25 May 2006

The MSM on The DaVinci Code and The Passion of the Christ

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Tim Graham compares the MSM’s treatment of Ron Howard’s The DaVinci Code (2006) — and its treatment of the Danish cartoons– to its treatment of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).

âu2013 The DaVinci Code received more of a publicity push from the networks than The Passion of the Christ. The number of segments devoted to the movies in the year before their cinematic release was 99 for The DaVinci Code to 66 for The Passion. Most of those came on morning shows. By far, the biggest Code promoter was NBC’s Today, which more provided more stories (38) than the other two network morning shows combined (29). By contrast, NBC was in third-place in Passion segments (11).

âu2013 The Passion of the Christ was treated as a social problem — the biggest TV anti-Semitism story of that year — while The DaVinci Code was presented more often as an “intriguing” theory rather than threatening or offensive to Christians. Nearly every one of the 66 network segments on The Passion on ABC, CBS, and NBC touched on those complaints. But only 27 of the 99 Code segments focused on Christian and Catholic protests.

âu2013 While the faith of millions of Americans, Christianity, is singled out for criticism, with one “fascinating” fictional detail after another, the networks either refused to air or barely aired mild Mohammed cartoons out of great sensitivity to American Muslims. At the same time that Christianity is questioned as a false religion in The DaVinci Code, the networks demonstrated an exquisite sensitivity to American Muslims on the sensitive subject of threatened violence against mostly mild Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. ABC aired a glance at one cartoon on two programs. CBS and NBC declared they would censor the images.

âu2013 In their push to promote The DaVinci Code, the networks routinely failed to address how the book most offended Christian sensitivities: that Christianity itself is a lie. The networks showed their lack of belief or interest in religion as they almost always failed to examine Brown’s most contentious charge: that Jesus was not the Son of God. While many noted the scandalous claim of a sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, only six stories explained the Code’s denial of the divinity of Jesus.

âu2013 While Mel Gibson was attacked and even psychoanalyzed for his religious beliefs, DaVinci Code author Dan Brown and filmmakers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were never personally examined or challenged about their personal religious beliefs, their willingness to milk controversy, play fast and loose with facts, and offend Christians for personal gain. Whenever the networks decided to address fact and fiction in The DaVinci Code, they almost always found it was stuffed with falsehoods. But they never focused on the idea that Brown, Grazer, or Howard should be criticized for being too casual with the truth.

âu2013 The networks also bought into the DaVinci Code craze by picking up and publicizing other Code-related books attacking Christianity and the Catholic Church, but their standard of evidence was hardly an example of what a skeptical journalist would apply. Authors of new books like The Jesus Papers and The Jesus Dynasty were offered publicity forums, even though the network journalists pronounced the evidence behind the claims was flimsy, even non-existent. So why did the networks promote them?

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