Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday January 24th, 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 24th 2009.

This night reared its ugly head at about 8pm with a surprising number of people on Mill Ave. The Resistance appeared at about that time and the new set of preachers were wandering about already—this being Jeff Rose and Vincent Piater, also Valerie and Jim of more familiar people.

Jeff says that he’s going to be here for another week or so before returning to his preaching circuit in the UK. Going on about how he normally preaches in Glasgow, and other places. Apparently he has quite a wide ministry, and it will be interesting to hear how the Scotts take him; I think I already have some ideas how the Irish would, if the sort of reactions he inspires on Mill are any indication.

Jeff does not present himself well. The way that he plays the crowd is in a manner deliberately like 3rd graders arguing, picking up clipped phrases from those talking to him and trying to turn them over and over in his hands; he also spends time demagoguing the audience with divisive speech, designed to rile and incite violent emotions. and It’s particularly disrespectful of his audience and the listeners and makes it obvious that he’s just out there for the spectacle and the theater.

He is a powerful and passionate speaker and when he’s actually replying to people and being part of conversations he sounds intelligent. However, when it comes to his act he descends into the disrespectful, delivering what he certainly knows to be misrepresentations of his debate opponents. He also spends a lot of time pretending friendship in the fashion of one who knows Machivelli well—“To stab someone in the back, one must first get behind them.” It is hard to believe that he actually considers himself “friends” when he spends a lot of his time belittling the Resistance, misrepresenting what they said in a juvenile fashion, or simply pandering to the crowd in a sleazy car salesman tone.

Perhaps both his charge of friendship and his preaching are both acts; it’s impossible to tell when a person behaves differently to what they say.

“Put your faith in Jesus Christ,” shouts Jeff.

“Put your faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” replies Kazz. “Put your faith in Zeus. Put your faith in Thor.” He points out that from the perspective of the atheist outsider any of these sound bites can be switched out with any other god.

Jeff consistently misunderstands or misrepresents what’s being said to him. He plays dishonest linguistic games with cuts of the oppositions speeches such as a parody reply about gravity:

“I don’t believe in gravity;” says Cale; “it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Noodly Appendage pushing me down to the ground.”

“Atheists don’t believe in gravity! So go jump off that building and you’ll fly!”

And then there’s simple, blatant nonsense:

“Do you believe in leprechauns?” Kazz asks.

“You don’t believe in God,” he replies, “so obviously you do believe in leprechauns!” And on and on.

It is obvious for some reason that Jeff inspires an atmosphere of threat and violence, possibly from his immature invective which is polarizing to the crowd. It seems to empower rude, uncivil behavior on those who listen; this generates shouting matches, and gives expectation to would be bullies and drawing animosity from many sides of the social gem. Several near-violent incidents happened while he preached.

When everyone was in front of Urban Outfitters a black youth wearing a safari-style hat kept sneaking around to his speaker, and yanked out his microphone cable. I didn’t get a chance to speak to him, but he seemed to claim that he wanted to test the Christian non-violence sympathies. This is certainly not a good behavior and only tends to create more potential violence, and in fact it did.

After his second successful attempt to yank the cable, Jim (the man with Valerie) said, “Try that again.” He folded his arms and gave a glare. “Try it again.”

Finally the whole thing came to a head. The third time the black youth went for the cord, Vincent jumped him and struck him hard in the chest, throwing him from his feet. The black youth hit the ground hard and slid, legs splayed. That set him into an angry attitude; he dropped his backpack, and stormed back posturing. He stood up against Vincent, threatening, and others had to get between them and talk over his angry words to diffuse the situation. Certainly it seemed like soon the police would have to be called.

Later, in front of the Post Office a small group of males appeared. All in their early 20s or late teens (college age) and displaying the jock or frat brother look. Broad bodies, square faces, t-shirts, jeans, while they looked fairly fit not a one was athletic or even muscular. One in particular, a young man wearing a blue t-shirt that read “AERO” bullied and threatened others who were speaking to Jeff. He repeatedly threatened Joe,

“You should really take that over there.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m going to knock you out.”

And he would tell other people things like, “Walk on Spiderman.” As if looking for a fight.

While a lot of this was going on, he and his four friends formed almost a line of scrimmage next to Jeff, and facing the Resistance. Folded arms, glaring, with the alpha male posturing, calling names, bullying, and generally threatening. While Jeff called people “perverts,” “garbage,” insulted their children, the alpha threatened to punch people, dismissed them, and attempted to intimidate anyone who spoke back to Jeff himself.

They eventually left, but not after calling Kazz a “freak.” Among other behavior that created a lot of animosity in the Resistance, especially Brian who spent a bit of time posturing himself (although not in the presence of the boys) about how he was actually a lot bigger than any of them and perfectly ready to rumble if they started anything.

Jeff’s preaching seems to be designed to create this sort of mistrust and strife in his audience. The Way of the Master preachers (with the exception of Jeremiah) generally do not produce this sort of violence and polarization, even with their rude and deliberately divisive speech. So it must be something in particular about Jeff’s message that is designed to exploit an in-group and out-group experience in his audience. In fact, yesterday he faced another instance of violence against him, reasons are unknown.

A man pulled a knife on him, grabbing his bullhorn cord. Then, after threatening to cut the cord, the man put the knife against his chest. According to Jim Coleman, police arrived quickly and arrested everyone—but they quickly released most, took the knife brandisher to jail. It is told that the knife was taken away, and the brandisher would spend a night or two in jail before being released.

It has become obvious that Jeff invites a lot of this behavior with the method of his preaching. He uses deliberately immature speech that panders to the drunken and bullies-at-heart, he has an ultra-loud amp which drowns out almost all replies, and he does nothing to dismiss or disarm building animosity in those who speak against him and especially not in those who are bullying those trying to converse with him. In short, he is using demagogue techniques in order to incite and rile the crowds that he gathers.

Because Jeff is going out of his way to create this divisive atmosphere, it is doubly more important that the members of the Resistance not fall into the maw of the spiraling violence. Try to remain calmer, don’t become angry at him or passersby who want to support him by either bullying or intimidating. Try to calm down passersby who are riled and irritated by his belligerent speech; he obviously does not care about what he’s doing because he doesn’t do these things or he’s oblivious to his incivility. So it falls on you to not allow things to escalate.

Good luck out there, and please continue to leave Mill a better place than when you arrived.

Editor’s Note 02-07-2008: There has been a correction to the above. Originally it read that Jim had been the one that jumped the black kid who was pulling the speaker cord. Valerie corrected this in pointing out that it was in fact Vincent. As this actually sounds more plausible than Jim, the change has been made.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, January 17th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 17th 2009 (when it goes up.)

When the Resistance arrived there were a few preachers set up at the P.O including Al, the Way of the Master preachers, and Shawn3. With him Shawn3 had brought a large black sign with big print white letters proclaiming “Evolution is a lie.” He quickly ditched that location and went down to Urban Outfitters. Leaving Al and that crew behind at the PO. The Resistance largely ignored them for Shawn3’s crew.

Shawn3 at Urban Outfitters had a larger group with him made up of two new preachers, and three small children aged from possibly seven years old to ten, and also William the late gradeschooler was also there with a high end amateur DSLR camera. New people in Shawn3’s group I’m told were brothers of his. The first guy had short brown hair, a scruffy badly kempt beard, blue and yellow single-stripe shirt like a sports outfit. His mirror speech consisted of ignoring all comers, and pretty much only circled around to shouting, “Put your faith in Christ,” and nothing new or original. The other had long brown hair, a visible moustache with a much better cultivated chin and lip beard.

Signs visible:

STOP SINNING
And
TRUST JESUS

Also:

EVOLUTION IS A LIE
SalvationJunction.com

Urban Outfitters started the night with their doors wide open, taking in public visitors to and fro—but shortly after 9pm when Shawn3’s group started preaching, they closed them without a word. Shawn3 has become well known for abusively loud preaching on his megaphone at decibels that exceed anything respectful of the street itself and not only is his megaphone extremely loud, he shouts into it with the full brassado of his vocal ability.

At one point close to 9:20pm the Resistance lent their speaker to a Christian passerby who didn’t like what he was hearing, he quickly took to the amplification to tell one of Shawn3’s brothers that he was committing a sin of pride. Another Christian, Vince, also took up the speaker for more than half the night in attempts to talk to Shawn3‘s crowd who roundly ignored him, rebuffing him and everyone else with their repugnantly overloud preaching.

At around 9:45 Shawn3 and his insanely loud megaphone use went back to work again. Damaging people’s hearing and generally abusing the public trust with the decibels of his preaching and spent about four minutes shouting over seven times: “Read your Bible!” All in a row.

Over at the Post Office I met a young black man named Dre who is one of Vocab’s friends and apparently part of that crew—I don’t know if he raps also, I should have asked, it seems like most of them are good at it. He says that he came to Christianity about two and a half years ago and only very recently started coming out to Mill Ave. He wore thick rimmed spectacles and a cap, held a polite voice and vaguely South Western diction. A bit of obvious mirror speech, but unlike others he didn’t regard my questions as disruptions and actually held a discussion with me; amid he mostly just encouraged me to not let the Bible “be just another book in my repertoire.” But admitted that while he normally doesn’t like to appeal to emotion that sometimes he is concerned about other people going to Hell. Probably a good position for him to have because most other cultures who are not Christian see the use of the mention of Hell as a coercion by threat and find it extremely insulting and disrespectful.

Omar arrived on the Ave around 9:30pm or earlier before I returned to Urban Outfitters and potential cochlear damage from Shawn3’s abusively loud preaching. He had with him his new sign reading, “GODLESS 4 GOODNESS” stenciled in white on black.

At about 10pm, Shawn3 and his crew start to break apart, flip around their sign, and simply fold into themselves. During the entire time that they were set up Papa Soul didn’t play a single chord; he set up sometime between 8 and 9pm and stayed pretty much to himself until the preachers cut down and left.

Al remained at the PO with the other Way of the Master preachers and were pretty much ignored by the Resistance for the entire night.

All the way until midnight the Resistance kept shop in front of Urban Outfitters. There was no use of amplification except earlier by the preachers. After they left an actual worthwhile-for-existence sound level settled and a lot of small contestations were to be had. I spent some time speaking with John and a blonde woman with spectacles whose name now escapes me.

Kazz and Omar remained as the only components of the protest venue and both spoke with individual people. Kazz with Emilio and Omar with two individuals I did not recognize.

The night dwindled from there.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday January 10th, 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 10th 2009 (when it goes up.)

I was out wandering the Ave for a little while before the Resistance made their appearance. The Mill Avenue evangelicals set up outside of the Post Office, primarily in the form of Al; and Shawn3 was also present with several others.

Joe made an appearance today with a staff made out of a saguaro rib; spent most of the night speaking with a boy who was in the 8th grade about subjects spanning almost every sinew of human knowledge. Unfortunately, a great deal of these subjects require years of different classes just to grasp the interesting basics of, or at least hundreds of hours of documentaries. They ranged from basic Big Bang cosmology, the synthesis of elements, the formation of the solar system, the formation of the earth and moon, the cooling of the earth, radiology, radiological statistical analysis, the composition of the solar system (and cosmos), gravity, gravitation, and finally it slammed right into linguistics! Talk about making some ridiculous and impossible to fully translate leaps.

Fun listening though.

One of the fundamental issues with the discussion is that in philosophical epistemology there is the well known concept of indeterminacy. There is no certainty. One of the questions that the boy had about the subject had to do with colors—I the linguistic concept of definition. Definitions are definitive not certain; in fact, it’s readily shown that definitions in language are arbitrary, used for the primary purpose of communication and agreement. Everything in both our daily lives and science works on a principal of “certain enough.” I am certain enough that my pen will fall if I let go of it while holding it above the floor to expect that it shall; I cannot be totally certain because I cannot predict the future. However, for the purpose of sheer practicality “certain enough” is more than good enough for me to not let go of my pen because I don’t want to have to bend down and pick it up again.

The evangelicals also appear to have brought some wacky posters with them that play with cognitive linguistic hacks to display something? I assume that they’re trying to show that the senses of the world are fallible, but every argument from illusion has long been put down by epistemology and empirical consensus of the world. Interestingly, an image of Albert Einstein is also prominent on the poster.

PARIS / IN THE / THE SPRING

BIRD / IN THE / THE HAND

ONCE / IN A / A LIFETIME

These words are set up inside triangles so that each line is below the other and expanding outwards. This relies on a particular linguistic scanning trick—in natural English language cognition the processing of the words does not actually read articles and particles, they are accepted as parts of the grammar and structure but do not affect the overall meaning of the sentence. In fact, articles are even less process intense than particles (i.e. “the book” is easier to read than “her book,” as my editor has pointed out numerous times.) As a result while reading aloud the person will tend to drop the second declarative article, reading instead the first line as: “Paris in the spring.” Without saying “the” twice.

Shawn3 also brought out a big sign of his own on the top of a PVC pole.

Shawn3 requested that I spell check the sign below before I posted it… I don’t know why, it wasn’t misspelled on his sign. The words were extremely simple—maybe he didn’t write it himself. (Either that or he knows of an incident with Brother Jed where he has a banner that it thoroughly misspelled.)

JESUS
DIED FOR YOUR
SINS
AND AROSE FROM
THE DEAD.

This particular sign espouses the Christian myth of the resurrection from the dead of the god Jesus (a common mythological structure of a lot of cultural mythologies of gods—although interesting events of non-resurrections are also prevalent like Baldr and Orpheus’s Eurydice.) The other side had some of the usual fear and shame rhetoric about sin and I didn’t see it long enough to carve out exactly what it stated. It was a giant black velum sign with yellow and white lettering.

They also had a brief visitation by a small group of teens who wore interesting outfits. Particularly, they were wearing green hoodies with enneagrams, within which a cross set atop a circle circumscribed an inverted T (like the old map of the world symbol) all surmounted by a crown. All done with simple lines.

The symbol inside of the ennegrams is basically a version of the Cross Triumphant, or in this case a globus cruciger, with a crown above it. It is the emblem of the Carthusian monks, whose motto “Stat crux dum volvitur orbus” (the cross is steady while the world turns.) It appears to be a common component of all the symbolism connected to the United Church of Christ[1]. This symbol particularly interested me because I recognize it as extremely similar to a pagan symbol of the same concept: a dominating line over the orb of the Earth. In fact, British royalty is sworn in holding this orb in one hand (see: Scepter, Orb, and Crown.[2])

It is questionable as to why this particular symbol is then circumscribed by the enneagram. The enneagram (or nine pointed star, in this case double-inverted, making it an arch.)[3] Occult usages of the ennegram happen to include the Kabbalistic traditions, including the Christian Kabbalah from the Renaissance. The combination of the enneagram symbol with the UCC glyph lends me to believe the full diagram may be connected to a Cabbalistic tradition or at least some group that is somewhat familiar.

Example of the unknown symbol on green sweater
Fig 1.1: Example of the unknown symbol on a green sweater. Click for larger image.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_church_of_christ
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orb_and_scepter
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Enneagram.svg

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, January 3rd 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, January 3rd 2009.

The night opened out with a blaze of heavy, shrill sound as Shawn3 (whom everyone met at the Art Walk the previous night) took up on a megaphone of some mighty caliber. The decibel range of the amplification was in fact so intense that it felt louder than a rock concert. Conversations were drown out, and I have a feeling that it would have competed with the blues/jazz singer who plays down the street.

The Resistance still managed to converse somewhat even with the extreme decibels but either didn’t have the same power of amplification or chose not to increase theirs to match. At least one person pointed out that not only did Shawn3 have an extremely overloud megaphone but he was shouting into it.

Tonight he was wearing wire-rim spectacles, giving him a particularly aristocratic look.

The extreme volume did attract some attention. Aside from causing numerous passersby to wince or walk on quicker than before a small picket of mounted police arrived to pause and watch. The tree cavaliers arrived at about 9:20pm, pointing their horses perpendicular to the sidewalk. Shortly after their arrival, Shawn3 stepped down and quit his preaching and position.

Minutes of hush came down over the entire area which had moments before been readily described as the “loudest corner on Mill Ave.”

Kazz took up his speaker and apologized that his sign was no longer quite applicable. The whiteboard that the Resistance use to deliver written messages had the words:

Obnoxious liar
Free all night
<–

At this point Jim Coleman took the mike to talk about anti-Evolution premises, mainly the “Saltiness of the Ocean” and “Recession of the Moon” arguments.

Kazz tried to keep off of the mike for most of the night because he had a rather bad sore throat. However, in spite of this, he did try to speak when he could; but as a result of this a lot of other people were taking to the microphone as well. Todd, Mike, and Vince all took turns on the microphone at different times of the night.

In particular, Vince had some fun talking to both Kazz and Todd—and through parts of the night he talked to Al on the evangelical mike. It’s always fun listening to Vince talk; he’s a Big Fish style raconteur, which means that he’s bloody good at holding an audience and producing an entertaining story. His main failings, however, are the same as any big fish storyteller, he makes a lot of exotic and wild claims that either cannot be substantiated or lack compelling evidence. He is also well versed in various Christian doctrines and some of their holy texts so he tends to bring them out when speaking.

A couple interviews with the Resistance shows that they like talking to him because unlike others he’s actually polite and conversational.

As the night’s candle burned on a well-dressed Southern Gentleman who reminded me a lot of the Mark Twain look wandered over and serenaded everyone. His name, he told me, is Pard. A poet by trade, but not a bad singer/songwriter a cappella.

Todd and others also had a chance to talk to two women who appeared to have come along with Shawn3 (not fully substantiated, but it seemed to be the case.) They are another nomadic evangelical group who live out of an RV, come down from Syracuse, New York. The one in particular that Todd spoke too wore a blue and white outfit consisting of an extremely plain-and-simple skirt, blouse, and sweater affair, and they tried to talk about the belief-vs-model misunderstanding of science in the context of evolution.

By in large the discussion wound around through some difficulties of jargon, some gross misunderstandings of what rational thought is, what a model is vs. a belief, and other transference problems that are common with people who attempt to apply supernatural logic to observations of the natural world. At one point, as funny as it is, the young lady said that no scientist had said something in particular—so Todd called Ben, a friend who is an evolutionary biologist, and had him tell her.

Mostly this had to do with some jargon misunderstandings about the scientific use of the words “theory,” “law,” and “fact.” Especially in the context of the Theory/Fact/Law of Evolution. Although there is a certain appeal in the scientific community about the use of the jargon “law” to refer to observed facts and phenomena, generally people will say “fact” instead of “law” nowadays. All phenomena are split up into the facts of their evidence, the theories that explain them, and in some cases the laws that appear to govern their operation (which are actually phenomenological facts, just described in a way that gives them structure, e.g. the Speed of Light, Thermodynamics, Motion, etc.)

This poses a problem to lay people because the lay meaning of “theory” really means “supposition” and sometimes it means the same thing as “hypothesis;” and “law” generally refers to government and civil law. As a result weird miscommunication and silly misunderstandings happen when people discuss these things and often the misunderstanding party simply goes away further confused or wrongly certain.

I am singularly amused that Ben got called.

More than one person approached me to ask if I knew Omar Call—a sometime visitor to Mill Ave who also involves himself in protesting the street preachers. One in particular wanted him to know that he had, “Inspired me to be more open about my atheism and I’m glad there are people out there like him.” And another—Keith, a Mick Jagger lookalike with a leather cap, and a black guitar—wanted to speak with him about his hallucinogenic revelations and walks with Jesus, to discuss the mysteries of religion with him as a believer and an atheist. By in large all the messages to Omar about the article have been positive.

Although, I say this wondering if people would actually approach someone on the street with a negative message and expect it to be delivered.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, January 2nd 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, January 2nd 2009.

The Resistance arrived sometime around 7pm mostly in the form of Kyle and Kazz who set up their amplified apparatus near where the evangelical Way of the Master preachers had set up in the triangular dirt parcel between traffic lanes. It’s an interesting little region that seems to simply be set aside from development because it’s ensconced between roads.

The Anonymous vs. Scientology protesters also reappeared in front of the newly bought Scientology Corporation building. The Scientologists had set up their blue tent with the endless-loop video and the lonely chairs, although this time the small cluster of chairs had an announcer who chose the scenes to play from the video. Cale decided to go and take a free stress test. The results were pretty much similar to the previous time I followed various members of the Resistance/STFS during these. He also professed interest in getting a free guide from them, but didn’t get a chance. 

Shortly Todd and Rachel also appeared and started to lay into Valerie who had the mic at the time and was proselytizing to some Asian girls who had stopped. We also had Edwin, Lee, John, and others. And a new guy, who I’m going to call Shawn3, a balding late 30s to 40s man, with a somewhat playful attitude—this comes up later—who stood around and spoke with people with the preachers and at one point even took the microphone.

At one point Shawn3 decided to play a game with Todd and said, “Well, you seem to be a scholar.”

“Well, not really,” Todd said.

“You seem to be quoting the bible a lot,” said Shawn3, “and if you quote the Bible you must have read it.”

“No, I don’t.” Todd plucks at his shirt, shrugs, and says, “Actually, I don’t quote the Bible. Ever. I haven’t even once tonight. What are you talking about? I have read the Bible, yes. Years ago. But I don’t quote it.”

“Well, if you’ve read the Bible then tell me is the Book of Hezekiah in the New Testament or the Old Testament.”

Of course, there is no Book of Hezekiah. Apparently this is a common inside joke beginning to emerge within some segments of the Christian population about people who say that certain quotes exist in the Bible that don’t, so a nonexistent book has been invented to hold them. (I wonder if Ghostoftheday and others have heard this one, perhaps the Book of Hezekiah is actually in the Gibberish Bible and we don’t know it.)

After Todd couldn’t answer the question correctly, Shawn3 went on to ridicule him and call him a liar because he said he’d read the Bible, so on so forth. None of this was very compelling because Todd never claimed to be a Biblical scholar and certainly a single person cannot know everything in the Bible by rote memorization without a great deal of study. I am certain that people who read To Kill a Mockingbird do not know offhand the name of Scout’s cat.

Later on during the night I stood by and listened to some conversations between Kazz and John, and the subject seemed to be about the rampant sexism in the Bible. This was interesting because during that time also Todd and Rachel were still talking to Shawn3 and their subject paralleled almost exactly the other discussion.

“What does my being a woman have anything to do with this conversation?” said Rachel.

Then, about ten minutes later, the conversation dissolved into a sudden caper as Shawn3 ran away—chased closely by Rachel and Todd. He sprang away, running, “Don’t chase me.” Of course, Rachel chased him around the one tiny tree there was, and then pincered him between Todd and she; putting her hand on Shawn3’s shoulder as if to root him in place.

From what I can tell the conversation had degraded quite a bit because, like most people, both Rachel and Todd find general sexism to be irreconcilable with reasonable behavior. Fortunately, the chase scene was more playful and less hostile than it actually looked and while Shawn3 tried to end the night without too much bad feelings, Todd felt like he had been too disrespectful and rude to interact with further.

Rachel apologized for “manhandling” Shawn3, although it didn’t really look to me like she was—she is actually quite tiny compared to Shawn3, so I figure that she felt bad about putting her hand on his shoulder to stop him after he ran away.

In all, it seemed a pretty fun night for everyone.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 20th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 20th 2008.

A few of the Resistance had already appeared by the time that Kazz showed up with his speaker and microphone. When he started up, Jim was on the mic for the evangelicals (this is Valerie’s Jim) and he stepped down an instant later. To which there was a quip from Kazz, “Yeah, he’s afraid of me.”

Almost instantly a woman with straight, lank dark hair stepped up and started talking to Kazz. Her name, I would learn during my later interview of her, is Diana. I missed a lot of the conversation between her and Kazz, but I think that they discussed some of the ordinary first-day evangelical sound bite memes. (See Agents for Christ section.)

I actually got asked, “So, whose side are you on?” by some of the onlookers who had been drawn into the crosstalk between the Resistance and the evangelicals. With an amused wit, I replied that I’m on the people’s side, really, since I like people.

Also visiting the Resistance tonight were Spyral and Gina. Spy is an actual accredited anthropologist (opposed to my amateur) who joined into a bit of the conversations that were scattered about with her own thoughts. I really should have stayed and recorded her presentation when she spoke with Diana and others because she’s well spoken and comes from a different philosophy of thought than I do.

Bill

A twinkling funhouse of mirror-speak—right down to the vision warping, bent type. He started out the conversation with the obvious starter of asking what I thought was going on. This particular starter has always confused me a little, especially because after I notice that’s what they’re doing it makes the approach feel actually disingenuous—as if the person who is talking to me didn’t care that I was standing there personally and just set off to strike up this script.

He tried very poorly to use a watered down version of Pascal’s Wager asking me how it would go for me if the Christian god happened to be true—asking if I’d agree if it would go badly for me. I have never found this compelling as I generally ask if they actually have asked that question for every god that they’ve discovered? I mean, how would he feel if the Morrigan is actually real, and she’s not happy that he hasn’t been out in the field of glory killing and maiming for her.

If someone wants to play Pascal’s Wager why don’t they wage it with every belief system they meet? Easy answer: because it would take them forever to wager every god ever imagined.

His mirror-speech was just a series of propagandist and conversational tricks. Eventually he did go on to talk to Brian while he stood near the Resistance’s speaker on the stand, but I missed out on most of that conversation.

Diana and Danielle

I spoke with Diana and Danielle, sisters. I could be wrong about Diana’s name, she could be Diane—but I recall thinking of the Italic goddess Diana, Greek Artemis’s likeness as the goddess of the hunt. Danielle wore this lovely little matching woolen sweater and cap, topping off round spectacles and also watched quietly like I normally do.

They haven’t yet visited Mill before, so I welcomed them. And I learned that they are basically a nomadic family who go from place to place evangelizing. Sold all of their worldly possessions and now they live out of an RV. I hope that they had a good time. I gave Diana a copy of my book as well just because.

The Agents for Christ

“I believe he is going to reveal himself to you. I honestly have no hard feelings,” Diana to Kazz.

The really interesting thing about Diana is that the holy book she was carrying was only the New Testament. After debriefing Kazz on his encounter with her I am told that she didn’t have a strong cognition of a lot of Old Testament phraseology and so on. I’m not sure what schism of Christianity that they belonged to, but I always thought that the entire Bible held some sort of significance for most of them.

With Diana were a number of younger children, who like children, tended to parrot back sound bites. Even once there was a mention of people being “expelled” for speaking about Creationism, which Kazz took as a mention of Expelled, the badly drawn propaganda movie by Ben Stein. A movie which has been by in large revealed to be a fraud by a number of watchdog organizations and roundly laughed out of the academic circles for citing people who had lost their careers not for Creationism but for being cheats and frauds. (One man in particular was shunned by his peers after he himself resigned because he skipped the process of peer review by reviewing his own work and inserting it into a journal; deliberately bypassing the rules is indeed a good way to get “expelled.”)

Some interesting messages came up which paraphrase down to, “So my son couldn’t stand up in a science class and preach about Creationism?” And really, Kazz replied that there is very little anyone can preach in a science class—in a very straight-up way, no students get to disrupt a classroom by choosing to shout at everyone in the middle of any class. An adult who disrupts a college class certainly would get removed by security and expelled from school; we treat children differently than adults in that we attempt to educate them as to classroom etiquette. If a student stood up during a biology class and started talking only about gravitation, it would create the same sort of disruption as making noises about Creationism, or social studies, or political science, etc ad nauseam.

There is an academic forum for science already.

I have received a card from Diana that I will get scanned and put into this document so that people can see it.

Diana tells me that her brother-in-law is the one who runs their little group. They came out to see the Way of the Master evangelicals because there was some e-mails that had gone out about Mill Avenue. As I said above, they live out of an RV and have a semi-nomadic life. Moving from city to city to evangelize at cultural centers.

Mill Ave is a good place for them to show up, therefore; and that way they’ll get a chance to talk to people like Kazz, Omar, and others who are compassionate and interested in presenting the case for atheism to even the evangelicals and would really like them to know that in spite of propaganda, people like the Resistance and atheists do not wish theists harm.

Hopefully they shall come out to Mill Avenue more often.

Kazz and Jim

Our friend, Jim in his wheelchair, stopped to talk to Kazz about some things.

Mostly it was a conversation about physics, studies, and probably a lot of things that Jim has brought from Answers in Genesis—a profoundly wrong propaganda website that spends a lot of time pretending at science but has never actually succeeded in getting a single article through peer review due to numerous failures in rhetoric, evidence, and process. I could bring up more about AiG (again) but why.

I wasn’t totally privy to the conversation but it is well know to me that Jim spends a lot of time trying to understand the world. It would probably help him some if he got away from AiG or at least looked at the lay descriptions from others in the community as to how AiG is misinforming people.

The most common type of misinformation that AiG delivers is a type of refutation that tends to go: “This is a wrench. It can be used to tighten bolts and it’s good at it; but here’s a screw, the wrench does a terrible job of tightening screws; therefore wrenches are bad tools.” A great deal of the AiG documents about dating methods run this pattern: they take a dating tool, pick a well-known and documented situation where that tool would never be used, and therefore isn’t used—like using a wrench to tighten a screw—and then suggest this means the dating tool is wholly inaccurate and useless.

I don’t see how this sort of abuse of lay people is really useful to anyone. It damages extremely good pursuits of scientists and the knowledge of the public about these tools. These disagreements promulgated by these lay sites about these tools don’t exist in the scientific community because they’ve already been hashed out. Scientists using these dating methods do not grab their wrench when the screwdriver would be required; or either when neither will work. And the reason why is obvious: they would be destroyed by their peers when they went to publish.

Lots of people are fooled by this. Why? Because they’re credulous lay people (who very much want to learn and grow and understand) who don’t live in academia and therefore cannot tell the difference between the wrench and screwdriver.

Vocab Malone and Vince

Vince got himself into a long winded discussion with Vocab Malone and a bunch of the people who hovered around him—also people who were good at the rapping that Vocab does. The discussion sounded pretty interesting, but I missed out on some of it because I don’t have a background in Christian history. I believe it revolved around some sort of theological discussion about the nature of the Christian god, YHVH. Specifically about how it changes through the Old Testament of the Bible into the New Testament.

I should be clear here that this conversation was mostly Vocab attempting to unwind and understand Vince’s concepts, listed below (also see comments) not so much a discussion as Vince elaborating–which is something he often does at extreme length–and Vocab querying. Here I’m trying to frame Vince’s explanations. Hopefully he might comment too at some point.

The premise stretched on about how YHVH is flesh and his holy (where holy means something like complete, mature, finished…) And that YHVH has improved over the journey of the Bible, matured from the entity at the beginning of the Bible to later on. It sounded almost like an interesting character study of the mythological character of YHVH. And Vince did mention part of the Flood myth that I recall where YHVH does promise never to destroy the world again with a flood.

The last part I mention because one of the Jewish scholars that I’ve spoken to about this promise is that it seems that the promise is only not to flood the world again. Not a promise not to murder everyone again with something else. Apparently the appealing inference from that passage seemed to be that YHVH promised not to destroy the world again, when in fact it may not have actually promised that.

Vocab eventually had to leave, but Vince stayed on speaking.

Later that night while the Resistance went on to do Cthulhu carols the group who remained behind from Vince’s discussion started to break out and stop people heading past and going to Borders (which had closed.) One of them attempted to rephrase the Good Person Test using the judge metaphor with a few stopped passersby as I watched and listened.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Friday, December 12th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, December 12th 2008.

The STFS filtered through the book stacks at Borders on Mill Ave slurping up deals—the store, now a landmark of Mill for almost a decade, is set to be closed January 31st of 2009. Most of the books are at a 20% discount and gift shopping is in for the holiday season.

When they finally exited and spilled into the Ave, the Resistance proper fell into formation, grabbed their equipment and made their way to the Post Office.

Tonight was punctuated by the lack of any Mill Ave evangelicals.

“That’s a problem of thinking you’re made out of sugar,” Vince quipped. “You don’t want to go out in the rain.” Right before he offered to stand in for them, since Vince has long been Mill Ave’s oldest preacher, having earned himself the street name Preacher Man—instead he became the center raconteur for a multitude of discussions about various theologies as visitors came and went.

Niki, the journalist from the New Times, came out with some Dunkin’ Doughnuts and waited with everyone to get notes; but she seemed to have chosen a night lacking anything to write about.

The Resistance did little except form into a group around the speaker, softly playing music. Only Omar and Jim had much impact on the passersby with their signs—”Ah, here’s the infamous sign,” Niki said, seeing the black board with neon lettering in Omar’s hand.

“YOUR GOD IS NOT THE BOSS OF ME.”

The other side reads “RIP GOD,” and it served him well to attract more than one person to ask questions and drop into long discussions.

It did not appear that pamphlets were being handed out or in play.

Later into the night, the rickshaw driver, Ross, stopped to talk to Kazz and Vince. He had suggested a book to several of the Resistance and wanted to know if they had read it. In my notes the book’s name reads:

Temple At The Center Of Time: Newton’s Bible Codex Finally Deciphered and the Year 2012 by David Flynn.

The book weighs in at about 300 pages; and the summary is no less heavy. He mentioned that it gave him the impetus to change from being an atheist to a Christian just through reading it. I’ve given the information to various members of the Resistance for him—but none have taken him up on the offer or reading it yet.

The summary follows.

A belief that the ancients held unusual scientific knowledge, of which only fragments remain today, was held by many great philosophers and scientists who participated in the “scientific revolution”. Though research by these men led to great discovery, many were convinced that they were merely scratching the surface of an immense but lost pristine knowledge (prisca sapientia) somehow reflected in the architecture and remains of ancient civilizations. In “Temple at the Center of Time Investigations of Sacred Dimension, Revealed in Prophecy, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant, from the works of Isaac Newton”, David Flynn uncovers what is sure to be heralded as one of the greatest discoveries of all time. Many books have investigated whether Newton believed that an original pure knowledge existed. Some conclude that he did in fact search for it, but that is the whole of their investigation. A few have written that Newton actually discovered something and try to fit his existing research into a prisca sapientia of their own design, claiming his beliefs fit modern realms of philosophy or eastern religions, but these speculations are not upheld by the body of his work. Although Newton had solved riddles of space, time, gravity, light and invented mathematics to predict the motion of objects, this was not the priscia sapienta. Since the time of Newton, no one has revealed the true form and nature of the original knowledge, or from whence it came until now. For the first time in history, Temple at the Center of Time uncovers what Newton was looking for and, in so doing, proves that pivotal events in history are unquestionably connected in time and space to Jerusalem. Newton didn’t know it. The key was right in front of him.

If anyone would like me to, I will query people who belong to the Christian religion of various mythological schisms and see if they know about the book. I guess also people who are familiar historically with Issac Newton might be worth asking. Kazz will probably not be reading this unless he can get the book on tape, so unless someone gets their hands on it we won’t have any insights into what Ross wants to elucidate.

While Ross spoke with Kazz and Vince, I split my attention between Joe and that conversation. Primarily because I wanted to hear what Ross wanted to say—but Joe certainly didn’t. The reasons for which bent from the usual witnessing speeches, mirror speech, and Biblical conversations that Joe would have felt the need to interrupt with his own knowledge. Out of the entire Resistance he has a great deal of Biblical scholarship and uses it like a truncheon against arguments involving translation and etymology.

In his backpack he has a New American Bible, an English-Hebrew copy of the Tanakh.

Brad did set up his electric guitar with the speakers and play a for about half-an-hour idly, but nothing else came of the use of the speakers.

The entire group eventually exited stage left at around 2a.m.

 

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 6th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 6th 2008.

Ah, Art Festival how we love thee. It brings out numerous people, allows us broad forums to have discussions, and a great deal of cultural dialogue.

The Way of the Master evangelicals

They didn’t last long. The set up had Al, Lee, John, Erin, Suzanne, her daughter, Sean, and others—most of them left the scene at about 10pm. However, Lee did remain behind with his speaker enough that Richard could arrive and use it and Vocab could use it to rap.

The evangelicals did some caroling before they finally melted away into the night by in large, leaving behind a different sort of crew to help last until near midnight.

I just wanted to mention Richard! I recall him from previous years and I’ve been somewhat concerned as to why he hasn’t been around ever since I arrived back on Mill. He is the dark skinned man with the tattoos, bald head, and short-thick beard and mustache that frame his mouth. He also has a strong voice and a ready clever intellect that he uses to respond to people asking questions.

He took the microphone and spoke with Kazz, Rachel, and Todd.

A point that I would like to make for Todd and others, that Omar brought up, is that it’s important not to be confrontational with people. At one point during the night Todd was starting to use a couple direct points against Richard or some other evangelical in a somewhat harsh manner. In some cases harshness may be required; but it’s probably not the best place to start.

After Omar asked people not to be confrontational, of course, Todd was kind enough to back off and let Omar take over the discussion.

Allie and Omar

For part of the night Omar got into a discussion with a woman named Allie. Obviously inebriated, Allie took directly to speaking about love for other people and one of the Christian gods, Jesus. She wore a blue blouse beneath a white vest fringed with fur and blue jeans. After she got the microphone the first thing that happened was a descent into complete rabble-rabble.

And I mean loud yelling all around. The noise level went through the roof and she started shouting—almost crying—and quickly the roar became almost unbearable. It didn’t take too long for things to calm down again and Omar and Allie got to speak to each other without too much white noise.

Some choice quotes came from their discussion.

“I love you,” says Allie.

“I love you too, just without Jesus,” Omar says. “My disbelief in Jesus does not change my love for you; just as your belief in Jesus doesn’t change your love for me. We do not need this belief for love.”

Allie and her husband apparently were visiting from Texas; this was their first foray to Phoenix and Tempe, and thus also Mill Avenue. So we all tried to welcome the pair to Mill Ave. Thus including Allie and her three margaritas.

Vince and Trevor

Just a little introduction to Vince, again. When I was originally out on Mill long ago his street name was (and still is) “Preacher Man.” Vince is well known for his Christian and Biblical views and he is very good at controlling mirrorspeech in other people and knows how to turn a person away from attempting to roll over him in conversations. He’s quite good at controlling conversations.

One of the problems with conversing with some of the Mill Ave evangelicals is tactics that take advantage of too demure or polite people who are not willing to confront being talked over or being dismissed out of hand. Vince doesn’t let this happen.

When Trevor got into a talk with Vince, however, it didn’t last long. As Vince had the speaker at the time and Trevor did not. Both of them Christian they had a strange conversation involving interpretations and thoughts on their various schisms. Trevor, we learn, is apparently Pentecostal; and Vince decided to bring up what the different types of Pentecostals are. To list the full taxonomy of all Christian schisms could take forever, I’ve discovered, which is why I don’t have time to identify the dogmatic and doctrinal difference between all of them.

Their conversation eventually ended when Trevor told Vince that he could give up the microphone. Which Vince didn’t so Trevor walked away.

Expelled

I think that I need to make a comment about this movie. For some reason, Ben Stein felt the need to insult Frankenstein in his ignorant screed against Evolutionary Biology in another gigantic misunderstanding and bad attempt to strawman the facts for the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

What is Answers in Genesis and why is it actually a bad thing?

During the night, Sean was talking to a few passersby before the 10pm turned-into-pumpkin event. The two young men I didn’t get their names but they quickly wore thin talking to Sean because he couldn’t give them anything that corroborated any of his claims. So he offered them some pamphlets, which they accepted and at the end of it he told them to visit Answers in Genesis dot com.

AIG is a website promoting Creationism and it spends a bit of its time therefore attacking the Theory of Evolution by Natural selection mostly by way of bad science, outright falsehoods, and general rhetorical trickery.

I would like to direct everyone to http://talkorigins.org/ where many of the profoundly wrong information promoted by Answers in Genesis are refuted with factual, evidence based, and cited. Anyone who visits AIG will discover a number of claims, most of which are uncited and unsupported, the critters that run TalkOrigins have done a lot of research and time into citing and refuting a lot of the claims made my Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/

AIG is just a bald faced front for Creationism and pedantic religiously motivated political propaganda.

If you are looking for resources specifically aimed at cultural criticism of Intelligent Design, TalkOrigins has a sister site http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/.

Remember: all of these criticisms come with numerous citations, factual examination, philosophy, and cultural dialogues. Be willing to actually examine things, you’ll probably find a lot of enlightenment looking at what humanity knows about the natural, manifest world. Creationism and Intelligent Design try hard to play in the manifest, naturalistic stage while trying to add the supernatural and unfalsifiable non-hypothesises as if they are meaningful in a respectful discussion.

Answers In Genesis doesn’t seek to have a dialogue, they seek to make uncited and uncitable assertions about how humanity understands the Universe. Take a class in college on propaganda and political rhetoric and the behavior of AIG becomes extremely clear—it’s just a front for political ideas and not at all for an empirical, evidence based examination of the Universe. It doesn’t present any hypothesis; it has no models; and it certainly doesn’t have any scientific theories with which to enlighten anyone.

http://www.talkdesign.org/cs/taxonomy_menu/2/7

Most people are actually pretty smart; they just don’t have enough time in their days to be up on everything that everyone should. There’s always these reports running around talking about how ignorant Americans are of many things. Acting like being able to recite all of the seven dwarves but they cannot name all the justices who sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. We should be fair to them: the average American doesn’t have time to educate themselves about the fundamentals of the theory of evolution any more than they do about the theory of gravity.

It may be helpful to send people to see the criticism of websites like AIG whose behavior is easily highlighted by only a few key phrases and articles. While the people who run sites like AIG spread propaganda, sound bites, and political rhetoric—the only good way to counter this is by promoting critical examination of the facts, and there are so many when empirical analysis comes into play.

The Universe is empirical. It is manifest. Anyone who has ever stuck their hand into a fire or touched a hot burner knows how tests and certainty work.

Let’s not allow politically motivated religious propaganda and rhetoric stifle our continual advancement of the understanding of our own Universe.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, December 5th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Friday, December 5th 2008.

Yes, the title above is a joke. When wrapping up the night on the microphone, Todd told the dwindling crowds about the STFS, the Mill Avenue Resistance, “Perhaps we’re the Roosevelt Resistance at the moment—I don’t know.”

The STFS hit First Friday in force and I followed in their wake because, well, I haven’t been to First Friday in so long and I guess I can give up on Mill Ave for a night… Sigh.

I noticed that there were at least twelve of the various evangelical preachers who visit Mill Avenue out tonight. Taking various turns on the loudspeaker (whom the Resistance moved quickly to set up against) were Valerie, Sean, and Linda.

I also saw two very young girls handing out tracts with the evangelical group. I received at least two tracts from them.

Discussions at length

The most conversant among the different speakers against happened to be Joe. Bringing with him his vast Biblical scholarship. And there were some fun discussions about misinterpreting the Greek in the Bible, the fact that there are multiple translations of the Bible; which ones people accept, which ones various groups don’t… I heard about an Oxford Annotated Bible that is very good for people who want to examine the literary criticism of the work as well.

These discussions realistically denuded the veil of provenance atop the usage of the Bible for anything. It should be apparent to anyone discussing this subject that if there are thousands of different schisms that use this book as their holy book and each one chooses a different translation that somehow the actual knowledge was never written clearly enough to be propagated in situ. Multiple rewrites, editing, rejection and acceptance of books by various councils and histories have rendered a vast and glorious mythology but no basis to argue truth from. The mere fact that wide swaths of it are interpreted different between different agencies of history and community says that often the book itself is irrelevant to the message. It’s a religious MacGuffin used only for its semiotic relevance.

Some of the more interesting conversations occurred out of the various translations of Greek words. And thus one of my favorite Greek words came up, logos [λόγος]; near and dear to my heart as a linguist and an author. I am extremely familiar with how languages shift, how translations themselves are always a psychological transference from the translator; even language itself shifts within a single culture over a century enough to change the meaning of any work and we can watch this happen.

While Valerie spoke to the crowds, Lux, wearing a gothic styled plague doctor outfit came by and took up the mike. She posited to use a truncated version of the Epicurean paradox—to which most replies are woefully inadequate or require a revision of commonly understood positions by Christianity about the nature of their gods. After getting a titter from gathered moral philosophers, she melted back into the night; her black parasol bobbing through the crowds to vanish finally in the distance. (You can read more about her on my First Friday Nights post.)

Joe got himself some kudos from Valerie tonight because he is polite, well spoken, and extremely scholarly. So I’m glad to see that there is at least a great deal of glowing respect between the parts of this divide. I would like that to remain for the most part.

The Prayer Station

The evangelicals set up a strange booth out of PVC pipe and a table with a large, crimson banner, white lettered: PRAYER STATION. At least one group of passersby actually came to pray with them.

Kevin wanted to know about the station and the hand-outs of glowing noodles; but didn’t want to speak to them with accompaniment, so I offered to go. By in large the evangelicals are not hard or harsh people, they’re people. Which is part of the reason why I’m out here writing about the interactions.

There was little to be learned, though, because the person manning it happened to be eating at the time. However, Kevin did score some glowing noodles which John was kind enough to locate and offer… The STFS mostly swung them at each other

Trevor and Brian on addiction

Later that night I discovered Brian, and his spiked-up purple hair, in a discussion with Trevor. The conversation had gone the way of the witnessing from hedonism—or as I’d think it is, “I was addicted to everything, sleeping with anything that moved, but I’m better now.” Basically the “I got bettah,” of the evangelical bag of witnessing. Suggesting that whatever religion they are selling is therefore a panacea for any given lifestyle that they had become unaccustomed or disenfranchised from.

This rankled on Brian because he too had once spent a lot of time taking drugs and watched some of his friends die from it. Trevor gesticulated and shifted his weight a lot every time he fell into mirror-speech, reciting off entire reams of pleated experiences with drugs and trying work his religion into it. Brian—who admitted to being a little drunk at the time—replied with hollow baritone incredulity basing his argument on the addiction for addiction premise.

The trade-off premise posits that religion is just another addiction that was used to replace the previous one. It does not in fact elevate the person out of whatever hole they were digging themselves into; but instead replaces the risky lifestyle with a slightly varied risky lifestyle. I don’t know that I can fully advocate this sort of a position entirely. While religiosity is apparently addictive in pattern—since the deeply seated forms of it represent a fundamental break from reality—it indeed is often visibly less risky than irresponsible drug culture. It is indeed a totally different type of irresponsibility when used as a bludgeon on good reason and sanity about reality. It is apparent that Trevor is either poorly socialized or he is deliberately provocative and both of these are tied to his religiosity.

I am probably not quite framing Brian’s argument properly here. I would like him to come and give us a clearer example of how he argues these topics.

The Agnostic Position and Mount Rushmore

A newcomer to the fray, Travis, was having a poorly-gone discussion with Sean. Unfortunately, it literally went nowhere for either of them, primarily because Sean wasn’t listening and constantly misrepresented Travis’s position with gross misunderstandings. For example, when Travis brought up that he was Agnostic, Sean attempted to counter with, “The position of the agnostic is that they cannot prove anything; they look at something like Mount Rushmore and state that they cannot say how it got there. Man or God.”

The agnostic position doesn’t apply to Mount Rushmore. No sane agnostic need say that they cannot say how Mount Rushmore got there because of their agnosticism; it only applies to the supernatural. The supernatural is not manifest; Mount Rushmore is manifest. We can go to it. Test it. Examine it. Look at the documents of its creation—if we really want to verify them we can look at the stones themselves and find evidence of tool usage, wear, and repair. All of these things are evidence that will corroborate documentation and other provenance about Mount Rushmore.

Sean has been misinformed by someone about the agnostic position and is promoting a baldly stupid argument against it.

Mill Avenue Resistance: Saturday, November 29th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, November 29th 2008.

After I arrived on Mill Ave and got to work with my usual interviews and observations, I noticed that the STFS—in the form of the Resistance—arrived with their amplification to locate the evangelicals gathering in front of Border’s. Kazz, Rocco, Rachel, Todd, Kyle, Brian, Kevin, and Ashley making up the Resistance; and the preachers had some familiar faces in Erin, Al, Suzanne, and a few others.

I really like having Suzanne around because she’s a good speaker, actually spends the time to converse with people, and listens thoughtfully to what they have to say—of course, she found herself locked in a conversation most of the night with Rocco and in spite of his geeky expression he is extremely good at holding a conversation.

Border’s

This part of the night made for an interesting environment for the Resistance because the preachers did not set up any sort of amplification. They just stood around passing out tracts and talking to passersby as per normal operations. This lasted about two hours or so at most, and occupied most of the time of the Resistance during that part of the night.

I spent most of my time getting to know the various players, movers and shakers actually in the region, keeping track of people; I’ve collected some tracts from the preachers but they’ll be stowed amid my other documented manuscripts and missives from the Ave.

This was something of a social gathering pretty much for all involved.

Pamphleteering seems to be the primary role of that part of the night.

Post Office

Eventually things moved out in front of the Post Office after the pianist vacated his location. Al moved from Border’s out to there. I found him because I had holed up there primarily to get a soda from the Thirsty Dog, but to also see what the pianist was up to (since he had mentioned he was also a street rat at some point.) He is part of my observation now because he seems to also have been proselytizing to the crowd around him and I’m sure the Resistance would like to know about him.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn much—he didn’t stick around long enough for me to speak to him.

Instead, I got myself into a conversation with John—who came out with Lee—and we talked about some nostalgia about the Ave and other interesting tidbits about anthropology and how to study people. The conversation seemed to turn into one of those of Biblical misanthropy. I am becoming a little bit concerned about this particular product of the religion: beginning at a base state of dehumanizing other people by presenting them as evil and unruly seems like a good way to dismiss them as peers and as respectable people.

I hate to quote Ayn Rand, but I believe that the evanescent saying would be, “You cannot rule an innocent man.” A great deal of the meme here seems to be that everyone is wicked and therefore they need to be ruled by something; and, unsurprisingly, that something is going to be whatever religion made the unsupported assertion that everyone is bad.

I don’t believe that people who promulgate this meme realize that they are deliberately dismissing everything good that anyone does by trying to shackle it to their religion.

Trevor

I met him last week and I have the same criticism of his presentation as the above; that people drown themselves too deep in this misanthropic meme they are setting themselves up for dangerous, xenophobic separation from the rest of what could be a loving community. By approaching the world, and other people, as if they were terrible, horrible things we are essentially becoming Aristotle’s “lover of war” because we are immediately judging other people as evil rather than peers.

People who say things like this may spend their time saying things like, “I am just as bad,” but this is a sallow and cowardly divorce from what they just said before—really, we do not approach other people from a philosophy that suggests that we’re both evil and actually have a sane relationship.

I am being unfair to him at the moment, though, as we didn’t get a lot of time to speak.

It’s difficult to talk to him because he is so deep in his mirrorspeech that I’m not sure when the real person is going to surface. Today he wanted to know when I would, “Start preaching the gospel,” when his god would “raise me from the dead and bring me to life.” Perhaps I am just looking at a profound form of culture shock with these weird metaphors that he uses; because I am not sure that even the most diplomatic person that he talks to would take metaphors like that as proper conversation.

Brant

Wow. He misspeaks a lot.

At about 11:30pm amplification was set up outside the Post Office and first Trevor took to it—but I didn’t hear much of it because I had interviews to do—but then finally when the Resistance arrived on the scene, having moved from Border’s, they came head-to-head with a new evangelical preacher named Brant.

He has a somewhat square face and punchy cheeks, real farmboy build, short but slicked up brown hair, flat matte in the Mill Ave lights. He had a white sweater and blue jeans; amid his support crew were a pair of girls carrying tracts. He showed distinct signs of being barely trained to speak in front of crowds, although he seems to have practice; but he had little way in preparation for the siege that the Resistance was bringing with them.

For some parts Vince decided to speak with Brant on the microphone; he’s pretty good at what he does and he’s a real raconteur so that one didn’t go so well for proselytizing. Vince is a street rat, extremely into mystery religions, well studied, and excels at standing on his own turf—while he’s not distinctly part of the Resistance, he certainly helped them hold their own with some fun and interesting criticisms.

Brant to Vince, “If you’re not a Christian, then I can talk it over; but if you aren’t a Christian, then I don’t care.”

Brant did attempt to run the Good Person Test on Kyle—which was not going to go well because as a member of the Resistance he’s wise to the misinterpretations of scripture; the emotional blackmail; and the general immoral structure of the test. That ran a strange gambit as Kyle’s replies were split between Brant and Kazz/Todd as they replied themselves on the Resistance’s amp. Score another point for the siege style criticism that the Resistance brings. Of course, a bit of this was in part that Brant was just not prepared for this sort of encounter.

Eventually Todd took over—and that just went downhill for Brant. During the Good Person Test against Kyle it was brought up by Rocco (and others) that the very basis for the test didn’t even apply to Gentiles (that’s anyone who is not from the tribes of Israel.) They even went to a bible and found the part of Exodus that says so.

Brant to Todd, “Todd is going to read from the Bible, and he professes to be an atheist—but he knows in his heart that there is a god.”

It was actually Rocco who found it; but he had a lot of trouble getting the Resistance microphone or even Brant’s attention in order to reply to the challenge. Normally, I don’t think that it’s proper to debate the evangelicals on the Bible (as Kyle and/or Joe pointed out once) because it’s just psychic masturbation and doesn’t really lead anywhere. A lot like how Jewish people deal with Christians is by totally dismissing the New Testament; the atheists and other cultures really shouldn’t be going into that book in order to prove points—cross culturally there is only culture shock and the scriptures of either mythology aren’t as important as the social bridge between them.

However, this was an interesting blow because it did manage to point out a serious flaw in the design of the Good Person Test.

Brant may have some training in crowd control and speaker mollification but he’s not very good at deploying it. He tends to use, “Fair enough,” too often in the wrong places and mistakes it not for the affirmative that it is because he uses it and then contradicts what the person said. This creates a sort of backlash from the entire crowd who hear him say “yes,” and the in the same breath “no.”

For anyone who is familiar with the Good Person Test, here’s something that you should never accept from them. If they’re doing the bit where they ask, “Have you ever stolen anything?” And you’re hemming and hawing because most people have never actually stolen anything and the questioner says, “Have you ever downloaded music illegally from the Internet?” If you have: You have not committed theft.

Don’t let people get away with this stupid, ignorant-of-the-law meme. Copyright infringement is not theft. It’s not. Assault is not theft; murder is not theft; arson is not theft; vandalism is not theft. There are millions of illegal acts that are not theft and copyright infringement is one of them. The Supreme Court of the United States themselves has rendered decision after decision to make this clear to the public and the judicial system as if it were necessary.

The entire concept of Intellectual Property is an extremely infantile idea; the Bronze Age culture and dogma from which the Ten Commandments is derived had no conception of what IP was—it is not covered by any of them.

Brant: You are on notice. You have been told twice now that it’s not theft. Learn or be left behind. I expect you to be a rational, intelligent, and healthy peer of mine and actually do your homework and learn why copyright infringement cannot be theft. Stop trying to say that it is simply because it is convenient for this immoral, toxic, and psychologically abusive tool “The Good Person Test.”

The Resistance did not take well to Brant, probably because he’s particularly loud and refuses to be conversant—probably all part of his training in crowd control. This is particularly galling to the members of the Resistance who are there to create a public dialogue. Certainly I’ve heard others mention that they’re, “Not here to debate; but preach the gospel.” Okay, but what is not being understood here is that they’ve entered into a public forum and part of the function of the forum is to become part of a play-by-play of interaction and conversation.

Break that and you’re going to cause friction, and here’s the friction.

Some of the things that I noticed was that Brant would fall quickly onto saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

And more than once he found irritated fury in the mouths of the Resistance who had faced up to his crowd control techniques and didn’t like what they were hearing; except that he absurdly replied with, “I’ll take that as a compliment,” to things like Rachel’s flagellations:

Rachel to Brant, “You are an ignorant airhead!”

Brant said, “I take that as a compliment.”

Well… “Oh, how clumsy of me: I meant to insult you,” Captain Von Trapp, The Sound of Music.

I don’t know what he said to elicit that reaction, and I didn’t get a chance to post interview Rachel to find out; but there was shortly some sort of dialogue about brainwashing involved. I fear that Brant misspeaking and his use of crowd control techniques was causing abrasions, which spiral rapidly into frustration on both sides. I’d warn people to use caution with flat ridicule “on the first date” but since I missed part of that exchange I cannot properly comment on it.

If I see more of this sort of sparks between the two groups I will try to make comments on how social critique and public rebuke work—especially in the context of siege protests. Irony, sarcasm, parody, and other swift, sharp kicks in the delicate sensibilities have to be tempered with careful contextualization. Both groups are producing a sort of production for an audience; like a pair of entertainment troupes playing off of each other.

Castigat ridendo mores,” Jean-Baptiste Poquelin.

If anyone can give me experiences, how they feel when these events are going on, and what they can remember from their interaction and what they want to present and what obstacles they feel they have I will try to include that in my future critique.

Funny

I almost want to call the Resistance “The Résistance” instead just to be funny but … I think that I’ll stick with the less high faulting’ name.