Saturday, 11 February 2012

A tale of two blogs

For me, this week was marked by very interesting posts on two very different blogs. The first was The Monitor of Catholic Voices. On Monday John Smeaton of SPUC analysed The Monitor's account of a recent story from University College London. There, students have passed a motion which in the future will supposedly force any gathering of pro-lifers to invite also a pro-choice speaker. In the first version of the blog, The Monitor said the following:

"But in reality, Catholics on campus have nothing to fear. The motion contains no definition of "pro-choice"; if it means simply someone who accepts that abortion should be legal, most Catholics -- including the bishops of England and Wales, who advocate incremental restrictions, but not yet a total ban -- would fit that description.

Smeaton went through this and other claims in the blog post like a dose of salts. And lo and behold, The Monitor post was edited to become the following:

But in reality, Catholics on campus have nothing to fear. The motion's definition of pro-choice ideology is so narrow and extreme, and its actions so brow-beating and authoritarian, that it will show informed pro-lifers who accept that abortion cannot be prohibited immediately -- including the bishops of England and Wales, who advocate incremental restrictions, but realise that a total ban is currently impossible to achieve -- to be the true advocates of moderate, rational and humane principle.

Okay, so they corrected at least one of their most complacencent interpretations of events, though Smeaton's subsequent post took them to task for others. What struck me, however, was the gloss which they wished to place on the revision of the blog. There was no mention of Smeaton's analysis which likely forced their hand in the first place. No, their gloss was contained in two tweets which appear on The Monitor homepage after the tweet announcing the blog post:

The Monitor Tweet role

'The unintended consequences of a pro-abortion clampdown on campus'. CV blogpost
1 week 12 hours ago

Some mistaken language in the latest CV Monitor Post about the @UCLU Pro-Abortion motion has now been corrected:
4 days 53 min ago

We think the Blogger in question wrote that section in a hurry, and mis-typed. Thanks to those who pointed out the mistake!
4 days 52 min ago

Oddly enough, the first 'correction' comes close to the truth: there was some mistaken language. Well, yes, though there was also quite some fuzzy thinking too. It's the last tweet that's really worth its weight in gold: We think the Blogger in question wrote that section in a hurry, and mis-typed. Not misunderstood or misinterpreted or mistook one thing for another: the blogger in question mis-typed.

I'm reminded of another spin artist, Hillary Clinton, who claimed that she had 'mis-spoken' after hitherto stating that she had once landed in Sarajevo under sniper fire was refuted by TV evidence.

Words mean what I say they mean, as someone (a cat, I think) once said ...[Correction: no, it was in fact Humpty Dumpty, as Ben Trovato tells me!]


Contrast this little exercise in deceit with the most welcome return of my Mancunian mucker Ttony of The Muniment Room. In three deft posts, backed by a selection of fascinating reading, Ttony has explored some of the murky paths taken by the English Catholic establishment of Archbishop Worlock and Cardinal Hume during the early 1980s. Most notably, he has cast a light on the story of the National Pastoral Congress, the way its agenda was fitted up, and the ridiculously high hopes that its instigators had for the watery concoction that passed for its final proposals.

Most brilliantly though, in my view, Ttony has put his finger on one of the reasons that the bendy kind of Catholicism that still endures in England and Wales was not successfully challenged like it was elsewhere in the 1980s. Quite simply, the bendy party were clever enough not to pick a fight with Rome directly. Ttony's analysis has the resounding ring of accuracy about it. And when he seeks to answer the qustion of how we got here - of how Archbishop Nichols can confidently affirm on the BBC that, yes, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales has taken a different line from Rome on civil partnerships - it seems to me he has sought out one very convincing answer. I commend the reading of his posts to you all.


So, there you have it: Catholic Voices spinning for all they are worth about mis-typing, and Ttony helping to uncover the trail which led the English Catholic Church almost off the cliff. The dissonance need hardly speak louder.

One very interesting week.


Ben Trovato said...

Yes, indeed, Ches.

But I think it was an egg...

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

(If that's the quotation to which you were referring)

Ches said...

Quite right, Ben. My mistake! And hence the expression Humpty-Dumptyism!

K Gurries said...

Glad to see you are back at it -- I always enjoy your insightful posts.

Ches, take a look at this one: "A Tale of Two Syllogisms". Basically, trying to distill the contrasting logic in the dialogue between the SSPX and the Holy See. Would love to hear your thoughts on it:

Ches said...

That's very well constructed, Keith. There is for me a certain satisfaction in having come to this conclusion a number of years ago, but now the SSPX has been brought there to no effect, there is nowhere else for this dialogue to go. Unless, I'm very much mistaken, the SSPX-Rome dialogue is dead in the water.