George Neumayr’s great column today is right on: NYT editor Bill Keller is the worst sort of bigot of all: one who cloaks his bigotry in the guise of morality and ethics. As Neumayr rightly notes, Keller’s column from 2002 is one of the most despicable pieces of anti-Catholic hate speech I have seen since, well, since Sinead O’Connor called Pope John Paul II “evil” on Saturday Night Live while ripping up his photo.
As an aside: That is the same Sinead O’Connor to whom the Washington Post last week gave a full column in which to fulminate further against the Catholic Church. The insult to traditional Catholicism was so breathtaking, and the choice to give such space to O’Connor so irresponsible, as to make it perfectly legitimate for readers of the Post to cancel their subscriptions and otherwise boycott the paper. (The Post, in kind with the NYT although not quite to the same degree, has surrounded the O’Connor column in the days before and since with other columns, editorials, and supposedly straight news accounts that contained gratuitous smears at the church.) Giving such space to the obnoxious Irish singer is almost akin to giving the very unreverend (nonreverend? irreverend?) Al Sharpton space to comment on Hasidic Jewish policemen. (Oops — the establishment media often gives Sharpton a forum anyway, which is one sign of the media’s utter corruption and hypocrisy.)
But back to the NYT, and to Keller’s 2002 column. The third paragraph is fine. Many parts of the church badly, even criminally, covered up unconscionable child abuse. Criticism of that failure is not just acceptable but necessary. But the rest of the column is raw, vulgar, unsubstantiated tommyrot that veers away from the child abuse issue to take outrageous potshots against a dying pope. It is some of the most intolerant, bigoted filth imaginable. And it is, as Neumayr wrote, a sign that the NYT‘s jihad against the Catholic Church hierarchy (yeah, President Obama, I still am allowed to use the word “jihad” even though your White House is forbidding it in national security assessments) is no more akin to objective journalism than the 1960s racial utterances of George Corley Wallace were akin to a dispassionate description of the state of civil rights. Because many others have exhaustively detailed the nastiness and biases, I won’t do so here. But I will note that anti-religious bigotry, and especially bigotry against traditionalist Catholics and politically conservative Protestants, is not only rampant in the mainstream media but actually borders on being “chic.” (I write this, by the way, as an Episcopalian; this is not my own denomination I defend.)
“Like the Communist Party circa Leonid Brezhnev, the Vatican exists first and foremost to preserve its own power,” Keller wrote. The Communist Party under Brezhnev enslaved hundreds of millions of people and imprisoned innocents in gulags. If Keller’s sentence isn’t slanderous, the word “slanderous” has no meaning.
Oh, wait, maybe I did the same thing by using the word “jihad” to describe the NYT‘s coverage. Okay, I can admit I exaggerated for effect. A better phrase, less loaded, would be “nasty vendetta.” I hereby withdraw “jihad.”
The problem is that Keller didn’t mean to exaggerate. And he won’t recant any part of that column or of his paper’s news coverage of the recent Catholic Church scandals. And that makes him an unrepentant hater.