Saturday, 18 September 2010

Papal bull

It may be a slow news week, but I have been finding it hard to understand the sheer volume of media coverage of the Pope's visit. I appreciate that he is the leader of one of most important world religions, but can that really be worth so much newsprint in our - allegedly - secular society?

This afternoon, I had an epiphany. This isn't really about the Pope. Like African conflicts during the cold war, this is a proxy battle in our very own 'culture wars'. On the one side are the evangelical rationalists, Dawkins et al, to whom the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church represent something atavistic and unsavoury, slouching into the 21st Century dragging medieval convictions (and the taint of negligence in relation to child abuse) behind them.

On the other side, are conservative pundits and newspapers, seizing on the Pope's denunciation of secularism to amplify their fears of Christmas being replaced by 'winterval' in town halls up and down the land, of celebrities taking the place of deities, of moral relativism rampant, and of cross-wearing banned by petty bureaucrats.

As in the USA, the tone adopted by the culture warriors is shrill, and neither side is really interested in the other's views as anything other than a target for denunciation and derision. This is a dialogue of the deaf.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Careless whispers

Reporting on the resignation of William Hague's special advisor this afternoon, the Evening Standard alludes, censoriously and primly, to "rumours that had been circulating on the internet [about the nature of their relationship]".

Those will be the same rumours that were reported by the Standard diary (on the pretext of reporting on a Freedom of Information request) last week, and (in the guise of reporting on a 'row between bloggers') in earlier editions today, will they? Yes, I believe they will.