I waited in vain for the television news coverage of the letter sent by over 1,000 Catholic Clergy to the "Daily Telegraph" on Friday. The coverage did not come - although I watch far too much BBC News, so what else can I expect?). That number of clergy represents about a quarter of Catholic Priests in this country (although I also wondered why there were not more names on it). If 25% of any other group - doctors, Imams, nurses, journalists - had written about a hot button issue to a national newspaper in such strong terms I'm betting it would have merited more coverage by the TV news media. You can read the full text of the letter - and all the signatories - here.
It reminded me that those who control the media - especially the visual media in these days - can manipulate not just an angle on a particular subject but whether it even sees the light of day or even becomes important. Interestingly, on the same day as the letter appeared in the "Telegraph" letters page there was another letter highlighting how events can be re-written and what is totally false becomes the common currency. It was written by Professor Alan Sked about the blockbuster film "Lincoln".
Here is what the official "Lincoln" website says about the great freedom fighting anti-slavery secular saint and President of the USA:
Steven Spielberg directs two-time Academy Award® winner Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” a revealing drama that focuses on the 16th President’s tumultuous final months in office. In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come.
Here is Professor Sked's letter, which I suspect is closer to the truth - although he does rather sweepingly include all Americans in the views he ascribes, which, of course, I do not:
SIR – Abraham Lincoln was a racist who deliberately started a war that killed more than 650,000 people (“The lure of Lincoln”, January 10). He had no intention of freeing slaves, who freed themselves by fleeing to Unionist lines during a war that was going badly for the North and in which they became needed as recruits.
In September 1863, Lincoln’s preliminary emancipation proclamation declared that the South could keep its slaves if it returned to the Union. Slave holders in the four slave states fighting for the Union were given until 1900 to consider emancipating their slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation itself did not free a single slave, since it was limited to territory controlled by the Confederacy.
Until the day he died, Lincoln’s ideal solution to the problem of blacks was to “colonise” them back to Africa or the tropics. This was what he told a delegation of free blacks he summoned to the White House in the summer of 1863, when he stressed that the mere presence of blacks caused pain to white Americans. He eventually agreed to the 13th amendment, which freed all slaves.
Americans ignore all this since otherwise the history of the civil war looks little better morally than America’s treatment of blacks before and after. Steven Spielberg’s film sustains the myth that Lincoln redeemed America’s racist past. He did not.
Professor of International History
London School of Economics
It seems that the old adage remains true that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. But as for many modern "heroes" and secular "saints" - Margaret Sanger was not a heroine (rather a racist, bigot, anti-Semite, & ethnic-cleanser) and Nelson Mandela is not a saint (co-founder of the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, which bombed & maimed civilians for 30 years). To say nothing of Ghandi and his many "experiments" with young girls to put his purity to the test!