Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The Thinking Man's "Hate Speech"
Penn State Professor Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, will speak on his book "The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice" (2003 Oxford Press) on Thursday, March 27, 8-9:30 PM, 10 Sparks Building, UP.
Here's his thesis (quoting from the book):
"In the media, Catholicism is regarded as a perfectly legitimate target, the butt of harsh satire in numerous films and television programs that attack Catholic opinions, doctrines and individual leaders. Arguably, such depictions are legitimate expressions of free speech and stand within America's long tradition of quite savage satire, but the same tolerance of abuse does not apply when other targets are involved. It would be quite interesting to take a satirical or comic treatment featuring say, the Virgin Mary or Pope John Paul II and imagine the reaction if the same gross disrespect was applied, say to the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Matthew Shepard, the gay student who was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. What sometimes seems to be limitless social tolerance in modern America has strict limits where the Catholic Church is concerned."
"Since the 1950's, changing cultural sensibilities have made it ever more difficult to recite once familiar American stereotypes about the great majority of ethnic or religious groups, while issues of gender and sexual orientation are treated with great sensitivity. At least in pubic discourse, a general sensitivity is required, so that a statement that could be regarded as misogynistic, or anti-Semitic, or homophobic could haunt a speaker for years, and could conceivably destroy a public career. Yet, there is one massive exception to this rule, namely, that it is still possible to make quite remarkably hostile or vituperative public statements about one major religious tradition, Roman Catholicism . . . ."