Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Coups, earthquakes and the holy family

It's International News Week in the political communication seminar, and that means it's time to talk about not just who gets covered but about what makes for "news" in the first place.

For most of the world, getting covered is pretty simple. Some decades ago, Mort Rosenblum called his book on the topic "Coups and Earthquakes," and that's not far off. The UK has a reliably fertile -- and white -- royal family; if you're an average country of 100 million or so like the Philippines, you basically need either terrorists or typhoons to be noticed.

Unless, of course, there's that certain something else -- your standard Roman coin dated 44BC, or some other token that draws the faithful together. Case in point, the fourth most important story of Monday evening at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network (the screen grab at right is from the home page; the more credulous hed at the top adorns the story itself):

A limestone box said to have once held the bones of the brother of Jesus was at the center of the most controversial forgery case in decades -- and it was allegedly vandalized by the Israeli government before being returned to its owner.

Called the James ossuary, it is a small stone box with an inscription that reads, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

That Jesus had a sibling at all is a controversial idea disputed by the Roman Catholic Church. If the box itself were authentic, it would be considered the first physical link to Jesus.

So is the idea that He had kids, though there's an ossuary for that too. As far as "physical links" go, there's that pesky Shroud of Turin, the Stone of Unction, some Crowns of Thorns, the True Cross, and apparently quite a number of holy foreskins. (There are reasons you shouldn't let Fox News borrow the credit card when it shops for relics.) And as for who gets to declare "the most controversial forgery case in decades" -- well, that's why we have freedom of the press, isn't it?

At the Fox empire generally, governments don't fare well; indeed, you could be forgiven for concluding that the Israeli government is the only one Fox trusts to do anything right (why that includes Iran but not single-payer health care is a question for the ages). Still, when your right-thinking media empires start insinuating that Some People are playing fast and loose with the relics of the One True Faith, I'd think about looking around for the nearest exit.

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