Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, December 21st, 2013.


Hate as a Virtue, Part 2: David Caton and the Florida Family Association

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Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Some of you who live in Florida probably have heard of David Caton, but he was new to me. I got wind of him because he is crusading against a Prentice Hall textbook used in a Florida public high school. I worked for Prentice Hall several years ago, and as most of you know I was a worker bee in the textbook industry for a long time, so I nosed around.

The textbook, used in an Advanced Placement class in Brevard County, has a chapter on “Muslim civilization” but nothing about Christianity or Islam. Townhall was on the case

State Rep. Ritch Workman told Fox News the Prentice World History textbook rewrites Islamic history and presents a biased version of the Muslim faith.

“The book has a 36-page chapter on Islam but no chapters on Christianity or Judaism,” Workman said. “It’s remarkably one-sided.”

Caton sent an email alert to his followers:

Prentice Hall’s World History text book with its biased presentation of Islam continues to be used in numerous school districts. The same company that published a high school text book which embellishes Islamists and belittles Judaism and Christianity also has ownership in The Economist, a leading advertiser on Al Jazeera America.

To which a spokesperson for Prentice Hall (currently owned by the British multinational company Pearson) replied:

In Florida, as in other states, Pearson creates custom course materials that align to the state’s specific curriculum standards. Florida’s standards split the world history curriculum into two years of study, in grades 6 and 10. The state’s standards require the sixth grade curriculum start with early civilizations and continue through to the fall of Rome (476 A.D.). In the 10th grade, the state’s high school curriculum begins with the Byzantines (330 A.D.), proceeds to the Early Middle Ages in Europe (500 A.D.) and continues to the present day.

The Florida edition of the Pearson high school World History text aligns to the state’s standards, which require that the high school course include content on the origins of Islam, while the middle school text details the earlier origins of Judaism and Christianity. The Florida Department of Education approved the Pearson World History programs for adoption and validated that the content in our programs meets the requirements and educational goals of the state.

Caton, of course, called this explanation “absurd,” and revealed that one of Pearson’s companies is a “top advertiser” on Al-Jazeera America. Islamist conspiracy!

Seriously, I know the textbook industry. Its only concern is making money selling textbooks. If the state of Florida required them to mention Mickey Mouse on every other page, they would do it.

This also exemplifies why textbook publishers are very, very leery of mentioning religion at all, because no matter how carefully one words the text, it will piss off somebody. And that somebody might be on a textbook approval committee.

But I decided to check out this Caton guy. It turns out that about 30 years ago he published a book about how he had overcome an addiction to pornography and several chemical substances. Since then he got religion and founded the Florida Family Association (“Defending American Values”!), which mostly crusades against tolerance of homosexuals and Muslims. Not surprisingly, the AFF is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Among the FFA’s past projects was trashing the television reality series All-American Muslim, which ran on the TLC cable network for one season, in 2011-2012. The program followed the daily lives of five Lebanese-American Shiia families in Dearborn, Michigan. Caton managed to pressure two advertisers, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Kayak.com, to drop their sponsorship. Samuel Freedman wrote in the New York Times,

It would be upsetting enough if a well-financed, well-organized mass movement had misrepresented a television show, insulted an entire religious community and intimidated a national corporation. What makes the attack on “All-American Muslim” more disturbing — and revealing — is that it was prosecuted by just one person, a person unaffiliated with any established organization on the Christian right, a person who effectively tapped into a groundswell of anti-Muslim bigotry.

“We live in the age of the Internet and a well-organized extreme right,” said Mark Potok, who investigates hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center and has followed Mr. Caton’s activities. “This little man was able to have his voice amplified in huge ways.”

Caton’s Crusade was ridiculed on the Daily Show. (Go to the web page if the clip isn’t working.)

Now David Catton is going after Al-Jazeera America, calling it “Jihad TV.” The FFA claims it has persuaded 138 advertisers to drop advertising on Al-Jazeera.

The relentless Caton also has accused the Tampa Bay police of covering up an “honor killing” The Florida Family Association Islamophobia is being documented by the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). See also the Stop David Caton & Florida Family Association Extremism facebook page, sponsored by American Family Voices.

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Hate as a Virtue, Part I

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Religion

I started to write this post a few days ago, when I saw this at Washington Post. Basically, it says that people who say they hate everybody in Washington (as opposed to just the people they disagree with) overwhelmingly vote Republican.

Lots of people weighed in on why that might be true — people may not like Republicans but agree with Republican policies, for example. I propose another reason — that there is a subset of our population who believe it to be virtuous to hate everybody in Washington. To admit that maybe you don’t hate everybody in Washington is a sign of weakness, that someone is duping you. Many teabaggers, for example, will speak ill of the Republican Party even as they cheer Republican antics and vote for Republican politicians.

So as a sign of intellectual independence, they thump their chests and declare they hate everybody in Washington, because that’s what their peers expect them to say. It’s a variation of groupthink, in other words.

(To be fair, these folks have their counterparts on the Left; for example, those who continue to say that President Obama could have gotten us a single-payer healthcare system if he had just tried.)

Since then we’ve had a lot more hate fests on the Right. The Duck Dynasty nothingburger scandal reached a height of absurdity when an Illinois businessman running for Congress called the DD paterfamilias Phil Robertson the “Rosa Parks of Our Generation.”

And for a jaw-dropping argument that intolerance of his intolerance is oppression, because his intolerance is just the spice that makes life interesting, do see Mark Steyn. But keep the Pepto-Bismol handy.

The version of what Robertson said floating around on the Right is that he was just expressing what the Bible said about homosexuality and had added that it was not for him to judge. See? He’s not a bad guy. But if you look at Robertson’s actual comments, what he said was vile and, yes, judgmental. This is a cheap hatemonger’s trick; say hateful things and then add the qualifier “but it’s not up to me to judge” or “let God sort ’em out” or some such, and that’s supposed to cancel out what you just said. This is a variation of the “I was just joking” qualifier that’s supposed to make it OK to wish someone to eat poison and die.

This takes me to my subject, which is hate as a Christian virtue. For at least a subset of Americans who self-identify as Christians, it seems their “religion” is mostly about hating people. Of course, they qualify this by saying they “hate the sin but love the sinner,” but that’s just the qualifier they tack onto hate speech aimed directly at the “sinner,” not the sin.

And, of course, if you are even halfway acquainted with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, you would know that Jesus frequently cautioned his followers to not hate anybody, even enemies (see Matthew 5:43-48). Well, OK, you’re supposed to hate your parents for some reason (Luke 14:26), but I suspect that wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

Most of the really alarming stuff haters use to justify hating, including homosexuality and racism, is in the Old Testament, although a bit of the anti-gay stuff comes from St. Paul. However, there is data that shows Jews are one of the most liberal and tolerant religious demographics in America. According to Pew Research, 79 percent of American Jews (and 82 percent of American Buddhists, btw) think homosexuality should be accepted. By contrast, only 26 percent of Evangelicals, 24 percent of Mormons, and a whopping 12 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with that. And by more contrast, a small majority of Catholics and “mainline” Protestants put themselves in the “accept” category. So there’s no consensus among Christians on this point.

What’s really happening — and I see the same thing happening in Asian Buddhism, so I’m not just harping on Christians here — is that people drag their cultural biases and bigotries into church with them. And because they lack the moral courage to admit that, often, their biases are immoral according to what Jesus actually taught, they twist religion around to justify the biases. So you end up with Bizarro World Christianity in which not being allowed to discriminate against others is religious persecution.

Seriously, for a subset of American Christians, their religion is all about the hate, and Jesus is a big permission slip to hate, revile, and persecute whomever they wish. Put another way, hate speech isn’t hate speech if you mention the Bible or Jesus in the paragraph somewhere. You can say any vile, hateful, inflammatory thing you want, and the mere mention of Christianity along with it washes the statement of all impurity and is supposed to put you beyond criticism. And if it doesn’t, that’s religious persecution. It’s just like what happened to Rosa Parks.

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