by Hilary White
LONDON, September 18, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The international furor over the Pope’s comments at Regensburg last week appears to have begun through a series of carefully stage-managed media reports
Tracing the media coverage from the day of the Pope’s speech in Regensburg, Germany, a distinct shift in approach, what media analysts call a “meme,” of “Islamic outrage”, is clearly traceable starting with the BBC’s coverage three days later.
The day after the speech, Wednesday the 13th, the Pope’s lecture elicited little response from apparently bored secular journalists who had little interest in what was considered his “obscure” and “academic” points on the relationship between religious belief and the secular world.
Catholic news sources who reported the day after the lecture were also quiet. “Pope spends quiet afternoon at home with brother,” was the leading headline at Catholic World Report.
On Thursday the 14th, however, under the headline “Pope’s speech stirs Muslim anger,” the BBC began with a report that police in Kashmir had seized newspapers carrying coverage of the pope’s speech in order “to prevent tension.” The BBC’s coverage did not include any quote from the Indian-administered Kashmiri police force.
The BBC’s September 14th report was transmitted around the world in Arabic, Turkish, Farsi (the language of Iran), Urdu, the official language of Pakistan; and Malay. The next day, the anticipated furor had become a reality.
Immediately after the appearance of the first BBC coverage, the Pakistani parliament issued a declaration condemning Benedict’s speech and demanding an apology.
Later the same day, the BBC published, under the headline, “Muslim anger grows at Pope speech” a report on the Pakistan government’s reaction. It quoted the head of the Islamic extremist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, saying “the Pope’s remarks ‘aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world’.
The same day, the Guardian, following the BBC’s lead, ran the headline, “Muslim anger builds over Pope’s speech.” From that moment, the internet was flooded with reportage from around the world on the Pope’s alleged “attack” on Islam and the predicted response from Islamic groups began.
On the 13th, the New York Times, focusing on the Pope’s critique of Western secularism ran the headline, “The Pope Assails Secularism, with a Note on Jihad.” The report contained no hint of their later demands for papal apologies.
Ian Fisher wrote, “Several experts on the Catholic Church and Islam agreed that the speech — in which Benedict made clear he was quoting other sources on Islam — did not appear to be a major statement on, or condemnation of, Islam.”
By the weekend, however, the New York Times had dropped its examination of the content and intention of the pope’s lecture, and joined the chorus of demands for apologies in its editorial.
The BBC continued stirring the pot on the 15th, with commentary from their religious affairs correspondent, Rahul Tandon, who wrote darkly that the former Cardinal Ratzinger had “appeared to be uncomfortable with Pope John Paul II’s attempts to improve dialogue with the Islamic world.”
Benedict’s unpopularity with the secularist mainstream media is legendary. Since before his election as Pope, Joseph Ratzinger had been for years the secularist and leftist media’s favorite Catholic target. Led by the BBC, the Guardian and the New York Times, media editorials had long since dubbed him “The Rottweiler” and the “Panzer Cardinal,” for his defences of Catholic doctrine, particularly on abortion and contraception.
Thousands of stories and editorials are appearing online – with no sign of slowing – carrying headlines such as that from Australia’s The Age: “‘Rottweiler’ bares teeth.” The Guardian today has issued an editorial headlined, “An Insufficient Apology,” featuring the familiar secularist accusations against the Catholic Church’s past.Â
On Sunday, Toronto-based columnist, David Warren, wrote in the Ottawa Citizen on the media-instigated uproar that has led to retaliatory attacks in Israel against Christian churches and clergy and the murder of a nun in Somalia.
By manipulating the event, Warren says, the BBC was “having a little mischief. The kind of mischief that is likely to end with Catholic priests and faithful butchered around the Muslim world.”
Warren wrote, “The BBC appears to have been quickest off the mark, to send around the world in many languages…word that the Pope had insulted the Prophet of Islam, during an address in Bavaria.”
While the pope, Warren said, was not offering a “crude anti-Islamic polemic,” the content of the Pope’s speech, and his key questions in the dialogue between religions and the secular world, will now be ignored.
Warren pointed to coverage by Rahul Tandon who implied that, since his election as Pope, though Benedict has “surprised many with his attempts to improve dialogue with the Muslim world…,there have been signs of his earlier views.” These Tandon identified as “theological conservatism.”
“From now on,” Warren writes, “the reporting will be about the Muslim rage, and whether the Vatican has apologized yet. That is the “drama” the media will seek to capture—the drama of the cockfight—because they know no better kind.”
Read Rahul Tandon’s BBC commentary:
Pope Benedict XVI and Islam
Read the New York Times coverage from Ian Fisher:
Read Commentary by David Warren:
Read the text of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech: