Okay.. bit of a rant time... Pope JohnPaul II was the first pope to die in the era of the 24 hour cable-news network. He was not the first celebrity[??] The " Mourning " of Diana Princess of Wales [ wails?] probably came close to rivalling his in terms of sheer broadcast hours. But J2P2 took much longer to die than producers planned, and his dying days pushed the constant news medium to its conceptual limit.. far more hours had to be filled with ' experts' and well-wishers[ ??] and emotional teenagers and 'emotional' vistas, in the absence of any actual news, than had ever occurred on television before.[ its as if the rest of the world events have all stopped ].. This event was also the best illustration we have yet seen of how the presence of constant visual news flow actually shapes perceptions and thus alters history. What the news channels did, out of the necessity of their schedules, was to vastly inflate both the signifigance of the event and the popularity of the man. They instantly canonized a pope who had up to that point been characterized by the secular media as, at best controversial and, at worst, regressive. They quickly convinced themselves that they were all Catholic! And they probably changed forever how a pope's death will be seen and understood. Let's summarize the few weeks of religious issues which have dominated the media up to these last orgiastic days. First , there was the Terri Schiavo case, a non-issue to most of the developed world, which became, in the US a fire-and-brimstone battle between the fervid and the godless. That lasted , what? two weeks.. recall its steady theatrics of chanting and praying protesters, preaching politicians, and the most startling contemporary image of all; the Schiavo family ' spokeperson ' a hysterical monk in medieval garb! Then we had Easter, another three days of near-constant religious music on radio, TV and video streamed cellphones of Catholic faithful streaming to mass [ in their twice yearly pilgrimage out of the suburban household ] no more than a couple of days respite and JP fell ill and the hoopla for Catholics started again.. A real good month PRwise for sure..The sheer number of sombre priests on the airwaves must itself dispel the notion of liberal media bias... Certainly, a great many of the billion or so world Catholics seriously loved and admired the man and feel a genuine loss and grief, and all the outpouring of emotion and the response about the globe is definitely a legitimate news item providing a deeply effective and affective look at the ' power of faith '..and its probably good for skeptical athieistis urbanites to be reminded that, while they are ' overrepresented' in the media they really don't ' represent' the majority.. Still other 'realities ' should also be noted.. One billion is still one sixth of the the whole.. five-sixths of the world don't ' follow' the pope of the Catholic church.. including about three-quarters of the USA - and J2P2 wasn't a great reconciler and revolutionary but a hard-line conservative who refused to endorse safe sex in Africa making him complicit in the epidemic holocaust that has seen 30 million people die.. Only now are we looking ' beyond the man ' and getting past that ridiculous scroll on the bottom of the news reports: " Not Dead Yet "... Now the media juggernaut gears up , 3500 accredited media folk have descended on Rome, and leased prime real estate for the optimum placement of their intrusive eyeball cameras [ the local bus terminal overlooking St. Peter's has been carved up and subcontracted out by NBC who had the ' foresight'? to lock it into a long term lease almost 2 years ago[?!?] in anticipation of the pope cacking it... No one has seen such a massive production engine kicked into gear...no turning back..retrospectives, film/photo montages, weeping 14 year old girls, pimple faced neophyte priests, sombre religious pundits, disenfranchised popular theologians, the brother of the uncle of the aunt of the sister who lived next door to the pope when he was six will all dutifly pass before us on the screen filling in the gaps of his life while pope books, and tacky souvenirs will slide out the shop doors at ten times the speed of Chuck and Camilla's wedding memorabilia collectibles [with the date corrected in magic marker..] This is maipulation to a fever pitch, emotional snowballing until ' everyone ' feels it and legend becomes reality [ the pope single handedly defeating communism for example ] not a pontifical mass but mass hysteria... nothing like a sudden coincidental, confluence of religious activity in the news to prove to us that there is a resurgence of religion across cultures and around the world..Especially in America where it has become clear that in the current cultural climate, for both TV and politicians - who both got to sell themselves to the masses - there is currently no safer political bet than to express religious belief and no safer bet than a church service [ and we decry the religious fervour of the Islamic world as 'depicted' in Iraq and Palestine or the defence of Israel by the world wide disapora of the Jews ].. Still, moving images of people feeling noble thoughts are so much better than images of war... okay...returning to regularly scheduled programming will occur some time in the next week of two - never thought I'd say this but bring on Survivor Tuvalu or Liverpool Nights or Donald Trump or Desperate Housewives ... Bring Back Hockey Night In Canada!!!