Saturday, October 6, 2012

Big Bird and German Catholics: Morning Musings on Propaganda

Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

There's an old lawyer joke out these.  When the Law is on your side, hammer on the law.  When the facts are on your side, hammer on the facts.  When neither is on your side, hammer on the table.  This statement comes to mind watching the current political atmosphere after the first Obama-Romney debate, where people on both sides think Obama lost.  What's the biggest thing being argued after the two candidates debated economic policy?

Big Bird.

That's right.  Disagreements with Romney's proposals on cutting spending are reduced down to the easy to remember but misleading slogan "Save Big Bird" with the implication that if PBS gets cut, Sesame Street will be cancelled (the logical fallacies appeal to fear and appeal to pity).  Never mind the fact that Sesame Street could stand on its own as a franchise.  It exists in over 20 countries, has depended on licensing arrangements for funding since 1978 (68% of funding comes from merchandising).  If PBS funding was cut, there would probably be a bidding war for Sesame Street among various networks out there.  Not to mention over 40 years of programs which could go into syndication.  The show is in no danger if disappearing regardless of what spending may be cut by the government.

The point is, the fact that Romney mentioned PBS as a targeted cut with a throwaway line about Big Bird is being turned into a piece of propaganda.  A vote for Obama is a vote to save Big Bird from Romney.  It has nothing to do with the issues of the election, and in fact is used as a distraction from other issues.  In other words, It's dishonest and calculated to elicit a certain view.

In other news, with an issue which is uniquely German, we are seeing media headlines which claim German Catholics that the Catholic Church is demanding Catholics pay taxes or be denied the sacraments.  It sounds horrible and makes the Church sound greedy.

It too is propaganda.  The situation in Germany is unusual.  After the kulturkampf, Germany offered compensation for the confiscation of Church properties, through a percentage of taxes… taken from Catholics.  See, in Germany, if you are a declared member of a religious group, the government automatically deducts taxes which is given to that religion.  It happens whether a person is a Catholic, Protestant or Jew.

The only way to avoid such taxes is to formally declare that you do not belong to any religion.

So here's the problem in the view of the Catholic Church.  We have some people publicly denying their affiliation with the Catholic Church for material gain – and still expect to benefit from membership with the Church.

The Church says no.  Jesus told us, in Matthew 10:32-33, that:

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.

It's not about the money.  It's about people publicly denying their faith.  This bizarre situation arises because the German government is intrusive with this system of taxation and some people respond to it by seeking tax relief through denial of the faith.

But we are not permitted to deny our faith.  Many Catholics have been martyred over the centuries by refusing to deny the faith (If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly recommend watching For Greater Glory).  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out (#1789): One may never do evil so that good may result from it.  The Catechism says:

1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: “All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.”82 Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”83

So what the Church is doing in barring those Catholics who officially claim no religion from the sacraments is reminding them that this is a failure to bear witness to the faith which is necessary for salvation.

Unfortunately the media is not discussing this aspect.  Instead it is playing up the "obsessed by money" aspect.  It's dishonest and calculated to elicit a certain view.

Propaganda makes easy to remember slogans.  But easy to remember slogans are not always true.  All people of good will should consider the truth behind the slogan.

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