If the Kochs Ran the Catholic Church

By Mark Judge

The Catholic Church is in real need of it's own version of KochFacts.com. KochFacts is a website belonging to Koch Industries, the company owned and run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

The conservative Koch brothers are the left's chimera, a fire-breathing monster that is more myth than reality. Liberals blame them for everything.

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KochFacts is the website that Koch Industries uses to fight the smears of the left. But it is anything but dry. The blog posts are written with savvy and humor, while being airtight factually. It's actually fun to read. Recently Washington Post writer Tom Ehrich's wrote a eulogy for Kansas, which he claimed had fallen to "sanctimonious evangelicals" and a local government bought and sold by the Koch brothers. The response from Koch Director of Corporate Communications Melissa Cohlmia deserves to be quoted at length:

Ehrich's dismal impressions after a weekend in fly-over-country ring hollow to those of us who live here but his characterization of Koch as "sanctimonious evangelicals" seeking to limit freedom and opportunity is outright fantasy. For more than 50 years Koch has been outspoken and consistent in our support of liberty's expansion and of greater opportunities for all. Aside from supporting every American's right to worship (or not worship) as they please, Koch takes no position on any particular religious belief, never mind proselytizes for one.

What Ehrich fails to report about Kansas is that the people of this state enjoy a growing economy, an unemployment rate 25% lower than the national average and some of the best public schools and quality of life in the country. Kansas has half the crime, more people living above the poverty line and a lower overall tax burden than Mr. Ehrich's home state of New York.

But the troubling things Ehrich claims to have observed in our state -- vacant storefronts, empty parking lots, and economic decay -- are not a Kansas or a New York problem but a national tragedy. What Ehrich is seeing is the nationwide evidence of years of fiscal irresponsibility and rampant growth of government at the expense of private enterprise.

Shazam! Cohlmia doesn't allow an inch, calling Ehrich out on his laziness (when a liberal on deadline and a blank page, reach for the Kochs) and then sandblasting him with facts. The impression you get is that Koch people are interested in the facts, but are also lively enough to have some fun with the left, to put some spin on the ball.

It's time for the Catholic Church, which has become a bogeyman to the left second only to the Koch brothers, to launch it's own version of KochFacts.

Many people will point to Bill Donohue's Catholic League as doing Catholicism's version of KochFacts, but the Catholic League -- God bless them -- falls short in several ways. For one, it tends towards hysteria. This is understandable considering the anti-Catholicism in the Obama administration and on the left. But it would been even more effective if it lowered the temperature a tad and opted for the Koch's approach.

When the Catholic League is blustering and heavily sarcastic, KochFacts is sharply on-point and witty. While the CL launches boycotts of Jon Stewart, the Koch site cooly lists facts (while getting a few jabs in) and calmly asks for a retraction and/or correction.

The cumulative effect of this is the feeling that the Kochs and the people who work for them are reasonable people who will defend their honor when it is inevitably trashed by the left. All the facts listed in all those blog posts slowly dismantle liberal lie after liberal lie, and the outcome is a pr person's dream: you begin to preemptively believe that anything the media says about the Kochs is false. That's is what is known as a paradigm-shifting win.

The Catholic Church still has a slow response team in regards to social media. This was no where more obvious than in the months and years when the myth of Hitler's pope was allowed to flourish. Hitler's Pope, a 1999 book by John Cornwall, has been thoroughly debunked as anti-religious propaganda -- not least, by the author of the book himself. The thesis of Cornwall's book is that Pope Pius XII, who was the Catholic pontiff from 1939 until 1958, was anti-Semitic and a supporter of Adolf Hitler.

The "Hitler's Pope" meme took off, despite attempts at telling the truth. In a 1999 piece in Newsweek, religion writer Kenneth Woodward noted that "errors of fact and ignorance appear on almost every page" of the book. Cornwall, notes Woodward, "ignores the contrary evidence in the books cited in his own bibliography." Woodward was followed by Rabbi David Dalin's The Myth of Hitler's Pope. That was followed by Michael Burleigh's Sacred Causes. Both books demolished Cornwall's thesis.

What would have been a wonderful weapon at the time was a Catholic version of KochFacts.com. To be sure, Bill Donohue was screaming bloody murder, but his myopia allowed people to not take him seriously. Rather than demanding that atheist apologize for Hitler, which Donohue did, a more measured response was called for. He could have simply posted all the lies that are in Hitler's Pope without all the volcanic rage.

In 2004 Hitler's Pope author John Cornwall himself admitted he had been wrong. "I would now argue," he said, "in the light of the debates and evidence following Hitler's Pope, that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war."

In other words, Hitler's Pope uses truths, half truths and lies; omits information selectively; simplifies complex issues and ideas; plays on emotions; advertises a cause (the iniquity of the Catholic Church), attacks opponents (ditto) and targets desired audiences.

It is, in short, a prime piece of propaganda. And the way to fight propaganda is to slowly, calmly, day in and day out, itemize the errors, omissions, and outright lies of the side telling the lies. The Catholic Church needs a smart and centralized website to do just that.

Mark Judge is a columnist for RealClearReligion and author, most recently, of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock 'n' Roll.

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