Archive for the “General” Category
Posts of a general nature
I’ve blogged about religious scholar — and Muslim — Reza Aslan a couple times. He’s one of those militant theists who views the existence of outspoken atheists as a threat to his precious religionism — and perhaps to his very being. Like a lot of believers, he views religion as above reproach, and anything that ever makes a religion look bad, must be waved off or ignored, because religion is wonderful and perfect and never makes anyone do anything bad. He’s gone on record as insisting that anyone who criticizes any given religion just doesn’t understand it well enough (WebCite cached article). In his mind, there can’t possibly be any such thing as a well-informed religious critic.
After having sanctimoniously gnashed his teeth over what Bill Maher said (cached), in another essay published in Salon, Aslan trained his guns on another of the “New Atheists” he desipises: Sam Harris, widely but wrongly decried as an “Islamophobe” (cached):
Not long ago, I gave an interview in which I said that my biggest problem with so-called New Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins is that they give atheism a bad name. Almost immediately, I was bombarded on social media by atheist fans of the two men who were incensed that I would pontificate about a community to which I did not belong.
That, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising. As a scholar of religions, I’m used to receiving comments like this from the communities I study. What surprised me is how many of these comments appeared to take for granted that in criticizing New Atheism I was criticizing atheism itself, as though the two are one and the same. That seems an increasingly common mistake these days, with the media and the bestseller lists dominated by New Atheist voices denouncing religion as “innately backward, obscurantist, irrational and dangerous,” and condemning those who disagree as “religious apologists.”
Having spent the last few months screeching to one and all about how horrible it is that insolent atheists have dared criticize religion, Aslan then trickles out this little dribble of disingenuity:
To be sure, there is plenty to criticize in any religion and no ideology — religious or otherwise — should be immune from criticism.
He says this as though we’re all supposed to ignore the fact that he’s spent the last couple months or so making mass media appearances and writing screeds bewailing the very idea that some insolent atheists could possibly have shown the chutzpah to dare criticize religion. Sorry, Reza, but I’m not stupid enough to buy this pretense. You might be able to fool others with this clever little caveat, but not me.
That said, the real gem within Aslan’s anti-Harris — and anti-atheist — diatribe is this bit, which is part of his explanation of the origins of the term “atheist”:
To the Greeks, an atheist didn’t necessarily reject the existence of the gods. He merely acted as though the gods did not exist or were unaware of his actions. Unfortunately, this historical connection between lack of belief and lack of morals is one that still plagues atheism today, despite studies showing atheists to be, as a whole, less prejudiced [cached], less willing to condone violence [cached], and more tolerant [cached] of sexual, ethnic and cultural differences than many faith communities.
Hopefully you immediately see the significance of this. If not, allow me to point it out: Aslan has continuously condemned atheism and promoted religionism — which presumes to make people better than they would be without it — yet admits, explicitly, that religion doesn’t actually do any such thing.
I almost wonder why Aslan included these sentences within his condemnation of atheism, since it so incredibly departs from the position he and the rest of his fellow religionists have staked out. But he said it, and I can only presume … especially since he added links to external sources (which I preserved above) … that he meant it.
I won’t even get into Aslan’s laughable claim that the “New Atheists” are “fundamentalists.” There’s a very simple reason they can’t be “fundamentalists,” because they have no “fundamentals” to rely on (unlike, say, Christian fundamentalists, whose “fundamentals” are their Bibles and their literalist doctrine). Aslan does predicate his declaration that Sam Harris et al are “atheist fundamentalists” on a definition of “fundamentalism,” but it’s one he’s cherry-picked to serve his wishes, and it veers quite wide of what the term actually means.
Finally, as a general observation, please note the vehemence with which Aslan condemns “anti-atheists” on the grounds of their (as he sees it) irrational intolerance, without taking into account that his own anti-atheism has the same foundation. This makes Aslan something of a hypocrite.
Note: To be fair, while I criticize Aslan in this post, previously I’ve defended his right to write about Jesus. But that problem — i.e. a Muslim like Aslan being told by American Christians that he’s not allowed to write books about their Jesus — is just one more example of the irrational and muddled thinking that religion promotes.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
, atheist fundamentalism
, new atheism
, new atheists
, reza aslan
, sam harris
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Most families will do everything possible to save the lives of their members. That is, after all, the rational thing to do. That said, not all families are that rational. Some place their metaphysics above everything … including life itself. Occasionally these lunatic nutcases even get help from others in their effort to kill their own members over metaphysics. The Hamilton (ON) Spectator reports a provincial judge just gave this sort of “help” to First Nations families in Canada (WebCite cached article):
Aboriginal children now have the right to refuse life-saving medical treatment in favour of traditional healing.
A “precedent-setting” ruling made that clear Friday in the case of a First Nations girl refusing chemotherapy.
But it has nothing to do with whether aboriginal medicine works.
Instead, it’s about Canada’s constitution protecting aboriginal rights.
Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward has now expanded those rights to include traditional healing, saying: “There is no question it forms an integral part.”
It’s great to see judges so obsessed with adhering strictly to the letter of the law — as they see it — that they’re willing to make certain that people die, all over Canada, for no valid reason. Why let nasty little things like rationality get in the way of that?
What makes this even worse than the fact that two little girls are likely to die soon, is the giddiness with which this decision has been embraced:
“This is monumental for our people all across the country,” Six Nations Chief Ava Hill said after the ruling in Brantford.
“This is precedent-setting for us.”
First Nations spectators in the standing-room-only courtroom burst into applause and tears as Edward dismissed an application by McMaster Children’s Hospital to have the girl apprehended by Brant Family and Children’s Services and forced into treatment.
“I feel I’ve transcended something bigger than all of us,” said the girl’s aunt when she phoned the mother to deliver the news.
These people have doomed not just one, but two girls — as well as unknown numbers of future children — to certain death. And they’ve got the audacity to applaud themselves over it. How fucking disgraceful!
Justice Edward errs by viewing the effectiveness of conventional medicine as the “western medical paradigm,” or a mere cultural viewpoint. The truth is, it’s no such thing, and for the Justice to say so is a lie. Science-based medicine is not a paradigm or “viewpoint,” any more than — say — the laws of gravitation are just a “viewpoint”: One doesn’t merely opine or fantasize that an object will fall to the floor if one drops it, one knows it will, because the mechanism of gravity has been worked out and it’s predictable. Similarly, science-based medicine works toward rational conclusions based upon objective evidence. There’s nothing “viewpoint-y” about it. Treatments are evaluated and their effectiveness measured.
Metaphysical medicine, on the other hand, has no objective basis whatsoever. People just conjure shit up and do it, then tell themselves it worked, without understanding physiological mechanisms, and without even caring about effectiveness. They rely on appeals to tradition as well as other fallacies, confuse the placebo effect with actual recovery from a condition, and bellyache and whine about how “Big Pharma” profits from conventional medicine, therefore it must all be a lie (conveniently failing to mention that a lot of alternative-medicine practitioners make a lot of money peddling their bullshit, nonsense, and lies).
Put bluntly, wishing (as I do) that First Nations children all have an opportunity to survive into adulthood, is not an imposition of western cultural values on Canada’s aboriginal peoples. It’s a desire that they live, so long as it’s possible … and nothing more.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: aboriginal medicine
, alternative medicine
, ava hill
, chief ava hill
, conventional medicine
, first nations
, gethin edward
, justice gethin edward
, mcmaster children's hospital
, medicine man
, science-based medicine
, traditional medicine
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Lately it seems the stories of primitive Islamofascist barbarism emanate mostly from the hinterlands of Syria and Iraq, with ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood. And it’s true they’re responsible for a lot of it. But we can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that primitive Islamofascist barbarism can be found in other parts of the Muslim world, too. A case in point is this NBC News story about a Christian couple in Pakistan who were burned alive (WebCite cached article):
A mob accused of burning alive a Christian couple in an industrial kiln in Pakistan allegedly wrapped a pregnant mother in cotton so she would catch fire more easily, according to family members who witnessed the attack.
Sajjad Maseeh, 27, and his wife Shama Bibi, 24, were set upon by at least 1,200 people after rumors circulated that they had burned verses from the Quran, family spokesman Javed Maseeh told NBC News via telephone late Thursday. Their legs were also broken so they couldn’t run away.
“They picked them up by their arms and legs and held them over the brick furnace until their clothes caught fire,” he said. “And then they threw them inside the furnace.”
This is yet another example of the murderous, sanctimonious rage that kicks up within Muslim communities whenever they get the notion that someone has burned a Qur’an (or might do so, but hasn’t yet). I’ve gone on the record as saying book-burning of any kind is stupid, mostly because it doesn’t do anything except display one’s anger over something. But going as far as burning people alive over it is — obviously! — excessive. After all, even though it’s a useless gesture, by the same token, book-burning doesn’t actually harm anyone or anything. If one burns a copy of a book, all one has done is to burn a copy of it; the book itself, and more especially the ideas within it, remain. This is doubly true in the case of the Qur’an, one of the most widely-published books on the planet.
I’m sure Islam’s defenders will claim this heinous double murder was the act of just a “lunatic fringe” (cached), a mere handful of extremists who don’t represent Muslims generally, or even their local community. In this case, however, that’s absolutely untrue; 1,200 people set upon and murdered them, in a spectacularly savage way that none of them possibly could have been ignorant of; e.g.:
Bibi, a mother of four who was four months pregnant, was wearing an outfit that initially didn’t burn, according to Javed Maseeh. The mob removed her from over the kiln and wrapped her up in cotton to make sure the garments would be set alight.
At this point, I can’t see how anyone can rationally avoid admitting that there is quite obviously a problem within the Muslim world, if events as large and as barbaric as this can occur. It’s not really the “religion of peace” it’s frequently said to be. Yeah, I know the prime minister of Pakistan has promised “justice” in this case, but the fact that a huge mob of 1,200 people could have done such a thing in the first place is where the real problem lies; how the government reacts hardly matters, after-the-fact. Making it all worse, Pakistan’s courts have a strong Islamofascist bias, to the point I doubt much will happen to any of the folks who’ve been arrested over this incident. So the prime minister’s promises largely ring hollow.
As my own protest against this kind of religiofascistic savagery in the name of preventing “blasphemy,” I’ve used a picture of a burned Qur’an at the top of this post. If this decision angers you, that’s fine by me. Go right ahead and be angry, if it makes you feel better to do so! Throw a tantrum, if you’d like. I don’t fucking care.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
, book burning
, koran burning
, mob attack
, qur'an burning
, religion of peace
, sajjad maseeh
, shama bibi
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Iowa’s Rep. Steve King is a faithful, devout Catholic — or so he says. He hews strictly to the RC hierarchs’ line on all things. One of those, is gays. You know, that class of human beings the hierarchs just a few days ago couldn’t stomach having to admit have any value as human beings (WebCite cached article) — even though Pope Francis had given them an opportunity to do so (cached). Like most of the bishops, Rep King also doesn’t think much of gays. As the Jefferson (IA) Herald reports, he made that very clear in an interview (cached):
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, suggests gays won’t make it to heaven.
What’s more, in an interview, King intimated that the divorced or cohabitators could be thwarted in the pursuit of eternal salvation as the Christian faith teaches it.
Those assessments from the conservative western Iowa congressman came during his forceful takes on a preliminary document released by a collection of Catholic bishops that calls for broader acceptance of homosexuals and people who are divorced or living together without being married.
“I would say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and we need to stick to that principle,” King said in an interview with The Jefferson Herald.…
King declined to say whether he thought divorce or cohabitation are sins.
“I think that I’ll not comment on that part,” King said. “I’ll just say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and people that were condemned to hell 2,000 years ago, I don’t expect to meet them should I make it to heaven. So let’s stick with that principle.”
Like a lot of Christians, King singles out gays for extra-special contempt, because — in Christians’ view — being gay is a “sin” and therefore gays are “sinners.” But it’s not clear how this actually makes gays appreciably worse than anyone else, because according to longstanding Christian doctrine — and as stated explicitly in holy scripture — all human beings are “sinners”:
… all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
So if King is saying he doesn’t expect to see any gays in heaven because they’re all “sinners” who will never get there, then he’s also saying he won’t see anyone there, since everyone is a “sinner.” In fact, that means he, himself, can’t possibly get to heaven in the first place; heaven will be empty and void (of humans, anyway). This whole thing about him condemning the “sins” of some (i.e. gays) while being a “sinner” himself, calls to mind another scriptural passage:
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him [Jesus], “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. 2 So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:3-7)
As for things that were “sins” 2,000 years ago being “sins” today … that’s questionable. For instance, the Bible says slaves should be obedient and work hard, lest Christians and their God look bad if they don’t:
Those who are under the yoke of slavery must regard their masters as worthy of full respect, so that the name of God and our teaching may not suffer abuse. (1 Timothy 6:1)
Elsewhere, slaves are enjoined to be obedient and happy with their state:
Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ … (Ephesians 6:5)
Slaves, obey your human masters in everything, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but in simplicity of heart, fearing the Lord. (Colossians 3:22)
Modern civilization has totally rejected the idea of slavery, and believe it to be a repulsive institution, so the idea that it’s “sin” for slaves not to be totally obedient and cooperative is, likewise, repulsive to us, almost 2,000 years after these words were penned.
King’s nasty, hateful remarks sparked a backlash, as one would expect. His reaction to the feedback is, in a word, bizarre. He’s simultaneously claiming never to have said them, and claiming to stand by them (cached):
In response, King simultaneously stood by what he said and claimed that the story was “false” and had been “fabricated.”
“What I said was it’s between them and God. And I said what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today. That was what I said. And I stand on what I said, and they’ve manufactured this,” he insisted.
Typical asinine doublespeak. It’s true, as the Jefferson Herald reported in its story, that King did mention the part about it being “between them and God.” But that’s entirely beside the point. When he says of gays that he doesn’t “expect to meet them should I make it to heaven,” he’s not conceding that some might end up there because “it’s between them and God.” He’s saying God will never allow them in! Also, it’s illogical for him to “stand on what [he] said” but then say his words were “fabricated” and “manufactured” by others. It’s just nonsensical.
King’s claim that his own attested words were “fabricated” places him in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. I’m sure he’ll be very happy there.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Hat tip: Raw Story.
, christian right
, jefferson cty IA
, kiron IA
, religious right
, steve king
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As I’ve said so many times, the ubiquity of “ghost hunting” shows on television has caused the numbers of “paranormal investigators” in the US to proliferate ridiculously. Anyone can now grab a light meter or EMF detector and pretend to be able to locate ghosts, demons, specters, goblins, poltergeists, devils, orbs, wraiths, etc. Really, it’s anybody’s game now, since there are no specific methods, no rules, no certification, no specifics, no credentials … just tromp around like an idiot waving your device around and yammer about “entities” and “auras” and all of that assorted parapsychological gibberish.
Most of the time this is harmless stuff. Sure, you have the occasional bonehead standing on a railroad track waiting for a “ghost train” to come along only to be killed by a real one, or the occasional ghost-hunter who trespasses and gets arrested (WebCite cached article) … but for the most part the only cost is the amount of time paranormal investigators waste on their fluff and nonsense.
That said, the good people of the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash, OH are dealing with folks who think there’s a “portal to hell” there. As WCPO-TV reports, a neighborhood is disrupted and police have been getting lots of calls (cached):
There’s a portal to hell in Blue Ash.
That is, if you listen to paranormal investigators, teenagers and folks who like to get spooked.
“It’s one of the best known, but least seen, urban legends around here,” CreepyCincinnati.com blogger Rick Fenbers said. “A group of Satanists supposedly used to meet there in some type of altar room and conduct their rituals… They must have been pretty good, because the legend claims they managed to open a doorway to hell.”
But what Fenbers and others call “Satan’s Hollow,” neighbors and cops call a nightmare.…
“It’s rough on the homeowners,” Blue Ash Police Lt. Steve Schueler said. “People park in their driveway and try to get into the drainage system and nobody likes that. (The owner) has had to chase off some people, for sure.”
Now, if I were the superstitious type and truly thought this was an actual “portal to hell,” I definitely wouldn’t be going anywhere near it. So I’m not sure why “true believers” would want to venture there. Then again, their way of thinking is alien to me, so how could I hope to comprehend it?
The bottom line is that people need to fucking grow the hell up, put away the Mel meters and EVP recorders and all of that assorted trash, and get on with their little lives already. Don’t disrupt the lives of others just because you think you can venture into hell via a storm sewer just outside Cincinnati. Enough is enough, fercryinoutloud!
Photo credit: Rick Fenbers / CreepyCincinnati.Com, via WCPO-TV.
Tags: blue ash OH
, ghost hunter
, ghost hunters
, ghost hunting
, paranormal investigator
, paranormal investigators
, portal to hell
, rick fenbers
, satan's hollow
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I just blogged about some insane reactions to the Ebola outbreak. But now I’d like to comment on some Christianists using it as a promotional tool. This isn’t new for them, of course; their appeals to what I call “disaster theology” are old hat. There’s a reason they use this tactic: First, because people talk a lot about disasters and crises, and they’re well-covered in the media, so these guys hope to ride these stories to more attention than they’d have gotten otherwise; and second, because it’s a way of playing on fear, and fear is a way of hooking their audience, and — they hope! — reel in more donations.
The first example comes from Pastor John Hagee and is reported by Right Wing Watch with accompanying video (WebCite cached article):
“I want every American to hear this very clearly,” Hagee said, citing Joel 3 to warn that God will judge any nation that seeks to divide up Israel and declaring that “our president is dead set on dividing Jerusalem. God is watching and he will bring America into judgment.”
“There are grounds to say that judgment has already begun,” Hagee continued, “because he, the president, has been fighting to divide Jerusalem for years now.”
“We are now experiencing the crisis of Ebola,” he stated, as well as threats from Islamic radicals and even civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri all as a result of God’s judgment on America due to Obama’s policies
Hagee is a rabid Christian Zionist, one of those Christians who claims to love and support Israel, but what they’re really doing is agitating for that nation to (somehow) trigger Armageddon. (Specifically, what they hope is that Israel will do something to elicit a massive attack from “the kings of the east” as related in Revelation 16:12.)
Now, I have no idea why he thinks President Obama is “dividing up Israel.” My guess is he’s referring to the “two-state solution.” Unfortunately for the obnoxious little troll Hagee, that isn’t Obama’s invention. Not at all! It actually predates him by decades. In fact, it predates even the creation of Israel (and therefore predates Obama’s birth!). Its origins can be traced to the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the Peel Commission in 1937. Of course, that partition never happened, nor did the subsequent UN partition proposal which came along 10 years later. The current manifestation of the “two-state solution” began with the Oslo Accords in 1993; since then, it has been the policy of every US president — Democrat (Clinton, Obama) and Republican (the Younger Bush) — to pursue a two-state solution. It’s no more Obama’s policy than it was Bush’s or Clinton’s, nor is it (in principle, anyway) much different from any number of other plans that have been floated for the last few decades. (And I’ll leave alone the fact that Israel was “divided” in ancient times by the Hebrews themselves.) Why God would choose this particular moment to savage the country with Ebola, when Palestine-division plans had been tossed around for most of the 20th century and all of this one to date, isn’t really evident. At least, Hagee doesn’t bother to explain it.
The troll’s claims about Ebola being a pestilence sent due to “Obama’s” plan to divide Israel, conflict with what another pastor has said about it. A North Carolina pastor, Raw Story reports, says it’s because gay marriage is now legal, and the epidemic will grow worse as new states enact it (cached):
A Baptist pastor is warning that God will escalate the Ebola crisis when North Carolina begins performing same-sex marriages.
During his Sunday sermon following a series of court actions that effectively struck down North Carolina’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, Berean Baptist Church Pastor Pastor Ron Baity suggested that homosexuality was a sign of the End Times.
“So the book of the Revelation is about End Times events and what happens when this world is destroyed by fire, when the stars and the universe and the sun and the moon, like untimely figs cast from a tree, are just completely done away with and annihilated,” he said, telling his congregation to focus on what the Bible said would happen before that.
“Listen, folks, it’s on,” he announced. “You might as well get ready for it. It’s on. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to say to the churches… It’s just a matter of time before our constitution in our churches will be overturned like our state constitution just been overturned this week. I mean, it’s coming.”…
“You think Ebola is bad now, just wait. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else. My friends, I want you to understand, you can’t thumb your nose at God, and God turn his head away without God getting your attention.”
Of course, Baity threw into this sanctimoniously-outraged sermon the obligatory references to Sodom and Gomorrah, referring to the common Abrahamic-religious legend that YHWH incinerated those two cities because of homosexuality — even though this assumption isn’t really supported by the Bible itself. Like most Christofascists, little Ronnie is upset over the existence of gays and would rather they all went away so he wouldn’t have to deal with them or have to treat them like fellow human beings.
Expect more, not less, of this sort of thing as the Ebola crisis keeps getting the mass media’s attention. Fierce religionists aren’t going to turn up their noses at something that useful.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: barack obama
, berean baptist church
, disaster theology
, ebola epidemic
, ebola outbreak
, ebola outbreak 2014
, gay marriage
, john hagee
, pastor john hagee
, pastor ron baity
, president barack obama
, president obama
, ron baity
, san antonio TX
, winston-salem NC
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It’s old news by now that Ebola virus has been on a tear through three different west African countries. It’s also not news that a man came to Texas from Liberia carrying Ebola and eventually died of it in a Dallas, TX hospital. What’s more, it’s also not news that two nurses who’d cared for him have contracted it (cached). All of that is bad enough. But the reaction to these stories has been … well, the phrase “fucking insane” may not quite do it justice.
First, we have the inevitable political reaction from Republicans using this as another way of tearing into Barack Obama’s hide. Their reactions range from the calm yet still irrational, demand that the CDC’s director resign (cached), which will accomplish nothing whatsoever, as well as demanding travel bans from the affected countries (cached), which also isn’t likely to do much good, to the extreme and ridiculous, such as bundling several crises into one big, neat package of hate, sanctimony, and paranoia by claiming ISIS/ISIL/IS fighters have contracted Ebola and are (cached) trying to get over the country’s southern border to infect Americans en masse (cached) — there is, of course, no evidence of any such conspiracy. And then there’s the garden-variety wingnut Religious Right wackiness of claiming Obama caused (cached) the Ebola crisis as a way of “taking over” or something (cached) — as though that makes any sense at all.
But on top of all this, we have a number of other asinine reactions (cached):
That’s not the limit of the insanity, but it’s enough to illustrate what I’m talking about. It really needs to fucking stop already.
I’m with Shepard Smith of Fox News. Please watch as he decimates the (largely media-driven) insanity:
Smith cites influenza, which annually kills thousands of Americans, as a much greater danger than Ebola, but I can think of another, that being Enterovirus D68, which currently is something of a problem in the US. Although Ebola is more deadly than either of these, Americans are incredibly less likely to contract it. Which means it’s not something they have any reason to be terrified about. The panicking lunacy is enough to make me tag this post “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”
OK, people, I get it. You don’t want Ebola. Really, I understand. I don’t want it either. But this blind panic isn’t going to help you avoid it. I’ll tell you what will: Calm down, grow up, and get over it, fercryinoutloud!
Photo credit: SouthernBreeze, via Flickr.
Tags: 2014 ebola outbreak
, amber vinson
, bad journalism
, christian right
, ebola outbreak
, ebola panic
, ebola virus
, journalism fail
, mass media
, mass media fail
, nina pham
, religious right
, sierra leone
, thomas eric duncan
, travel ban
, west africa
, western africa
, you've gotta be fucking kidding me
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