In a recent blog on these pages, I wrote about Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, who was recently martyred in Syria. In response to my post about Father Fadi, one of my astute readers, Kathleen, asked a profound question. She observed, “This was reported on Orthodox blogs, Vatican Today and a few others, but no mainstream [news] source. One has to wonder why the persecution of Christians is not news? What else are we not informed of?” I had thought to respond to her question with a response to her comment, but decided that it might best to write a specific blog dealing with this important topic.
First, as compared with a number of years ago, there has been a great increase in the variety of communications media. Whether through the growth of social media or alternative news media, any news regarding the persecution of Christians in other nations is more widely available. As an example, I learned of the release this summer of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iranian prison (about whom I have written on these pages) from the Italian news media as I was traveling in Europe.
Further, social media is, in my view, an example of the biblical principle contained in Malachi 3:16, which states, “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.” Thus, it is fitting that Christian believers share with one another stories of persecuted Christians, and make prayers on their behalf, since we cannot rely on mainstream media reports for such important news. The increased diffusion of information about Christian persecution is a good thing, as the number of persons who rely on traditional mainstream news media continues to decline rapidly. Americans continue to lose confidence in the mainstream media; according to Gallup’s analysis of their annual Confidence in Institutions survey published this past summer, only 21 percent of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in TV news, and only 25 percent of respondents express confidence in newspapers. Moreover, according to Gallup, confidence in TV news has seen a seven point drop since last year alone (down from an embarrassing 28 percent in 2011). In its most recent financial report, the New York Times reported terrible third-quarter results that showed weakness in both print and digital advertising. During the three months covered by that report, advertising revenues dropped nearly 9 percent, and operating profits dropped nearly 60 percent to $8.5 million during the quarter. Personally, I attribute this lack of confidence and poor operating results to the fact that the mainstream media fails to tell the truth, and ignores important questions in challenging political power. The most recent example is the Benghazi cover-up, all but ignored (except for Fox News) by the mainstream media.
But there are two important points that I wish to raise in response to Kathleen’s comments. First, most reporters and editors are secular. Yes, even among those who are religious believers or attend worship services, they compartmentalize their profession from their faith. Further, any enthusiasm that a reporter might have to write about the persecution of Christians in other nations will be seen by their editors as the reporter seeking to interject his worldview into his reporting, and to promote a particular pro-Christian agenda, a veritable professional death knell. Thus, reporters and editors would rather write about almost any other topic.
Second, among the elites that form the mainstream in the news media, as well as in government, the judiciary, education or other institutions of influence in our society, there is often an antipathy towards men and women of faith. Of course, a prime example of this antipathy towards religious persons is shown by President Obama’s famous statement at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008 that small-town Pennsylvania voters “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.” This same attitude manifests itself in the President’s attitude to ignore the religious faith of religious employers mandating that they provide abortion-related services for their employees, even if contrary to their deeply-held religious beliefs. The president and his underlings consider such religious sensibilities as secondary, if that, to the need for women to obtain free reproductive and abortion services from all employers, including religious ones.
As an example from my own life, in February 1997, I helped to organize a conference at the Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C., on the persecution of Christians in other countries. The conference was sponsored by the Georgetown Law student chapters of the International Law Society, Amnesty International and the Christian Legal Society. That day, our featured speaker was Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer and religious freedom advocate. During the Q&A following Dr. Shea’s talk, one of the students, in a preface to a question for Dr. Shea, stated, “Well, since Christians are such a pain in the ass here in the U.S., I can imagine they are the same in other countries as well, so I can easily envision that Christians are persecuted. . . . “ This young man is likely at this time in his career either a partner in a law firm, a judge, or a law professor, but my point in telling this story is to illustrate that secular elites typically view religious persons, to quote H. L Mencken, as backward bigots and ignorant. They are people about whom they hear, but never see. A number of years ago, I was invited to a lovely dinner party, and the topic turned to “born-again” Christians. I asked those gathered, mostly professors, international business people, and actors, whether they had ever known any born-again Christians (this was as my wife and I were sitting there). They all said “no.” At this point, one professor interjected: “Oh wait, there is an African-American woman in our office who works as a secretary…I think she is one.” I am reminded of the famous story told about President Nixon’s landslide re-election victory in 1972. The noted film critic, Pauline Kael, who wrote for the New Yorker magazine from 1968 through 1991, said that she “couldn’t believe Nixon had won,” since no one she knew had voted for him. Bernard Goldberg, writing in his book Bias, cites this Kael quote as an example of the cluelessness and insularity among liberal elite. But I do think that cluelessness and insularity among the media elites goes a long way to explain, my friend and reader Kathleen, why the media will not report on the martyrdom of Father Fadi and similar events.