The only wall Donald Trump ever meant to build was finished a long time ago. He built it with phrases like “lock her up” and “fake news” along with countless outright lies and bullshit stories. He didn’t put the wall on the border. It was never meant to go there. No, Trump built that wall right down the center of the nation, and each of us ended up on one side or another. Trump’s wall divides us completely from one another, and that is all it was ever intended to do.
It’s the one meaningful promise that bastard actually kept.
The God of Chick Tracts always struck me as something of an asshole.
It’s a common assumption in religious polemics at least, that you can’t really hate someone you don’t believe in. You see this assumption appearing arguments for and against belief in God. Christian apologists often claim that atheists hate God, and that this hatred is proof positive we really know he exists after all. Atheism is little other than rebellion against God, at least according to this view. For our own part, atheists often respond to the accusation that we hate God by pointing out that we actually don’t believe in him. We can’t possible hate God, so the argument runs. We don’t even believe in him. Each of these arguments seem to rest on the assumption that to hate God implies that one must believe in him. At least we we have that in common I suppose, believers and unbelievers. We agree that it doesn’t make sense to hate a being you don’t really believe in.
Except I don’t agree with that either.
To those who insist on this assumption, I have two questions:
Do you watch Game of Thrones?
How do you feel about Joffrey?
Admittedly, this gambit loses a little force when the answer to the first question is ‘no’. Still, t think those familiar with the HBO series or the books it’s based upon will get the point pretty quickly. This hateful little brat prince is hardly unique in fiction. Felix Unger and Frank Burns used to get pretty deep under my skin. I didn’t believe in them either. I certainly don’t believe in Lucy from Peanuts, but when she pulls the football out from under Charlie it makes just wanna reach right into the screen and throttle the little two dimensional mini-troll. Can’t stand the Police Chief in most detective shows or the principle in countless school settings. The list of fictional villains, nitwits, jerks, and outright assholes goes on and on. None of these characters are real. But yeah, I hate them!
(Here, I can practically hear my mother saying; “no, you dislike them intently,” but no, I hate them.)
I really don’t think my feelings about these characters are all that unusual. Joffrey, at least, seems to have inspired quite a few haters out there. Hell, I reckon that’s something else believers and unbelievers can generally agree on. The little bastard was awful. Got off with an easy death!
Anyway, the point is that you can have a strong emotional reaction to a being you know very well isn’t real. People ought to keep that in mind when they opt to battle it out over the existence of God.
I should add that this point can flow in both directions or even (I suppose) at a tangent to the usual stakes. I can love Jesus when he’s preaching tolerance and compassion just as I can be outraged at a God who would tell Abraham to kill his own son. The inconsistently might bother me if I actually believed either story to be true. As it stands these are just emotional reactions to a being I don’t really think is real, as described by different narrators with different messages at different times in history. Maybe if I expected a degree of literal truth from these stories, I would feel the need to work out my feelings about the big Guy In the Sky, but I don’t. I can accept that stories about this being will trigger different feelings at different times, and no reaction at all in many instances. Consistency might be a desirable property of arguments and theories, but it a square peg to pound in the round hole of emotions.
What makes the difference between a vision of God that inspires me and one that pisses me off may be an interesting question, but the answer to that question is, for me anyway, essentially a function of story-telling.
I suppose a Christian too could acknowledge some role for the story-tellers in his feelings about God in different parts if scripture. There is a certain flat-footed evangelism that runs contrary to such an approach, but not every believer checks their sense at the church door. I’ve known quite a few who could handle such questions with subtlety and care.
I realize this may not be the most serious theme in debates over the existence of God, but it certainly does seem ubiquitous. I think to some degree this is a reflection of the debate-camp subculture that has developed around people interested in haggling out the issue. I’ve certainly engaged in my share of such matters, but one does not live by polemics alone, and not everything that people think or feel about the topic in question comes prefigured for purposes of argumentation. We can argue the rational merits of any given position, but nobody should really be surprised to find that participants in these arguments also have an emotional reaction to the topic.
We’re allowed to be human.
So are they.
I know I’ve made this argument before. I just wanted to take another crack at it.
Surfing the net can be a lot like turning over rocks in the countryside. Every now and then you find something underneath a rock (or a link) so disgusting you just can’t pull your eyes off it. Case in point? This little bit of filth from Info Wars.
To begin with, let me apologize for bringing this shitgasm into the lives of you, my readers. I am sorry.
Alex Jones and his bunch are a special kind of putrid, but sadly, they are a special kind of putrid with a lot more influence than they deserve. So, I reckon it’s worth keeping track of their antics.
…regretful though that task may be.
There is a lot of crap in this video, but what got my attention here is the opening pitch.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated anyone hash-tagging ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Christmas Eve’, ‘Christmas’, or ‘Jesus’ a far right wing extremist.”
Sounds pretty shocking doesn’t it? What could possibly lead the folks at Info Wars to such an impluasible conclusion? As they go on to explain in the video, the Southern Poverty Law (SPLC) has been tracking these hashtags in their hate tracker. What is the hate tracker? Well let’s take that information directly from the SPLC.
So, there it is. The hate tracker tracks trends in right wing activity on twitter. It is not a statement about the meaning of any of these terms, nor is it a theoretical account of the trends it identifies. It isn’t even the result of a conscious effort to call attention to specific terms, or the specific use of them in right wing circles. If a hashtag trends in the activities of right wing extremists, it will come up on the tracker.
Simply put, the hate tracker picked up a lot of Christmas tweetage among the right wingers. What that means is an entirely different question. One thing it doesn’t mean is that anyone who uses these terms is a right wing extremist. No, the SPLC was not saying that, and the hackwits at Info Wars know this.
Both the Info Wars video and the Breitbart article on this subject do present a (more or less) accurate account of this in the meat of their stories. The trick here is the mismatch between that substance and the labeling. The folks at Info Wars know very well how the hate tracker works, and they account for it, but then they draw a conclusion totally unsupported by the facts they themselves provide. They are hoping you won’t remember the details, but that you will remember the pitch line they used to start the story. They are hoping you will come away from this thinking that a prominent liberal source has tried to label all talk of Jesus and Christmas as right wing extremism. This is simply not true.
It’s a bit after the bell, but this video is one more shot in the fake war on Christmas. More to the point, it is part of an ongoing effort to weaponize Christmas, to recast the celebration of Christmas as an explicitly political act, a defiance of liberal politics. IN effect, it is an attempt to make the celebration of Christmas into a partisan gesture, one which will divide Americans still further, and pointlessly so.
It may well be that the hashtag trends noted by the SPLC are also part of that effort to weaponize Christmas. Certainly, there have been a lot of people using ‘Merry Christmas’ to say something more like ‘fuck you liberals’, and at least a few of them have been doing this on the net. I expect right wing extremists also wish people Merry Christmas for conventional reasons, like actually wanting them to have a merry Christmas, but I reckon at least a few of those hits the SPLC caught in their tracker were conscious efforts to carry on the war on the eve of Christmas itself. Either way, the Info Wars piece is a conscious effort to spin that narrative up a notch, to pretend that liberals have declared Christmas itself a hateful expression.
The problem is of course that they are lying.
The real question is why? Why tell this particular lie? What does it get the people at Info Wars? I get that the SPLC has its own set of biases, but no, they are NOT trying to crush Christianity. Neither are they trying to steal the Christmas presents out from under your tree. This conscious demonization of the SPLC simply isn’t about correcting bias it’s about enshrining it. It’s about making sure that people do not make careful distinctions between actual hate groups and mere conservatives, or for that matter ordinary Americans of any political stripe. Info Wars wants the public to think the SPLC cannot tell the difference ordinary well-wishing and a racist political agenda. The problem of course is that the SPLC can and does make such distinctions all the time. Alex Jones and his merry band of festering bloodfarts, on the other hand, would love to be thought of as conservative, even patriotic. They would love to have their own brand of lunacy pass for good old fashioned conservative politics, and they would love to have the right wing fanatics who make up their customer base thought of as ordinary people. If they can muddle the distinction themselves, then they can pass all manner of lunatic ideas under the banner of basic American values. That’s their pay-off.
There is always a pay-off for this kind of political charade. For Trump, the War on Christmas was just another effort to brand something (Christmas) to which he contributes absolutely nothing. For the likes of Bill O’Reilly, it was grist for a combative mill that helped keep his ratings high. For Info Wars and Breitbart, it’s the hope for legitimacy. It is an effort by those on the lunatic fringe to pass themselves off as legitimate, to pretend that the ideologically committed racists who regularly consume their products are just ordinary Americans who love Christmas. In effect, they are telling the public that the SPLC and liberals in general cannot tell the difference between a conservative and a deplorable. But we can.