my doctor had me come in for a very early (vaginal) ultrasound at appx. two weeks post-conception (believe me, I was counting).

    I saw my daughter’s heartbeat and I will never forget it. It’s the same heart that’s beating in her chest right now, as she finishes swim practice for the day.

    It was at the moment I saw that heartbeat, in fact, that I began my journey from being a cafeteria Catholic who was firmly in the “abortion is complicated…I can’t make those decisions for others” camp into the anti-abortion camp, where I have remained ever since.

    Have you ever seen the bumper sticker, “abortion stops a beating heart”? It truly does.

    I’m also at a loss Todd, as to why you would note the discrepancy between a fetal heartbeat at 2 weeks and 3 weeks.

    You seem to be missing the point.

  • dry valleys

    The “hand of hope” is apparently not all it’s cracked up to be.

    Re: those who sneer at “cafeteria Catholics” who are pro-choice. Yes, I think they should have the courage of their convictions & become atheists (it’s not so scary out here!)

    But I wonder about those who put RNC talking points before the Pope’s statements on other issues…

    I just can’t understand how someone would subscribe to a faith which comes with such a prescribed suite of opinions, which even Islam doesn’t (noting that there are many divisions between Muslims on theology, engagement with politics & life conduct, as there is no papal figure).

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  • http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/ Todd

    CY, I congratulate you on the blessing of your pregnancy.

  • Jack

    Dry Valleys

    Maybe the Church’s respect for logical validity and standards of evidence has something to do with it.

    Confused thinking, baseless claims, and a welter of conflicting opinions? I’ll pass, thanks.

    So should you.

  • Sarah Kuvasz

    Dear Dry,

    The day after the 2004 presidential election, Katie Couric said, “I hope Bush will move toward the center, from the far right, now he’s won the election.” To which an astonished Chris Matthews replied, “Move to the center? Didn’t you see the election results? He IS the center.”

    Katie Couric is so far to the left, she doesn’t even realize how far from the rest of the country she is. Most of the MSM is equally far left. Katie doesn’t realize this because everyone she associates with is equally out on the edge.

    While I don’t think anyone will dispute how pro-Obama the MSM was, it would behoove those who think they represent the feelings of the country as a whole to remember only 3% of the electorate changed their vote between 2004 and 2008.

    Do you really believe the MSM are pro-Christian? I find that statement almost beyond belief. Excluding some of Fox News, can you illustrate your belief with an example or two? Can you think of a single news anchor who consistently makes pro-life statements? One who doesn’t seem astonished at the existance of “evangelicals?” I certainly can’t think of any.

    Regards,
    Sarah

  • http://www.zazzle.com/shanasfo shanasfo

    Dry Valleys:

    RE: “Yes, I think they should have the courage of their convictions & become atheists (it’s not so scary out here!)”

    Perhaps not now. But as my atheist mother lay dying, she didn’t find her atheism much comfort and she was terrified to close her eyes and find ‘it all gone.’ Suddenly blinking out of existance wasn’t so attractive anymore. I will NEVER forget her face or the sheer, haunting fear in her eyes.

    She asked me, before her final hour, what really happens after death. It was my great honor and joy to tell her what Christ had taught. It was the first time that I think she ever paid a bit of attention to anything I ever said. And I will never forget the peace I saw come over her after.

  • Bill Harnist

    If I may be so presumptuous as to amend Archbp. C. Chaput’s comment from, ” . . . and the good work they often do accomplish,” to ” . . . and the good work they often do accomplish on the sports pages, comic strips, and classified advertising,”

    I hope the good Archbp. will forgive my boldness. I am a great admirer of him.

    Oh, and they do good work on the photographs — sometimes.

  • Joseph Marshall

    Is there anybody on this comment page who doesn’t believe themselves to be “objective and impartial” as well as intelligent and informed enough to be able to know the “truth”?

    Most of this criticism of the press boils down to little more than “It doesn’t scratch my back, it scratches someone else’s.”

    Why should it scratch anybody’s back?

    Well obviously it should scratch my back because I’m objective and impartial and I know the truth.

    Right?

    Has anyone here ever taken the possibility that they might be wrong seriously? If so, what did you do about it that you could pass on to the professional journalists?

    If not, holding them to a higher standard of realizing how “non-objective” they are than you can meet is a piece of foolishness.

    The news media, despite their claims of impartiality, and despite the good work they often do accomplish, are just as prone to prejudice, ignorance, bad craftsmanship and tribalism as any other profession. But unlike other professions, the press has constitutional protections.

    Gee, what a surprise. Journalists are wrong when they think themselves objective and impartial. Just like everybody else.

    And I hate to tell you this Archbishop Chaput, but you and your profession also have constitutional protections and, particularly as a Catholic, you ought to know it.

    You ought to know what an “established church” means. You also ought to know that if the USA had “established” any church in 1789, it certainly would not have been the Catholic church, and members of the Catholic church would probably have been barred from voting and holding office, just like they were in 18th century England.

    It also has real power in shaping how we think, what we think about and what we like, dislike and ignore.

    Who’d have thunk it?

    So when was the last time the press shaped how you think about something, Archbishop? When was the last time the press shaped what you think about? When was the last time the press shaped what you like, dislike, and ignore?

    Did all that theology you studied have its source in the New York Times? Did your political opinion about Roe v. Wade come from the Atlantic Monthly? And do you like corned beef and cabbage merely from having seen Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray prepare it on television?

    America’s media, including its news media, are the greatest catechetical syndicate in history.

    You are a Catholic Bishop and you can say that? Did it catechise you? The priests you supervise? The parishoners they minister to? Has it been catechising people for almost 2000 years?

    Good grief!

    Let’s start with some “first things” and straighten this matter out. The people who shape “how we think” are parents, schoolteachers, and other living, breathing adults. In order for anybody to shape “how you think” you have to be able to talk back to them and ask questions.

    The media shape “what we think about”, if and only if we have no more important things to think about than what they happen to present. For example, anyone with serious religious beliefs, whether of faith or atheism, didn’t obtain them from reading newspapers and watching television. Not enough information about the matter appears there to even articulate the questions, let alone provide any answers.

    The media shape what you like, dislike, and ignore, only in the sense that it brings you new possibilities of what you might like. Because of the media, everybody has heard of sushi, but nobody knows whether or not they like it until they eat some of it. The people who “can’t stand the idea of eating raw fish” neither like nor dislike sushi, they dislike an abstract idea of what they think eating sushi might be like. And even they didn’t get their dislike of this idea from the media–all they got was knowledge of the existence of sushi, where it came from, some of what’s in it, and that some people really like it.

    In none of these cases does the media determine whether you like sushi or not.

    What the media presents, first and foremost, are facts: who, what, when, where, and how. They don’t present all the facts, because no one can.
    So people in the media [not "the media" itself] make judgments about what facts are relevant to present. These judgments are certainly not “impartial”, but they are no less impartial than your judgments or mine.

    The media also present opinions, gossip, and hearsay, but they present no more opinions, gossip, and hearsay than you can find around the office water cooler. The actual difference between these two places is that the media presents more facts to have opinions, make gossip, or spread hearsay about.

    Obama through out the first pitch in the All Star Game. That is a fact. An inordinate amount of opinion, gossip, and hearsay surround this fact, but it really requires very little effort to tell the difference between them.

    Calling the press “biased” or “non-objective” means only that they don’t give you the opinions, gossip, and hearsay that you like the flavor of.

    Even in your favorite flavor, they are not “objective” or “unbiased”.

  • Obloodyhell

    > 2) “We now record fetal heartbeats at 14 days post-conception. We record fetal brainwaves at 39 days post-conception. And I don’t expect you to answer this, but I do expect you to pay attention to it as you contemplate these big issues. We have this schizophrenic rule of the law where we have defined death as the absence of those, but we refuse to define life as the presence of those.”
    — – Sen.Tom Coburn, speaking to Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor at confirmation hearing, July 15, 2009.

    I confess, I have never thought of Coburn’s argument. He’s quite right.

    I tend to disagree. When one is already a mature, functioning human being, the cessation of heart and brain function DO indicate the end of the human being.

    The presence of either brainwaves or heartbeat do NOT inherently reflect humanity, however. I would be quite willing to bet that a dog fetus also shows heartbeat and minimal brain function in the same time frame — does that make it human life or just life?

    Being “Human” involves a degree of self-awareness, of time-binding ability, of mathematical gifts, of vocabulary talents (and yes — even someone deaf, dumb, and blind, like Helen Keller, had vocabulary talent — she was just unable to express the “words” due to her infirmities).

    There is no evidence to suggest a human fetus at 5 days or 25 days shows anything resmbling human thoughts. And that’s when we worry about human rights.

  • Obloodyhell

    > When was the last time the press shaped what you think about? When was the last time the press shaped what you like, dislike, and ignore?

    There’s a reason for “separation of church and state” — so, too, should there be “a separation of press and state”, which is an increasingly fuzzy line.

    > The actual difference between these two places is that the media presents more facts to have opinions, make gossip, or spread hearsay about.

    No, the media claims to represent “facts” all too often when it is expressing “opinion”… and claims that opinion is actually “fact”: “Global Warming”, anyone?

    > The media shape what you like, dislike, and ignore, only in the sense that it brings you new possibilities of what you might like.

    No, that’s called “advertising”, and it’s held in a very different light, historically, from media. You confuse the two at your peril. Just because the media sold Obama, doesn’t mean that selling is its actual purpose.


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