Posts Tagged ‘glenn beck’

You know Glenn Beck? Turns out we’ve got one of those on this side of the ocean, too.

Earlier today, Tabloid Watch alerted me to a series of reviews (beginning here, and continuing here, here, and here) of a novel written by Richard Littlejohn.

Yes, it’s probably worth whatever reaction of dread you just gave it. If you’re not familiar with why his name should be making you want to vomit in someone else’s mouth, here’s a quick primer. Everything in that article is completely accurate. Except the parts they’ve toned down to go easy on him.

The book isn’t a new release, as I mistakenly thought at first, actually having been published in 2001. But the comparisons with Beck and his own novel are striking. The giddy paranoia, the delusional hysteria over some completely imagined nightmare, the non-existent evils supposed to be driving a country to its doom unless the day can be saved by the fanatically right-wing protagonist… Having just read that review on Cracked a couple of days ago, it all sounded eerily familiar.

I’m not going to retread the ground too much, because the Five Chinese Crackers blog really has done an excellent job of summing up everything wrong with To Hell In A Handcart – and it’s a long list. Perhaps most noticeable is how transparent a diatribe it is. There are countless extracts quoted in this breakdown which don’t belong to any well-rounded fictional character or engaging narrative prose; it’s just Littlejohn banging on about how awful it is having to live on the same planet as gays and foreigners, exactly like he does in his column, but with the words “said Mickey” following it every few sentences or so.

One character directly channels Littlejohn’s own prejudices as he laments that you only have to “raise the question” – the exact question isn’t specified, but it’s something about whether all immigrants aren’t thieving scum – to be “shouted down as some kind of racist”.

Do some background reading on Richard Littlejohn. Look at the way gypsies, Romanians, “spades” (apparently a slur on black people), and even “swarthy, olive-skinned” people are portrayed in the book he wrote. And you’ll see he’s right. It’s really incredible.

All you have to do is stereotype all members of a race as deplorable criminals, perpetuate bullshit about liberal lefties falling over themselves to serve up every privilege imaginable to those dirty foreigners on a platter, and try and dodge accusations of prejudice by pulling one of the most pathetic “some of my best friends are ethnic” routines I’ve ever seen… and somehow people will get the idea that you’re a horrible, horrible racist.

It’s clear, too, that whatever hardship and discrimination non-whites have had to face throughout the years is far less important than the indignity we Aryan folk have had to suffer by occasionally having racism pointed out to us. In one scene of the book, one of the lefty liberal strawmen in charge of anti-racism in the police force apparently has a room full of people repeatedly chanting “I AM A RACIST!” – because in Littlejohn’s mind, this is an insightful satire that cleverly undermines everything those liberal softies are trying to do. With all their “sensitivity” and “awareness” bullshit.

Apparently he genuinely sees no difference between learning to be watchful for any unconscious expressions of privilege that might occasionally leak out into your actions or words, and mindlessly shouting “I AM A RACIST I AM A RACIST”. Is Richard Littlejohn actually that stupid? I submit that yes, he is, and he also just doesn’t give a shit.

So if you couldn’t already think of enough reasons off the top of your head to really, thoroughly dislike Richard Littlejohn – and even if you could – the series of posts up at Five Chinese Crackers dissecting this dreadful, dreadful book are well worth a read. I’m not going to get started on the whole blogs vs. newspapers debate anytime soon, but if those posts don’t count as journalism but this bullshit does just because its distribution involved ink, then the word “journalism” has long since stopped being of any use in its current state.

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– A list of ten reasons to support comprehensive sex education in schools.

My only real quibble is that it doesn’t cite any specific sources, or link to any raw data, but it’s still persuasive. (I also got a little twitchy about the implicit association between “faith” and “moral behavior” in point 8, but it’s a valid point they’re making.

– As recently suggested by Phil Plait, John Scalzi wrote a very interesting article a while ago about those particular Christians who aren’t really so Christ-y.

It’s pretty much dead on. A significant proportion of religious people are only really interested in arguing their own prejudices, and using religion to back those up whenever they can. Only 0.03% of the Bible’s rules relate to homosexuality in any way, and yet it’s covered by more than 40% of all public discourse on religious morality by Christian commentators. And even though I just completely made those numbers up, they’re still quite revealing.

– And it looks like these days Glenn Beck’s not even pretending to not be racist. He’s happily telling his radio show listeners all about a book he read and loved recently by a Nazi woman in which she describes “Negroes” as “backward”.

The Glenn Beck seal of approval there, being given to a woman who spoke at Nazi rallies during World War II.

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Christopher Maloney is a quack.

That’s something we can all be clear on, right off the bat. Telling parents who are thinking of vaccinating their children that “elderberry… blocks the H1N1 virus”? Yeah, fuck you. But that’s not what I want to talk about. (For one thing, Steve Novella’s got it covered. Again. Doesn’t he ever get tired of being awesome?)

Someone called Michael Hawkins wrote an article, on a WordPress blog, criticising Maloney and pointing out some of the crap he’s peddling. WordPress received a complaint about this, and ended up shutting Hawkins’ blog down. Yes, this is WordPress I’m blogging on now. I’m betting I’ll be saved from a similar fate by being too obscure to be noticed.

PZ Myers blogged about this again, pointing out that Christopher Maloney is still a quack, and highlighting how unsurprising it is for a woo-monger to apparently resort to bullying and censorship instead of actually defending any of his ideas. But that’s not what I want to talk about either.

What I want to talk about is something that happened next.

Apparently Maloney started complaining about receiving harassing emails from the Pharyngulites – PZ’s readers who wanted to express their ire at the Maloney’s quackery. Now, there’s been some discussion in some comments threads as to whether this harassment is likely to have really happened, at least to the extent that the quack is complaining about it, but the point I wanted to make is about PZ’s response: he posted again, only a couple of hours after the last one, urging people not to harass the quacks. He essentially told off a chunk of his own base, in no uncertain terms.

I’m not saying that he deserves any humanitarian awards for his basic decency here. It should be a no-brainer that making unpleasant phone calls to some guy whose number you found on the internet is a dick move. It’s kinda important that he should remind people not to go overboard, and to keep the debate within certain bounds of civility.

But however obvious this kind of thing should be, there are some areas of discussion where it happens much more reliably than others. Some political and philosophical demographics seem more capable than others of saying things like “I agree with this group’s core principles, but think they handled themselves poorly and inappropriately in this instance”, or “I know we’re on the same side here but I don’t agree with the way you’re going about this”, or even something as simple as “I was wrong”.

I was prompted to think about this by this post, which links to a video by a WorldNetDaily columnist, praising Uganda for upholding good Christian principles by trying to make homosexuality an offence punishable by death.

It’s a weird video, not least because it feels like I’m not understanding something that’s going on, like I must be missing some clever irony, because it seems like the kind of thing you’d make if you wanted to parody a whole bunch of idiotic right-wing fundamentalist claims. But apparently it’s real. And it’s seriously fucked up.

It does not, though, represent the views of all Republicans, or of every person who voted for John McCain in the last US presidential election. A lot of right-wing conservative voters out there would surely be appalled at seeing some dick’s twisted reading of the Bible being used to justify culling gay people. Even Rick Warren came out against the proposed Ugandan law, eventually.

But where are they? This sort of stuff never seems to be condemned or addressed by the rest of the conservative movement; it always seems to be up to liberals to expose this kind of thing. Whereas the left seem to have a little more awareness of themselves. Not universally, by any means – every camp has its fundies – but they seem far more capable of finding the humility to give a little ground once in a while, to admit that a certain move by one of their comrades may not have been entirely legitimate.

Example. It comes out that, some months ago, in a private meeting, Rahm Emanuel described some idea or other as “retarded“. Sarah Palin calls for his resignation, because of how offensive this is to the disabled community. Then, while discussing this story on the radio, Rush Limbaugh calls some liberals “retards”. Palin, being a fair-minded and even-handed rationalist, chastises Limbaugh in similar terms.

No, wait. I got that last bit wrong. She hasn’t said anything of the sort about Limbaugh. Or about Glenn Beck, who has repeatedly used the word “retarded” and laughed about it on his public TV show, and who interviewed Palin on Fox News just recently. Keith Olbermann might not be the best example of the humble and self-aware left-wing commentator I’ve been claiming definitely exists out there somewhere, but on this point he pretty much nails it.

That turned into a bigger rant on that one point than I’d planned. But it’s a great example of what I mean. Glenn Beck is a colossal douche, and if any right-wingers wanted to publicly acknowledge that, it’d be totally okay with the rest of us. Why doesn’t it seem to happen? Is it just my skewed perspective? Am I just not watching the right shows and YouTube clips to see where this goes on? Will I see the other side I’ve been missing if I turn over and find Jon Stewart’s conservative equivalent on some hitherto unexplored channel somewhere?

If that show exists, I’ve not seen it. And I haven’t see many conservative bloggers or commentators reminding their audiences to play nice like PZ did here, or highlighting and correcting when people on “their side” get things wrong.

So, conveniently, it seems to be the case that all these qualities of humility and objectivity and awesomeness line up very neatly with my own positions on stuff. I wonder if that should make me wary of how objective my own conclusions are… Nah.

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Seriously, how do you not love an article with a title like Spaceship Jesus Will Come Back and Whisk Us Away? It sounds like something I’d say to casually take the piss out of one third of the world’s population.

And it’s a really good article, analysing and deconstructing a great deal about the evangelical/fundamentalist movement in the US in recent years. It’s written by someone who used to be a part of it, and is still a Christian – if anything, this seems to give him far more insight than most into just how wacky it is, and why, and lets him comment on it with far more eloquence than my usual approach of calling it wacky and moving swiftly on.

There’s really only two things I can think about it which aren’t whoops of encouragement and agreement.

First, there’s my usual confusion over how someone who understands the history and context of their religion so well can still see so much purpose in adhering to it. That’s too pithy to really summarise what I want to say, and maybe I’ll go into this in more detail later. But for all that the author shares many of my liberal and progressive values, and understands the distorted motivations of the fringe lunatics with whom he reluctantly shares the label “Christian”, he still finds enough divine inspiration in the Bible to believe that parts of it accurately describe the life of the all-powerful creator of the universe incarnate on this earth. And for all that he explains what drives the nutjobs to “interpret” their preferred passages the way they do (particularly as regards Revelation and the impending apocalypse), he’s also read this same book with his own interpretation, and decided which bits are important and which aren’t.

Anyway, the second point is possibly more interesting. The only part of the article that I really took issue with, and started getting mentally defensive over before I’d even thought about it enough to decide what I believe, was when he brings up Richard Dawkins and the atheist movement. And that’s a good reason to be very suspicious of my thoughts. But I still don’t think it’s an entirely fair parallel, at least as far as it’s drawn here.

The New Atheists have played into the evangelical/fundamentalist’s hands. Each side fans the flames of victimhood. “An atheist can never be president!” says one side. “A Christian never gets a fair shake in the New York Times!” claims the other. Each side is led by opportunists claiming to speak for a beleaguered minority.

Indeed, Dawkins needs the evangelicals and they need him. As the authors of An Evangelical Manifesto wrote, “striking intolerance shown by the new atheists is a warning sign.” Conversely, how would Dawkins’s followers use their Scarlet A pins to open their conversations if America weren’t full of evangelical/fundamentalists? The fundamentalists in both camps need to claim they are hated. The leaders push their followers to fear each other to maintain their identity—and lecture fees.

I’m not at my most brilliantly analytical at this time of night, but this kinda seems to miss the point of what both these sides actually want, what it is they’re fighting for. The fundies he’s talking about are eagerly trying to usher in the end of the world, and see the long-awaited come-uppance for all those non-believers. They’re not going to be happy until Jesus has killed “all those smart-ass Democrat-voting, overeducated fags who have been mocking us”.

Whereas Dawkins and his atheist militia aren’t after any such sweeping change. They’re trying to make people aware that the non-believers are here, and that everyone’s going to have to get used to these types of opinions being expressed. There can be a measure of over-excited arrogance to some of the rhetoric, depending on who’s talking and in what context, but generally speaking we’re not just the equivalent “other side” to the religious loons. If America weren’t full of evangelicals/fundamentalists, maybe we wouldn’t need the Scarlet A pins. We could just be another part of the demographic, saying what we want to say, not making a huge fuss over it, not having to worry about dicks on major news networks blaming us for everything that’s wrong with the world. I think we’d be okay with that.

Sure, maybe I’m getting a little defensive, I can’t really tell. I need tea, then bed.

Oh, one more thing: someone found this blog earlier today by searching for “Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss”. You may be interested to know that this new title by award-winning children’s author Andrew Norriss is indeed out, um, soon. For more specific details, I imagine there’ll be updates here and on his Facebook page in due course.

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Is this your card?

Reminder: Submit your entries for the 119th Skeptics’ Circle as per this entry here, ahead of Thursday September 10th. There’s plenty of time yet to get skeptically scribbling and have your post featured.

Now, on with the regular blog.

It’s Friday, which is one of my ever-increasing number of reasons for not doing anything useful with myself all day. (Other reasons include: it’s Monday; it’s the weekend; I’m tired; this chair’s not comfortable and I can’t concentrate.)

So today, I’ve just got a quick link to a post about being a card-carrying atheist.

So, what do we think of these? I’d probably adapt the wording, if I were going to use them, to fit my usual tone of irreligious banter, but it’s not a bad idea. Though, I kinda don’t care what pretend magic words people want to say over me, just so long as it doesn’t obstruct any actual important medical treatment (which I would hope is standard practice anyway, whether someone’s got a card or not).

And this has actually reminded me of something more important, which is that I really ought to get myself an organ donor card, as well as just being somewhere in their system. Hey, maybe that’d also be a fun thing to talk about. Too bad it’s Friday.

I should also take this opportunity to point out that I do not believe the rumour that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990. I am not convinced that there exists enough evidence to support this assertion. I’ve looked at the arguments, and a large number of them suggest that this is not a true accusation. Don’t let’s get carried away until all the facts are in. Most likely it’s all just a fuss about nothing. For all we know, there’s a chance that Glenn Beck has never raped or killed anybody, in any year. A pretty good chance.

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