Dual-Fact Nation Part 2

Adam & Eve have no lower bodies and conveniently draped hair.

Dismediation is a new word for me I found it in a Religion Dispatches Newsletter article by Christopher Douglas. I should have mentioned the article in my last post since I divided the whole topic into two posts . Dismediation is a process using a medium to tear down that very same medium. So, if you use the TV news to complain about TV news coverage you are dissing the media covering you which academic folks label dismediation. It is a rhetorical technique similar to the one where you begin your speech by saying you are not going to talk about a particular topic; which you have obviously just done by mentioning the topic. “I refuse to discuss my opponent’s vile policies on strawberry flavored toothpaste, I will, however discuss the joys of mint toothpaste which I support wholeheartedly.”

Dismediation is not like those cartoons where the bridge falls apart piece by piece just as the last wheel of the caboose passes by. The bridge must remain an essential carrier. It’s more like complaining about the medium of news for doing what the speaker relies upon it to do, report the message. Trump constantly portrays the news media as being liars thereby discrediting the medium he needs to get his message out. He expects the bridge to remain available after his caboose has passed by so he can use and abuse it repeatedly. The news becomes a straw man that can be attacked repeatedly while whittling away at its viability. If you can convince enough people that the tracks are unsafe then fewer people will travel on the tracks ultimately destroying the effectiveness of the railway system.

The goal of “fake news” and “alternative facts” goes beyond providing different data. Their purpose is actually to destroy the notion that there could be impartial news and objective facts. Maria Bustillos calls this endgame “dismediation,” “a form of propaganda that seeks to undermine the medium by which it travels.”

The people most vulnerable to this rhetorical trap happen to be Fundamental Christians. They have been conditioned to do so by a lifetime process of indoctrination. It begins with an attitude of dislike for the elite, know-it-all, educated class that comes from family influences as well as social interaction with fundamentalist churches. Here, they learn of the inerrancy of the Bible, a blind obedience to its teachings and dis-trust of those who don’t share the same belief. There was little infrastructure to support this back in the late seventies when the fundamentalist evangelicals began their forays into politics through one particular luminary, Anita Bryant and her anti-gay campaign to Save the Family. Anita was not afraid to call gay folks names. Pick any, or all, of these descriptive terms found in The Anita Bryant Story:

Evil, sinners, perverted, an abomination, those with vile affections, reprobate minds, unnatural, deviant, flaunting, afflicted, regrettable, sad, tragic, apart, distorted, abominable, effeminate, ashamed, reproof, abhorrent, disgusting, licentious, lacking legal or moral restraint, marked by disregard of the rules.

If you want a complete list you will have to dig up her book because all this came from just one small part of one short chapter.I had to stop writing them down, it was too stressful.

Anita Bryant capitalized on her orange-juice spokeswoman fame and wrote several “Christian” books. She became both the beacon of her movement and its lightning rod. Jerry Falwell joined her and it became a launch point for truthiness and faux-scholarship of the bigoted religious. You see, she wrote a best selling book. A BOOK. If its in a book its got to be true! If it quotes the Bible a lot then its even more true. So, a whole slew of other anti-gay people started quoting her books as a credible source. They learned about footnotes and endnotes and citations and all those other image-enhancing rip-offs of credible writing. That lead to other bigot’s books quoting this “highly credible” authority (she wrote books you know); one who uses language that would make the Ku Klux Klan folks blush. Once this body of scholar-less-ship dismediation came to pass, evangelicals and fundamentalists started to realize there’s gold in them there books. If the Bible is quoted enough, then academic scholarship is not required. They would, of course reference one another’s work and soon there was a whole library of this stuff. In Christian schools a homogenization process of real and faux scholarship, religious ideology, and the Creation Museum hoopla all merged into “alt-reality” as we call it today.

Christian fundamentalist Bible colleges and universities, publishers and bookstores, newspapers and magazines, radio and then television shows, museums and campus ministries, together formed a set of institutions that resisted elite, secular expert knowledge. Recognizing the power of expertise’s infrastructure, Christian fundamentalists created this counter-infrastructure to cultivate and curate its alternative forms of knowledge. This alternative knowledge—the forerunner of today’s alternative facts— took the form of creationism and an alternative Bible scholarship demonstrating the Bible’s inerrancy and traditional authorship.

I’ve watched the Anita effect influence society in negative ways. Once, I took my students from the Gay Student Club I helped create at Bloomsburg University back in the ‘80s to hear a highly publicized Campus Crusade for Christ anti-gay speaker. We had a stake in this game but were naive as to the effect it would have on all of us. The speaker used a new rhetorical trick to enhance his credibility; it was the unkindest cut of all. He knew his audience would already be on his side, but just to foil the opposition, us, he made a big deal about how all his facts were well supported by references and documentation. He had a three-page list of those references available for all to see if we needed proof. His speech was as evil as Anita’s book and included all sorts of “studies” proving his points. We asked to see his references at the end, but he had unfortunately (read conveniently) left them at home while on his speaking tour. Was there credence to what he said in the speech? Well, it didn’t matter since it had already been given.  There was nothing he could prove and nothing we could do but disagree. We didn’t bring our list of actual studies and scholarship either so nothing we said would have convinced the audience who came with preconceived opinions at the start. It was despicable and cowardly and dishonest and oh-so-typical of the alt-mindset theology: “a lie for God’s side is not a sin.”

Dueling Dual-Fact Nation 

Get used to a dual-fact society. It’s not going away anytime soon. The election of Trump legitimized alt-fact/alt-reality folks as coequal players in the world of political leadership. It all started back in the seventies with the Christian Evangelicals, the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Those who undermine ‘reason’ have been stocking up an army of strength ever since. The Evangelicals have raised a generation through home schooling, Bible memorizing madrasas, religious Colleges and Creation Museums. They feel entitled to dominate because their triune god says so in the first chapter of its holy book.

With a full string of radical fanatics competing in the last Republican Primary it took the perfect storm of anti-science Christians, and alt-right bigots to put Trump over the top and into the Oval Office. The New American Order has removed civility and replaced it with what Hillary called deplorable, an adjective the right wore with pride.  On the left are the well educated, civil, open-minded, fair, but apparently arrogant and condescending, multi-racial, multi-gendered varieties of humanity. On the right are some stranger bedfellows: Christian Evangelical, alt-thinking, frightened, poor, uninsured whites, oddly coexisting subserviently with the wealthy 1% overlords. The right is a coalition of polar opposites.

We’ve created a new kind of class warfare: the reasoning class vs. the alt-thinking class. Most free thinkers understand a reasoning mind-set, while the Alt-Thinking crowd takes some exploration to suss out. We really need to understand them better. We should be the adults in this situation and make the effort to find a resolution. We can’t just say, ‘we’re here to help you poor deluded people’ because, you see, they tend to stick up for their version of the facts. They would say the same thing right back to us, so it’s a pointless approach.

We must find a way to accept the adherence to irrationality, and prejudice, then give it the respect it deserves. This shouldn’t be too hard since we do it every day: the Mormons get a planet when they die, Muslims get a slew of virgin wives when martyred, and Christians, well, they’re monotheists with three gods in one, somehow unlike Hindus with multiple gods. There’s Rastafari with their un-cut hair and use of ganja whom I enjoy. I mean the Rasta not the ganja of course, although once in a while… but you get the point. If we can muster the fortitude to deal with this sometimes fanatic array of ‘mystery’ then we should be able to cope with the alt-right’s alt-reality.

Perhaps a ‘bubble’ metaphor is needed: if we think of followers of these mystery-based belief systems and bigoted entities as living in a bubble we can visualize the situation better. In a group, say at church, they are encompassed by a big bubble. When apart from the group they wear a smaller version of the bubble around their head. The bubbles of each group are decorated with the appropriate imagery; for example Christians use the symbol of an ancient torture device that one-third of their god(s) didn’t really die on – the cross. Bigots use a differently shaped cross – the swastika. Now, there are some people who don’t wear bubbles at all – those without mystery-based ideologies or prejudice.

Non-Theists and rational free thinkers breath the air without the filter of a bubble. They are free from the distortions of the interfacing film of a bubble. Their air is fresh and every scent and sound and sight is clear and direct. Nothing intercedes with their perception. That individual is not bound to a dogma nor restricted to another’s code.

So, a typical gathering of people includes a variety of bubble-wearing people and a variety of non-bubbled folks too. We all seem to get along fairly well in the collaborative environment. Work situations like corporations or the service industry have the bubble people suppress enough of the distinctive elements of the bubble to prevent it from interfering with the task at hand. It needn’t be removed completely to work together. This is where the problem occurs in our current political crisis.

With Trump in charge the more marginal of the bubble people feel emboldened. They wear their distinctive elements with pride, and no longer feel the need to take the societal steps necessary to coexist collaboratively. One journalist observed a proliferation of anti-gay language and hateful attitudes in the smallish crowd at Trump’s inauguration. Hate crimes against Jews and others are on the rise nationwide.

I personally believe that truth is not an absolute thing.  There is, however, a zeitgeist of shared understanding amongst the collaborative members of society. It is the closest thing we have to comprehend “truth,” the working principles and facts of life and knowledge, if you will. This “truth” is a living abstraction that changes as life and knowledge expand and grow. Free Thinkers are comfortable in this abstraction as are those bubble-wearing people who work collaboratively.

The alt-right/alt-fact/alt-reality crowd has been actively working in opposition to this zeitgeist. They don’t intend to collaborate or even tolerate. They are Dominionist entitled to dominate because it says so in the first chapter of Genesis. Trump has been merely a convenient stooge who could gather a sudsy collection of off-beat bubble groups large enough to win power. Christians sold their soul to this devil in a faustian bargain, because they wanted power obsessively.

Evangelicals have had a long row to hoe to get here. I remember in the early eighties when they were giving their pious spokesmen elementary advice such as, ‘don’t wear white socks with black or brown dress shoes, it makes you look like a hick.’ They are still hicks in dress socks now, but their persistence paid off. Once that buffoon devil, Trump, is gone, Pence, who wears the bubble of Dominion Theology, will ascend and he will act accordingly.

Is there a way for truth and alt-truth to coexist? Dominion doesn’t mean collaborate, it means dominate. It is the ultimate example of the description: authoritarian. If they succeed we will see a restructuring of society in accordance with their interpretation of Biblical law, Christian sharia. They are as serious as a jihadist suicide bomber while we are still blinking our eyes, astonished, and going – WTF?

So, since we are trying to be the adult in the room while the opposition is fanatic about winning isn’t it our obligation to match or exceed their fanaticism? The other choice seems to be submit, since compromise and collaboration are not part of their vocabulary. It’s time for aggressive action from our offense. Do we have one?

ADF = Bully

 

Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost

my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of

myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation,

Iago, my reputation! 

Act 2 scene 3 of Othello has one of the more devastating moments to be found in any of Shakespeare’s plays. Iago intentionally gets Cassio drunk and embarrasses him in front of the boss. The character of Cassio is the epitome of goodness and virtue, and Iago is the most evil dramatic character ever created; the ultimate bully who revels in Cassio’s angst seen in those lines above.

Things to keep in mind about bullies:

They are smart.

They use strategies based upon circumstance.

They attack your reputation, knowing that you will protect it.

They almost always win.

To fight back you must accept the fact your reputation has already taken a hit, so put that reality to use. The bully is relying upon you to protect your reputation. You can beat the bully by removing reputation as the foundation of their strategy.

“You see what power is – holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them.”

-Amy Tan, from The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991)

If you fear the destruction of your reputation then the bully can keep you right where he wants you. Get rid of that fear and the bully no longer has power over you. A reputation is ephemeral, it ebbs and flows, it can be rebuilt when it is damaged. It is based in what other people think and you can’t control that. But you can control what you think about yourself.

The best way to get rid of the fear of damage to your reputation is to “know thyself.” Confidence in who and what you are allows you the fortitude to endure the inevitable assault. When you choose to oppose the attacking force, being fearless is like pulling their horses out from under them; they lose their momentum and gravity throws them into the dirt.

The Alliance Defending Freedom takes a strong oppositional stance to anti-bullying efforts in schools. Their strategy involves removing the ability for a child to become confident in themselves. The less the child knows about where they fit into the LGBTQ spectrum of existence the less confident they are. If you give them knowledge, you give them power so the ADF recommends that no information at all or even a mention of LGBTQ issues be part of anti-bullying campaigns. That will prevent struggling children from knowing themselves and certainly prevent sympathy for their lot in this circumstance. By ignoring the topic it becomes easier to use language like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ and ‘dyke’ negatively since no-one has told them not to do so, or has even said that it is bad.

Social pressure, shame and reputation are valued in an authoritarian mindset where rules are respected more than individuals. Self-knowledge is irrelevant in this approach because standards have already been established for all individuals. So, if your kid doesn’t know the kind of pain he is causing a gay target when he calls him a fag, well, it doesn’t really matter because that childish shaming is what keeps the christian rules enforced. And, it is sort of the moral thing to do in their way of thinking because rules are more important than the individual. They don’t see the intentional restriction of knowledge as immoral either, especially if it helps the LGBTQ person know themselves. That sort of thing would let them think and reach conclusions that help build self-confidence which is the bully’s greatest fear. Keep them ignorant so they can be controlled. Let them fear being shamed and fear losing the false god of ‘reputation.’

But the Alliance Defending Freedom doesn’t stop there. They don’t want teachers reporting bullying incidents. They want investigations into bullying events contingent upon whether the bully’s parents permit it. They don’t want bullying events reported by anonymous complainants. They equate any education about LGBTQ issues to be propaganda advancing a Gay Rights agenda and undermining the family structure.

Their version of rules for “anti-bullying” give tacit approval to bully the LGBTQ population. They preemptively steal the student’s ability for self defense. They do this with lawyers under the guise of false moral superiority. They encourage anti-intellectualism, cruelty and blind allegiance to their own ignorant belief system. This is not Christ-like behavior.

Alt-Right, The Alternative To Being Right, Welcomes the ADF

New words and phrases enter our vocabulary all the time. One new arrival is the designation known as: Alt-Right. This name is designed to prevent a visceral reaction to the extreme ideologies it identifies. The right wing of American politics has been renaming itself for a long time. Neo-conservative shifts in thought bring about a distinction called the “paleo-conservative,” who only became “paleo,” or old, once the “neo,” new conservatives asserted themselves. Old ideas or political philosophies require a new moniker to be successfully recycled.

The Tea Party evolved out of Pat Buchanan’s declaration of cultural and religious wars in the 1990’s. Buchanan was attempting to re-define the Republican party with his incendiary speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. He said: “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America”.  The Koch brothers and their cohorts used a different approach as they created a new movement to influence the Republican party which eventually became the Tea Party. This was given a name that folks could hang their hats on both literally and metaphorically. Its suggestion of rebellion was attractive to white middle-class evangelical types because it’s just like the American Revolution. Anyone could pin a teabag to their hat and join the rebellion. They all knew about the 1773 Boston Tea Party from elementary school so the historical reference made them feel smart. They were empowered by their metaphorical fight for independence while seeking extreme conservative change.

“Tea Bagging” faded after a series of Sara Palin-like fiascos cluttered up their image. Meanwhile, white evangelicals searched for a new leader. They were sorely afraid of the black president who managed a scandal-free eight years in the White House. The line-up of candidates in the 2016 republican primaries offered a passel of overtly Christian and sometimes chubby, mostly white guys. They chose, the least Christ-like and most Palin-like contestant in the group. Trump seemed to endorse calling a spade a spade, as they say, and stood up to political correctness by retweeting the words of white supremacists. Now, look at this, Trump appears to be direct and forthright by repeating these memes. He calls it as he sees it. However, he stops short of being clear. His true message is hidden in this misdirection but people think they have been given at least a wink and a nod: “See, I’m on your side,” They finally had permission to feel good about their bigotry.

These folks prefer the name, Alt-Right. It just sounds more respectable, like “pro-life,” and “pro-family” and “christian”. Who can complain about an “alternative” to normal right wing politics? After all, it’s much more respectable than clearly stating the actual bigotries that define them: white supremacists, racists, homophobes, misogynists, and all those plain-old-white-folk who are scared of sharing control with darker skinned folks.

The Alliance Defending Freedom was created by hate groups such as the American Family Association, Focus on the Family and Coral Ridge Ministries. ADF has provided legal support for a number of these like-minded groups. They masquerade as just plain lawyers while advocating harsh, unkind, hateful anti-LGBTQ points of view. Christian hate-mongers wearing legal robes this time. There is nothing about being a lawyer that removes the responsibilities of civility, but this group masks incivility with cunning legal gimmicks. Dressing up to seem respectable is the purpose of the term Alt-Right and it is the purpose of the ADF for Christian bigotry.

Evangelicals feel they deserve respect.  They want this respect while being discriminatory against immigrants, Muslims and gays. They want control over women, blacks, and transgender people while at the same time wanting to feel good about their bigotry. The go-to guys for Alt-Right legal and political action is the Alliance Defending Freedom. “Alt-Right” gives them cover to feel better about their immoral choices. ‘It is just an alternative, there is no need to turn up your arrogant noses at us; our beliefs are merely an ‘alternate’ to yours’. Shouldn’t an alternative have equal status?

The problem is that they are seeking equal status with the more-principled and morally correct ideals of equal treatment. They have skipped a few steps here. The name ‘alt-right’ is equivalent to the morally despicable ideologies of white supremacists, racists, homophobes and misogynists. If those ideologies elevate themselves up to an appropriate moral standard they might earn equality, until that time comes, both the ADF and Alt-Right are merely putting lipstick on a pig. In Trump’s case, he is putting makeup on some very wealthy pigs.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has always been a part of the Alt-Right crowd. With the recent designation from the SPLC of “Hate Group” we can break through the facade of credibility to speak bluntly about their vile nature.