....LMB: "Return of the Wingnuts"....

November 19, 2004

Back in the late 90s, I wrote an internet newsletter called "NewsWatch", which was a combo of media criticism, neglected news, and background of current events. Over time, I started receiving regular email from plenty of bright, informed people, but from eccentric, nutty, scary people as well. Often, the scary people wanted you to help them spread "the truth" about how Bill Clinton was a spy for Red China, or how we all needed to inject ourselves with some silver-derived chemical to protect us from the terrorist gas attack that would hit in 1998. Once I stopped writing the newsletter (and changed email addresses several times), these letters dropped off.

But I must be returning to form, because these letters are beginning to trickle in again. Nothing quite as loony yet, but I'm surely on my way.

So far, they've mainly been:

- "the election was obviously stolen"
- "Bush was behind 9/11, why won't you believe meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?"
-"here's my daily letter to the editor of some random newspaper that I've cc'd you and 300 other 'members of the media' on"
- "my impromptu quasi-newsletter email that you didn't subscribe to"
- "I don't know you, but I thought I'd send you humorous political email that you've already seen four times and that isn't actually humorous"

Nearly all of these have a liberalish slant to them, but my favorite so far was from a right-wing source, who obviously didn't bother checking me out before adding me to their cc list.

From: Columbia Christians for Life Subject: Town Council continues fight to pray in Jesus Christ's Name in Great Falls, SC

Town Council continues fight to pray in Jesus Christ's Name in Great Falls, South Carolina

A Wiccan high priestess (witch) filed a federal lawsuit against the town of Great Falls, SC for saying the Name of Jesus Christ in prayers before town council meetings. To date, the witch has prevailed at the U.S. District Court and 4th Circuit Court of Appeals levels, and the town council has ceased praying in the Name of Jesus Christ.

However, at Monday (11/15) night's meeting, the Great Falls Town Council voted 6 to 1 to continue the fight, and appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

This case is similar to the unconstitutional removal of Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in that it involves the tyranny of federal court rulings against the acknowledgement of God in the public square. It therefore marks another step in the direction of wiping out any public references or displays of Christianity in America.

The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..." Congress has not made any law law establishing a religion, but the U.S. District Court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals are, unconstitutionally, in violation of the clear language of the First Amendment, "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" by the men of the Great Falls Town Council. The town council has not made any law establishing any religion, but they are, unconstitutionally, being prohibited by federal court tyranny, from the free exercise of religion. This is raw judicial tyranny, and should be opposed by Christians around the country as an attack on Christianity in America.

November 17, 2004
Steve Lefemine, pro-life missionary
dir., Columbia Christians for Life
CCL lobbyist
Columbia, SC

This was then followed by the text of a news article about said "raw judicial tyranny" from a local newspaper, and then, disturbingly, information about the "Constitution Restoration Act". This is an actual bill in the House of Representatives right now (HR 3799), part of which would prevent the Supreme Court from examining lower court rulings where the judge's decision was based upon religion instead of law (if the judge felt that "God [is] the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government"). That'll stop them thar activist judges. Or something.

Their letter doesn't mention when they intend to burn the witch, but I presume they'll do it in time for Baby Jesus' birthday.

Actually, I didn't notice the stuff about the Constitution Restoration Act stuff in the email till I sat down to write this. Now my pithy email reply asking if Jesus would rather spend his time on city council prayer or on aiding the sick and hungry seems... inadequate. Although if I'd written back with a scathing retort, he/they would probably get off on it.

Although the letter's lunacy is both legion and obvious, I feel like yelling about a few items:

- Rudy Moore built a shrine to the Ten Commandments and installed it on city property in the middle of the night without asking anybody. It has nothing to do with "public acknowledgement of God", you fucking pricks. If someone installed a statue of a golden calf in the courthouse, it would get the same treatment.

- "Public" and "governmental" are not the same thing. If the city council wants to go to the city park and scream about how much they love Jesus, they're free to do so. When they want to put it in their council meetings, it sorta comes across like the government endorses one particular religion over others...

- I understand that many conservative Christians believe that the First Amendment is supposed to be about keeping government out of your church. But many of the rest of us believe that the First Amendment is about keeping your church (well, all churches) out of our government. See how it goes both ways? See?

I was about to say something about this author being an idiot, but he's not. His signature says he's a lobbyist, so he's most likely very aware of what he's saying, how it does and doesn't work, and he is not as concerned with logic or truth as he is with results.

What is with the paranoia of American Christians? Nearly 80% of the country claims to be Christian, yet they talk like they're a despised minority, having to worship in the shadows for fear of their very lives. Yes, they used to throw Christians to the lions-- like 1900 years ago. Today's Christians now safely work in our nation's zoos and circuses, and churches are plentiful on our nations streets. The President is Christian, his recent opponent was Christian, the conservative Christian party holds both houses of Congress and much of the Supreme Court, and a non-Christian can probably never be elected to major office in the United States.

How can this country be oppressing Christians, Christians are the country, you crazy bastards!

Yeah, that's overly broad. A high percentage of American Christians are not part of this conservative faction. And I imagine that many of this conservative faction would argue that many Americans who call themselves Christians "aren't really Christians." But I think you see my point.

I've got a theory on this ("Jake, with a theory? Never!"). I believe that these conservative Christians have, as part of their theology, a focus on evil. All acts of evil or moral degeneracy are caused by the devil. At all times, the devil is working to weaken you, to tempt you, to make you turn away from Jesus and the Church. This point of view is, of course, paranoid. Perhaps it's simple to go from "the devil is out to get me" to "they're all out to get me."

One of the most interesting theories I've seen on conservative American Christianity today came from journalist and biting funnyman Matt Taibbi. In a recent article in Rolling Stone, he went undercover as a volunteer for the Bush campaign, and after dealing with many a conservative Christian, dished up this little tidbit:

The problem not only with fundamentalist Christians but with Republicans in general is not that they act on blind faith, without thinking. The problem is that they are incorrigible doubters with an insatiable appetite for Evidence. What they get off on is not Believing, but in having their beliefs tested. That's why their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people -- and for those confrontations, they are constantly assembling evidence and facts to make their case.

But here's the twist. They are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn't matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swift-boat business), because that guarantees an argument. You're arguing the particulars, where you're right, while they're arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.

Once you grasp this fact, you're a long way to understanding what the Hannitys and Limbaughs figured out long ago: These people will swallow anything you feed them, so long as it leaves them with a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.

I don't know if he's right or wrong, but it's a fascinating idea: conservative Christians' faith is actually very weak, and needs to be constantly strengthened by exposure to "enemies".

I'm thinking a lot about religion these days. I was pretty much raised agnostic. Near as I can figure, the issue of a bi-religious child was as big a concern to suburban parents in the 70s as having a biracial child is today. To avoid "making me choose" between my Jewish mother and lapsed Protestant father, there was no sort of worship in the house, no talk of gods or creation, and a rather secular celebration of Christmas, Easter and Hanukkah. About my only knowledge of religion came from an illustrated kids' bible at the doctor's office, a few weeks at a Jewish Sunday school, cartoons where Tom and Jerry went to Heaven or Hell, and two years at a Catholic school.

If that last one sounds weird, that's because it is. Long story short, my parents bought into the Montessori teaching philosophy (which probably helped make me the curious, insatiable learner I am today), and once I'd finished up at a local Montessori kindergarten, the only other nearby Montessori school was a Catholic school. At a Mission, no less. 200 years after educating the local Indians into early graves, young Jake went to learn his grammar and multiplication tables at Mission San Luis Rey.

Religion class was on Wednesday afternoons, and my Mom would take me out of school early on those days. But weird religious bits did drift in just the same. I remember Sister Judy taught us that the moon was a star and that the Sun was a burning planet. And one time she lectured us because "someone had smashed a germ on the wall of the girl's bathroom."

Now that I think about it, maybe that had nothing to do with religion, and Sister Judy was just a crazy person.

Anyhow.

Due to this upbringing, religion is strange, scary, kinda quaint and kinda stupid in my eyes. I pretty much see myself as a capital 's' Skeptic. It's hard for me to buy into anything without some decent evidence or logical deductions. I'm not an atheist because just as there's no proof of the existence of a god, there's also no proof of the absence of a god either (although our philosophy major friends say that you can't prove an absence, so...). I understand faith, I understand the idea of being raised to believe a certain thing and accepting it as a given, and I understand that assuming that the universe was "created" is in some ways the flip side of assuming that it didn't need to be "created."

But apart from that, I don't understand religion. The idea of believing the Bible to be true because the Bible tells you it's true simply baffles me. And the idea that your specific interpretation of a religious text is the only possible interpretation of that text, well, that just makes me wanna claw my fucking eyes out.

I guess I have two parallel visions of religion that I carry with me, one occasionally overtaking the other. On the one hand, I don't pretend to understand how the universe works. Therefore anybody's religion could be right, and I'm completely fine with anyone believing in any of them. On the other hand, I believe that one of the only life courses that makes sense is to wait for evidence to believe in anything. Which makes me think that anyone who is religious is being silly. I admit, sometimes this makes me feel superior to religious people. But I imagine they sometimes feel superior to me, thinking that I'm stupid for failing to see how obvious it is that Jesus Christ is our lord and savior and whatnot. So I guess we're even. Maybe.

But today, we're either seeing the return of the Christian Right as a political force (or, believing the hype, the Christian Right is seeking to flex their increased political muscle. Or, the media, believing the hype, is spending more time covering the actions of the Christian Right, making it seem as though they have returned as a political force. So hard to tell these days). And they do not, as I have, a tolerant, "let them do what they want, it doesn't bother me" attitude towards folks who's beliefs are different. Not only are they certain that their worldview is the right one (unlike myself, always doubting, and wondering even if there is a single correct view), they are taking action to change the laws of the land so that their worldview is imposed upon everyone.

Which, sadly, makes the Christian Right my enemy. Not because of their beliefs-- which in my eyes, are nutty-- but because of their actions. Their actions are hurting people, and will hurt even more people if they are not opposed.

But I've also got to wonder if that's enough. Okay, we've identified a group with blatant, obvious, concretely harmful goals. But there are plenty of folks who's religious beliefs aren't as deranged as those we'd call "the Christian Right", but are harmful just the same. General views like "gays are bad" and "women should be subservient to men" and "sex is wrong" and "you are better than people from other religions", are held by otherwise sane people, and they have effects and they cause damage.

And at their core, many of the world's religions are about obedience to authorities and to rules that are imposed from without. Does that mean that I should be opposed to most of the world's religions?

Yeah, I guess it does.

That's always been my favorite anarchist slogan, "No Gods, No Masters."

Posted by Jake at 08:24 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Holy Shit, Jake, that's the biggest article I've ever seen you post.

Posted by: Snow Crash at November 19, 2004 10:24 AM

Try my 2003 State of the Union analysis. You could choke a horse with that verbiage.

Posted by: Jake at November 19, 2004 10:43 AM

Jake, I just did, is this all you do all day? Or do you just have so much time on your hands 'cause your sick?

Posted by: Snow Crash at November 19, 2004 11:41 AM

See kids? Typing class pays off.

I think it's simple--they want to stomp everyong else out so they think everyone else has the same intention towards them. Though I hammer at this all the time on my blog in different ways.

Posted by: Amanda at November 19, 2004 12:24 PM

Excellent rant, Jake, especially the Rolling Stone quote. Food for thought.

Posted by: Robby at November 19, 2004 01:35 PM

Ha ha! Maybe we should go to the local courthouse and install a huge voodoo statue in the middle of the night in protest!

Posted by: inonthekilltaker at November 19, 2004 02:34 PM

Robby/Jake/Amanda,

It is easy to see you have never had to defend your country. Without a belief in God, you probably wouldn't. Patriotic? The younger generation (except for a few) have forgotten the concept. You can do and say the things you do because others with belief in God were willing to die for that right. Someday, when the "insurgents" come to your front door to wage war, destroy or take what you have, maybe you will understand Christian principles and beliefs - but probably not.

When the bombs are falling here, our children and women are dying, see how you feel about the way you are seeking to destroy your country then. May God have mercy on your souls and this country.

Posted by: Dennis at November 23, 2004 02:12 PM

Robby/Jake/Amanda,

It is easy to see you have never had to defend your country. Without a belief in God, you probably wouldn't. Patriotic? The younger generation (except for a few) have forgotten the concept. You can do and say the things you do because others with belief in God were willing to die for that right. Someday, when the "insurgents" come to your front door to wage war, destroy or take what you have, maybe you will understand Christian principles and beliefs - but probably not.

When the bombs are falling here, our children and women are dying, see how you feel about the way you are seeking to destroy your country then. May God have mercy on your souls and this country.

Posted by: Dennis at November 23, 2004 02:12 PM

The interesting thing about religion is how personal it all is. I have faith in God, but my God believes in abortion rights, gay marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, and universal healthcare. (I promise- she totally does). If a judge were to believe in a God that agrees with mine, would the "Constitution Restoration Act" keep the ruling from being overturned? That'd be an interesting twist.

Posted by: Me at November 24, 2004 11:09 PM

Good gravy Dennis, the inherent hypocracy of your sanctimonious post was nothing short of staggering, particularly when so many like-minded Americans seem to share your myopic vision of 'my God's better than your God!' If I read your comment correctly, people who prefer peace to war, are ignorant, anti-Amercian 'terrorists,' whom the US military must bomb to death in their beds, in order to protect American citizens from the perceived threat of nations which have never actually attacked you? And the Christian right wonders why the rest of the universe thinks they are out of touch with reality?

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.
Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821 - 1890)

Posted by: jr at November 26, 2004 02:27 PM

dear dennis:

"It is easy to see you have never had to defend your country. Without a belief in God, you probably wouldn't."

I'm what wondering which god you're talking about. Many native american people believed in their gods, and defended their lands (which are now ours of course). Ahhh but you still believe that you and those like you are the epicenter of the universe, and that all ways other than yours are erroneous and evil, right?

"Patriotic? The younger generation (except for a few) have forgotten the concept. You can do and say the things you do because others with belief in God were willing to die for that right."

Patriotism simply means that a person places a higher value on those who live within the same political boundaries than those who live outside of them. Its really a stupid idea actually, because we're all just humans. The borders are fake. I think alot of us refuse to be so egocentric anymore. People in other countries have rights too. And you're so right...the American revolutionaries were fighting the Brits because of GOD, not a desire for autonomy and self determination. So keen you are.

"Someday, when the "insurgents" come to your front door to wage war, destroy or take what you have, maybe you will understand Christian principles and beliefs - but probably not."

Which principles are you talking about? Forgiveness maybe? Or killing "heathens" who havent accepted your version of reality? You sound very paranoid, by the way. Stay away from Revelations for a bit...read about that sermon on the mount for a change.

"When the bombs are falling here, our children and women are dying, see how you feel about the way you are seeking to destroy your country then. May God have mercy on your souls and this country."

Again, read something besides Revelations dude. All that Fire and Brimstone shit is sooooo 17th century. Get with it, we have this thing called reason now.

Posted by: ryan anderson at November 28, 2004 10:31 AM

dear dennis:

"It is easy to see you have never had to defend your country. Without a belief in God, you probably wouldn't."

I'm what wondering which god you're talking about. Many native american people believed in their gods, and defended their lands (which are now ours of course). Ahhh but you still believe that you and those like you are the epicenter of the universe, and that all ways other than yours are erroneous and evil, right?

"Patriotic? The younger generation (except for a few) have forgotten the concept. You can do and say the things you do because others with belief in God were willing to die for that right."

Patriotism simply means that a person places a higher value on those who live within the same political boundaries than those who live outside of them. Its really a stupid idea actually, because we're all just humans. The borders are fake. I think alot of us refuse to be so egocentric anymore. People in other countries have rights too. And you're so right...the American revolutionaries were fighting the Brits because of GOD, not a desire for autonomy and self determination. So keen you are.

"Someday, when the "insurgents" come to your front door to wage war, destroy or take what you have, maybe you will understand Christian principles and beliefs - but probably not."

Which principles are you talking about? Forgiveness maybe? Or killing "heathens" who havent accepted your version of reality? You sound very paranoid, by the way. Stay away from Revelations for a bit...read about that sermon on the mount for a change.

"When the bombs are falling here, our children and women are dying, see how you feel about the way you are seeking to destroy your country then. May God have mercy on your souls and this country."

Again, read something besides Revelations dude. All that Fire and Brimstone shit is sooooo 17th century. Get with it, we have this thing called reason now.

Posted by: ryan anderson at November 28, 2004 10:32 AM

dear dennis:

"It is easy to see you have never had to defend your country. Without a belief in God, you probably wouldn't."

I'm what wondering which god you're talking about. Many native american people believed in their gods, and defended their lands (which are now ours of course). Ahhh but you still believe that you and those like you are the epicenter of the universe, and that all ways other than yours are erroneous and evil, right?

"Patriotic? The younger generation (except for a few) have forgotten the concept. You can do and say the things you do because others with belief in God were willing to die for that right."

Patriotism simply means that a person places a higher value on those who live within the same political boundaries than those who live outside of them. Its really a stupid idea actually, because we're all just humans. The borders are fake. I think alot of us refuse to be so egocentric anymore. People in other countries have rights too. And you're so right...the American revolutionaries were fighting the Brits because of GOD, not a desire for autonomy and self determination. So keen you are.

"Someday, when the "insurgents" come to your front door to wage war, destroy or take what you have, maybe you will understand Christian principles and beliefs - but probably not."

Which principles are you talking about? Forgiveness maybe? Or killing "heathens" who havent accepted your version of reality? You sound very paranoid, by the way. Stay away from Revelations for a bit...read about that sermon on the mount for a change.

"When the bombs are falling here, our children and women are dying, see how you feel about the way you are seeking to destroy your country then. May God have mercy on your souls and this country."

Again, read something besides Revelations dude. All that Fire and Brimstone shit is sooooo 17th century. Get with it, we have this thing called reason now.

Posted by: r.anderson at November 28, 2004 10:34 AM

dear dennis:

"It is easy to see you have never had to defend your country. Without a belief in God, you probably wouldn't."

I'm what wondering which god you're talking about. Many native american people believed in their gods, and defended their lands (which are now ours of course). Ahhh but you still believe that you and those like you are the epicenter of the universe, and that all ways other than yours are erroneous and evil, right?

"Patriotic? The younger generation (except for a few) have forgotten the concept. You can do and say the things you do because others with belief in God were willing to die for that right."

Patriotism simply means that a person places a higher value on those who live within the same political boundaries than those who live outside of them. Its really a stupid idea actually, because we're all just humans. The borders are fake. I think alot of us refuse to be so egocentric anymore. People in other countries have rights too. And you're so right...the American revolutionaries were fighting the Brits because of GOD, not a desire for autonomy and self determination. So keen you are.

"Someday, when the "insurgents" come to your front door to wage war, destroy or take what you have, maybe you will understand Christian principles and beliefs - but probably not."

Which principles are you talking about? Forgiveness maybe? Or killing "heathens" who havent accepted your version of reality? You sound very paranoid, by the way. Stay away from Revelations for a bit...read about that sermon on the mount for a change.

"When the bombs are falling here, our children and women are dying, see how you feel about the way you are seeking to destroy your country then. May God have mercy on your souls and this country."

Again, read something besides Revelations dude. All that Fire and Brimstone shit is sooooo 17th century. Get with it, we have this thing called reason now.

Posted by: r.anderson at November 28, 2004 10:35 AM

jake...sorry for the freaking quadruple posting...

Posted by: r.anderson at November 29, 2004 12:06 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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