The Pope’s repsonse to the murderous attack on the journalists and workers at Charlie Hebdo was essentially “the wife beater’s defence”.
“If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal... You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
David Cameron made an uncharacteristically robust and perhaps slightly controversial response to the Pope. In a widely reported interview he said: “I think in a free society, there is a right to cause offence about someone's religion.
“I’m a Christian; if someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but in a free society I don’t have a right to wreak vengeance on them.”
That put the papers in a bit of a quandary. Which side should they take?
The Mail reported Cameron’s comments but went onto say “many people have defended the satirical magazine”. What a fantastic example of the passive voice in journalism! Any neutral tone on an issue it is nearly impossible to be neutral about is open to question.
It’s possible to interpret this as an attempt to keep as distant as possible from religious controversy of any sort. It’s also possible the paper is trying hard not to hang too closely onto Cameron’s words, just in case he falls out of favour with the core Mail readership, or starts looking bad in the pre-election opinion polls.
The Express largely played down or ignored Cameron’s response, preferring to focus on the Pope’s comment though using a noticeably wider range of emotive language regarding the massacre than the Mail’s rather clinical and downplayed description.
The Express took great delight in describing the Pope aiming a fake right hook to his aide, to illustrate his meaning. I’ve no idea why they want to play up the macho side of the Pontiff, but they do on this occasion.
Oddly, they seemed less inclined to mention terrorism as a major threat in the same week, but ran with a story about Argentina leasing supersonic fighters from Russia, with the clear implication that the Falkland Islands better watch out. This week it was safer to stick to the old wars.
Odd again that neither the Express nor the Mail took the opportunity to spread a bit of fear and panic by reporting another comment made by Cameron, to the effect that another terrorist attack is highly likely.
It was left to the Guardian to address the “war on terror” issue. They win the prize for most deadpan reporting when appending a comment to another part of the Cameron interview where Cameron mentions Obama’s statement about there no strategy for dealing with IS. The Guardian: “Mr. Cameron states that there is now a strategy. That is all.”