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The Lords Spiritual

January 21st, 2014 - 6:43 pm

If you were looking for the state religion in America where would you begin to look?  Since a “state religion” is just an official or government-sanctioned creed — an “organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence”  sponsored by those in political control, the obvious place to begin the search is the news media.

The media as State Religion: the parallels are obvious when you examine them. The media tell us what is important, who to believe, what is appropriate. They point out the ne’er do wells we must all avoid and hold up role models to emulate. In short they perform every function that clergy did of old.

And like the churchmen of old they are rewarded by lands and rents by the political elite. The relationship between the modern media and the political class is widespread and deep. In Great Britain, where experience in these things runs deep, there are now actual attempts to license journalists, a development one website called a press “by appointment to the crown”.

The BBC is the epitome of the modern media church which every now and again dispatches one of its number to the great unwashed to lead the wayward from their pagan slough. Except that today the churchmen are atheists and the pagans are the bitter clingers. Take the recent hit movie, Philomena, which features a BBC journalist.  The American Humanist summarizes its plot:

Nominated for three Golden Globe awards—Best Motion Picture, Drama; Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama (Judi Dench); and Best Screenplay, Motion Picture (Steve Coogan  and Jeff Pope)—Philomena is a major theatrical release that belongs squarely in today’s era of emergent humanism. For not only is one of the film’s two protagonists a forthright atheist (including the actor/screenwriter/producer who plays him), but the overall message is one of truth over dogma and humanity over religious oppression.

Which is to say that you should watch it. It has passed the censor librorum being both nihil obstat and imprimatur. You get three PC indulgences which can replace 2 units of carbon credit. In any modern morality play you know who the Good Guy is going to be: the atheist or the Muslim. And the bad guy — even in a Tom Clancy Jack Ryan thriller — is going to predictably be the hateful Christian.

The editors of today’s flagship media outlets are the modern day equivalents of the Lords Spiritual in an Established Church. It exactly parallels the way things used to work back when the Church of England used to be the real Established Church.

Archbishops and bishops are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, who considers the names selected by a Church Commission. They take an oath of allegiance to The Queen on appointment and may not resign without Royal authority.

The connection between Church and State is also symbolised by the fact that the ‘Lords Spiritual’ (consisting of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and 24 diocesan bishops) sit in the House of Lords. Parish priests also take an oath of allegiance to The Queen.

Now the Lords Spiritual are addressed as “Editors in Chief”. That describes in fact, if not in theory, how the modern mainstream media relates to the powers that be.  The great media personalities are nearly aristocratic themselves. Their condition is gentled at least, by consanguinity, in contrast to the barbarian hordes who attend NASCAR races and watch pro football, impelled by their defective, Trig Palin genes.

Lords Spiritual

Lords Spiritual by Appointment to the Crown

Trey Gowdy was disappointed in the media’s stony silence over Benghazi. You can sympathize with Gowdy, but what did he expect them to do?  While many reporters still think themselves truth’s Good Servant, they are surely Obama’s first. The oath of allegiance to the Crown takes precedence. Otherwise no invites to parties, no access.

The benefits of Royal Favor are considerable. Politico surveys at the career of Ezra Klein. “For nearly five years, the Post has steered a bounty of financial resources to its star economics columnist and blogger. It has allowed him to have a contributor deal with MSNBC, a column with Bloomberg View, and to write long-form for The New Yorker. It has provided him with eight staffers to keep Wonkblog, his popular policy vertical, flowing with up-to-the-minute charts and analysis. The PR department has promoted him in profile upon profile.” And now he’s too big for even that spacious parish.

“But when Klein proposed the creation of an independent, explanatory journalism website — with more than three dozen staffers and a multiyear budget north of $10 million — the Post said enough is enough. Indeed, Jeff Bezos, the Post’s new owner, and Katharine Weymouth, its publisher, never even offered an alternative figure, sources familiar with the negotiations said.” …

The split, which has become a point of tension in the newsroom and the talk of the town in Washington, underscores a larger tension in the era of personal-brand journalism. Big media institutions go to great lengths to feed the egos (and pockets) of their growing stars, cultivating their image and reaping the rewards of high traffic. But when that brand becomes too expensive, or so big it threatens to outshine the institution itself, the institution is forced to let it go.

Klein is only the latest marquee journalist to outgrow his organization and launch a new venture. Nate Silver, the star political statistician, left The New York Times last year to reboot his FiveThirtyEight enterprise in affiliation with ESPN. AllThingsD founders Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg left The Wall Street Journal to launch a new tech news site with the backing of NBC Universal. David Pogue, the former New York Times tech columnist, went to Yahoo, where he is spearheading a new tech vertical. Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist, launched First Look Media with the backing of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Andrew Sullivan, the blogger hosted first by The Atlantic and then The Daily Beast, is now funded directly by his readers.

By contrast the conservative punditry often takes on the character of the itinerant preacher: miserably clad people who are down at heel, traveling on a shoestring, speaking on a soapbox, and often sustained by the meager pennies of their flocks.

These outlaw preachers elicit nothing but contempt from the journalists of the established media, who often consider these rival preachers nothing but disreputable Elmer Gantrys; con-men who rob simpletons. By contrast the great know how things really work from the inside, why they are even invited to the country weekend parties and official functions! They are given pride of place in the pomp and ceremony of Washington, even though everyone knows they count for nothing. In the return for their subservience they addressed courteously and their children allowed to attend gentlemen’s schools. Perhaps one day they’ll be lords and ladies themselves.

It’s a good gig if you can get it. But in the meantime there is the little matter of the truth. We know that official journalism serves the Crown, but who remains to warn that the enemy is at the gates?


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Top Rated Comments   
Brilliant comparison, Wretchard.

History is replete with tasty ironies. One of my current favorites is the way that mediating institutions (such as religion) are undermined by an unholy alliance between "liberty lovers" and the state (channeling Nisbet here).

Religion, by its nature, calls on its believers to commit themselves to a creed. Any such commitment, however, places constraints on their behavior; "Thou shalt not commit adultery" flies in the face of our instincts, which are (for men) to copulate with as many women as possible and (for women) to copulate with a higher status male than their mate. Accepting a creed with roots in the Ten Commandments means giving up your liberty, in this way of thinking. How unmodern!

So, to rid themselves of these tiresome priests, the modern libertine makes common cause with the state under the guise of "protecting their rights." Together, they attack the mediating institution, and aim to destroy it: the libertines because they don't want constraints on their freedom, the state because they don't want the competition for loyalty from the mediating institution.

Then, analogous to what Thomas More described to Will Roper, once these institutions are destroyed, the state turns on the libertine and takes away the very rights they thought they'd won. Foolish children. Foolish, ignorant-of-history children.

Rights, of course, are important. But a close reading of the Bill of Rights reveals that many were designed to protect mediating institutions rather than individuals. Freedom of the press; freedom of religion; freedom of assembly; freedom to bear arms (individually, to be sure, but also and more importantly to allow the formation of militias - one guy with a gun is not much protection against an invading horde); 10th Amendment (states, in this context, are mediating institutions); right to trial by jury (an ad hoc mediator between individuals and the state); and so on.

In an ideal world, the press would collect and disseminate the information needed for coordinating community actions, and hold those in authority accountable. In other words, it would function as a mediating institution.

But journalists are just people, after all. They're no more likely to be saints than any of the rest of us. They chafe under the constraints of community standards; they are drawn to salacious gossip; they love the rush they get from sticking it to The Man; they find irresistible the sense of moral superiority that accompanies a sophisticated cynicism.

So they snuggle up to the state. Rather than serving their craft, or their guild, or the public, or (gasp) The Almighty, they serve the state: they create and maintain The Narrative. The state, in turn, gives them the positive reinforcement of access, awards, and A-listing, or the punishment of exile. All they are asked to do is follow the One Commandment of the state creed - Thou Shalt Not Undermine The Narrative - and they, too, can drink at the fountain of fame, fortune, and fun.

Journalists become apologists become propagandists.

The solution? (Hammer:Nail Alert!) Distribute power. For there to be propaganda, there must be centralized power and control. To Stick It To The Man, there has to be THE Man. With distributed power will come a diversity of standards - not THE Standard - and a multitude of narratives - not THE Narrative.

If political power was not concentrated in Washington DC, the Washington Post would be as important as the Denver Post. If financial power was not concentrated on Wall Street (a result of Federal policy), the New York Times and Wall Street Journal would be as influential as the El Paso Times and Louisville Courier-Journal. And without the FCC, ABCNBCCBS would be as influential as the Home and Garden Network.

So Wretchard is right: the MSM is the Established Church of the modern American state. But attacking the MSM directly - through, for instance, weakening First Amendment protections - will only make things worse by empowering the state to decide what is deserving of protection. Instead, disperse the power, and the MSM will disestablish, or die.

L3
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The tipping point for atheism was the rise of homosexuality. Homosexuality concluded that as long as religion showed strength, they would never be accepted. So despite all the pluses of religious morality, they decided to attack the very concept of religion just as we were caught in the throes of a religious war. The heck with the Boys Scouts, the heck with a fighting national defense with a sense of cohesion, the heck with the slippery slope to polygamy, bestiality, necrophilia, etc., that will follow, we'll destroy religion. Get rid of religion and homosexuals will achieve equal status in a failed culture.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
SISTER CATHERINE

The media considers itself the purveyors of the Word. I remember first grade religion class, Sister Catherine, and the slim book she said was a catechism. She read the words to us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” That was then, this is now, and the Word is no longer with God, but against everything of value we have held dear since the Enlightenment. One part is still true, however, and that is the Word is now God.

Sister Catherine, slight and frail
But fierce with inner strength
Taught her charges without fail
That life had breadth and length
Believe in God, was what she said
And love your parents well
And pray your country bravely led
And truth you’ll always tell
Alas that was so long ago
And journalists today
Would scorn those words and do not know
That facts have much to say
They’ve leased their souls for satan’s gold
Their fifteen minutes fame
But Sister Catherine could have told
Them some things lead to flame

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (87)
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Is the modern monolithic "mainstream" media still the "fourth estate" or more of a "fifth column"?

None of this happened overnight.

Sadly, it is reminiscent of a car-wreck: it takes a moment of inattention and milliseconds to happen and a LONG time to fix vehicle and passengers, if at all possible.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Mushroom Media - they leave us in the dark and feed us cowpoop.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
L-3: "Tastes great!"

Old Salt: "Less filling!"

You're both right.

Per Old Salt, we should never lose sight of where out rights come from.

Per L-3, we should recognize the crucial role of "mediating institutions" in securing these rights.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
As I looked out my window today at 6" of global warming and the rare pedestrian braving wind chills below zero Fahrenheit I confess to feeling the cat's pleasure in being safe and warm watching others suffer. Rousing from that unworthy thought I wondered; how much reality can a faith like AGW being used by hucksters to shake the money tree tolerate? A certain amount of distress can help a religion. Perhaps they were invented by cats as they can thrive on suffering. Even more so though a religion needs to operate in the realm of shadows and the unseen. They connect with people by providing a framework for dealing with the unknowns, such as death truth justice and what do women want?

Concrete facts such as the weather or planetary orbits are bad for faith based systems that justify their authority by asserting disprovable theories as facts. The medieval church after Aquinas justified itself through Aristotle. Greek philosophy including Ptolemaic theory made predictions about the natural world that could be tested. That may not have disproved the core message of the Church but it did damage its' credibility.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
All religions use prophecy - but a religion that promised the ability to prophesy the weather???? That has to be one of the most idiotic things ever to have been tried!!!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think a pretty broad swath of the left despises all things religious, Judeo-Christian in particular, for the simple fact that they view religious people and institutions as thinking themselves morally superior. Those on the left, of course, have all the high ground on moral superiority, so all that religious stuff just won't do, unless it happens to align with their particular cause.

In the end, the moral positions or beliefs of any of them mean far less than their desire for power and control.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
From what I've read early America was a more diverse place than it is today if only because it was the refuge of creeds -- of mediating institutions -- that were fleeing persecution from Europe. They feared that the state sponsored uniformity would pursue them even in the New World and this led to the prohibition against established religion, by which they imagined perhaps, something like the Church of England.

What they did not anticipate was the possibility that a state religion in its essentials -- a set of imposed doctrines -- might be established under other color. The line drawn between PC and Marxism on the one hand and traditional "religions" on the other is a often a distinction without a difference.

Thus a press which serves the interests of the political elite to the extent to espousing and enforcing its mores and beliefs cannot escape criticism on the mere grounds that is "secular". What matters is its effect on diversity of belief.

The method of protecting "mediating institutions rather than individuals. Freedom of the press; freedom of religion; freedom of assembly; freedom to bear arms (individually, to be sure, but also and more importantly to allow the formation of militias - one guy with a gun is not much protection against an invading horde); 10th Amendment (states, in this context, are mediating institutions); right to trial by jury (an ad hoc mediator between individuals and the state); and so on" had the effect of preventing the rising of a monolithic ideology, which is another name for the political correctness we increasingly live under today.

I have argued that religions are harmless when they never rise to the level of certainties. And here we have not only certainties (you climate denier, you!) but what is worse, official certainties. That which we call an official creed would by any other name be as odious. Much of America sought to avoid this danger in the first place but banned only under one guise only to have it return in another.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I left Christianity because of the church-iness, well you know what I mean," he said. I can still remember the words uttered nearly 40 years ago somewhere in Nueva Ecija as a friend explained to me why he had joined the Communist Party. Some years later when someone else asked me in turn why I had resisted every attempt to recruit me into the Communist Party, I said, "well it was the church-iness. You know what I mean."

Each generation seems doomed to wage a campaign to replace the old certainties with new ones of their own. But they are certainties all the same, each no less confident of its infallibility than the last. Recently I went back to an alumni reunion in Cambridge and the atmosphere was absolutely redolent of that of a church. Mind you I don't fault people for that. I like churches and go to Mass nearly every Sunday. But I know it's a Church and the thing we talk about there exists separately or goes beyond it.

But for many the church is where they go to visit God and maybe that can't be helped. The history of the last decade or so, from September 11, 2001 onward at least, suggests that humanity can't live without certainties; that because all men die you must above all give them a reason to die. That's all Mohammed Atta was looking for, something in this secular world that was reason to die for. We live in the most religious of ages, even when we don't call them that, simply because we need them to get through the day.

And in the process it is easy to forget that the certainties creeds represent, while they may be tentative aids to the search for the truth -- or God as you prefer -- are neither the truth nor God in themselves. They are graven images, albeit in intellectual form, the product of human hands, mere representations of something far greater; there becase we lack the imagination to do without them.

For our little mud creations must always be partial. The only God worth knowing is that whose completeness eludes us; the mysterium tremendum. And here perhaps is where the Founders expected too much from us. The awful burden of freedom would leave the individual alone with God. Alone but for a piece of paper saying 'the truth is out there so go pursue happiness'. And somehow this was meant to be from the beginning. That is Judeo-Christianity in a nutshell.

But freedom is too arid for us in daily life. It is too daunting for most frail humanity. They need companionship, reunions, they need the comfort of certainties. And so we have them. We demand them in fact and so get them, sometimes out of a catalogue. For the most part they do no harm except when they grow too full of themselves.

I don't dislike the petty tyrannies of the press as much as its unwarranted self-confidence. Like all decadent creeds it has stopped looking for the truth and now believes it is the truth in itself, as when a religion becomes convinced it is the God they once sought; as when the mud idol becomes conflated with the deity.

'Look no further than what say for the truth', the press seems to say, for we are badged, we are vouchsafed. But that is manifestly false because the truth is out there and ever will be. You know the fools must fall and can't bear to hear the thud.

It is surprising how little the mental world of men has changed from 2,000 years ago. The old gods are still there. It is the temples that have risen and fallen. I do not fear for the gods themselves, for they are eternal and can look after themselves, but as for the transient sects that speak in their name, they will not even outlast the generation.
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39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
In college I had, as many do, a wide-ranging and ever-shifting group of circles that I ran in (and often out of). There was one core group of friends, though, five of them plus me, that I probably would have died for and still would. I married one of them. Starting a few years after school, we began to gather every year or two and have an ad hoc reunion. It started at my lake cabin and continued a few times. We got together at a state park. We got together at one of the others' houses by Lake Superior. Various other venues. But never once, in perhaps 10-15 reunions, has any of our gatherings ever been in danger of being mistaken for church. Perhaps it was the incredible quantity of alcohol consumed at the first few, or perhaps it was our penchant for cursing at each other or making off-color remarks.

It makes me wonder if you did college correctly, or if you perhaps mis-selected your friends there. Or perhaps I did one or both of those things. But I wouldn't change it for the world. Those people are still the best friends I ever had in my life, or likely will ever have. And I just don't make so many friends that there's a great chance that I'll find better ones.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dench's late husband was, like Frank Finlay, a very Catholic actor, receiving papal recognition from John Paul II just before he died. I will see the film, if it plays here in the provinces, but will wonder what he would have said to Judi.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have heard the film is quite good and it may be that what "humanists" and "atheists" see in it is quite different from what another might perceive.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Humanists? You mean those fellows who brought about the Renaissance and the Enlightenment? At the risk of their own lives?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well...the ones who claim the mantle loudly and repeatedly of having brought about the renaissance and the enlightenment and vigorously resist the idea that anybody else could in any way be even partially responsible for them, at any rate.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
L3 says "So, to rid themselves of these tiresome priests, the modern libertine makes common cause with the state under the guise of "protecting their rights." "

The concealed edge to this phenomenon is exposed by asking "what rights are progressives protecting?" The answer is that progressives take a bundle of human ambitions and social policies and turn them into "human rights". Then, by claiming to protect these manufactured human rights, progressives constantly remove real human rights like free speech, freedom of choice etc.

It's progressive mind bending and the UN is steeped in the same murky brew.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I believe that L3's point is that the true power comes from individuals exercising their God given rights in an organized fashion. - RWE3

I understood his context (and usually am in complete agreement with L3), but the premise on the Bill of Rights is fundamental and far too much to surrender for any benefit, including increased political power vis-a-vis progressives. We conservatives do not subscribe to Machiavellian concepts of power politics.

From the Christian perspective, true power comes from God our Father, through Jesus Christ, as individuals humbly surrender their will to His. All RIGHTS of men are God given. The founding fathers assumed as much, regardless if they were confessing Christian protestants, Roman Catholics, deists, camouflaged agnostics or atheists, or something else in between. The Bill of Rights merely recognizes what all men in the late 1700s assumed to be true, and those rights were individual and God given, not institutional nor institutionally derived.

True political power derives from solid core principles, not the number people stacked on top of them. The power is in conservative ideas, not in the number of conservative adherents!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem with emphasizing that individual rights are derived from God is that it undermines the case for conservative principles among people who either do not believe in God or believe whether he exists or not is of no consequence to them.

I once read a description of Libertarianism as being a “third way,” with Conservatism emphasizing God and Fascism (in its many guises) emphasizing the State. The idea is that Libertarianism is a third way that emphasizes the Individual.

To me, this is patent nonsense, or at the very least, a false dilemma. Conservatism emphasizes the Individual no less so than Libertarianism. And both philosophies recognize the importance of individual morality as a way to control behavior rather than laws imposed from without. That religious people believe that God has directed some kinds of behavior does not change that.

To me, a Conservative is a Practical Libertarian, realizing that allowing everyone to exercise their free will in an unrestricted manner is impractical and undesirable.

And there is no problem with the approach that “The power is in conservative ideas, not in the number of conservative adherents!” Just as long as you realize that you don’t need superior numbers of “adherents” only if you have lots of good air support.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't forget Mao: "Power flows from the barrel of a gun".

we may forget that from time to time, but the Left never does. Why do you think the thought of their opponents owning guns enrages them so?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
We decided we want to feel good, but in some easy way. Nothing that requires too much energy or risk. There's always the cause de jour and its some group that actually forces us to lessen our standards. We no longer watch for outside dangers, they are scarey. We espouse vegan diets and some downtrodden group that's almost in the mainstream, but not quite. And by getting into the habit of playing it safe, we are taking the greatest risks of all.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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