Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

We will re-establish the patriarchal structures

Aug 11th, 2011 11:27 am | By

Michelle Goldberg points out that Anders Breivik’s hatred of women hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as his hatred of Islam (and Muslims in general) has.

Rarely has the connection between sexual anxiety and right-wing nationalism been made quite so clear. Indeed, Breivik’s hatred of women rivals his hatred of Islam, and is intimately linked to it.

A terror of feminization haunts his bizarre document. “The female manipulation of males has been institutionalised during the last decades and is a partial cause of the feminisation of men in Europe,” he writes. He blames empowered women for his own isolation…

Castrating bitches driving men into tragic lonely corners, when they could have been so happy if only there were enough doormats to choose from.

He picked up the argument that selfish western women have allowed Muslims to outbreed them, and that only a restoration of patriarchy can save European culture. One of the books he references approvingly is Patrick Buchanan’s The Death of the West, which argues, “[T]he rise of feminism spells the death of the nation and the end of the West.”

…the right clings to the idea that feminism is destroying Western societies from the inside, creating space for Islamism to take cover. This politics of emasculation gave shape to Breivik’s rage. Thus, while he pretends to abhor Muslim subjugation of women, he writes that the “fate of European civilisation depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism.” When cultural conservatives seize control of Europe, he promises, “we will re-establish the patriarchal structures.” Eventually, women “conditioned” to this new order “will know her place in society.” His mad act was in the service of male superiority as well as Christian nationalism. Those two things, of course, almost always go together.

“Almost always” is too strong. Christian nationalism is probably almost always in favor of male superiority, but male superiority is not almost always Christian nationalist. We’ve been seeing a lot of the secular variety lately.

A pure Christian theocracy

Aug 10th, 2011 4:33 pm | By

More from Ryan Lizza’s article on Bachmann.

Bachmann belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been  shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular  Americans, or even to most Christians. Her campaign is going to be a  conversation about a set of beliefs more extreme than those of any American  politician of her stature.

Extreme, and not in a good way. One biggy is an evangelist and theologian called Francis Schaeffer, who

condemns the influence of the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Darwin,  secular humanism, and postmodernism. He repeatedly reminds viewers of the “inerrancy” of the Bible and the necessity of a Biblical world view. “There is  only one real solution, and that’s right back where the early church was,” Schaeffer tells his audience. “The early church believed that only the Bible was  the final authority. What these people really believed and what gave them their  whole strength was in the truth of the Bible as the absolute infallible word of  God.”

See, I don’t want someone like that as president. I don’t want to obey the bible.

Francis Schaeffer instructed his followers and students at L’Abri that the Bible  was not just a book but “the total truth.” He was a major contributor to the  school of thought now known as Dominionism, which relies on Genesis 1:26, where  man is urged to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of  the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping  thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Sara Diamond, who has written several books  about evangelical movements in America, has succinctly defined the philosophy  that resulted from Schaeffer’s interpretation: “Christians, and Christians  alone, are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ  returns.”

Don’t want. Don’t want don’t want don’t want.

Bachmann enrolled at the new O. W. Coburn School of Law, at Oral Roberts  University, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Bible, not the Constitution or conventional  jurisprudence, guides the curriculum. For several years, the school could not  get accreditation, because students were required to sign a “code of honor” attesting to their Christian belief and commitment. The first issue of the law  review, Journal of Christian Jurisprudence, explains the two goals of the  school: “to equip our students with the ability to bring God’s healing power to  reconcile individuals and to restore community wholeness,” and “to restore law  to its historic roots in the Bible.”

Among the professors were Herbert W. Titus, a Vice-Presidential candidate of the  far-right U.S. Taxpayers Party (now called the Constitution Party), and John  Whitehead, who started the Rutherford Institute, a conservative legal-advocacy  group. The law review published essays by Schaeffer and Rousas John Rushdoony, a  prominent Dominionist who has called for a pure Christian theocracy in which Old  Testament law—execution for adulterers and homosexuals, for example—would be  instituted.

I’m tempted to start campaigning for Mitt Romney.

Bachmann’s must read list

Aug 10th, 2011 12:24 pm | By

One of Michele Bachmann’s favorite books is a 1997 biography of Robert E. Lee by J. Steven Wilkins.

Wilkins is the leading proponent of the theory that the South was an orthodox  Christian nation unjustly attacked by the godless North. This revisionist take  on the Civil War, known as the “theological war” thesis, had little resonance  outside a small group of Southern historians until the mid-twentieth century,  when Rushdoony and others began to popularize it in evangelical circles.

I did not know this. Really. “The godless North”? That’s a bit of a flub, for a start – the North was hardly godless. And as for the South as a Christian nation, aren’t we always being told – we atheists – that we stupidly overlook the wonderful wonderfulness of religion for instance its vital role in the abolition of slavery? Yes, we are. So if the South was “a Christian nation” what becomes of that claim?

More Wilkins:

Slavery, as it operated in the pervasively Christian society  which was the old South, was not an adversarial relationship founded upon racial  animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual  respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men  give themselves to a common cause. The credit for this startling reality must go  to the Christian faith. . . . The unity and companionship that existed between  the races in the South prior to the war was the fruit of a common faith.

Slavery was a matter of “men  giv[ing] themselves to a common cause”? (Where did the women go?) What would that have been then? The enrichment of white men who owned fertile land for growing cotton? The preservation of white people from hard labor in a hot humid malarial climate? Funny idea of a common cause.

For several years, the book, which Bachmann’s campaign declined to discuss with  me, was listed on her Web site, under the heading “Michele’s Must Read List.”

I keep hearing people say “I hope she’s nominated.” Don’t do that. Don’t ever do that. Don’t think she couldn’t win.

How wide is skepticism?

Aug 9th, 2011 10:48 am | By

There seem to be different views on what “skepticism” is. Daniel Loxton seems to define it (or perhaps I mean prefer it) quite narrowly.

For decades, skepticism has very deliberately worked to stay close to what it does best: tackling empirical questions in the realm of pseudoscience and the paranormal, and (as the other side of this same coin) promoting scientific literacy.

That’s skepticism? That’s it? To me that sounds more like science education combined with some applied science. I thought skepticism could be applied a good deal more generally than that.

Also, perhaps, more…searchingly.

consider this passage from the first editorial of North America’s first regular skeptical publication, written when I was a toddler:

Finally, a word might be said about our exclusive concern with scientific investigation and empirical claims. The Committee takes no position regarding nonempirical or mystical claims. We accept a scientific viewpoint and will not argue for it in these pages. Those concerned with metaphysics and supernatural claims are directed to those journals of philosophy and religion dedicated to such matters.

Demonstrable evidence is common ground for skeptics like Houdini (who wrote, “I firmly believe in a Supreme Being and that there is a Hereafter”).

But if you’re a skeptic, then the question arises, why do you firmly believe in a Supreme Being and that there is a Hereafter? What are your reasons? What causes you to believe those things?

The answer isn’t obvious, after all. It’s the opposite of obvious. There seems to be nothing in the world that corresponds to a reason for believing those things, and skeptics as such generally want reasons for beliving things. Not invariably, but generally. So why would a skeptic believe those things? And why is it not part of skepticism to ask questions of that kind?

It seems to be because Loxton doesn’t want atheism messing up skepticism, but that just presents us with the same question in a slightly different form.

I point to X and I point to Y. That’s all.

Aug 8th, 2011 11:22 am | By

Carl Zimmer has (with help from Susan Greenfield) created a new Twitter meme.

The neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has for several years been saying “Look out! The internet will rewire your brain.”

She warns that Twitter is turning us into social cripples. When asked for evidence, she either points to papers that provide no support for her sweeping claims, or says that we shouldn’t wait for evidence. Her claims positively hum with contradiction. In order to make new technologies seem truly sinister, she ends up getting nostalgic about television.

She has, too.

When I was a kid, television was the centre of the home, rather like the Victorian piano was.

That made me yell with laughter – the tv as a fireplace.

Carl continues:

Yesterday, The Guardian followed up with an interview with Greenfield, in which she defended herself against such attacks. Along the way, one of the things she said finally rewired my brain into a seizure:
“I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That’s all.”
Which drove me to Twitter, to sum up the ridiculousness of such a statement in 140 characters or less:
I point to the increase in esophageal cancer and I point to The Brady Bunch. That’s all. #greenfieldism

And others joined in.

I point to Alzheimer’s and I point to cheese doodles. That’s all. #greenfieldism

Try your own!

Geoffrey Falk

Aug 6th, 2011 5:47 pm | By

And just in case we’re bored with the Abbie and Miranda show, let’s pay another visit to Geoffrey Falk. We’ve visited him only once before, in October 2009, so let’s do it again. He’s been calling me a bitch and assorted other choice names at frequent intervals all that time. Yesterday he did a new one, complaining that he’d just found I had a picture of him here.

As soon as I saw it I emailed him (weirdly, he had sent me a couple of friendly emails before changing his mind and deciding to call me names two or three times a month) and said what, where, I’ll take it down. He didn’t reply, he simply updated his disgusting post with a link - so I found the picture and took it down. He hasn’t updated his disgusting post to reflect the fact that I took it down.

He has a tag for me: Ophelia Benson’s Granny Panties. If you click on it you can see what a regular I am, and what refreshingly amusing and insightful things he has to say about me. There’s a lot about the offensive smallness of my tits, and my ugliness and sexlessness and general repulsiveness.

I’m posting this in order to shame him. He could have just emailed me about the damn picture (which was in a comment, and I didn’t know it was there, or that it was a problem); he could have removed the post once I removed the picture; he did neither. Now I want to shame him.

I might do it again some time, too. You never know.

More dog whistle

Aug 6th, 2011 12:12 pm | By

Exciting news for all us clowns who thought the CFI Women in Secularism conference in DC next May seemed like a good idea – Abbie is going to tell is why it’s not.

Tommy– I will probably start some shit again this weekend re: the ridiculousness of the CFI conference.

There are lols on at the CFI blog.  Not lulz, just lols.  Maybe some *facepalms*.

Posted by: ERV | August  5, 2011 11:22 PM

That should be good for another few thousand cuntstwatsfuckingbitchessmellysnatches. Will Russell comment to say “Naughty Abbie!” again? Will Miranda comment to say what she finds condescending about two comments at B&W again? Will Jeremy do a post to say that calling a defense of the use of twat as an epithet “misogynist” is the antithesis of anything that could be considered free inquiry again?

Should we start placing bets?

Update: I didn’t realize Miranda had already commented on the subject – as poisonously as you like.

And I’d hate to know that I was invited to a conference simply because I have the appropriate genitalia. I want to be recognized for whatever merit there may be in the things I do/write, not how oppressed and/or under-represented I supposedly am.

Flattering to Susan Jacoby, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Margaret Downey, Sikivu Hutchinson, Wafa Sultan, and the rest. Yes they were all invited simply because they have the appropriate genitalia. What a reasonable, generous, fair-minded claim.


More demons around

Aug 6th, 2011 11:45 am | By

It’s hard to tell if the BBC is being sarcastic or not. Maybe the answer is that it’s being both. Sarcastic for the non-crazy and solemn for the barking. It’s rather irresponsible to be so opaque (at best).

Why do exorcists and their clients think that demonic possession is on the
increase? Exorcists point to an alleged increase in interest in the occult,
together with risky behaviour such as practising yoga, reading horoscopes, and an increase in new age forms of spiritualism. One Anglican bishop has said that clues to the presence of an evil spirit include “repeated choice of black, for example in clothing or colour of car”.


The American Association of Exorcists runs a correspondence course, and one evangelical pastor based in Britain runs his own distance learning course using the internet. Most exorcists agree however, that there is no substitute for hands on mentoring with an experienced practitioner.

Because……….what? The hands-on mentoring with an experienced practitioner actually makes the demons go away? Or because they can charge more for it.

Who knows. Meanwhile, be afraid.

Women are not their possessions

Aug 5th, 2011 4:52 pm | By

Another pretty story.

Shaher Bano Shahdady was just 21, a young mother who wanted to live her Canadian life as a free Canadian woman. And for that, she was strangled to death in front of her toddler.From the Baloch region of Pakistan, she came to Toronto as a little girl. [When she was] 14, her father, Mullah Abdul Ghafoor, sent her back to Pakistan to study at a religious fundamentalist madrassa and a few years later she was forced into an arranged marriage with her first cousin.

That would be a forced marriage, not an arranged marriage. If she’s forced into it it’s forced, not arranged.

She was able to get back to Canada though, and she had hopes for her life.

She’d registered at the Adult Learning Centre to work on her high school diploma this fall and was hoping to one day realize her dream of becoming a doctor…

But she had to sponsor her husband here and his arrival in May forced her back into the cage she had struggled so long to escape. He wanted her to wear a burka, to stay away from Facebook, to put aside any plans she had of resuming a secular education.

“She rebelled,” explains Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. “With the help of social services, she got an apartment for herself and her son. She was leaving her husband and asking for a divorce. How dare she? It would dishonour everyone.”

She and her son moved out July 1. After just three weeks of freedom, she was dead.

Strangled. In front of her child, age 3 – who was alone with her body for 15 hours.

Her estranged husband Abdul Malik Rustam, 27, turned himself in to police the next morning. He’s been charged with first-degree murder.

“Absolutely, it was an honour killing,” contends Fatah. “This is the fundamental issue here that no one wants to address. Nobody wants to tell Muslim men that women are not their possessions. It’s about women’s sexuality and men who say they own the franchise to it.”

Tarek says that a reporter from the Toronto Star called him today “and spoke like a true apologist for those who say using the term ‘Honour killing’ is akin to being racist against Muslims. If this is how low the Taliban Star has sunk in efforts to appease Islamists, shame on them. I have never net or spoken to a more biased and unprofessional journalist.”


Aug 5th, 2011 12:20 pm | By

Newsflash: some people in the Netherlands go to church but don’t take goddy beliefs altogether seriously.

The Rev Klaas Hendrikse…[doesn't] believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing.

“When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that’s where it can happen. God is not a being at all… it’s a word for experience, or human experience.”

No it isn’t, actually. It may be a word that Hendrikse is using to mean that, Humpty Dumpty fashion, but it’s not a word for that, any more than “Anna Karenina” is a word for borscht, or mulligatawny. “God” is a word for a supernatural agent with omni-properties.

Not to say that I think Hendrikse should be more literalist in his preaching, just that it seems to be a bit silly to cling to the word while changing the meaning by fiat.

Professor Hijme Stoeffels of the Free University in Amsterdam says it is in such concepts as love that people base their diffuse ideas of religion.

“In our society it’s called ‘somethingism’,” he says. “There must be ‘something’ between heaven and earth, but to call it ‘God’, and even ‘a personal God’, for the majority of Dutch is a bridge too far.”

“Somethingism.” Now that’s a good name for it.

Next year in DC

Aug 4th, 2011 4:31 pm | By

I mentioned this in a comment but in case you didn’t see that: CFI is doing a Women and Secularism conference in Washington DC next May 18-20.

Speakers will include (in alphabetical order) Ophelia Benson, Jamila Bey, Greta Christina, Elisabeth Cornwell, Margaret Downey, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Sikivu Hutchinson, Susan Jacoby, Jennifer McCreight, Wafa Sultan, and Rebecca Watson.

Be there.

Perhaps I will do a talk on sexist epithets…

Salafists move in

Aug 4th, 2011 10:42 am | By

No good. Bad. Islamists are having success in Egypt.

It is already clear that the liberal-minded parties that have been the focus of
much Western media attention are not doing well as the competition hots up…

When a protest was called in Tahrir Square late last week, it was known the
Islamists would dominate it. But the numbers brought in by the Salafists far
exceeded even those the Muslim Brotherhood could muster.

The Salafists favour an Islamic state, with Sharia law, as soon as possible,
whereas the Brotherhood has emphasised the separation of state and religion – at least for the time being.

Hundreds of thousands of Salafists came to the square – many waving the flag of Al Nour or “The Light”, the party they have established to contest the

Oh, shit.

One Westernised Cairo woman who was shocked by this show of strength said to me “I think I will have to leave Egypt”.


Crazy dot dot dot

Aug 3rd, 2011 1:09 pm | By

[Update August 19. I've edited this, and I'm going to edit some of the comments. Very Orwellian; very memory-hole. Yes; too bad. I disagree with myself about much of this now, so I want to get rid of the worst of it, and thus the worst of the comments it triggered. I make mistakes. It happens.]

Sexist epithets. The subject keeps coming back. We think we’ve killed it and then it pops up again, undead. The disagreements of the past month have brought it back more robust than ever and fifty times as large.

Russell Blackford has astonished me by consistently brushing them aside as unimportant. I’m pretty sure that in one of the many epithet-discussions we’ve had here he told me he’d stopped using “bitch” because of what I and others had been saying. I seem to have lost my influence.

A lot of people whom I’d believed sensible are showing irrational streaks over this issue. E.g. it’s not that hard seeing what Watson did wrong – but some folks seem determined to protect her at all costs…

Likewise, we’ve been getting totally unnuanced discussions of insults like “twat”. I don’t actually like these, either,  as it happens, because I think there is at least tendency for them  to express and reproduce sexist attitudes …but not everything is the same, and it’s possible to tease out the distinctions analytically and dispassionately. (E.g. I’m far more worried about the use of “cunt” as an insult, because its primary meaning is still the female pudenda; whereas “twat” has lost that meaning to some considerable extent. I think that “fool” is now its *primary* meaning.)

Not here it isn’t. In the UK and Australia/New Zealand maybe, but not in the US – and even in the UK and Australia/New Zealand it hasn’t completely shed its misogynist aspect; not all women even there think it’s perfectly all right. I set off a discussion of the subject on the WMST list a year or so ago and there were a lot of emphatic comments from UK/Aus/NZ women saying hell no it’s not ok.

Anyway – this business of teasing out the distinctions analytically and dispassionately – that’s a lot easier for people who are not named by the epithets than it is for people who are. That is (I almost regret to say, at this point) a textbook example of privilege. When people throw around cunt and twat and fucking bitch and smelly snatch, they’re not naming Russell. They are naming me. I can be dispassionate and analytical about the (putative) distinctions under some circumstances, but not under all. I can’t do it when a mouthy woman is being called those things in public over and over and over and over again. I’m not dispassionate about that. I can’t be.

This week on Project Runway god makes it work

Aug 3rd, 2011 10:52 am | By

A Christian midwife is suing a hospital for making her wear trousers in the operating theatre…She cites a command in the Book of Deuteronomy that people should not wear clothing meant for the other gender.

Yes but even if you think that’s an acceptable reason for someone to refuse to follow a job requirement (and why would you think that?), what makes Hannah Adewole so sure that trousers have always been boy-clothing and skirts have always been girl-clothing? What makes anyone sure what clothing was “meant” for “the other gender”?

Nothing; it’s just that people associate the most prissy option in any particular situation with “what god has always meant” and pitch fits accordingly, by way of letting everyone know how pious they are and getting their names in the papers.

The Vatican reaches out

Aug 2nd, 2011 2:49 pm | By

Well good. Good good good. The Vatican is tired of being the eternal victim and is finally standing up for itself. What a relief – I’m so sick of watching people ride roughshod over it.

The papal nuncio is set to deliver a strong response to the Cloyne Report before the end of August, rebuffing the Taoiseach’s accusation the Vatican undermined child protection guidelines…

The Vatican has been exasperated by reports claiming Archbishop Leanza was being moved to Prague in the Czech Republic as a mark of his disfavour with his superiors in Rome.

I should think so! Poor Vatican, being talked about behind its back in that shameful way. If there’s anything the Vatican hates it’s gossip.

In its response, the Vatican will point out the  weakness of Irish state monitoring of child abuse. And it will insist that the Taoiseach’s comments failed to recognise the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI to ensure bishops comply with national laws.

The Government will also be told that the seal of the confession is

And that therefore priests and bishops have every right to ignore the law and do whatever they like, so children will just have to put up with it.

Down, peasant

Jul 31st, 2011 5:15 pm | By

Have you seen the Texas prayer day’s site? It explains about itself.

On August 6, the nation will come together at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas for a solemn gathering of prayer and fasting for our country.

We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.

Why do they believe that? They don’t say. It’s a very stupid thing to believe. It takes a huge, complicated, arbitrary claim – America is in a state of crisis – and without even saying what is meant by it or listing the ingredients of it, it assigns a cause which is just gibberish.

Some bad things are happening in America. This is because “we are a nation that” hasn’t done a couple of things to or for or about an imaginary character. What do they mean “we are a nation that”? Plenty of people in the nation have indeed “honored God” for things they like and begged him for more things they like, so what do they mean about the nation? That the gummint hasn’t joined the people in honoring and begging? But parts of the gummint do that too. Maybe they mean it’s not unanimous, and that’s what itches them on the bum. But that’s very bossy of them. The whole idea is stupid, so they should be satisfied with the numbers they have and not go seeking after more.

Rick Perry, the governor of the deranged state of Texas, explains some more.

I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.

How does he know that? I don’t think he does…and I think telling people to get on their knees is disgusting.

The virtue of hmm

Jul 31st, 2011 4:33 pm | By

Hmm. Jason Rosenhouse did a post a few weeks ago saying what things he hates in writing. It pains me to say that I do some of them, and not seldom.

In fact one of them is “hmm,” which I use a lot, as you can see from the beginning of this post. I honestly typed it before remembering that it was one of the items…This is a “hmm” post, so there it appeared, as if by its own volition.

Sadly that’s the very first thing he mentions.

Starting a sentence with “Uhm” or “Hmmmm,” for example.  This is an especially common one among blog writers.  It’s a silly and cliched way of suggesting that your opponent has not merely made a weak argument, but has actually said something unhinged and foolish.  In the early days of blogs this might have been a clever way of achieving a conversational tone, but now it’s so overused it just makes the writer look ridiculous.

But…but…but that’s not always what it’s for. I use it that way sometimes – or rather, I use it sometimes to express mild skepticism, as opposed to full-throttle skepticism. But mostly I use it to mark thought; to mark uncertainty, and groping, and thinking things through as I go. I think that’s all right, if you don’t do it every other sentence.

Ending a sentence with “no,” (or, more rarely, ”yes.”)  It’s a miserable excrescence the rhetorical world would be better off without.  This is obvious, no?

I do that occasionally, I think. It’s just a variation, that’s all. It’s irritating if it’s all over the place, but in moderation? I keep wanting to umm or hmm so I’ll just stop, instead.

“To be sure” is another one I can live without.  As in, “To be sure, everything I have said to this point is a ridiculous oversimplification with little basis in facts, logic or evidence.”  It makes you look pompous and full of yourself, since considerable education is required before it feels natural to use such a vapid nonsense phrase.

Hey! Now that’s not fair. I use it as a kind of joke. It’s a bit 18th century, a bit Johnson or Austen (who was 18th century in many of her linguistic habits); I use it because I like the oddity of a whiff of the 18th century now and then. (I don’t mean I think about it that consciously. I include that phrase now and then, and that’s why – it has a faintly antiquated note that amuses me.)

That’s it; the others I have no problem with. I mean withal.

Debut of new blogging group

Jul 30th, 2011 4:19 pm | By

It’s Freethought blogs. There’s a Facebook post about it. It starts August 1. It will be “led by” (I’m not sure what that means) PZ Myers of Pharyngula and Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars. There will also be The Digital Cuttlefish, This Week in Christian Nationalism, and Zingularity.


Preying on the gullible and vulnerable

Jul 30th, 2011 4:00 pm | By

Update: A joker on Twitter pretending to be Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg thinks Edzard Ernst should be sent to the Tower. Why? Because Ernst said Prince Charles is a snake-oil salesman. Well he is! I guess saying that makes me fit for the Tower too, or would if I were a subject of the Crown, which I ain’t.

This week Ernst showed how little his critics have dented his confidence. At a press conference to mark his retirement he joined in the name-calling, agreeing with a Daily Mail reporter’s suggestion that the Prince of Wales is a “snake-oil salesman”.

Excuse me, that’s not name-calling – it’s the simple truth. The p of Wales sells a bogus “detox remedy”; he sells it for money. There’s no such thing as “detox” and if there were it wouldn’t be a dab of dandelion and a whiff of artichoke. It’s bogus and expensive; how is it “name-calling” to say he’s a snake-oil salesman?

“He’s a man, he owns a firm that sells this stuff, and I have no qualms at all defending the notion that a tincture of dandelion and artichoke [Duchy Herbals detox remedy] doesn’t do anything to detoxify your body and therefore it is a snake oil.” Far from regretting the choice of words and the controversy it has generated, he appears to relish it.

Goodness, how prissy. Yes Mr Posh and Privileged is flogging a silly hand-waving “remedy” to credulous people; he’s the one who should be regretting something, not Ernst for pointing it out.

it was a complaint from Prince Charles’s principal private secretary five years ago that nearly cost Ernst his job. The letter, sent by Sir Michael Peat in his capacity as chair of the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, accused Ernst of violating a confidentiality agreement in relation to the publication of a report. Prince Charles denies having anything to do with the letter personally, and Ernst was cleared by a subsequent inquiry. But Ernst believes the power of the royal family has distorted public policy in relation to complementary medicine, and does not plan to let the subject drop.

Good. It’s an outrage, the royals using their archaic meaningless privilege to push homeopathy and “detox remedies.”

When in 2005 he was asked to comment on a report on the economic benefits of complementary medicine – commissioned by Prince Charles’s complementary health foundation, written by economist Christopher Smallwood and due to be delivered to government ministers – Ernst let rip.Sir Michael Peat’s letter of complaint was the result, and the investigation of his conduct which dragged on for 13 months.

They fight dirty, the royals.

He believes there is a “conflict of interest” for Prince Charles in using his public and charitable activities to promote complementary medicine, and making money from the “Duchy Herbals” range of remedies (Ernst calls them “Dodgy Originals”). The Foundation for Integrated Health was shut last year and its finance director jailed for theft.”I think it’s an abuse of power. It’s not his job to do that. He’s not a politician. He’s the king to be, and that is a very defined role, and it’s not to mingle in health, politics or anything else.

“He would probably argue he doesn’t make money from it, it all goes to good causes and so forth, but it’s still preying on the gullible and vulnerable. And it implies we can all overeat and over-drink and live unhealthy lives and take a few detox tablets and everything is right again. That’s not true.”

He likes the queen though.

Chris Hedges is still frothing at the mouth

Jul 29th, 2011 4:12 pm | By

Chris Hedges is as nasty as ever. It’s a wonder he has any spittle left, he’s expended so much of it on people he hates.

The gravest threat we face from terrorism, as the killings in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik underscore, comes not from the Islamic world but the radical Christian right and the secular fundamentalists who propagate the bigoted, hateful caricatures of observant Muslims and those defined as our internal enemies. The caricature and fear are spread as diligently by the Christian right as they are by atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Our religious and secular fundamentalists all peddle the same racist filth and intolerance that infected Breivik. This filth has poisoned and degraded our civil discourse. The looming economic and environmental collapse will provide sparks and tinder to transform this coarse language of fundamentalist hatred into, I fear, the murderous rampages experienced by Norway.

Hitchens and Harris peddle racist filth, says Hedges mildly. Really? No, but that’s ok, Hedges writes for Truthdig, so he can’t be just making it up out of his own bile and bad-tempered mendacity.

Our secular and religious fundamentalists come out of this twisted yearning for the apocalypse and belief in the “chosen people.” They advocate, in the language of religion and scientific rationalism, the divine right of our domination, the clash of civilizations. They assure us that we are headed into the broad, uplifting world of universal democracy and a global free market once we sign on for the subjugation and extermination of those who oppose us. They insist—as the fascists and the communists did—that this call for a new world is based on reason, factual evidence and science or divine will.

No they don’t; no they don’t; no they don’t; no they don’t.

All fundamentalists, religious and secular, are ignoramuses. They follow the lines of least resistance. They already know what is true and what is untrue. They do not need to challenge their own beliefs or investigate the beliefs of others. They do not need to bother with the hard and laborious work of religious, linguistic, historical and cultural understanding. They do not need to engage in self-criticism or self-reflection. It spoils the game. It ruins the entertainment. They see all people, and especially themselves, as clearly and starkly defined.

Unlike Chris Hedges, who does such a brilliant job of seeing people as complicated and various and difficult to pin down, not to mention his genius for self-criticism and self-reflection.