“Those who know what’s best for us….”

“…must rise and save us from ourselves.” So sang Canadian prog-rockers Rush in their 1981 track “Witch Hunt”. A quarter century later, the modern-day torch-bearing hysterics haven’t gone away.

I’m a little behind-hand on this, as I took a week’s blog break and don’t regularly read the local Austin paper. So it wasn’t until today that I saw the full-page ad that ran on page A14 of the November 9 issue of the Austin American-Statesman. In screamingly huge type it grabbed your attention with the button-mashing headline “The Most Despicable Crime Ever Committed Against America’s Children”!

The Catholic pedophilia scandal, you might ask? No, it’s all them evil liberals pushing violence and smut in our entertainment, poisoning, in the paranoiac words of Dr. Strangelove‘s General Jack D. Ripper, our precious bodily fluids. The ad is exactly the same kind of reactionary drivel I thought was a relic of the Reagan years. (And as you read on, you’ll find that’s exactly its provenance.) To take its claims at face value, you’d think America was a real life version of a Halo 3 deathmatch, with maddened gun-packin’ teenagers running around wantonly blasting away at everyone and everything in sight (that is, when they aren’t gang-raping each other silly). It’s a lunatic Heironymous Bosch view of reality that, more than anything, reflects the utter, paralyzing fear under which religious conservatives live their lives. Or…is it just cynical manipulation run by dishonest, sleazy, exploitive hucksters to raise cash from those among the public susceptible to such easy manipulation?

The ad is a veritable smorgasbord of fallacies and irrationalism. It purports to offer evidence of the alleged brainwashing effects of violent and explicit media in sidebars with the header “The Truth”. Whenever wingnuts use the word “truth,” and especially when they capitalize it, just remember that immortal line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The “Truth” presented here takes the form of sensationalist headlines. “Police say 13-year-old molested girl after seeing sex on TV.” Egad. Well, what police? Where? Which 13-year-old? When? Oh, you want these claims backed up? Sorry. They don’t do that here. None of these headlines is sourced, which one would think would be a bottom-rung criterion for credibility. It’d sure help persuade me to the cause if, say, “Judge says film influenced boy to kill 2-year-old” was followed by “Such-and-Such Gazette, Month, Day, Year.” Otherwise, how do I know this is the truth? Oh, I see. It says so in the header.

The ad was placed by some outfit calling itself the Parents and Grandparents Alliance. There is no website URL printed in the ad, which immediately struck me as curious, especially in a day and age when everybody and his hamster and his hamster’s mice has, at the very least, a fucking MySpace if not blog or full-on website. Quick Googlage revealed a webpage at outragedcitizens.org, which is little more than an anemic version of the kind of hysteria featured in the newspaper ad. I say anemic because the ad actually featured denser content. But the format, particularly the use of unsourced alleged headlines as “evidence,” is no different. The web page, however, does feature a photo of has-been fundie crooner Pat Boone. You know, for street cred.

To find out what the Parents and Grandparents Alliance actually is, I had to check out this page at Sourcewatch, which reveals it’s an offshoot of Accuracy in Media, the right-wing media watchdog group run by Reed Irvine until his death in 2004. AIM began running these ads as far back as 2001 in the New York Times. Apparently it’s taken them six years to climb down the newspaper food chain to the Austin American-Statesman. Accuracy in Media has been doing its thing since 1969.

Since Google is fun, I thought I’d do a little more digging. But first, it’s interesting to note the difference in presentation between the outragedcitizens.org website and AIM’s own. The latter looks stately, journalistic and professional, while the former employs bright primary colors and blazing, 48-point headlines full of emotionally overwrought language. (Content-wise, they’re equally full of shit.) And while outragedcitizens.org says it’s not a fund-raising ad, the newspaper ad itself most definitely is, with a clip-out donations coupon at the bottom extolling all the parents and grandparents they hope they’ve terrified to “send in the ‘Outraged Citizens Petition’… You don’t need to send in any money to have your Petition added to the number we report. But we beg you to help. These ads cost up to $20,000 and more each. This is a grass roots campaign.”

Horseshit. It’s an establishment campaign. AIM’s corporate donors include Mobil Oil and Union Carbide, which no doubt reflects the organization’s global warming denialism. Neocon gazillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife gave AIM $2 million over a 20 year period, until he was embarrassed by the right’s failed attempt to concoct a bogus murder allegation against Bill Clinton in the case of Vince Foster’s suicide (a situation in which Irvine and AIM were major players). AIM has been responsible for a number of other vicious and wholly false wingnut smears, such as vilifying Walter Cronkite as a “Soviet dupe,” falsely accusing a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter of fabricating a story on a massacre in Kosovo (another source here), and getting another NYT reporter fired for reporting on the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador in 1981.

So far from being a “grass roots” anything, AIM and its bogus sockpuppets like the “Parents and Grandparents Alliance” are really tools of the entrenched neocon plutocracy. (Hey, how’s that for agitprop language!?) Since violent and sexy entertainment continues to be released and continues to meet with public approval (this ad hit the Statesman the same week that American Gangster was the #1 movie, with $80 million in ticket sales so far), it seems to me that Irvine’s successors at his “watchdog” group aren’t really lying awake nights over the thousands upon thousands of imaginary children who are running rampant, raping and pillaging after an all-night World of Warcraft marathon. It’s only when they need to get those donations rolling in, the ones they claim amount to 75% of their operating budget, that they sprinkle these fearmongering ads out among Bible Belt newspapers.

Thus it’s on the meager, hard-earned paychecks of the great unwashed — cowering in terror over the thought of a meth-hopped, FPS-addicted sk8er off his ritalin crashing through their front doors to chainsaw them into hamburger in an orgy of liberal-media-feuled lust and carnage — that AIM can pay to libel and defame their ideological and political opponents in their own neocon-friendly press.

Now who are the outraged citizens?

(For another detailed AIM critique, go here.)

Hottest. Atheist. Ever.

She won’t answer questions about her sexual preferences, but too-cool-for-the-room actress Jodie Foster doesn’t hesitate a nanosecond to use the A-word in her latest interview. Though she admits she “loves religions and their rituals,” being an atheist is nothing she needs to hide. Part of the fearlessness that’s made her such a great performer, I’d say. (And smart enough to choose not to do Hannibal. Blech.)

PS: I do confess to a bit of gender bias in the headline, so I leave it up to Traci and our female (or gay male, for that matter) readers to choose the male H.A.E. I won last year so I’m out of the running, sorry.

What kind of atheist are you?

Find out. Here’s me.

You scored as a Scientific Atheist. These guys rule. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things are than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist

100%

Militant Atheist

83%

Apathetic Atheist

58%

Angry Atheist

50%

Spiritual Atheist

50%

Agnostic

33%

Theist

8%

What kind of atheist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

In which everyone’s irony meters explode yet again

The latest funny thing I’ve gotten in my inbox from the American Family Association is a plug for a low-budget Christian movie called Flywheel, an earlier effort, broadcast on TBN back in 2003, from the producers of theatrical release Facing the Giants. Reading the plot synopsis, I wonder if ol’ Don Wildmon saw a little too much of himself in the description of the protagonist.

This movie is about a used car salesman, Jay Austin (Alex Kendrick), who uses his smiling face and hasty promises to cover up his dishonesty and manipulation. He does everything his way until his true character is exposed and he becomes disgusted by the masks he wears and the lies he tells.

Gee. Except for that last bit, it could be Wildmon’s life story!

Left Behind: Eternal Forces gets left behind in the clearance bin

John Romero can sleep more easily now. Romero’s infamous Daikatana is no longer the most notorious flop in video game history. That dubious honor now belongs to Left Behind: Eternal Forces. (See our first post about it here.) Universally panned by the gaming community for its laughable bugginess and spyware, and boycotted by its Christian target audience for its emphasis on violence (though the game itself is nowhere near as violent as the books it’s based on), the game has resulted in a $31 million loss for its parent company, which is seeing its stock trading at a humiliating 31¢ a share.

If you click on the link to our own previous post there, you’ll see an amusing comment from someone claiming to be an employee of Left Behind Games (and hey, they probably are, or were — I suspect a bit of downsizing has been done), defending the game from its critics and offering examples of “credible” reviews from “unbiased experts”. It’s a sign of how badly the criticism was stinging LBG, Inc. that they felt the need to come to a little blog like ours — much less trafficked at the time of that post than it is now — to defend it. Still, if lives were being changed because of this game, you’d think it would have sold a little better, you know? (And one of the “credible” reviews they link to is one on IGN.com that only gives the game a “5.9 – Mediocre” rating.)

Clearly God just wasn’t backing this little venture, was he? Maybe He was off playing Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball.

Eeeek! Teh gayz! Run awaaay! (Part ∞)

Here are a few things we can say with confidence about fundies. 1) They really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really don’t like homosexuals. 2) They really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really don’t like evil librul Hollywood. 3) They really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really like feeling persecuted. 4) And (I’ll spare you the “reallys” this time) they like complaining, especially when there’s the possibility of putting facts #1-3 together, and the media happens to be paying attention.

Consistency is never a fundamentalist’s greatest skill, which is why they love to complain about all the vile sinful filth coming out of Tinseltown’s studios, and yet when one of those very studios puts out a movie about the baby Jesus during the Christmas season, none of them goes. No, they’re much more empowered by all the stuff they can point to to prove they’re the victims of an endless war against their precious values, stuff like The Last Temptation of Christ, Saved!, or Life of Brian.

This time the ire is being directed towards a little Canadian independent comedy, Breakfast with Scot. It’s about a gay couple, one of whom is a former hockey player for the Mapleleafs, who are raising an adopted 11-year-old boy who apparently enjoys dragging up himself. If you think fundies have been quick with the picket lines in the past, this time they’ve set a new land speed record for “reactionary.” Scot hasn’t even wrapped principal photography! And already, a fundie onslaught, led by San Diego-based lunatic and “former homosexual” (what, another one?) James Hartline, is underway.

It’s not enough that Hartline has the creepiest looking neck I’ve ever seen on a hominid. (Scroll down.) Just to give you an idea of the extent of his asshattery, he’s the kind of guy who says stuff like this and actually means it:

While Breakfast With Scot is seeking to pervert society’s standardized views on family, the film does more to reveal how intent the radicalized homosexual movement is in creating an epidemic of gender confusion to justify the institutionalization of its beliefs on transsexualism and transvestitism.

Remarkable how Hartline knows all about what a movie seeks to do, when he hasn’t even seen it, because it hasn’t even frickin’ wrapped! But of course, the question that all sensible — did I say sensible; how about simply “non-insane”? — people find themselves asking when confronted with histrionic homophobia of this sort is: how in the hell can a movie “pervert” an entire society’s “views” on traditional marriage and family? Let alone launch an “epidemic of gender confusion.” Just because a guy like Hartline is so out of his fucking nut that he can go see a gay-themed film and walk out of the theater not being able to tell the difference between men and women doesn’t mean the rest of humanity is similarly disadvantaged.

It’s the same fear-crazed thinking behind the idea that gay marriage is some kind of “threat” to traditional straight marriage, as if, the minute gay people are granted marriage rights, all heterosexual unions will be declared null and void, and all children will be shipped off in bright pink government-issued Winnebagos to indoctrination camps, where they’ll be subject to rigorous homosexualist training. Boys will be required to play with dolls, listen to ABBA, and get in touch with their feelings, while girls will be educated in the finer points of metalshop and power-tool use, have their hair cut into mullets, and upon turning 16, get their very own pickup truck.

Hartline certainly seems convinced that one little movie will have the power to demolish Western civilization.

The National Hockey League is now becoming a willing partner with the fringe elements of the radicalized homosexual agenda and their ultimate goal of worldwide sexual anarchy.

Worldwide sexual anarchy? Is that what gay people have been after all these years? Dude! And you’d think, with the push towards gay marriage, that what they’ve really been after is to, you know, settle down with someone they love as life partners, raise families, and live just like everyone else. Now I see, through the wisdom of Hartline, that that’s all just a ploy. It’s all about running around the streets like Bozo the Clown on meth, fucking everything you see — trees, lampposts, small foreign cars, indignant stray cats.

Where would we be without courageous men of action like James Hartline, watching out for our welfare though we mock him without mercy? Without Hartline heroically flinging himself bodily in the path of radical homofascianarchalistas, I might well have found myself unwittingly taking it up the old dirt road today while going out to fetch my mail! It’s the kind of thought that makes you want to hug your teddy bear…if doing so weren’t so gay!

I think I know where Capri Films, the producers of Breakfast with Scot would be: without the greatest publicity any indie film could hope for. I can only imagine how delighted they must be at the attention Hartline’s given their little movie, which will now doubtless ride a wave of buzz into the Toronto Film Festival and wherever else they choose to submit it. I can only hope that when I’m ready to do my first narrative feature, I can somehow manage to rub some unhinged fundamentalist the wrong way. It’s good for at least a limited theatrical release and a few hundred grand in DVD sales!

Bored gaming

The demented duo, Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, are at it again. I’ve already posted lengthy responses to their “Way of the Master” series, covering episodes on atheism and evolution — but it seems they haven’t bothered to read and learn.

Their latest endeavor is a new board game called “Intelligent Design versus Evolution”. According to Kirk Cameron,

We are very excited about this game because it presents both sides of the creation evolution argument, and in doing so, shows that the contemporary theory of evolution is perhaps the greatest hoax of modern times.

Which means that they haven’t actually presented both sides, they’ve simply presented their side along with their grossly misunderstood view of the actual science that supports evolution.

The goal of their game is to collect “brain cards” and the player with the most brain cards wins. The irony is so thick that the responses nearly write themselves…

Endorsing this brain trust is Ken Ham, the creationist responsible for www.AnswersInGenesis.com and quotes like:

I don’t use science to prove my religion. I use the Bible to build my science.

Evidently Dr. Dino is a little busy.

I order you to buy this amazing CD

For years now, Negativland have been a collective of audio pranksters whose electronic, sample-laden musical constructs have taken the notion of satire into heretofore unexplored realms. Occasionally they’ve even gotten into legal hot water, at one point being sued by no less than U2. Among atheists, they may best be known for the outrageous “Christianity Is Stupid,” which centers on a looped sample of a fundamentalist pastor blathering the song’s title (taken, of course, shamelessly out of context from the sermon it was part of, but when you’re a satirist, you get to be shameless).

Now Negativland have upped the anti-religion ante from that track on It’s All in Your Head FM, a double live CD taken from two public performances of their weekly radio show Over the Edge. This is hilarious and yet strangely compelling stuff, and sharp listeners might spot similarities to some of Frank Zappa’s work. But Negativland have a transgressive quality all their own.

This clip only barely scratches the surface of what’s on this set. It really is required listening for atheists, so be like the cool kids and buy now. Hell, you could even pick one up for a Christmas present to a Christian friend of yours, depending on how badly you want them to hate you.

(PS: If the track doesn’t play, odds are my daily bandwidth allotment has been exceeded. Just come back another time.)

Film producers the Weinsteins bring a dirty bomb to the War on Christmas

Over at my film blog, Mr. Wagner’s Final Cut, I have a snarky little post in which I express much amusement at the way Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the moguls formerly of Miramax and now releasing as The Weinstein Group, announced they were launching a new company to distribute “faith-based” films, only to follow it up by slating the stupid splatter horror movie Black Christmas for release on Christmas Day itself. At least one right-wing blogger has gone completely apeshit. One wonders, though — is this such a bad release strategy? And why, if Christians are really so offended by Hollywood’s predilection for exploitive trash, aren’t any them going to see The Nativity Story?

Enjoy the snark in full at the link.