The Trashing Of The Christ
Table of Contents:
- Executive Summary
- 1.The DaVinci Code received an enormous publicity push from the broadcast networks.
- 2. The Passion of the Christ was treated as a social problem – the biggest TV anti-Semitism story of that year – while The DaVinci Code was presented more often as an "intriguing" theory rather than threatening or offensive to Christians.
- 3. In their push to promote The DaVinci Code, the networks routinely failed to address the aspect of the book that most offended Christian sensitivities: the claim that Christianity itself is a lie.
- 4. While the faith of millions of Americans, Christianity, is singled out for criticism, with one "fascinating" fictional detail after another, the networks either refused to air or barely aired mild Mohammed cartoons out of great sensitivity to American Muslims.
- 5. While Mel Gibson was attacked and psychoanalyzed for his religious beliefs, DaVinci Code author Dan Brown and filmmakers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were never personally examined or challenged: about their personal religious beliefs, or their willingness to milk controversy, play fast and loose with facts, and offend Christians with the objective of making millions.
- 6. The networks also bought into the DaVinci Code craze by picking up and publicizing other Code-related books attacking Christianity and the Catholic Church, but their standard of evidence was hardly an example of what a skeptical journalist would apply.
4. While the faith of millions of Americans, Christianity, is singled out for criticism, with one "fascinating" fictional detail after another, the networks either refused to air or barely aired mild Mohammed cartoons out of great sensitivity to American Muslims.
At the same time that Christianity is questioned as a false religion in The DaVinci Code, the three major network news divisions have demonstrated an exquisite sensitivity to American Muslims. Earlier this year, they danced around the sensitive subject of threatened violence against mostly mild Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.
It is nearly impossible to imagine that the network newscasters would promote a book with a fictional plot this ruthlessly declaring a religious faith to be false, indeed maliciously false, with any other major world religion. One cannot imagine any other religion but Christianity being picked apart in-depth on television: no hour-long special rankling Jews (and Christians) by maligning Moses, no deconstructing the Buddha or the Bhagavad Gita, not even shredding Scientology, and certainly not a minute daring to challenge the fundamental truth or falsehood of Islam.
Two of the three networks, so daring or unthinking in their airing of repudiations of Christianity and its creed, crumbled at the prospect of being targeted for violence or accused of airing news that’s insulting:
– Only ABC showed a cartoon in its entirety for a few seconds during World News Tonight and on Nightline on February 2. "We felt you couldn't really explain to the audience what the controversy was without showing what the controversy was," said Jeffrey Schneider, a spokesman.
– On February 6, Brian Montopoli reported on the CBS News website "Public Eye" that CBS decided to avoid any image of the cartoons on February 6. "We could explain it, so we didn't need to show it," said Linda Mason, CBS News senior vice president for standards and special projects, comparing the decision to one not to show dead soldiers. "Any rendering of Muhammad is an insult to Muslims, and desecration is even worse," she says, adding that the decision was made out of a desire not to unnecessarily offend, not because of the demonstrations or "out of fear of retribution." (CBS was so sensitive they even scrubbed CBSNews.com of a photo of a man holding a newspaper featuring an image of the cartoon. Mike Sims of the website crowed: "I think we've proven we can tell the story without offending Muslims.") Reporter Richard Roth, a regular correspondent this year on the DaVinci Code beat, briefly announced the network’s no-cartoon decision on air on February 2.
– NBC’s Campbell Brown announced on "The Daily Nightly" weblog on February 2: "After some discussion in our editorial meeting, we have decided not to show the cartoons explicitly. We are trying to treat this issue with care and sensitivity while still bringing you the story." That night on the Nightly News, reporter Dawna Friesen noted the policy on air: "Their outrage triggered by cartoons, which we've chosen not to show, first published in a Danish newspaper. One depicts the prophet Muhammad wearing a turban that looks like a bomb."
Because the Muslim cartoon sensitivities made reporters feel awkward, the story quickly came and went in the first week of February, without any real concerns that sensitivity to a religious group led to self-censorship. But the appeal of the daring attack on Christianity in The DaVinci Code showed that this kind of sensitivity is not an across-the-board policy.