Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is there really media bias? You bet there is.

Lots of folks say that the media is incredibly riddled with liberal views used to further an agenda. I suspect that is true on particular issues (not necessarily on the Sports or Dining Out pages, though.

My experience this past week contributing to, and then reading media reports on the postcard mailings, has been a bit of an eyeopener for me.

It recalls an incident, many years ago, when at a government hearing where environmentalists were protesting a development project being considered for the City of Stillwater, where I then worked. Lawyers for the objectors, including the then head of the state's Pollution Control Agency, were quite adept at interpreting state laws and regulations to their advantage. We ended up getting our approvals, but it taught me to watch closely what they say, and what they don't say, that I have retained since then.

The first internet awareness of the DFL mailing to voters in Senate District 40 came from a phone call from a concerned Catholic whose friend had received the version of the over-sized postcard showing the "priest" wearing a large "Ignore the Poor" button.

While a few mainline Lutherans, Episcopalians and others might wear the Roman collar (with the white tab at the throat), virtually everybody would first think of a priest. Evangelicals and non-denominational pastors wear business suits.

Well there is nothing wrong with sending a photo of a priest on a political mailing. The real message was contained in the "Ignore the Poor" button. That message was a reminder to Minnesotans of the controversy created among those proposing legislation legalizing homosexual marriage in the state, something that will be hotly debated in the next session of the Legislature.

A few weeks ago a Marriage DVD, paid for by an anonymous donor, was sent to all the Catholics of the state. The reaction from some was outrage, criticizing the Church's teaching, and remorseful that that money had not been used to "feed the poor."

Charging that Catholics are in favor of "ignoring the poor" is a despicable slap at Catholics and their Church, the largest private providers of charity to the poor in this country.

By the next morning, it was known that there had actually been three different versions of the mailing to SD 40. The second one was that of an angel holding a banner stating "Blessed are the Rich" with a line above, "The Bible doesn't tell us to neglect the poor." This message obviously complements the "Ignore the Poor" button, aimed at Catholics, on the first post card.

The third large post-card had the image of a small side or chapel altar, with a statue of St. Anthony of Padua, traditionally posed holding the Child Jesus, the "Word of God", since St. Anthony was a very great preacher. This statue is commonly found in Catholic churches but I'd bet not in any Protestant churches that you have seen.

In front of the altar is a "prie-dieux", a prayer kneeler. Any of those in Protestant churches? Maybe, but certainly not in non-denominational or evangelical churches.

Off to the left side, are crutches and a cane leaning against the wall. It is a common practices for Catholics who suffer from a disability to pray to saints (or the Blessed Mother) for intercession for a cure for their affliction. If they get permanent relief, and a very few do, they leave their crutches besides the altar as concrete evidence to others that "prayer works."

Above the altar are political statements against candidate Dan Hall, who is mocked and vilified and slandered on the reverse side of the three postcards. They say: "Dan Hall: Talks like a preacher; Acts like a politician.

Dan Hall is not a preacher. He was ordained as a minister many years ago but now works for an organization that supports chaplains and is himself a chaplain for the Bloomington Police Department and the Minnesota State Senate. On the first card, "Preacher Hall", mockingly, is accused of not publicly objecting to Governor Tim Pawlenty's veto of funding for some programs for the poor last summer when Dan was a private citizen.

All of this information has been provided to the major news outlets in Minnesota. And what are their stories about? Whether or not the photo of the guy in the black suit is a priest or a minister. One or two media sites mention in passing the other cards. And they all refer to Hall as "Preacher Hall."

They don't want that information to come out because the cards all were designed to subtly support the proposed legislative bills that will authorize homosexual marriages in Minnesota. This entire postcard campaign was designed to defeat Dan Hall who us up against a very vulnerable incumbent in the district that all thought was very lucky to win last election. And it was also designed to remind voters that Catholics are against the DFL party on many important issues, including homosexual marriage.

But the postcards have backfired, something else that the press has refused to report. State Senate DFLers are privately outraged at the incompetent effort by the state DFL party staff that created and mailed these outrageously anti-Catholic attack ads. Some have apologized to Catholic leaders in St. Paul.

But not Brian Melendez, head of the State DFL party. In his inept response to objections to the cards from the media, he regularly brings up the religion of the minister in the black suit, saying it "could be a protestant." Did you know that Brian Melendez has a degree from the Harvard Divinity School? And he doesn't know what the Roman collar means to virtually everybody?

I've been told, Melendez has been obnoxious and abusive to callers who have gotten through to him. I think he fears for his job and a stain on his remarkable resume'.

You see, many among the DFL leadership don't want the Catholic Church to have a voice in our country. They don't want conservatives to have a voice, either. The Constitution means nothing to them.

Of course the Catholic Church knows that it will receive criticism if it speaks out on issues that are important to it. It has been doing that for 2,000 years.

It also knows that in this country it has freedom of speech and can inform its 70 million members about political issues without fear of legal or financial repercussions. But it doesn't endorse candidates or parties.

And it also knows that receiving criticism means that the power and effectiveness of its messages increase even more, reaching more of its target audience and even non-Catholic who agree with the Church on issues.

Here are the cards. Click twice to see large versions:

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