Speaking before a group of journalists yesterday in Italy, Pope Francis addressed the lack of integrity characterizing contemporary the Western news media and stressed the need for reporters to exercise personal responsibility. The Pontiff received the audience in the Hall of St. Clement in the Vatican.
"All throughout history, dictatorships of any orientation or 'color' have always tried not only to undermine the media, but also to impose new rules on the profession." Francis stated. "I understand that in modern journalism with an uninterrupted flow of facts and events, it not easy to get at the truth, or even close to it. However, it is necessary in journalism to discern between the shades of grey of the events being reported."
The Pope joins a growing number of world leaders disgusted with the inferior quality of the Western news media, and the damage it often does to people's lives. There have been conferences held in Russia, China, and other countries during 2016 to build reliable alternatives to the Corporate Media. The Pope may also have had in mind proposals in the United States to limit foreign media access to US markets; or the recent revelations of corporate manipulation of news.
"Living with professionalism means, first and foremost, living beyond what we find written in codes of ethics. It means understanding and internalizing the deep sense of one's own work. This gives rise to the need not to submit one's profession to the persuasions of partisan interests, whether they be political or economic."
It is no wonder that the US Corporate Media gave the Pope's speech almost no coverage. Journalists in the United States routinely do the polar opposite of what the Pontiff recommends. Witness today, for example, that the media ignored the report from the Charlotte Police that 70% of the rioters arrested there this week were from outside North Carolina. That doesn't fit the political narrative of Charlotte being a spontaneous local uprising instead of being conducted by a gang of criminals shipped in by George Soros---as it very likely is.
The Pontiff spoke of an earlier homily he had given on the Epistle of St. James, which has relevance for editorialists and online bloggers as well:
"I have often spoken of rumors as 'terrorism', of how you can kill a person with the tongue. If this is valid for an individual person, in the family or at work, so much more it's valid for journalists because their voices can reach everyone. And this is a very powerful weapon. Denunciation of evil must not come at the cost of disrespect for others, because the unjustly defamed can be destroyed forever."
And we would add to the Pope's words, not only those defamed, but those incited to violence by irresponsible use of the tongue (or pen). We've seen this week alone attacks on mosques---as well as Christian bloggers---incited by hostile and extreme rhetoric. Not to mention the tensions building on the Korean Peninsula right now, thanks to the disinterested reporting of the Moonie Cult.
The Pope is bringing to mind again the Biblical maxim 'by their fruits you shall know them.' And the fruits of Western journalism today hardly resemble the fruits of the Spirit." It more closely resembles jungle witch-doctors leading cannibals dancing around a stewpot than anything remotely Christian.
Francis' own words are more likely to bring down further media opprobrium on his head. When wicked men like our media moguls have their consciences stung in this way, they typically react with fury. Nonetheless, it is to be hoped that many independent writers and reporters will take the Pope's words to heart and effect some positive change. That change---as Christianity teaches us---begins with acknowledging and accepting the truth.