November 15th, 2006


Town Hall vs. Gown Hall

So, apparently, Elton John said something about how if he could, he would ban organized religion, because he has somehow gotten the crazy idea that it frequently has a deleterious effect on society. Luckily, Town Hall has it employ dozens of people whose job it is to be outraged over this sort of thing, and I guess Brent Bozell had the day off, because the task fell to Michael Medved.

Now, this is pretty typical boilerplate stuff -- "it's liberals who are the real intolerant ones" -- but there's one paragraph that's noteworthy in its titanic sense of deception or cluelessness, depending on whether you think, when conservatives say stuff like this, they are liars or simply ignoramuses. Take a look:

Imagine the indignation if a religious leader suggested that we need to “ban homosexuality completely” --- or urged an outright prohibition on atheism? It’s true that many believing Christians want to persuade gays to overcome their same-sex urges, or try to get non-believers to replace their doubt with faith, but no factions in the varied array of conservative religious groups has called for “banning” ideas with which they disagree.

HA HA HA HA, yeah! Just imagine if, in some crazy fantasy world, a religious leader suggested banning homosexuality! IMAGINE THAT HAPPENING, and then, I dunno, imagine flying cars and space robots, because there's no way that would ever happen! A religious leader who suggests banning homosexuality? Come on! That can't have happened more than, what, six or seven hundred thousand times in the 200+ years of American history during which homosexual acts were actually against the fucking law, until a Supreme Court decision struck down anti-sodomy laws in 2003. I mean, shit, as long as we're living in Cloud Cuckoo Land, why don't we just imagine that there are religious leaders who regularly picket the funerals of people who have been beaten to death for being gay? Why don't we pretend, in this imaginary land of make-believe, that it is the official position of every major religion in the country that homosexuality is a sin for which you can spend eternity writhing in tortured agony in the pits of Hell? Why don't we just go complete wig-out here on Fantasy Island and imagine that homosexuals routinely encounter discrimination, prejudice, physical and verbal abuse, and the possible loss of their livelihood if they admit to their sexual preference? I bet in Super Freak Out Made-Up World, the military is so skittish about homosexuality that they're not even allowed to talk about it, and gays can't get married, largely due to lobbying by religious leaders! I'M SURE GLAD I DON'T LIVE IN THAT WORLD, HO HO!

And of course, Michael is right -- conservative groups never try to ban things they don't agree with. That's why pornography is legal and accepted everywhere, just like drugs. That's why abortion is such an uncontroversial topic. That's why voluntary euthanasia is legal and practiced in every state of the union. That's why suicide isn't a crime. That's why there are no bans on the sale of sex aids or drug paraphernalia. That's why you can turn on network TV anytime day or night and see nudity, and hear the use of curse words. (I bet in the imaginary kingdom where religious people call for banning homosexuality, the government has a special committee whose job it is to levy fines against networks who broadcast things that religious people find morally unacceptable!) That's why there have never been laws on the books in America against homosexuality, polygamy, pornography, substance abuse, miscegeny, or women voting. That's why you can buy liquor 24 hours a day, and why you can buy anything on Sunday anywhere in the United States. And certainly, no one would ever think of banning atheism outright, as long as we never, ever elect an atheist to public office and don't interfere with the tradition of forcing schoolchildren to say a loyalty pledge every morning that includes an affirmation that our country is ruled by God.

Medved goes on to make the equally hooty claims that Christian conservatives never advocate censorship, that they rarely if ever attempt to impose religious symbols in public places, and they "make no attempt to block the teaching of Darwinism or random natural selection". Man, I hope he can send postcards from wherever he's at.

Have I mentioned that his son has a black friend?

In another lovely example of deliberate stupidity or utter ignorance, Dennis Prager, in the course of an otherwise tedious column about the Iraq War, lets drop this pile of offal:

We have not won the war in Iraq because of something completely unforeseeable: widespread massacres of Iraqi civilians by other Iraqis and Muslims. We have never seen mass murder of fellow citizens in order to remove an outside occupier. No Japanese blew up Japanese temples in order to rid Japan of the American occupier. No Germans mass murdered German schoolchildren and teachers to rid Germany of the American, British, French and Soviet occupiers.

Yeah, that was TOTALLY UNFORESEEABLE! Who could possibly have foreseen that? I mean, other than dozens of middle east experts? And think tank members? And college professors, political commentators, diplomats, and even a handful of members of George H.W. Bush's cabinet, who argued against an invasion of Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War for, among other things, precisely that reason? I mean, who, other than anybody who had bothered to study the history and sociology of Iraq since its modern inception, could have possibly imagined that its distinct ethnic and religious sects, having been kept in place during a volatile period by outside interference and a succession of dictatorial strongmen, could possibly have erupted into sectarian violence if the government and military suddenly vanished overnight, mass unemployment occurred, and a disorganized occupying power failed to secure the borders and address the power vaccum? You'd have to be some kind of Amazing Kreskin to predict that, unless you'd read the dozens of papers, studies, editorials, speeches and even books that said it would happen! And who has time to read stuff when you're planning a major war?

And it's not like this had ever happened before, at least not in WWII, which is the only war right-wing conservatives ever talk about! The Germans and Japanese didn't do it! Of course, they were generally more religiously and culturally unified than Iraq, and were occupied by much stronger, more organized forces with a well-thought-out victory plan and a clear exit strategy, but still! And, okay, the Russians did exactly this sort of thing -- killing their own people and destroying their own infrastructure -- but that was against German occupiers, not Americans! So how could we have possibly known about it? Asked a German or a Russian? PLEASE. They didn't even support the Iraq War!

If only it had happened in some other war, then we could have planned for it. Like, I don't know, if only there had been some major war, say in southeast Asia, one that took place maybe 30, 35 years ago, where a bunch of insurgents carried out a covert war against their own people, massacreing civilians, destroying buildings, launching terror attacks, and fighting an unconventional guerrilla conflict, in order to demoralize and destabilize an outside occupier. If only that had happened! But it didn't, of course, because Dennis Prager says we have never seen that, and he has an honorary law degree from Pepperdine University, people!
getting my goat

Dreams ruined here

So, there's this commercial making the rounds these days that bugs the shit out of me. It's for the Visa check card, and it features all the customers and employees at a cafe humming along smoothly in a perfectly synchronized ballet of efficiency, until some balding, nerdy shithead ruins things for everybody by paying for his purchases with actual cash money! That's right, you heard me: this primitive, shit-smelling caveman fucks up the whole affair by insisting on buying coffee and pound cake with dirty filthy disgusting bills, like some kind of horrible savage barbarian, instead of using the third-wave brilliance that is the Visa check card.

But see, what bothers me the most about the commercial isn't the implication that if you pay for your purchases with actual money, instead of a method that will enrich huge financial institutions, you are but one level removed from a bug-eating, ass-picking ape and that you will suffer the scorn and hatred of more enlightened consumers. It's that this piece-of-crap ad features "Powerhouse" by Raymond Scott as its theme music, elevating it alongside the ocean cruise ad that used Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" and the car commercial that used "Instrumental" by Galaxie 500 in the unholy pantheon of ads that ruin songs for me.

So, today's question: what songs have been ruined for you by advertising?