Archive for July, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut vs. the Bible

July 30, 2011

“Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”
Psalms 137:9

The high school board of education for the city of Republic, Missouri last week voted unanimously (4-0) to ban Kurt Vonnegut’s classic antiwar novel Slaughterhouse-Five from the school’s library. The board was responding to public complaints by one Wesley Scroggins, who was outraged that the city would use his tax dollars to store books which teach “principles contrary to the Bible” for children to read.

Wesley Scroggins, seen here taking some time off from
goose-stepping to the local book burning for a publicity photo

Scroggins is right about one thing. Slaughterhouse-Five, like pretty much every other work of modern literature, does teach principles contrary to the Bible. The Bible tells us we should be happy to smash babies against rocks during war with our enemies (Psalms 137:9). Vonnegut’s novel teaches the opposite; that such acts of senseless slaughter dehumanize us all, even the ones who are doing the smashing. This moral lesson is stated pretty explicitly in Chapter 8:

“There are no characters in this story and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”

Vonnegut, seen here relaxing after a long day
of smashing babies against rocks.

Another problem Scroggins has with Slaughterhouse-Five is that it has lots of cursing in it. In an op-ed for the Springfield News-Leader which has apparently since been taken down from the internets, Scoggins says the book “contains so much profane language, it would make a sailor blush with shame.” We should remember that we’re talking about a high school library here, not all public school libraries. Nobody’s teaching any of Vonnegut’s racier passages to 8-year-olds. And no competent high school English teacher is going to teach them devoid of any context.

If a student assigned to read Slaughterhouse-Five comes away from the class learning that this limerick from the book encompasses what Vonnegut was saying:

“In my prison cell I sit,/ With my britches full of shit,/ And my balls are bouncing gently on the floor./ And I see the bloody snag/ When she bit me in the bag./ Oh I’ll never fuck a Polack any more.”

… Then the student failed, and the teacher failed the student. If you teach literature that way, then you suck as a teacher and should find another line of work. That’s where the blame lies, not on the book itself.

Figure 1.1: An incompetent teacher

Besides, this guy who is so concerned about “Biblical principles” can’t be seriously offended by this. Here are just a few passages from the Bible just off the top of my head which are also so profane that “it would make a sailor blush with shame,” to borrow a phrase from Scroggins:

“Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.”
Malachi 2:3

Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.
For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses.
Ezekiel 23:19-20

“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
1 Timothy 2:12

We’ve also got a guy sacrificing his daughter for God in exchange for good luck in (what else?) war, some incestuous date rape, and countless other atrocities celebrated as good for the sole reason that it pleases this God character. I propose that the sum total of profanity contained in the Bible easily exceeds the same in Slaughterhouse-Five.

But unlike Scroggins, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that even a book as morally inept as the Bible should be banned from high school libraries and English teachers’ curriculum. Like Vonnegut’s work, it is an important part of the canon of Western literature. If a student graduates from high school without at least a little understanding of the Bible as literature – vulgar passages and all – then the teachers and administrators of that student’s school failed to do their jobs in giving them an adequate education.

And there’s just one more thing. I saved this for last. Wesley Scroggins does indeed have children, but they don’t even attend the public school he’s attacking. He home-schools his children. Apparently he can give his own kids an education which is consistent with “Biblical principles,” but that’s not quite good enough for him. He would like more power, please, and apparently the cowardly school board is willing to oblige, embarrassing themselves and their city in the process.

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That’s A Spicy Miscarriage-a of a-Justice!

July 30, 2011

A BEAST Reader Opinion

By Mario

Mario, seen here shaking his fist at the

injustice in the case of Amanda Knox

Bonjourno! I’m a-Mario and I’m an Italian-Americano and I do-a the plumbing! But today I’m-a here to tell you about how I’m ashamed of my-a country’s criminal justice system, specifically in the small town of a-Perugia. Perhaps we discuss it over a nice-a pizza pie! Mario knows just the right-a place!

Have a seat-a, Mario’s just going to the bathroom real quick.

So this American girl Amanda Knox-a, she was studying abroad in-a Italy. She got a place-a to live. She got a boyfriend. Goin’ to-a the school. Tryin’ to-a overcome her social awkwardness with-a the studying abroad in my-a country.

For a more-a detailed description of-a the story, you read-a this article in the American Rolling Stone magazine. Mario will-a give you the abbreviated version, much-a like how you can skip-a from World 1-2 to 4-1 by-a using the moving platforms to jump-a to the top of the level.

Amanda Knox, she come a-home from a night at her boyfriend’s. It looks-a like she’s been robbed. She afraid the a-robbers still be there. She panics and finds the first police she-a can. They are the postal police. They are incompetento. They find-a Knox’s roomate, Meredith Kercher, she-a dead. The postal police, they-a probably contaminate the DNA evidence and point the prosecutor/official in charge of the investigation (Same-a person! Makes-a no sense! Inevitably will lead-a to a conflict of interestino!), Giuliano Mignini, in a bad direction.

Mignini, he a small time prosecutor, escaping much scrutiny due to-a his geographically small jurisprudence. And like-a the Satanic Panic/’recovered memories’ craze in-a the 1980s America, he a-sees supernatural, satanic influences everywhere. The criminal justice system is-a no place for a guy like-a him. But what-a you gonna do about it? He’s a made guy.

The prosecution, they-a have no motive. No evidence outside of trace DNA which was-a sloppily collected. Much of their case relies on Knox’s reaction to the-a murder. She kissed-a her boyfriend at one point! And then she do-a the cartwheel and yoga. This-a is what they say reveals her guilt. That’s-a what passes for evidence in a murder trial in my-a country! It make-a Mario more sad than those Americano douches on-a the Jersey Shore television!

The prosecution, they-a take advantage of Knox’s overly trusting nature and her elementary understanding of the-a language to “help her remember” what they-a said happen. She unknowingly signs-a the confession, which is when she-a finally learned she was even a suspect in her-a roommate’s murder!

Meanwhile, an alleged petty thief / informant to the polizia named Rudy Guede, he-a leave the country as soon as the investigation began. He was amicos with the boys who lived downstairs from Knox. He was-a later convicted along with Knox and her-a boyfriend of the murder after having a-changed his story multiple times. The DNA evidence, it-a leads to a version of-a the murder in-a which Guede acted alone. Nathaniel Rich in the-a Rolling Stone USA America article I-a linked to above lays out this version of events-a:

Guede stakes out the cottage after dark. He breaks into the girls’ apartment and makes himself comfortable. He swigs orange juice from a carton he finds in the refrigerator — he had a spicy kebab for dinner — and then uses the bathroom. While he’s on the can, Kercher enters the apartment, locking the door behind her. Guede is trapped. He can’t exit through the window without alerting Kercher, and he can’t use the front door, because you need a key to open the lock from the inside. (Kercher’s keys would be stolen, along with cash, credit cards and phones.) Guede rises from the toilet without flushing, so as not to make a noise. He walks to Kercher’s bedroom. Perhaps he tries to explain himself — “Sorry, the door was open, I let myself in, I’m a friend of Giacomo’s downstairs” — or perhaps she starts screaming before he can speak. He grabs her by the mouth (there were bruises on Kercher’s face) and threatens her with the knife. He assaults her and, realizing that Kercher can identify him, he panics and kills her.

This story has-a many benefits over the prosecution’s. For one, it-a has a motive. The prosecution, they-a say no motive is necessary. Also, it doesn’t involve believing in Satanic influences. If you discount the trace DNA samples, which the forensics experts all say is-a more useless in court than my little brother Luigi is at fixing a running toilet, then it accounts for all-a the facts we know for-a sure in the-a simplest way. That makes it far more-a likely according to Occam’s Razor.

And what makes this-a all much worse is how the system of criminal justice here is-a incapable of a-saying that it has made-a a mistake. They wave-a the hands, and not just in the way we all do when we-a talk-a. The appeals process, it’s-a face-saving mechanism for an incompetent bureaucracy. It looks-a like they want to simply reduce Knox’s sentence instead of admit they were wrong. And the polizia, now they-a attack the forensics experts United States for discrediting their lousy so-a-called evidence.

So-a sad! Mario is ashamed of his country! The-a blog Perugia Shocks follows this-a case closely, so Mario encourages you to keep-a tabs on it there. And her-a defense fund is here. Soon we-a free her! Arrivederci!

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Point / Counterpoint: The Law

July 30, 2011

I Am The Law

by Judge Dredd

After the collapse of the environment and humanity’s sociopolitical structure, lawlessness ran rampant in the few remaining Mega Cities where most human survivors lived. But then a new system of criminal justice emerged. One where elite super-soldiers act as police, jury, and executioners. We call them the Judges. That’s where I come in. I’m a Judge. The name’s Judge Dredd, and I am the law.

I don’t need to hear from some Ivory Tower egg-head about how we need to coddle criminals with fair and impartial trials and presume them innocent. When I see a rotten, good-for-nothing lowlife punk steal an old lady’s purse, I just smash his teeth in with my comically oversized gun from the future. There are no Miranda Rights. No trial. No taxpayer-funded lawyer. Only justice. And that happens to be me. I am the law.

When you’re walking home from work one day and all of a sudden a gang of hooligans jumps from out of nowhere to steal your food pellet rations, who do you go to for help? That’s right, the self-appointed vigilantes running around in ridiculous costumes who call themselves Judges. If you’re lucky you’ll get me/The Law on your side.

There are two types of people in the world: The good, hardworking ones, and the worthless criminals who should be executed immediately. And then there’s guys like me, other Judges. And there are also some people who aren’t exactly good, but get by without causing too much trouble. Then there are convenience store clerks. And there’s that butterfly kid from the Blind Melon video… remember that?

Well, anyway, maybe there are more than two kinds of people in the world. So sue me. It’s not like there’s a law against it, because if I break a law that would mean there is a law against… the law. And that is a paradox which will create a black hole that will swallow up the Universe. And we don’t want that now, do we?

Actually, The Law Is A System Of Rules That A Particular Country Or Community Recognizes As Regulating The Actions Of Its Members And May Enforce By The Imposition Of Penalties.

by Alan Dershowitz

Since the dawn of Western civilization we humans have established systems of law. The goal of pursuing justice should be that the law is universal, which is to say that it applies to everyone equally. Nobody should be above the law. And while some legal systems are named after the rulers who founded them, we must remember that despite Mr. Dredd’s opinion the law is a system and not an individual who happens to work within that system.

Mr. Dredd is a young man with an occupation which requires bursts of adrenaline, and he may feel invulnerable now. But like all other mortals he will age and eventually die. And if he truly is the law, will the law die with him? Will our children and grandchildren be forced into the same kind of chaotic nightmare we all too recently lived through? Will the end of Dredd mean another “Cursed Earth?” Ridiculous. The law will continue with or without Dredd because it is part of our social contract.

But I will go even further here. Not only is Judge Dredd’s opinion wrong on the grounds that no single person can “be the law,” but even if one could truly be the law, Dredd would not be that person. His draconian sentencing and methods of investigation are completely at odds with our modern sensibilities. If he is the law, then we’re talking about the law of Saudi Arabia or North Korea or someplace like that. Even if all of our countryside is a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland, this is still America, where we give those accused of crimes the opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law.

I hate to speculate, but if I had to guess why Mr. Dredd is taking this unusual stance on legal issues, I would say that like all tyrants throughout history, he has a vested self-interest in equating himself with law and order in the mind of the public. It could be as simple as a matter of him keeping his job in the law and order business.

At worst, he may be pre-emptively introducing Richard Nixon’s famous defense where he declared that a crime is not a crime if the President does it. This would be especially useful if the US Attorney General’s office brings charges against him for obsctructing justice in one way or another. If that’s the case, then having a jury already receptive to the idea that Mr. Dredd’s status as a high-profile Judge absolves him from legal responsibility would be very useful in a courtroom.

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Troofers get serious, like srsly

July 4, 2011

For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, “truthers” have finally performed repeated experiments, written them up, and submitted their reports to peer review. They will be published in a credible scientific journal.

No, I kid. They made a comic book. From the USA Today:

In The Big Lie, the heroine is a woman named Sandra, who lost her husband, Carl, during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. A particle physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider, she figures out a practical way to travel back in time, so she ventures from present day to Manhattan an hour before the first plane hits the towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Carl Carlson, killed when terrorists flew planes into the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant on 9/11.

So you can probably see how this is going to turn out. Sandra’s going to try to warn the authorities of the attacks only to discover that those same authorities are the ones behind it all this time OMGWTF. Betrayed by her own government… trying to save her husband… in a world where nothing is as it seems… One woman stood up to… THE BIG LIE. I hope you read that in the movie trailer guy’s voice, except for the title, which would obviously just be shown in the trailer in black and white, full screen.

Let’s learn more about the people behind this comic book, Rick Veitch:

Going into this project, he didn’t consider himself a “Truther,” yet living during the eras of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran/Contra and the invasion of Iraq, Veitch admits that he’s skeptical about any “official” story provided by the government.

OK, does any 9/11 troofer not say that? I haven’t heard of any. They all seem to believe that whoever happens to believe something just a little bit crazier about 9/11 is the “truther.” “Hipsters” work the same way.

I suppose it’s a good sign that some truthers might not want to be lumped in with people who believe that there were no planes flying into the World Trade Center and that what we saw in the video footage were plane holograms. On the other hand, some believe the more outlandish claims like that are CoIntelPro-style disinformation campaigns meant to discredit truthers as a whole. They sometimes call it a poison pill. Veitch explains:

“If one scratches the surface of the commission report, one finds huge holes in the official story. There’s also a lot of disinformation out there and oddball conspiracy theories that need to be debunked.”

The thing is that there aren’t many things a cross-section of troofers would agree on. The various stories of what they say happened have different points of emphasis, stories of who was involved often contradict, even who was involved in the planning is under dispute amongst them. They have no real consensus except they don’t believe the “official story.”

That should send up red flags warning that maybe they’re wrong on their basic assumptions. Usually, as you get more evidence about a historical event, a certain general narrative emerges as the most probable. That doesn’t happen in this case. What you get is a mass splintering of different, mostly independent narratives. Since they’re unwilling to reconsider their basic preconceptions, it will become necessary to explain how all these other ideas about what happened had arisen. An individual truther will say that the others couldn’t possibly have just been following the evidence to see where it leads, because that’s exactly what they had been doing and they came to a completely different conclusion. That’s when it’s time to invent another unfalsifiable conspiracy theory, like the disinformation campaigns Veitch refers to.  He continues:

People who are paying attention are asking for a real in-depth investigation into all these nagging questions.

But that’s not what they’re getting. They’re getting a comic book. Funny how all the people talking about how everyone wants a “real investigation” never get around to actually doing one and always get distracted by for-profit enterprises selling their bogus fantasies to gullible suckers.

Leave it to a humorless, subhuman Belgian to take this seriously

July 4, 2011

There’s a wonderful children’s book out for all the parents out there who want to teach their children about international politics and the case for a Belgian genocide. Here is a quick outline of the case for killing all the Belgians:

What has [Belgium] contributed to world culture? Fluffy waffles. A few varieties of beer and chocolate. That’s about it. Which raises the question: what have the Belgians been doing with their time instead? Maybe Belgium chokes the world with its sweet, sweet waffles to divert us from its growing imperialist ambitions, as the Belgians build a war machine on a scale undreamt of by Alexander or Genghis Khan.

Terrifying. And if that didn’t convince you, there is also this testimony on the Belgians from John Cleese.And if you’re still not convinced all Belgians must die and their “culture” be wiped out forever, check out this response to this book from a real live Belgian. It starts off by trying to convince us that the Belgians really have made contributions to the world by inventing the saxophone and French fries. Then things get even weirder:

So, now that we’ve put these things straigt, I should give you some advise for the next time you think of writing this kind of  book.  First of all: a bit of research wouldn’t harm, you know?  We don’t eat brains.  We have stopped doing that since mad cow disease started spreading.  We don’t eat puppy’s.  I thought the chinese did that? You can buy a dog in a chinese market and they’d ask you if you want it cut and deboned .

It’s just like a Belgian to blame the Chinese for their own puppy-eating. This appalling racism is par for the course in Belgium, which is why we must immediately level the entire country and erase any mention of them from the pages of history – if there actually are any mentions of them in history.

We must prepare the next generation for another war in Europe. The savage Belgians are so committed to their national identity that they have obliterated their collective sense of humor. And so we must eliminate these barbarians from the face of the Earth before it’s too late.

Stuff

July 3, 2011

Ain’t no party like the Korean Worker’s Party cuz the Korean Worker’s Party don’t stop till all the students are shoved into forced labor camps

July 3, 2011

Best Korea had an amazing week. Someone – possibly a student – put up some anti-government graffiti at a wall near a university in Pyongyang. The state’s response was to shut down the city to interrogate passersby so they could find the perpetrator and lock them up in a forced labor camp. Ha, just kidding! The traitor to the Glorious People’s Republic and Our Dear Leader will definitely be executed if caught.

But since whoever wrote the graffiti hasn’t been caught yet, it’s going to be collective punishment for the college students. Anyone who’s going to university and isn’t graduating this year is going to be conscripted for forced labor for the upcomming 100th anniversary of Kim il-Sung’s birth. He’s still officially the head of state in North Korea, despite having died in 1994.

And for the next week or so, North Korea is going to head up the UN conference on disarmament. The conference has a rotating leadership, and now it’s their turn, apparently. Spencer Ackerman pointed out that the conference is already largely an ineffectual joke, so although it’s ridiculous for a country constantly threatening war with its neighbors to the south to be in charge of disarmament, it’s also pretty harmless.

Why cops are usually idiots

July 3, 2011

The answer is in a NY Times archived article from way back in 1999:

A Federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a man who was barred from the New London police force because he scored too high on an intelligence test.

Nice! We wouldn’t want a smart cop. Only ignorant dipshits need apply, please.

The judge referred to claimed the ruling didn’t violate equal protection under the law because the “No bookreadin’ types” rule applies to any applicants. So as long as any intelligent people are denied an interview for a job as a police officer in New London, CT, that’s “not discrimination.”

6 Fundamentalist Movies You Should Watch

July 3, 2011

Gates of Hell

I learned about this movie from Right Wing Watch, which is an organization that watches the right wing. And they watched the right wing pushing this movie, and it looks awesome.

Have you heard about how conservatives have been trying to sell African-Americans on the idea of being against legal abortion lately? They’re putting up these nutty billboards (some of which imply that blacks are a distinct species) and running goofy political ads on the radio. See, they’re not racist anymore! They’re really concerned about black babies and how letting black women have abortions is like genocide. And that breaks their hearts, They are very concerned about black people. That’s what they’re pushing. It reminds me of how neo-Nazis like David Duke will pretend to be so compassionate to the Palestinians, when in reality they’re clearly more motivated by hating Jews than anything else.

Anyway, since the billboards and radio ads can only do so much, they’ve decided to make a movie about their abortion/race war fantasies. In this movie, black people are finally convinced by the WorldNetDaily (Molotov Mitchell of WND is the executive producer of this movie) that abortion is really a racist genocidal conspiracy against black people. Nevermind that nobody’s forcing anyone to get an abortion these days, that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that if we don’t outlaw abortion, these scary BLACK guys are going to start shooting doctors and liberals and probably your mom, too. So you better do what they say already.

This movie also strives to solve a major public relations problem for the anti-abortion zealot community. I could be wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure that every single anti-abortion doctor-killer or attempted doctor-killer has been a honky. If you line up their mug shots in a row, it looks like what the Children of the Corn would be like if they were allowed to live past their 19th birthday. Gates of Hell seeks to racially diversify the hate-filled anti-abortion terrorist demographic. Since reality won’t do it for them, they’ll have to make a movie about how they wish black people acted when it comes to abortion, like how colleges Photoshop in Hispanic kids in wheelchairs on their homepages.

See, it’s not this guy who’s threatening those of us who want to keep abortion legal and safe:

Molotov Mitchell of WND has an impressive IMDB page

It’s THIS guy:

Gosh, I wonder why anyone ever though conservatives were racist?

The Life Zone

Bitches love Jesus... I'm gonna get those bitches some Jesus.

The Life Zone is a movie about women who were all having an abobo at the same time and were all kidnapped by some anti-choice terrorist good guys. So they lock al the women up in some underground dungeon and force them  to carry on with being preggo until the baby jumps out of her vagina or however that works.

Their captor is some shady old man who leers on as the younger nurse-lady makes sure their pregnancies are going in the exact opposite way the women wanted. They all talk about abortion and have fourth-grade level arguments about it. And at the end it turns out that they were all in Purgatory the whole time to make sure their unborn babies would be able to go up to Heaven. Yay for massive simultaneous deaths during routine medical procedures!

But one of the women tried to induce a miscarriage during her pregnancy because she still believed that abortion is pretty awesome, so she goes to Hell. And  so does the nurse-lady, because she also died recently from committing suicide. And oh yeah, the captor turns out to be Satan.

The director of this movie is a former Republican judge and politician from New Jersey who had to quit because he kept on promoting his movies from the bench. I heard rumors that he would oftentimes sentence people to watch his movies, much like how  the senile Judge Wapner now sentences us all to drink his root beer. Anyway, this guy has another movie you may want to check out called “O.B.A.M. Nude,” which is about how Barack Obama sold his soul to the devil while in college and in exchange was given some mysterious power to turn the world into a socialist paradise for Satan. So that’s where he’s coming from…

Left Behind I-III

I have only seen the first two movies in the Trilogy O’ Kirk (We hardcore fans call it TOK for short on internet forums), but then again I haven’t seen any of the movies I’ve mentioned so far. Hey, this is about movies you should see, not necessarily movies I should see.

So way back in the day, Jesus promised he would return at the side of God  to kick the asses of the non-believers. St. John or whichever crackhead wrote Revelation took that  premise from Jesus and ran with it, elaborating it into a D&D-ish apocalypse fantasy. In the mid-19th century, some pastors merged in some passages from 1 Thessalonians and rapture theology was born.

But the rapture never happened. This made fundamentalist Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins very sad and frustrated. They wondered: What if it really did happen? Hey, maybe it will happen, like, really soon! Wouldn’t that be awesome? LaHaye and Jenkins were getting all excited just thinking about it!

So they wrote a book about it. Then they wrote a few more books about it, and a few more. And then Kirk Cameron was all like, “Dudes! Let’s make some of these shitty books into unwatchable, straight-to-DVD movies!” And so it came to pass.

Cameron’s character starts off as a reporter for “GNN” who’s trying to find out where all those missing people have gone. Some people start asking him if he’s considered believing they all went to Heaven for the rapture. He hadn’t, but he takes that belief system out for a test drive, buys it, and it works out pretty well for him. He’s told that if he can bring 10 friends and family members in to start selling Amway products Christianity themselves, then he can definitely expect to achieve financial independence in 3 easy steps go to Heaven the next time Jesus sweeps his favorite people up into the sky.

Buck Williams also discovers that the UN Secretary General is the antichrist. GNN has a strict disclosure policy for when you are reporting on someone you believe to be the antichrist, but it’s OK in this case because he can hide his anti-antichrist bias fairly well.

The way you get to activate antichrist mode in the Left Behind universe is to advocate peaceful solutions to the territorial disputes in the Gaza Strip. That’s what the UN SecGen does, and that’s how Buck finds him out. You see, when someone tries to settle international disputes in a non-violent way, that’s a sure sign that they’re evil. The Left Behind crowd can easily tell how good someone is by how many wars they wage. If only it worked the same way with the State of New York Department of Justice and drunken disorderly charges.

In the end I guess Kirk Cameron sneaks into the UN, gains the antichrist’s trust, and just kinda hangs out while God comes back to kick his ass. Because it’s not like either of them can do anything to change what’s going to happen. Supposedly this God person predetermined all of it. That takes a lot of suspense out of this trilogy. We all know there’s no chance the good guy will tragically (?) die after a cameo appearance by Cthulu. It’s just going to be Jesus guiding Mike Seaver through a fundie’s fever dream.

But there’s still lots to learn from Left Behind, especially in how these people view nonbelievers. Basically, they think we’re all extremely stupid and shallow, that the only reason we don’t believe is because if we did we’d all have to confess our sins and submit before the Jesus and we’re all just too proud for that scene. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that maybe we don’t believe because none of the miraculous events in the books and the movies have actually happened. This is all meant to be fiction, right?

But maybe not. If you read the newspapers and do a little free association here and make a few leaps of faith there, it’s possible to link real current events to all this ancient mythology the Left Behind groupies seem to be so obsessed over. And that’s where this stuff starts to get creepy.

Expelled!

Expelled! is a creationist propaganda movie. It also gets pretty far into conspiracy theories and Holocaust revisionism, but mainly this is about creationism.

The filmmakers told their interview subjects that they were making a documentary about the intersection between science and religion. This is how they got people like PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education to speak with them on camera. Obviously I don’t have any problem at all with this deceitful tactic since we at The BEAST do this kind of thing pretty regularly. The problem… well one of the problems with this movie is selective editing. This is very obvious when you watch the film because the cuts are so fast and awkward that it’s as if Michael J Fox did the editing the old-fashioned way with a razor after a few days off his meds.

According to Expelled!, evolution isn’t accepted by relevant experts because there’s a lot of evidence supporting it, but because there’s a massive worldwide conspiracy of scientists which controls with an iron fist all the peer review literature and all the important positions in relevant fields. So it’s the same premise used by pretty much every other goofy conspiracy theorist, with a twist: If you disagree with Stein and his friends at the Discovery Institute, you sir are a NAZI because this anti-God conspiracy goes all the way back to Nazi Germany.

Yes, as a matter of fact I do got mittens.

The National Center for Science Education has a website devoted to debunking Expelled!, if you’re interested in the details of why Ben Stein is wrong about everything. Maybe you should read that before watching the movie, just in case watching the movie first causes you to start reading about the science in Ben Stein’s voice.

Four Lions

These gentlemen represent an existential threat to our way of life.

I’m going to have to cheat a little with these last two movies which focus on Islam. The ones mentioned earlier were made by the true believers themselves, but here they are the subject. Did I cheat that way because I’m an uncouth American who needs the movies I watch to be westernized for me to appreciate? Probably!

Four Lions is actually about four humans who aren’t lions at all. But they are Muslim wannabe terrorists living in England and planning a suicide bombing for Allah. Hilarity ensues.

We have this disturbing way of looking at Muslim terrorists here in America. It’s the same way they probably see themselves: as a grave, existential threat to Western secular democracy on par with the fascists during World War II. And if you suggest that maybe they’re just a bunch of criminal but laughable idiots who sometimes succeed but usually fail hard, then you’re disrespecting their victims.

It’s a lot like how people still believe in conspiracy theories about John F Kennedy’s death in that when something terrible happens, we ascribe an amount of meaning proportional to the amount of misery it’s caused, even when that connection is not supported by the facts. We don’t like the idea of someone as esteemed as Kennedy being blown away by some down-and-out loser who’s been rejected even by the Soviet Union. It’s much more comforting to believe that he died for brave principles and that he was taken down by one or another shady cabal of evil people with lots of power. Everything seems less random and fragile that way, regardless of the facts.

And in the same way, we’d like for the ‘bad guys’ in the Post-9/11 World news narrative/Michael Bay movie to be not just genuinely bad guys. We want them to be absolutely demonic and with superhuman powers. We can’t have them in court because they might say something which will somehow transform normal, rational Americans into Islamic extremists who want to let Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walk around NYC and plan more terrorist attacks. Because people can do that kind of thing with mere words, apparently.

If you believe in that perception of al Qaeda and others like them, then Four Lions is completely heretical. And what’s funny is that it will outrage Muslim extremists themselves too, and for the same reasons. It just doesn’t take terrorism seriously enough! If you want to laugh at Islamic terrorism, do it in the wake of a drone’s airstrike. It’s for some reason blasphemous to laugh at them for being gullible, ineffectual morons with goofy beliefs and embarrassing, mundane, interpersonal relationship problems.

Oh yeah, they all die in the end.

The Infidel

In a way, The Infidel is a mirror-image opposite of Four Lions. While Four Lions focuses on the titular extremist characters who create humor by interacting with moderates, The Infidel’s main character Mahmud is a moderate Muslim who’s constantly befuddled by the extremist wackos he occasionally crosses paths with in his everyday life. His sister or cousin or someone is about to marry an extremist Muslim cleric he hates, and he’s gotta deal with that somehow. Even his own daughter randomly yells jihadist-y slogans about restoring the caliphate.

Then Mahmud finds out that he was adopted and that his parents were Jewish. So he’ll have to go through a crisis of identity where he learns how to say “Oy, vey” correctly and wear the tattered remains of a Yamaka he just burnt at a pro-Palestinian rally. And then there’s the matter of the radical cleric marrying into his (now Jewish, apparently) family. All this while poor ol’ Mahmud just wants to go on being a half-assed cultural Muslim who doesn’t go to the mosque or care much about politics, but loves to listen to cheesy 80s music and maybe has a drink every once in a while.

The reason you really should see this movie is because the next time some dickhead whines about how people are too afraid to mock Islam like they do Christianity, you can both watch this movie together and prove said dickhead wrong. The attacks on fundamentalist thinking in it are stronger than you’d get in a typical Christian-mocking movie or TV show, but it manages to raise serious concerns while keeping a sense of humor.