Posts Tagged “propaganda”

Stephen Colbert holding a pitchforkHere, Gentle Reader, is the second “peasants with pitchforks” moment in less than a week.

It seems the town of Enfield has become Connecticut’s crucible of Rightism, a New England microcosm of Kansas in the late ’90s and early ’00s — and more recently, Oklahoma. Last year, ardent Religious Rightists there chose to defy the law of the land and hold the town’s high school graduation in a church. As expected, they were rebuffed in this effort, mainly because of their lies, but they most certainly haven’t given up enforcing Rightism. The town’s Republican mayor recently ordered the Enfield library not to show Michael Moore’s Sicko documentary, as the (Manchester, CT) Journal Inquirer reports (WebCite cached article):

The Enfield Public Library on Wednesday canceled Friday’s screening of filmmaker Michael Moore’s controversial documentary “Sicko” under pressure from most Town Council members and the mayor, who threatened to cut the library’s funding if the film was shown.

Let me state up-front that I’m no fan of Michael Moore. He’s a shameless propagandist, and I despise propaganda; “propaganda” and “dishonesty” all too often are one and the same thing. But honestly … what the fuck? You people can’t tolerate a couple hours of Moore’s extreme Leftism? Really!? Are you that thin-skinned?

What a bunch of fucking whiners!

Enfield’s militant Rightists came up with a list of rationales for their censorship, beginning with “it’s for the children”:

Councilman Patrick Crowley, also a Democrat, said he didn’t think the effort to cancel the screening amounted to censorship, saying the library should be age-appropriate for young children.

“We want it to be a place for relaxation and fun for the kids,” Crowley said.

Yeah. As if any kids who show up are actually going to sit through more than a couple minutes of Sicko.

Then, it was “but this film is too controversial”:

[Mayor Scott R.] Kaupin said the library should steer clear of controversial material like “Sicko.”

My guess is Hizzonner has never seen the movie and thus knows nothing about its “controversy,” except what Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, etc. have told him about it. The curious thing about controversies is that, without actually examining the elements of the controversy, one never knows what the controversy is. Controversies don’t go away if we clamp our eyes shut and plug up our ears.

There were even some who denied this was even censorship at all:

Resident Dominic Alaimo, who is also chairman of the Thompsonville Board of Fire Commissioners, said at Tuesday’s meeting that canceling the screening is not censorship because the film is “available anywhere you want.”

“Censorship does not start from the bottom and work up. Censorship starts in like Red China, Russia,” Alaimo said.

Aha. There you have it. This can’t be censorship, because Enfield is in the US, and censorship only happens in “Red China” and Russia! Why, I’m so glad to have that cleared up! Whew!

The only good part about this particular childish dust-up is that the Rightists in Enfield have learned their lesson from their legal smackdown earlier this year, and have relented — slightly. Rick Green of the Hartford Courant reports Sicko will be screened, after all — as part of a package of “balanced” film screenings. As though a couple hours of Moore being shown in the Enfield library, one time, needs to be “balanced” … when talk-radio and cable news are stuffed to the gills with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of unrelenting, undiluted Rightism. Personally, I think propaganda needs to be “balanced” against rationality and truthful information. Unfortunately there are no critical-thinking movies out there … at least, none that I know of.

Photo credit: (UK) Daily Mail.

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It's not Fascism when Christians do it! Christian Fascism in America: If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Come Wrapped in the Flag & Carrying the CrossThe blogosphere has raged over the past few days over the remarks of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s comments about abortion. Naturally, he’s against it — even when the mother’s life is in danger — which follows his Catholic religion’s teaching that women’s lives are forfeit the moment they become pregnant. His remarks that have sparked controversy came in an interview with CNS News, where he said the following, as Huff reports (WebCite cached article):

A conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, Santorum has signaled he’s mulling a run for the White House in the next election cycle. During the interview, he voiced his staunchly pro-life stance, as well as his belief that when life begins “is not a debatable issue,” before going on to criticize the president.

“The question is, and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life a person under the constitution?” he said. “And Barack Obama says no. Well if that human life is not a person then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.'”

Video of his remarks is courtesy of Youtube:

The buzz that’s erupted around the Internet is that “Santorum is a racist!” Well, I’m no fan of Santorum. He’s a ferocious Christofascist who probably has not had an original thought in his head for the last 3 or 4 decades; he’s only capable of continuously spewing religious and ideological doctrine told to him by others. So don’t think I’m defending him … I’m not. But really, I’m not sure this is evidence he’s a “racist.”

His comments are actually an indirect, implied version of the fallacious reductio ad Hitlerum, a reprehensible propaganda device I’ve blogged about on many occasions already. Now, Dear Reader, if you’re the critical thinker I hope you are, you must be wondering where I got that from … and you’d be 100% right to ask how I could draw such an inference. So here goes.

Santorum’s remark suggests that abortion is used to control the population of “undesirables” or as a tool of discrimination. This is, basically, eugenics. As such, this alludes to the Third Reich and its various policies intended to eliminate “degenerates” and — supposedly — improve the “Aryan race.”

I concede that Santorum never mentioned Hitler or the Nazis, however, the Religious Right frequently states explicitly that abortion choice equates with eugenics, which equates with Hitler. Here is one example of what Santorum is alluding to, and here’s another, and here’s yet another.

There is no way that Santorum’s intended audience would have failed to recognize his reference.

Isn’t it time for this kind of baseless, fallacious, personal demonization of others to stop? It’s childish at best, and disingenuous at worst. I don’t care for the reductio ad Hitlerum when the Left uses it, and find it still less appropriate for the Right — which prides itself on having upstanding morals — to engage in it.

Here’s my personal rule when it comes to this propaganda device, paraphrased from a saying used by the character Salvor Hardin in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation: “The reductio ad Hitlerum is the last resort of the intellectually bankrupt.”

My final note is that people like Rick Santorum — who would like to turn the US into a Christianized fascist regime — are hypocritical to accuse their ideological opponents of being Nazis. Of course, no Religious Rightist ever fails to disobey Jesus’ own explicit, clear injunction against being hypocritical … but hey, what can you expect from irrational militant religionists like Santorum?

Photo credit: Austin Cline / Atheism/Agnosticism at About.Com.

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Benedict XVI in FatimaPerhaps as a way of diverting people’s attention from the clerical child-abuse scandal that’s been plaguing his Church for a long time now, Pope Benedict XVI has decided that the world is just too “secular” for his taste, and is establishing a new wing of Vatican bureaucracy in an attempt to correct that problem. The AP via Google News reports on his new missionary effort (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI is creating a new Vatican office to fight secularization and “re-evangelize” the West — a tacit acknowledgment that his attempts to reinvigorate Christianity in Europe haven’t succeeded and need a new boost. …

Benedict said parts of the world are still missionary territory, where the Catholic Church is still relatively unknown. But in other parts of the world like Europe, Christianity has existed for centuries yet “the process of secularization has produced a serious crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and role of the Church.”

The new pontifical council, he said, would “promote a renewed evangelization” in countries where the Church has long existed “but which are living a progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.'”

The Pope and his minions appear to believe that “secularization” has caused Europeans (in particular) to have become unaware of Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church … in spite of the fact that Christianity is nearly two millennia old and for some 15 or 16 centuries was by far the dominant religion of the occidental world. I’m not sure what the folks at the Vatican think happened, to make everyone suddenly and magically “forget” about something so deeply ingrained in western culture … but it seems they think it has.

Could it be — rather — that the occidental world, and Europe in particular, are actually fully aware of Christianity’s existence and its nature, and have made a conscious and rational decision to reject it, based on its far-less-than-stellar history?

As for myself … if the Pope and his religionist minions want me to convert to Catholicism, they’re going to have to make me do so.

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales).

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The Religious Right has become extremely “activist” in its tactics over the last few months. Since it no longer runs the country at the federal level, and has lost a great deal of influence in a number of states, they’ve started using a wider range of methods to get their message — of total subservience by all Americans to their own form of rigid, Protestant fundamentalism, and a government designed their way to force their metaphysics on everyone — out to the masses. The latest example of this effort can be seen in this report by the St Petersburg Times:

Christian group’s billboards denounce separation of church, state

A Hillsborough public policy group whose Christian platform included a push for a state ban on gay marriage has embraced a new attack on an old target: the separation of church and state. …

The message, as explained on www.noseparation.org, is that “America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious.”

“The Judeo-Christian foundation that the Founding Fathers established when America began is the reason that this country has prospered for 200-plus years,” said Kemple, president and sole employee of the local Community Issues Council, which paid for the Web site.

“The fact is, for the last 40 years, as anti-God activists have incrementally removed the recognition of God’s place in the establishment of our country, we have gone downhill.”

These Religious Right activists are not averse to making things up in order to convince people of their point:

The billboards showcase quotes from early American leaders like John Adams, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. Most of the quotes portray a national need for Christian governance.

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

You would think that such devout Christians wouldn’t be so quick to be dishonest, but guess again! They make no apologies for weaving fiction:

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

There, you see? They think Washington said things of this sort, and they’re so sure of it, that they just fabricate it, and expect no one will know any better.

Yep, just another bunch of lying liars for Jesus.

These dominionists are horrifically dangerous … in case you haven’t noticed … and they aren’t above old propaganda tricks such as those once employed by the Third Reich, the Kremlin, or Chairman Mao.

In case there’s any doubt … none of the Founding Fathers were Christian fundamentalists. Not one. (The reason? Christian fundamentalism did not come into existence until the 19th century — by which time all the Founding Fathers were long gone.) Washington never desired a theocracy, and Jefferson was opposed to dogmatic religion of any kind. Thomas Paine penned one of the all-time greatest anti-religion polemics, Age of Reason. For details on what the Founding Fathers actually thought, and what it means for the U.S. to be a “secular state,” please have a look at this page.

It would be nice if these people grew up and accepted the existence of non-Christians in their United States … but I’m not counting on it ever happening.

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My last blog entry described irrational and incorrect beliefs about President Obama abound among the Right. I suggested at the end that not only is it a just-plain bad idea to believe things that are verifiably untrue, it can also be deadly. Television station KDKA reports on a massacre in Pittsburgh which was fueled, apparently, by one such incorrect belief:

A man opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call Saturday morning, killing three of them, a police official said.

Friends said 23 year-old Richard Poplawski feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

Three officers were killed.

Poplawski’s fear, of course — even if it were true — is not a valid reason to gun down three police officers. And at the moment, the possibility of mental illness causing this (i.e. Poplawski’s fear is actually the product of a paranoid delusion) cannot be ruled out.

Despite this, the fact is that there is no pending gun ban. Not only are there no pending plans of this sort, it would be very difficult to pull it off, given the Supreme Court’s decision last June in District of Columbia v. Heller, which interprets the right to own guns rather broadly. In order to put through a gun ban, Obama would have to get this decision reversed first — and given the Court’s makeup as well as the sluggishness of the federal court system, it would take years for this to happen. Obama could appoint “liberal” justices and “stack the Court,” however, it would take two or three replacements to accomplish this, and that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

People on the Right believe a lot of things about Obama, most of them untrue, or distorted (Obama has expressed sympathy for gun controls, but hasn’t made any moves in the direction of changing gun laws, much less the total ban that Poplawski thought was coming). It’s time for them to grow the hell up and stop mouthing off inaccuracies or untruths. One never knows who might hear these lies and act on them. Stop it already. We’ve reached the point where this raging immaturity simply can no longer be accepted. Grow up and face the truth.

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If you think Fox News really is “fair and balanced,” guess again. They’ve been the mouthpieces for the Religious Right ever since the channel began in the mid 90s, and they remain so. The lengths to which Fox News will go, in order to make the Religious Right look good even in the face of obvious facts to the contrary, are ludicrous.

Here is one example which I just came across recently.

On the heels of a metastudy — which I blogged about a little over a week ago — showing that “abstinence-only” sex education is a dismal failure and actually results in more teen pregnancies than other types — Fox News released this story a couple of days later in an attempt to show the opposite:

Study: Religious Teens More Likely to Abstain from Sex

Religious teens lose their virginity later than those who are not religious — waiting on average three years longer than their peers, a recent study reported.

Janet Rosenbaum, a post doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote in this month’s issue of “Pediatrics” that those with strong religious backgrounds became sexually active at about 21 on average — regardless if they took a pledge to remain a virgin until marriage. …

Rosenbaum told FOXNews.com she compared apples to apples. “The behavior of teenagers who have never been to church before is pretty irrelevant when understanding the behavior virginity pledgers,” she said.

Overall, religious students, regardless of whether they take virginity pledges, are more conservative than their non-religious peers. When compared against national averages, “they are having sex an average of about three years later than the average American,” Rosenbaum said.

Note that in this story, Fox News does not dispute that the taking of virginity pledges does not affect whether or not kids have sex. What they are doing is emphasizing — instead — that religious kids are less likely to have sex. Moreover, they are actually dismissing the behavior of non-church-going kids as “irrelevant” to the study.

This is an insane use of the figures in this study. The study ostensibly is examining whether “abstinence-only” sex education coupled with virginity pledges, actually works. Clearly it does not do so. What Fox is doing, here, is plucking out of these results, those kids who are not church-going. But they cannot really do that … since quite obviously these “abstinence-only” sex education programs include both church-going and non-church-going kids! You cannot measure their effectiveness by culling out a big chunk of that group!

What Fox has done, therefore, is to put a happier face on what is truly bad news for the Religious Right, by shining a light only on a tiny part of it and de-emphasizing the rest.

“Fair and balanced”? I think I’ll let “you decide.”

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Lying is common in American politics. Both political parties do it, and they do it often. Political lies are especially common on the Internet, where emails and blog entries are frequently inaccurate or outright fabrications. As a committed skeptic I usually take politicians’ claims with a healthy grain of salt (hmm … not a “grain” exactly … maybe “a large truckload”!), and routinely ignore political emails telling me about the latest outrage allegedly committed by some politician or other.

Fortunately there are now tools available to set the record straight — particularly FactCheck.Org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. They claim to be non-partisan and, so far as I can tell, they are — just in the past week they’ve ruled as non-factual claims made by both the major candidates.

They have a special page devoted to political emails which — in almost all cases — are wrong or deceitful:

I’ve noticed that chain e-mails, particularly those about politics, have a lot of things in common: urgent and frightening messages; spelling errors; a tendency to blame mainstream media for not telling the real story; and false, misleading, utterly bogus, and completely off-base claims.

If there was ever a case where readers should apply a guilty-until-proven-innocent standard, this is it. We at FactCheck.org ask the public to be skeptical about politicians’ claims. With these e-mails, outright cynicism is justified. Assume all such messages are wrong, and you’ll be right most of the time.

So do yourself, and the rest of the planet, a favor and stop forwarding these outrages to everyone you know! Check them out first and discover for yourself that they’re nothing but bullshit.

Unfortunately this is advice that few Americans are willing to take, which FactCheck concedes:

It seems that no matter the facts, the desire to believe some of this stuff is just too strong.

Americans choose to believe the lies, because they want to believe the lies, and they don’t want to find out they’re not true. This is a pretty immature reason for propagating falsehood, but there you are.

If for some reason FactCheck doesn’t fill the bill for you, try PolitiFact (a service of the St Petersburg Times). Snopes is also a good place to get tall tales (not only of the political sort) checked out, too.

Update: If you must know my political and ideological affiliation, please understand that I have none. I am neither Republican nor Democrat, neither Rightist nor Leftist. Rather, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool tried-&-true Cynicalist who shuns all ideologies of every sort. Many of you will not believe that, but too bad — it’s still the truth.

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