Fun With Rhetoric, Communism and the Far Right

Its been far too long since we’ve checked in with SPLC’s Hate Watch, and there’s a wealth of new stories (quite the uptick in insane sovereign citizen stories).  But today I want to talk about an extraordinary piece of ultra conservative insanity.

Anti-Muslim crazy from SPLC (emphasis mine):

Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim activist who in April told conservatives that “Shariah is communism with a God,” has called on Congress in a Washington Times column to bring back the McCarthy-era House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). This time around, the infamous panel’s job will be to root out the Islamist operatives who, he claims, are well on their way to replacing America’s democracy with a Shariah-based caliphate.

This is brilliant.  Why?  Because it combines two feared and hated subjects, makes no sense, and is short memorable and catchy.  One could surely stretch the imagination to find similarities, just as easily as one could claim Jesus was a Communist on account of his well known views on the wealthy.  But that doesn’t end any real credibility to it, which works in Gaffney’s favor.  The more insane and clearly untrue the slogan, the more the increasingly schizoid right seems to embrace their loony leaders.  They seem to get just as much pleasure from seeing the left bang their heads against the wall in frustration as they do in having yet another “reason” to hate on their favorite targets.

Why not hit back with more of the same?  Can you come up with any good ones?  Off the top of my head, here’s two:

  1. Conservatism is Corporate Communism.
  2. The Religious Right is Shariah with Jesus.

What do you think?  Most important of all, will it piss off the far right?

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When Religious Insanity Maims and Kills Children

Religion – throughout history – has on occasion stoked the fires of ignorance, hate, and violence.  The attacks on witchcraft – often a cover for overt misogyny or the elimination of competing religions – are a particularly brazen example.  Witch hunts continue to this day in NigeriaSpecifically targeting children (nytimes – may prompt you for registration – if so visit bugmenot.com):

Those disturbed by the needless immiseration of innocent children should beware. “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” follows Gary Foxcroft, founder of the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, as he travels the rural state of Akwa Ibom, rescuing children abused during horrific “exorcisms” — splashed with acid, buried alive, dipped in fire — or abandoned roadside, cast out of their villages because some itinerant preacher called them possessed.

some have read her book “Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft,” where she confidently writes that “if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.”

in her sermons, Ms. Ukpabio is emphatic that children can be possessed, and that with her God-given “powers of discernment,” she can spot such a child. Belief in possession is especially common among Pentecostals in Nigeria, where it reinforces native traditions that spirits are real and intervene in human affairs.

Since “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” was first shown in Britain, in 2008, Mr. Itauma’s home state has adopted a law against accusing children of witchcraft. But Ms. Ukpabio went on the offensive by suing the state government, Mr. Foxcroft, Mr. Itauma and Leo Igwe, a Nigerian antisuperstition activist.

In the lawsuit, Ms. Ukpabio alleges that the state law infringes on her freedom of religion. She seeks 2 billion naira (about $13 million) in damages, as well as “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents” from interfering with or otherwise denouncing her church’s “right to practice their religion and the Christian religious belief in the existence of God, Jesus Christ, Satan, sin, witchcraft, heaven and hellfire.”

In other words, in the name of religious freedom, Ms. Ukpabio seeks a gag order on anyone who disagrees with her.

This is Christianity at its very worst.  The strategies employed by Ms. Ukpabio mirror those we see in the US from conservative Christians – claim persecution and vigorously defend their “right” to persecute and vilify others – often with violent results.

In general one wants to say people have a right to preach and spread ignorance.  One’s will to defend this right begins to erode when that ignorance clearly leads to violence.  What is absolutely clear is that we do have a right to criticize that ignorance and do our best to counter it.  That means everything from explaining the difference between autism and witchcraft to tackling a belief system that was founded on bronze age fears of the unknown – and fears of competing belief systems.

Opposing Gay Marriage in a Recession

One of the best arguments against Gay Marriage I’ve heard from Rob Thomas (emphasis mine):

Still, I’m amazed at the audacity of a small, misdirected group of the ultra-conservative Christian right wing, to spend millions of dollars, in a recession, on advertisements to stop two men or women who love each other from being able to be married, but when you present any opposition to them, they accuse you of attacking their religion.

I had not thought of that angle.  What does it say about those pouring money into opposing gay marriage, during a recession, that they’d rather prevent people from enjoying equal rights than reach out to the poor and the meek and help those in need?

As an added bonus, he adds:

Isn’t it funny that the people who are the quickest to take someone’s basic rights to happiness are always the loudest to scream when someone attacks their right to do so?

Amen.

One of thehttp://melinda.toomojo.com/

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Andrew Sullivan: Shutting Down Discourse

If there is one thing I hate more than watching journalists cook up weak or phony examples of left wing wrong doing to “balance” their stories, its when those journalists use that nonsense to attempt to shut down discourse. Andrew Sullivan is a choice exemplar. He gives his Moore award to Sara Robinson for her insightful post about possible reactions to the prop8 ruling.  Sullivan was attempting to dismiss this particular section (emphasis mine):

In the worst case, this decision could become the catalyst for a new round of large-scale domestic terrorism from the right. As I’ve noted, everything I’m seeing points to a subculture that is gearing up for this kind of heroic last stand in defense of a lost cause. And this time, it’s not going to be just a few white supremacist/militia/patriot/anti-choice wackos. The new crop of right wing militants is better connected, better trained, better armed, and absolutely determined to go down fighting. And, as the SPLC keeps telling us, there may considerably more people motivated to support them than there have been in the past. It’s not unthinkable that between 15 and 20% of the country could be inclined to start — or at least support — a civil war over this,

As Sara sharply notes, Andrew had trouble understanding those first 4 words.  Sara explains them for him gently.

What I take issue with is not Andrew Sullivan’s base need to “tsk tsk” a leftwing blogger.  Its that the effect is to de-legitimize extremely useful analysis and criticism.  Prop8 was upheld, but we have every reason to believe it will be crushed when Californian’s return to the polls.  Voters will be resentful of being a hate state, mindful of the dollars a gay-unfriendly public stance could cost them, and angrily aware of massive amounts of out of state financial and religious influence directed their state laws and rights.  Homophobes and theocrats are going down come 2010.

Which is why Mr Sullivan ought to be paying attention to Sara Robinson’s advice:

Most of yesterday’s piece focused on some very specific, well-supported reasons that I think the gay community should question their complacency. It also included a most-likely scenario (assuming the court rules against Prop 8, which is in itself not a most-likely scenario), which is that a few far-right whack jobs around the country would use the event as an excuse for a fresh round of gay-bashing. We might see another Matthew Shepherd, or another Knoxville. Or two or three. And wise people should at least prepare themselves for that possibility.
There’s nothing particularly outrageous or over-the-top about this claim: this stuff happens fairly regularly in America, as I think even Sully would agree. There’s always been that 2-3% of the population who are implacably and militantly on the political extremes, who aren’t burdened by the same social braking systems the rest of us came equipped with, and who are prepared to act out violently if provoked.  I simply pointed out that overturning Prop 8 is the most perfect imaginable example of the kind of event that might provoke them.

Homophobia is on the way out, and some among the pathetic, the ignorant, the fearful and the violent may lash out.  It is essential that we allow ourselves to be aware of this, and develop strategies for stopping potential violence.  We need to make clear in no uncertain terms that whatever heaven the crazies think they are protecting, when they stoop to violence they are only inviting hell.  We need to reach out to religious communities – who in no way would want to be associated with that violence – and ask them to take active steps to ensure their worshippers understand the difference between peaceful and violent opposition.  That starts with taking the potential for violence seriously and not downplaying the people who are skilled and intelligent enough to see the warning signs and sound a wake up call.

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California’s Prop8 Upheld

Reports are coming in from Twitter that Prop8 has been upheld (with an exception for existing marriages).  This should be overturned by votes in 2010 (Orcinus):

Fortunately, the polls suggest that if it went back to the ballot next year, there’s a good chance a reversal would probably pass. A lot of Californians who stood on the sidelines are feeling embarrassed into action; and the African-American community in particular is realizing that if the voters can strip away gay civil rights with a wave of a ballot marker, they can strip away racial equality rights in exactly the same way — and that’s a situation that ought to make them very nervous. And then there are simply those who resent the idea that the Mormons and Catholics are imposing their values on the state, and using money raised from all over the country to do it.

This is a huge dissapointment, but one which will serve as a rallying cry.  Equal Rights will win out over bigotry, fear and ignorance.
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Invasion of Love and Privacy

The people who brought you prop hate have decided to go after existing gay marriages:

The sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative that outlawed gay unions.

The religious right is literally tearing families apart.  How many of these married couples have kids together?  What will there status be?

That doesn’t matter at all to the theocratic  freaks who would rather force the government stop anything not approved by their interpretation of the Christian Bible.  (And these are the types of people Obama is trying to reach out to).  They aren’t pro-family, they are pro-theocracy.

They need to be stopped.  They do not have the right to ruin lives because they think their God disapproves of homosexuality.  While I approve the irony and creativity behind the initiative to ban divorce in California (petition and more details here), I think we need to come up with a sharper plan of attack.  We need to find a way to make areas of discourse that have been regarded as politically safe, dangerous.  We need to shift the overton window of religion’s role in public life to expose the ridiculousness of allowing irrational faith of some to dictate the rights of all.

Prop 8: Bigotry Wins in California

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Voters have approved prop 8, writing discrimination into the California state constitution.

Their jubilation comes at the expense of people they denied the right to marriage by successfully hiding behind the veil of religious freedom and appealing to people’s worst instincts.

The thing to remember is that their victory will be short lived.  There will be another proposition to overturn prop 8 as surely as there is a will to victory emboldened by Obama’s historic win and call to service.

Younger generations by far favor equality, not bigotry.  If not in 2 years then in 4.  If not in 4 years then in 6.  To those of good heart in California take heart: This is a battle we will win!