Essays on Religion, Faith and Sprituality by Michele Madigan Somerville

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fake News from Breitbart: Bannon Wants a War and Yes, He Will Use Jesus to Get One


By now, intelligent consumers of news and opinion are accustomed to having a pathologically dishonest president. We are no longer shocked by Team Trump’s dishonest and intellectually indolent “news”/publicity outlets. The only shocking aspect of being caught in the skeevy web of neo-Nazi news psuedo-journalism when Breitbart piggy-backed on one of my opinion pieces to concoct a fake news story was the “why me?” factor. While I enjoyed being characterized as “the breathless Somerville,” I was surprised to find so many falsehoods in' Breitbart News's short critique of a blog opinion piece I wrote about Steven Bannon and ultra-conservative Roman Catholicism. 
Breitbart calls itself a news agency. Yet they got almost everything wrong. 
The headline reads: Fake News:” HuffPo Invents a Steve Bannon ‘War’ on Pope Francis.” 
My essay contains no mention of Pope Francis whatsoever, and I am not a Huffpo writer. I write for Indie Theology and Drumpfwatch and sometimes cross-post on Huffington Post and Medium. Big difference. 
The Breitbart staffer writes this: 
Huffington Post writer Michele Somerville goes still further, alleging that Bannon is aligning himself “with the ultra-conservative fringe of Roman Catholicism” in order to wage a war on Pope Francis.
Again, my essay contains no mention of Pope Francis whatsoever. 
“...Bannon has no connection whatsoever with the website or its theories about Catholic doctrine,” the Breitbart staffer wrote. That’s not true. Bannon has publicly announced that embraces aspects of the Church Militant movement. He therefore has a connection to at least some of the doctrine The Church Militant website promotes. The Church Militant website is both the most prominent media outlet for the movement at the present time and the voice of today’s Church Militant. 
Somerville bases her entire thesis on an outright error. She mistakes Steve Bannon’s 2014 reference to the “Church militant”—a common Catholic expression referring to Christians on earth as opposed to those who have already died—for a fringe traditionalist website by the same name. Although Bannon has no connection whatsoever with the website or its theories about Catholic doctrine, Somerville concocts a nefarious link between the two, attributing the website’s ideas to Bannon himself.
Actually, I base my “entire thesis” on everything I have read about Steven Bannon apart from his religious views, and about eight years of study of ultra-conservative Roman Catholic fringe groups and not on the 2014 reference alone. Furthermore, “Church militant” is not a common expression among Catholics. Indeed it is uncommon. Indeed, it is generally a phrase one hears only among folk who reject post Vatican II teaching. The second Vatican Council sought to retire this term from Catholic parlance. It is an extremely charged term in Catholic circles. 
Cleaning up after Steve Bannon must require great effort, and my heart goes out to any poor soul who should inherit so ethically compromising a task. But in her ignorance, the Breitbart staffer misleads in the extreme.
In the fake Breitbart story my opinion piece, the staffer claims that Steve Bannon didn’t know anything about the site. That is highly unlikely. Every Catholic who uses a computer and follows Catholic news at all knows about the website. A Catholic who is using the term “Church militant” and who knows a little something about media would know about this site. If Bannon does not know about Michael Voris and his Church Militant website, Bannon is as stupid as his boss. 
Finally, I did not “attribute the website’s ideas to Bannon.” 
I voiced an informed opinion, which is very different from alleging anything. 
One of the things artists, writers and critics learn early is that it is the low hanging-fruit of the lazy critic is to comment negatively about what’s not there. The Breitbart fake story (but real hissy fit) implied a failure on my part to inform readers that websites and the people who read them are not the same thing. Allow me to correct this now; groups of people gathered in shared belief are not equivalent to the websites that promulgate their beliefs. Got it? 
The Breitbart fake story also implied a lack of understanding what the term “Church Militant” means, a criticism most who know would find funny given my fascination with ecclesiastical particulars. (I study Catholic theology and history, translate Latin poetry and sing in a Gregorian Chant schola. Not only do I graspthe full meaning of “ecclesia militans”—I over-grasp it. I sing about it. In Latin. On a regular basis. ) 
Now that I have pointed out just a few of the several lies in the fake Breitbart flak-catching piece, I’d like to opine on what happened. 
Why would big bad Breitbart go after a blogger? Why did a Breitbart staffer “piggyback” on my opinion blog piece to build a fake news story? 
Because I hit a nerve. Because the ultra conservative Roman Catholic fringe has been hiding in plain sight in American politics for a long, long time, and with Bannon we are beginning to see how dangerous their ideologies may prove to be.
What is difficult for those who are not Catholicism nerds to see is that Steve Bannon appears to have ties to lots of ultra-conservative Roman Catholic fringe groups that share a conception of the Catholicism that dates back to the time of the Inquisitions. Bannon’s Public Relations team may prefer that we see him as associated only with the broader “Church Militant” movement and not website by the same name. That’s fine, but here’s the thing; I have been following “The Church Militant” website for years! It encapsulates—-not entirely, but for the most part—-what the contemporary ultra-conservative Roman Catholic fringe believes.
It is no secret that Bannon also has ties to white supremacists. He may prefer the term “Alt-Right” to “Neo-Nazi.” But we do the philosophical math. We notice that the names are different but the messages are the same. We know that a rotting rose by any name stinks. Bannon may wish to distance himself from the the creepy Church Militant guy—-and really who could blame him? But the truth is that people who talk about the Church Militant are alluding to the same messages the Church Militant website promulgates. These happen to be consistent with many of the same kinds of things Bannon says in his secular maniac speeches. 
I have found that Catholics on the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic fringe have the following in common: They have contempt for Jews. They tweak the social teaching of Jesus of Nazareth to justify greed and predatory financial practices. They deny climate change. They are misogynists.They are Islamophobic in the extreme. They favor war. They want to increase the Roman Catholic fold. Their beliefs, fly, in my opinion, in the face of almost everything the Jesus of Nazareth of the Old Testament taught. 
I inferred from a critique of my essay that appeared on a ultra-conservative Roman Catholic fringe website, that I wasn’t clear enough about explaining that sometimes words formed from the root “militare” refer to metaphorical soldiering (as in striving, questing) and not literal combat. We poets call that “metaphor.” 
But let’s look at the word “militant.” 
Due to the so-called president’s idiocy, Bannon now holds one of the most powerful positions in the Trump cabinet. 
This means that a political operative with zero national security or foreign policy experience will now have the same status as the heads of the Pentagon and State Department — and will in some ways outrank the nation’s top military officer and the head of the entire intelligence community. 
And what of this Bannon? (Watch the video) Bannon crazed, waxing prosaic and maniacal about rallying “the church militant” for the bloody battle to come. Does this not appear to be a man itching for a war? Bellicosity incarnate?
Outa my way, Jesus. 

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