Compare and contrast:
Example 1: Two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who used the words "evil" and "inhuman" to describe some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed and contended that violence is incompatible with the nature of God.
The result: Violent protests were held across the Muslim world. Islamic countries recalled their ambassadors to the Vatican; Muslim leaders issued fatwas for the Pope’s death; a Catholic nun was killed in Somalia.
Example 2: Last year, radio “shock jock” Don Imus made an inappropriate and implicitly racist comment about the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team.
The result: Imus’s three-word remark landed him on the cover of numerous magazines, and he was lambasted by everyone from Al Sharpton to many of the presidential candidates. Imus’s hugely popular radio show was canceled, even after he apologized profusely.
Example 3: Last week, a few days before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to America, TV talk show host Bill Maher went on a profanity-laden tirade against the Pope and the Catholic Church. On his HBO Real Time program, Maher claimed that the Pope “used to be a Nazi,” and called the Catholic Church a “child-abusing religious cult” and “the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia.”
The result: (Cue sound of crickets chirping.)
In truth, while the media were largely silent about his bigotry, Maher did offer an apology, of sorts. On a later show, Maher conceded, “Ok, you got me, the Pope was not a Nazi.” That’s true. As a young boy, Benedict, then Joseph Ratzinger, was forcibly conscripted into the German Youth organization, as all German boys were.
But Maher said he regretted the “Pope was a Nazi” line mainly because the lie “distracts from my main point,” which was that the Pope should be thrown in jail.
We can hardly expect more from a man who called Jesus a “2,000 year-old space god.” During an episode of "Politically Incorrect," Maher’s former talk-show, that I participated in some years ago, he referred to Mother Theresa as “a whore.” After that show, I told Maher that I would never again appear on his program.
Merriam Webster defines “bigot” as: “One who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance.” Bill Maher, who once bragged “I have hated the church way before anyone else,” is a bigot by any definition.
Thought experiment: Let’s ponder what would have happened if Bill Maher had said he hates gay people. When ex-NBA star Tim Hardaway said exactly that, he was flogged by the press, officially banished by the NBA (for which he was a spokesman) and forced to apologize repeatedly.
Maher believes he can get away with such overt bigotry under the pretext of “creative license.” As Maher said in his non-apology apology: “Now first of all, it was a joke, during a comedic context…”
And when the Catholic League confronted HBO about why it continues to give Maher airtime, the station insisted that his anti-Catholicism was a matter of “creative freedom.” Needless to say, such “creative freedom” would not be extended to those who make racist, anti-gay or anti-Muslim remarks. Ask Don Imus.
Another recent event made me think of the “creative freedom” justification for malevolent behavior. Yale University announced this week that one of its students would not be allowed to exhibit an abortion art project on school grounds. Aliza Shvarts’ senior art project documents a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. The exhibition was to feature video recordings of her forced miscarriages, captured on a VHS camcorder, as well as a preserved collection of the blood from the process, smeared across hundreds of feet of plastic sheeting.
Shvarts insists her artless insemination would have sparked conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. Shvarts said, “I think that I’m creating a project that lives up to the standard of what art is supposed to be.”
Yale insists it will not exhibit the project unless Shvarts signs a statement admitting that her project did not include any abortions. But Shvarts is adamant that she indeed tried to get pregnant but doesn’t know for certain whether she did or not. Not that it matters to her, because, in her words, “the nature of the piece is that it does not consist of certainties.”
Schvarts’ miscarriage of art has gained her all the attention she was quite obviously seeking when she issued a press release along with her project. A Yale official said last week that the incident has drawn more press inquiries to the university than any episode since the controversy over the admission of a former Taliban diplomat in 2006. (In case you’re wondering: cost of tuition for one year at Yale: $34,000.)
Not all the attention has been positive. National Right to Life Committee President Wanda Franz summed up the reaction of most pro-lifers by saying, “It’s clearly depraved. I think the poor woman has got some major mental problems. She’s a serial killer. This is just a horrible thought.” Even the National Abortion Rights Action League condemned Shvarts’ project.
Maher and Schvarts fashion themselves as provocative artists, courageously pushing the envelope to get laughs and make people think about difficult truths. But if they truly wanted to provoke, perhaps they would target institutions that rarely get criticized — Hollywood, the media, radical Islam — instead of those that can be slandered with impunity or snuffed out at its earliest stages of life just to elicit a response.
What are we to believe about the media when they refuse to hold everyone to the same standard of mutual respect? The ho-hum response to the consistent denigration of Christians and to our most vulnerable citizens is a hypocrisy for which the media must be held accountable.
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