Monday, July 9, 2007

Playing with Words and Clues

I started playing this game long ago when I noticed how often journalists refer to something as “controversial” when they (their masters, that is) want to make it look undesirable. In some contexts – such as religion or sociology or historical studies -- certain words, such as “controversial”, were almost sure to be followed with references to what might be described as Jewish concerns. Also, when the “news” repeatedly reports something which seems oddly out of proportion to its importance – for example when a movie in the making gets tremendously more coverage than other films, or a celebrity’s DUI arrest is headlined repeatedly (e.g. Mel Gibson) -- there will very often be something of “Jewish concern” under the surface. When I saw the incredible amount of coverage being given to filmmaker Gibson’s drunk driving offense and something unspecified he said to a law officer, my antennae went up and in a couple of days I saw for the first time a reference to his “antisemitic rant”. There were even complaints that the sheriff's office had not publicized the ever so important anti-Jewish remarks earlier!

An early example: While I was living in England in the early 1970’s, it was impossible to overlook that the British government was harassing and persecuting Scientologists, who had an international campus in the south of England. I knew enough about Scientology that I could see no reason why they should be singled out for such blatantly unfair treatment. And so I played my word game, watching for clues in the newspapers, and soon found, “Accusations of Anti-Semitism: Scientology Teaches Power of International Bankers.” The item went on to explain that “international bankers” is a code word for “Jews”. Huh? What if you’re really talking about international bankers?

In the article which follows, as soon as I saw the word “controversial” in the first paragraph I guessed correctly that some reference to Jews would ensue.

‘VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday formally made the majestic, complex and controversial millennial-old Latin Mass more accessible to Catholics, who have said the Mass in their modern local languages for four decades.

‘ . . . many church leaders are opposed to restoring and expanding a Mass they say . . . includes an offensive Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews, asking God to lift their "blindness." . . . Criticism also came from Jewish leaders, unhappy with the restoration of a prayer for their conversion, which is spoken once a year during Easter Week. The Anti-Defamation League called the move a "body blow to Catholic Jewish relations."’

For 2000 years the Latin Mass was the only Catholic Mass. Then in the 1960s, “Vatican II's efforts to modernize the church replaced it" with a version to be spoken in the local vernacular.

The traditional Latin Mass is being brought back because so many Catholics want it, even to the point of staging sit-ins to demand it. ‘A growing number of Catholics of all ages have sought out the elaborate Mass with its sonorous Latin prayers, Gregorian chants and formal choreography of gestures.’

‘"Anyone who seeks religion seeks a sacred moment with God, and that requires a certain reverence that comes with the old mass and its other worldliness," said South Carolina resident Brian Mershon.’
‘Historian and linguist Eric Hewitt . . . regularly attending Latin masses, finds it "more symbolic, which I think makes it more difficult but also more powerful" than the modern Mass.’

I wrote the above on Saturday, and on Sunday the following headline was conspicuous. Note that by now the Pope’s decision is not just “controversial” but “highly controversial”.

Pope's move on Latin mass 'a blow to Jews'

Jason Burke in Paris
Sunday July 8, 2007
The Observer
‘Jewish leaders and community groups criticised Pope Benedict XVI strongly yesterday after the head of the Roman Catholic Church formally removed restrictions on celebrating an old form of the Latin mass which includes prayers calling for the Jews to 'be delivered from their darkness' and converted to Catholicism.
‘In a highly controversial concession to traditionalist Catholics, Pope Benedict said that he had decided to allow parish priests to celebrate the Latin Tridentine mass if a 'stable group of faithful' request it.

The Latin Mass was the keystone of Catholic worship for almost 2000 years and was effectively replaced (partly due to Jewish pressure) only 40 years ago at Vatican Council II, but, “The Observer” continues, ‘the older rite's prayers calling on God to “lift the veil from the eyes” of the Jews and to end “the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ” - used just once a year during the Good Friday service - have sparked outrage.’

‘Yesterday the Anti-Defamation League, the American-based Jewish advocacy group, called the papal decision a "body blow to Catholic-Jewish relations". ”We are extremely disappointed and deeply offended that nearly 40 years after the Vatican rightly removed insulting anti-Jewish language from the Good Friday mass, it would now permit Catholics to utter such hurtful and insulting words by praying for Jews to be converted," said Abraham Foxman, the group's national director, in Rome. “It is the wrong decision at the wrong time.”

The reporter’s use of the word “bewilderment” in the next paragraph is akin to “controversial”. It is designed to form a certain opinion in the reader. Exactly who was bewildered, and why?

‘The Pope also sparked bewilderment when he made no mention of anti-Semitism . . . in a speech last year at Auschwitz. He also failed to acknowledge that there might be some degree of collective responsibility of the German people.’

My feeling about the whole thing is, “Tend to your own religion and don’t meddle in other people’s . . . and that includes not telling the Pope what he should put in his speeches."

Play my little word game. It’s fun and educational.


MarcLord said...

Are Scientologists Semites, as well? If so, must I also like them?

(just kidding. nice catch.)

Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fleming said...

MarcLord, I am racking my brain over your questions.

First, most Scientologists are not Semites. Let us assume, however, that some Scientologists are Semites. Are you required to like those who are Semites?

The answer to that calls for further inquiry: Are all Semites the same? No. Some Semites are Jews, many are Muslims, and others are Christians, etc.

Among the Scientologists, you are required to like only the Semites who are Jewish. In fact you are required to dislike any Scientologists who are Semites who are Muslim. As for the non-Semitic Scientologists, you are free to feel as you please, at least for now.

Does that answer your question?

MarcLord said...

"you are required to like only the Semites who are Jewish. In fact you are required to dislike any Scientologists who are Semites who are Muslim."

Ok, got it!