What Would Jesus Do?

Evangelical christians have been putting that bumper sticker on thier cars for years now. WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? As if they have exclusive access to the motivations and ethics that the semi-mythical founder of their religion would have espoused in any particular situation.

I sincerely doubt that they have that access; and the reason I doubt that they have that access is that so many of their leaders, including Donald Trump himself, clearly don’t know what Jesus would have done in any given situation.

Take the current pandemic. The evangelicals that make up the entirety of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University have decided that they will ignore medical advice on the subject of the pandemic and return to business as usual. President Trump wants to curtail social distancing and declare that the United States is open for business right at the point where we might be getting an idea of just how big the problem we are facing is. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said,

No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.

Those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

No one aside from Dan Patrick, Glenn Beck, and assorted other evangelical leaders has suggested that the trade-off is between saving the lives of seniors in the community, and giving up life in the United States as we have known it. Nor is it the elderly alone that will die in this pandemic, have died in this pandemic.

Anyone with immune deficiencies. Anyone with weak lungs. Anyone with hypertension. Anyone with none of the above, young and spry and outwardly healthy to all appearances, can fall victim to this virus and die. If you believe otherwise, you are simply whistling past the graveyard.

Evangelicals who seek to preserve their ideas of capitalism at any human cost prove only that capitalism is part of their religion. This is the prosperity gospel raising its ugly head and letting us know that it holds the reins in the evangelical world. In prosperity theology, true christians make money because that is god’s reward to them for doing god’s work. It would take a televangelist to believe wholeheartedly that getting people to give you money for nothing more than saying words that your audience wants to hear is doing god’s work.

Maybe we should try explaining to these folks that Jesus was a humanist, perhaps the first humanist. Washing the feet of his followers? Feeding the multitude? Curing the sick and the lame? What? The miracles don’t hold water with you? They don’t for me either, but how about we just take Jesus at his own word on this subject?

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus

Jesus would never start the trolley (trolley problem) much less have to decide when to stop it. The prosperity gospel is bullshit, to put it bluntly. If you think that being a capitalist is making your closer to god, then you are the same kind of person that believed that slavery was approved of by god because it is in the bible. You are going to seek wealth anyway, better to say god approves of it than to be seen as one of the merchants and money changers that Jesus drove out of the temple.

If you are suggesting we ignore the warnings of people we pay to keep us healthy. If you are one of those people that thinks we can’t afford to let the markets stop for a month to make sure we have a handle on this crisis. If you are willing to let the poor, the sick and the elderly die simply because we can’t afford to take care of them; then you are exactly the kind of christian that helped make me the atheist that I am today. I will have nothing to do with hypocrites like you if I have anything to say about it.

Twitter. Featured image is from Wikipedia: Maundy Thursday, a painting of Altar of Siena Cathedral

facebook – cleavon.gilman

Postscript

A year later and they are still at it. Unhappy that the solution to the pandemic they don’t believe in, a product of the science that they reject, can’t be limited to the good (wealthy) Christianists, United States evangelicals now want to keep all the vaccines, that they won’t admit to taking themselves, just for themselves, and not pass them out to the rest of humanity. Jesus would also tell you we need to vaccinate everyone, just like Bernie wants to do:

twitter.com/SenSanders

facebook.com/Stonekettle

Women’s Health in Texas is Still Under Attack

The plight of women’s health in Texas has always been a concern of mine. One of my earliest memories involves sitting in a car outside an abortion clinic in Dallas waiting for my mother to come back out of the clinic so that we could drive back home to Sweetwater. From that day to this one, women’s health has figured highly in my thoughts because my mother forbid me or the rest of the children from ever admitting that the trip had even happened. It was that verboten as a subject in Texas. You simply were not allowed to discuss it in polite company.

We had to drive to Dallas because there was no clinic closer to us in Sweetwater than the clinic four hours away in Dallas. Women’s health has only gotten harder to address since that time in the early eighties when we made that road trip.

When the Abortion Barbie, the Texas Republican male’s label for Wendy Davis, stood up and filibustered the latest restrictions on abortion to be proposed by the troglodytes that run our state in 2013, I was one of her greatest supporters. I went out and proudly cast my vote for her in the governor’s race the next year. Anyone who was brave enough to stand up and talk about how essential women’s health is, and how much of women’s health is being made illegal in Texas, was the kind of straight talker I wanted to run my state government.

But she lost, of course. The attacks on women’s health continued unabated. The Republican legislature passed the bill that Wendy Davis had filibustered in the next session of the legislature. Then in 2017 they passed SB8. Slowly, one by one, the remaining women’s health clinics in Texas are closing.

On the Media – “Shmashmortion” – January 4, 2018

The Planned Parenthood clinic in San Angelo, Texas has closed.

KUT – For Supporters Of Abortion Access, Troubling Trends In Texas – November 18, 2019

Planned Parenthood was the only place in the region that a woman could go to get birth control pills at a reduced cost. To get mammograms and pap smears done. The only place that poor women could go to see to their basic health needs. I know this because The Wife and I relied on that clinic when we lived in San Angelo. Now that clinic is closed and those women who are still in San Angelo have nowhere else to go.

The promise that Conservative Christianists made, that women’s health would not suffer in Texas because of their war on Planned Parenthood, was an outright lie.

Texas Standard – January 25, 2018

They don’t care about women’s health, they only care about maintaining male control over the female’s reproductive system. That is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story when it comes to why they hate Planned Parenthood.

It is the same reason why the founder of Planned Parenthood was reviled when she started this movement to care for women’s health first and foremost. She was liberating women from their reliance on men, and men don’t like that. It would be nice if these liars were better at telling the lies they tell. At least you could be comfortable in the lies that way.

Punishing Political Opponents? #ImpeachTrump

Trump is now considering revoking the security clearances of former intelligence officials who have criticized him.

Not even Richard Nixon went this far. It’s not just petty and vindictive. It’s bad for American policy. Former heads of intelligence agencies retain their security clearances so they can speak about sensitive matters with their successors and with Congress. Trump obviously doesn’t want them to.

Robert Reich

That’s right. Go after the most popular President in our lifetime, Mr. Orange Hate-Monkey. (OHM) Try to take away Barack Obama’s security clearance (What is a security clearance? Who has one and why?) Don’t mess around with the underlings from previous administrations. I mean, you act like you heft a decent sized pair of balls, you should take on the truly powerful in your current sphere not muck around with underlings. Take on the Clinton’s and the Clinton Foundation. I’ll get the popcorn out to watch those fights. This would be better television than impeachment hearings. An emasculation live on television, without all that bothersome blood. A lesson to white men everywhere. There is a limit to effective power.

But, he won’t challenge the truly powerful. This was revealed in Helsinki when he sucked Vladimir Putin’s cock live on television. The OHM has no balls, if his display of authority in Helsinki was any kind of example of his true manhood.

There are dozens of conservative pundits who are bailing out on the OHM and his racist, fascist, oligarchical kleptocracy in the making. They are bailing out because they can smell failure in the air. I don’t want to cast aspersions on Steve Schmidt (pictured at right) personally, but his cohort of conservative Republican operators created the fertile ground that the OHM’s candidacy sprouted in. They are the ones that accepted Nixon’s Southern strategy. They are the ones that built on that legacy. They are the ones that tried to navigate the tricky waters between outright, obvious racism, and just not liking the black Democrat in the White House.

Rather than just declaring that Nixon was wrong, abandoning the white nationalists and Christianist extremists that Nixon and then Reagan had saddled their party with, they kept trying to make a legitimate national party out of what has come to visibly be a regional/racial delusion, a frame of reference that can only be found within the minds of the overwhelmingly elderly, white, rural, Republicans that are virtually the only group voting for the OHM and his policies. Why they are voting for him remains the only unanswered question, because there is little doubt of the OHM’s culpability and criminality any longer.

All of this, all of it, comes from factionalization. Comes from believing that your political opponents are not just simply mistaken, but evil. Evil, malicious, law-breaking fraudulent actors. Conservatism is a political ideology, not a philosophy. Much like libertarianism, it simply does not have enough guidance, enough mental meat, to serve as a real philosophical basis for rational action. Failing to convince the rest of America that their conservative ideals were correct, political conservatives have continued isolating themselves until they can’t even accept commonly held scientific findings for fear that they controvert some pet belief of theirs. They insist on their own news outlets and their own facts. This is how ideologies fail, and modern conservatism has failed. It failed when it elected Donald Trump. It failed when it could not distinguish his lies from the truth that is all around them. If you think I’m going to cry for them, you are sadly mistaken.

Rachel Maddow points out that six of the seven people James Comey told about his meetings with Donald Trump are gone or leaving the FBI, with the one who hasn’t been made into a political punching bag, David Bowdich, firing Peter Strzok. All contrary to FBI personnel office guidance.

The OHM is destroying our justice system in front of our very eyes, and he’s doing it with the excuse that these people oppose his presidency. Yes, members of the justice department oppose your presidency Mr. OHM. Your actions are all the proof they need to justify their opposition. You can’t stop yourself from punishing people who criticize you once you’ve noticed them. It’s not in your nature. You destroy people. You always have and you always will.

Trump gave Sessions the job for the same reason Thump hired Cohen as his personal attorney.

Because he was looking for a crook.

Because he thought Sessions was a corrupt little toady with the same lack of morals as Trump himself, a guy who would abuse his office to attack Trump’s political enemies and to help Trump profit from the office and stick it to liberals and for no other reason.

And it’s right there in Trump’s own words.

Stonekettle Station

The OHM punishes the heroic and belittles the people who serve him. Most of them probably deserve belittling. Toadys. Sycophants. Yesmen. These are the kinds of people that he surrounds himself with. It’s not like this was news to anyone who knew him or knew the kinds of work he does. As I said the day he took the oath Caveat Emptor. Words to live by in the age of Trump.

This was originally part of another article that I have now broken into three parts and embroidered on all three. With any luck I’ll have the other two out by Monday, as well as an update for the Kavanaugh post.

The Unappreciated Art of the Troll

“To make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”

“To fish by trailing a baited line along behind a boat.”

Google search result for trolling

I grew up washing lures on Swanson reservoir. I know what the second definition for trolling means. Washing lures is what my dad jokingly called trolling. Trolling for fish. We spent hours and days on end idling up and down the reservoir never getting a bite. That was the usual method of trolling. As the old adage goes, if throwing a lure in the water always brought back a fish, they’d call it catching not fishing.

Sometimes we’d get into a school of fish, and then the trolling would go viral. We’d get 8, 10, sometimes thirty fish on those days. Those were the rare days. The reason for going fishing in the first place.

There are fish on the internet too, it’s just kind of hard to tell the difference between a fish (a mark as fraudsters and con artists label them) and another troll or even an anti-troll.

Trolls inhabit our daily lives, waiting under every figurative bridge along your route, waiting to jump out and try to ruin your day. Online trolls are the ones most people notice, but there are trolls offline as well. We don’t recognize them because we know them by name, not by their behavior.

Decades of trial and error on the internet, as well as at work and at play have proven to me that my default behavior is anti-troll. The barbed replies that I compose to posts in online forums and social platforms frequently happen without any planning on my part. Counter-trolling the unwanted and unwelcome, tormenting them with attacks that they will feel obliged to lash out at, speaks to internal issues of conformity and certitude that I wrestle with. And I do wrestle with them from online moment to online moment. There have been far more words that I’ve deleted from posts than I’ve ever posted in the decades since I started spending time on the internet.

Trolling is an obscure internet behavioral reference to just drop on the uninitiated. I figure if you got to this blog, you probably know your way around the internet. But still, most of us use words all day long that we don’t really have definitions for and can’t really define if pressed. I started this post with a definition for trolling, and I included both definitions for the behavior for a reason. Trolling is seen in one light by the troll, in the other light by those being trolled. Trolls think they are the good guys. They are certain they know the truth and they think they are convincing people by trolling. They are speaking to the silent masses reading with a knowing eye and not to the people they are arguing with. They are expecting their antagonists to admit that they are fakes and to walk away from the argument as changed people. If they think they are arguing with a person and take that person seriously.

It is an open question whether the troll conceives of their opponents as people. It is definitely an open question whether they take their opponent seriously. Most of them do not take their opponents seriously. Most of them think this is all a joke, and they are probably laughing for the entire time they troll. The fact that they just might be wrong on the ideas they are promoting never even crosses their minds. If the thought did cross their minds, they would never go where they go and say the crazy things they say.

So when a troll posts in a forum, any forum about anything at all, they are posting specifically to attract the unwary. Hoping against hope that someone will acknowledge their existence and gratify their longing to make a difference by taking the time to argue with them about whatever it is they posted. Cat videos in a dog forum. Dog memes in a cat forum. Rainbow colored memes in a conservative forum. Gun images in a liberal forum. Hentai memes in an Anime forum. Whatever it is, their fondest wish is that you click on their thing and reward them with your attention. Once they have a flame war going, they are like hogs in a wallow. They roll luxuriously through the mud being slung in every direction. Which is generally where people like me show up. Flame war going, hogs wallowing, attention being lavished on the undeserving. From the anti-trolling perspective.

When people like me see an inept attempt to troll a group that the troll doesn’t like, we can’t keep ourselves from trolling them right back. Our desire is to put out the flame war, to deny the troll the attention that they are looking for. We offend the easily offended so that they will leave the conversation. Piss off the trolls so that they abandon their own threads, or cross some preset line of conduct that will get them evicted from the forum or punished in some other fashion. If nothing else works, spamming a thread with nonsense will generally put out a flame war because no one can keep track of what was said last by whom, silencing both sides with avalanches of bullshit.

Why do I and others like me do this? If you are going to take pleasure in causing someone else pain, at least have the decency to be good at it. That is why.

I have tried many things to remedy this habit of mine. Proactive blocking. Spam reporting. Hate-speech reporting. Nothing seems to stem the unending tide of idiots who think they know how to score points on their enemy. There are just too many of you inept motherfuckers out there. I can’t escape you and your pathetic drivel, so I will do the only other thing available to me. I will write a primer on the subject so that I can hand it out to you when I regrettably run across one of you.

The first bit of business, like most subjects of discussion, isn’t what you think it is. You, dear reader, probably think that I’m going to illustrate how to compose a decent meme or perhaps lecture on shouting at people in ALL CAPS. This isn’t that kind of blog. There are other places you can go for that information. I am not your internet help desk. No, the first thing to understand is knowing when you are being trollish. Learn to recognize when you are causing pain to another person and to ask for forgiveness if offense is legitimately taken. The first order of business is to understand what it means to troll. If you don’t know what you are trying to do, you will not be successful in carrying out your mission.

Your initial post should be savvy enough to be taken seriously by the casual observer. Posting porn images to a photography group will reliably get you banned the first time you do it. So don’t do it from an account you might want to use again, if that’s your thing. On the other hand, social posting has to attract attention in order to be social. A dialog rather than a monologue. Why post at all if what you are doing is going to be ignored? Why talk to yourself online? You might as well log off and go masturbate if you are just playing with yourself; and frankly, most trolls would be better off masturbating more often anyway. It relieves the stress to perform well, take it from an old hand at this. If you are thinking about trolling, go masturbate first. It’s better for everyone if you do.

Back already? Well, that was quick. Where were we? Ah, yes, the meaning of trolling, crafting a successful troll. You want to be provocative, but not offensive. You want to question the status quo but do so in a way that won’t get you evicted from a group. It is a consequence of this fact of internet life, the loneliness of it, the desire to gain the attention of others, that makes nearly every internet post an attempt to troll, an attempt to get people to pay attention to you, to dig me as George Carlin once put the question on his album Class Clown.

Virtually all comedy is trolling behavior. Anything you think is funny is probably offensive to someone. Posting humor will get you labeled as a troll, especially if you post that humor in places where whoever is being made fun of hang out. Telling Polack jokes on a Polish immigrant forum will get you banned as someone engaging in hate speech pretty quickly, and probably rightly so. Polack jokes are so 1990’s. Get with the times. Clearly the targets of choice have shifted back to the brown-skinned people South of the US border. If you are from Texas you reference them by pointing out they have to swim to get to this side of the border. In New Mexico, Arizona and California (states with land borders) that kind of reference is considered racist and will get you outed as a racist. And rightly so. So the second point of successfully trolling is to know the subject that you hope to exploit. Even in Texas you can be confused with a racist if you are so insensitive as to name a movie Deadbacks in humorous reference to the racial epithets of yesteryear.

Writing by its very nature implies that someone will read what you write. If no one reads it, do the words even exist? That is a bit metaphysical, isn’t it? Unlike speech, which elicits response if anyone can hear you, even when you are talking to yourself, writing really does imply that someone will read the words you write. Every writer imagines someone they are writing to while they are writing. That is how you gauge whether you are getting across to your audience, you imagine who they are as you type. Are they confused? Misunderstood? Go back and read anything you’ve written in the past, like I have done on this blog. Go back and read the things you wrote ten years ago, see if you recognize the person writing at that time. So many things we think are important at any given time look pathetically misguided in hindsight.

Most people hate to think about the things they believe. Asking another person to do that is generally branded as trollish behavior. The most provocative thing you can do online is to challenge someone else’s beliefs. Any ideologue is a prime target for trolling. It isn’t just conservatives in the wild who are susceptible. It is also anarchists and socialists, any group or person more allied with a set of ideas than they are with other people.

That homophobe or transphobe you are always running across is no more deserving of trolling than the social justice warrior who doesn’t know when to shut up. The Jehovah’s Witness who rings your doorbell on a Sunday morning that you’ve always wanted to introduce to the Flying Spaghetti Monster is on the same level as a target of trolling as that atheist friend who thinks all religion is stupid is a target. If you’ve asked a question specifically to get someone to question their beliefs, congratulations, you are a troll.

If you’ve ever engaged in anything other than casual conversation, you’ve probably engaged in trolling behavior yourself. Admit this fact, we’ll keep it between ourselves. No one will know of the secret pleasure felt when someone rewards you with a reply to your cleverly worded bait. It’s OK, we all do it. Everyone is a troll in some fashion, especially the people who think they would never do that. Like passive aggressiveness, everyone has trolled at least once. All of us find ourselves in conversations online and off, conversations that we weren’t invited to, have no real interest in, or are required to participate in because of social norms. You just want a drink of water and the group at the water cooler stares at you as you approach. Do you offer an insight or just duck and cover? The smart person might keep to himself, but the adventurous amongst us probably attempts to riff on what the conversation appeared to be when it suddenly included them. If the comment can be deemed provocative in any way, congratulations you have just trolled the water cooler.

This behavior, trolling, is not really a new thing at all in spite of the fact that it never had a name before the internet evolved. It is the way that conversation has evolved over the millennia from basic communication needs, imparting information from one person to another that was life critical,

Food. There.

Into ways to convey complex levels of thought and to do so with enough rigor that the teachings were retained through multiple generations of descendants. The briefest of excursions into the subject of Freemasonry will shed light on just how convoluted verbal teachings can get, and just how misunderstood meanings passed down without writing and divorced of the concretes they deal with, specifically masonry in this case, can become.

It is not merely coincidental that some of the earliest human groups formed around the subject of masonry; nor is it coincidental that those groups sought to exclude others, the outgroup, from understanding what it was they were doing. The first recorded words that we still retain were recorded on stone by stone masons. And they retained their exclusive rank and that ability to divorce the spoken word from that impediment to communication, time, up until the fifteenth century and Johannes Gutenberg‘s masterful invention. It was only then that language becomes divorced from the spoken word. Only then that reading became something that anyone could afford to take time to learn and do, because it facilitated learning in other areas. Before the invention of moveable type you communicated all information directly, from master to apprentice, in words designed specifically to impart knowledge from the person with hands-on experience to the person who wanted to know how to do whatever that thing was.

After Gutenberg invented the printing press, it became more profitable for the master to write his knowledge down directly, so that his mastery could be spread wider. Could be spread to students who couldn’t hear his voice directly, because they lived in another town or even in another century. From Gutenberg’s invention until today we have continued to evolve the written word. From masters writing their knowledge down for the erudition of us all, into entire industries making billions of dollars off of the spreading of information world wide, into fat, naked old white men typing out their masurbatory fantasies in the darkness of their mother’s basement, all alone in the night. I’m not so sure this whole printing press thing is going to work out well in the end, from that perspective.

The first time the veracity of the information imparted was questioned,

that ain’t food, that’s shit.

Trolling was born. Deriding or dismissing the offered information. Refusing a directive like turning a blind eye. Being known for writing a rebuttal to a treatise that history has long since forgot. Trolling 101. Anyone can engage in this basic form of rebellion, just like the millions of meme-posters on Facebook, all of them convinced they are somehow unique and worthy of the attention of others. Facebook is the internet equivalent to the office watercooler, one step below icanhascheezburger on the meritocratic scale of trolling. Facebook is an intellectual level below lolcats, because lolcats know they are attention seekers and have to hone their craft against other self-admitted attention seekers. Most people on Facebook don’t even admit that what they want to gain by hanging out there is attention.

Facebook meme posters are to trolls what script kiddies are to hackers. Someone who only understands how to do one thing in a field that encompasses all known forms of things. Anyone can screen cap an offensive image and post it. Anyone can copy and paste a meme generator image, the kind you find reposted ad infinitum across the vast Facebook wasteland. It takes no talent at all to piss someone off. Shit flinging monkeys can do it with a single gesture. Hell, if it exists, is filled with memes.

The internet is so full of amateur mental gamers, amateur trolls, that there are terms created just for them. Just asking questions is now referred to as Jaqing off. A Facebook friend went off on a tear recently because someone suggested they were playing devil’s advocate. An artist never reveals his art as art. An artist creates and either the art is accepted or rejected. If you are going to play devil’s advocate, be the devil’s advocate. Don’t expect other people to indulge your mental masturbations, or to refrain from punishing you for your transgressions of norms. No one likes a showoff. No one respects an artist whose defense is but this is art or especially I was only joking.

The key to knowing when to troll and when not to troll is honesty. Knowing what results you want from a conversation and how you will get it. This knowledge turns a memer into someone interested in perfecting the art of the troll. A person interested in the shape of the conversation itself. It is at this point that the apprentice troll becomes a journeyman troll, believes himself capable of trolling like a master. This is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, as in “the asshole that ruined [insert name here] forum.” I have been kicked off so many forums over the years that I’ve actually lost count. I was kicked off of most of them because that is what I wanted the moderators to do, although I may not have known it at the time. Challenge authority publicly and you will be smacked down. This occurs because 99.9% of authority’s effectiveness in the wild is based on fear of the application of force. If the mundanes you have authority over are not afraid of you, you will lose control sooner or later.

Respect can replace fear most the time, but there has to be mutual respect for hard and fast rules for this to occur. Mutual respect for rules, while a basis for any good argument, is sadly lacking in most online forums. Rules have to be enforceable to be hard rules. Rules against doing something the authority cannot even check on aren’t rules, they’re wishful thinking. It is not within the ability of a forum moderator to compel civil discourse, to prevent or observe that one member has blocked messages from another member, an example of a rule I broke and then told the moderators “I broke that rule” just so they would kick me. (the ploy worked. They changed the rule. I win) Hard and fast rules permeate the internet. You can be banned from forums just for observing that forum moderators are as naked as the emperor. Never tell authority that their rules are meaningless. You cannot compel discourse or civility in the wild. You can only control who gets to have a voice in your forum.

Contrary to popular belief, trolls do not ruin forums, moderators do. More to the point, a moderator is the shepherd of the forum, and the moderator needs to be given permission by the forum owner to do the job they need to do. The most damaging belief among forum moderators is that applying rules justly equates to censorship. That you cannot remove posts and users without denying them their free speech. You may never hear from that person again, or they might be back in minutes as a new user you’ve never heard of before; but either way the activities of a moderator are not censorship. Applying rules justly is how civilization is maintained, how progress is secured. Make no mistake, a bad moderator can destroy a forum but a good moderator can make a forum work flawlessly if they simply have the knack for smoothing over the rough bits. Here ends the moderator’s tangent.

Getting back to the assholes; as in, this is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, assholes should be kicked off forums en masse, everywhere on the internet. Kicked and kicked again until they graduate to the next level of trolling, or cease to troll altogether. It is possible to not troll, The wife is one of those rare exceptions. Trolling is as alien to her as double entendres or puns. When she ventures into those fields it is hilarious because it is so unexpected. Every time she reads my posts she is baffled about why I bother. Every time she reads responses to my posts she is livid, and it’s all I can do to keep her from hunting the offending party down.

The only way to deal with assholes is to remove them, and like a bandage it is best done quickly to limit the pain. As many times as I’ve been kicked out of groups over the decades, there are even more places that I’ve been a member of that have been reduced to ghost towns by assholes who simply don’t know when to shut up and had control over that Uniform Resource Locator or subreddit. On more than one occasion, that asshole was me.

Some of the assholes never learn. They just get bitter. They just get angry. Anger is a copout. The targets of the troll are angry too. Justifiably so, in their eyes. That too is a copout, but it is an understandable one. People who are pushed, who are angry, lash out. A good moderator on a forum does what the name implies. A good moderator moderates.

“Dude, I know you think this is fun, but your target does not. I know you can’t see the tears, but there are tears.”

When kicked from a group, understand that you are in error. Authority is never in error. Authority never admits error, in any case. The only time authority ever admits error is when they are pulling a Gorbachev. They are on their way out, and on their way out they add “oh by the way, we fucked up. Sorry about that.” Trolls live for that moment. But the kicking? That is personal. It is all about you and your blindness to lines that everyone else knew was there and you didn’t. Until you crossed the line. Now you know where the line is. Cross that line again and expect the same results. Cross the same line the same way and now you are just being stupid. Keep crossing the same line and you turn into a criminal, not a troll.

This is the other point I wanted to make. Trolls are not criminals any more than hackers are criminals. Trolls that continue pursuing the same person after they’ve been warned off are stalkers. Trolls that harass after they’ve been warned off are guilty of harassment. Trolls (or anybody else) who threatens to harm another person have crossed one of the few universal hard and fast lines in human society. That person won’t be enjoying his liberty to troll people who aren’t in orange jumpers for much longer.

But there is hope. The existence of this blog is proof.

I learned. I survived and evolved. I knew that a change had occurred. For quite some time now I’ve changed tacks rather than bash my head against ineffectual moderation. I’ve walked away from conversations that were clearly going nowhere. The baited feeding the troll and all of them wallowing in troll varnish, another trophy to hang on the troll’s wall. I’ve walked away from conversations where my target wasn’t ever going to appreciate the time invested in pointing out their errors to them. I’ve simply packed up and left rather than finish the art, complete the conversational arc. I’ve walked away from forums where the moderators could not bring themselves to cull the assholes. The moderators couldn’t keep the Jaq-offs from posting every meme that crossed their newsfeed. If the sub-group is going to be subjected to everything on the larger forum, why join the group? It really is too bad that Facebook is about the only place left to have an argument in the wild on the internet. Yahoogroups? Dead. BBcode forums? Dead. Usenet? I’ve heard rumors they still exist. I haven’t been there in years.

I’ve wasted enough time flinging shit at other shit-flinging monkeys. There is no pleasure in it any longer. I have grown to appreciate the art of the troll while a growing despite for the mechanics of it keeps me from over-indulging.

You can say that you have graduated to an appreciation for the art of the troll when you can lead someone to a devastating conclusion blissfully unaware right up to that last step, and you leave them to it. You don’t hang around to admire the mess that ensues. That isn’t the point of a masterful troll, an artful troll. The point is to bring the offender into a position where they can recoil in horror at their own stupidity. Hang themselves with the lengths of rope that you’ve graciously continued to hand to them as they tied the knot and thrust their head through the loop to grin at you. Allowed the petty and the vain to impale themselves on their own sharp wits.

We all have a limited amount of time on this Earth and we can either fritter it away arguing with the ignorant and the ideologically blind, or we can spend time having conversations that have meaning and purpose and the potential for making positive changes in the world. More and more often these days, I’m choosing the latter. Anyone who comes into a forum for a specific point of view and purposefully trashes that point of view is not there to learn anything. They are there to convert by the sword. My response, now, is to repel with the sword. I block, report, and prosecute threats against my person. I block and report trolls who show up looking for a fight. I block, report and follow up on people who are racist, homophobic or Christianist to a dangerous level. That is how I’m going to make the world better for people who just want to live their lives as peacefully as possible.

That and this primer is all the trolls will ever get from me.

If you are reading this, go wish Henry Edward Hardy a good day in hell from me. It’s because of him this was posted today.

Troll, am I? How am I the troll when you objected to my laughing at Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me? Called me out on it, even? Get a dictionary, at least.

My feeling is that the reckless, no-consequences, tantrum culture that has evolved online was something that sprouted and became normalized through SF fandom way back when, which makes it incumbent on us who are still part of it to do whatever is possible to make things better. The internet getting devoured by rage culture is only inevitable if we leave the trolls to the cesspool.

Atomic Junk Shop, The Exaltation of Anger

Featured image from fao.org

Not Bedazzled. GroundHog Day.

I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all.

Stonekettle Station, Hunting the Unicorn — to Extinction

That take home line from Hunting the Unicorn to Extinction is worth including in the blog based on its own merits. But the subject of that Stonekettle Station article is something that is at the core of all politics and one of the reasons I find myself restless in the Democratic party right now; uncomfortable but determined to see this thing through to the end.

Jim was telling liberals and progressives that claimed they could not vote for Democratic candidates to stop it. Conservatives, we know you won’t vote Democratic. You proved that when you held your nose and voted for the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) instead of Hillary Clinton. As I’ve said many, many times, first saying it in Hillary for President? the Republicans were going to nominate a nutjob in 2016 because the Republican party is certifiably insane. They don’t know what they want and they just couldn’t vote for that woman. So they voted for a serial-philandering, money-laundering tax cheat instead when they could have had John Kasich, a perfectly reasonable fellow, someone that is quite demonstrably sane if a little preoccupied with eating. The Republican party has grown more and more dysfunctional as the Tea Party and Religious Right exert more and more control of the process of selecting its candidates, wresting control from traditional Republicans who find themselves ill at ease in the presence of so much openly expressed white nationalism and Christianist dogma. The current state of schizophrenia that the Republican party is experiencing is also proof positive that plurality voting does lead to the worst candidates rising to the top of the ticket and attaining office. Never argue with math.

So when the Democrats nominated Hillary, and why not, she was the most admired woman in the world more than once; and the inevitable misogynistic blurring of the lines between Bill Clinton’s actions and her still being married to him occurred, creating this illusion of taint on Hillary that the media was more than happy to feed on, a distinct vein of fear of Democratic corruption emerged. I see most of this as sour grapes. You never get the candidates you want, and if you do get the candidates you want, most of the time they can’t win anyway because you are not we and we elect leaders. That simple phrase is politics in a nutshell. But this dissatisfaction with Democratic business as usual persists. How much of it is real and how much of it is counter-intelligence operations by Russian disinformation services is entirely open to question.

Olga Yurkova, TED2018 Inside the fight against Russia’s fake news empire

The same people who refused to vote for Hillary, but were not Conservatives or Republicans, are still insisting that they can’t vote for Democrats who won’t swear an oath to support every, single, thing that these people think are important. They’d rather stay home and pretend they are doing us all a favor than to participate in the process and maybe be responsible for some candidate or other that they might disagree with getting elected. The point, as Jim makes several times in his essay, is that even not voting is a choice and if you don’t vote then you voted for the OHM and all his supporters anyway. And you did this because even not choosing is a choice with consequences which you cannot avoid. The current administration is a poster child for the fact that not voting leads to outcomes which are every bit as undesirable as any other you can possibly imagine. A textbook case for mandating voting and participation in the process at all levels, but that is an argument for another essay.

This essay is about the allusion that Jim chose to make in order to relate his point. He picked Bedazzled. He made a pretty decent case for it. But everything that applies to Bedazzled as an allusion goes just as well with a different, better film. The movie he should have drawn comparisons to is Groundhog Day. In Groundhog Day the title character doesn’t even know what he wants in the first sequence that he is doomed to repeat for years of time during the film’s duration, just like more Americans have no clue what it is they want. It is only after he has dallied with every other distraction in the terrifyingly small world he is stuck in that he seizes on the one thing that might save him, the wholly genuine character of the producer he’s been stuck with for all these years, all those years one repetitive day at a time, a character beautifully played by Andie MacDowell. It is at that point that he begins to move in positive directions, finally able to leave the hell of Groundhog Day that he’s been stuck in for much longer than the audience that watches the film is. He gets to leave because he finally becomes worthy of moving on from that place and time. Is the universe interfering, saving him from wasting his entire life on pursuits that were beneath him? Who knows? What we as the audience know is that the criteria set out for Phil have been met. He is more than he was. He can appreciate others for what they are.

Groundhog Day (1993)
Bedazzled (2000)

It is true that the protagonist does learn his lesson by the end of Bedazzled as Jim outlines. Maybe the plotline of Groundhog Day is too highbrowed for beer swigging average joes. Maybe Jim has it right and Bedazzled is the film that the people he’s trying to appeal to prefer. I’ll happily step aside and let the parade march on. But the journey of Phil Connors is demonstrably the exact same journey that the malcontents who refuse to make themselves better citizens need to take. If you want better government, you have to be better citizens, Jim’s mantra for several years now. They have to accept that the problem is them and not every around them. Hopefully they manage to do this before killing themselves more than a score of times and spending a purported thirty-four years stuck in a time loop. In the meantime I’ll still be here repeating what I’ve been saying for the better part of two years now myself. There is no way forward until we acknowledge and atone for the mistakes that were made that brought us here. Caveat Emptor.

Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.

Phil Connors

Editor’s note. The Wife insists that Groundhog Day isn’t nearly dark enough (humor-wise) to be the comparative movie for Trump’s America. She suggests instead that

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

…is the film that corresponds to this place and time in the world. We are all Tom Cruise repeating his first day, to infinity. Because unlike him we never learn. So we have the worst day of our lives, betrayed by our superiors, and we die on that beach fighting aliens that know we are coming. Forever. Isn’t that a heartwarming vision of the future?

I see everyone is having a productive morning. You know it gives me a swell of pride knowing soldiers of your… caliber will be leading the charge tomorrow. Tip of the spear. Edge of the knife. Crack of my ass.

Master Sergeant Farell

Roy Moore

The general support for Roy Moore by the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM)  and the Republican National Convention (RNC) re-started my writing on a larger piece on Christian Nationalism (Christianism) an article that is still not finished yet. This is not a new development, what Roy Moore and his fellow Christianists represent. I’ve intellectually known about their designs for most of my life. I just never connected the dots before to complete the picture that is now being revealed. The subject of Roy Moore should be at least mentioned on the blog for the purpose of reference for later articles, if for no other reason.

Roy Moore has been one of the leaders of the Evangelical Christianist movement for decades. These fundamentalists are the violence prone backbone of the Republican party today. My first exposure to Roy Moore and his insistence that the US be remade into a christian nation was while listening to an episode of Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Freethought Radio, so it is fitting that FFRF communicates the news of his sexual deviancy.

Moore’s infamy is tied to his willingness to abuse his public office to promote his personal religion. His primary loyalty as a judge was not to the law and the Constitution, but to his bible. The women’s stories reiterate Moore’s shocking disregard for public service and public office. He used his position as a district attorney to gain the trust of Nancy Wells, mother to then 14-year-old Leigh Corfman. Waiting outside a courtroom on a wooden bench, Moore approached the mother and daughter according to their retelling. Moore, whose office was down the hall, explained to the mother that she didn’t want her daughter to go into a child custody hearing, and that he, a district attorney, would watch the child. Then:

“Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.”

Moore also used his office to get near and select another victim, Debbie Wesson Gibson, who was 17 when Moore spoke to her high school civics class.

ffrf.org

This is easy to understand. Jim Bakker. Jimmy Swaggart. Ted Haggard. Now Roy Moore. Evangelicals are blind to the predators in their midst because they willfully suppress inquiry into another person’s faith or falsehood. They believe everyone when it comes to protestations of faith. It is an ingrained part of the evangelical culture to simply accept the faith statements of another believer even if reality clearly indicates that the believer is lying.

There’s an end coming, and it’s coming soon. Most people seem to subscribe to this belief. There’s always some judgment day on the horizon, war with Iran, the military industrial complex, Socialism, Fascism, Gays in the Military, Gays getting Married, Global Warming, 2012, etcetera, ad nauseum. The list is endless. There’s always some core issue that “threatens to end our way of life” that has to be taken seriously, and I find that I’ve become as skeptical of these claims as I am of most more recognizably religious claims.

Evangelicals are explicitly engaged in a suicide pact with other evangelicals when it comes to the subject of faith. Most of them simply aren’t aware of the nature of their pact because they’ve never allowed themselves to question their own beliefs, and it is tantamount to suicidal behavior on our part to give the keys to the nuclear arsenal to members of a death cult. Anyone trying to bring about the second coming of Christ and the rapture, the average evangelical, is a member of a death cult and it’s high time we called them out for what they are.

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These are Christianists. This label should be viewed with the same contempt that Islamist is viewed with. They want to subject us all to their god’s laws, and they don’t understand why we object to their perversion of the US legal system in this fashion.

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Atheism Kills

What’s a common misconception about history that you wish more people didn’t state as fact? Obviously, the myth that is being told by religious apologists, that the Third Reich and Stalinist SU were supposedly atheist dictatorships.

Hardcore History Group

Of course, the first response he got to this assertion was that the Soviet Union was atheist and that Hitler was an atheist. I’m not going to talk about Hitler here. His religious views are well documented. Here is the wiki article devoted just to that topic. Hitler was not an atheist. But Stalin did toe the Marxist line and adopt a pretense of atheism. There is room for argument on this subject.

The original poster (OP, in this instance. It could also mean original post. Both are condensed in my unattributed discussion quote) offered a Christopher Hitchens clip that I had to track down in order to use because of the quality of the clip that he had selected.

It turns out to have come from the Hitchens vs. Hitchens: Faith, Politics & War debate. This video is queued up to the beginning of the question that Christopher Hitchens is in the middle of answering in the video offered by the OP:

Hauenstein CenterBrothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens debated the Iraq War and religion at an event organized by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies with support from the Center for Inquiry and the Interfaith Dialogue Association – April 3, 2008
 

I love Christopher Hitchens. I would love to be Christopher Hitchens, if it didn’t mean I had to give up being me in order to be him. Therein lies the problem with that personal dream of mine. I soldier on trying to live up to my ideal of the man anyway, knowing I will fail at my goal with every literary outing that I attempt. Failure is how you learn.

The OP’s detractor continued to insist that the Soviet Union practiced religious repression and so couldn’t possibly be considered to be religious in its goals, in much the same vein that the other Hitchens also tries to do if you listen on in the debate. In answering his brother I see Christopher Hitchens come as close to being nervous in his arguments as I have ever seen. I know now watching the whole debate why these debates between the two of them were popular. Sibling rivalry begins in the womb and doesn’t end until the grave. It is visible on Christopher’s face, and it is what gives his overmatched brother the verve to continue the fight for as long as the two of them held breath. It is quite the dance they engage in. Watch the whole thing if you have the time.

Religious repression is not in same ballpark as what Christopher Hitchens is pointing out in his answer. You take a nation of millions of penniless serfs who had been the property of various leaders prior to the time of the Russian revolution in 1917, serfs who believed the king of Russia, whom they call czar, which is literally caesar, the leader in Rome, head of the catholic church, except in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where he is head of the Russian Orthodox church, and the king of that country is anointed by god to lead their religion. Their king is the direct representative of their god and their king, their leader, is their only hope of ever seeing a day that isn’t filled with unrelenting misery. You expect those people to turn on a dime and stop believing because you suddenly declare atheism is the law of the land? That is a knee-slapper right there. A good joke, in Southern parlance.

They believed alright. They weren’t atheists and neither was Stalin an atheist. He thought he was god, just like so many dictators before and after him did, and his followers thought he was god, too. They may have called what they were atheist, but it wasn’t. What they believed was a religion in everything but name, including a bizarre personality cult around its leader and a communist sect trying to push their very own sense of ideological purity. The similarity to religion is uncanny.

This observation also applies to Mussolini, to Robespierre in France, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum. Cults of personality are by definitions a flavor of religion. That people who have a religion think theirs is the only thing that can be called a religion is a part of the basic misunderstanding present here.

Mussolini was famously an athiest and anti-clerical while Franco fought the Republcans, in part, because of their anti clerical acrivities. Hilter used a eviscerated state christianity as a political tool. It was non christian on most of the important stuff. So Fascists came in all stripes independent of religion. The Soviets also revived some orthodox practices as a morale builder during the war….. many regimes of all politcal stripe have used religion just as they have used many social insitutions for control. Nothing new, not religion’s fault

Steve Andersen

It is religion’s fault that these fascists were successful to exactly the extent that religion represents false belief that originates within authority that is then hijacked by populists and con artists bent on their own pursuits. The pulpit. The presidency. False belief that can be manipulated by authority, like the Prosperity Gospel is a manipulation by the wealthy to control the ignorant who think they work for the dollars the wealthy give them. They don’t work for dollars, they trade their time and effort for dollars. If you love your work you do it for free, it is just hard to feed your family with love and devotion. It takes dollars to do that, ergo trading time for dollars. Dollars that the government makes and could give to anyone. Or take away from anyone.

Attempting to suggest that belief can be separated from human action is where these arguments leave the rails. People kill for belief, do evil for belief. They don’t do these things if they don’t believe, and not believing in god (being an atheist) is not a reason to kill, QED.

So you’re assuming it is false and you have difficulty with authority. Wouldn’t someone who had no belief, and thus assume that moral decisions have no repercussions beyond the here and now also (as any human) be capable of evil? If authority uses food as a weapon (as Stalin did) or the police or the courts o the army (as they all do) does that mean there is something inherantly wrong with food or cops? People do evil things. Whether they have stone knives or nuclear bombs, churches or sewing circles, doesn’t matter. (How to define evil without moral absolutes or authority is another discussion)

Steve Andersen 

Belief does not equal religion. Belief can be many things and take many forms. Belief that originates in authority and cannot be questioned is automatically suspect no matter the origin. As an atheist I believe many things, it just so happens none of those things relate to gods or their commandments as related by authority. Ergo atheism is not the cause of the problem as the people who make these kinds of arguments are attempting to suggest, because atheism doesn’t mean lack of belief but a lack of belief in gods. It is a specific kind of belief. Can atheists kill? Yes. Do they kill because they are atheists? No. They kill because they are human and are fallible. Or they kill because they are human and they feel threatened. Or any of a myriad of reasons, none of which are likely to be because they don’t believe in gods.

This is the much broader point Christopher Hitchens is actually making in the video clip. Blind obedience encouraged by religion and harnessed by leaders intent on doing evil leads to the kinds of outcomes that religious apologists then turn on their ear and blame on an unrelated part of Marxist dogma (and something entirely missing from fascism) atheism. Because it suits their broader argument of apologizing for religion. I’ll have none of that, thank you.

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Postscript

It is worth noting, as I add this article to the blog some four years after I wrote most of the text in this piece, that I actually agree with the first point that Peter Hitchens advances in the debate. I always have. Invading Iraq was always a bad idea and it was executed under bad intentions and it was Christopher Hitchens’ belief in the threat that he saw in Iraqi muslims and the person of the dictator Saddam Hussein that lead him to support the invasion in the first place.

The proof of the stupidity of invading Iraq only becomes clearer as we get further down this road in history. We have no idea what Saddam Hussein could have been had he been allowed to continue in power. What we do know is that he would never have had access to nuclear weapons of his own construction because we had destroyed his ability to make those weapons with the first war lead by George H. W. Bush. We figured out the lie that lead us into Iraq long after the deed had been done, too late to fix the error (it is still not too late to punish the criminals) Not invading Iraq would have made the emergence of ISIS from out of the disaffected former military leadership of Iraq an improbability. They might have emerged as the next leadership from within Iraq, but there is no way to know that now. We can’t know that, because that road through history isn’t the road we took.

On the road we took we ended up with another President trying to disengage us from the longest war in United States history, dealing with the revolutions that emerged across the region that our invasion had destabilized. The destruction of blood and treasure engaged in by George W. Bush in invading Iraq and Afghanistan lead to a collapse in the global economy and resulted in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States some 15 years later on a mandate to do to America and the world what Stalin and Mao and Hitler and Mussolini etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum, did to their countries previously. To make the United States Christian and to then make the rest of the world a direct possession of the United States through economic terrorism, wielding the common world currency, the dollar, as a weapon.

That is what the Evangelicals that backed Donald Trump demanded, and I have little doubt that Christopher Hitchens would have seen through that charlatan in a heartbeat. He would have reneged on his original stance as to the greatness of invading Iraq in much the same way that he changed his position on the subject of waterboarding as torture once he understood what waterboarding was and underwent the torture in order to understand it.

He died of cancer on December 15, 2011, and so we will never know what he would have thought of the rise of Donald Trump from the vestiges of the Moral Majority and Reaganism, and Donald Trump’s further attempts to prosecute wars against the Muslim threat that Evangelical America is still certain is out there waiting for them. Of course they are convinced of this. They have the same designs on those people’s hearth and home as they accuse the other of having. The standard playbook, something Hitch would have also recognized.

In writing out Atheism is Not a Belief System, I purposefully sidestepped the issue of “who kills more, atheists or christians?” because the exercise is a senseless mirror act of finger pointing. Humans kill, and they kill because they believe things. Some of those things that lead them to kill are orders from a higher power that those humans believe is their god. You can then say “ah, so you are engaging in a no true Scotsman fallacy by saying atheists are not mass murders.” and you would be right if I was saying that atheists don’t kill at all. Which is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that if you kill because someone told you to kill, and you think that person is your god, then you are killing for your religion and that is a reason to kill. I’ve said it several times now. Christopher Hitchens said the same thing with more words, and he said it repeatedly in just that one answer to that one question, and none of the people who disagreed with him would accept his answer as valid. If you still disagree then all I can suggest is that you become an atheist and try to kill in the name of the thing you don’t believe in and see if you can do it. Otherwise you will just have to take my word for it.

Christianism

Only prayer can save America now.

This sums up modern conservativism in six simple words.

Here’s a small church in the middle of nowhere, safe, protected, unburned, free to worship as they please, free to yell at the rest of us without consequence, protected by law in fact and in practice … and yet they feel persecuted. Under assault. Endangered. Doomed. The end is nigh and it’s game over, lights out, America. Oh woe, woe! Save us, Jesus!

And they feel that way solely because they have to live in a world with other people.

They feel like that because they are afraid every single goddamned day of their lives.

This horrible religion didn’t create that fear, their fear created it.”

Stonekettle Station

Ted Cruz: Only Syrian Christian Refugees Are Allowed

Sam Harris’ latest Waking Up podcast,

Five minutes into this, and I’m already pissed off. Ted Cruz is right to call for only christian refugees to be let in? Only to the extent that an observation that only atheists be let in by an atheist is correct.

“President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America—it is nothing less than lunacy,” Ted Cruz said on Fox News, the day after the attacks on Paris. If there are Syrian Muslims who are really being persecuted, he said, they should be sent to “majority-Muslim countries.” Then he reset his eyebrows, which had been angled in a peak of concern, as if he had something pious to say. And he did: “On the other hand,” he added, “Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. But President Obama refuses to do that.”

Atheists should be more welcome than christians, especially Christianists like Ted Cruz. Atheists are under more threat, and they have no religious test to inflict on our secular government if brought here. Cruz’s test would exclude these people as well as Muslims, which is why no test should be allowed beyond ascertaining no inclination to violence and links to terrorist organizations. We will have to trust, as we do with all citizens, that the refugees will attempt to conform to norms (normative behavior patterns) Whatever those are.

Ben Carson Joins the Lunatic Fringe

I’m sure the title of this piece isn’t news to most people.  Apparently the world is ending soon.  Again. At least according to Dr. Ben Carson,

Twitter – The Hill – October 12, 2015

So Republican demagoguery continues unabated and the only real fun to be had with this completely unsurprising trend is to lampoon the almost neverending predictions of the endtimes that seem to be accelerating.

I remember quite fondly looking forward to the end of days when the end of days rolled around. Those of us who reached adulthood in the 70’s and 80’s know what date that date, the end of days, was.

Prince – 1999 (Official Music Video)

As a side note I’d like to register my utter frustration with attempting to access video that I know exists, because it was impossible to escape this video during the 80’s. Yet today, because of the ridiculously arcane laws we have in the US, things that were force-fed to us in our youth cannot be found because the rights-holders don’t want us to find it, view it, associate it with them. My response? Too Fucking Bad. Maybe you should have thought about the future when recording some of this stuff.  Accept your ad money, sit down and shut up. The social relevance of this video and the spirit of the times is perfectly applicable to the sentiments currently being voiced by GOP candidates and pointing out that these people are worse than broken records is something that needs to be done. Been here, done this, don’t need to go here again. (The Prince estate has finally gotten the video back up, officially. –ed.)

It was one of my favorite jokes, one of my favorite songs, and we milked it for all it was worth for about 20 years.  I had some Mormon missionaries who used to drop by the house and try to convert me to Mormonism for a few months back then. The Wife would get them to help her around the house if I wasn’t at home, and when I was at home there were some pretty hot debates concerning the merits of religion. One of the last conversations I had with them was concerning the end of days and the approaching millennium. My parting words to them were I’ll let you know my decision about converting to Mormonism after 2000 rolls around.  Needless to say, I’m not a Mormon and the world didn’t end.

When 1999 finally did roll over to 2000, The Wife and I staged a Y2K party in our backyard complete with about 10 unpatched computer systems that were predicted to fail when the year rolled over.  Several of them did fail, none of them very spectacularly, but I figured that would be the end of the joke.

Then a relative told me about the Mayan calendar and it’s end of days. Then there were the endless end of days predictions of various preachers, profits and fools.  At this point, the joke is well and truly over as far as I’m concerned.  Now I’m starting to think that the people who really believe the world is going to end soon need to invest in some decent personal psychiatry.

Because these end of days predictions?  Not new.  Been going on since we started recording history, pretty much.  Here is a list of predictions for the end of days on Wikipedia.  What that list fails to mention is that christianity itself was founded on the preachings of a man who saw his people as engaged in a final struggle; or that he wasn’t even the first of such messiahs to appear in that region proclaiming the approaching end times.

Apparently all of humanity has been seeing their personal approaching demise as an all-encompassing end for all living things.  I hate to break it to them; the world will spin on long after they are gone.

So congratulations Dr. Ben Carson.  You have reached the pinnacle of fame in the US today, you are a leading Republican demagogue. Try distinguishing fame from infamy in this day and age, though.  I can’t.


Of course, the end of days predictions are on top of his just this side of lunatic statements shaming victims of the latest mass shooting,

How would Ben Carson have handled the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon? On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate said he would attack the gunman. “I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” Carson said on Fox News. “I would say: ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'”

But this is what someone tried against the Oregon shooter — and it didn’t work out, as the New York Times’s Alan Rappeport reported: “The heavily armed Oregon gunman killed nine people before taking his own life. The fact that an Army veteran who did try to stop him was shot multiple times and remains hospitalized underscores the risks of attacking an armed attacker, as numerous critics pointed out Tuesday.”

Statements which were promptly contradicted by the candidates own admissions concerning the one time he had ever experienced a weapon being pointed at him,

I have had a gun held on me when I was in a Popeyes [in Baltimore]. … A guy comes in, puts the gun in my ribs, and I just said, “I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.” … He said, “Oh, okay.”

I have had a gun pointed at me before.  It is not a pleasant experience, nor one that I would encourage people to act rashly during.  If the opportunity presents itself, I suggest running and hiding. If absolutely left with no other choice, piling on a gunman en masse is probably the only way to reduce casualties (as Sam Harris discusses in the latest Waking Up) but someone is going to end up getting shot when that happens.

It is demagoguery, once again, to assert “I’ll do this when that happens” if the only time it has happened you didn’t do that.


Further evidence that Ben Carson has left the building.  Ben Carson thinks he deserves Secret Service protection because he represents an existential threat to the secular movement,

“I’d prefer not to talk about security issues but I have recognized — and people have been telling me for many many months — that I’m in great danger, because I challenge the secular progressive movement to the very core,” Carson told WABC radio’s Rita Cosby Show on Thursday. “You know, they see me as an existential threat but I also believe in the good lord and we take reasonable precautions.”

Stop laughing, this is serious. It is serious because he says it is. Let’s walk this notion back a bit and look at it. Let’s say as a secular progressive I flip my nut and decide that killing is what is needed and it needs to be religious types in the crosshairs.  Who am I going to choose?

In Texas alone there are hundreds of already elected nutjobs who believe that their religion gives them the right to discriminate in a legal capacity, people who think Kim Davis is a hero much like the Pope does. The state is currently engaged in a witch hunt against Planned Parenthood inspired by the videos that were released in August and discredited the same month.  That’s just here in Texas. If I were to expand the view and look at all of the religious right all across the nation, Ben Carson is lost in a veritable sea of wackiness.

What we have here (as the joke goes) is a target rich environment.  There is a whole lot of nutty coming out of the religious right these days, I’d be hard pressed to say just who would even make the top 10 list; and I don’t think Ben Carson would be on it since I don’t think he really believes the stuff he says. Don’t get me wrong, the man is a genius when it comes to wielding a scalpel, and the other side of genius is a sometimes light touch on what the average joe sees as the real world.  So he could very well be nutty enough to believe the world is coming to an end, and that secular progressives are stalking him.

But just because he believes it doesn’t make it true.

As Ed Brayton goes into over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars it doesn’t matter what he believes anyway.  Secret Service protection is offered to candidates who meet specific targets as far as funding and popularity, and he doesn’t quite qualify yet.  They may still offer him protection, but in my humble opinion what the man needs is a keeper with access to tranquilizers and a butterfly net.

Let’s see how long he leads in the polls.  Who will be top dog next?

76 end times predictions for me. Stonekettle thread on Facebook that served as an inspiration.