I only recently discovered Father Jonathan Morris, a web and on-air commentator for Fox News. I have no way of knowing if Father Jonathan genuinely believes the things he writes and says, or if he’s simply hiring out his clerical collar in an effort to bestow faux moral legitimacy on the standard menu of right wing talking points.
That Fox bills him as their “Papal contributor” strongly suggests the latter. Iconoclastic columnist James Wolcott seems to view Father Jonathan in that light as well. In a Vanity Fair column from last fall, Wolcott wrote, “Leave it to Fox News to find the first neocon pinup priest to sign up as an on-air analyst.”
Under the fold: shepherds and sheep…
I thought the “neocon pinup priest” epithet might be a bit harsh. Until, that is, I read Father Jonathan’s recent article on the Haditha incident titled “War is Messy.” It’s a set piece of Rovewellian propaganda from start to finish.
Praise the Lord, Pass the Ammunition, Blame the Media
Father Jonathan’s article opens with a familiar bit of neoconservative revisionist history on the Vietnam Conflict:
Not long ago our country, led by bad news, betrayed our soldiers. We lost political will and we lost the war. How quickly we forget.
Now, as then, according to this hogwash, if we “lose” the war in Iraq it will be because bad news in the media caused Americans to “betray the troops.”
The likes of Father Jonathan never want to admit that now, as then, defeat will come as a result of the acts of bad men who started a bad war for bad reasons and ran it badly. That would be too much like, uh, confessing the truth.
On the subject of the Haditha affair, Father Jonathan tells us that the Pentagon is preparing the public for bad news, but the bad news isn’t the “revelation of criminal battle rage of a group of men in uniform.” No, the kind of bad news the Pentagon is preparing us for is “bad news reporting, the kind that leads public opinion to betray the very men and women who risk their lives for ours.”
And thus we’re back to the main theme. The sin wasn’t the crime; the sin was reporting the crime, which constitutes a betrayal.
Not content with repetition of his false main premise, Father Jonathan goes on to launch a “double straw man” attack on the media by putting words in the mouth of a general who puts words in the mouth of the collective press.
“Don’t take the bait, mass media,” says Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli in the apocryphal speech Father Jonathan writes for him. “The deplorable actions of a few men are not representative of our military. Our soldiers, in contrast to the enemy, know the difference between right and wrong. In fact, it’s part of their training.”
I haven’t seen a single accusation in any reputable media outlet that suggests “the deplorable actions of a few” are representative of the overall moral behavior of the military. But you can bet a month’s worth of collection plate contributions that Father Jonathan’s Fox News audience will take his word for it that the entire “liberal” media is accusing every United States soldier, seaman, airman and Marine of eating babies for breakfast.
And just to make sure he’s got every block in the anti-media playbook checked, Father Jonathan gets in the obligatory dig about how media reports of bad news “threaten morale,” as if the real threat to morale weren’t the incompetence and dishonesty of the troops’ Commander in Chief, their Secretary of Defense, and the liege-men generals who have made successful military careers out of saying “yes.”
As far as I’m concerned, Jonathan Morris has every right to hire himself out as a chorister in Karl Rove’s noise philharmonic, but if he’s going to do that, he really ought to quit hiding behind his pulpit and passing himself off as a representative of the Pope. As Wolcott put it, “It is not the job of a priest to be a pretty buttboy for the Pentagon and the warmaking powers of the United States.”
I won’t presume to guess what God makes of the guy, but in my judgment, political whore clerics like Jonathan Morris make pedophile priests seem downright saintly.