Propaganda 101: Investigator

Hello everyone, my name is Elaine Hadaly Mercer, and it looks like I’ll be joining you all for a while. I’m not a member of the ASU Secular Free Thought Society or the Mill Avenue Resistance, but I have seen you guys out there—I am the Secretary at Arms of the Godless Society of ASU. I study Computer Science and Engineering and it is my intent to give scrutiny to propaganda gathered from campus and local venues via the route of language as code.

I am going to be critiquing propaganda pamphlets published by religious forums and collected from around campus. So if you have anything that you’d like me to lay a discerning rational eye on, please send it my way and I will vivisect its still-wriggling corpse for your entertainment!

Psycholingustic code works at a very primal level in most propaganda; it hijacks various emotional responses from readers in order to suspend disbelief and critical examination, and spreads through general credulity and confirmation bias in both would-be believers and the undiscerning. I expect that most pamphlets that I examine will spend most of their time using jargon and special slang, and metaphor singular to the culture that is prostytizing. I will do my best to define the jargon as used by the propagandists and elaborate on the effect and intent.

I may end up doing similar pamphlets over and over as I receive more of particular types. For example, there are almost twenty dollar-bill style tracts released by different publishing houses. To keep these examinations relevant and entertaining, after comparing each to every other I will try to add some other appeal to the resources of my study.

Bring one. Bring all.

No unfortunate propaganda or scurrilous cant will be rejected.

I have my red pen and my debugger. Let’s do some damage.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, April 4th 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.

The lit cross is visible again on ‘A’ Mountain, most likely due to the upcoming Christian holiday of Easter (the vernal equinox, and thus Ostara has already past.) It was visible around the same time last year as well. A decoration that counts probably about sixteen feet in height, made of a series of round-white lights fashioned in a cruciform. The holiday will occur this upcoming weekend on April 12th.

Also creating a different atmosphere on the Ave happened to be the Tempe Music Festival.

At around 9:30pm some of the Way of the Master evangelicals were congregating around Mill’s End café talking to Korky and Cindy; when suddenly they scattered upon some unknown signal. Totally disappearing from where they were previously crowded handing out pamphlets. A mere minute later, Gadfly and Kazz arrived from across the street. The evangelical group had Al, Suzanne, Richard, and a few others—most of whom did not reappear that night.

Omar set up in front of Urban Outfitters for most of the night and used the amplification system of the Resistance to talk to passersby; he also had one of his new signs that reads, “EVOLVE LOVE.” There, a few of the Resistance stopped to talk to random components of the WoTM evangelicals—like Richard, who got himself caught in a long discussion with Strawberry Joe, a street rat who’s been around Mill for a two years or so.

Evidence shows that Jonathan’s group were possibly out earlier in the afternoon and night at the Tempe Music Festival. However, they were not in that position later on in the evening nearing 11pm.

The cap on the entire night was the arrival, once again, of Jeremiah who took advantage of the groups moving between the Tempe Music Festival and Mill Ave proper. As soon as he appeared the Resistance moved to siege him as they usually do—primarily out of a desire to see him because he’s well known, partially out of sheer entertainment.

The encounter with Jeremiah went predictably. Between arguing points out of Christian mythology and doctrine from their holy book he vacillated between poorly supported and ignorant positions on scientific issues like the Theory of Evolution and Global Warming. Parroting unknown propaganda that wasn’t taken well by the Resistance. Rocco, Joe, Gadfly, and Kazz took their measure of him as he tried to talk to passing crowds on these various subjects—Joe coined a speech out of his refutations: “Jeremiah, why don’t I just record the proper responses to these things that you have to say so that they can just be played back when you say the same thing without having researched it…I wouldn’t even have to be here to prove you wrong.”

Book Review: “Who Will Rise Up” Part III (Conclusion)

He quotes Dave Gross from a February, 1991 article in the Mustang Daily:

And nobody can argue that it doesn’t work. The crowds he gathers are as angry, rude and ill-behaved as any mob that ever vilified any prophet. And so later in his speech, when he talks about how today’s students are obnoxious and have no morals…well, you can’t really argue. (p. 142.)

Yes you can. Anyone who’s taken a first year sociology class or any social statistics knows that they’re looking at a stacked deck when they regard the group that remains. We’re not seeing a truly random cross-section of student culture; we’re observing a carefully sieved and weighed slice promoted by the very behaviors previously described in the article—in fact Mr. Gross points it out for everyone by stating, “And nobody can argue that it doesn’t work.” That’s correct: It worked to gather an angry crowd of people, insulted by Jed; not a statistically significant population that properly reflects the entire student body to support that last assertion.

A multiple of chapters is dedicated to family life, one entirely to Cindy, his wife, and how women should submit themselves to men. “I often say on campus that no matter how much she denies or fights it, every woman has a God-given desire to marry and bear children for a man who will lovingly rule over her.” (p. 167.) That chapter continues into narratives describing the conception and birth of two of his daughters and their place in his campus-to-campus ministry at early ages.

When he reaches childhood education, Jed would like everyone to know that the establishment of public schools by the state is taken directly from communism—“It is not the proper function of the state to provide education. ‘Free education for all children in public schools,’ is the tenth point of The Communist Manifesto. When the state controls education, it controls our children and our future.” (p. 178.) He then fails to source his claim or demonstrate evidence; the connection to The Communist Manifesto is not evidence because it’s a perfect invocation of a fallacy by appeal to spite. He appeals to the emotions of the audience via connecting public education to communism but fails to draw any actual connection with the manifesto to our incarnation of public education; and he even fails to source exactly why anyone should care other than because people of his era don’t like communism. Furthermore, Just because there are public schools does not prevent people from putting children in private schools; and it certainly does not prevent them from supplementing education at home.

Pastor Glen concludes, “The human eye is so complicated that it can function on as an integrated unit. Which means it’s scientifically impossible for the human eye to evolve piecemeal, as natural selection requires, because the eye is totally useless unless fully developed. (Remember, natural selection is supposed to cancel out useless organs and appendages!) Indeed, such sophisticated design is itself powerful evidence that there must be a designer. So the Bible looks better than evolution when It says man was made by God! (p. 266.)

Yes. He went there. I understand that this book was apparently written in 1995, but for someone with a college education, Jed certainly doesn’t do his research before parroting what other people say. Fortunately for us we do have a number of resources at our disposal to readily show us that most claims of irreducibly complex systems are simply thinly veiled arguments from ignorance.[1] That, in fact, there are extremely plausible pathways that the eye could have evolved visible in extant versions of eyes in a multitude of differing animals.[2] Brother Jed does like to toe the party line of “evolution is incorrect and a lie,” but when it comes down to actually presenting any case for it he doesn’t go the extra mile, let alone the first inch.

CONCLUSION

Overall, I’d say that most people won’t be interested in reading this book unless they’re looking for a biography of George Smock. It does that quite tidily, but skipping through the terribly formatted Bible quotes, and trying to navigate the irrelevant preachy segments is a little bit tedious. The table of contents certainly gives a reasonable road map for avoiding sections of the book that aren’t anything narrative and are only finger pointing.

The past narratives were probably the best part of the entire work; followed by the unintentional eye roll inducing humor of the parables like The Five Dormies. (p. 110-113.) Perhaps there’s some useful information about Brother Jed’s psychology in the other sections, but for anyone looking for substance will find themselves grasping at smoke.

Come to this book for the history, the narrative, and the pictures—and there’s many pictures. In the midst of the book, split between two sections, are select photographs from Jed’s preaching campaign trail. They create an interesting aperture into the past.

The life and times of Brother Jed.

Now close the book.

Part I | Part II | Part III


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreducible_complexity#Reducibility_of_.22irreducible.22_systems
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_eye

 

 

Book Review: “Who Will Rise Up” Part II

Don’t look now, but Jed’s antiquated sexism is showing. Sure, he spends some time trying to rebut this before the fact in a previous chapter in a section called “Politically Correct” but even that reeked of sniggering gesticulation (p. 106-107). Readers might as well re-title that entire section “We Saw What You Did There.” Jed basically goes on about how the Political Correctness movement (which actually has nothing to do with these labels) could get people wrongfully labeled as homophobic or sexist for showing disagreement with mainstream mores. Well, okay, we can see that. Disagree with affirmative action and possibly get wrongfully labeled a racist. Display old fashioned traditional sensibilities with women and potentially get called sexist.

Many girls walk around campus braless and, on numerous occasions, to the delight of the boys, they have flashed their bare breasts toward me. No wonder there are so many rapes on college campuses. Those girls walking and jogging around campus with their shorts so short that their buttocks hang out are just asking for it. They might as well have a sign on their back saying, “Rape me, rape me, rape me.” (p. 114.)

Then, of course, there’s blatant showboating sexism. This, right after making craven veiled claims that his god “may be” condemning women to mastectomies and hysterectomies because of what he observes as today’s feminine immorality (p. 113).

“Masturbation is one of the first expressions of lust. Your masturbator of today is very likely to be your homosexual of tomorrow. Your homosexual of tomorrow could be your psychology professor of the next day. In fact, universities are graduating more queers than Ph.D’s.” (p 117.) Okay. So what? Jed certainly goes out of his way not to cite any sources, but it strikes me that this drippy “very likely” and “could be” language is just to cover up the baseless assertions that he’s trying to make. Although, I think that per capita a university must be graduating more homosexuals than Ph.Ds simply because of the sheer rarity of Ph.Ds and that—if a Ph.D is not statistically connected to homosexuality—there are therefore Ph.D graduates who are also homosexual. This entire paragraph was a childish appeal to ridicule.

Once again, Jed’s cherry picking reappears—this time in the reverse direction—he retells the story of Lot, instead of holding Lot on a pedestal, he’s attacking the people of Sodom. So now he brings up the rest of the story. “Lot had the same attitude, and he was vexed to the point of offering his own virgin daughters to a gang of sodomites.” (p. 118). This is part of the same story which Jed earlier used as an example of the Sodomites telling Lot not judge them; he portrayed the story as part of his illustration on using morals to judge behavior. This is Lot, after all, the only “good man” in all of Sodom and Gomorrah.

After further bad rhetoric and some poorly narrated stories about why he believes homosexuality is bad, Jed moves onto condoms. Here he has managed to cross the threshold from gibbering kook to outright jackass liar. “The AIDS virus is fifty times smaller than the tiniest pores of a latex condom. Using a condom to prevent AIDS is like using a tennis racquet to return B-B pellets.” (p. 122). This particular line of gibberish is brought to you not by a real misunderstanding of science done by the Center for Disease Control on the matter, but instead it’s a deliberately deceitful bit of propaganda forwarded by evangelists in 3rd world countries like Africa to preach against condoms—worsening the already horrible HIV epidemic in such places. George Smock is a reprehensible asshole for reprinting this lie.

“Most students may not realize that, when they use drugs, they are practicing sorcery. Sorcery comes from the Greek word ‘pharmakeia,’ which in English would be ‘pharmacy’ or ‘drugs.’ Anyone using drugs illicitly is practicing sorcery. ” (p. 124.) Firstly, this is a fallacy by etymology—secondly, he’s wrong: E. Sorcery comes from L. sors/sortis: fate, oracle. Perhaps he was confused by the meaning of AG. pharmakis or witch. Maybe he should have claimed instead, following etymology, that drug users were practicing witchcraft.

Part I | Part II | Part III