“How Extremists Manipulate the Media (and You) to Look More Powerful than They Are”

I recently got to work with journalist Allie Clouse at the Knoxville News Sentinel on her report on how hate groups use social media to promote themselves. Her story was prompted by a sermon by a Tennessee pastor and sheriff who called for the execution of queer people. How did such a nasty argument enter the world of social media? How might social media inspire us to make ever-more ugly arguments in order to stand out in a crowded landscape? Clouse writes, “Combine a polarizing viewpoint with shock value and you’ve got a story. Add a divided political climate and you’ve got a movement.”

See the source image

Above, the people of All Scripture Baptist Church.

I hope you’ll check out the article, and if you find it helpful, support your local journalists with a subscription to your local newspaper.

Rebecca

 

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Look what I found at a t-shirt kiosk at the mall yesterday.

Back:

Front:

I’d love to hear what its wearers make of Jesus’ final words.

Rebecca

Justice Thomas Believes that Religious Oaths Inhibit Lying. He’s Wrong.

I rarely overestimate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, but this one still caught me by surprise: his recent argument, delivered at Pepperine University, that Christians are more likely to uphoad their oaths of as lawyers:

I think it’s interesting in a profession where we all take an oath, that they would look at people who have strong faith as somehow not good people, when, if you’re an atheist, what does an oath mean? If you are a Christian and you believe in god, what is an oath? . . . You’ve taken an oath to God. . . . [religion] enhances your view of the oath.

Presumably, Thomas would extend this to lawmakers, presidents, judges, police officers, and everyone else who takes an oath of office.

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When I think that Clarence Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall, I begin to doubt whether the arc of the universe is actually bending toward justice.

The problems with this are myriad.

First, it’s naive to think that nonbelievers lie or deflect their duties more than people of faith.

Second, liars will break an oath. Requiring an oath to God just rules out people too honest to make one. It doesn’t rule in honest people.

Third, if the only reason you are being honest is because you made a promise to do so, your character is already poor. This is one reason why Jesus tells people not to bother with oaths–to just let your yesses be our yesses and your noes be your noes. Making a promise on top of your plain words suggests that any time you aren’t making that promise, you aren’t required to live up to your word.

It’s also ignorant of the Constitution, which doesn’t require an oath of office for the presidency but permits an affirmation instead.

The founders had the option of creating a religious test for office. If they thought that people of faith were superior politicians, they would have required it. Instead, in Article VI, they specify that what is most important is fidelity to the Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

We settled this at the start. When Justice Thomas says he’s an originalist, he’s lying. And his religious belief doesn’t seem to have prevented it.

 

Brief lessons from Buddhism about hate

At 606, we write a lot about Christianity and hate. Today, I want to draw from another religious tradition to enhance the conversation.

Thanks to my friend Katy for bringing this helpful article from the Zen Studies Podcast to my attention.

The author identifies the relationship between fear, anger, and hate–something affirmed by psychologists who study hate as well.

Fear, anger, and hatred are all intimately related, and they’re essentially different stages of the manifestation of ill-will with delusion mixed in. The arising of these negative states starts with fundamental fear that you won’t get what you need, or that you’ll be harmed in some way. Anger arises as an instinct to protect. Throw in a good dose of delusion – the belief that our well-being is separate from that of other beings, and that clinging to the self results in happiness – and we start “othering.” We think of the people we blame for our misfortune, or those we feel threatened by, and conclude they must be fundamentally different than we are. For some reason (frequently based on superficial differences like race or cultural background) the other is less than we are, and somehow deserves misfortune. This conclusion overrides our natural empathy and compassion and our attitude can harden into hostility and hatred.

In other words, by denying the fact that our well-being is the well-beings of other people–that, in some way, there are no other people-we begin to create the ground where hate can grow.

Image result for hate in buddhismAbove, monks outside the Tree of Life synagogue.

SHS once again stirs up violence againt Trump’s critics

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ insistence that Donald Trump is owed an apology by Democrats and the media wasn’t unexpected. It’s a a classic move that perpetrators of wrongdoing make when anyone hints that they should be held accountable: DARVO. They Deny, Atttack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.  It’s one of many tactics that the Trump administration uses that may be unpleasantly familiar to victims of sexual violence–unsurprising given the president’s own commitment to sexually harming women.

But Sanders took it even a step farther, she called people who supported a fair, honest investigation into Russian interference with US elections “traitors” and suggested that they be punished with death. Here she is on the Today Show:

“They are literally, the media and Democrats have called the president an agent of a foreign government. That is an accusation equal to treason, which is punishable by death in this country.”

Accusing the president of treason IS treason, she argues.

Keep in mind that no one accused him of treason. He was being investigated. Being investigated isn’t the same thing as being accused.

And accusing someone of treason isn’t an act of treason. That’s like saying that accusing someone of being racist is being racist. (Oh, wait, lots of white ladies like SHS believe that, too.)

Who does she mean?

Last night, she tweeted an enemies list, just to be sure that the “lone wolf” attackers she’s inspiring “hurt the right people.” 

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SHS’s words will be understood by fanatical rightwingers as an invitation to violence. But that’s her point–to incite violence against people she sees as Trump’s political opponents. She wants it as much as white supremacists want mosque shootings. And when bombs get sent to newspaper rooms or gunmen open fire, she won’t mourn any deaths that might occur or worry about the future of a free press. Instead, she’ll blame critics of Trump for stirring up dissent.

We don’t need foreign influence to undermine democracy and endanger American lives. We’ve got Sarah.

Rebecca

Nazi scientist and admired Mennonite

Historian Ben Goossen has a fascinating blog post up at Anabaptist Historians  about Abraham Esau, one of the leaders of Nazi Germany’s nuclear energy program. Esau was charged with–twice–war crimes involving his participation in the plundering of an electronics company in the Netherland.

Despite being called an unrepentant Nazi by his fellow scientists, Esau was embraced by Mennonites after World War II. Folks from MCC, including the academic dean of Bethel College, supported his release from prison, and he was welcomed back into Mennonite society, in part because of his translation of The Story of the Mennonites. The respectability of Mennonites helped him “rehabilitate” his image, while his status as a scientist was something that Mennonites could boast of. As Goosen writes, “Denominational connections outweighed even known Nazi collaboration.”

Which raises a larger question, one that Goosen explores in much of his work:

Mennonites in North America, Europe, and around the globe might reflect on this history of perpetration and denial. Why is it that European Mennonites like Esau found collaboration with Hitler’s genocidal regime so easy and desirable? How could North American Mennonites then so breezily cover for their coreligionists, without raising serious concerns about crimes they might have committed? Abraham Esau’s case may require special soul-searching, given his direct and significant role in the Nazi war machine, as well as his broader impact on the global rise of nuclear weapons.

Rebecca

 

 

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