We all know Popes often talk bull. Okay, technically they issue bulls, but you know what I mean. Fair to say I am someone who dislikes organised religion in general and the more conservative old-man leadership especially (almost as bad as fundamentalists of any and all creeds as far as I am concerned). And I certainly have little time for the Aryan Herr Pope who has some tremendously backwards ideas of society, gender and other areas. But I did feel the reported furore in the world media about his alleged comments was designed to help promote a sense of crisis and outrage as opposed to cooly reporting the actual facts – even the BBC wasn’t terribly good on this score.
It seemed obvious even to someone like me who has no time for the Uberpopenfurher that reporters had seized on a couple of quotes which were clearly quotations from a much older source being used to demonsrate how attitudes from the church to Islam used to be expressed, not what he was saying himself. In fact he made mention of persecution and the sword not being acceptable for the religious. But, no, these few quotes were plastered across the world instantly, without any analysis or proper contextual reporting, which looks like the sloppy misinformation a lot of the media seems to indulge in so irresponsibly, uncaring of the consequences.
And the consequences in Muslim countries were pretty predictable, stirring up the protesting crowds, burning effigies and all the usual refined and thoughtful repsonses people in these countries show to news they don’t like. Mind you, I couldn’t help but think, is there any story that doesn’t grossly offend the Muslim world these days? Mention a quote from 500 years ago and it is an outrage… Print a cartoon and it is an outrage… Invade another country and it is an outrage (oh, hold on, actually you can have that one). I think some people just wait around in large crowds with general purpose effigies and a tin of petrol waiting for something to be outraged about and shoot AK47s in the air. Now if they were outraged at the bad reporting which caused them to get the wrong end of the stick and waste a good effigy I could understand that.
Yvonne has a good post on the whole thing on her blog. The funniest thing about this is that how many times has a public figure caught out saying something they shouldn’t used the lame excuse that they were ‘quoted out of context’? “Yes, I know I said you should round up poor people and use them for medical experimentation, but I was quoted out of context. But for once it actually seems to be true.