Five years & no concessions

Today, the Dedication of Saint Michael Archangel for 2017, would thus also be the fifth anniversary of these Idleposts. I chose the day from the traditional beginning of term, at Oxford and other once-great universities, and because it would be wise to invoke angelic powers for the protection of my mendicant enterprise. Observe, gentle reader: still no advertisements. Few mayfly links, no blinks nor pop-ups, no buzzword scramble to push the thing up the search charts at Google. No illustrations neither, though had I the technical skills, and the patience to seek copyright permissions, I might have decorated the site with art reproductions. Instead just grey words, words, words — well over a million, in more than a thousand short “essays,” even after quietly deleting those hundreds I have found most obtuse (often in advance of posting them).

Would it be possible to write something resembling journalism that could be at least honest? Over at Catholic Thing today (here) — about the only other place where I am welcome — I touch on what I mean by honesty and truth in writing; on why the poets come closer to truth than the hacks who fill the spaces between the advertisements in the mass media.

Journalism itself is, or should be, under a permanent cloud of suspicion. The topical is, in itself, a trap. The real and true is immutable, but conventional journalism is focused exclusively upon the passing. It may be “the first draught of history,” but after at least five hundred years of experiment (dating back to Fugger’s and other counting-house newsletters first set in type during the sixteenth century) we may say that the first draught needs to be discarded. The telling of history itself has been contaminated by the pleadings of all the special interests; by the pamphlet flurry from the explosion of cheap, and generally lying propaganda (from all sides) that came into the Western psyche with the Reformation.

The five-hundredth anniversary of Lutheranism, which our pope will “concelebrate” next month, might also be counted as the five-hundredth anniversary of journalism. As we fix the date to the Ninety-five Theses, nailed to the door of All Saints at Wittenberg, we might count it as the anniversary of PowerPoint, too.

One might argue that no Catholic should participate in those media which bind what I have called the Age of Bullshit together. Yet they are so pervasive that even the Church has had to seek a voice within the torrent. How to articulate stillness, within all this noise?

From that Fugger newsletter, dateline Madrid, I cite this yellowing item. It is from 1581:

“In the county of Palamos, in the Kingdom of Catalunia, upon the first day of May, the day of the holy Apostles Felipe and Jaime, in the hamlet of Calongo there were seen by all the people a terrifying storm and a huge cloud, in which could be perceived a whole legion of evil spirits of various shapes and most loathesomely deformed. Some were like lions, others like wolves, others again like dogs, men, wild animals. Many were also like ravens and other black birds. The clergy proceeded with cross from the church to the cemetery, to exorcize them. But all to no purpose: the spirits paid no heed. When the Praepositus saw this he carried forth the Blessed Sacrament. …”

He carried this to the top of the belfry. The spirits rushed into a pond, which then ignited in fierce flame and smoke, the frightful birds circling round. A billow of sulphur spread through the orchards, kindling trees, and the Cross upon the church blew down. Yet it descended floating, harmlessly, and from the skies descended a healing rain.

Frankly, I would not believe this story (gravely discussed in the Supreme Council of Spain) were I not witnessing the equivalent at the present day.

Gentle reader, pray for me as I pray for you. Saint Michael defend us in battle, be our defence. Let us, when we speak at all, try to make what we say compatible with what is true not only now, but always.