The Twelve Absolute Beliefs of Trump Christians

Evangelicals pray for President Trump through the laying on of hands

The postmodern exercise of deconstruction is a useful tool when trying to understand any of the various complexities of contemporary life. It’s especially useful today in the determination of why a large and polarized group of Americans — white evangelical Christians — could have put Donald Trump in office. As is often the case, the complex is merely the simple turned on its head by the self‐serving justifications of those who benefit from the complexities. By deconstructing these characteristics, the deconstructor looking for answers can ask better questions in their quest.

The relationship between President Trump and these Christians is something I understand particularly well, for I once served the cause as Executive Producer of The 700 Club with Pat Robertson. The core discovery in my book The Gospel of Self is that Trump’s election was no accident but a carefully conceived and executed long‐term strategy of the Christian Right. This knowledge is essential as we face another election involving this same man and his flock. Try as they may, the press is simply incapable of seeing what’s really taking place, because it involves the belief that these Christians get their marching orders directly from God. Arguing against their beliefs, therefore, places one in an argument against God, which is then laughingly dismissed by the faithful.

So, let’s deconstruct the grand narrative that places white evangelical Christians in a most powerful position in our politics. In order to pull this off, these twelve specific and absolute beliefs must ALL be in place:

  1. Salvation means that one’s final destination is eternity in Heaven, and demonstrative belief in Jesus as savior is the ONLY path to salvation. Period. Behavior in the here and now, therefore, must line up with what’s required to maintain that promise. However, occasional bad behavior doesn’t necessarily mean loss of salvation, because it’s all based on faith alone. This opens the door for basically any kind of behavior, for there’s always God’s promised forgiveness.
  2. The human condition defaults to corruption and requires a spiritual conversion in order to rise above it, to prosper, to live in peace with ones’ neighbors, and especially to enable a comfortable place in the afterlife. This is the why of Christ, and no one can escape it.
  3. The saving power of Jesus via the born again experience is the how of Christ, a manifestation of faith. These are “the elect,” Heaven‐bound believers who are in fellowship with one another and with God. Again, this leaves room for behavioral lapses, because this same Jesus is good for forgiveness in the end. This is often the justification for oppression and evil in the name of God.
  4. These beliefs, according to white evangelical Christian thinking, must be held between individuals and God, for Jesus functions directly in the role of high priest for our confessions. Therefore, one’s penchant for mischief doesn’t require redemption from anyone within the church, which puts the onus for participation between the believer and God Himself (yes, God is a He). This also puts into play the significance of the “personal relationship” with Jesus and, by default, the importance of the individual in God’s mind. That’s not to diminish the role of the pastor in pressing these beliefs, but church members are constantly reminded that God speaks directly to individuals. Our job is to have “ears to hear.” White evangelicals believe it’s the responsibility of the individual to “work out his own salvation,” and therefore the correct response to poverty is to teach others how to feed themselves rather than feeding them through any human institution. “If I can do it without complaining, so can they.”
  5. We must, as Martin Luther did, acknowledge that the Epistle of James is impossible to blend with evangelicalism and therefore think of it as “the Epistle of Straw.” This means we can dismiss James’ main concern that “faith without works is dead.” Either the “just shall live by faith” or not, evangelical thinking goes.
  6. The Bible is the actual Word of God (well, except for maybe James) and to argue with it, as a whole or in part, can and often does lead to eternal damnation. And, again, this is a responsibility of the individual, for no one but God has any real authority over the believer.
  7. Following Jesus is the real determinator of happiness and contentment in this life, no matter what. This allows the believer to feel justified in looking down his nose at others from even the gutter. It feeds the pride that he is actually better off than those at the top of culture’s ladders, those who don’t need God for success and happiness. After all, the Bible says “the last shall be first.” It’s another promise directly from God to believers and the source for manipulation by those higher up the pyramid of human life. The believer is supposed to be perfectly content in this life, because life in heaven afterwards is worth the suffering of the elect.
  8. We are currently living in “the end times” — Jesus return is imminent, as in the next few minutes kind of imminent — wherein Christians must use extremely good judgment to guard against false teachers who would lead the elect to destruction. In order to recognize these false teachers (having “eyes to see”), the believer must have God’s help through men who have “knowledge of the times” as determined by God’s Holy Book. These are then equipped to truly interpret God’s will in analyzing current events through the true eyes of the Word.
  9. This is evidenced largely by the return of so‐called promised lands to the Jews (which happened with the 1948 Nakba, forcibly removing the current residents, a.k.a. the Palestinians). Moreover, the real prize for Israel is Jerusalem, which is both the why and the how of looking the other way as Israel does whatever it wants to the human beings standing in the way of their promised place of privilege on the earth. Jesus, you see, is coming back via Jerusalem. Hence, nothing else matters, not really.
  10. Liberal theology is a manifestation of end times living and, therefore, should be dismissed as heresy, the devil, or the “broad road” that leads to destruction.
  11. Donald Trump is another special gift from God to the elect, much as the Biblical King Cyrus was to ancient Israel, and he was elected to restore the (evangelical) church to its rightful place atop the patriarchy of all human institutions. In this way, the (evangelical) church represents the rightful leaders of the earth and must, therefore, assume positions of power at all levels under the sun.
  12. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, one faces the likelihood of eternity in the fires of Hell, if they don’t vote and vote for the conservative candidate (who is therefore bound to act against the murdering of babies through abortion). This is a risk the white evangelical Christians aren’t prone to take.

In her brilliant October 2018 essay for Sojourners — “Getting Over The Threat Of Hell” — Author Nancy Hightower writes that Donald Trump exploited this fear in his run to the White House.

If you have never believed in hell, it’s easy to mock the idea as ludicrous, or at least very archaic. Many who may have grown up in a faith household and left might remember the fear it instilled in them…I think it’s time to suggest that the Christian focus on hell is helping to drive evangelicals into Trump’s camp, and keeps them there.

And so, we’re now beginning to see mainstream news articles that tout the rise of angry liberal Christians. CNN published an article with the headline “Buttigieg is a symbol for a rising Christian left,” which uses the mayor’s candidacy as one example of evidence that not all of Christianity is under the spell of the white evangelicals.

“©onservative provocateur Erick Erickson started attacking Buttigieg, implying that because Buttigieg is Episcopalian — a denomination known for its more progressive positions on social issues — “he might not actually understand Christianity more than superficially.”

This is a common trope among some evangelical Christians on the right, impugning other more liberal Christians as somehow less “real” or authentic in their faith.”

I must admit to a certain joy upon reading all this, because the 2020 election will put the faith of Americans to the test. It’s not nearly as exciting a story as the horserace coverage (in the minds of the press), but it’s a highly‐relevant discussion we’ve needed for a very long time. The terms “liberal” and “conservative” are labels long used by theologians to assert theological differences of opinion, and it needs to form the basis for our understanding of politics as well.

Historically, culture wars in the United States have all had a foundation in religion, and we now have a chance to move it to the front burner in terms of issues facing democracy itself. Nobody understands this better than Professor Stephen Prothero, author of Why Liberals Win The Culture Wars (Even Though They Lose Elections). Whether it was the election of 1800, the mid‐ninetieth century assault on Catholics by Protestants, the anti‐Mormon campaign, the debates during the Scopes Monkey Trial, the battle against Supreme Court decisions of the 70s and 80s, or the current battle against Muslims, Prothero argues the outcome of culture wars historically favors the progressive perspective even though they were started by conservatives.

Donald Trump is an evil man with evil intentions, for his only true “accomplishment” as President is widening the gap between the haves and the have‐nots. He placates these right wing Christians, because he knows their support will be lasting if he does, and just because he does, it does not follow that he is a “Godly President,” as some believe. The culture cannot stand this for much longer, and the discussion of faith as the dominating factor in this election badly needs to be center stage. Perhaps debates involving Buttigieg will help, for he seems not only willing but capable of speaking on behalf of his faith.

It’s true that traditionally we’ve considered a person’s religion to be a private matter and, therefore, untouchable in terms of debate. This was a part of the election of a Catholic in 1960, putting John F. Kennedy into office. Today, that position has overstayed its welcome, as Trump Christians publicly flaunt their man as God’s answer to prayer for America.

It will take directly challenging these twelve beliefs, so the discussion must involve those who think theologically but speak in plain English, and that will rule out a press that believes such discussions are not a part of its sphere of legitimate debate.

And that is to its great shame.

A Few Complaints (in the spirit of George Carlin).

Angry TerryOne of the beauties of being a septuagenarian is that we get to complain a lot. It’s kind of expected once you’ve achieved your three score and ten. From the “get off my lawn” contingent to the “back then” group to those who’ve been reduced to moaning about the weather or our joints, old people can’t help but complain. So, I’ve got a few for you this morning. As a reader, please remember that you’ve no need to respond, because I just need to complain. Let’s leave it at that.

So here are a few people who I think need to lead colonization efforts on Mars:

These morons who believe everything that Donald Trump tells them. These are the same bozos who brag that their man is the greatest President in the history of the union and just spent the weekend roasting pre‐Easter weenies in his name. I mean, seriously? The guy just cut taxes for the 1% and increased them on everybody else by getting into a trade war in the name of America first! Who do you think pays for those tariffed goods? We do, folks. And he lies. He just makes stuff up to continue some thought stream he just mounted to make himself look good. Don’t these people see any of this stuff?

Here’s another group of people who ought to be made to fart over the Kilauea blow hole:

These Supreme Court judges who vote along party lines. I thought these guys were supposed to be impartial and “vote their conscience!” And what about these conservative morons who’ve been saying for years that the Supreme Court isn’t supposed to “make law,” that they’re only supposed to decide cases. Screw judicial precedents, they said. Just make a final judgment on whatever case is before them, but don’t let those decisions carry the weight of law. Okay, so what about all this talk about overturning Roe v Wade? Isn’t that making law, or does this case‐by‐case business only pertain to things you don’t care about?

Now, let’s talk about another bunch that we ought to send to the sun for a soft touch down:

These heroes at Fox News who parrot the Conservative party line as “news.” Everybody else is fake but not them! Liberals and conservatives present two completely different narratives of governing, and since “the media” is biased on behalf of liberals, there needs to be a media outlet that presents and defends a different narrative, one that insists that unbridled capitalism and liberty (or is it license) are what matter most. These manipulators of truth sit atop their haughty pedestals directly challenging perceptions that they believe come from a place of liberal bias. It doesn’t matter if their allegations are true or not, only that they create the illusion that they speak on behalf of conservatives (or is that “everybody?”). Journalists cannot be pushers of propaganda or any party line, and especially not if they justify it by claiming their political opponents do the same thing. They don’t.

And now, here’s another group of nut sacks that we should probably just execute with a scrotal vise and get it over with:

These people who actually believe that Snopes is a liberal partisan hack. So, if Fox News declares that black is white, and that declaration is challenged online, it’s very likely that Snopes.com would make a “correction” for its readers. But the conservative narrative pitched by Fox doesn’t allow for disagreement, and anyone who does so MUST be a liberal. Hence, nothing from Snopes can be believed, and therefore, social media participants who try to warn their followers are in league with liberal media. Of course, the truth is that Snopes is no respecter of political position when it comes to rooting out that which is fake in our information‐driven world. Doesn’t matter.

Then, there’s a group that really ought to be stranded on a tiny deserted island with no bathroom. When they attempt to take a shit in the ocean, may a horde of prehistoric alligators consume them for lunch:

These so‐called Christians who believe personal responsibility is the best version of godliness. This is the crowd that speaks down to the poor in a voice and tone designed for maximum shame and disgust. They want us to acknowledge their greatness in “following God’s word” in terms of tangible success and especially wealth. They claim that they came out on top, because they followed the rules, which includes the blessings of God Almighty. Worse, their claim is that time and chance had nothing to do with it, which means anybody with any sense ought to follow their path.

And, finally, let’s put the magnifying glass over a group of folks who ought to be locked up with a host of White Walkers for companionship:

These idiots who give absolute impunity to Israel in its treatment of its neighbors. They believe anyone who speaks against God’s plan for Israel — which they derive from their interpretation of ancient scriptures — will end up within the gates of Hell. Seriously, these artificially‐created people base acceptance of the aggressive violence of the Israeli Defense Forces on God’s lasting covenant with Abraham and his progeny (which inconveniently included both Isaac and Ishmael). They also seriously believe that the correct interpretation of the United Nations actions after World War II and its Holocaust is that God Almighty brought end times prophecy into the here and now in 1948, and that to believe anything else is anti‐Semitic.

Honestly, people, this is the world in which we now live, and those of us who object are supposed to just sit back and have these groups take over the planet. I don’t think so, and after we’ve recovered from the shock that these positions are held by an enormous umbrella group known as “conservatives,” we need to pick up our weapons and fight. They view life as a zero sum game that they not only WILL win but are actually “supposed to” win.

God help us all.

The Prodigal Finally Likes Himself

Courtesy Bob Andres, Atlanta Journal Constitution

In the aftermath of Tiger Woods’ spectacular win at Augusta today, I think it’s important we take a look at what exactly he’s overcome in this “comeback,” as Jim Nantz so eloquently put it. I’m one of the few to write about this, because I’m one of those who understands his journey as a human being.

While we all marveled back in his heyday about how Tiger’s parents raised him to be a golfing phenom. There’s virtually nothing written about the psychological aspects of such “raising,” but it reared its ugly head 10‐years ago, when Tiger was discovered to have multiple rough sex partners that he turned to instead of his trophy wife. When his personal life collapsed, so did his golfing magic, and Tiger was forced to begin the journey only those of us who’ve been there can truly understand.

I wrote two pieces about this in 2010, The Lonely Journey of Tiger Woods in February after his public amends in front of the press, and then a follow‐up in August after the total collapse of his game, The Lonesome Valley of Tiger Woods.

In the first, I talked about his recovery and all of the public guessing taking place. No one could ever again expect the same Tiger Woods.

“The question for Tiger is not how does he get his wife back or how does he get his family back or how does he get his life back or how does he get his adoration back or even how does he get his swing back. Much more than that is on‐the‐line here, for a young man’s very life is at stake. Tiger is, after all, a human being…”

http://thepomoblog.com/index.php/the-lonely-journey-of-tiger-woods/

The second piece examined the depth of the problem, and it came in the wake of a disaster on the golf course.

“Tiger Woods’ miserable performance at Firestone this week has all the usual suspects asking all the usual questions about the man. He shot the worst 72‐hole score of his career, and finished second‐to‐the last in the field. His final score was 39 shots higher than the record he set at the tournament 10 years ago. It was nothing short of ugly…

http://thepomoblog.com/index.php/the-lonely-journey-of-tiger-woods/

…Everybody wants to say (but doesn’t dare) that his sexual dalliances finally catching up with him was too big a psychological issue for even the stone‐willed Tiger to overcome. His personal life in shambles, Tiger is hitting bottom, and that’s the sad outcome of such self‐destructive behavior. He had it coming. So there.

As I’ve written before, of all the addictions, sexual addiction is the most misunderstood, because its subsequent behavior is so culturally reprehensible. What makes a man with everything and with perhaps the most recognizable face in the world think he can get away with a bevy of girlfriends outside his marriage? Those unfamiliar with sexual addiction can only point their judgmental fingers at Tiger and reason based on their own knowledge, their own perceptions, their own explanations of such behavior.

But addiction is an evil beyond the grasp of those who don’t know it. Reasons are irrelevant to the cure. Reasons don’t matter. What does matter is that the sickness that gripped this wonderful athlete and man is deep within his being. At core, he simply doesn’t like himself very much — in fact, can’t like himself — so it is impossible, without a LOT of work, for him to accomplish greatness for himself. Impossible.”

But that’s exactly what I think he has now accomplished. Yes, he’s older, and that itself brings a certain wisdom to the way one thinks. However, he’s finally come home to the path that life has chosen for him, and it doesn’t include the constant beating he gave himself for not making everybody else happy all the time.

For more evidence, take a close look at his new girlfriend, her background, and how they met. Erica Herman is cute but hardly the trophy wife that was Elin Nordegren. Ms Herman met Tiger at the restaurant of his that she was managing in 2017, and they’ve been together ever since. In his mind, she’s more of a successful — albeit garden‐variety — local business woman, not a princess. She’s his pal in addition to his lover. He more easily trusts that she’s in it for him, and that is profound healing medicine for a man who’s always had to think of others first.

In the deep recesses of his mind, her outside matches his insides, and he is extremely comfortable with that. He needs someone who will defer to him, because he feels so strongly that only those bad girls would do it earlier. Their badness matched the badness that he felt about himself, and it was easier to overpower them with his charm and need to please. Meanwhile, he left his trophy wife home alone — as he would perhaps a nanny — and she eventually refused to take it anymore, especially when his public dalliances caught up him. The desperation with which he tried to cover it up is the best evidence of the depth of his debauchery. The panic in his voice on that tape recorded call with his mistress of the moment was unmistakable.

But, with a person with the likely make‐up of Erica Herman, Tiger is able to drop all the masks and the pretenses that accompanied his poor behavior, and that’s the best indication that he’s finding himself. The result is he is now — finally — able to win for himself. In the Butler Cabin, Tiger said what he was feeling was different and that “I like it.” To me, that says much more than that he enjoyed the feeling of winning again, which is what most analysts are likely to conclude.

If what I believe has come to pass, I think the entire world of professional golf needs to look out, because the psychological weight loss that comes with being comfortable in your own skin often produces remarkable results. He’s no longer bearing the weight of possible rejection on his back, because he no longer has to be perfect for others.

Tiger Woods likes himself. Thank God for that.

Postmodernism Marches On (Although Most Still Don’t See It)

Postmodernism — that is the new cultural era brought about by the advent of the internet and the web — is advancing far from the sight of those whose oxen are being gored in the process. Call it what you wish, but long after I’m gone, and on into the centuries to come, the empowering of the people will continue. Chaos will be the on‐the‐table discussion item in the years ahead, because those people who are latched onto the tit of logical and rational modernism can see only chaos with anything else. Always remember the precision of Henry Adams’ observation that the way of nature is chaos, but the dream of man is order.

Let me state emphatically, too, that chaos is in the eye of the beholder. To the postmodernist, there’s nothing inherently chaotic about this new era, only that it is a welcome change from the silos of logic and reason to the breath of creative fresh air.

Even now, the evidence of the conflict between the old (modernism) and the new (postmodernism) is everywhere. It’s in every human institution, like a slimy monster that fits itself into places where it seemingly doesn’t belong and challenges us to rethink just about everything and especially the form of personal advancement known as “credentials” or “expertise.” Jeff Jarvis refers to such as “the high priests” of culture, those who’ve managed their way to the top through their lineage, schooling, hard work, luck, and especially through the protections in place to help those already near the top and to make it difficult for everybody else. Witness the current scandal involving the purchase of bogus “scholarships” to access the best universities in the land. This is a logical behavior in a world that values credentials based on schooling.

As C.S. Lewis wrote in his commencement speech at King’s College, University of London, in 1944 titled “The Inner Ring,” once a person makes it into the inner circle, she defaults to making it harder for others to get inside.

“…your genuine Inner Ring exists for exclusion. There’d be no fun if there were no outsiders. The invisible line would have no meaning unless most people were on the wrong side of it. Exclusion is no accident; it is the essence.”

Protected knowledge is that which separates everyday people from the experts in a logical, modernist culture. For example, it’s what gives doctors the fortitude to suggest that their medical degree beats Google searching, but this is merely self‐preservation in a chaotic tsunami of informed patients. This will rage on, and it has already partially disrupted the authority of the physician. It’s not that she isn’t an expert anymore; it’s just that her expertise — with its incumbent authority — isn’t what it used to be. This conflict will continue until we find and accept that we’re all better off with such knowledge. The medical industry? Not so much.

We all have personal stories of how the institutions of the West have failed us in one way or another. The simple truth here is that the “push” world is being replaced by one that “pulls,” and no matter how many lawyers get involved, the rise of the people — those who’ve today known a freedom that our ancestors never imagined — will not go backwards. Look, information is power, and power that is distributed horizontally in a democracy will forever tip the scales away from absolutism at the top, much to the dismay of those at the top of the modernist pyramid.

Try to search ANY medical condition, and you’ll find at least one group of people with that condition who are ready and able to help those newly diagnosed. If one’s medical degree is, in fact, the be all and end all, then why are these groups forming? It’s because, for a great many people, medicine has its own fatted calf to protect, and its needs are not always in the best interests of patients. As long as the A.M.A. governs medical practice in the U.S., the practice of medicine will never be fully patient‐friendly. The demands on practitioners is so great each and every day now that they simply don’t have the time or the inclination to discuss or argue medicine with patients. And that is to their great shame. Higher education doesn’t make you smarter; it merely positions you for scaling the imaginary cultural ladder.

In his seminal argument, Everything Is Miscellaneous, Harvard author David Weinberger makes the case that no knowledge storage retrieval system that humans can possibly create could ever outdo basic search. This is the “pull” concept in long form. Knowledge can’t be sorted into any directory system that can compete with search. From grocery store shelves to libraries to any institutional silo, it’s impossible to even come close to the efficiency of search. And search has gotten so good that even coming close on a guess often leads to what the user is actually seeking. This is not about to go backwards, so those who insist that THEY can organize their goods in such a way that physical proximity is necessary are being quite ridiculous. After all, these sorts of organizations exist to advance themselves, and it doesn’t matter to them if consumers are inconvenienced.

But, Terry, what if shoppers need what they’re seeking NOW? Enter Amazon’s new “same day” delivery. This is a powerful game‐changer that’s getting very little publicity, but just try to imagine a downstream scenario in which such a service is thriving. Amazon has turned the entire retail system on its head already. People will soon come to accept such and will revel in the magic of it all. Imagine the time saving! Shoppers won’t have to go store‐to‐store in order to find something; they’ll simply search for it online, and it will come to them. This is uniquely postmodern, because stripping away hierarchies is the logical future of empowered people. Grocery chains offer pick‐up service, and while that’s nice, it can’t compete with same‐day home delivery via Instacart. This will change. I promise you.

And now comes Amazon Prime Wardrobe, where the company will send a box of clothes pre‐selected by the user along with a handy convertible box which is used to send that which the customer doesn’t want back to the company. This eliminates the need for the store and the booth in which we try on clothes and moves the whole process to the living room or bedroom (or whatever). So, the customer gets a box of clothes, picks out what he wants, is charged for those, and returns the rest at no cost to him. This is designed to further destroy the value proposition of retail clothing shops, and for Amazon, it’s a way to say “anything you can do, I can do better.”

Those who fear that this horizontal empowerment itself will lead to future hierarchies are stuck in the past and fearful of Orwell’s 1984. The problem with this thinking is that the web provides the same opportunities to Aunt Helen that it does to Big Brother, for the web views them as identical. This is just one of the many reasons we fought so hard for net neutrality. The internet belongs to the people, and although we lost the first round on the issue — it’s a modernist response to the loss of control — we’ll be back and better prepared for what happens next.

Postmodernism is moving power to the base of the pyramid, while institutional power must be at the top. When people at the bottom seize the power given them through the net, they’ll never give it back willingly. So, we’re in for turbulent times as the culture groans in reaction to what it views as an assault, and there’s nothing new to this. The same thing happened with the dawn of the printing press and for the same reasons. At that time, the power was with Rome and the church. When Gutenberg had the audacity to print a Bible, the shit hit the fan, for the priests knew well the danger of putting “the word” in the hands of everyday people, and they were right. The reformation would never have happened, if only Rome held access to the book’s contents. It was John Wycliffe’s common language translation that led him to say, “This book shall make possible government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The same concept is alive and well today.

In fact, it’s fair to say that the years following Gutenberg produced the same kind of Western response that we’re seeing today. Erotica was one of the first genres to be printed. Rome wanted to establish a licensing arrangement where only they could approve of those who wanted to print the Bible. It didn’t work, and the power of the Vatican in all matters cultural slowly but steadily slipped away.

Christian institutions ignore the web today and press for top‐down control, which is kicking against the pricks of culture’s progressive but steady march. It’s not hard to understand, because all they know is a stage and the audience. They want little to do with the work of a more horizontal experience, because they simply cannot trust people who aren’t on the podium. “They’ll never get it right,” the thinking goes, “if they don’t have a group of educated higher‐ups holding their hands.” Such nonsense. Look where we are today with Christian leaders saying that Donald Trump was ordained by God in the manner of the ancient Persian King Cyrus. This flagrantly false and misleading reference is so dangerous that we’ve become a people tripping up a step that isn’t there.

The hue and cry over fake news is another example of the modernist crowd screaming for control. I don’t deny this is an area that needs our attention, but it’s nothing more than a Trojan Horse foisted upon us by the top‐down and right‐wing crowds in an attempt to frighten us into submission. The originators of fake news came from the law and order right wing of American politics. In olden days, we used to call this “propaganda,” but it reached new pinnacles with the horizontal nature of the web. The right wing’s response to the clamor was simply to label opponents “fake” in order to hide their own mischief. In the wake of New Zealand, we now have people demanding that we regulate social media. This is akin to swatting a fly with an atomic bomb. We wish to shield our children from everything we went through (or “could” have gone through), and in so doing we’re preventing them from experiencing the very things that shaped our own character. It’s like beating our kids over the head with a 2x4 rather than giving our permission for them to scrape their knees.

The managers of the status quo come from two different groups — the lawyers, those rule‐bound grifters who suck the life out of everything they touch and turn it into profit for themselves and those they represent — God bless ’em — and the world of business, where players sell their souls for profit and suppress anyone who stands in the way, including the government and especially the poor. The more people become aware of this, the more they’re going to object, and nothing will be impossible for them.

After me, there will be a sweeping constitutional convention to address all of this, because our government was formed in a previous cultural era and is insufficient to govern people who are connected horizontally. Traditions will be given more weight than today, perhaps even equal to laws, for traditions can be discussed and argued whereas our laws are currently given to us by lawmakers, those who exist at the pyramid’s top and therefore have their own self‐centered wants and needs. Influence will slowly move to the bottom, although new forms of hierarchies are quite likely. The buck still has to end somewhere, at least that’s the way I think today.

Much is given to the politics of those who have the final say in our laws, the Supreme Court. The law says there shall be no litmus test for the selection of those who make it to this upper bench, but that is just lip‐service. And, while we are kept busy with arguments about, for example, abortion or religious freedom, the most glaring political difference in the selection of nominees is the extent to which each supports business or the rights of workers. This is the real differentiator, because real power in our culture is a struggle between the top of the pyramid and the bottom. Everything else is a side show.

The Bible says the poor will always be with us, and it’s our reaction to this truth that is the great determinator of our response. If it gets in the way of those at the top, then it’s thought to be a nuisance to be ignored or even made worse, and this is another revelation that comes with empowering the bottom. Civil war in America today would not be political nearly so much as it would be class‐motivated, and this energy has grown, in my view, during the Trump election and administration. So far, Republicans (the silk stocking crowd) have been successful at keeping the truth from their bottom supporters through arguments about religion and abortion, but that will not last forever.

Information is power, and power has a way of opening eyes.

Look, I know we’re in a season of cynicism and confusion, but please do not underestimate — under any circumstances — the power of the masses in determining their own government. This was Wycliffe’s point back in the 15th Century, and it’s the point today in the wake of the web.

If I had any influence on the Democrats, this is the message I would pound home to the people. It’s the money. It’s all about the money. Modernist thinking, however, forces the discussion to the box of “what new policies will you put in place instead?” This moves the narrative away from simply fixing what’s wrong to providing solutions ahead of time, so that they can be analyzed and dismissed by those at the top. That’s the cart before the horse and the source of our current gridlock.

If the base of the pyramid crumbles, the top will have no backs on which to stand. Think about it.

The thin ice of censorship

Jeremy Littau
Jeremy Littau

Journalist, professor, and internet culture expert Jeremy Littau offered a Twitter rant last week in the wake of the New Zealand shooter posting a live video on Facebook. I’ve put together his posts, so that we can all study this in its entirety.

So this is probably going to get me in a lot of trouble with the free speech wing of my corner of academia, but …. it’s time we have a serious conversation about what social media regulation looks like. The past two years I find myself favoring it more than I used to.

Early in my academic work I was drawn to the power of self‐publishing. In many ways I still am. It’s important to remember that giving people a platform with a microphone gives ordinary people a type of power they don’t have in a world of big media. I still believe in that.

But those were ideals at early stages. Scale reveals flaws and problems of design. And some of these mass shootings the past few years have revealed some serious holes in the free‐speech argument.

To recap, we have a live video here, spread by social networks, and a manifesto that is imminently linkable. The flow from self‐publishing to attention to news brings attention to the source material. The goal for the terrorist here is publicity, and he’s getting it.

News gonna news. Its job is to cover things. But the system of news production we have is based on a pre‐internet world where there are no links to the source material. You got everything through the journalist gatekeeper, filtered in a world without hyperlinks.

But in a social‐internet world, news is publicity. It’s an invitation to google or search social media for the video or manifesto. Not everyone will do it, but many will. @zephoria has talked about this extensively, that it is an unwitting engine for recruitment of radicals.

Unleashing social live video is akin to experimenting on ourselves. Like many things that were done by the internet’s early builders, we did it because we could. And so we did. Clearly there are a lot of good things being done with live video, but at what cost?

I don’t even know how to weigh this, so don’t ask me how. I just know my kids are growing up in a world where they’re going to hear about and be able to search (or be unwilling viewers of) live shooting videos because our tech simply can’t keep up with extremists.

This is too fast for any system, human or otherwise. There’s only one choke point we can reasonably put in the system, and that’s to deplatform extremists. But not after they spew their filth, but before it. I can hear you “what about“ing from here.

The example I keep hearing is whether we want Facebook to decide. I think that’s the wrong framing. We are currently letting Facebook’s audience decide and they’re the ones spreading it. The enemy isn’t Facebook; it’s us.

If your car has faulty brakes, you recall the car, fix it, and put it out on the road. Live video is a broken system and enables some of the worst abuses on social. Put this thing back in the garage until we can design a system that doesn’t tear at our social fabric.

I am not an expert on the tech/code side of this. My sense, though, is we’re using things like algorithms and machine learning to deal with abuse post hoc. Social science can help here. We know abusers have certain patterns. We can stop the horse before it leaves the barn.

I can hear your objections: it sounds Orwellian. But we we are not designing solutions to meet a serious threat. We can’t have a social media shooter making their sick version of a live documentary every month and expect it to not damage society in profound ways.

MASS SHOOTINGS HAVE A WAY of making the theoretical talk about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and their role in spreading hate all too real.

https://twitter.com/JeremyLittau

Mr. Littau makes several good points here, and when Jeremy speaks, we of his tribe tend to listen. I think his fear is well‐stated, and I agree we need to have a discussion about this. BUT. The post‐modern era is decidedly horizontal, and censorship of any form requires a hierarchy administering what’s acceptable and what’s not. Frankly, that scares me a whole lot more than innocent eyes seeing man’s inhumanity to man.

Today’s news is the newsgathering process made public, and as those of us who’ve been around for awhile know that the process can be very ugly and messy at times. We’ve decided as a people that this freedom to make up our own minds in that process is the pinnacle of the freedom offered by the First Amendment, because WE ARE THE MEDIA today.

It took us a long time to get here, and we should not give it up easily.

When Journalists Accept Confusion

As regular readers here know, I have Palestinian in‐laws and grandchildren, for my oldest daughter is Muslim (of which, I highly approve) and is married to a man who was born in Palestine but was forced to relocate to Jordan in the wake of the six‐day “war” in his homeland. This has forced me to do my own study of the history of the conflict in the region, because my window to the world is likely quite different than yours. I’ve nothing to “sell” in this regard; I’m simply being the journalist I was trained to be and practiced for 45‐plus years in the industry.

Image result for activist Alison Weir
Alison Weir

In viewing videos from California activist Alison Weir (and Executive Director of If Americans Knew) via YouTube, I’ve found a kindred spirit whom I wasn’t aware existed until now, thanks to my son‐in‐law. And, her explanation of the ignorance she once knew is very similar to my own. The timeframe for this quote is the mid‐2000s:

“Five years ago, I guess it was, I knew almost nothing about Israel and Palestine. I skimmed the headlines on the topic. I accepted the confusion of what I read, and like most people, I just moved on. It seemed distant and really irrelevant to my daily life.”

After seeing images of children throwing rocks against Israeli tanks during the second infatata, Weir began to take it seriously and wonder what was really going on. Her research as a journalist lifted the veil of ignorance and opened her eyes to the truth, that American media provides only a HIGHLY propagandized — and therefore one‐sided — version of reality in the Middle East.

I’ve had the same revelation, and I’ve come to believe that this is available to anyone who searches for it. It begins with this statement by Ms. Weir:

“I accepted the confusion of what I read.”

This is a remarkable admission for any journalist. What is it about confusion that favors our just giving up on it? Accepting confusion is a terrible habit, especially if that confusion is fed by somebody’s lies, but if I’m to be truthful, I must admit to the same acceptance prior to 2006. That’s when I visited my daughter’s family in Amman, Jordan, where my confusion was multiplied by stories of oppression and violence by the Israelis that bordered on the unbelievable. No wonder I was confused. Among these seemingly preposterous exclamations was the story of armed Israeli settlers who roamed the roads in the West Bank in automobiles, shooting and killing Palestinians at will. I simply couldn’t bring myself to accept what I was being told.

Confusion, it seems, is a balm given to those who look the other way in the face of evidence to the contrary. I’d rather be confused than accept that reality is really quite simple. I need it to be confusing, because I need to embrace Israel as the birthplace of my faith. Poor, innocent, lovable Israel.

After I returned stateside, I began investigating the particular claim I’d heard. I found that the NBC News Bureau in Israel was run by a former coworker of mine during my years in Milwaukee, so I called him one day. To my utter amazement, he confirmed completely the story I’d been told in Amman, that cars filled with armed Israeli “settlers” regularly drove around the West Bank killing Palestinians with impunity. How, I asked him, was it that I’d never heard of, much less seen, such a story? Why, I asked, didn’t he do stories on such things? “We do them all the time,” he responded, “but they get spiked in New York.”

So there it was, right in front of me, and I still had trouble believing such atrocities. I began to look deeper and seek out sources of information beyond the mainstream. My family was a great help, for the entirety of the Arab press wrote about such. I found Mondoweiss, an online publication specializing in stories about the Palestinian crisis but told from the perspective of non‐Israelis. It is quite an eye‐opening experience to subscribe to the daily Mondoweiss newsletter. There’s little attempt at balance here, but reading it helps me realize that there still is a remarkable “other side” to the story we are fed by Netanyahu, the Israelis, and the American press.

The confusion lifted, and my view became clearer and clearer the more I investigated via the web. One thing that had colored my view was my history working with Pat Robertson and The 700 Club. We owned a radio station in Lebanon and gave aid to the Marjayoun Hospital (of which the IRS was concerned). We were “with” the Israelis every step of the way, but not because we were in the least concerned about the conflict involving Palestinians. Rather, we were in for a pound, because we preached (as did other evangelicals) that 1948 was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy regarding the return of Jesus Christ for his 1,000 year reign (depending on your view of the Rapture). Israel had to return to Jewish Nation status before this would happen, so we preached that the end was near. Moreover, his return has to be in Jerusalem, which is why Christians are so happy with Donald Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.

Zionism, the political movement, and Judaism, the religion of the Jews, are not the same thing, no matter how the Netanyahu government presents it in discussions of antisemitism, the expressions of those who “hate” the Jews. Israel is not a theocracy, and its government is certainly of man. It’s okay to criticize Zionism without being automatically labeled anti‐Semitic, although Netanyahu wants the two connected for propaganda purposes.

The defense of Zionism begins with the Holocaust, and Israel’s right wing is quick to reference it and to do so with regularity. Zionists need the connection to maintain any semblance of moral high ground in denying Palestinians any rights whatsoever. Consider the IDF celebrity Elor Azarya, who served just nine months in prison for the extrajudicial execution (a.k.a. murder) of Palestinian teenager Abdel Fattah al‐Sharif. He was convicted of manslaughter, but the people of Israel refused to accept it. Here’s a part of what I wrote in December of 2017:

The people of Israel — not just the government, the people — want Azarya released, because they view him as a hero and his extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian teenager in the streets of Hebron last year as completely justified. I’m serious. Azarya was 19‐years old when he blew the brains out of an incapacitated and bleeding Palestinian who was lying prone on his stomach in a pool of blood. Azarya pulled his rifle, walked a few steps to get close to his victim and shot him in the head. All of this was caught on videotape. This blatant murder was reduced to manslaughter with Azarya sentenced to 18 months in prison, four months of which was immediately suspended. The people of Israel want him released, and the latest news is that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin might just pardon him. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Azarya, “Everyone’s son” in calling for his release. You should also know that there are questions about the belief that Azarya’s victim was, in fact, the man who attacked an Israeli soldier with a knife on the day he was executed. The whole mess stinks, and yet Azarya’s smiling face is plastered all over the country as a symbol of the fine young men who defend Israel and her government.

Forensics revealed that it was Azarya’s bullet that killed al‐Sharif, but it didn’t matter. This is a blatant example of Israeli treatment of Palestinians but by no means unique. Many of these murders have been captured on videotape, but no one in the West is moved whatsoever. It’s just too darned confusing.

Americans ARE confused by events, because everything we read is driven by the Israelis and their propaganda practice, hasbara. Although Zionism has been around since the 19th Century, it was the 20th Century and the German Holocaust that energized it in such a way as to bring about the modern nation of Israel. For Israel to be justified, it must continue to lean on the Holocaust in such a way as to present itself as a lamb surrounded by wolves.

It is hardly that. Israel has nukes. Israel has a powerful military with cutting edge technology and weaponry that’s the envy of the world. It also receives from the U.S. $10 million each and every day (weekends included) to sustain its edge in controlling its corner of the world.

And, so, the question that needs to be asked most is “what do we get out of this?” It’s a fair question and one that journalists shouldn’t be prohibited from asking. And, perhaps if that happened, we wouldn’t be nearly so confused as we are.