Tuesday, 19 July 2011

two church views on Murdoch

Bishop Peter Selby has written When Negative Equity is Social.

The plight of individuals with debts larger than the value of the security that is held for them engages our sympathy, and rightly so. But is there another kind of negative equity that has been at the top of our agenda these last weeks, a kind of social negative equity.

In the middle of the public outrage about the phone hacking scandal (have they hacked into my phone to find out how outraged I am? How do we know the level of public outrage?) there have come to the surface some rather uncomfortable realities that are not being spoken of much.

The fact is that it isn’t just News Corp that has a stake in the negative, in the bad news and the gossip; we all have.

Negativity sells well, and we should not be surprised at how much of it there is. The bad news in which News Corp had such a stake is now overtaken by the stake we all seem to have in the maximum bad news about News Corp and its key players. There aren’t any disinterested players in all this, occupying some principled moral high ground. There are careers and balance sheets at stake - and not just those of the Murdoch empire. Bad news is a good investment…

Canon Giles Fraser delivered this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4. The full text of his remarks is now available here.

…The current crisis at News International and deep within the British establishment is much more than the presenting issue of phone hacking. I almost want to say that it’s become a theological issue in so far as it’s become a properly basic question about who gets to wield judgment within our society.

Last Friday the Times headline referred to Rupert Murdoch’s apology as constituting a Day of Atonement. But those who know the Jewish calendar will know that Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, comes before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In other words, judgment comes first, then atonement. And so it is that those media titans who have wielded so much judgment in our society are now to present themselves to the scrutiny of the House of Commons later on today. Those who have judged others will now themselves be subject to judgment…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 11:58am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Even the usually hard hitting Fr. Fraser misses the mark (hiding something, are we?). Employing theological themes may be fine, but to limit them to vague notions of press behavior is to fail to see the wider problem. This is a matter of a ruling elite, that web of power, money, media, law and politics, which when certain of its power will, almost by necessity, harm others. This is Class domination now come to life and it should tell Fr. Fraser something about English society and, we should note, the C of E with all its investments in Murdoch's empire. You, Fr. Fraser, are as much part of the problem as the rest.

Posted by: William Coats on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 12:42pm BST

The problem with the moral outrage being expressed about the phone hacking is that it's hard not to remember that the tabloids have 'trained us up' in the area of moral outrage. For years they have all but invented the scandal, manufactured the moral outrage, and then moved us on to the next scandal when they had worked that one to death. We've been educated into having a short attention span for this kind of thing. It's hard not to believe that Murdoch isn't now relying on this. All he has to do is keep his head down, speak as many pious platitudes as are required, and hope that this too will pass - just like all the other ones he fed society in the past.

Posted by: Fr Levi on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 7:21pm BST

Regarding Giles Fraser's comments:
1) My knowledge of Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings is nil. I know he wrote a philosophy that some claimed the Nazis then hijacked. I know he wrote something called "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (cue the 2001: A Space Odyssey monolith music). But from what little I do know, there is a context to Nietzsche declaring that God is dead. From what little I know, Nietzsche is declaring that because how modern society has developed, we human beings have killed God. By the manner in which people quote Nietzsche, they almost always seem to assume that a) Nietzsche is an atheist, and b) Nietzsche is declaring God's death in a triumphant manner. Of my own knowledge, I don't know if either of those statements is, in fact, true.
2) I think Mr. Fraser is mistaken in his understanding of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Rosh Hashanah starts 10 days of reflection and contemplation that are called the Days of Awe in Hebrew. Yom Kippur closes them. In Jewish theology, at the start of Rosh Hashanah, God begins writing out a book of those who will live through the next year. At the end of Yom Kippur, the book is closed. But! It is a time for Jews to reflect on their actions of the last year. A time for Jews to humbly and sincerely ask God for forgiveness. It is a time to affirmatively make amends with one's fellow human beings for harm done. Judgment does NOT precede repentance or atonement. As the US Reform Jewish Yom Kippur liturgy states, God desires not the death of sinners, but that they repent and live. The Yom Kippur liturgy is filled with pleas to the worshipper that it is not too late. There is still time to ask God for forgiveness, and to make amends with your fellows. Maybe I'm reading Fraser wrong, but judgment is held off, in the hopes that one repents.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 9:25pm BST

"Fr. Fraser misses the mark" - William Coats

He hit the nail on the head! He DID hit out at the establishment with his remark that "The current crisis at News International and deep within the British establishment is much more than the presenting issue of phone hacking. I almost want to say that it’s become a theological issue in so far as it’s become a properly basic question about who gets to wield judgment within our society."

You are right, William, to say "This is a matter of a ruling elite, that web of power, money, media, law and politics, which when certain of its power will, almost by necessity, harm others."

A point also made by the perspicacious Steve Richards of The Independent in his column today: "There is a deep divide with the past. The common theme is that concentrations of power - in banking, the media, the police or politics - must be held to account"


The only institution Richards fails to mention is the Church, which would back up your comment.

The sword of Damocles hanging over the Murdoch empire is the pursuit of truth, evidence gathering, justice and judgement over the next few years as the various inquiries run their course. An expression of humility in the meantime from Rupert, but Giles Fraser is right to point out that the Day of Atonement comes at the conclusion of this saga.

Posted by: A J Barford on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 at 9:42pm BST

"We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality" (Macaulay).

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 20 July 2011 at 8:24am BST

@peterpi. Given comment 1, this may be of interest.


Posted by: Giles Fraser on Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 6:21am BST

Giles, thanks to Amazon's preview function (just how much can one preview, I wonder), I read a few pages of your introduction. Your book sounds fascinating. "God is dead", still, looks like it is far more complex than most people read into it.
Nietzsche -- to me, still -- seems to be saying we moderns have killed God (or more accurately, I suspect, killed ancient and classical concepts "about" God). What will then replace God? Your introduction reads as if Nietzche was on a quest.
And if Dietrich Bonhoeffer can read into Nietzche something diametrically opposed to how the Nazis were (deliberately mis)reading Nietzsche, then Nietzche is far more complex, far more subtle, than the average person is willing to see or reflect on.
It's a book in and of itself, but I have to wonder whether Nazi appropriation of Nietzsche, Wagner, and others has tainted these authors' or composers' works for people who can't or won't see beyond the Nazi caricature to the intent of the authors or composers themselves.
If I misinterpreted what you were trying to accomplish with your reference to Nietzche, I humbly apologize.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Thursday, 21 July 2011 at 4:22pm BST
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