When part of my past became a published undergraduate article (Non-fiction)

When I was a student at the University of Iowa back in the 1980s, I was a member of a radical leftist group called the New Wave. New Wave was at the forefront of many protests back then, including opposing CIA recruitment on campus, supporting gay rights, and speaking out against US intervention in Central America.

At first, I liked being a member, but then I started to become weary of the Maoist leaning of some of the most influential leaders of the group. Finally, due to several personal issues I was struggling with, along with disagreements with some of the members, we went our separate ways. It was a nasty split, with consequences that lasted for several years. But looking back, the experience did teach me about the dangers of political dogma, both on the Left and Right. As much as I wanted to fight for change, I had to accept that following the teaching of a 19th revolutionary and his followers was not for me. I had to find my own path. The one I did find lead me to the skeptical movement, and eventually to Freethought Blogs.

So, many years later, when I happened to stumble upon the 2011 article about New Wave, written by an undergraduate for the Iowa Historical Review, I decided to check it out. I opened it expecting a somewhat thorough history of the group. Instead,I found an article that tried to predict the future of the Tea Party movement by selectively citing New Wave’s history.

The author, Greg Branson, summed up his thesis this way: “What can the story of the New Wave Party tell us about similar reactionary groups like the Tea Party? Simply put, success will likely be their downfall.”

However, the history of New Wave can’t be used that way. The Tea Party was an Astroturf campaign mostly funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. New Wave started as a UI student senate political party that later transitioned into an activist group. While New Wave folks became members of the Progressive Student Network, (PSN) it was nothing like the Tea Party. PSN mainly shared information from progressive groups from around the country, while the Tea Party had a coordinated national strategy.

New Wave dissolved in 1992, but it wasn’t “because of the success of the group.” It’s demise can be attributed more to internal conflicts, the sudden departure of the group’s main thought leaders, the backlash against anti-war protesters during the first gulf war, and the community’s souring attitude toward New Wave’s tactics.

One of the major turning points for New Wave, in my opinion, was their “Intifada USA” rally on April 26, 1990. It was loosely a call for the then Daily Iowan Editor Jay Casini, a very conservative person at the time, to resign. Each co-sponsoring group had a representative give a speech for their cause. The overall message of the rally and eventual sit-in came across as “the world is terrible. Let’s march on the Daily Iowan!” The biggest problem with the protest was that Casini’s term as editor was about to end, and the Student Publications Board had already elected a new editor. The protest was therefore pointless and made New Wave members look like fools.

Since I was a contributor to the Daily Iowan’s Arts and Entertainment section at the time, I think I had the distinction of being someone who had marched with New Wave, yet was later protested by New Wave. Furthermore, New Wave never reached out to the liberal members of the DI’s staff who might have been sympathetic to them. Instead of building alliances, they alienated potential supporters.

While New Wave’s demise in 1992 correlated with the election of President Bill Clinton, it was not the cause.

Branson’s article should have focused more on the actual history of New Wave. He only cites the UI Library’s collection of old internal documents from New Wave, and even then, it seems like he only skimmed them. He could have cited the many newspaper articles and editorials about New Wave by New Wave members. He could have reached out to former New Wave members. He might not have found me, but there were other alumni that would have been easier to find.

In the end, I found the article to be a wasted opportunity, with a thesis that turned out to be false. You can’t always judge a political movement by the number of protests it stages. The Tea Party didn’t fade away when their protests. Arguably, they became the Republican Party. Their tactics are still used today, only now they’re used to fight mask mandates, and intimidate school boards. Conversely, California Governor Gavin Newsome fought off a recall effort thanks to strong turnout by Democrats in an off-year special election.

In one of my last journalism classes, I wrote a paper arguing that the trend in media was towards consolidation. My professor felt that my argument was too linear and I should have been open to more ambiguities, instead of trying to force all the facts to support my argument. Looking back, he was right. On the one hand, media companies continue to consolidate, but at the same time, more people now have the potential to reach large audiences through the Internet. Sometimes the answers aren’t so clean cut. It was a very valuable lesson, and unfortunately, a lesson that Branson hadn’t learned when he wrote this paper. I hope he did later on.

Overall, it felt odd that part of my life became a published article, even if the author never reached out to me. While the article wasn’t accurate, I can’t feel too bad, because my life isn’t over, and I still have more things to do. Maybe one of those things will result in a better article.

Harriet Hall strikes again (Non-fiction) (Link)

Months after Harriet Hall review of Irreversible Damage was pulled from Science-Based Medicine, she posted a revised version of it.  HJ Hornbeck compaires the revised version to the original and still finds it lacking.

If you haven’t done or aren’t willing to do your homework, you’re forced to either respond with an argument from ignorance or by moving the goalposts with an appeal for more data. Indeed, if the most common edit Hall makes is clarifying who’s speaking, the second-most common is adding appeals for more data.


Never Forget (Non-fiction)

On this anniversary of 9/11, I think this Giant If comic is close to how I feel:

Never forget…that we invaded a country that didn’t attack us without congresssional authorization based on a lie and which cost us 20 years, over 100,000 lives, at least $2 trillion, and many of our freedoms that we will probabily never get back.

‘We’re doing it live!’ Tenth Anniversary of Freethought Blogs YouTube broadcast (Non-fiction)

Join the members of Freethought Blogs, including me, as we reflect on the 10th anniversary of the network.  From its beginnings as a general atheist blog to its current reputation as the home for socially conscious bloggers. It’s been through the Deep Rift, the Trump Administration, and many personnel changes.  It’s had quite a history.  The one thing that has stayed consistent, in my opinion, are the bloggers’ desire to work for change, both in terms of speaking out for atheists, and advocating for a just world.  Because there is no invisible hand bending the arc of justice.  Humans have to work to bend it.

It will be live at 16:00 Central Time.  Come join us and feel free to ask your (reasonable) questions, or add a comment.

See you in July (Non-fiction)

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a novel for several years based on my Bolingbrook Babbler stories.  I don’t regret taking a long time to write it, but sometimes I’ve wondered if the Winds of Winter would come out before I published The Rift.

Now the story is close to a publishable form, I’m going to take the rest of June off to focus on editing the novel.  I’ll resume posting here in early July, hopefully after I’ve sent the draft to my editor.

It’s been quite a journey writing this story, but a journey has to end eventually.  Hopefully, the destination is a book most of you will like.

(Video) Jews and Slavery: A Complicated Legacy (Non-Fiction)

On the eve of the first Juneteenth Holiday, Rabbi Adam Chalom, the rabbi of Kol Hadash and the North American Dean of International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, discussed the history of slavery and the Jewish people.  As he describes, the Jewish people neither dominated the slave trade nor were they all abolitionists.  Instead, some Jewish people were involved with the slave trade, and some sought to abolish slavery in the United States.  It is a complicated legacy.





Debit Free! (Non-fiction)

As PZ announced, Freethought Blogs has paid off its legal debt related to Richard Carrier’s SLAPP suit.

We’ve been plugging away at out part — witness the various fundraisers we’ve put on — and then, in the last few weeks, we received some substantial donations from various anonymous and wonderful donors, including one for $8K, and … we paid off everything we owed.

If any of my readers donated, thank you!  You’ve helped all the bloggers here and made a stand against people who abuse the legal process to silence their critics.  Thank you, again.

Now I can finally go back to forgetting Richard Carrier and his quest to prove there never was a historical Jesus.

Link: Supporting Trans Health Care is trusting science (Non-fiction)

Jey McCreight Ph.D., a science writer for 23andMe and a former member of Freethought Blogs, has a post on the 23andMe Blog supporting Trans Health Care:

People who fear or distrust trans people often use “biology” as a justification for attacking this community. But the reality is that the biology of sex and gender is more complicated than a simple binary. The science shows us that sex itself is not binary, but rather bimodal, with a range of diversity between the categories of male or female. Scientific research also supports the existence of trans and non-binary gender identities as a natural part of human diversity that have existed throughout history.

But it is not enough to simply say “trans people exist.” Science also shows that trans people who are accepted and affirmed have better health outcomes and quality of life.

Jey stresses the importance of gender-affirming health care and how people using the phrase “trust the science” to justify transphobic legislation aren’t really trusting what science has to say. While scientific evidence isn’t required to accept trans people, the abuse of science to promote transphobia shouldn’t be tolerated.  As Jey points out:

Regardless of what science says, everyone should still treat trans people with respect because it’s just the right thing to do. But if you want to claim you “trust the science” in order to attack trans people, then sorry – the science says that trans rights are human rights.

So I went to the Bolingbrook Village Board meeting…(Non-fiction)

As I promised, I went to the 5/25/21 Bolingbrook Board meeting to ask a question:

Shortly before I arrived, I decided to praise the board for proclaiming June as Pride Month.  Before 2018, it was unthinkable that anything LGBTQ+ related would occur in Bolingbrook.  Through Bolingbrook Pride’s activism, that’s changed, and this is the first year Bolingbrook has issued a proclamation recognizing Pride Month. Good behavior should be rewarded.  I could have gone on about homophobia, but I think Bolingbrook Pride’s representative and the text of the proclamation did a better job than I would have.

As for my question about the candidate for acting trustee, I sincerely want to know what the candidate selection process is.  When I used to attend board meetings in person, I was there to hear what the leadership (Roger) had to say, and learn their reasons for their actions.  I never went there to create a scene (like certain watchdogs like to do.)  It was a great way to get story ideas and still is, though I’ve had to switch to watching over the Internet due to the travel time.

I will admit, I was a bit concerned about how the trustees would react to my in-person visit since 2017.  Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.  Deputy Mayor Michael Lawler greeted me and worked with me on when I could deliver my comment.  The rest didn’t say anything.  Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta was out, as was Trustee Maria Zarate.  Former Mayor Roger Claar wasn’t there.  I felt I had the opportunity to recalibrate the fictional versions I write about, and it was a chance to remind ourselves that we’re real humans.

So while it wasn’t my best public speech, it was worth the trip back to Village Hall.  If Alexander-Basta answers my question, I’ll write about her answer here.