The Euro Media Welcomed Benedict XVI the Way Ours Did Trump

In January 1997, the Clinton White House issued an unintentionally comic 332-page report titled, "The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce." Even before social media, the Democrat-media complex understood they were losing their grip on information flow. Their response was to deem all real investigative reporting as conspiracy theorizing.

On April 19, 2005, I learned that there was a European version of this complex, one even more tenacious and absurd. That April day was the day all my streams crossed.  I was well aware of the date on that day because it marked the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and the 12th anniversary of the FBI’s lethal attack on the religious community in Waco. 

I was aware of those dates for two reasons. I had recently released "Mega Fix: The Dazzling Political Deceit That Led to 9/11", a semi-documentary that reviewed the events at both Waco and Oklahoma City. More to the point, a few weeks earlier I had received a tip that an explosive cache was still buried in the former Herington, Kansas, home of Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols. My source, concerned that the explosives might be used in a tenth anniversary attack, also contacted the FBI.

On Saturday, April 2, 2005, I drove out to Herington from Kansas City to check out the tip. What I discovered is that on late Thursday, March 31, the FBI had descended on Herington. On Friday, April 1, the Topeka Bomb Squad evacuated the neighborhood and retrieved the explosives. By the time I arrived on the morning of April 2 there was no sign of anything amiss and no reports in the news beyond Junction City.

The original source of the tip was Terry Nichols himself. His apparent goal in sharing this information with my source was to expose the man who allegedly supplied the explosives, a reported FBI informant named Roger Moore. Nichols also wanted to expose the FBI's role in supplying the material to Moore. Nichols was sure Moore's fingerprints would be on the material. Sound like a familiar M.O.?

My source had tipped off the FBI three weeks earlier, but the agents waited until March 31, I suspect, because Terri Schiavo died early that morning. Schiavo's highly publicized fight for life sucked all the air out of the news. It was a little embarrassing for the FBI to have found this cache four years after Timothy McVeigh was executed for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

On that same afternoon of March 31, former Clinton national security advisor Sandy Berger pleaded guilty to stealing classified documents from the National Archives. That story was a little embarrassing too—the less attention paid to the details the better. Also consuming much media attention during those days was the death watch on Saint Pope John Paul II. In fact, I was on my way back to Kansas City on April 2 when I heard the news that he had died.

On the morning of April 19, 2005, I arrived in Paris to attend a media conference on TWA Flight 800. Since that flight was Paris-bound when destroyed off the coast of Long Island in July 1996, the French media were still interested in who shot it down. The American media were not. I suspect the documents that Berger risked his very freedom to steal concerned TWA 800 and possibly even their connections to a Philippines-based plot that tangentially involved Terry Nichols.

Having a day to kill before the conference on April 20, I wandered around Paris jet-lagged and found my way to Notre Dame—back when the famed cathedral still had a roof. Two things surprised me when I entered. One was that there were large TV screens set up in several places, which struck me as a tad blasphemous. Even more surprising was that the pews "reserved for the faithful," were actually filled with the faithful watching the TV screens.

I was in the cathedral no more than 30 seconds when the image on the screen switched from a French talking head to the balcony of the Vatican. There it was announced that a new Pope had been selected, and it was German Cardinal Josef Ratzinger.

Upon hearing the news, the faithful stood as one and cheered, and I shouted out impulsively, "I know that guy!" In fact, in 1998 I had interviewed Cardinal Ratzinger for a documentary we had done on the revival of the traditional movement within the Catholic Church, a revival that Cardinal Ratzinger had encouraged and that inspired me to return to Catholicism.

Not everyone was pleased with the choice. An American woman standing next to me blurted out, "This is a terrible day for women!" As I learned, the media were not too pleased either. By the time I left the church they had descended on the square in front of Notre Dame. They even interviewed me. In my half-assed French, I explained why I thought Ratzinger was a "bon choix," a good choice. The reporter rolled his eyes when finished, I thought, because of the quality of my French.

Watching the news that evening, I learned otherwise. Apparently, the Paris media decided that the response among Catholics to the news was pure disappointment, the French word for which is aptly enough, "déception." Just about everyone they interviewed in front of Notre Dame was upset with the new Pope. The thousand faithful I saw stand and cheer the news must have left the cathedral by a back exit.

For the week I spent in France, the European media were consumed by the elevation of Pope Benedict XVI. The news coverage was no more positive, nor more honest than was the American news coverage of Donald Trump's election. In both cases, the media registered shock. Benedict XVI, like Trump, was a circuit breaker. Progress, as the media saw it, was about to be short circuited, and their response was pure tantrum.

In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI retired after eight years on the job. Although I have my suspicions, I can't say I know why. On the last day of 2022, Pope Benedict XVI died. A humble and saintly man, he presided over a Church in which the line, "Is the Pope Catholic," was still understood to be a joke.

Image credit: Jack Cashill.

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