The press needs a complete reinvention

Jay Rosen

The press doesn’t really believe that it bears any direct culpability in the election of Donald Trump, nor does it believe accusations today that it is biased against him. They KNOW they’re playing it down the middle, so any beliefs otherwise are false and don’t deserve a response. This forms a barrier impossible to penetrate when it comes to covering the Trump Presidency, because there are serious ramifications for all of us so long as the press maintains a business-as-normal disposition regarding its own work. Con artists require a certain equilibrium within which to present their logical fallacies, and the press – by being its same old self – is providing exactly that. In its current state, the press is simply being outmaneuvered by expertise it cannot overcome, because the playing field isn’t even.

As the brilliant Jay Rosen has pointed out – and I have written about subsequently – the press, especially the Washington press corps, operates in a thought stream that it considers “savvy.” To understand this, Jay pointed us to the three spheres of objectivity that the press uses as authored by Daniel C. Hallin in his book, The Uncensored War. It’s comprised of three concentric circles, the sphere of consensus in the middle, surrounded by the spheres of legitimate debate and then the outside sphere of deviancy. Wikipedia:

In the sphere of consensus, journalists assume everyone agrees. The sphere of legitimate controversy includes the standard political debates, and journalists are expected to remain neutral. The sphere of deviance falls outside the bounds of legitimate debate, and journalists can ignore it. These boundaries shift, as public opinion shifts.

The public is unaware of these classifications, but they surely understand that there is something wrong within the mainstream press that blinds them to certain realities they regularly confront every day. Things are not alright, but the press seems stuck in some obscure mindset that assumes they are. This is the pinpoint of the “why” of Donald Trump, but to cover the administration in this light would be to admit the press has been wrong in their foundational thought stream. What we have today is what happens when the press operates with the public’s opinion in the sphere of deviancy. They simply refuse to look at reality in America through any other lens than that provided by their own self-serving savvy. Perhaps it is the press itself that has entered deviant status.

The below meme appeared on my Facebook feed last week, and it’s very clever. It’s also highly persuasive to people who don’t feel they’re getting a fair shake from the press.

You can say all you want that this is merely a fool’s folly, manipulation, or the feeding of ignorance, but to deny it resonates with a great many Americans is just plain dumb. It’s also highly press-destructive and revealing about how we don’t seem to have learned anything since November of 2016. I’d call this completely within Professor Rosen’s admonition for the press to get off its “normalcy,” because the best it can do in its current state is produce the above. I believe this set of images speaks directly to the inability of the press to behave in any way differently than it always has, and it has profound consequences for our country.

And, while this is most certainly suicidal for the press, it doesn’t surprise me, because the press – especially in Washington – suffers from oxygen deprivation atop the pedestal it created for itself in the wake of Watergate. Watergate created the celebrity journalist, a different animal than the columnists of old who knew such status. Woodward and Bernstein were garden-variety reporters being spoon-fed by the number two guy at the FBI. There were books. There was a movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. It doesn’t get any more celebratory than that.

J-schools began encountering masses of wannabe Woodwards and Bernsteins, and the dye was cast for a different role for journalism in the culture, the “gotcha” journalist. Gotcha was the pathway, and the higher up the person “got,” the better for the journalist. Not content to just cover the news anymore, reporters saw themselves on the same cultural level belonging to the people it covered. It has produced transparent sitting ducks for spin, because everything hinges on access to a special class on the status ladder – those in charge.

Objectivity has totally failed, and we have to question whether there ever was such an animal in the first place. Christopher Lasch has brilliantly argued that it was manufactured by those who needed a sterile environment within which to sell advertising, and I don’t disagree. That sterile environment was also very useful for the selling of ideas, which is the role of public relations – the spin doctors.

Here’s another great deception that has been sold as a part of an objective press: the press has a duty to be fair. Any honest examination of this postulate will reveal it to be an assumption, a logical fallacy used to defend what Rosen calls “he said, she said” coverage of the news. The press has no obligation whatsoever to be fair. We proved that at The 700 Club 35 years ago, and Fox News proves it every day. “The press” as conceived in the First Amendment is not a bastion of fairness, for why would such an institution need protection from the government if this were true?

At CBN, we positioned ourselves to the right of the mainstream press. The act itself made two false claims: one, that the mainstream press represented a liberal, therefore political view of life, and two, that we should be taken just as seriously as they were in the overall presentation of journalism. Politicizing the press was designed to excuse our own politicalization. Since we were a propaganda arm of the political right, we couldn’t escape the fact that our presentation of the news was political, so in order to claim status as journalists, we needed to paint the entire institution as one, giant political land grab.

The point is that the press operated believing itself to be fair, and we did not. It’s not by accident that Fox News uses the word “fair” in its marketing slogan, for the whole idea is to confuse everything so as to provide an air of legitimacy to what is actually political propaganda.

Professor Rosen has seen this coming for decades and has tried to apply his academic mind to not only uncovering all of this but to also provide suggestions and recommendations on what to do about it. His latest,  “It’s time for the press to suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency,” is spot on but doesn’t go far enough.

I think the press needs to first suspend normal relations with itself.

Revisiting the Lizard

A meme one of my Christian Facebook friends posted to make a case for keeping illegal immigrants out of the U.S.

Twenty years ago, I published my first essay about the media and culture. The Lizard on America’s Shoulder described a phenomenon occurring in hyphenated TV markets, which was bombarding the viewing audience with a steady diet of bad news. In metropolitan markets where one big city dominated viewership, it was easier to avoid this, but in markets made up of multiple, smaller cities, it was extremely tricky. The idea in those markets was to place news bureaus in each community to assure all populations were served. The risk of doing otherwise was to send these viewers elsewhere where they were better served, and this could have drastic economic consequences for the TV stations.

Since the axiom “if it bleeds, it leads” is essentially correct, then the top stories from each of these smaller places are usually of a doom and gloom nature, so the newscasts in markets with two, three, or four separate communities flow with blood and guts coverage. This has a cumulative affect on the people watching who soon get the idea that they are surrounded by crime and bad guys. It’s not true, but it appears to be true, and so those regular watchers live their lives in constant fear, which has a corroding impact on the communities themselves.

I bring this up, because the internet has not only made this problem worse, but it has expanded the problem manyfold. Today – thanks to cameras everywhere – we not only learn of man’s inhumanity to man constantly, but we actually witness it throughout the day. No wonder we want protection from it all. Like driving past a wreck, however, we can’t help but look. The problem is one of perspective, and this is major contributing factor to the reign of Donald Trump and the Republicans (90% of whom now “approve” of the job he’s doing). Their law and order melody resonates with listeners, and it doesn’t matter if their warnings are factual or false; it just “feels” right. This is why the right – who has always exploited fear – has produced the almost fascist state that America finds herself in today. We don’t feel safe and are looking to the Donald and his ilk to protect us. It’s a trap, because – like most of the stuff we hear from the White House and the Republicans – it’s based on a false narrative.

The “lizard” is a reference to the wonderful little book “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis. The story is of a bus ride from hell to heaven, where the ghosts are each given a chance to make their way through the pearly gates. One fellow has a red lizard on his shoulder shrieking filthiness directly into his ear. The ghost claims it’s been with him forever, and that the thing has driven him completely crazy. The angel at the gate tells him “You can’t go in there with that” and reaches for the beast asking, “May I kill it?.” The ghost jumps back and declares, “Don’t touch my lizard.” This is a metaphor for us and our willingness to hang onto things that are bad for us despite the cost to ourselves. The angel asks the question three times, and in the end, the ghost gives the angel permission to finally kill the lizard, and it is transformed a great stallion upon which the ghost rides to freedom. He turns out to be the only one on the bus who makes it through.

I’m a believer in cosmic mercy and cosmic justice, and I think that we are in our current conundrum deliberately. God (or whatever term you use) is indeed judging the world today, but it’s not the sinners who are at the wrong end of the stick. It’s the hypocrites with the Pharisaical spirit who’ve supported punishing the poor and the afflicted in the name of teaching them to fish instead of feeding them. They are the ones against whom the anger of the universe has risen, and they WILL be brought to their knees, because life demands it.

To the same extent that these people close their hearts and our borders, heaven’s gate will be closed to them. No matter how often they proclaim an inside track, the angel will stand there and say, “You can’t go in there with that.”

And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

An Israeli operation masquerading as a Russian one?

Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos

Who, if anybody, called the shots in all the mischief involving manipulation during the 2016 campaign for President? Everything reported so far hazily points to the Russian government of Vladimir Putin, but a new actor has appeared on the scene now, the government of Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu. That’s the conclusion of The Observer’s John R. Schindler stemming from a bombshell interview by the Daily Caller with Simona Mangianti, the wife of former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos.

The Daily Caller being the Daily Caller didn’t expand whatsoever on this statement, but Schindler was happy to shine a light on it:

According to his wife, who insists that George Papadopoulos has nothing to do with Russia, he was facing criminal charges of being a spy for Israel. An attentive reader of her interview will note that Mangiante at no point denied that this accusation is true.

The notion is hardly implausible. Before joining the Trump campaign in early March 2016, Papadopoulos was a self-styled energy consultant who was known for taking strongly pro-Israeli positions in print. To boot, during the 2016 campaign, he met with an Israeli settler leader and assured him that Donald Trump, if elected president, would take a favorable view of Israeli settlements in the West Bank

So, why would it be important that Papadopoulos was an Israeli spy? Because President Trump has been extraordinarily friendly to Netanyahu and his right wing agenda. He dismantled the agreement with Iran. He moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. And, his State Department hasn’t said a negative word about settlements in the occupied West Bank.

A San Francisco Chronicle article earlier this year pointed out that settlement construction is way up since Trump has been in office:

Peace Now said that Israel began construction of 2,783 settlement homes in 2017. That was about 17 percent higher than the annual average since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in 2009.

It said that 78 percent of the new homes were in outlying settlements that would probably have to be evacuated if a Palestinian state is established. And 234 units, or 8 percent, were in tiny outposts that are not even authorized by Israel, it said.

The Palestinians and most of the international community consider Israeli settlements to be illegal and obstacles to peace. More than 600,000 settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians for their future state.

Let me repeat that Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

This is why these settlements are illegal and it’s what previous administrations have objected to ever since Netanyahu’s Likud Party came into power. Prior to Trump’s election, here’s an example of the type of communiqué sent by the State Department following an English speaking video by Netanyahu accusing Palestinians of “ethnic cleansing” in their desire to remove Jews from the West Bank:

So we have seen the Israeli prime minister’s video. We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful. Settlements are a final status issue that must be resolved in negotiations between the parties. We share the view of every past U.S. administration and the strong consensus of the international community that ongoing settlement activity is an obstacle to peace. We continue to call on both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to the two-state solution.

This is not the case with the Trump administration, and it speaks directly to the concern raised by Mr. Schindler that Papadopoulos would rather plead guilty to involvement with Russians than to be outed as an Israeli spy. Schindler raises a very provocative question:

…some counterintelligence pros in Washington have a rather different take on the Mueller inquiry than most Americans do. While Moscow’s secret role in subverting our election in 2016 is plain to see and is now denied only by the willfully obtuse or congenitally dishonest, detecting a direct Kremlin hand on the Trump campaign is trickier. Trump’s links to Moscow are visible but remain somewhat obscure.

His ties to Israel, however, are much plainer to see. Based on the available evidence to date, Team Trump’s 2016 links to shadowy Israelis appear just as troubling as those to dodgy Russians—indeed, in some cases they are the very same people. As a veteran counterspy in our Intelligence Community whom I’ve known for years recently asked me with a wry smile, “What if the real secret of the Trump campaign isn’t that it’s a Kremlin operation, rather an Israeli operation masquerading as a Russian one?”

That’s a pretty big “what if,” but knowing what I know about how the Zionist government behaves, it makes a lot more sense that they would be behind all this monkey business than Mr. Putin.

My Deep Disappointment in “Christianity Today”

Christianity Today (CT) is doubtless the most influential media outlet within Christianity (The 700 Club notwithstanding), but it regularly proves that its point-of-view is decidedly political and of the right-wing, evangelical variety. Would that it would define itself as such, for the world view it promulgates often drifts over into false witness, and readers need to understand that CT is a long way from “thus saith the Lord.”

Founded by Billy Graham, it defines itself as follows:

Since 1956, Christianity Today has been a trusted beacon spotlighting the way in which Christians can live gospel lives for the strengthening of church and society.

Christianity Today consistently demonstrates through all its media how the true, good, and beautiful gospel can not only transform lives but bring hope and flourishing to individuals, cultures, and communities.

This movement now directly reaches over five million Christian leaders every month.

Christianity Today advocates for the church, shapes the evangelical conversation, brings important issues to the forefront, and provides practical solutions for church leaders.

Time and again, CT proves its anti-ecumenism bias and its rooting for the haves (always remember that ministries need those big contributions) in what is represented as “strengthening” society. Even when articles are offered that seem to present the opposite, a careful reading reveals they are always selling their politically conservative point-of-view. This week for example, Christianity Today provides an article about how Christians should respond to Palestinians with “Beyond the Nakba: 7 Ways Christians Can Affirm a Positive Future for Palestinians.” The subhead is “How to understand the “catastrophe” of 1948 and its impact on today’s Israel.” By using the word “Nakba” in its headline, the editors hope to show their understanding and empathy for the Palestinian people, but in the end, this is just another piece in support of the Zionist political narrative about the region.

Here are the “7 Ways:”

1) Recognize that it happened—and why. Sounds like a good start, but the “why” drifts a bit into propaganda (the Arabs started it).
2) Recognize the humanity of all Palestinians. Wow, this might really be good after all.
3) Recognize the Palestinians as a real people who deserve security and self-determination. Can I get an “Amen?”
4) Push back against demonization of the Jews. Wait, what? Where did that come from? I thought we were talking about the Palestinians.
5) Reject support for violence. This one seems hopeful, but it turns out to be about violence against the Israelis. I feel like I’ve been duped.
6) Support those seeking peace. Again, this is about supporting Israel’s view of peace.
7) Encourage a positive vision for the future. Here we have an apologetic for a view that doesn’t “negate” Israeli rule, saying, “It may be that the best response to the Nakba is to help Palestinians to move beyond it.” So there it is, Palestinians. Get over it already. That’s the sum total of Christian advice.

I guess what galls me the most is that here we have a document alleging advice for “Christians” on how they should approach “their Palestinian friends” about the “conflict” in the Middle East. Nowhere does it offer even a word about Israel’s behavior in the extra-judicial executions of Arabs that occur seemingly every day. Neither is there a word about the living conditions the Palestinians must endure, the ghettos and open-air prisons they are forced to call home, the severe restrictions on water and electricity, the expansion in the West Bank, or anything even remotely causal assigned to the Israelis regarding the conflict. In the narrative that Christianity Today embraces, Israel is always seen as defending themselves and Palestinians are always presented as aggressors holding some unjustified grudge against the good guys.

The Nakba isn’t something that can be assigned to the dustbin of history, for it is ongoing. For people who are commanded to judge righteous judgement, this so-called “Christian” article is hot off the press of evil. Why don’t we have the same “get over it” attitude with regards to the Holocaust? Yeah, it happened, but that was history, so just “move beyond it.” Can you see the sloppy thinking on display here? Well, Terry, you can’t compare the Nakba with the Holocaust. After all, one was genocide; the other just moving a few people out of the way, legally I might add. Right.

So what is our truly best response? To love them as we love ourselves. Get over it? Sounds like a typical right-wing plank in the platform of mischief towards the poor and disenfranchised.

And, remember, folks, the U.S. gives Israel $10 million every day, including weekends.

Jerusalem: Solomon’s Temple is Next

The Dome of the Rock with the Al Aqsa Mosque

There’s no need to rant on today about the U.S. opening its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. I’ve said all I can say about the foolishness of this policy change. Instead, I want to talk about a warning I published last year in the Huffington Post, for now that we’ve declared Jerusalem to be the Capital of Israel, next up is the destruction of the Al Aqsa Mosque and replacing it with a new Jewish temple on the location. News organizations will miss this, because that’s what they do in covering Israel, but it will not escape the thoughts of the evangelical far right who’ve been highly supportive of President Trump’s moving of the embassy.

The one thing certain about the embassy move is that it will increase the tension in the area, which these Christians view quietly as a good thing, because they believe it will hasten the return of Jesus. The more this view resonates with the mainstream of contemporary life in the United States, the greater the risk of all-out war – Armageddon – in the Middle East. And, every good and white evangelical knows how this will end. Or do they?

Chuck Colson nailed this conflict beautifully in the prologue of his book Kingdoms in Conflict (now God & Government). It’s a brilliant 30-page work of fiction from a man with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the White House. You can read the whole thing via the “Look Inside” link on Amazon. Here’s my summary, plus the pivotal scene.

The story is about an evangelical President of the United States who must make a decision about intervening as Israeli right-wingers begin to take over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In Colson’s story, President Shelby Hopkins is a Southern Baptist with roots in the far right of the party. As events begin to unfold, Colson describes a hastily called meeting with key members of Hopkins’ cabinet, including the Chief of Staff, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Attorney General, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the national security advisor. His knowledge of the White House and how things work within make for a very real atmosphere of tension in the room.

The Soviet army had invaded Iran and now came word that a small Jewish sect known as Tehiya led by the radical Yosef Tzuria who believed God had given all of the Holy Land to the Zionists. His “plan” was to blow up the Dome of the Rock and rebuild the temple of Solomon in its place. At the meeting, after discussions among the gathered about how destruction of the Dome of the Rock would mean war, the president, who had been silent until this point in Colson’s story, says in reference to providence, “Gentlemen, we must keep in mind the very real possibility that this situation is beyond us all.” The fictional president is suggesting that God Almighty is directing the path of humanity in this, and it throws a monkey wrench into conventional thinking about the conflict specifically and international relations in general. He refuses to act.

His staff, therefore, secretly initiates a plan without the president’s knowledge to send Marines to Jerusalem to protect the Dome of the Rock. It’s seen as an action against our greatest ally, Israel, and when he learns of the plan, it troubles the president deeply. The action was based on intelligence suggesting that Tehiya was about to take over the Israeli government, which would make matters much worse. The staff tries to bring the president to understand the necessity of action, but he responds to his close friend and Chief of Staff Larry Parrish, “You know, Larry, I can’t help thinking—this really could be the time. The generation that saw the Jews return to their homeland is about to pass. It almost has to happen soon. All that is left is for the Temple to be built. That’s the last big sign before—.”

In a private discussion, the President and his Chief of Staff talk about the history they’re about to make:

“Larry, don’t ‘yessir’ me. Say what’s on your mind.”

“I don’t know what’s on my mind, Mr. President. Frankly, sir, you’re scaring me to death.”

“You mean that, don’t you, Larry?” The president stood, half turned away, then whirled back to face him, “I didn’t think anything could ruffle you. Tell me why.”

“I don’t know how to explain it, if you can’t see it for yourself, sir.” Parrish replied. “You’re responsible for hundreds of millions of lives, including mine, including my wife and kids. And you seem to be guiding us by some obscure, kooky theory about the end of the world.”

“What if that obscure, kooky theory happens to be true?”

“I’m happy to leave that decision up to God. The end of the world is His business. Our business here in the White House is to prevent the end of the world.”

“Well, according to my theology, Larry, the end of the world – “

Parrish interrupted, something he never would have done had he not been deeply distressed. “Your theology is irrelevant right now! You weren’t elected to be the nation’s theologian.”

The staff convinces the President to send a harsh letter to Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Arens, but Hopkins refuses to bully the man. They then receive word that Prime Minister Arens and Tehiya’s Tzuria have reached an agreement. Larry Parrish addresses the President:

“They (the American people) trust you. You can’t betray them.”

“But I only avoid that if I keep trust with God.”

“Then keep us out of a war! Surely God did not put you here to cheer on the Israelis while they blunder into World War Three. Harrell has information that Tzuria and Arens have reached an agreement. If we don’t stop them with our marines, they’ll destroy the mosque, probably within the next twenty-four hours. We have to move militarily or there’ll be war.”

“No,” Hopkins said vehemently. “I will not lift a hand against God’s chosen people.”

In the end, the Israeli’s destroy the Temple Mount, and the White House seems incapable of unity on a response. It is a helpless scenario, and Colson just leaves us there to contemplate the enormity and chaos of it all.

This entire story was Chuck Colson’s way of warning us that it would be extremely dangerous for an Evangelical with a prophetic, apocalyptic perspective on world events to be in the White House. While Donald Trump himself isn’t such a man, he is certainly surrounded by such. The Christian “leaders” who met, “laid hands on,” and prayed with President Trump are generally of the same mind, as noted by Vox Magazine:

“By appealing not just to his evangelical base but to a theological, even apocalyptic reading of history, and Trump’s role in it, Trump is not merely legitimizing alternative facts but, more dangerously, writing alternative sacred history. He is cast a religious martyr, or someone who, though assailed on (in their view, bogus) legal or circumstantial grounds will be vindicated through divine favor.”

Colson’s 30-year old book is excellent, but that prologue is chilling, because we’re witnessing events in a highly right-wing Israel today that are eerily similar. It’s a time in history when we MUST pay close attention to everything and without the view that Israel can do no wrong. The U.S. provides the Netanyahu government with $10 million in aid every single day, and despite our wishes to the contrary, Israel continues forcing its aggressive settlement plans in the West Bank.

Trust me on this. Solomon’s Temple is next.

What the white Evangelicals really want

U.S. News & World Report photo

It’s all about abortion. Everything we’re witnessing with the Presidency of Donald Trump and his fervent – almost fanatical – support from white Evangelicals is, in the end, about abortion. You can add prayer in schools and display of the Ten Commandments, but the biggie is abortion. These issues have in common one thing – they became issues due to Supreme Court rulings – and the possibility of “fixing” these decisions through a more conservative Supreme Court is what allows certain Christians to look the other way through everything else about Trump, his character, and his dictatorial management of the government.

The “think” is that God put Trump in office, so that decades of cultural shifting to the left can be corrected. It’s a trap, an illusion seized by perhaps well-intended and exasperated people who long for what they think were better days. In their zeal to this end, they’ve become pawns in a bait and switch effort by the haves to seize the moment for themselves.

Here’s a simple description of what the (mostly white) Evangelicals want from a very good BBC report on the matter:

For decades the US Supreme Court – America’s highest legal authority – has been finely politically balanced. “The Nine” include four liberal voices, four conservatives, and one swing vote.

The idea, of course, is that changing the ideology of the high court will change the culture for at least a generation, but this is a very deceptive perspective. That’s because the underlying issue is the concept of case law, where legal precedents established through court decisions actually become law. Conservatives like to use the phrase “strict Constitutionalist” as a litmus test for court appointees. It’s a euphemism for “legislators make laws, not judges,” and while an argument can be made that case law isn’t in the U.S. Constitution, it doesn’t follow that our judicial system will ever rule against the idea that precedent is a factor in the judging of cases. And as long as our legislative bodies are dominated by lawyers, it’s nearly impossible to achieve any change through legislation. A conservative lawyer, after all, is still a lawyer. Never forget that.

Another phrase that conservatives use is “legislating from the bench,” which is just another way of saying the judicial system should not be “making” law. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

So, if judges shouldn’t be making law through precedent, what is their alternative? I got a deep education on this from Pat Robertson and the faculty of CBN University’s law school during my time as producer of The 700 Club in the 1980s. The alternative is that courts only make rulings on the individual cases before them and that no precedent ruling can be considered. Verdicts are decided on the merits of the case, period. If the issue is so important as to require the creation of law, then that is a matter for our legislative bodies, for they are our elected representatives, according to the Constitution.

However – and here’s where it gets a little nuts – if this is the basis for their argument, then why the need to shift the ideology of the court? After all, if rulings are limited only to the cases before them, then why worry about their ideological make-up influencing culture? Could it be that abortion is merely an emotional appeal for conservatives who wish really to influence culture on behalf of their true beneficiaries, the haves who control everything in the first place? Donald Trump has not influenced the outcomes of the high court, but he certainly has done well for the billionaires who dwell in the high places.

Nathaniel Rachman of the Oxford student paper, OxStu, published an insightful piece with the headline “The spectre of a conservative Supreme Court is a fantasy,” in which he notes that the ideology of the court has had little to do with the important issues that conservatives want fixed anyway:

Even if the court’s judges remain solidly conservative however, they can still produce the occasional surprising decision. Clarence Thomas, the court’s most fanatical conservative, recently helped strike down an attempt to suppress black voters in North Carolina, while Neil Gorsuch is now facing Trump’s criticism after rescuing the liberal justices in their attempts to strike down a vague immigration law. Sometimes such defections can be transformative; when Obamacare, the central prop to the US healthcare system seemed fatally threatened, the Chief Justice John Roberts saved it, and when the court found a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, it was Anthony Kennedy who authored the 5-4 opinion. Roberts’ court is concerned with how the world looks upon it, and the chief justice is keenly aware of the shadow of history looming over him. The reputation of his bench is vital to him. Even if Trump appoints a consistent hardliner, he has no guarantee that the rest of the court would not shift in response, fearing a legacy that will go down in infamy.

This is the problem when ideology attempts to shift the culture through managing it from the top. The culture isn’t shifted by ideology; it’s shifted by people and the energy of their social movements. Therefore, issues eventually finding their way to the high court isn’t by chance, and it’s nowhere near as simple as the right wants to make it sound.

Besides, as I’ve written before, abortion is really about sex and the Biblical position that fornication is sin. We have to be honest about this, for we always have to “play the tape to its end” when considering issues such as abortion. What would be the Evangelicals’ view of how people “should” behave in a world without legal abortion? I think we all know the answer to that. Moreover, anti-abortion law becomes harder and harder as the evidence mounts about how birth control reduces the abortion rate. Our current rate is now BELOW what it was in 1973, when it was made legal by the high court.

My daughter is about to pop with baby number three, and we’re all pretty excited about it. This is especially so after her experience with baby number two, who died of severe birth defects six hours after birth. She learned of the birth defects at 20 weeks and went through this despite the knowledge that she “could have” gotten an abortion. She made the decision – the choice – for herself not to do so, and it was remarkable to witness. For her, it was a moral issue, not a legal one, and she could not have made such a decision for herself, had abortion been illegal. This experience has firmed my resolve that the Supreme Court got it right with Roe v Wade.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I strongly recommend you read the linked materials.