Monday, April 27, 2015

The "Journalistic Standards" of Alternet-Salon, Again

Click bait scribbler Valerie Tarico  has a rather sensational piece up at Salon, originating in that other home of the happy clickers, Alternet, in which she says:

In generations past, nursing care was provided by nuns and teachers were spinsters, because avoiding sexual intimacy was the only way women could avoid unpredictable childbearing and so be freed up to serve their communities in other capacities. But if you think that abstinence should be our model for modern fertility management, consider the mass graves that get found every so often under old nunneries.

The link is to one of the pieces pushing the sensational reports of hundreds of skeletons of children found in a "sewer" at what was formerly a home for unwed mothers in Tuam co. Ireland, run by nuns.  It wasn't a "nunnery" and before that it had been a British work house.  I never have seen an analysis that dated any burials, in or out of sewers on the site that dated the bodies to the period that it was operated by the nuns.  Though I have seen that even the local historian, "Catherine Corless, who played a primary role in uncovering the scope of problem," said what she had said was distorted in almost all of the "news" stories and that she'd said no such thing.

‘I never used that word ‘dumped’,” Catherine Corless, a local historian in Co Galway, tells The Irish Times. “I never said to anyone that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That did not come from me at any point. They are not my words.”

In her piece at Alternet-Salon, Tarico implies that this had something to do with abortion, no doubt invoking the wide spread accusation about nuns having secretly becoming pregnant (no doubt by priests) and either having abortions or committing infanticide to get rid of the unfortunate evidence of their lack of chastity.  I've never researched those often told stories, a staple of the trashiest anti-Catholic, protestant lore taken over whole hog by atheists,  but suspect they are on the same level of reporting that the world-wide gossip spreading by the allegedly legit media practiced in regard to the Tuam "scandal".   When it comes to Catholic nuns, the same practices that promoted the blood libel* and the Protocols of Zion reign in the media, today.

I wrote two posts on this issue at the time the "scandal" broke last year. Apparently other people noticed what I did then, that any skeletons found on the site might have been from the longer period of time it operated as a British work house and that large numbers of children died in Ireland and Britain even when they weren't in institutions.   One of the things I read this morning but which I haven't got the time to follow up on puts the rest to the most sensational aspect of the "reports" the "sewer burials".

The most recent revelation has cast an entirely different light on the story. Journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes has interviewed Mary Moriarty, who claims to have fallen into a burial plot on the grounds of the home in the 1970s, when the ground there subsided. She apparently uncovered an underground space containing infant bodies.

Moriarty said she subsequently spoke with a former employee of the home, who recalled helping the nuns to carry deceased infants along an underground tunnel to a burial vault. As Boucher-Hayes states, “Whatever cruelties you could lay at the nuns’ feet, however harsh or medically incompetent the regime they ran was, it was always hard to believe that they would have knowingly put babies in a septic tank. Because there may have been a tunnel running up and into this vault/crypt/space — this one at least is highly unlikely to have been a septic tank.”

This latest revelation correlates with the suggestion of Finbar McCormick, an archaeologist at Queen’s University in Belfast, who stated that the structure uncovered by Sweeney and Hopkins in 1975 is “more likely to be a shaft burial vault, a common method of burial used in the recent past and still used today in many parts of Europe.”

The take away lesson from that is that while secular institutions, such as the British Workhouses, are held to a far more lenient standard than anything which can be related to religion and that line will run in today's media as surely as it would in the worst of 19th century yellow journalism.  And online media in the age of neo-atheism has only made that situation worse.  And such fables, myths and lies told about religious figures need never to be corrected.  The utility of a story in anti-religious invective is what is valued, not exposing any kind of inadequate treatment of children and other people which could reform similar practices today.  Living children today are an inconvenient expense and are routinely ignored by the same media.

I am waiting for the widespread atheist condemnation of the school of atheist "ethics" that asserts that infanticide should be legal pushed by such stars of atheism as Peter Singer.  Actual infanticide has been promoted by a long line of atheist heroes in the modern period.   I'm waiting but not very hard.

* I mention the blood libel because it's been a lot on my mind.  I had been doing research on that topic even before I read Marilynne Robinson's amazing and fine essays defending Moses, which I intend to write on at length. I have already learned a lot which I'd never known before, including that Tertullian talked about an earlier form of the blood libel used against Christians in the Roman empire. But spring is a bad time for me to start on a topic I hadn't researched before.  I generally don't like to just go with the common received non-wisdom that apparently could get me a paid gig at Alternet or Salon.

1 comment:

  1. I remember that "story" well enough to know it was completely debunked, right down to the "septic tank" that was never on the property. Of course, lie is halfway 'round the world before truth can get its boots on, so the lie persists to this day, apparently.

    And yes, it's of a piece with anti-Papist slanders even I heard in East Texas in my youth (priests get the nuns pregnant, who bury the aborted fetuses behind the walls of the convents). It's disgusting such lies go on and on. But, as you say, it's because they have some utility for those who continue the lies.

    And, of course I love that these things get "found every so often." Makes it so much more true if it isn't just the one at Tuam which a modicum of review will prove was not a "mass grave" perpetrated by the nuns at all.