Posts Tagged “urban legend”

Faithful unto Death, by Herbert SchmalzThis is my second post today which relates to Thursday’s massacre in Roseburg, OR. It’s been widely reported, based on this CNN story, that the shooter had specifically targeted Christians (WebCite cached article):

Stacy Boylan, the father of Anastasia Boylan, who was wounded, said she told him the gunman singled out Christians.

She said the gunman entered her classroom firing, told the professor teaching the class, “I’ve been waiting to do this for years,” and shot him point blank, Stacy Boylan said.

While reloading his handgun, the man ordered the students to stand up and asked whether they were Christians, Boylan told her family.

“And they would stand up, and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,'” Stacy Boylan told CNN, relaying his daughter’s account. “And then he shot and killed them.”

From there, this martyrdom tale, spread by mindless mass media repetition, swept through the American Right like wildfire. In turn it triggered all sorts of things, such as a call to arms to defend Christendom, as I blogged earlier today.

But I had my suspicions about this. First of all, it’s just too fucking convenient, in light of Christianity’s delusional persecution complex. Christians are convinced there’s an effort underway to kill them all off and wipe Christianity off the face of the earth … and a lot of them actually think it could happen at any moment. For them, this tale is kind of a precursor to what they already think is just around the corner.

Second, it was reported not by an eyewitness to the massacre, but by someone who’d heard it second-hand. That, all by itself, ought to have raised reporters’ concerns and forced them to look for confirmation. But apparently this wasn’t done. At least, CNN hadn’t confirmed it … and other media outlets just ran with what they’d published.

It turns out I’d been right to question this martyrdom story. It might not be true after all. The Oregonian reports that another second-hand account says something a bit different (cached):

McGowan told family members that the gunman didn’t specifically target Christians but asked them about faith. The shooter, apparently planning to die during the massacre, told students: “I’ll see you soon” or “I’ll meet you soon.”

McGowan’s mother, Stephanie Salas, shared her son’s account Friday. The teenager, one of triplet boys, was shot in the right hand and released from Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.…

“The shooter would call a person: ‘You, stand up,'” Salas said, recalling what her son told her. “And then he would ask them if they were a Christian, knew God, or had religion. And it wasn’t like it was stated on TV. It wasn’t about that he was just trying to pinpoint Christians, no.”

The shooter would tell them it wouldn’t hurt.

“And then he would shoot them,” she said.

McGowan told his mom he kept his head down among students crouched in the middle of the classroom, didn’t move and just tried to avoid looking at Harper-Mercer.

Now, let me be clear: I also am a bit suspicious about this second account, since as with the original version from CNN, it comes from a secondary source. So I can’t be much surer of it than the first account. But with that said, it’s a more nuanced version of a similar story, in that the killer asked his intended victims about their religion. It just doesn’t paint him to be as starkly anti-Christian.

What I can say about this is that a similar martyrdom tale had emerged from the Columbine massacre … but it turned out to be mythical, an altered version of what investigators determined had actually happened.

What really happened in that classroom at Umpqua Community College will take time to learn. Is it possible that the killer was, really, an anti-Christian crusader trying to slaughter each Christian in he came across? I suppose it might be. I certainly can’t rule it out, yet. Still, attacks of that sort, in the US, are unprecedented. At least, I’ve never heard of one. It’s just not something that happens. Given that Christians are known to have manufactured martyrdom stories in order to rationalize their paranoid delusions (cached), and there are conflicting accounts of what happened on Thursday, I’m going to need to be convinced.

I’ll close by saying that I get that the Roseburg community has been traumatized. The originator of the martyrdom story may not have intended to lie; perhaps he faithfully relayed what he’d been told, and that account had been given him by a shooting victim who was still in shock. It may well be that no one so far has intentionally lied about what happened. But with that said, as information is gathered, it’s important for everyone to focus on what’s discovered, and to winnow away anything that might not turn out to be true. Let’s not let a Columbine-style urban legend of martyrdom grow if the facts don’t actually support such a story. I’m sure it may pain Christians to have to admit another of their persecution stories isn’t true … assuming it comes to that … but too fucking bad. They should do so anyway. They’re not entitled to tell false stories just because those stories fit the delusional psychopathology of their religion.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jack O' Lantern - Witches' BrewHalloween seems to bring out the ridiculous in a lot of Americans. And the mass media have more than a little to do with it. A common mantra every year is that children are sickened and sometimes killed by trick-or-treat candy, every year, because they ingested a “treat” that had been poisoned. Unfortunately for this all-too-common myth, it simply is not true (WebCite cached article). This year, the concern voiced by local media here in Connecticut is not toxic treats, but sex offenders. For instance, WTIC-AM 1080 in Hartford offers this proud announcement that the state plans to head off this danger (cached):

Connecticut Department of Correction parole officers will be conducting unannounced home visits and surveillance of the roughly 250 sex offenders under their supervision, for Halloween.

Offenders have been advised to have no contact with minors, keep their outside lights off, and not answer the door for trick or treaters.

And the venerable Hartford Courant dutifully carries a virtually-identical story (cached):

Trick-or-treaters may not be the only ones showing up on Connecticut doorsteps this Halloween.

Parole officers will make unannounced visits to sex offenders’ homes, although the offenders may not know it, the Department of Correction announced Thursday.

They’ll be watching to make sure offenders are not having contact with minors — even those who show up at their homes. The sex offenders have been told to keep their outside lights off and refrain from answering their doors, the agency stated in a press release.

Right at the start, let me state that there is clearly a potential danger here, that some child might unknowingly knock on the door of a sex offender. Clearly that’s possible. I don’t deny it, not in the slightest.

But let’s put this in perspective. It’s exceedingly rare for any child to go trick-or-treating alone, not to mention unsupervised. (We used to go out by ourselves when I was a kid, but that never happens these days. More’s the pity.) The chances that any given sex offender might answer the door and be faced with a lone trick-or-treater he might be able to molest, are extremely remote.

Making this an even more improbable scenario, please note that we’re talking about 250 sex offenders. Yes, that’s 250 … in a state with a population in excess of 3.5 million! The average child in Connecticut will not even go near a sex offender’s home in the first place. A child trick-or-treating at 25 homes (for instance) has a 0.179% chance of encountering a sex offender. That’s right, not even .2 percent of a chance.

(Updated to add: My figures here are wrong. CT has an average household size of 2.52. This means the odds of a trick-or-treater encountering a sex offender while visiting 25 homes, is actually 0.45%. Higher than I cited, but still certainly not significant.)

Talk about a ridiculous non-story. Give me a fucking break!

P.S. In the world of Christian religionism, it turns out that some of them are more than a bit miffed that Halloween is too non-Christian a holiday. So they’ve launched a campaign to celebrate Jesus Ween instead (cached). Yes, you read that right: Jesus Ween (cached). The less said about that, the better, I think … !

Photo credit: De’Nick’nise.

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Notre DameSince his inauguration, President Obama has begun making strides … often very small and fitful ones … away from being the nation’s evangelical-preacher-in-chief — a role his predecessor, George W. Bush, loved more than anything. Religionists are not happy about this, as one may expect. They’re going positively berserk, however, over Obama’s cancellation of a White House religious service on National Prayer Day, as reported by the Top of the Ticket blog at the Los Angeles Times (WebCite cached article):

On the first Thursday of May, dedicated as the National Day of Prayer, President George W. Bush hosted an ecumenical service in the East Room, a big public endorsement of evangelical Christians. (This event is different from the National Prayer Breakfast, held outside the White House gates every year on the first Thursday of February.)

President Obama opted not to have a service in the White House this year.

“Prayer is something that the president does every day,” explained White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that Obama will sign a proclamation to recognize the day. “I think the president understands, in his own life and in his family’s life, the role that prayer plays.”

As I said, folks have gone nuts over this. Outraged claims range from “Obama canceled National Prayer Day!” to “Obama is going to outlaw prayer!” to “Obama won’t let Christians pray that day, but he WILL be praying with his fellow MUSLIMS!” The sheer amount of dishonest sanctimony and outrage has forced the usual debunkers, such as Snopes (cached article), to have to post pages explaining that most of the claims are not true.

To be clear, Obama has not canceled National Prayer Day. He will still proclaim it! In fact, he’s defying a court decision stating it’s unconstitutional (cached article), and one may assume his administration will appeal that ruling. All Obama has done, is simply to cancel the religious service that the Younger Bush led annually.

That’s all.

Maybe next year, Obama will simply not observe or proclaim National Prayer Day at all … but I’m not hopeful. Obama still likes to make overtures to religiosity and religionists.

Photo credit: JMC Photos.

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Picard Facepalm: Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesnt workBack in August I blogged about the explosive Youtube video claiming to have proven that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Strange Bedfellows blog has details of a Harris poll showing that this belief is held by a significant number of Americans (WebCite cached article):

… Full results are expected tomorrow, but preliminary findings were released in The Daily Beast by John Avlon, whose book “Wingnuts” details the hyper-partisanship that has swept America since 2008. …

And 24 percent of Republicans, and 14 percent overall, agree that Obama “may be the antiChrist.”

The other ridiculous, juvenile and untruthful beliefs that many Americans have about their president are:

  • 45% of Republicans and 25% of Americans think Obama was born abroad

  • 57% of Republicans and 32% of Americans think he is a Muslim

  • 38% of Republicans and 20% of Americans say Obama is “doing many things Hitler did.”

Look, idiots, see if you can get this: Obama is not a Muslim, but a Christian (see FactCheck and Politifact, cached articles here and here respectively). Obama was born in Hawai’i, not some other country, and has proven it (see FactCheck and Politfact, cached here and here). Also, both Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler were heads of state, so I’m sure you will be able to find similarities in their behavior … but confusing the two is irrational and illogical.

It’s time for the Right in the US — especially the Religious Right — to grow the hell up and stop lying about people they don’t like just because they don’t like them. No one says you have to be happy that Barack Obama is the president … but not wanting him to be president doesn’t grant anyone license to lie about him. Are we clear on that?

Photo credit: Science After Sunclipse.

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