So I am hard on PDI because they are a cut above the rest in the Main Stream Media's demagagosphere, and therefore its memes exercise a vast influence on the blogosphere, even when they get things wrong! Especially when they get things wrong! As in the Art Bell fiasco.
I am hardest on PDI on three general occasions, all involving a form of rhetorical or moral inconsistency:
(1) when they engage in ideological victimology, such as in the so-called cause celebre over fork and spoon in Canada, and the Subic Bay Rape Case here and here.
(2) when they take inconsistent stands on important issues of principle and politics such as on the issue of the role of the Military and the Supreme Court in the matters of mutiny Mutiny, Judicial activism and Regime Change; and
(3) when they take paradoxical or inconsistent stands on religion and religious issues in the democratic sphere, such as in the Danish Mohammed Cartoon controversy and the present Da Vinci Code phenomenon.
On the Separation of Church and Press was my reaction last February to this PDI Editorial on the Mohammed Cartoons controversy, entitled Indivisible Freedoms, which you may wish to compare with today's Sunday Editorial, Da Vinci Decoded.
Both are thoughtful, complex essays, but here are two crystal clear examples in which blasphemy against a great world Religion is claimed by some of its most devout adherents in both Islam and Catholicism, yet PDI takes two very different positions.
In today's editorial on the Da Vinci Code (a film by Ron Howard starring Tom Hanks, as if you didn't know!) PDI gets it right (almost):
Let’s talk principles.Caveat: I say almost because the "privileging of the Christian religion" does not just "lead to" but IS an "establishment of Religion" in the well understood sense that Separation forbids the State from promoting "Religion" by law or policy, just as much as it forbids the State from prohibiting the free exercise of "thereof". One does not have to actually establish an Official State Religion, to violate this great principle in the bill of Rights:
Religious freedom, in the modern context of our constitutional democracy, must mean not only the freedom to practice one’s religious beliefs, but also the freedom not to believe. It is a right that protects both the devotee and the skeptic, the orthodox as well as the heretical.
Thus, in a predominantly Christian nation like ours, religious freedom must include space even for those beliefs or practices that Christians will find blasphemous. If we were to hold otherwise, then the privileging of the Christian religion would violate both the letter and spirit of our Constitution. It would lead, again, to “an establishment of religion.”
Art III Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.I otherwise agree with PDI's stance the Da Vinci Code controversy. But here are several passages from back in February regarding the Mohammed Cartoons:
Excesses such as rioting and complications such as some irresponsible provocateurs inserting two cartoons (the most offensive ones) among the real cartoons circulated among Muslims aside, the Islamic world has been adamant about its belief that the Western press crossed the line. Non-Muslims have also observed that what the Western media attempted to paint as purely a question of freedom of expression was not that at all; it was a question of secular contempt for religious conventions.Caveat: The emphasis is mine, because this is a kind of coded message itself that tells the editorial reader (all 3 of us in the metropolis!), that this is PDI's own position and take on the matter. Who else could they be referring to as "non-Muslims" and "non-Western" journalists? PDI continues:
While the Philippines adheres to the principle of the separation of Church and State, and indeed, the Philippine media are heir to a tradition of anticlericalism dating to the Propaganda Movement, as a whole, Filipinos are profoundly respectful of religious conventions. Even the bigotry of certain Filipinos toward their Islamic countrymen does not extend to flagrantly heaping contempt on their faith. There are lines Filipinos do not cross, and rightly so (if only we did not cross more of them than we already do).Caveat: Actually there is practically NO adherence to the Principle of Separation of Church and State in the Philippines, contrary to this amazing claim of the editorialist. Just ask any Muslim, lumad, Protestant, Buddhist, skeptic, atheist -- anyone who is not Romano Catolico cerrado. The claim that religious freedom reigns in the Philippines is utterly laughable when one thinks of the ostentatious display of Catholic religious idols, altars and sectarian symbols in government buildings and offices. We have already seen this risible claim contravened directly and its opposite amply demonstrated by the Executive Secretary, Ed Ermita calling for the banning of a Hollywood religious thriller and blockbuster in order to protect those of weak faith in "our predominantly Catholic country." Further proof that Spanish-style Talibanism is alive and well in 21st Century Philippines comes from the Manila City Council, which unanimously disgraced itself as no better than that provincial burg, Lucena City, which likewise 'banned' the film. Now it is not enough for me that these clumsy attempts at censorship have the entirely opposite effect on the movie's box office numbers. It is not after all, my goal to promote the film. But it should be the concern of all citizens, including the guardians of its opinions like PDI, to be sensitive to attacks on Democracy and culpable violations of the constitution, which these acts represent.
PDI concluded on the Danish Mohammed Cartoons as follows (but try reading this passage as if they were referring to Da Vinci Code film and novel!)
Islam and Christianity both pay the highest tribute to martyrs. Even secular societies consider martyrdom possible in defense of country or ideology. The question is whether any kind of creed, including secularism as understood in the West, calls for provocations that make it inevitable for people to become martyrs, whether unintentionally or by design. While we do not counsel self-censorship arising out of fear, we do believe that a proper recognition of the central role faith plays in the lives of millions would go far to avoid undue provocation against people who take their religion seriously. After all, since World War II, the world has rallied to defend the Four Freedoms: of speech and expression; of every person to worship God in his own way; from want; and from fear. They all go hand in hand, and to raise one over the other diminishes them all.Well, which is it folks? Secular contempt for religion or freedom of religion and expression? Do they mean to imply that Islmists "take their religion seriously" while "Catholicists" do not? Are religious liberty and freedom of expression to be made a hostage to the most serious fanatics in the world. More serious, more respect?
In The Responsible Journalism of Conrado de Quiros, the irony is lost on PDI column writer of note, when he says,
I join those who say this is not an issue of freedom of the press at all, it is one of basic decency and respect...This of course is not Mr. de Quiros' take on the Da Vinci Code's blasphemous attack on the Catholic faith. Another case of inconsistency enforced by an anti-American ideology.
Of course, in the case of the rioting Islamic fanatics, the Danish Cartoons were a case of CAPITAL blasphemy against their religious proscription against idolatry. So it is a matter of some interest to many that there are apparently no Catholicist crowds burning down the American Embassy or calling for the beheading of Tom Hanks for apostasy and "disrespect" toward Jesus Christ. Strangely enough, in the Philippine archipelago, it is secular authorities who've acted most like the theocrats of the bygone times of the Spanish Taliban. No less than the Executive Secretary Ed Ermita called for banning the film, the Da Vinci Code. So did a unanimous resolution of the Manila City Council and another troglodyte mental barrio called Lucena City.
It is of course entirely possible that the level of CORPORAL MORTIFICATION will change among the ranks of the so-inclined. (Up or down, who's to tell?)
A sampler of the Mohammed Cartoons postings and great Reader Comments here at Philippine Commentary:
Freedom of Religion IS Freedom of Expression
Danish Cartoons Broke the Muslim Taboo On Idolatry
It's Capital Blasphemy Just To Describe the Cartoons
Democracy Saves Religions From Each Other
Bitter Herbs and Purple Flowers