Sunday, April 18, 2004

Pseudo-fair and balanced

Well, the elite media has now shown us how it intends to respond to TPOTC. CNN and ABC both ran specials on the proverbial quest for the historical Jesus, while the so-called History Hhannel will be following up with one on the trial of Christ.

I confess that I only dipped a little toe into each. You only have to sample the format and the players to know how it's going to go.

I'll just make a couple of comments:

1. Although these specials pretend to fill in the background, that is precisely what they don't do. You have the usual assortment of charlatans from the Jesus Seminar who appeal to other so-called Gospels w/o giving any dates or places of composition. For example, the uninitiated would never know that the so-called Gospel of Thomas is a 4C forgery, with antecedents in a 2C forgery. It is completely out of touch with living memory of the Jesus tradition. Of course, it presents a few parallels with the canonical Gospels because it is, after all a forgery, and so it plagiarizes some sayings in the canonical Gospels in order to lend it a spurious air of authenticity. This is just one paradigmatic example of many.

I'd add that most of the token conservatives chosen for the show are not all that conservative. So you don't even get the full spectrum. You get the radicals, and the moderates, but not the conservative end of the spectrum.

2. The format of these shows is fundamentally and deliberately deceptive. There would be two ways of presenting an honest debate. One would be to have a real debate, a formal debate between a liberal and a conservative, or a liberal panel and a conservative panel, with structured, coherent presentations, direct cross-examination, and questions from the audience.

The other way would be to have a series of separate, full-length, unedited interviews with liberals and conservatives.

What instead happens is that Peter Jennings--or his counterpart at CNN—conducts a series of private interviews, pulls a few sound-bites, and then edits these into a continuous presentation.

The exercise creates the impression of a balanced presentation in which he's giving both sides of the argument. But, in fact, the presentation is totally skewed because Jennings is in control of the editorial process and flow of information. Most of what was said ends up on the cutting-room floor.

Jennings doesn't let the speaker speak for himself. He only lets you hear what he wants you to hear.

He takes a snippet out of context, and splices that onto another excerpt, and weaves all these isolated sentences by different speakers into his own narrative and meta-narrative, as though the speakers themselves were all heading in the same direction. The whole thing is an artificial, editorial construct that doesn't necessarily reflect the overall views of any of the speakers—although it's subtly tilted in a sceptical direction. What comes through is not their theological orientation so much as his own—except that he covers his own tracks and conceals his own bias by manipulating his sources behind the scenes to make it seem as if it's emanating from their corner rather than his own.

Between (1) and (2), the entire presentation is extremely slanted, but like a trick mirror, creates the optical illusion of a level playing field.

Regarding the upcoming special on the History Channel—although I'm a cessationist, with no pretensions to a prophetic unction, I daresay I can predict with 100% accuracy how this is going to go. There will be a parade of liberal—with, maybe, a token moderate or two—informing us that the Gospels accounts are unhistorical because the trial of Christ doesn't conform to Jewish law.

At one level, this is simply a straw man argument. The Gospels never say, in so many words, that Jesus was put on trial. That's a traditional designation. So the liberals are taking issue with a semantic convention.

What the Gospels do describe is something resembling a hastily convened hearing or inquest at which the high priest and the Sanhedrin were fishing for some incriminating and politically incendiary admission which they could then take to Pilate. So the Gospels themselves do not present this proceeding as a formal trial.

It should also be pointed out that our sources of Jewish law on the formalities of a trial postdate the 1C, and codify the outlook of the Pharisees, whereas the Sanhedrin was under the control of the Sadducees.

Furthermore, it should be unnecessary to point out that Kangaroo courts are nothing new. Unprincipled men will flout due process if they can get away with it. In fact, when the liberal media regularly subjects our Lord to a Kangaroo court, why should we suppose that his enemies were any more scrupulous 2000 years ago?


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  2. I wouldn't go to see TPOTC, and I threw my Jesus Christ Superstar DVD away. (What a dope I am for sure.)