Getting paid to speak is not free speech

I have to completely agree with Adam Weinstein’s defense of protesting commencement speakers. There is altogether too much apathy on campus, and when students stir themselves to complain about what rat-buggering overpaid scumbag is getting a big pot of money to lecture them before they’re allowed to leave the university, I’m happy for them. It’s about time. And that’s true even if the speaker is someone I agree with. It would be true even if it were me — I’m always overjoyed to see protesters at my talks.

…being denied a chance to speak at a graduation ceremony is not an infringement on your free speech. Free speech might entail an invitation to speak to a voluntary audience and then have alternative viewpoints offered by other speakers, and then perhaps engage in a dialogue over those ideas. This is not how commencement speeches work. If a commencement address is free speech, then so is a seven-hour harangue by Fidel Castro to Cuban citizens who are too scared to get up and leave the auditorium to pee.

A commencement address is the opposite of free. It is paid speech. Paid speech that, just like the honorary degree that accompanies it, associates the recipient with the granting institution as if by royal decree. It’s entirely legitimate for faculty and students, who are already associated with the institution by their works and their merits, to dispute whether an honoree is also worthy of that association.

Lest you doubt that all of the power is in the hands of the speakers and not the listeners, consider how much they make to deliver a shitty speech:

Commencement fees range from a couple of thousand dollars to over $100,000. Katie Couric received an astonishing $110,000 to deliver the commencement address at the University of Oklahoma in 2006. Rudy Giuliani, a year earlier, charged $75,000 to speak at High Point University. Giuliani reputedly now gets about $100,000 plus a private jet for a speech. In 2007 Senator John Edwards received $55,000 for a speech at the University of California at Davis. The rates have probably increased significantly with inflation in recent years.

Really, is bringing in Katie Couric to cheerfully chirp a bunch of happy platitudes really worth 5 figures? The article talks quite a bit about Condoleezza Rice who backed down from an opportunity to speak at Rutgers after the students spoke out in horror. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. Instead of being honored, the gang of malicious liars from the Bush years ought to be in jail.

How can an Allosaurus be racist?

It can’t, but its owner can be. Ken Ham has been mugging for the media quite a bit lately: he’s got a little coup, in that he’s acquired a fossil allosaur — a real, and valuable, scientific specimen — for his crappy little Creation “Museum”. He claims it’s evidence for a young earth, because it is supposedly only 4500 years old, if you ignore the actual evidence for its age.

But here’s something I didn’t know. Daniel Phelps did a little digging, and excavated the history of the donor. He’s not a nice guy. He’s one of those racist traitors who worships the Confederacy.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

May 22, 2014

CREATION MUSEUM TO UNVEIL DINOSAUR FOSSIL FROM ORGANIZATION WHOSE LEADER IS AFFILIATED WITH HATE GROUP

The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky is about to unveil a dinosaur fossil donated by an organization whose leader is affiliated with a hate group.

In October 2013 the Creation Museum, operated by Answers in Genesis, announced the receipt of a partial Allosaurus skeleton and skull from the Elizabeth Streb Peroutka Foundation. The foundation’s leader Michael Peroutka until recently was also a board member of the League of the South, a white supremacist, Neo-Confederate and pro-secessionist organization that has been named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (See the web links at the end of this press release for documentation.)

The Creation Museum will be unveiling the specimen this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. The Creation Museum expresses thanks to Michael Peroutka and the Peroutka Foundation on their website (http://creationmuseum.org/whats-here/exhibits/allosaur/):

"One blessing in getting the allosaur was that the Creation Museum did not seek it out. Michael Peroutka, one of the board members of the Foundation, says that this fossil is a testimony to the creative power of God and also lends evidence to the truth of a worldwide catastrophic flooding of the earth about 4,500 years ago as described in the Bible. In order to ensure that the display of the fossil represented this teaching, the Peroutka Foundation donated the fossil to the Creation Museum."

Kentucky geologist and President of the Kentucky Paleontological Society Daniel Phelps is calling for Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum to disavow the hate group, and to donate the fossil to a real natural history museum so that scientific research can be performed on the specimen. 

Phelps said, "The Creation Museum could use this opportunity to take a stand against a racist, Neo-Confederate, hate group by refusing to take possession of the Allosaurus fossil or by donating it to a real natural history museum so the specimen could be placed in the public trust, especially in the light of AIG’s anti-racist position."

Possible museums that could properly curate and research the specimen, according to Phelps, include the Smithsonian (Washington, DC), the American Museum of Natural History (New York), the Field Museum (Chicago), Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Museum of Western Colorado.

Phelps also points out that the Creation Museum will be incapable of doing scientific research on the specimen.  All employees of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum are obligated to sign an oath of Biblical literalism before employment.  This oath (found here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/about/faith)

includes statements that make scientific research on the specimen impossible since all conclusions are known before any possible research is undertaken. The Creation Museum’s Statement of Faith even includes this dogmatic statement: 

"By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record."

Answers in Genesis has an in house publication that mimics a scientific journal named Answers Research Journal, but that publication requires author’s conclusions to match AIG’s statement of faith. The following quote from the publication’s instructions to authors illustrates this point:

"The editor-in-chief will not be afraid to reject a paper if it does not properly satisfy the above criteria or it conflicts with the best interests of AiG as judged by its biblical stand and goals outlined in its statement of faith."

(Page 9) http://legacy-cdn-assets.answersingenesis.org/assets/pdf/arj/instructions-to-authors.pdf

Phelps stated, "Oaths based on religious doctrine are not how modern science is accomplished. The Creation Museum has decided, without doing research, that the dinosaur fossil is evidence of Noah’s Flood which they believe occurred in approximately 2350 BC." 

Phelps continues, "Since the Creation Museum doesn’t do scientific research, all the Creation Museum really has done is obtain a nice display trophy. Real museums do research.  The Creation Museum has asserted the specimen to be evidence of Noah’s Flood without any actual research and will not consider other explanations for theological reasons."


Here is more information on Michael Peroutka and his connections to The League of the South:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/23/1286860/-RINO-Says-His-Dino-Proves-Noah-s-Flood-Wha-Wha-What

http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2013/06/michael-peroutka-appointed-to-the-league-of-the-south-board-of-directors/

YouTube video of Peroutka joining League of the South board:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vze4fPPkgxY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Michael Peroutka “proud to be a member” of The League of the South:

http://archive.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=80#__utma=149406063.1866893309.1398790110.1398790110.1398790110.1&__utmb=149406063.1.10.1398790110&__utmc=149406063&__utmx=-&__utmz=149406063.1398790110.1.1.utmcsr=google|utmccn=(organic)|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=%22michael%20peroutka%22&__utmv=-&__utmk=192255274

The Southern Poverty Law Center names The League of the South a Neo-Confederate hate group here:

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/league-of-the-south

The Southern Poverty Law Center writes of connections between Peroutka and The League of the South here:
http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2013/09/18/american-heritage-group-pushes-radical-theocratic-class-on-constitution/

People For the American Way articles on Peroutka’s activities:

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/category/people/michael-peroutka?page=1

Michael Peroutka decries Union victory in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg:

http://archive.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=270

Michael Peroutka’s listing in the Encyclopedia of American Loons can be found here:
http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2014/05/1022-michael-peroutka.html

I think Dan is a bit optimistic if he thinks Ham will be swayed at all by the association with racist traitors. I suspect he’s sympathetic, actually, since they tend to be fanatical Christians, too.

At least some people are having the conversation

It’s under the hashtag #YesAllWomen, and it’s largely women doing the talking. Laci Green is also explaining the importance of this issue.

When she was describing all the ways our culture shapes how men are supposed to regard women, I suddenly recalled all those times playing video games when women would join the group, and the orders would ring out: “make me a sandwich.” A joke. But think about what that joke says about our expectations of women’s roles. There’s a long stretch from “make me a sandwich” to gunning down random strangers because women wouldn’t have sex with you, but they’re both on the same continuum.


By the way, this should settle all those claims that he was mentally ill and Aspergers: a comment from a friend of the Elliot family.

Astaire said Elliot had not been diagnosed with Asperger’s but the family suspected he was on the spectrum, and had been in therapy for years. He said he knew of no other mental illnesses, but Elliot truly had no friends, as he said in his videos and writings.

Well, that explains everything

An expert on a news program has figured out why Rodger killed all those people.

He was gay. Also schizophrenic.

She never met him, but she’s a psychologist on Fox News. That’s enough for a diagnosis, right?

Otherwise, the consensus I’m seeing all over the place is that we don’t need more gun control, other than adding more psychological screening to the process of buying a gun. Huh. What kind of screening would catch an Elliot Rodger, but wouldn’t also cause every Tea Bagger and gonzo flying a Confederate flag from his pickup truck to be similarly prohibited from purchasing any ol’ gun they want?

What I saw on the Rodger video was a well-dressed, wealthy young man who was lucid and speaking hatred in clear language, and who was perfectly in control. If he were getting a few questions to determine if he could buy a gun, I don’t see any reason to think he wouldn’t be able to choke back the hate long enough to be approved.

For that matter, hating women or any other group probably won’t be among the criteria for denying someone a gun — imagine, a restriction that would prevent a Republican from buying a firearm!


Let’s be clear about something: I am not agreeing with this irresponsible psychologist. My point is that Elliot Rodger was as sane as your average Republican. You will not solve gun violence by locking up everyone who ever had psychological counseling.

He was also not gay. Full stop. It’s ridiculous to even bring it up.

He did not kill people because he was frustrated about not getting sex. We’ve all been there: I went through adolescence, when my hormones were sizzling at their peak, and I managed to survive years of ‘involuntary celibacy’ without so much as punching anyone. And I was a homely shy nerd who didn’t own a BMW (I had to pick up my dates in my dad’s station wagon.)

The insanity defense, the gay nonsense, and the toxic blue balls excuse are simply not valid explanations for what happened.

The real culprit in all of this is a culture of thriving misogyny, in which women are dehumanized and regarded as grudging dispensers of sex candy, who must be punished if they don’t do their job of servicing men. Elliot Rodger was a spoiled, entitled kid who had his brain poisoned with this attitude. First he learned that women are disposable, then he learned that they were evil for not having sex with him, and then he rationally put together two delusions and acted on them.

And it’s not just MRAs and PUAs that spread that poison. Every politician and media blowhard who bargains away women’s rights, who dismisses efforts to correct economic inequities, or patronizingly decides that they must manage women’s lives for them, is polluting the atmosphere further.


Yet another explanation.

Even more strangely, the proudly racist Steve Sailer – a hero to Heartiste and others in the “alt-right” wing of the manosphere – has declared that Rodger wasn’t motivated by misogyny but rather by “anti-Blondism,” and that his targeting of “ blonde sluts” in a popular sorority house was “an extremely intentional racial hate crime.” Never mind that the half-Asian Rodger idolized blonde women as superior (even as he hated them) and that his comments online are littered with rather crude, rather traditional racism against people who weren’t white.

Somehow, I’m not surprised that the scientific racists share many common causes with misogynists.

Cause to celebrate!

I surprise myself. I actually have two positive things to say about the movie, God’s Not Dead.

First, the projection was excellent. The last time I wrote about the workings of the theater, I described the amazing elaborate old-timey gadgetry to show a movie print. That’s all gone now, replaced by a modern digital movie projector. Crisp, bright, reliable.

Also, the movie itself was an elaborate exercise in projection. The academics were all portrayed as dogmatic and authoritarian and rather stupid — even the debate which was supposedly the core of this movie consisted of the Christian protagonist and atheist professor exchanging rounds of quotes from their respective corners. Dawkins says this, but Lennox says that. Hawking asserts X, but Strobel trumps it with Y. That may be how dopey Christians argue, with dueling authorities, but sorry, that’s not how philosophers discuss much of anything.

It was also implied that all of the students at this university were atheists, or apathetic enough about religion to blithely agree with the statement that God is dead, as part of the filmmakers’ martyr complex: this straw America is populated almost entirely with godless unbelievers. Here I am at a secular state university, and even here, that’s simply not true. Most of my students are religious, although probably not to the degree that the hero of the film is.

The second bit of praise, though, is for the fact that this is the most profoundly anti-Christian movie I’ve ever seen. I left the theater filled with contempt and loathing for Christians.

You know, most of us atheists are able to respect believers as human beings — I can appreciate that they’re just as intelligent, just as capable of living a productive life as I am, but that they’re simply burdened with years of indoctrination. Not this movie. In the hands of whoever wrote this drivel, Christians are dumbasses. It has to set up a whole universe made of straw. All the atheists are callous, cruel, vindictive people, while the Christians are pious and sincere. A first year college student is knowledgeable enough to out-argue a philosophy professor…and every argument he makes is well-worn idiocy dredged from the bowels of people like William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and C.S. Lewis, larded with bad quotes from Hawking or Dawkins, or good science mangled and distorted. It was little more than a Big Daddy style fantasy in which a Christian student can regurgitate tired, facile nonsense and send the godless professor reeling back in confusion and anger.

Really, the arguments for Jesus are: 1) the universe had a beginning, 2) life had a beginning, 3) there had to be a god to start things, and 4) how can you be moral without Jesus telling you what to do? And every time the professor would try to put the kid in his place by telling him that some other Big Name said otherwise, and how dare the credential-less punk disagree with them? It was appalling. I shall look forward to the young students who optimistically believe they will be able to crush the atheists with their brilliant strategies lifted from God’s Not Dead. This movie is setting up a lot of Christians with feeble assertions that will be so trivial to destroy — I fear my opponents have just been made stupider.

I would just like to thank Hunter Dennis, Chuck Konzelman, and Cary Solomon (the writers) for sabotaging the brains of another generation of proselytizers. You make it so easy for us.

But all that vapid noise was just the white bread foundation for the awesome mountain of fecal matter that would top this shit sandwich. I am going to tell you about the ending. You shouldn’t care — you don’t need a spoiler alert for a movie that is rotten from the first few minutes. This was the part that had me gawping in disbelief; it was the fate of the atheist professor that had me convinced that Christianity is actively evil.

He is crossing a street when he’s hit by a car and killed.

Not right away, though. He’s hit right in front of a car containing two missionaries, who get out and run to his ‘assistance’. Somehow, they are sufficiently knowledgeable about medicine to be able to tell that he’s going to die, and only has a few minutes left to live. So, with smiles on their faces, they tell him he’s going to be facing God in heaven in a few minutes, and that he must accept Jesus into his heart. It was my nightmare, that the last, brief, passing moment of life is spent with smug stupid assholes quoting Bible verses and pressuring the dying to affirm their superstitions, which is obviously the most important thing he could do.

See, projection. I just wish whoever made this film could imagine lying on their deathbed, when an atheist barges in and starts yelling that they are about to cease to exist, and there will be nothing forever, and slaps them a few times ordering them to reject God right now. That’s not going to happen, but of course all they can do is project their authoritarian proselytizing impulse on other. And of course, since this is the Christian straw universe, our atheist professor accepts Jesus with his dying breath.

After which, the two smiling missionaries tell each other that they have “cause to celebrate”. A man just died. They want to celebrate. They’re going to Disneyland!

Fuck me. All I felt was hatred. That was despicable.

I’ve got to start carrying a knife now. Just so all you Christians know, if I’m in a fatal accident, and I’m lying in the street dying, and you’re not running over to stop the bleeding or otherwise physically help me, and you try to pull that prayer-and-conversion shit on me, I’m going to stab you. I’ll have nothing to lose, and you sure as hell don’t deserve to continue living. I don’t like violence, but I will make an exception for this one possible circumstance.

Now I know a lot of Christians aren’t like that, and that there are many who are also appalled at this wretched excuse for a movie. You can have another reason for disliking it: it has hardened the heart of an atheist even further against your religion.

Christianity is barbarism, evil, and gibbering insanity. Thanks, God’s Not Dead. When your religion is extinct, then I’ll have cause to celebrate.

My exciting plans for tomorrow evening!

The Morris Theater is showing God’s Not Dead tomorrow at 7, and I have to go for multiple reasons. I want to find out how philosophy teaching works. From the trailer, it sounds like philosophers simply tell all their students what the answer is, and order them to write down the words verbatim in their exams. I’m really curious to see how effective that is, since it would make my teaching so much simpler.

I’m also curious to watch the audience. Maybe we’ll all be looking at each other, thinking “Oh, you’re the kind of idiot who goes to these things. Heh, heh, heh.”

I’ll be killing time, too, until it gets dark enough to drive a few miles out of town and bury the bodies under cloak of darkness I mean, watch the reputed meteor shower that evening.

Anyone else in the Morris area going? We could pick up the latest hot tips in college pedagogy.

Oh, never mind — nobody in Stevens County reads this weird blog.

TESTS WARP YOUR BRAIN

That will be the new mantra of students — giving tests has a secret agenda to brainwash you. Charles Van Zant, Republican wackadoodle from Florida, thinks standardized tests will turn children gay. This is all in response to the commission of a company to administer tests statewide.

These people that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida, unless this is stopped, will promote double mindedness in state education, and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can. I’m sorry to report that to you. … I really hate to bring you that news, but you need to know.

He doesn’t know the half of it. I’m not gay, so my tests only inculcate atheism in all of my poor victims students. If I try harder, maybe I can get all of the students who take biology here to emerge as gay socialist godless abortionists, just by asking them questions about mitochondria or recombination or Sonic Hedgehog.

But the esteemed legislator does ask everyone to look at the website for the testing company, AIR, so I did. I’m not much of a fan of standardized testing — I think we lose sight of the individual when we develop a single instrument to measure — but a lot of what they say does makes sense, and I couldn’t find anything about their magic gayness-inducing tests. I did see stuff about standards of care for “many LGBT people [who] face harassment, violence, stigma, rejection, and discrimination in their families, schools, employment, and social settings”, or improving the well-being of LGBT youth or ending LGBT youth homelessness. I don’t see what there is to oppose in that, unless you think that LGBT kids should be treated violently, not be healthy, or not have a home.

We also have AIR’s official statement on the issue.

AIR’s Health and Social Development program develops knowledge and understanding about LGBT youth that takes account of their experiences and needs. AIR also enhances opportunities for the healthy development, well-being, and safety of LGBT children, youth, and their families by providing workforce training and technical assistance to service providers across systems addressing behavioral health, child welfare, education, juvenile justice, and homelessness.

Those all sound like desirable things. I guess it’s only if you’re a Republican that caring about children without reservations about their sexual orientation is considered wicked.

Harken back to the satanic panics of yesteryear

Ah, the 1980s. When every preschool was a hotbed of satan worshipping child abusers, police departments had ‘experts’ on ritual murder, daytime talk TV would run very special episodes on cultic cannibal orgies, and Jack Chick published Dark Dungeons. You’ve read it, right? The story about Dungeons & Dragons giving you actual magical powers that would damn you to hell? Go ahead, take a minute to read it if you haven’t already.

Or don’t. Just wait until August, fork over $5, and you’ll be able to watch the movie of Dark Dungeons, no reading required. And this version is even more over the top than the Chick tract.

Watch to the end for the surprise guest appearance of an important character beloved by yours truly.

In case you’re wondering if this is a sarcastic send-up of the original tract, read the FAQ.

Is Dark Dungeons the Movie a satire?

NO! Satire is “a humorously exaggerated imitation.” The most classic example is Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”, in which he mocks the English aristocracy’s indifference to the rural Irish poor by suggesting they eat Irish babies. This was an exaggeration as the English did not actually hate the Irish enough to eat their babies. By contrast, Dark Dungeons the comic shows that RPGs can lead to suicide, joining a witches coven, and gaining real life magical powers and Dark Dungeons the movie shows exactly those same things as well. The film adaptation does not exaggerate or alter those claims. It is NOT a satire.

Brilliant. It’s true — you cannot possibly make a satire of “Dark Dungeons”.

There is a lesson for women in this

I’ve been reading about the shocking dismissal of Jill Abramson, executive editor at the New York Times. It says so much about what is going wrong here: if there is any paper that personifies journalism in the US, it’s the NY Times, and at the same time we’ve been witnessing the decay in journalism as an institution, we can see the rot blooming all over the flagship. I’m not a media insider by any means, but when you see the deck sagging and one of the masts falling off, even us outsiders can see something is seriously amiss.

One of the problems is simple corporate sexism.

There are two intertwining narratives of Abramson’s downfall, and both probably have some truth to them. The story that’s gotten the most attention, of course, is about sexism. “Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs,” Ken Auletta reported in The New Yorker. “’She confronted the top brass,’ one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy,’ a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect.”

She got paid less than Bill Keller? Ethically challenged, insensitive, entitled Bill Keller? Say it ain’t so. And then she dared to actually point out this problem to the corporate executives? How dare she.

I don’t think that if a man did exactly the same thing, that his pay was not equivalent to that of his predecessor, that he’d get called “pushy”. That would be a case of pointing out an unfairness, whereas women are supposed to simply accept an unfairness. She was clearly a bad woman.

She broke the clubhouse rules. She never became that mythical female boss who is assertive but not aggressive, nurturing but not mothering, not so strong that it bothers the men, but never weak like a woman.

The top quote mentions that there were two factors contributing to her firing. One was sexism. The other was independence and ethics. She was for ‘em, clearly something that put her at odds with NYT management, the newspaper that allowed Judith Miller to work until she retired.

But if Abramson’s demise is about gender, it’s also about newsroom values—and here, the implications are almost as troubling. At NYMag.com, Gabriel Sherman describes how she clashed with Thompson over native advertising or ads designed to look like editorial content. He writes about how she resisted Thompson’s push for a greater emphasis on online video, and about how she enraged him by sending a journalist to investigate his role in the unfolding Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal at the BBC, which he led before going to the Times. In all of these conflicts, she was right, and in two of them, she was defending fundamental journalist principles.

Mark Thompson is the NYT’s CEO, formerly of the BBC, where he was in charge when a documentary on Jimmy Savile, long in preparation, was squelched as just too embarrassing for management (hey, who knew the BBC and the Catholic Church would have something in common?). He’s keeping his job. The woman who thought it was newsworthy to investigate a cover up is fired.

So clearly, the lesson from this story is that if you are a woman in journalism, you must be submissive and you must abandon any sense of what is right. I guess working while female at the NYT is a bit like having a role in Fifty Shades of Gray.