Wingnuts say “Baa” to Kinsey

The forces of conservatism are showing their independent minds regarding the new movie Kinsey, and it’s ad hominem ad nauseum. The essence could be distilled thus:

There’s a new film about Alfred Kinsey out. I haven’t seen it, but Judith Reisman tells me that he was worse than Hitler. He made all his stuff up, and the stuff he didn’t make up was acquired unethically. His data was also flawed, because he was a bad person, although the idea of citing other studies on sexuality or undertaking new research never occurred to Reisman and so is of no interest to me. Because of Kinsey’s work, gay people don’t feel ashamed and dirty, and people started masturbating. This movie is propaganda from godless Hollywood meant to corrupt our youth – we should boycott Fox.

Well, OK, not the last four words. But that’s the herd thinking from the wingnutily correct. We’ve already covered Ted Baehr, who kicked off on the subject:

Recently, the New York Times had an article admitting that Alfred Kinsey made a lot of mistakes in his research on human sexuality, but the article commended Kinsey for showing that all men masturbate and the majority of people are bisexual.

…Well, a whole generation has bought the Kinsey lie, including the author of the New York Times article. And, the fact that just one person does not do this would mean that his blanket statement that “everyone does it” is a self-destructive lie…a Jewish grandmother and researcher, Dr. Reisman, has shown that the addictions that Kinsey promoted are just a bunch of lies that no one has to fall prey to in their own life.

Concerned Women for America also chimes in:

According to early reports, the movie, directed by homosexual activist Bill Condon, glosses over the stunning fact that much of Kinsey’s work has been revealed as fraud, and that he aided and abetted the molestation of hundreds of children in order to obtain data on “child sexuality.”

Kinsey’s work has been instrumental in advancing acceptance of pornography, homosexuality, abortion, and condom-based sex education, and his disciples even today are promoting a view of children as “sexual beings.” Their ultimate goal: to normalize pedophilia, or “adult-child sex.”

…We owe a great debt to Dr. Judith Reisman, who has labored for three decades to expose the truth about Alfred Kinsey and the ongoing effort by Kinsey-connected groups to use bad science to assault the moral order of marriage and family.

“According to early reports”, eh? Glad CWA didn’t soil itself by actually watching the movie. CWA also announces its support for Restoring Social Virtue and Purity to America (RSVP), an anti-Kinsey lobby group run by Eunice Ray, a former member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service.

The baton is then passed to David Kupelian, vice-president of WorldNetDaily, in a lengthy piece. Kupelian takes us back to the halcyon days of the 1950s, when:

Divorce was rare, abortion and homosexuality were “in the closet” and out of view of polite society. It was the age of “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Father knows best” and “Leave it to Beaver.” Classics like “Ben-Hur” and “High Noon” were box-office favorites, and C.S. Lewis was publishing his beloved adventure book series, “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

“Ben-Hur”? The film with that homoerotic javelin scene scripted by Gore Vidal? But Kinsey ruined that innocent era. Moreover, Reisman has shown that Kinsey encouraged paedophiles to abuse children and

Reisman is a world-renowned expert and scholar on this subject, has been a consultant to three U.S. Department of Justice administrations, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, and is sought worldwide to lecture, testify and counsel regarding fraudulent sex science. She is speaking the awful truth here.

…Like the socialists, progressives, Darwinists, atheists, humanists and assorted other God-deniers that paved the way for him, Kinsey regarded man as an animal – and only an animal…Read what “The Satanic Bible” says about man and sex, and note how familiar and mainstream it sounds.

Yes, if people are having sex it’s because of the Darwin-Marx-Kinsey-LaVey axis.

Next up, Illinois Leader media critic Arlen Williams (thanks to Jesus’ General for the link):

A movie is now being shown that promotes one of the most evil and destructive figures in the 20th Century. The setting: not Berlin, nor Moscow, nor Peking . . . but Bloomington, Indiana.

The real story on Kinsey may be found in numerous places. I am drawing from the 11/12 WorldNetDaily column, “Selling sex in the U.S.A.” by editor David Kupelian and his citation of the findings of Dr. Reisman. I suggest the very informative albeit tortuous read…Celebrate the movie promoting America’s own 20th Century mega-villian!

Yes, Williams has read Kupelian writing about Reisman, so can authoritatively state that Kinsey was a wicked man responsible for all that is wrong with modern society. Who says a “media critic” needs to actually watch some media anyway?

Williams’s deep insights are also echoed by one-time Pulitzer runner-up Ross Mackenzie at Townhall:

First, this year, it was Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” followed by Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Comes now the year’s third culturally divisive flick, “Kinsey” – about sexologist Albert Kinsey, one of the early popularizers of “If it feels good, do it!” Notes Judith Reisman, author of the 1990 book “Kinsey, Sex, and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People”: The consequences of the dubious Kinsey’s “sexual adventurism include AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, child sexual abuse, incest, and pornography.” The movie may make him out to be just another guy with – you know – an excess of passion.

Jane Jimenez at Agape Press adds:

…Kinsey’s authority on sexual behavior went virtually unchallenged for 30 years. Then on July 23, 1981, at the Fifth World Congress of Sexology in Jerusalem, a diminutive American psychologist stepped to the podium to present her research findings to a standing-room only session.

Dr. Judith Reisman laid out her charges methodically, presenting slides of Tables 30-34 [in Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male] and analyzing the specific entries which calculated the rates and timed the speeds of orgasms in at least 317 infants and children. How, she challenged the audience, did rape and molestation of children ever make the transition from criminal activity to research? And she rested her case.

Apparently nobody had ever noticed these tables before, hidden in the middle of a bestseller for decades. She concludes:

[Paul Gebhard, Kinsey’s coauthor] gives a thumbs-up to Kinsey — but consider who is behind the thumb. Endorsing fame and adulation for one of the greatest child abusers of the modern world is child’s play for a man unmoved by the “screaming,” “weeping,” and “convulsing” of innocent children.

Considering seeing Kinsey? Don’t.

Meanwhile, Sue Ellin Browder holds up the Catholic end. Browder actually does a better job than the other conservatives, ignoring Reisman in favour of serious academic critics and pointing out serious flaws with Kinsey’s work that I would agree with. However, like the others she is not interested in doing better research, and turns authoritarian demagogue:

Kinsey’s pseudoscience arguably did the most damage through our court systems. That’s where attorneys used the researcher’s “facts” to repeal or weaken laws against abortion, pornography, obscenity, divorce, adultery, and sodomy…The legal fallout from Kinsey’s work continues. The US Supreme Court’s historic decision last year striking down sodomy laws was the offshoot of a long string of court cases won largely on the basis of Kinsey’s research. And 50 years of precedents set by Kinsey’s “false 10 percent” are now being used in states like Massachusetts to redefine marriage.

The main problem with all of the above is not that Kinsey’s work or the movie should not be criticised, but the gaping black hole of anti-intellectualism. As with conservative support for Creationism, the strategy is not really to engage with a complex field of study, but to concentrate attacks on a long-dead figure seen as the founder of an area of research. It is hoped that these attacks will conceal the fact that the attackers actually have no useful new data on the subject in hand worthy of serious consideration. Reisman is a crank whose lawyer deserted her when she tried to sue to Kinsey Institute for defamation and whose dodgy methods have been considered by Miss Poppy Dixon; the uncritical reliance on her work by the various pundits above (in most cases not even used directly!) except Browder exposes this anti-intellectualism ever more clearly (I drew on Miss Poppy’s article on the subject here).

Reisman and her supporters are know-nothings. Reisman is quoted by Daniel Radosh in The New Yorker as saying

One doesn’t measure American sexual habits…That’s not a science.

This attitude can also be seen in a Guardian report on the controversy over the film, in a quote from Family Research Council “director of culture studies” Peter Spriggs:

We know the formula for sexual health, which is sex within a monogamous, lifelong relationship… Studying permutations of it is an effort like Kinsey’s to change the sexual mores of society, so that what most people consider deviant behaviours look more normal.

Kinsey is not really hated because his research was flawed or biased, or because he used a paedophile to get information (at a time when any child who dared to allege sexual abuse by a respected adult would most likely have been dismissed as a liar), but simply because by asking questions he made it a bit more difficult for people to use ignorance as a tool of control.

UPDATE: Yet more of the same from Don Feder in FrontPage.

Christon Cafe

At the Christon Cafe [sic], Osaka:

christon-cafe-osaka

A Religious War in West Africa?

Significant events in West Africa have a habit of being overshadowed by the Middle East: in 1967, the Six Day War kicked off days after Biafra declared independence from Nigeria; in 1990, the fall of the dictator Samuel Doe of Liberia and subsequent civil war was overshadowed by the invasion of Kuwait. Now, with battles in Falluja and Mosul underway, dramatic events in the Ivory Coast are going under-reported. But don’t worry; Pat Robertson’s got his eye on the ball:

CBN.com – (CBN News) – While the eyes of the world are on Iraq, a political and religious crisis is playing out in the African nation of Ivory Coast. Dozens of Western nations are scrambling to rescue their citizens in what is described as the largest evacuation in Africa in recent times. And at the heart of the conflict are the French, a group of Muslim rebel soldiers and a Christian president.

So who are the good guys?

[President] Gbagbo and his wife are born-again Christians, and have actively promoted national reconciliation efforts between Christians and Muslims throughout the country.

Gbagbo said, “I know that we are in a difficult situation right now, but I know that with the help of God and the prayers of people around the world, we shall overcome this crisis.”

And that’s all we need to know about Gbagbo. And since Pat has previously shown his discerning Christian judgement by supporting Rios Montt, Sese Seko Mubutu and Charles Taylor, I’m sure alarm bells shouldn’t start going off at all. The Revealer rounds up a few other American Christian statements on the conflict:

World Evangelical Alliance frames the fight as a “decisive hour” in a battle between Christians and “demonic” Islamists. Mega-site Crosswalk focussed only on Christian victims of violence. And even Christianity Today, home to fine and respectable journalism, spun the story, at its beginning at least, as one primarily of anti-Christian persecution, with no mention that the government in power is “Christian,” at least to the extent that such a claim helps it mobilize mobs to attack Muslims.

According to Elizabeth Kendal of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission:

Evidence abounds that the rebels have received training, funds and arms from Burkina Faso, Libya, al-Qaeda and other Islamist networks. The rebels’ agenda is not only political (a coup to install their choice of leader) but Islamist. They have threatened to ‘slaughter’ some Christian leaders and pastors.

…Ivory Coast has been a haven of peace, liberty, stability and prosperity in West Africa. Because it has full religious freedom it has been the base of much West African Christian mission. The integrity of the nation is now at stake. But the conflict has implications beyond Ivory Coast: if these rebels succeed in Ivory Coast then what is to prevent similar foreign and network sponsored Muslim rebels revolting in other ethnically and religiously mixed nations such as Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria. The rebels have blamed their lack of success so far on the prayers of Christians. Let’s have the same confidence in the power released through our prayers that they have! Let’s pray!

Kendal’s article incorporates previous statements she has made on the Ivory Coast over the past couple of years (including the rather over-egged “domino theory” that ignores differences between the countries of West Africa and the diversity of Muslim traditions), one of which was an article for ASSIST last year. In fairness, she does know a fair bit about the country:

Cote d’Ivoire’s problems stem from unmanaged immigration. While economic recession has led to tensions, the immigrants are not the cause of the present troubles. Neither is it the fact that the immigrants are predominantly Muslims. But for one political figure, status, ethnicity and religion could prove to be the answer to all his political problems.

This political figure, Dr. Alassane Ouattara, did not qualify to stand in presidential elections in 2000. This was not because he is Muslim – the Vice President is Muslim, the Prime minister is a northern Muslim, and there are many Muslim MPs. Dr. Ouattara’s problems were related his nationality. Among the many issues was the fact that Dr. Ouattara’s involvement in the International Monetary Fund and the Central Bank of West Africa were as a citizen of Burkina Faso – formerly Upper Volta. This did not rule him out of Cote d’Ivoire politics, but according to the Cote d’Ivoire constitution it disqualified him from the presidency.

Dr. Ouattara, however, knows how to play politics 21st Century style. An estimated 50% of the population of Cote d’Ivoire are immigrants from the neighbouring Islamic countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Niger and Mauritania. They share not only the same religion as the Muslims of Cote d’Ivoire, but also the same cultural and historical ties. By playing race and religion cards for personal political gain, Dr. Ouattara has managed to unite them behind him. Now all that is needed are the relevant constitutional and law changes that will enable Dr. Ouattara to stand as a presidential candidate, and allow the new citizens (nationalised immigrants) to vote him into power. These have been the demands of the rebels ever since their coup failed on 19 September 2002.

Kendal does, however, gloss over very real problems with Gbagbo that are reported by the Washington Post‘s old West Africa hand Douglas Farah (Farah is the author of Blood from Stones, about al-Qaeda’s financing from the West African diamond trade. Farah’s claims were rejected by the 9/11 Commission)

In late November 2000, the newly elected Gbagbo met privately with the ambassadors of France, the United States and Britain. With his country teetering on the edge of civil war, Gbagbo agreed to allow the main opposition party, excluded from the presidential contest and made up mostly of Muslims from the north, to participate in scheduled parliamentary elections.

Gbagbo had narrowly defeated a despised military officer in violence-marred elections in which less than 30 percent of the eligible voters cast ballots. His openly anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric and promises to purge Ivory Coast of foreigners were largely lost in the chaos of the moment.

Gbagbo promised to announce the agreement in a televised address to the nation. But a cabinet minister appeared instead to announce that the opposition was banned and also to challenge the right of its members to citizenship. It was the first step in Gbagbo’s effort to undo four decades of policies that had successfully encouraged racial and religious harmony.

… I was in Abidjan the next day when angry Muslims took to the streets to protest, only to be met by armed, government-sponsored mobs that rampaged through Muslim sectors of the city. They systematically attacked immigrants from Burkina Faso, Mali and other impoverished countries who had been invited into Ivory Coast as laborers. Human Rights Watch documented the atrocities of Gbagbo’s forces, including massacres of unarmed youths buried in common graves, rape, torture and the razing of mosques.

As for the rebels, the American Christian “Islamist” characterisation is somewhat inaccurate:

The rebels who control the northern half of the country are not the solution. They are an unsavory mix of disgruntled Ivorian officers, remnants of Charles Taylor’s thuggish security forces and other guns-for-hire from around the region. Criminal networks trafficking in weapons and diamonds span the border area of Ivory Coast, Liberia and Guinea, creating what one senior Pentagon official called a “fluid mass of anarchy.” But the rebels gained a foothold because of Gbagbo’s single-minded determination to split his country along ethnic and religious lines while entrenching himself in power.

The Revealer also notes that

Gbago has framed the conflict as a holy war, with Ivory Coast “native” Protestants on one side, and foreign Muslims and godless French Catholics on the other. One evangelical preacher took to Ivory Coast state radio to declare that French President Chirac is “inhabited by the spirit of Satan”, after French peacekeepers destroyed the Ukrainian gunships Gbago’s forces had used to terrorize Muslim civilians and attack the peacekeepers, as well as American aid workers.

However, Protestants are just part of the Christian equation. A few days ago the BBC reported that

Cardinal Bernard Agre said last week he had seen young girls decapitated by the French army – a charge President Gbagbo said he believed to be true.

…French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the “outrageousness” of the claims “strips them of any credibility”.

Agre was speaking in Rome, where he was attending a long-arranged meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family (and during which he spoke privately with the Pope). Agre appears to be a moderate and intelligent figure, and his report of French atrocities deserves to be investigated as vigorously as the crimes of US soldiers in Abu Ghraib (although, to be precise, Agre did not say he saw girls being decapitated. What he said on Vatican Radio [reported by the AFP] was that “I have just come from the hospitals. It’s unbearable, these young people decapitated by the French army.”). However, unlike Kendal, Agre is willing also to denounce corruption in Gbagbo’s government and he appears to reject the “good Christian vs evil Islamist” caricature. According to the Catholic World News:

Cardinal Agre denied that there is great tension between the Muslims of Ivory Coast, who constitute about 38 percent of the population, and the Christians who make up 28 percent. In fact, he suggested that the perception of such a conflict is caused by “prejudices that are unfortunately inflamed by the French press.” While the Muslim population is located primarily in the north of the country, and the Christians in the south, there is no major geographical divide, he said. “We are all united in wanting peace to return to the country,” the cardinal said.

Mike Adams: America’s Cleverest Conservative Demagogue

As Doug Giles’s hunting buddy Dr Mike Adams furthers his vendetta against North Carolina state senate member Julia Boseman (a person guilty of the offences of being Democratic and lesbian –  see below), it’s time to review his career.

Adams comes from Mississippi, and has been a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina since the early 1990s. According to his own account, he converted from being a “radical” Democrat and atheist in 1996 after visiting a squalid prison in Ecuador and talking to someone on death row in the USA:

A few days later, I snuck into Barnes and Noble at about 10:45 p.m., just before closing time. I didn’t want anyone to see me when I went to the counter to purchase a copy of the King James Bible. I had given my old Bible to my next-door neighbor in college. That was eight years earlier.

It took me about eight months to read the King James Version. It took an additional two years to read four more translations of the Bible (the NRSV, GNT, NIV, and NASB).  By then, I had found satisfactory answers to all of the questions that led me to atheism in the first place.

…I’m just glad that I had the chance to renounce the things I had said about Christians and Christianity during my years as a radical graduate student and later as a professor. I don’t think I would have said any of those things or held any of those views if I had just read the right things earlier. I should have read the Bible, C.S. Lewis, and Chuck Colson before I went to college to read Sigmund Freud and B.F. Skinner.

This conversion narrative is actually quite commonplace: the most pious Christian becomes the bitterest atheist, or vice versa, and the most dogmatic Marxist becomes the most strident neo-con. Of course, although Adams gives us the triggers for his conversion, we are left to guess at the underlying psychological aspects: however, his post-conversion fear and loathing of feminists and his assertions of masculinity are suggestive. In a January 2005 article, Adams tells us that he announced his atheism publicly in 1992, which would be four years after getting rid of his Bible. He had an unhappy break with his atheist girlfriend the very next day, although this was “my first step on the road to freedom”.

Aside from his links to Doug Giles, nothing much can be gleaned about his actual church or personal religious mentors, although he describes himself as a “fundamentalist”. He is particularly supportive of Creationism, asserting (“arguing” would be too generous a description) that macro-evolutionary theory is the “new religion of pseudo scientists who think that they are atheists” (Pharyngula responded to Adams’s pretensions in more detail than he deserved).

Adams’s date with destiny came in the weeks following 9/11. A UNC student named Rosa Fuller sent out an email criticising US policy in the Middle East in fairly strident and breathless language, to which Adams sent a dismissive and critical response (this is all covered in his book, apparently). Some other recipients replied to Fuller’s email threatening violence, and these senders were investigated by the authorities. However, Fuller also alleged that Adams had defamed her, inciting these threats, and an investigation followed. At first I thought this claim against Adams was rather weak, but, as SZ at World O’Crap has dug up, one of the threat senders (“People like you deserve to be dragged down the street by your hair..I hope you will have the good sense to keep you[r] liberal moth shut at a time like this. No one needs your shit.”) was a UNC student named Krysten Scott, who married Adams eighteen months later.

Fuller’s parents joined the controversy (her mother also teaches at UNC), and her father Dennis has a website on the subject. Alas, Dennis Fuller’s strong suit is not brevity, and he rambles on at length, bringing in obscure quotes from Hegel at more than one point. However, he makes one point worth consideration (although I haven’t been able to verify his quotes from the Washington Times):

On October 1, the Washington Times…reported that Dr. Adams had been charged with “harassment” and “contacted by university police,” because he supported US “intervention in Afghanistan” in statements he made “behind closed doors to a female graduate student.” This student is supposed to have “complained that [Dr. Adams’] position made her ‘uncomfortable.’” The facts: Dr. Adams was not charged with harassment but with having sent an abusive and libelous e-mail letter to an undergraduate, in violation of professional ethics and the University’s computing policy. He was not contacted by the campus police. He did not state his support of US intervention in Afghanistan. He did not discuss this matter with Rosa behind closed doors. Rosa has not said Dr. Adams’ position on US intervention made her feel “uncomfortable,” partly because Dr. Adams has not yet publicly declared his position on this intervention…He needs to turn this case into a story of his harassment by the “tyranny of the touchy-feely,” in Mr. Halvorssen’s [executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education] mordant words. He has to be seen as the victim of politically correct university administrators who “are terrified of being insensitive to certain views or certain minorities.” Hence: Rosa is falsely turned into a female graduate student, who has been made to feel uncomfortable, by the words of a male professor, uttered behind closed doors, and who vindictively charges him with (sexual?) harassment .

So, it looks like Adams did cleverly use the situation he was in to present himself as a conservative victim of all that is PC, and this propelled him to Clash Radio fame and Townhall glory.

In September of this year, the Wilmington Star News carried a profile on Adams, to which some of his colleagues contributed:

Now, as a man who maintains that “feminist scholar” is an oxymoron along the lines of “jumbo shrimp,” and believes that homosexuality is incompatible with the Bible, Dr. Adams is a divisive character of the first order. Some think he provokes debate; others think he’s a hack and a hatchet man.

“He’s a valuable asset at the university,” said Lee Johnston, a professor of political science at UNCW who likens Dr. Adams to the boy who says the emperor has no clothes. “A university is supposed to be a place of dialogue, of examining ideas. You can’t examine an idea if everybody says the same thing on everything.”

“He’s a pathological liar,” said Lynne Snowden, also an associate professor in the Sociology and Criminal Justice Department.

In his chapter “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Dr. Adams accuses her of making unsubstantiated sexual harassment complaints against the former department chairman and of being of being of questionable mental health. She said she thinks Dr. Adams is mentally unbalanced. She said she had not read his book.

Adams posted online the section of his book dealing with Snowden after this article appeared. It’s a rather odd account in which Snowden appears at a meeting making accusations of harassment and, more bizarrely, of someone damaging a watchstrap. The question is not so much whether Adams is making it up or not as what the point is he’s trying to make. Is he just getting revenge on Snowden for something, or is the message the rather boorish one that women, especially those who claim harassment, are nuts? Or the commonplace one that sometimes people don’t always tell the truth?

Despite his sneer that ‘”feminist scholar” is an oxymoron’, Adams is very thin skinned when it comes to religion, and would find the parallel statement that ‘”Christian scholar” is an oxymoron’ an affront of Neroic proportions. Many of his columns deal with supposed persecution of Christian groups on campuses, and he now paints his dispute with Boseman as one of Evangelicals being persecuted for daring to offend a homosexual. The facts are simply that, during the election campaign, a one-time co-writer with Adams named Charlton Allen (who had founded the conservative collegiate magazine at UNC) decided to publish an advert attacking Boseman for being gay and accepting support from a gay lobby group called the Victory Fund. Said the advert:

The FIRST Openly Gay or Lesbian State Senator in North Carolina History

What is Julia Boseman’s Agenda?

Julia Boseman seeks to become the first openly gay or lesbian legislator in North Carolina. She has been soliciting and accepting thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from outside the state gay and lesbian organizations and individuals. She even held a Washington, DC fundraiser (a “Champagne Brunch”) on October 3rd at the home of known lesbian activists.

…we felt it was important for you to know the truth as represented in the excerpts from victoryfund.org…

As a result of this piece of work the Wilmington Star dropped its support for Woody White (Boseman’s rival) and, afterwards, Boseman won the election. But this was not because Allen miscalculated – according to Adams, it was because White had been smeared as a hater. The smug and legalistic Adams would have us note that the above contains nothing that was untrue or was not taken from the Victory Fund website. Those of us who detect an appeal to homophobia are no doubt just out to abuse good Christians.

However, Boseman has also threatened Adams with defamation proceedings, as Adams had claimed that the child being raised by Boseman and her partner was the biological child of Boseman’s brother, when she claims the sperm was from an anonymous bank. Adams was reduced to bluster, claiming that Boseman had not corrected the draft article he had sent her, so it was her fault rather than his, and he followed this up with some sneering about the immorality of using a sperm bank (one wonders if Adams actually wrote Allen’s advert, as in both cases much of the condemnation is in the tone rather than the wording.). In his latest article, however, he seems to plead justification, claiming inside knowledge of Boseman’s family affairs. He also, though, subtly changes the terms of his accusation, again relying on legalism: he now says that he merely noted that Boseman was raising her nephew (i.e. that her partner is the biological mother). However, the word “nephew” does not appear in the allegedly defaming article, although there are a number of cracks about inbreeding (i.e. hinting strongly, but not actually saying, that Boseman is the biological mother of her brother’s biological child).

So, will this fizzle out? Will Boseman launch a court case that will confirm Snowden’s opinion that Adams is indeed a “pathological liar”? Or will she, like Fuller, serve only to further the media career of one of the cleverest conservative demagogues in the business today?

(Updated and expanded)

Mengele’s Moustache

I’m a bit busy at the moment; in the meantime as a filler here’s a nice detail about the last days of Joseph Mengele, courtesy of The Guardian:

Fear of being discovered made him chew the ends of his moustache, resulting in a ball of hair blocking his intestines.

Israeli Charities Help Neo-Pentecostals Evangelise Beslan Victims

A couple of weeks ago Israeli newspaper Maariv International reported on a therapeutic visit to Israel for Beslan survivors:

Thirty-eight residents of Beslan, including 18 children who survived the school carnage in the town, arrived this (Sunday) morning at the Haifa Port and will be guests of the city of Ashkelon in the next three weeks.

The initiators of the visit, city mayor Roni Mahatzari [of Ashkelon] and Moshe Mano of “Mano Shipping”, have expressed hope they would be able to provide their guests with three weeks of great experiences that would hopefully help them deal with their tragedy…The City of Ashkelon, the Even Ezer Foundation and the Organization of Olim from the Caucuses financed the trip.

And what “great experiences” are on offer? Maariv does not say, but some rather unexpected details that are reported on ASSIST, courtesy of an interview with Pastor Bradley Antolovich. Antolovich is the head of Calvary Chapel Jerusalem, a Messianic Jewish congregation that is also part of part of Chuck Smith’s Mesa-based neo-Pentecostal church grouping. Antolovitch has visited Beslan to undertake humanitarian work, and is not one to pass up on an evangelising opportunity:

“Although our return trip to Beslan was delayed, the Lord arranged for eighteen children who survived the massacre (along with their families) to visit Israel this week!”

Over the next two days, these families will be touring Jerusalem, visiting primarily Christian sites, Antolovich said.

“The Lord has blessed For Zion’s Sake [a Calvary Chapel Ministry] with the means to sponsor their tour, provide a believing tour guide fluent in Russian, and see that they are accompanied by Russian-speaking believers from our congregation.

…”The families will be joining us here at the fellowship for lunch and children’s worship. Each child will receive a gift and a Russian Bible. The day will end with a visit to the Garden Tomb where we will bring the gospel message and invite all to receive Christ!”

The Garden Tomb was the tomb of Christ “discovered” by General Gordon during the nineteenth century, and is now run by British Evangelicals. Most Russians will be more familiar with the far more ancient site of the Basilica of the Anastasis (known in the west as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre). But the question is: are Israeli organisations so desperate to keep in with Christian Zionists that they are willing to hand over traumatised Russian children to be converted to Charismatic Protestantism?

More details on Bradley Antolovich can be found here.

Anti-Muslim or Anti-Arab?

David Aaronovitch is a liberal hawk, but one who manages to avoid the bombastic rhetoric and sometimes wilful misrepresentations of opponents that one finds in the work of his fellow Brit Christopher Hitchens. For his pro-war views, and for attacks on Islamic fundamentalism, he has received a certain amount of abuse (some of it anti-Semitic) from Islamists and others. His latest Guardian piece looks at Submission, the short film that recently led to the murder of its director, Theo van Gogh (which in turn appears to be doing a good job of turning the Netherlands into 1970s Northern Ireland). Aaronovitch is appalled as the rest of us by the murder, but he is also troubled by the film:

What the film suggests is that, somehow, domestic violence and rape are linked to specifically Muslim ways of seeing the world and the relationship between men and women. Given the fact that the film is made by a non-Muslim (indeed, by a noted critic of Islam), the effect is disturbing. What is the film-maker’s intention? Who is the film aimed at?

Imagine a similar film being made here featuring Lubavitcher Jews and suggesting the plight, say, of a child in a closed community. The child might talk about paedophilia in one of the many unregulated weekend classes, about the code of silence, all set against the background of a seven-branched candlestick, with the words of the Torah passing across her body. Then suppose it was made, not by a Lubavitcher, but by a rightwing member of the Conservative party, who had once called a Jew, a “Christ-killer”, as Van Gogh once described a Muslim as a “goat-fucker”.

…The story of Muslims is of a backward, super-sensitive religion which mistreats women and suppresses dissent. It is as true and as useful as the story of Jews, and, if we keep on telling it, leads to a similar place.

I would agree with Aaronovitch’s analysis – and it also reflects why I find sites like JihadWatch and Little Green Footballs so distasteful, despite the need to expose Islamist fundamentalism unapologetically. But there is something more going on here. Submission was not just made by a non-Muslim, as Aaronovitch claims: the script was provided by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim of Somali origin. Ali’s forthright rejection of her religion makes me recall Ibn Warraq, the ex-Muslim who works for the secularisation of Islamic society. However, Warraq attacks not just Islamists and, as a secularist and rationalist, Islamic doctrines, but also the memory of Edward Said. Ibn Warraq’s name is somewhat deceptive: it is a pseudonym, and he is in fact of South Asian origin; neither he nor Ali are Arabs. Could it be that these undoubtedly brave and important figures are not just determined to free society from the Islamic confines that blighted their early lives, but are also motivated by animus against the Arabs who brought the ideas that so oppressed them?

Meanwhile, in the USA the racist commentators at LGF and JihadWatch are far more prone to identify the Muslims they so despise as Arabs, rather than (say) Malaysians or Turks (the obvious reasons for this does not excuse it); Jack Wheeler can call Arabs pederasts at WorldNet Daily without causing controversy; Mike Evans can create a best-selling Biblical exegesis that claims the very creation of the Arabs was against God’s will. While Aaronovitch sees “domestic violence and rape…linked to specifically Muslim ways of seeing the world” in Submission, I wonder if in fact we’re supposed to think of domestic violence and rape as linked to the Arab man?  Jeff Sharlet recently wrote that Muslim-hating has become mainstream. But perhaps it is anti-Arab racism that is making the strongest strides.

Rise of the “theo-cons”?

As the debate over the influence of religion in American public life rumbles on, Europeans ponder similar issues. Writing recently in The Guardian, Peter Preston observed:

I happened to be in Malta last week, discussing the case of Rocco Buttiglione in a university lecture theatre. Malta, number 25 on the EU membership list, not only doesn’t have abortion, it doesn’t have divorce either. (Its new Brussels commissioner was hugely relieved to get the fisheries brief; he’d probably have taken bread as well.)

Not far from the university, on the other side of the Grand Harbour, stand the great bastions where the Knights of St John held sway; and the order’s churches seem to dominate every street in Valletta. They are part of all our history, of a crusading Christian Europe militant to defend Jerusalem and spread the word by force of arms.

This history hasn’t ended. Not, of course, in the great balloon of al-Qaida that dogs every policy. Not in Bosnia or Kosovo, as Islam and Christianity fail to coexist. Not in Cyprus, north and south. Not between faiths in Northern Ireland. Not when Turkey’s EU membership is on the table and the opponents talk “Christian Europe”. Not when the charge against Buttiglione is led by German MEPs dubbing him “an acolyte of the Pope”. Not when mainstream conservatism in Strasbourg – the one that excludes our Tories – is Christian Democrat.

Since being obliged to withdraw as a candidate for becoming an EU Commissioner, Buttliglione has emerged as the leader of a movement dubbed by the media as the “theo-cons” (it’s not clear if that is a word he uses himself). According to The Tablet (a reliable source), Buttligione would appear to have been shafted by secularists:

Buttiglione was widely reported as describing homosexuality as a sin. In fact, he told the parliamentary committee vetting him: ‘Many things may be considered immoral which should not be prohibited. I may think that homosexuality is a sin, and this has no effect on politics, unless I say that homosexuality is a crime.’

The word ‘sin’ does not belong in the political sphere, he said. It was his questioner, not Buttiglione himself, who first used the word. For politicians the problem was discrimination, not sin, and Buttiglione was ’emphatically against discrimination’.

Speaking at Milan’s Teatro Nuovo, Buttiglione declared that in the eyes of the EU Parliament he was a “Catholic witch” to be burned, and he vowed to “battle for the freedom of Christians”. According to the BBC, Buttiglione was endorsed at the event (described as a “debate” for some reason) by Giuliano Ferrara, a former spokesman for Silvio Berlusconi, who said that

there is a cultural war happening which has to be fought with force and virtue

Ferrara is an ex-communist and, according to AGI, is a “devoted atheist”. He edits Il Foglio, a small-circulation newspaper, and wrote an editorial on the Buttiglione decision entitled “Out with the Christian, in with the Freemason”. The Tablet also adds:

Buttiglione has taken heart from the re-election of George W. Bush as President of the United States. Evangelicals and the majority of American Catholics have resisted the individualism that is the legacy of the culture of the Sixties and Seventies, he says. They have instead affirmed the idea of the family. The Democrats, he believes, have been perceived as a party without a soul, believing in minority rights but with no ideas for the majority. The choice for Europe, he thinks, is to go the way of America at least in its rejection of secularism, or to decay.

Meanwhile, British Evangelical theologian Alister McGrath has a new book out, The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World, in which he argues that religion is making a come-back globally. According to a review in The Toronto Star:

In spite of dire declarations that God had died, there has been a phenomenal post-modern, global religious resurgence. Evidence of a change is reflected in popular New Age “spirituality,” for example; or the global rise of evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity. There has been a revival of Orthodox Judaism, and significant growth in militant Islam…In post-atheistic Russia, for example, there has been a remarkable rebirth of religious interest…Atheism foundered on the shoals of rigidity and orthodoxy; two of the very elements it had rejected in religion.

But, I have to ask: what does all this mean? Yes, secularists in continental Europe, whether from the Left or the libertarian Right, are often somewhat heavy-handed, for historical reasons (the UK is different), but does the fact that Buttligione made a speech in a theatre constitute a consequential backlash? Yes, the socio-cultural phenomenon of postmodernity allows more room for identity politics, which brings in religion (seen most dramatically at the moment in the Netherlands), but how far does that impact on the organisation of European society as a whole? “New Age” spirituality appeals to a few middle class people, but not enough that adherents are prepared to give their lives over to its advance; the Pentecostal and Charismatic revivals have slowed the decline of Protestantism, as Protestants switched from dour Baptist churches and the like, but since its hey-day in the 1980s demand has peaked (see books by Steve Bruce); the fact that a peasant society that not so long ago venerated pictures of Stalin and Lenin has turned back to its icons is less than surprising.

McGrath’s reviewer (I haven’t been able to see the book itself) also makes the mistake of tracing atheism to various intellectuals: the usual suspects of Voltaire, Fuerbach, Marx, Freud and Darwin. But this ignores the real engine of secularisation, which is modernisation. The EU constitution has no religious reference points, not because its drafters have deferred to non-believing intellectuals, but because it is a managerial and bureaucratic document. High-blown rhetoric, whether religious or idealistic in any other way, just sounds silly in such a context. Of course, the matter of religion in public life is not completely settled, although it is more so than in the USA, where a culture of populism trumps the church-state divide. Most people in Western Europe, for example, take the view that what science consists of should be determined by scientists, rather than by religious lobbies working with politicians. The “individualism” Buttiglione objects to may have its unattractive elements, but what exactly does he propose as an alternative? I fail to see how the USA has “affirmed the idea of the family”, although I understand that banning the minority of people who wish to marry a member of their own gender from doing so is supposed to assist the family in some mystical way.

You can call this state of affairs good or bad, but there it is. Whether it can be reversed is impossible to say, although I am doubtful. Personally, I hope Europe will learn from the UK, where secular space developed hand-in-hand with religious toleration over the period 1688-1889, when the last religious tests were abolished in Scotland (although some sectarianism remains in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and there is residual anti-Roman Catholic legislation in relation to the monarchy), and where there is a long tradition of immigration. This offers a more flexible model for secularism than that which emerged from the anti-clerical conflicts in France and elsewhere, and which has now succeeded in creating the first “theo-con” martyr.

Callum Brown, author of the excellent book The Death of Christian Britain, responded to Preston’s Guardian piece the next day:

Peter Preston is wrong in his religious analysis (Britain, not the US, is the odd one out, November 8). All the evidence points to the emergence of a common European secular culture in the last 40 years, which now encompasses Scandinavia, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Iberia. This is marked by an unparalleled decline of churchgoing, formal religious affiliation, belief in God and the Christian afterlife, as well as by increasing secularisation of the state and of personal identity. Former Catholic and staunch Protestant heartlands do not seem immune, and we can see secularisation gathering speed in Poland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Nor is it right to dismiss Britons (or Europeans) as morally unstirrable. The re-moralisation of Europe around postcolonial sensibilities and environmental issues displays a new focus on respect for the body and the planet as the intellectual basis for moral development.

Callum Brown
Professor of religious and cultural history
University of Dundee

This seems to me a sensible assessment.

******

 The Tablet also has an interesting titbit on Buttliglione:

Buttiglione, 56, is a friend of Pope John Paul II and father of four daughters. He is also a member of Communion and Liberation, a charismatic movement that aims to integrate faith and life through insisting on the centrality and real presence of Christ.

Communion and Liberation (CL) was founded in 1954 by Msgr. Luigi Giussani (although the name dates from 1969). CL is one of the new Catholic movements criticised by Gordon Urquhart in his The Pope’s Armada (1995); interestingly, he notes that CL appealed to “many disillusioned defectors from the extreme left” (p. 161); that may not apply to Buttiglione, but it makes the term “theo-con” perhaps even more appropriate for the general trend.

Before He Was Famous

Good old Wayback:

doug-giles-picture

Reason’s Melancholy, Long, Withdrawing Roar

Introduction

Some say that the ancient world ended in 529, when Justinian closed down the Platonic school in Athens and the last pagan philosophers took refuge in Persia. Although this was an authoritarian move, it would have had the broad support of the masses (at least, those who heard about it) who had, in the decades previously, hacked to death the philosopher Hypatia and taken to burning down synagogues. According to one quote I dug out:

The fall of philosophy…was naturally succeeded by the darkness of delusion and ignorance; by the spirit of wild fanaticism and intolerant zeal; by the loss of courage and virtue; and by the final dissolution of the empire of the world.

This is, of course, a rather romantic simplification, but it comes to mind as I survey recent reports about the political manipulation of education in the USA.

Part One

First, the teaching of Creationism in schools has been making political headway in at least six states. The strategy is not so much to teach the specific ideas put forward by Creationism (the world-wide flood etc) as to generally raise doubts about evolutionary theory. One way this is achieved is by bringing in “Intelligent Design” (ID), the idea that evolution (and more widely, the universe) is so unlikely that what science takes to be natural phenomena must have been in truth designed. As the designer is not specified (is it God or some kind of alien?), this cannot be accused of being religion. Although ID has only so far produced one peer-reviewed scientific article (and that under questionable circumstances), the Creationists use the democratic-populist impulse in American culture (this controversy is marginal in Europe) to argue a) that if a decent number of lay people are convinced of certain arguments against evolution, those arguments should be taught as science, whatever their quality and regardless of what better-educated scientists might think; and b) that using scientific criteria to decide what should be taught as science is actually a denial of free speech. They would use different words, but that’s what it amounts to.

Back in 2002, Georgia decided to add anti-evolutionary stickers to its science text-books. These are now subject to a court case, and are part of a wider campaign. The AP reports more recently:

First, Georgia’s education chief tried to take the word “evolution” out of the state’s science curriculum. Now a suburban Atlanta county is in federal court over textbook stickers that call evolution “a theory, not a fact.”…The stickers say evolution should be “critically considered.” Earlier this year, science teachers howled when state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox proposed a new science curriculum that dropped the word “evolution” in favor of “changes over time.”

That proposal was dropped, at least. The inclusion of ID Creationism in Goergia is charactered as a case of “academic freedom” by Kelly Hollowell at WorldNetDaily: “academic freedom” being term much abused these days.

In 2003 the St Paul Pioneer Press  reported from Minnesota that

Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke will ask the committee to consider an amendment that Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, tried unsuccessfully to add to the federal No Child Left Behind law. It says that when controversial topics — such as biological evolution — come up in the classroom, the curriculum should help students understand other views as well.

One of the alternatives Santorum has written about is “intelligent design,” which says an organism’s complexity is evidence of an other-worldly designer. The amendment passed the Senate and was included in a conference committee’s report, but was struck from the final version of the law.

In the following September Yecke described the situation to the Princeton Union-Eagle

The science standards include nothing about religious creationalism [sic] – that God, not random events, guided the path of development.

“You can’t teach creationalism [sic] in the classroom,” said Yecke, citing a 1987 Supreme Court decision.

Still, local school districts are free to teach the idea of intelligent design, she said.

As long God is kept as merely implicit, of course. Yecke also has strong views on history teaching, as discussed below.

Meanwhile, in March this year the Ohio Board of Education decided to include intelligent design in its science curriculum. As The Cincinnati Enquirer reported just before the decision:

On Tuesday, the Ohio Board of Education is expected to approve model science lessons – including a 10th-grade biology lesson with a critical look at the theory of evolution…”There are some people who are so worried about students inquiring as to how much we know and don’t know about the theory of evolution that they would rather have students not question it,” said state board member Deborah Owens Fink, an associate professor of marketing and international business at the University of Akron.

“Professor of marketing”, no less!

In Pennsylvania, the Dover school board (a district of 2,800 students) has drawn the same conclusion. One dissenting board member made a statement reported in The York Dispatch complaining that:

I was referred to as unpatriotic, and my religious beliefs were questioned.

The push for ID, which now means the ID book Of Pandas and People will be included as a reference text in Dover schools, has been led by William Buckingham. Quoted by the AP, Buckingham said that he was a Creationist but that the decision

is not an attempt to impose my views on anyone else

His reasoning, of course, is that he is merely asking for equal time for his Creationist ideas to be taught alongside the scientific ideas that he finds objectionable for religious reasons.

Moving on to Wisconsin (the AP yet again):

School officials have revised the science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism, prompting an outcry from more than 300 educators who urged that the decision be reversed.

Members of Grantsburg’s school board believed that a state law governing the teaching of evolution was too restrictive. The science curriculum “should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory,” said Joni Burgin, superintendent of the district of 1,000 students in northwest Wisconsin.

As with Hollowell in relation to Georgia, Agape Press sees this is as issue of “academic freedom”.

The situation in Texas was considered yesterday. In that state, Terri Leo has been trying to get ID on the school syllabus, assisted by a lobby group called Texans for Better Science Education.

Part Two

But Creationism is only one battleground. As PZ Myers pointed out recently:

It must be sad and hard to be a textbook in Texas.

Last year, the school board was trying to cut evolution out of them.

The year before, they were removing references to pollution, global warming, and overpopulation.

Oh, and now the phrase “married partners” is not to be used, because it’s too general and could include gay couples.

And health/sex ed books contain no mention of contraception. At all.

Also, as Salon reported a few months ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry gets his ideas for school financing from religious-right financier James Leininger.

However, it’s not all going the way of religious conservatives. The Organisation of American Historians takes us back to Minnesota, where

the standardized tests teachers are now required to give often serve as a vehicle for shaping the content of the history they teach to their students. As the article by Sara Evans and Lisa Norling of the University of Minnesota found elsewhere in this issue of the OAH Newsletter describes, the struggle that developed in their state when an alliance of extreme conservative and fundamentalist Christian activists was empowered by Minnesota’s acting Commissioner of Education to reshape the state’s social studies curriculum. A highly active group of K-12 teachers allied with many parents and members of the university’s history department and defeated this attempt to impose a single ideological pattern on every schoolroom in the state where history was taught.

Evans and Norling report that:

Under the guidance of Commissioner Cheri Yecke, her handpicked “citizens committee” of parents, teachers, school administrators, and political operatives produced a first draft of social studies standards in a very brief time (about three weeks)… When we read the DOE proposed standards, we too were shocked by its factual errors, omissions, evident biases, explicit political and cultural agenda, and its general sloppiness, inconsistencies, and incoherence. We were particularly distressed – and inspired to action – [typo corrected here – RB] by the obvious rejection of both the expertise of professional scholars (who were conspicuously excluded from the process) and of several generations worth of scholarship and the knowledge it has produced.

They found

serious omissions, such as the failure to consider the impact of slavery as an institution on American society, the total absence of mention of any rights movement of the twentieth century other than the civil rights movement, and the almost complete omission of Latin America from “world” history. We pointed out multiple examples of misleading or unbalanced details in U.S. history, government, and citizenship: for instance, the persistent conflation of the founding of our nation in 1776 with the framing of our government in 1789, the Mexican-American War as one optional example of westward expansion; and attributing the fall of communism single-handedly to Ronald Reagan. In a curriculum with strong emphasis on individual leaders only three Native Americans were listed: Pocahontas, Squanto, and Sacagawea; and of the twelve women mentioned by name throughout the proposed standards, not one was principally known for her advocacy for women’s rights.

Yecke allegedly responded that these complaints amounted to a “hate-America agenda”.

Part Three

Moving on to higher education, the OAH also notes that:

Second, foreign historians, students, and researchers are now subject to interminable review if they apply for entry to the U.S. or for renewal of green cards. The resulting delays have often been enough to deter scholars from taking up or seeking to retain positions in American institutions. In the last year alone, foreign students (especially from China) have overwhelmingly applied to other countries, rather than to the U.S. (with especially severe consequences for the sciences). The State Department’s recent action revoking the visa of the eminent Muslim scholar from Switzerland, Tariq Ramadan, and preventing him from taking up teaching duties at Notre Dame University, has attracted especially widespread attention.

As I posted at the time, even smearmeister Daniel Pipes could only come up with a very lame “worry” that Ramadan could not prove he is not secretly working for al-Qaeda. The battle against Middle Eastern studies has been going on for some time, as Salon reported a year ago, with Tom DeLay claiming that “academic freedom” really means freedom from having to hear anything critical of Israel. Just recently in New York Joseph Massad has been placed under investigation at Columbia University – not after any students made complaints to university authorities, but after a campaign from The New York Sun and Rep. Anthony Weiner. Massad’s totally unambiguous rejection of anti-Semitism (the vice of which he is unsurprisingly tarred with) and his position can be read here. And, of course, the academic study of the Middle East is also hampered by law. As The New York Times reported in February (reposted here):

Anyone who publishes material from a country under a trade embargo is forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, or replace “inappropriate words,” according to several advisory letters from the Treasury Department in recent months.

Adding illustrations is prohibited, too. To the baffled dismay of publishers, editors and translators who have been briefed about the policy, only publication of “camera-ready copies of manuscripts” is allowed.

Well, it may be that reports of the Death of Enlightenment have been rather exaggerated, but it’s certainly not in very good health at the moment…

(Some links snagged from The Panda’s Thumb, Pharyngula, AntiEvolution, Christianity Today Weblog, and the History News Network)