Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for December 12th, 2006

All the news, religious or not

Posted by metaphorical on 12 December 2006

Why do some religous organizations insist on spinning news to fit their world view? A more natural question might be, why would they not? It’s hard not to think of Christianity except as an enterprise that, at its heart, has for 2000 years insisted on a particular interpretation of a set of putatively historical events. I don’t mean that in a pejoritive sense, it’s just how religion works — it asserts a core set of beliefs.

The remarkable thing is that there’s even a single religious organization that is interested in the news for its own sake.

Consider this case. It is 1907. An elderly New England woman finds herself being targeted by Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. She is 86 years old and holds some unconventional religious beliefs that she expounds in a book. The book becomes a bestseller, making her wealthy and a well-known public figure.

The New York World decides she is incapable of managing her own affairs and persuades some of her friends and her two sons to sue for control of her estate.

Although Boston and New Hampshire newspapers and major wire services interview this person and find her competent, the New York World is unrelenting. The lady in question finally is taken to court where the case against her is dropped.

And the next year this woman, Mary Baker Eddy, founds The Christian Science Monitor.

— The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington bureau chief, David Cook, in “About the Monitor”

Furthermore, the Monitor apparently never considers unspun news to be threatening in any way:

A newspaper whose motive is “to injure no man, but to bless all mankind,” as its founder charged, would have a “leavening” effect on society, as well as on individual lives — to use a metaphor Eddy herself appreciated and used. The idea is that the unblemished truth is freeing (as a fundamental human right); with it, citizens can make informed decisions and take intelligent action, for themselves and for society.

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The emperors fight back

Posted by metaphorical on 12 December 2006

My friend Andrew seems hopeful that the Iraq Study Group will help the administration change its course. (Smackdown: George Bush gets some much needed adult supervision)

But it’s not clear the intervention is working. Thursday’s headline in the NY Times was “Bush Backs Away From 2 Key Ideas of Panel on Iraq” and Sunday’s was “Bush Aides Seek Alternatives to Iraq Study Group’s Proposals, Calling Them Impractical.”

What seems to be going on is that some sort of immunological response by the politicos has been triggered. Here, it’s with an outside advisory group, but it’s really the same thing that happens when the Bush politicos clash with the careerists (eg, with the career diplomats at the State Department, or the career lawyers at Justice).

I’m reminded of Bob Park’s comment back in 2002 in his venerable What’s New weekly newsletter. “When asked about an EPA report acknowledging the climate is growing warmer, President Bush said he had ‘read the report put out by the bureaucracy.’ If you’re wondering who the bureaucracy is, the White House signed off on the report.” (What’s New, 14 June 2002)

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What do prisons and the military have in common? They’re not Christian enough

Posted by metaphorical on 12 December 2006

I recall reading somewhere that in the run-up to the 2006 elections, extreme right-wing Christian Republicans were upset that the Bush Administration hadn’t done enough to break down the barriers between religion and government. The U.S., after all, is a Christian nation, isn’t it?

Only a true fanatic could be disappointed in the “progress” being made breaking down the barrier between church and state.

Yesterday’s Washington Post had a story, “Inquiry Sought Over Evangelical Video,”

A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.

In the video, much of which was filmed inside the Pentagon, four generals and three colonels praise the Christian Embassy, a group that evangelizes among military leaders, politicians and diplomats in Washington. Some of the officers describe their efforts to spread their faith within the military.

And just the day before, the New York Times reported on evangelical Christian missions into prisons. A program in Iowa offers prisoners who are sufficiently Christian enough “real wooden doors and doorknobs, with locks. More books and computers were available, and inmates were kept busy with classes, chores, music practice and discussions. There were occasional movies and events with live bands and real-world food, like pizza or sandwiches from Subway.”

But the only way an inmate could qualify for this kinder mutation of prison life was to enter an intensely religious rehabilitation program and satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress.

The state has literally established an Evangelical Christian congregation within the walls of one of its penal institutions, giving the leaders of that congregation, i.e., InnerChange employees, authority to control the spiritual, emotional and physical lives of hundreds of Iowa inmates, Judge Pratt wrote. There are no adequate safeguards present, nor could there be, to ensure that state funds are not being directly spent to indoctrinate Iowa inmates.

Why should prisoners have to choose between books to read, or palatable food, and their religous beliefs (or lack of them)? Why should military officers have to choose between fitting in, and their religous beliefs? Freedom is Slavery, as the author of 1984 would have said.

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