John Allen has an editorial over at NCR in which he criticizes Pope Benedict for being “remarkably tone-deaf”. In support of his premise Allen sights the Regensburg speech which so upset the Muslim world last September and most recently the Brazil Indian flap.
The most spectacular example was, of course, his lecture at the University of Regensburg in September 2006. In context, Benedict felt it was clear he was talking about reason and faith, not taking a swipe at Muslims. Yet this context was not immediately obvious to people unschooled in papal rhetoric, and they were certainly not going to get it from a 30-second sound bite on the TV news.
The real issue is that reporters who create the 30 second sound bite are incapable or unwilling to listen. The purpose of the sound bite (theoretically) is to sum up an argument,position, or proposition in a concise way. However, the Pope is not a politician. He is not trying to come up with a pithy catch phrase in time for the six o’clock news. He should not be expected to frame an argument in 30 seconds or less. It is the job of the reporters to listen and understand the full context and to properly report on that in a concise but truthful way.
This is where the real problem begins. Reporters are not at all interested in understanding and reporting truthfully. The Regensburg speech is a perfect example. If one took the time to actually read the speech, the real meaning and context of the remarks were easily discernible by anyone. No advanced degree required.
Whether any reporters who wrote on the subject actually read the speech I do not know, but I do know that they were not at all interested in the real meaning and context. Rather, they pulled that one section out of the speech from its context for the expressed purpose of ‘creating’ misunderstanding and the ensuing outrage.
The issue is not that the Pope is tone deaf, rather the Pope is still naïve in thinking that ne’er-do-wells who cover him are interested in reporting the full truth.