Sunday, 21 August 2011

Jesus Christ: The (politically correct) Way

A widely syndicated article by Reuters — a rather daft non-news piece about a feminist ultra politically correct effort to rewrite the story of Jesus as an androgynous girl, by the similarly androgynous Kristen Wolf raises a number of important ethical questions about the media today. To quote the article:
Decades later, after… studying the Bible and mythology, as well as reading retellings of once-male stories from a female point of view, Wolf thought there was a need for a new take on the Biblical tale of the Messiah… The result was the story of Anna, a tomboy in ancient Palestine whose androgynous appearance leads to her being disguised as a boy and sold to shepherds.
This “story” not only changes of gender of Jesus Christ but evidently appears to disassociate the ancient Christian links with Judaism by citing a female-only cult living by an ancient philosophy.
Captured and taught by a group of women who live according to an ancient philosophy, she tries to spread their teachings to ordinary people.
Regardless of one’s belief in the truth of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, the work relativises the figure of Jesus to that of a myth with no genuine historic content:
Wolf said that she didn’t want to be critical of any religion, but instead sought to tap into one of the major stories still told in modern society — just from a slightly different angle.
“The stories need to be dusted off and re-invigorated. My intention was to create a new story that we tell differently, that brings out the timelessness of this story, this person Jesus,” she said.
Whilst no religion should be given exclusive domain over the control of ideas appertaining to works upon which its faith are based, questions could nonetheless be asked about the intent of promoting an ultra politically correct revisionist book, which would no doubt be disturbing or offensive to many Christians across the globe. It would be difficult to conceive of the media doing anything remotely similar with a book that challenges the established orthodoxy of Islam, even in a work of fiction.

Questions could be asked as to why a major international media institution would seek to broadcast this book around the world. Clearly the free publicity of a syndicated international story would be immense.

What is it that causes the media to take the unusual step of promoting such a book in this fashion?

The answer may lie in established social trends that originated in moral relativism and cultural changes especially from the 1960s onward. At the root of these developments is a hostility towards Judeo-Christianity and the West itself, leading to a deep emotive romanticisation of all that is alternative, and non-western. This is an undercurrent in academia that reveals itself in subtle and sometimes overt ways. Truth is diminished and seen as something that ought to be overcome in the pursuit of a certain ideal, a notion advanced by academics and philosophers like Richard Rorty. Indeed Wolf cites her time in academia as a major source of inspiration for the book.

In keeping with the effort to subsume the truth in the name of achieving political goals, the piece continues the disturbing trend of calling the region of ancient Israel and Judea “Palestine”. In fact it is a quite well known historic fact that Hadrian actually renamed Judea as “Syria Palaestina” in 135 AD in an effort to disenfranchise the Jews of their homeland as part of a great effort to root them out of the area, after the Simon Bar Kokhba revolt of 132–135 AD against the occupation of the Roman Empire, which trampled on their rights. The Romans brutally crushed the revolt, killing in excess of half a million Jews, prohibited Torah law, the Hebrew calendar, destroyed precious religious objects, and Jews were forbidden from entering their capital.

The name change was intended as a mockery as it related to the Philistines, an ancient enemy of the Jews that disappeared from history more than 600 years previously. The new moniker was part of the gradual process of erasing the Jewish presence from Judea which was considered troublesome. Ironically the strategy has found new expression after Arafat adopted the Palestinian moniker for local Arab peoples as a propagandistic stunt, and even labelled Jesus the first Palestinian terrorist! For people to use that name for an era when it was not historically applicable reinforces the myth that the Jews have no meaningful tie with Israel.

In the case of “The Way”, it is clear the author similarly intends to set forth a new myth for political reasons. To quote the FAQ on the author’s own website:
Years later, my youthful discontent would mix with a variety of influences — my own personal experiences, college studies with Jesuits, independent study of prehistoric cultures, mythology, ancient and modern spiritual traditions, and the leading-edge scholarship that had uncovered efforts throughout history to remove the feminine from the spiritual domain.

Having felt the negative impacts of living under a religion that sets the male higher than the female, and having seen the disastrous effects such an imbalanced belief system has on humanity, our world, and all of creation, I decided to try and instigate change.
Whilst identified as fiction, the book’s unusual purpose, other than simply to tell a story, is repeatedly affirmed in the article and on her website. It is clearly intended to become a sort of liberal-left political myth, bizarrely intended to be utilised in the same way as the old version of the story of Jesus Christ:
The New Testament also depicts Jesus as a revolutionary, but there is no account of where he would have learned his revolutionary, counter-culture philosophies. Moreover, in the biblical texts, there is no mention or record of him from age twelve when he appears at the Temple to age thirty when he begins his ministry. It is therefore conceivable that during his Missing Years, he encountered and studied a spiritual philosophy that was highly different from, even opposed to, the prevailing one. This is the possibility that THE WAY explores.
THE WAY is, at its heart, an attempt to breathe new life into our collective mythology, our collective conscience. It is a tale that asks, “If it were thought possible that one of history’s greatest spiritual leaders had been female, how might women and men feel differently about themselves, one another, and the world?”
The Way is another manifestation of the sometimes bizarre credo that academia and the mainstream media pushes onto the world, as illustrated in an extract from Peter Sissons’ recent book about the BBC. The unjustified assumptions at the core of this broad liberal-left movement have taken on the demeanour of a religion as many have observed, where it can be near impossible to address controversial truths without very severe censure. A prevalent example is having any criticism of Islam labelled “Islamophobic” or “racist”, whether justified by facts or not. Accordingly, all Western values, be they good or bad, have been undermined.

In this respect, it is entirely appropriate for the media to advance a book like The Way, for it represents a religious mythology intended to advance the values of a near religious but ironically secular ideology.

This article is also posted at

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Eilat Terror Attack: A most peculiar use of language

With the recent tragic events where Palestinian terrorists killed nine Israeli civilians, one cannot help but be reminded of the peculiar terminology that the mainstream media uses when reporting such events. International media outlets like Reuters, and local media outlets like the Irish Times and Irish national broadcaster RTE used strangely neutral words like "gunmen" in their respective reports.

From Reuters, syndicated by the Irish Times:

A damaged civilian bus ambushed by gunmen… [image caption]
Gunmen killed at least seven people and injured 30 others in attacks on vehicles in southern Israel today…  
…special forces were called in and engaged the gunmen as police and military closed roads around Eilat, a popular Red Sea resort. The military said between two and four gunmen were killed…. 
A senior Israeli official said the gunmen, unable to cross into Israel through the heavily patrolled border with the Gaza Strip…
The politically neutral term "gunmen" was used no less than six times in the article, which was revised. Similarly RTE also made repeated use of the word:

In the first incident, gunmen opened fire a bus. Minutes later, an improvised explosive device detonated beneath a military vehicle.

It is indeed bizarre to use such a word for a highly organised and sustained assault on civilians and their infrastructure, in a region famed for such activity, where heavy weaponry was used. The mild word use is peculiar especially after Palestinian terrorist activity has been widely reported in the Sinai in recent months, up until a few days ago – Indeed the authors of these articles are aware of this fact, to quote the Reuters piece:

…a senior Israeli official said they had infiltrated from the Gaza Strip through Egypt's Sinai desert. Israel's military said the incident began when "terrorists shot at a bus on its way [to the city of] Eilat and then fired an anti-tank rocket at another vehicle.

It was a grave terrorist incident that took place in several locations," defence minister Ehud Barak said in a statement. "It reflects the weakening of Egypt's hold in the Sinai and the broadening of activities by terror elements.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel "has specific and precise information that these terrorists who targeted Israelis today came out of the Gaza Strip".

Whilst it is correct for journalists to reserve some judgement without verification, the use of heavy weaponry aimed at civilian targets in that region could only result in one belief: a heavy suspicion of a terrorist attack. Yet the reader has to rely on the Israeli government quotes to get a sense of that view.

The RTE article goes on to state:
It was later confirmed that seven Palestinians were shot and killed in the area after the attacks.
Whilst the icons for clicking on video footage of the televised news reports carried the text:

Six One News: Multiple casualties in Israeli violence

Nine News: 20 killed in Israeli violence
The report fails to state that the "gunmen" are likely to be terrorists. It also misleadingly identifies the violence as "Israeli", which is rather ambiguous because although the violence occurred in Israel, the source of that violence was very likely not to be Israeli. Moreover, it is remarkable that both articles failed to mention that the people attacked, injured and killed on the buses were actually Israeli civilians. There was also a notable failure to mention that children were amongst the dead on the Israeli side whist mention of the death of a Palestinian boy in Gaza was prevalent.

Unfortunately the selective use of terminology which reflects political bias is nothing new. News agencies commonly characterise Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and other Arab leaders as "moderate" even though they lead rather oppressive regimes where incitement to violence is accepted, whilst they refer to Avigdor Lieberman as "far-right" or an "ultra-nationalist". Similarly Benjamin Netanyahu is often described as a "hawk", a remarkably strong term to use for a mainstream politician.

Worse still is the failure to characterise obvious terrorism as terrorism, whilst often inferring blame on Israeli activities, which results in a clear legitimisation of Palestinian terrorism even against civilians.

This media bias has existed for a considerable time. Websites like Camera, Honest Reporting, Just Journalism, and CIF Watch feature extensive examples of systematic bias going back many years.

One example of the contrasting use of language is a New York Times piece that asserted "Jewish terror is not new" by citing two relatively rare examples of killings from the mid 1990’s. The use of such strong language was peculiar in this instance. To quote Honest Reporting:

 …the examples cited above were acts of violence that stand out precisely due to the unusual scenario of Jews initiating such acts. But while the NY Times refers to "Jewish terror", the thousands of acts of violence carried out by Palestinians against Israeli civilians are carried out by "militants," "fighters" or "gunmen" according to the newspaper. […] So, while Palestinian acts of violence against Israeli civilians are not "terror" according to the NY Times, this term is abused to describe a scenario where it loses its real meaning.
Another contrast in the selective use of terminology with regard to this story was found in the Wall Street Journal. Their treatment of the Norwegian atrocity led with the headline "Savage Terrorist Attacks". By contrast the headline in the same publication, less than a month later, stated "Militants Kill Civilians In Israel Near Egypt". Whilst the terrorist killings in Norway was of course on a much larger scale, the events in Israel did constitute the same type of activity, and it was only with the bravery of the bus driver, and the swift response of Israeli forces, that a far larger number of civilians weren’t killed there.

The failure for the media to mention terrorism regarding Israel takes on other forms. For example an Irish Times article from late last year about Shawan Jabarin failed to mention or allude even briefly to  his well known terrorist links. He is known to be a senior member of the terrorist organisation, PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), for which he has been imprisoned several times and even denied entry into Jordan

Like other tragic events in Israel, the reporting of the latest terrorist incident there has been filtered and toned down by a very real prejudice. This is continually revealed by the now very common double standards in which a highly moderated language is applied for one side of the conflict alone, whilst the media embraces the ever fashionable Palestinian cause with little compunction.

The moral of this story should be clear. Put bluntly, the international media values the lives of Palestinians more than Israeli’s. Palestinians have personal stories while Israeli’s are barely even civilians. The mainstream media throughout the world bears a great deal of responsibility for a subtle legitimisation of the violence of the Palestinian movement at the expense of Israeli civilians. It screens the impact of this violence, whilst every step of the way waxing lyrically about the Palestinian cause.

Also posted at