“Focus on Homosexuality”

Lefty pinko atheist commies like me usually criticize the religious right for obsessing over homosexuality while ignoring everything else in their so-called “good book”.  And, what do you know, CNN has seen fit to publish an op-ed in which Albert Mohler, a bobble-head from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to make excuses for Typical Christian Hypocrisy. Joy. There’s a lot of bullshit in it, of course, but the title is unintentionally revealing:

My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here’s why we focus on homosexuality

“Focus on homosexuality.” I love it. I can almost hear the other Christians out their shouting, “Hey! You said ‘homosexuality’ where you should have said ‘family’! You gave away the game, you stupid son of a bitch!”

It’s rare for fundamentalists to just come out of the closet and admit that they’ve got TEH GAY squarely in their sights most of the time. That they spend more hours than even most gay people imagining big, sweaty men bangin’ each other from behind, or beautiful young ladies with their fists up each others’ twats. That the filthy details of other people’s private lives are their focus. Because, you see, the Ruler of the Entire Universe is deeply concerned with proper dick and twat utilization.

Mohler starts out by lobbing softballs:

Are conservative Christians hypocritical and selective when it comes to the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality?

Fuck, that’s an easy one: Yes. Are we done now?

With all that the Bible condemns, why the focus on gay sex and same-sex marriage?

A better question would be, “Why consult a 2,000 year old book of fairy tales at all when trying to solve modern, real world issues?” Seriously, it’s hard to find the term “gay marriage” anywhere without finding terms like “Bible” or “Christian” or “religious” nearby. It poisons the whole discussion. The religion words are like little stalkers, telling themselves that “Gay Marriage” really loves them and wants to be with them and that “Bible” and “Gay Marriage” belong together in every paragraph. Actually “Gay Marriage” thinks “Bible” is creepy, and should just mind his own god damn business and leave her (or him, as the case may be) alone.

“Gay Marriage” changes his phone number, moves to a new neighborhood, deletes his Facebook account, but it doesn’t matter. “Bible” keeps showing up and insisting they belong together. “Gay Marriage” suggests maybe “Bible” should see other people more like him, like “Quran”, but “Bible” insists they have nothing in common. Besides, all “Bible” ever does is tell “Gay Marriage” to cut off that “Gay” pony tail.

Given the heated nature of our current debates, it’s a question conservative Christians have learned to expect. “Look,” we are told, “the Bible condemns eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics and any number of other things. Why do you ignore those things and insist that the Bible must be obeyed when it comes to sex?”

Before we even get to that, you need to explain to me why the Bible should be obeyed when it comes to anything at all.

First, the question can be asked to suggest that the Bible’s clear condemnation of sexual sins can simply be set aside. The other way of posing the question represents a genuine attempt to understand how the Bible is to be rightly applied to life today.

In truth, those asking the question the first way really don’t want an answer.

No, we just know you’re just gonna bullshit around rather than give an answer. Commence bullshitting in 3…2…1…

An honest consideration of the Bible reveals that most of the biblical laws people point to in asking this question, such as laws against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabrics, are part of the holiness code assigned to Israel in the Old Testament. That code was to set Israel, God’s covenant people, apart from all other nations on everything from morality to diet.

As the Book of Acts makes clear, Christians are not obligated to follow this holiness code. This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”

In other words, there is no kosher code for Christians. Christians are not concerned with eating kosher foods and avoiding all others. That part of the law is no longer binding, and Christians can enjoy shrimp and pork with no injury to conscience.

Since when aren’t arbitrary restrictions on sexual behaviors also part of ritual cleanliness and holiness codes? This makes no sense. So “Don’t wear polyester” is just mere “holiness code”, but “No dicks in the cornhole” is an eternal truth? They both sound like equally trivial and intrusive commands from a petty dictator to me.

The Bible’s commands on sexual behavior, on the other hand, are continued in the New Testament. When it comes to homosexuality, the Bible’s teaching is consistent, pervasive, uniform and set within a larger context of law and Gospel.

I’ve already talked about how the supposed condemnations of homosexuality in the New Testament rest on some pretty dubious translation, so I won’t rehash. Although I do get a kick out of the suggestion that anything in the Bible is “consistent, pervasive, [and] uniform.” Probably the only thing about the Bible that can be described that way is its noxious effect on our culture.

Some people then ask, “What about slavery and polygamy?” In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity.

Bullshit. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. Where’s the “human dignity” in these New Testament passages:

Ephesians 6:5-6 — Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.

Colossians 3:22 — Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

1 Timothy 6:1-2 — Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed.  If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful.  You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts.  Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.  1 Timothy 6:1-2

No one who “prizes freedom” would tell slaves to obey their masters with religious fervor in everything they ask. These verses tell slaves to submit and remain enslaved. (Note that it doesn’t even make an exception for masters who beat or rape them.) These verses are the voice of the patriarchal overlords using religious gullibility to keep the plebes down.

And also, note that Mohler specifies that the New Testament doesn’t command slavery. He has to do this because the Old Testament clearly does in many places. For instance:

Leviticus 25:44-46 — However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.

I’m sorry, but anyone who denies that the Bible is a pro-slavery document is lying, deluded and/or stupid.

The Old Testament did allow for polygamy, though it normalizes heterosexual monogamy. In the New Testament, Jesus made clear that marriage was always meant to be one man and one woman.

“Have you not read that He who created them made them male and female?” Jesus asked in Matthew. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” For this reason, Christians have opposed polygamy on biblical grounds.

Nowhere in that verse does it limit the man to just one wife. Nowhere does it prohibit himself to becoming one flesh with multiple women. The notion of “opposing polygamy on biblical grounds” remains laughable.

Why are Christians so concerned with homosexuality?

Because they’re sanctimonious busybodies who want to lord their personal views over everyone else?

In the first place, that question is answered by the simple fact that it is the most pressing moral question of our times.

This one sentence is a wide, gaping glory hole into the right wing bigot’s mindset. Ask a sensible person what the most pressing moral question of our time is, and you’ll probably get answers like war, inequality, sexual abuse, child abuse, or something like that. Ask a bigot, and he responds, “Fags.” With all the problems in the world today, our country is bogged down in the ever-pressing Fag question by millions of tiny minds attached to tinier dicks who can’t mind their own fucking business.

Christians must be concerned about adultery, pornography, injustice, dishonesty and everything the Bible names as sin. But when my phone rings with a call from a reporter these days, the question I am asked is never adultery or pornography. It is about homosexuality.

Yeah, you see, here’s the thing. THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN TO OTHER PEOPLE. Do you think every public figure gets “So, how do you feel about buttsex?” as their lead in question? People ask you this because you won’t shut up about it. If you’d focus on something else, so would they.

The situation here is so comical it’s hard to believe it’s real. It’s like if someone devoted his entire life to running through the streets flinging poo in the air. And since everyone asks him about poo-flinging all the time, he concludes that this must be what everyone is talking about and it’s the most important topic in the universe. So he demands that all non-poo-flingers must become poo-flingers or else society will collapse.

Christians who are seriously committed to the authority of the Bible have no choice but to affirm all that the Bible teaches, including its condemnation of homosexuality.

Well, since the Bible clearly says to kill gay people, will you be doing that? If not, then we’re back to that whole cherry-picking thing that your article was supposed to be addressing.

At the same time, our confidence is that God condemns those things that will bring his human creatures harm and commands those things that will lead to true human happiness and flourishing.

The Bible has a rather, shall I say, queer viewpoint on topics like human dignity and happiness. But we all know Mohler and all the other bigots on the far right don’t give a fuck about whether other people are happy and flourishing. As long as they’re not sucking dick while reading the Quran, they can fucking starve for all the Religious Right cares.

The church failed miserably in the face of the challenge of divorce. This requires an honest admission and strong corrective.

Somehow I doubt that honest admissions and strong correctives of any sort will be forthcoming.

At the same time, this painful failure must remind us that we must not fail to answer rightly when asked what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. Love requires us to tell the truth.

Translation: “We suck at divorce, so let’s pick on some fags.”

Well, I’ve gotten to the end of the op-ed without Mohler once actually addressing the issue of cherry-picking and hypocrisy. He didn’t address the whole “kill the gays” part of the Bible that he and all the other Christians ignore. He didn’t address all the things in the New Testament that Christians ignore, such as that whole “sell everything you have and give the money to the poor” schtick. He never addressed the fact that Jesus, the perforated zombie man-god they supposedly follow, never said a single word about gays, but was constantly condemning those who amass riches while the poor live in squalor (apparently they had Republicans back then, too. I wonder how the rich men that Jesus condemned felt about gays…). He didn’t address the fact that Christians ignore MOST of what’s in the Bible, in lieu of just shouting at people who have different lifestyles.

People have been making these objections for years with no response. In other words, he reads his critics like he reads his Bible. Barely at all, and only paying attention to the convenient parts.


Decline and Fall of Whiny Whitey

At the time I wrote my Whiny Whitey post, I was unaware that Naomi Schaefer Riley, or as I shall call her Little Miss Bigotpants, had already written a follow up that was even more ignorant and more characteristic of Whiny Whitey than her original post. And just one day after I wrote my totally mature and Safe For Work opinions on the intertubes, she got fired by CHE. Well, fuck. I feel dumb. I should have waited a bit. Ah, well, let’s take a look at these articles anyways.

First up, Little Miss Bigotpants’ follow up article, in which she makes excuses for the brain dead things she said in her earlier article.

I was never a big fan of the feminist mantra that the “personal is political.”

Hey, very first line and she’s taking a pointless swipe at feminists. What should you do when you’ve pissed off every race-conscious person on the earth? Make more enemies!

But the  corollary–that any political remark must be taken personally–seems in many ways even worse. My last blog post has earned me even more opprobrium than usual among the Brainstorm commenters, and it seems that they have decided to take as a personal attack something that is clearly not.

I didn’t take it as a personal attack. I just thought it was stupid. And ignorant. And racist. But I guess by making it personal you can make yourself out to be the victim. Ain’t that just like Whiny Whitey?

The comments regarding my post seem to boil down to the following:

I am picking on people because they are black (and I am a racist).
I am picking on people even though I don’t have a Ph.D.
I am picking on people who are too young and inexperienced to defend themselves.
I am picking on people even though I haven’t read their entire dissertations.

Alright, let’s take these one by one.

1.) Yes, you are racist.

2.) No, I don’t care if you have a Ph.D or not. Although I’m not at all astonished to learn that you lack it.

3.) No, anyone who says that is full of shit, just like you.

4.) YES YES YES YES YES. Jesus fucking Christ, how can you even type that without realizing, “Holy shit. I’m a complete asshole”?

My qualifications to post on this blog consist of the fact that I have been a journalist writing about higher education for close to 15 years now. My work has been published in every major newspaper in the country and I have written two books on the subject as well.

Glenn Beck has similar qualifications. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s batshit loco and a complete moron.

If the dissertations in question were written by white people, I’d call them irrelevant and partisan as well. Moreover, I have called other disciplines (having nothing to do with race) irrelevant and partisan.

It wasn’t the fact that you hated dissertations you haven’t read that makes you racist. It’s the fact that you can’t let black people talk about being black people without making it all about “white guilt”. That’s what’s so racist about you.

Unless The Chronicle features you in a piece, being a graduate student is just like being “invisible” (Ralph Ellison, please call your office).

You leave Ellison out of this, Little Miss Bigotpants. You clearly missed the point of Invisible Man.

 A word to the wise: If you’re trying to convince the wider world that black people in America are oppressed, I’d skip using the experience of black graduate students as an example.

Well, if you’re going to invoke Ralph Ellison and then attack black grad students, I have no choice but to quote Ralph Ellison. This is from “Twentieth Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity” (1953):

Perhaps the most insidious and least understood form of segregation is that of the word. And by this I mean the word in all its complex formulations, from the proverb to the novel and stage play, the word with all its subtle power to suggest and foreshadow overt action while magically disguising the moral consequences of that action and providing it with symbolic and psychological justification. For if the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison and destroy.

Obviously the experiences of Negroes–slavery, the grueling and continuing fight for full citizenship since Emancipation, the stigma of color, the enforced alienation which constantly knifes into our national identification with our county–have not been that of white Americans. And though as passionate believers in democracy Negroes identify themselves with the broader American ideals, their sense of reality springs, in part, from an American experience which most white men not only have not had, but one with which they are reluctant to identify themselves even when presented in forms of the imagination.

Something tells me that on the question of “Do we need more black scholars to bring racism to light?”, Mr. Ellison will not be on the same side as Whiny Whitey.

Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them.

Now this is some grade A hackery right here. This woman seriously thinks it’s unreasonable for us to expect her to read something before she comments on it. In fact, she thinks that we are being ignorant for expecting her not to be ignorant. How dare we suggest that she should do research on a thing before she writes about it!

But this is also the right wing in a fucking nutshell. Not only do they refuse to study the things they pontificate upon, they take offense at the suggestion that they should. This is Don McLeroy saying “someone’s gotta stand up to experts…” This is Cooper Lawrence attacking a video game she’s never played. This is nothing short of the insistence that stupidity is superior to intelligence, ignorance is better than knowledge, intellectual laziness is preferable to critical thought. The Republican party is positioning itself as the Pro-Stupid Party. And after openly admitting that she thinks she doesn’t have to read something before she attacks it, Whiny Whitey has the gall to say this:

Such is the state of academic research these days. The disciplines multiply. The publication topics become more and more irrelevant and partisan. No one reads them. And the people whom we expect to offer undergraduates a broad liberal-arts education (in return for billions of dollars from parents and taxpayers) never get trained to do so. Instead the ivory tower pushes them further and further into obscurity.

How do you know this if you’re not reading it? How the fuck can you claim to know the state of any type of research that you don’t read? The mind boggles. On the American Right, in 2012, it is apparently acceptable to say, “I don’t read it, because I know it doesn’t matter. And I know it doesn’t matter, because I don’t read it.” All hail idiocy.

Well, anyways, the CHE finally came to their senses and fired her ass. Cue the right wing outrage and victimization:

As a blogger for the Chronicle of Higher Education Naomi Schaefer Riley is paid to write about what is going on in academia from her perspective. She was doing her job when Riley wrote about the failure of black studies at American universities, citing PhD dissertations as evidence of the weakness of the discipline .

The response to her post can be summed up as follows: She’s a racist and she should be fired.

Yeah, you kinda left out the part where she didn’t read the dissertations she cited. But I understand why you left it out. If you included it, that would make it harder to make her look like a victim, what with her being an obvious hack and all. The right wing needs a narrative, and silly things like facts won’t get in the way of that!

But personal attacks and false accusations of prejudice are the only things academics can offer in the face of legitimate criticism, it seems. Perhaps Riley should take it as a compliment that not a single one of her critics has managed to defend black studies or the dissertations the field produces on their own merits.

Maybe no one has defended the dissertations because they haven’t been completed or published yet. Yes, that’s right. The grad students that Riley attacked have responded, pointing out that the CHE article Riley was attacking was about research still in progress. So, again, let’s take a look at what constitutes “reasoning” for the American right: If a right wing hack attacks research she knows nothing about (while openly admitting she knows nothing about it), the “liberals” are at fault if they can’t defend research that hasn’t been published yet.

So what’s really going on here is that conservatives are inventing a fairy tale land in their heads, and then mocking “liberals” for not knowing what’s going on there.  Hahaha, stupid “liberals”, you don’t know what I made up in my tiny little brain right now. That makes you dumb. You’re dumb if you can’t read the minds of stupid people like me.

I put “liberals” in scare quotes because this isn’t really about conservative versus liberal (without quotes). There are legitimate arguments to be made on both sides (I side with the left, but I acknowledge that I might be wrong and conservatives might be right). This is about the hacks and nutjobs who have hijacked the American right and turned it into a fucking freak show. And when they say “liberal”, what they really mean is “smart, sane person”.

There’s a point to be made here, and it saddens me that it needs to be made: Stupid is not a point of view. Willful ignorance is not a virtue. “I don’t know, so I’m right” is not a political position. We need to have a mature discussion about race in this country, but we can’t so long as one side of the debate consists of people who refuse to admit racism exists because they pretend it doesn’t exist. We can’t have a productive discussion about race when one side insists that what goes on in the real world outside of their imagination doesn’t matter. We can’t talk about race when it’s considered acceptable to treat what white people imagine black people might say as if it were the same as what black people actually have to say.

And this all boils down to the point that I really want to make, and I absolutely fucking hate the fact that I apparently have to make it: What black people have to say matters. You can’t just fucking invent imaginary black people and expect that to pass as an adult debate on race. You have to read the actual writings of actual black people. If you refuse to do that, then your opinion on race in America is utterly irrelevant. And if you think that this puts an unreasonable burden on you, then you’re a stupid fucking racist.

Football: Still totally not gay

Let’s revisit an old topic for a bit. You know you’re dealing with a genuine wingnut when, after getting called out for their bullshit, rather than take a step back and reconsider, they double down on their stupidity. And that appears to be the case with Ron Brown, the bigoted assistant coach at the Nebraska football team. He sure does hate him some gays, and ain’t no one gonna change his mind about it.

Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown, the subject of recent national headlines after speaking out against an Omaha gay and transgender anti-discrimination law, won’t attend a hearing Monday in which the Lincoln City Council will consider passing a similar ordinance.

But it’s by no means because he regrets the public nature or vehement argument of his initial stance — or because he has been discouraged by coaches or administrators to do otherwise.

Yeah, why should the universal condemnation, ridicule and embarrassment he brought down on his employer cause him any consternation at all? He’s doing the Lord’s work! That’s just what a great Christian he is! If the Lord told him to smear feces on his face and run stark naked through a shopping mall singing Barry Manilow tunes, he’d do it without a second thought. The people who might think he’s a crazy moron for doing it are all hellbound anyways. Who gives a fuck what they think?

Brown, who the university has said is within his rights as a citizen to express his religious and political views publicly, says he doesn’t want his appearance to make news.

“A number of fellow Christians who have been working on legislation and working on the nuts and bolts of this issue told me, ‘Look, there’s going to be so much media attention over you, it’s going to take away from the issue,’ ” Brown told the Lincoln Journal Star on Saturday.

“Everything inside of me said, ‘I don’t want the media to stop me from going.’ Then I realized it was going to be a circus, and everybody already knows how I think. My views stand the same.

“As I prayed about it, I thought it was not in the Lord’s will for me to testify.”

So he’s not backing down because he’s wrong or because he embarrassed his coworkers. It’s because other Christians don’t want the evil liberal media to notice their bigoted crusade. Sarah Palin would be so proud. (Oh, and of course I agree with the university that he is within his rights to say whatever bigoted shit he wants to say. And I am within my rights to make fun of him.)

In March, when the Omaha City Council held a hearing for the measure that added local protections against discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, Brown challenged ordinance sponsor Ben Gray and other members to remember the Bible does not condone homosexuality.

So fucking what? Neither does Dianetics. And if some Scientologist showed up at a town hall meeting and demanded that laws be changed to fit with what Xenu commands, they would be rightly laughed out of the building. It should be no different with the Bible. Brown is basically just assuming everyone must follow his silly fairy book.

There a lot of different terms used for people like Brown. Religious Right. Fundamentalists. Evangelicals. Fundigelical.  Jesus Freaks. Theocrats. I think perhaps the best term for people who think like this is Christian Supremacist. They go into every situation assuming that the Bible must be presupposed by and submitted to by everyone in the room. Christianity is better than everything else, period. They’re like white supremacists without the stupid Halloween costumes.

“Everything inside of me wants to go to the hearing and be part of any type of issue such as this, if work permits me to do it,” Brown told the Journal Star. “I could’ve gone.”

However, “I don’t want this to be about me,” he said.

Aww, how selfless of you. It’s good to see you think of oppressing others as a team effort. Good for you. (Read the previous sentence in Christian Bale voice.)

“If people want to make implications about the football program, I can’t stop that,” Brown said, according to the newspaper.

Uh, yes you can. You totally can. It wouldn’t even be that hard. Just stop saying stupid shit and people will stop making fun of Nebraska. It’s that god damn simple.

Brown also wrote a letter to the newspaper, published in Sunday’s editions, in which he said his Christian beliefs led him to express his opposition to homosexuality. The letter notes that while he is against laws that protect gay people, he would never discriminate against gay players.

“I have and will embrace every player I coach, gay or straight … but I won’t embrace a legal policy that supports a lifestyle that God calls sin,” he wrote.

And of course the Christian Supremacist has to trot out the condescending “hate the sin, love the sinner” bullshit. But in doing so, he exposes his own confusions. Obviously, he wouldn’t discriminate against gay players, because he knows that’s wrong. But then he thinks a law that says it’s wrong to discriminate against gays “supports a lifestyle that God calls sin.” So either one of two things is happening here: Either Brown is supporting a sinful lifestyle by not discriminating against gays, or Brown supports the idea that the law should stand for something wrong (allowing discrimination). Either way, he’s supporting something that he believes to be wrong. Not that this flagrant contradiction will ever occur to him. One of the best things about being a Christian Supremacist is that you go through your day to day life thinking at a level that doesn’t even approach the necessary threshold of rationality that is required to notice and correct cognitive dissonance.

The situation in Nebraska also resulted in yet another example of how wingnuts never learn dick from the past:

On Friday, Attorney General Jon Bruning issued an opinion that said Nebraska cities cannot adopt ordinances protecting people from discrimination for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender because the state’s anti-discrimination laws don’t extend to sexual orientation.

Ken Cucchinelli, the AD of Virginia, tried this exact same bullshit a couple years ago when he told the public universities they couldn’t protect gays because the state law didn’t protect gays. The universities told him to go fuck himself, went to court, and won. That’s exactly what will happen in Nebraska if Brunning stupidly pursues this absurd line of legal reasoning. His opinion basically says, “You can’t protect rights that aren’t already protected somewhere else,” a line of reasoning that, if enacted, would effectively make any further progress in civil rights impossible. And that’s probably exactly what people like him want, but they’d never say so out loud. Regardless, I don’t foresee any court in the nation going along with it.

Luckily, the Lincoln city council aren’t going along with it:

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler said that wouldn’t deter the city from putting the proposal to a vote.

Good for them.

Addendum: There are some really good takedowns of Brown’s bullshit at ESPN.com by Rick Reilly and Gene Wojchedjcijajdijdjjaiajjja…. I can’t spell or pronounce his name. But his op-ed is good.

Whiny Whitey

I’m currently studying for a Ph. D. in History and Philosophy of Science. “What the hell is that?” you might ask. And that would be a good question. In fact, I even took a whole class on the question of whether my field really exists, or if it’s just a bunch of historians and philosophers who enter a marriage of convenience because they’d rather share a building with each other than with the would-be colleagues in their respective departments. I’m also minoring in Cognitive Science, a department composed of philosophers, cognitive psychologists, linguists, mathematicians, computer scientists, logicians, communication scientists–just about everything except for “cognitive scientists”. So I’m majoring in a field that might not exist and minoring in one that’s more or less a hodge podge of other fields. This is why when asked “What do you do for a living?”, I just avoid the question.

There are lots of reasons to question what constitutes a “legitimate” academic field. Is it really a good idea to offer a master’s degree in Peace Studies? And what the hell is a Ph. D. in Scandinavian? These are legitimate questions.  But, as with any topic, there are also really asinine, bigoted questions to be asked, and Naomi Schaefer Riley of the Chronicle of Higher Education is making sure that stupid questions get their time in the sun, too.  Here’s the title of her piece:

The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.

Spoiler: She doesn’t read any dissertations. She just reads the titles. No, seriously:

You’ll have to forgive the lateness but I just got around to reading The Chronicle’s recent piece on the young guns of black studies. If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.

What better way to counter “left-wing victimization” than with white-wing whining? Anyone familiar with the de rigueur method of discussing race on the American right can see where this is going. “Why do those ni–, I mean, African Americans still complain about racism? America doesn’t have a race problem any more. The problem is laziness! And black people who say there’s still racism in America are just enabling all those lazy spear-chu–, I mean, non-job-creaters.”

And, yes, Ms. Riley hasn’t actually read any dissertations by Black Studies scholars. She read a sidebar from a CHE article that lists the author, title and short description of a grand total of five dissertations. All of them are from the Black Studies Department at Northwestern University. The entirety of her thesis rests on this sample. Excellent scholarship there, Ms. Riley. Up next, Ms. Riley will offer some movie reviews based on her first impressions of the Blu-Ray box art. I’m sure film critics will find her insights very useful when asking whether Film and Media Studies is a topic that deserves to have its own department.

That’s what I would say about Ruth Hayes’ dissertation, “‘So I Could Be Easeful’: Black Women’s Authoritative Knowledge on Childbirth.” It began because she “noticed that nonwhite women’s experiences were largely absent from natural-birth literature, which led me to look into historical black midwifery.”

Now, I could see the germ of a legitimate criticism here. It’s always irritating to me when people see the word “natural” attached to something and automatically think that makes it better. Generally, whenever I hear some hippie praising the merits of “natural” foods or “natural” medicine, I point out to them that arsenic and dog shit are both perfectly natural, too. That doesn’t necessarily mean you want it in your body. And when it comes to “natural birth”–i.e., birth at the home with a midwife rather than at a hospital–I feel the same way. Why risk your baby’s life and your own by giving up all the benefits of modern medicine found at a hospital? Because it’s more “natural” to increase your baby’s risk of early death? Well, that’s idiotic. (Of course, I’m not going to attack Hayes for this, and for one simple reason: I don’t know if that’s what she’s really saying. I haven’t read her dissertation, and have no way of knowing if she took this position or not. But that won’t stop Riley.)

However, it’s also easy to see a real, academic topic here. Hospitals are expensive, especially without insurance, and black people tend to have less money and less insurance than white people. As a result, you would expect more at-home births amongst blacks simply out of necessity, and it would stand to reason that your average black woman might know more about midwifery than her white counterparts. It makes sense, and I could see why someone might want to study it.

But apparently I’m not seeing what’s really going on here. Ms. Riley sets me straight:

How could we overlook the nonwhite experience in “natural birth literature,” whatever the heck that is? It’s scandalous and clearly a sign that racism is alive and well in America, not to mention academia.

It’s all about white guilt. Because even when black people talk about black people, it’s really about white people. A dissertation about black midwives is clearly aimed at making Riley feel guilty about white racism. We can easily discern this without bothering to read the dissertation. Or even, for that matter, the full description of said dissertation in the very article Ms. Riley purports to be commenting on:

By the time she started her first semester, Ms. Hayes was ready to make black women’s approaches to pregnancy and childbirth her main focus. She is primarily interested in what happens after women decide to carry a pregnancy to term: how they choose health-care providers, prepare themselves mentally and physically to give birth, and how their social location affects those choices. Black women, she says, are more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to be dissatisfied with the care they receive while birthing, and thus experience increased negative birth outcomes. “Hopefully, my research will suggest more effective ways to intervene socially or medically,” she says, “to improve health outcomes for black mothers and infants. This research can provide some insights into how black women’s collective history continues to impact how we give birth.”

Choosing health care providers? Effective medical intervention? The relation between history and child birth choices? Bah! We know your game, Ms. Hayes! This is all about making white people feel bad! Everything is about making white people feel bad!

Okay, I can’t do this any more. Getting into the head of someone like Riley makes me feel like I’m wearing someone else’s unwashed Fruit of the Looms (or is it Fruits of the Loom?). But this is illustrative of a general mindset on the wingnut right of American politics. Even talking about a minority is construed as an imposition on the majority. Whether it’s blacks, gays, women, Muslims, or whatever, the mere discussion of their lives as a topic is converted into an act of aggression in the mind of the right wing bigot. One great way to keep people down is to take offense at even the notion that they might want to talk about their own lives.

But Ms. Riley isn’t done attacking grad students who are doing far more productive work than she is. Here she is offering her insight on a dissertation on racism in housing:

But Ms. Taylor sees that her issue is still relevant today. (Not much of a surprise since the entirety of black studies today seems to rest on the premise that nothing much has changed in this country in the past half century when it comes to race. Shhhh. Don’t tell them about the black president!)

The president’s black? Oh, well then, racism is over. And that same black president had Osama bin Laden killed. That ends terrorism. So will the right wing please shut up about Muslim terrorism already?

But topping the list in terms of sheer political partisanship and liberal hackery is La TaSha B. Levy.

I’m definitely seeing some partisanship and hackery here, but it ain’t La TaSha Levy’s doing, and it sure as fuck ain’t “liberal” (whatever that means).

“Ms. Levy is interested in examining the long tradition of black Republicanism, especially the rightward ideological shift it took in the 1980s after the election of Ronald Reagan. Ms. Levy’s dissertation argues that conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, John McWhorter, and others have ‘played one of the most-significant roles in the assault on the civil-rights legacy that benefited them.’” The assault on civil rights? Because they don’t favor affirmative action they are assaulting civil rights? Because they believe there are some fundamental problems in black culture that cannot be blamed on white people they are assaulting civil rights?

Did she fucking say that? I’m asking rhetorically since I already know the answer: Ms. Riley has no idea if that’s what Ms. Levy said, since she hasn’t read the dissertation, or hardly any of the literature in black studies for that matter.

It often feels like the American right is carrying out arguments which exist entirely within the heads of its pundits without any regard for what actual “liberals” are actually saying. But in this case, that is quite literally what’s happening. Riley is offering counterarguments not to anything La TaSha Levy said, but to what Imaginary La TaSha Levy is saying deep in the shit-strewn sewer of Riley’s tiny, reptilian brain stem. There isn’t even the pretense of actually responding to someone’s statements (which is what the right wingers usually do). Riley is just flat out playing make-believe, and the CHE is publishing what might as well have been written in crayon on a roll of toilet paper at a mental institute. (Oh, and CHE, would you mind letting us know why exactly we should consider you to be a respectable academic publication?)

Luckily, Riley lets us know that she really does care about black people:

Seriously, folks, there are legitimate debates about the problems that plague the black community from high incarceration rates to low graduation rates to high out-of-wedlock birth rates.

“Seriously, folks, if we’re gonna talk about black people, let’s make sure that the debate is couched entirely in terms that make them sound bad. We can’t have those uppity ni–, African Americans talk about themselves in a manner that doesn’t evoke images of dumb thugs who will fuck anything that moves, now can we?”

But it’s clear that they’re not happening in black-studies departments.

This is how “clarity” works in the wingnut-o-sphere: Make up some bullshit. Believe the bullshit. There! It’s all so clear now! “Clearly” there’s no useful scholarship in black studies departments, because I imagined there being none, so there’s none! It’s so much fun to be a stupid, bigoted douchenozzle!

If these young scholars are the future of the discipline, I think they can just as well leave their calendars at 1963 and let some legitimate scholars find solutions to the problems of blacks in America. Solutions that don’t begin and end with blame the white man.

Uh, are these “young” scholars 50 or 60 years old? Hmmm, let me check. Nope, they’re all between the ages of 27 and 39. So they weren’t fucking alive in fucking 1963. If they experienced racism growing up, it would have been in the 80s and 90s or 2000s. Not the fucking 60s.

And here’s the thing. I’m white, and I never experienced racism against myself growing up. But I damn sure noticed racism against my black friends. I’ve seen white trash in pickup trucks yelling “nigger” at my schoolmates as they drove down the streets. I’ve seen my own parents and grandparents worry about the possibility of having to let a black repairman in the house. Fuck, I didn’t even know the proper name for a Brazil nut as a kid. The only name I ever heard from them came from my uncle, who called them “nigger toes.”

And by the time I was 16 and living in New Orleans, I was already noticing the subtler aspects of white privilege. For instance, when I walked down the street with my black friend Phil, and there were cars stopped at a red light, you could hear people locking their doors as Phil passed by. Phil just laughed it off and shouted, “Nothing to worry about, folks. Just a black boy walking down the street.” But it wasn’t lost on me that no one did that when my white friends were with me. Even the simple experience of walking down the god damn street is different if you’re black. And this was in 1997, not 1963.

So it’s obvious to anyone with two neurons to rub together that racism didn’t magically disappear with the passage of the Civil Rights bill. What has happened, though, is the emergence of what I’ll call Whiny Whitey (I’m white, so I get to use the w-word). Whiny Whitey is very troubled by race issues in America. Not, mind you, with actual racial tensions or inequalities. No, what troubles Whiny Whitey is that anyone would dare suggest that such issues exist. You see, talking about race makes Whiny Whitey uncomfortable. It’s inconvenient. And since openly racist commentary is no longer considered socially acceptable (yes, we have made progress), Whiny Whitey would rather we just not talk about race at all. Ever.

And Whiny Whitey is brimming with resentment that anyone might suggest that Whiny Whitey should feel guilty about what has happened to blacks in America. And what, pray tell, would constitute such a suggestion? Anything about race. Anything at all. Any discussion of race is just a game of “blame the white man,” and Whiny Whitey isn’t gonna take it any more. She’s gonna put her foot down and say Enough is Enough. Shut up about income inequality, racial profiling, employee discrimination, stereotyping, voter discrimination, and white privilege! It makes Whiny Whitey sad. Black people’s problems aren’t caused by racism. They just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, just like Whiny Whitey did. I mean, they were born into safe, middle class neighborhoods with adequate health care and education and never feared or reviled because of the color of their skin, just like Whiny Whitey. Right?

I’m not a big fan of so-called “white guilt”. I don’t feel the slightest bit of guilt for what happened before I was born and I had no control over. However, I also can’t stand white racists who use “white guilt” as a way to demean or dismiss the black experience of racism in this country. You have to be quite stupid to think that historical events such as slavery, segregation and lynching have left no lasting effects on today’s world. You can’t escape history. It’s worse than naive to suggest that the negative effects of Jim Crow just poofed away into the aether, never to be seen again, after the laws were abolished. It’s irresponsible, it’s idiotic, and it’s bigoted. It’s also the current default position of the Republican party. But what else should we expect from the party that thinks creationism, abortion bans and dogmatic supply-side economics are the wave of the future?

A not-so-Savage response to a “smart” Christian

Imagine you have a friend who is a staunch believer that 1+1=3. He goes around telling children and other people willing to listen that if you have one apple, and add another to it, you now have 3 apples. You decide to disabuse him of this preposterous notion, pointing out that 1+1=3 is illogical bullshit, and anyone who’s paying attention can clearly see that you have 2 apples in this case. Your friend is rather mad about this, and storms out of the room. Another mutual friend, trying to assuage the hostility of the situation, takes you aside and says,

“In America today you just can’t refer, even tangentially, to someone’s belief that 1+1=3 as ‘bullshit.’ You should apologize for using that word.”

You consider this friend to be a “smart mathematician.” Now, replace “1+1=3” with any type of disagreement regarding science, art, politics, sports, medicine, music or anything at all. Does it seem reasonable that there should be any field where no point of view can ever be described as bullshit?

I’m sure it’s obvious where I’m going with this. Someone “smart” did actually say this, but not about mathematics:

As for what I said about the Bible…

A smart Christian friend involved politics writes: “In America today you just can’t refer, even tangentially, to someone’s religion as ‘bullshit.’ You should apologize for using that word.”

The context of this admonition is a speech recently given by columnist and activist Dan Savage in which he said that “we can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people.” If he had said this about supply-side economics, outcome based education, the PATRIOT act or Obama’s energy policy, people might have vociferously disagreed, but no one would be offended. But since it’s about religion, that makes him a bully:

“If Dan Savage was a teacher, they’d suspend him without pay for this behavior,” he added. “He didn’t take account of who his audience was. If he was doing this with a bunch of college journalism kids, that would be a different story — that’s more rough and tumble. How many of the kids who didn’t walk out felt backed into a corner? To me, that’s bullying behavior. It has all the symptoms, as far as I’m concerned.”

Except that this wasn’t in a classroom. It wasn’t even at a public school. Here’s the thing–if Dan Savage had said this in a public school classroom, he would be totally wrong. No religion (or lack thereof) should be promoted in a public school. And I’m just as opposed to attacking Christianity in public schools as I am to promoting it. But this event wasn’t at a public school. It was a high school journalism convention held by a non-profit organization at a privately owned hotel. He has every fucking right to say what he god damn pleases there, and the students aren’t being forced to listen. If the convention organizers don’t like it, then they don’t have to invite him back next year. That’s their right. And if the students don’t want to hear it, they can walk out (which many did). That’s their right, too. No one’s rights were violated here. No one was in a position they couldn’t easily escape. No one had to pay any attention to him.

But if you’re religious, you have to take the position that any criticism of your religion is unacceptable.  That’s the “smart” Christian thing to do, because there’s just simply no other way to defend religious beliefs. If someone asks “Wait, you mean you actually believe this guy was born of a virgin just because you read it in a dusty old bullshit book?”, the only way to respond is to become indignant and convert the argument into a debate about whether it’s right to “insult” your beliefs. But this belies the fact that there’s really only one class of beliefs that can only defend themselves by becoming offended: Beliefs which are complete bullshit. If there’s any rational basis for your beliefs at all, you don’t need to start pearl-clutching whenever someone attacks them. The irony of the “smart” Christian response is that it too at least tangentially implies that Christianity is bullshit. Which makes the “smart” Christian position a self-condemning contradiction.

Sadly, debates involving religion in this country regularly go the “smart” Christian route. And, even more sadly, those who should be standing up to the bullshit just bend over and take it, assuring the world that they would never attack religion. And Dan Savage–who in any other arena would never accept this “You can’t trash my beliefs because it hurts my feelings” approach–instead chooses to bend over and let the “smart” Christians smear Santorum all over the place.

I didn’t call anyone’s religion bullshit. I did say that there is bullshit—”untrue words or ideas“—in the Bible. That is being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue. I was not attacking the faith in which I was raised. I was attacking the argument that gay people must be discriminated against—and anti-bullying programs that address anti-gay bullying should be blocked (or exceptions should be made for bullying “motivated by faith”)—because it says right there in the Bible that being gay is wrong. Yet the same people who make that claim choose to ignore what the Bible has to say about a great deal else. I did not attack Christianity. I attacked hypocrisy. My remarks can only be read as an attack on all Christians if you believe that all Christians are hypocrites. Which I don’t believe.

Sigh. This, my friend, is a “pansy-ass” response, to use the very term you used to describe the Christians who didn’t want him to point out the obvious fact that there’s a lot of bullshit in the Bible.

There is absolutely no reason to cede ground here. So what if he was attacking Christianity? What he said was true, and if it constitutes an attack on Christianity, so be it. Now, it is true that not all Christians are homophobic bigots, so forms of Christianity do exist which have no relevance to this attack, meaning that, in fact, it is not an attack on Christianity as a whole. But that’s not the point. My point is that if it were, that shouldn’t be a problem. What makes Christianity so special that it deserves to live in some special bubble protected from all attacks, unlike any other belief system? Let’s look at what Christians believe:

An omnipotent, all-loving being deliberately created us to be imperfect. Our imperfections inevitably lead to us burning forever in hell (a place he created of his own free will). He decided that this will be the rule. But, he “saved” us by turning himself into one of us, getting himself killed, and coming back to life (somehow that saves us. Somehow). However, this only saves us if we believe this story–otherwise, we still burn for eternity. And all of this is to be understood as the actions of a loving, just and merciful being.

Bullshit. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. And, yes, I am attacking Christianity. It’s bullshit. There is no reality in which creating a bad situation, deliberately putting someone in that situation, then telling them you’ll only get them out if they believe everything you say counts as “loving” and “just”. It’s sick. And, more importantly, if we’re to assume an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. What a fucking stupid way to make a universe.

Now, this is the point where the Christian calls me a “bigot” for pointing out the absurdity of Christian theology, to which my response is, “Here’s a bag of dicks and a ticket to Fucksville. Go fuck yourself.” You don’t get to halt the conversation just because it hurts your feelings when someone says your beliefs are absurd. Here’s what Savage should have said:

What I said was true regardless of whether it’s an attack on Christianity or not. If people have a problem with attacks on Christianity, that’s their problem, not mine. You don’t like me pointing out the absurdity and hypocrisy of your religious beliefs? Tough santorum.

I’d really like, just once, to see some major figure (who’s not already pigeon-holed as a “new atheist”), when accused of attacking religion, just point out that religion doesn’t get a free pass when it comes to public discourse. Saying it gets a free pass makes it impossible for an atheist or agnostic even to say out loud what she’s really thinking. And, ultimately, that’s the point. It’s okay to say the Arizona immigration bill is bullshit. It’s okay to say that Obama’s hypocritical statements on torture and the security state are bullshit. It’s okay to say that George Lucas’ idea of what Star Wars fans want is bullshit. But if you think “A magical book contains all the answers to life” is bullshit, then shut the fuck up. Just once I’d like to see somebody say, “No, I’m not a bully. I said an belief was bullshit. That’s not bullying. And if you think it is, that’s just because your beliefs are bullshit.”