Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bob Thomas, Tony Blair and the Oppressive "Feral" Press

Today's blog finds two famous blokes on two different continents contending with basically the same problem—a contentious incorrect press.

Let's take the Thomas case first. The judge, a favorite of FIT (for he not only is a former Chicago Bears kicker and the current chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, but also a "Fighting Irish Thomas" having attained fame as a Notre Dame player first) is now being counter-sued by the same newspaper whom he had just won a $7 million libel case against. Thomas' award (reduced to $4 million by the trial judge) is being challenged by the Kane County Chronicle on the basis that Thomas' witnesses were mostly his fellow Supreme Court justices—and thus couldn't possibly give a fair account of the man who is their boss. Curiously the Chronicle's lawyer Bruce W. Sanford, a major Washington media attorney, also makes the additional charge that Thomas shouldn't have bothered to sue a tiny 15,000 circulation paper for "hinting" that he was on the take, "when the average reader's reaction is, 'Big deal. So there is politics on the bench. Horrors!'"

As for Prime Minister Blair, he readily admits the relentless British press is one of the reasons for his decision to retire. Ironically when Tony first took office ten years ago, the English newspapers and Blair's Labor Party were practically friends, as they worked together quite nicely to produce the then once-a-day photo opportunity. But now, with the Internet-fed 24-7 news cycle, Blair says the media now "hunts in a pack ... like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits."

To be completely honest, BT's and TB's opponents do make their points. Sanford is right in saying that most people, especially those in Chicago where political corruption is commonplace—it is the rule rather than the exception—are practically immune to such scandals, and the Chronicle is not exactly in the league of the Chicago Tribune in terms of impact. But is that reason enough for Thomas, a judge that actually IS honest to let the story go? If Illinoisans are used to the corrupt pol being the rule, is that not all the more reason they should read the story of the righteous judicial exception?

As for Blair, his Iraq miscalculations (just as they did for his buddy Bush) has made almost any dealings with the media into a bloody affair. Still Tony, like George W., is basically a decent Christian fellow, and much of the British criticism has been petty and personal. If it is true that Blair is converting to Catholicism only after his term as prime minister is over, it not only indicates that Tony was unwilling to have the media examine this facet of his life (his faith) when he was still in the spotlight—but seems to be saying that the title Catholic politician (or at least "Catholic Prime Minister") has become a contradiction in terms. Which doesn't bode well for Sam Brownback.

Indeed the media has been transformed so quickly in the last ten years that few folks are aware of its massive impact. Many newspapers and magazines (including two good Catholic ones I used to write for) have gone out of existence, as the two-minute YouTube video is now considered in-depth coverage. It is not only right but FITting that Bob has continued to fight (remember 1 Cor. 9:24-26) but Fighting Irish Thomas' have increasingly become voices in the wilderness. Likewise we congratulate Tony on his coming home to the Roman Catholic Church. Our only regret is that the "feral" media glare kept him from doing so while in office.

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