Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anti-secularist/atheist eliminationism

Via Dispatches From the Culture Wars, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association

*If the liberals win the upcoming election, America as we have known it will no longer exist.* This country that we love, founded on Judeo-Christian values, will cease to exist and will be replaced by a secular state hostile to Christianity. This "city set on a hill" which our forefathers founded, will go dark. The damage will be deep and long lasting. It cannot be turned around in the next election, or the one after that, or by any election in the future. The damage will be permanent. That is why it is so important for you to vote and to encourage friends and family to vote. This is one election where your vote really counts.
By "hostile to Christianity" he means that a secular state won't allow he and others who think like him to establish an authoritarian theocracy. And nevermind that an America "founded on Judeo-Christian values" has never existed in the first place; or that the American secular state is what has allowed American religions to flourish; or that the "city upon a hill" is not the United States of America but the Massachusetts Bay Colony settled by Puritans.

I've noted before that attacks on "liberals" come across - to me - as an evolved form of the more standard "right-wing" anti-semitic memes.

A commenter replied that "the mainstream punditocracy comes about as close to 'Jew hate' as you can get when they start talking about 'decadent coastal elites', 'Hollywood elites' and 'international financiers'... the only things missing are, well, the word 'Jew' and grotesque caricatures of obese, unshaven, hook-nosed men in tophats and tails," and another added that, "much of today's anti-Semitism is hidden behind codewords. Funny how these words also conflate "Jew" with "Liberal (that is, Communist)."

I then answered that I agree that there is hidden anti-semitism in the culture war punditry, but that it is hidden from the right-winger himself. The horrors of WWII demonstrated the wrongness of anti-semitism, so the meme evolved to scapegoat a group that was acceptable to blame: liberal secular progressives. People like Bill O'Reilly who warn about the secular elites in Hollywood and the evil anti American ACLU are not conscious of how such rhetoric seems to be the same rhetoric that was employed previously, minus the overt anti-Semetism.
Well, you can see that the AFA also engages in standard anti-Jewish bigotry. I've also written about how Bill O'Reilly serves to bridge the gap between the secular mainstream and the extreme versions of these memes.

Not only does this statement display O'Reilly's demonization of "s-p"s, it also shows how he can so perfectly act as a medium for the transmission of the Dominionist message ..."oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces" are assaulting "traditional" America ... that IS the Dominionist (also see here) message, as well as being pretty much the same message peddled by white supremacists with the exception that they add in "anti-White" forces. The only difference is the name given to the designated scape-goat and the fact that O'Reilly most likely does not share the totalitarian theocratic vision that the likes of Falwell, Robertson, LaHaye, or white supremacists (like the ones who belong to Christian Identity) adhere to.
Ok, so my point about O'Reilly can best be summed up by this Orwell quote:

Another thing that that inquiry, if it ever takes place, will have to deal with is the magical properties of names. Nearly all human beings feel that a thing becomes different if you call it by a different name.
In other words, O'Reilly has the same message as Religious Right extremists and bigots but he just uses a different name for his demonized enemy. Now take a look at this from the AFA website (bold emphasis mine)

The following material is taken from Bill O’Reilly’s book Cultural Warrior. Pages are noted. You can order Cultural Warrior by clicking here. (While AFA recommends the book, we receive no income from sales.) We have added boldface for emphasis. Also, material in brackets is not from the book. Mr. O’Reilly refers to the Radical Left as “secular-progressives,” or S-Ps.
And you can go ahead and read the portions at the link that they bolded to see exactly why the extremist bigots are such fans of O'Reilly's book. [Hint - It's because O'Reilly spreads their extremist bigot ideas.] This is one of the reasons I focus so much time on responding to O'Reilly: he has a huge audience and is one of the largest spreaders of anti-secularist bigotry in this nation - and his form of hate-mongering is particularly insidious because he presents extremist views in a more palatable mainstream form (e.g., it's easier to recognize the bigotry of "Jew" scapegoating than it is "S-P" scapegoating.) As Reason's Cathy Young put it

The O’Reilly Factor always ends with a segment called “The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.” These days, the most ridiculous item of the day may be O’Reilly himself. But his culture warmongering is no laughing matter. O’Reilly does, at the moment, have considerable influence—and he uses it to whip up hatred of secularists, people with liberal social values, war critics, and others who don’t fit his concept of a good American.
And now here's some more eliminationism, spotted by Atheist Ethicist, from our favorite neoconservative Melanie Phillips, notorious around these parts for previously using a white supremacist as a source for pro-war propaganda.

Melanie Phillips decided that "militant" atheists are to be blamed for the financial meltdown. She decided to go to print with an article where she instructed the people that they should turn their fear and concern for their economic future into hatred of atheists. (See: The Culture War for the White House)

I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the monetary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as 'rights' and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is 'militant atheism' which, in junking religion, has destroyed our sense of anything beyond our material selves and the here and now and, through such hyper-individualism, paved the way for the onslaught on bedrock moral values expressed through such things as family breakdown and mass fatherlessness, educational collapse, widespread incivility, unprecedented levels of near psychopathic violent crime, epidemic drunkenness and drug abuse, the repudiation of all authority, the moral inversion of victim culture, the destruction of truth and objectivity and a corresponding rise in credulousness in the face of lies and propaganda -- and intimidation and bullying to drive this agenda into public policy.
When the world entered the Great Depression in the 1930s, it became popular in America and, particularly, in Europe to blame the Jews for that economic collapse. People seeking political power for themselves named Jews as the culprit, either through the corruption of their influence and their values on (otherwise) 'good' Christians, or as a part of a conspiracy to take over the world – or, at least, the global economy.

That vilification of the Jews had some very ugly consequences.

Today, blaming the Jews for economic bad news is not as popular as it used to be. Consequently, bigots need to find a new target group – one that can be effectively blamed where the people might actually believe the hate-mongering that the writers engage in. Or, at least, where nobody would be foolish enough to actually stand up and defend the target group (and condemn those who did the targeting).

The vulnerable group in America today, of course, is those who do not believe in God.
You'll notice how similar this sounds to what I wrote previously about the evolution of the "right-wing" meme.

Update: Rightly or wrongly, I tend to take it for granted that readers will be inclined to read the links I quote from in posts, and I also tend to take for granted that readers will not need to be reminded of the following, but in light of the sort of paranoia I've been coming across today, I'd like to quote from Atheist Ethicist the qualification that follows the segment that I quoted: "This is not to say that we can expect atheists to be herded into gas chambers in this country within the next ten years."

The point is that

We could argue about how a certain type of false accusation 50 years ago would have gotten the accused a death sentence, whereas now the same false accusation 'only' results in 20 years in prison. However, the fact that the harm suffered by those who are falsely accused has been reduced does not argue that it is now permissible to make false accusations.

It is still the case that Phillips' accusation that atheists are guilty of the economic problems we face today, and the accusations made 75 years ago that Jews were responsible for that economic downturn, are both morally outrageous examples of trying to promote hatred and bigotry of a target group.
I think this sort of nuance stands out in contrast to the hysteria I'm preparing to write about.


Sheldon said...

What is so funny, yet scary about the first quote is how Wildmon invokes this "end of the world as we know it" rhetoric, which seems so over the top because Obama is really quite centrist.

Anonymous said...

I agree Obama is centrist, but I'm unsure how widely known that simple fact is. It's been my impression that Obama is thought by many people to be a Leftist.

Hume's Ghost said...

Right, and America's "center" is to the right of most other democracies Right.

Steelman said...

I find it a strange coincidence (and I think that's all it is; a coincidence) that O'Reilly and Scientologists both label their enemies SPs.