Another Rolling Stone Ruse
Religion & Liberty Online

Another Rolling Stone Ruse

When it comes to addressing the latest hit-piece in Rolling Stone regarding the Acton Institute, Rev. Robert Sirico is front and center, top of the charts, so to speak. I’d like to take a whack at it, myself, if readers will indulge me.

“Pope Francis’ American Crusade” appears in the same magazine (in)famously trumpeting liberal causes for nearly 50 years, and the very same publication with a boss worth more than $700 million, earned primarily from a magazine that applauds the conspicuous lifestyles of thuggish actors and “musicians;” and the same magazine that has celebrated unabashed materialism while bashing capitalism since its inception. The very same magazine that could be accused of white, American capitalist imperialism for ripping off its very name from the titles of famous songs by Muddy Waters (a black man) and Bob Dylan (Jewish and Minnesotan) as well as a British rock group.

It seems the article’s author – one Mark Binelli – succumbs to the tried-and-true tactic employed by the magazine’s editorial contributors since time immemorial, which is to quote anyone regardless credibility or integrity if they support the Rolling Stone writer’s agenda. For example, famed scofflaw Rep. Charles Rangel is quoted: “People can distort the Bible any way they want to, but when you have science and religion on the same side of a question, there’s no place for fundamentalists to go. You speak against the pope at your own risk.” Apparently, according to Binelli, readers should consider Rangel a martyr because he “says he has had invitations to speak at Catholic high school graduations rescinded by local religious leaders, apparently because of his pro-choice views.”

Conversely, if someone disagrees with a Rolling Stone writer’s agenda, they are paraphrased in the service of juvenile mocking:

It’s been more fun watching the response of the Republican presidential nominees, six of whom happen to be Catholic and most of them far more comfortable talking about defunding Planned Parenthood or ginning up bogus “religious liberty” issues — the Supreme Court is going to force you to bake a gay wedding cake! — than addressing global warming. Rick Santorum, who has called climate change a hoax, advised the pope to leave “science to the scientists,” while Jeb Bush — who, as governor of Florida, ordered the reinsertion of a feeding tube of a woman in a persistent vegetative state, in explicit defiance of both her husband and the courts — told Sean Hannity, “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope. . . . I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.” Chris Christie, in a similar vein, attempted to demonstrate his independence from Rome with an ill-advised anecdote, sharing with voters at a New Hampshire restaurant that he has used birth control, “and not just the rhythm method!”

(Donald Trump, who is not Catholic, has yet to tweet about what a loser the pope is, but [National Catholic Reporter journalist Michael Sean] Winters thinks the pair make irresistible counterpoints: Francis’ rejection of many of the trappings of his office has “just blown up” the imperial atmosphere of the Vatican — “You don’t have a court if you don’t live in the palace, and it’s hard to maintain a courtly atmosphere if you’re waiting in line at the cafeteria” — while Trump “would have made a great 16th-century pontiff. When you go to Rome and see all of those baroque churches, what is written over their edifices? The names of the popes who built them. Those were the Trumps of their era!”)

Yawn. Binelli even takes a swipe at Michael Novak and George Weigel: “Self-styled papal translators like Weigel and Novak selected passages from often-dense speeches and encyclicals to support their theses. The same thing happened under Pope Benedict.” Seriously, this article is beginning to shape up as little more than what you’d expect to read in one of those mimeographed, underground “newspapers” you’d find in the local food co-op back in 1973 or so. Of course, asserts Binelli vis-à-vis Winters, if you disagree with Francis it’s evidence, naturally, of racism. Yes, the article actually goes there, because dislike of wealth redistribution must naturally derive from a deep-seated, dislike of Italian-born Argentineans. But here’s Winters:

You do hear attempts to manipulate and trim what he’s saying, with what I can only characterize as somewhat racist overtones: ‘Oh, the poor, benighted Argentine doesn’t understand how wonderful us Americans are.’…

And Binelli:

The near-impossibility of combating such well-funded disinformation campaigns is a depressing reality for progressives. What has the right so jumpy about Francis is the size of his bully pulpit, which even unlimited spending might not be able to counter. Consider, for instance, the 24/7 global media coverage Francis’ U.S. trip will receive. When else would an economic message as critical of capitalism as Francis’ be granted such a stage?

It’s difficult believing Rolling Stone’s editors read either paragraph with a straight face. Yes, Pope Francis: Champion of circumventing Citizens United! Good grief.

Binelli cavils about evil corporations (pejoratively name checking ExxonMobil Corporation, for example) , capitalism and materialism, because, you know, the grave sin of accepting money from corporations apparently knows no equal in the Rolling Stone universe:

Deeply alarmed by the power of Francis’ message, an entire network of right-wing Catholic organizations has been increasingly willing to push back against the Vatican. Tim Busch, the chairman of the California-based Napa Institute — which holds an annual summer conference that draws Catholic business leaders — recently announced plans to help fund a $3 million research and education program at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., “focused on the compatibility of capitalism and Catholicism.” (Other funders include the Charles Koch Foundation.)

Cue the John Williams’ Darth Vadar theme from Star Wars.

As I pour through the crates of Rolling Stone back issues I’ve collected since high school, I’m certainly not surprised the magazine and website are supported by advertisers and subscribers, which is fair enough, I suppose. I don’t begrudge publisher Jann Wenner his $700 million fortune despite the acres of dead trees sacrificed these past five decades to print his rag; the tremendous amount of oil to press the vinyl the magazine promoted and reviewed as its core function back in the day; the barrels more of fossil fuels used by Wenner and his staff to jet-set around the world just like the rock stars they covered; and the refined crude used for the ink to print “all the news that fits” – the Rolling Stone motto.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, “How does it feel to make millions from your toil/using barrels of oil/without complete turmoil/ like ol’ Rolling Stone?”

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.