Richard Rohr Meditation: Radical Politics

If you walk around with hatred and prejudice in your heart and mind all day, morally you’re just as much a killer as the one who pulls out the gun. That seems to be what Jesus is saying. The evil and genocide of World War II was the final result of decades of negative and paranoid thinking among good German Christians, Catholic and Lutheran. The tragic fascism of Nazi Germany was fomenting in people’s hearts long before a political leader came to catalyze their hate and resentment. Now it seems we are seeing the same in the United States.

Jesus tells us to not harbor hateful anger or call people names even in our hearts like “fool” or “worthless person” (Matthew 5:22). If we’re walking around all day thinking, “What an idiot he is,” we are already in the state of sin. Sin is more a state of separation and superiority than any concrete action—which is only the symptom. How we live in our hearts is our real truth.

.. Jesus insists that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). For Jesus, prayer seems to be a matter of waiting in love, returning to love, trusting that love is the unceasing stream of reality. Prayer isn’t primarily words; it’s an attitude, a stance, a state that precedes “saying” any individual prayers. That’s why Paul could say, “Pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If we think of prayer as requiring words, it is surely impossible to pray always.

Sessions’s Use of Bible Passage to Defend Immigration Policy Draws Fire

Many were concerned that Mr. Sessions’s chosen chapter, Romans 13, had been commonly used to defend slavery and oppose the American Revolution.

.. The directive has led to the fracturing of hundreds of migrant families, funneling children into shelters and foster homes.

Mr. Sessions said, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

He added: “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak, it protects the lawful.”

.. “The founding fathers created the criminal justice system to be a largely secular criminal justice system,” he said. “They didn’t have in mind punishing criminals and condemning them using Bible verses.”

.. Before the nation’s founding, it was frequently used by Loyalists to oppose the American Revolution, Dr. Fea said. And in the 19th century, pro-slavery Southerners often cited the chapter’s opening verses to defend slavery — in particular, adherence to the Fugitive Slave Act, which required the seizure and return of runaway slaves.

.. Outside the United States, the passage was used by Christians in Europe to defend Nazi rule and by white religious conservatives in South Africa to defend apartheid
.. “It’s an endorsement of empire,” Gay L. Byron, a professor of the New Testament and early Christianity at the Howard University School of Divinity, said of the passage on Friday. “Whenever governments need to try to gain leverage in a debate, they say something like that.”
.. Mr. Sessions cited the Bible in his speech because he was responding to religious leaders’ criticism of the zero-tolerance policy on illegal immigration.
.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, addressed the issue on Thursday in response to a reporter who asked, “Where does it say in the Bible that it’s moral to take children away from their mothers?”

Ms. Sanders responded that she was not aware of what Mr. Sessions was referring to but added that it is “biblical” for a government to enforce the law. “That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said.

.. Dr. Byron, the divinity school professor, said Mr. Sessions’s use of the passage is a classic case of a politician “cherry-picking” the Bible for statements that match their policy. “What’s missing is the fact that there are so many other biblical statements and mandates to take care of children and take care of those who are marginalized,” she said. “We don’t hear Sessions referencing those texts.”

 

The Fake-News Fallacy

Old fights about radio have lessons for new fights about the Internet.

Radio, in its early days, was seen as a means for spreading hysteria and hatred, just as the Internet is today.

.. but Schwartz is the latest of a number of researchers to argue that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. As Schwartz tells it, there was no mass hysteria, only small pockets of concern that quickly burned out. He casts doubt on whether Dock had even heard the broadcast. Schwartz argues that newspapers exaggerated the panic to better control the upstart medium of radio, which was becoming the dominant source of breaking news in the thirties. Newspapers wanted to show that radio was irresponsible and needed guidance from its older, more respectable siblings in the print media, such “guidance” mostly taking the form of lucrative licensing deals and increased ownership of local radio stations.

.. Columbia education professor and broadcaster Lyman Bryson declared that unrestrained radio was “one of the most dangerous elements in modern culture.”

.. Iowa senator Clyde Herring, a Democrat, declared. He announced a bill that would require broadcasters to submit shows to the F.C.C. for review before airing.

.. Everywhere you looked in the thirties, authoritarian leaders were being swept to power with the help of radio. The Nazi Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda deployed a force called the Funkwarte, or Radio Guard, that went block by block to insure that citizens tuned in to Hitler’s major broadcast speeches,

.. homegrown radio demagogues like Father Charles Coughlin and the charismatic Huey Long made some people wonder about a radio-aided Fascist takeover in America. For Thompson, Welles had made an “admirable demonstration” about the power of radio. It showed the danger of handing control of the airwaves over to the state.

..  “The greatest organizers of mass hysterias and the mass delusions today are states using the radio to excite terrors, incite hatreds, inflame masses.”

..  “I wouldn’t be here without Twitter,” he declared on Fox News in March. Yet the Internet didn’t just give him a megaphone. It also helped him peddle his lies through a profusion of unreliable media sources that undermined the old providers of established fact. Throughout the campaign, fake-news stories, conspiracy theories, and other forms of propaganda were reported to be flooding social networks.

.. The problem was not simply that people had been able to spread lies but that the digital platforms were set up in ways that made them especially potent. The “share” button sends lies flying around the Web faster than fact checkers can debunk them. The supposedly neutral platforms use personalized algorithms to feed us information based on precise data models of our preferences, trapping us in “filter bubbles”

.. The threat of fake news was compounded by this sense that the role of the press had been ceded to an arcane algorithmic system created by private companies that care only about the bottom line.

.. The image of Arab Spring activists using Twitter to challenge repressive dictators has been replaced, in the public imagination, by that of isis propagandists luring vulnerable Western teen-agers to Syria via YouTube videos and Facebook chats.

.. the birth of the technology brought about a communications revolution comparable to that of the Internet. For the first time, radio allowed a mass audience to experience the same thing simultaneously from the comfort of their homes

.. John Dewey called radio “the most powerful instrument of social education the world has ever seen.” Populist reformers demanded that radio be treated as a common carrier and give airtime to anyone who paid a fee.

.. broadcasters were under intense pressure to show that they were not turning listeners into a zombified mass ripe for the Fascist picking. What they developed in response is, in Goodman’s phrase, a “civic paradigm”: radio would create active, rational, tolerant listeners—in other words, the ideal citizens of a democratic society. Classical-music-appreciation shows were developed with an eye toward uplift. Inspired by progressive educators, radio networks hosted “forum” programs, in which citizens from all walks of life were invited to discuss the matters of the day, with the aim of inspiring tolerance and political engagement. One such program, “America’s Town Meeting of the Air,” featured in its first episode a Communist, a Fascist, a Socialist, and a democrat.

.. much of the progressive concern about listeners’ abilities stemmed from the belief that Americans were, basically, dim-witted—an idea that gained currency after intelligence tests on soldiers during the First World War supposedly revealed discouraging news about the capacities of the average American.

.. Today, when we speak about people’s relationship to the Internet, we tend to adopt the nonjudgmental language of computer science. Fake news was described as a “virus” spreading among users who have been “exposed” to online misinformation. The proposed solutions to the fake-news problem typically resemble antivirus program

..  One rarely cited Pew statistic shows that only four per cent of American Internet users trust social media “a lot,” which suggests a greater resilience against online misinformation than overheated editorials might lead us to expect.

..  Most people seem to understand that their social-media streams represent a heady mixture of gossip, political activism, news, and entertainment

.. You might see this as a problem, but turning to Big Data-driven algorithms to fix it will only further entrench our reliance on code to tell us what is important about the world—which is what led to the problem in the first place.

.. Young Trump enthusiasts turned Internet trolling into a potent political tool, deploying the “folk stuff” of the Web—memes, slang, the nihilistic humor of a certain subculture of Web-native gamer—to give a subversive, cyberpunk sheen to a movement that might otherwise look like a stale reactionary blend of white nationalism and anti-feminism.

.. For conservatives, the rise of online gatekeepers may be a blessing in disguise. Throwing the charge of “liberal media bias” against powerful institutions has always provided an energizing force for the conservative movement

.. The first modern conservatives were members of the America First movement, who found their isolationist views marginalized in the lead-up to the Second World War and vowed to fight back by forming the first conservative media outlets.

.. Since attacks on the mid-century liberal consensus were inherently controversial, conservatives found themselves constantly in regulators’ sights.

.. In 1961, a watershed moment occurred with the leak of a memo from labor leaders to the Kennedy Administration which suggested using the Fairness Doctrine to suppress right-wing viewpoints. To many conservatives, the memo proved the existence of the vast conspiracy they had long suspected.

.. Thus was born the character of the persecuted truthteller standing up to a tyrannical government—a trope on which a billion-dollar conservative-media juggernaut has been built.

.. conservative skepticism of gatekeepers is not without a historical basis. The Fairness Doctrine really was used by liberal groups to silence conservatives, typically by flooding stations with complaints and requests for airtime to respond

.. This created a chilling effect, with stations often choosing to avoid controversial material. The technical fixes implemented by Google and Facebook in the rush to fight fake news seem equally open to abuse, dependent, as they are, on user-generated reports.

.. A recent report by the investigative nonprofit ProPublica shows how anti-racist activism can often fall afoul of Facebook rules against offensive material, while a post by the Louisiana representative Clay Higgins calling for the slaughter of “radicalized” Muslims was deemed acceptable.

.. Despite the focus on algorithms, A.I., filter bubbles, and Big Data, these questions are political as much as technical. Regulation has become an increasingly popular notion; the Democratic senator Cory Booker has called for greater antitrust scrutiny of Google and Facebook, while Stephen Bannon reportedly wants to regulate Google and Facebook like public utilities.

.. a slew of tech companies banned the neo-Nazi blog the Daily Stormer, essentially blacklisting it from the Web.

.. Zuckerberg recently posted a fifty-seven-hundred-word manifesto announcing a new mission for Facebook that goes beyond the neutral-seeming mandate to “make the world more open and connected.” Henceforth, Facebook would seek to “develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.” The manifesto was so heavy on themes of civic responsibility that many took it as a blueprint for a future political campaign.

Failing All Tests of the Presidency

Donald Trump is many things — most of them despicable — but the leader of a nation he is not. He is not a great man. Hell, he isn’t even a good man.

Donald Trump is a man of flawed character and a moral cavity. He cannot offer moral guidance because he has no moral compass. He is too small to see over his inflated ego.

.. Trump has personalized the presidency in unprecedented ways — making every battle and every war about his personal feelings. Did the person across the street or around the world say good or bad things about him? Does the media treat him fairly? Is someone in his coterie of corruption outshining him or casting negative light on him?

His interests center on the self; country be damned.

.. By claiming that there were some “very fine people” among the extremists marching in Charlottesville, the president made a profound declaration: The accommodation of racists is his creed.

.. According to The Chicago Tribune, one of Fields’s high school teachers said he once “wrote a three-page homework paper that extolled Nazi ideology and the prowess of the Führer’s armed forces,” and that even before then, the teacher said, “he had been well aware of Fields’s racist and anti-Semitic beliefs from private discussions he had with Fields during his junior year.”

.. “At least four times when the boy was in the eighth and ninth grades, Florence police were summoned to his home, mostly by his frantic mother, Samantha Bloom, an I.T. specialist. It was just the two of them living together, and young James, among other incidents, was reported to have spat in her face, smacked her head with a phone and frightened her with a foot-long knife, according to records of the 911 calls. Neighbors, in interviews, similarly described a troubled youth who treated his mother cruelly.”

.. He apparently felt that the media had unfairly condemned him for his original remarks and he was going to be the counterpuncher and strike back at the media. Again, it was all about him, not us.

.. He was not there to heal the nation or to uplift it. He was there for personal exoneration and redemption. He wasn’t there to plead the case that America could rise on the wings of its better angels. He was there to defend the demons.

.. Trump said that he had not initially condemned both sides because he wanted to wait to get all the facts, because that’s what he likes to do.

Lies.

On Saturday, when tens of thousands of protesters turned out to counter a small group of radical racists, Trump’s first response was to tweet: “Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.”

This man doesn’t wait for facts. This man doesn’t care about facts, or much else for that matter. He only cares about himself, his image and his positioning.

Comments:

.. I am among the 67% of Republicans who approve of Trump’s response to the mayhem in Charlottesville.

If, unlike Charles Blow, you watched the entire press conference, you would approve too. Trump said unreservedly that racists, white nationalists, Nazis, whatever you want to call these freaks should be condemned.

Taken out of context by this columnist and most of the news media is that President Trump said that there are good people who believe that these statutes should not be taken down. This is not a controversial statement. You may disagree with this view, but surely good people could take this view.

In the present Trump Derangement Syndrome suffered by this columnist and the major news media, any semblance of nuance, or even fully listening to the president’s words, is lost.

.. Saggio: Mr. Blow lets lay aside the emotion and look at the facts. GDP is up after years of nothingness under President Obama. Unemployment is down. Wages are up. For the first time a President of the United States has faced down North Korea and there is a slim hope for progress. We are beginning a realistic trade policy with China. And many foreign corporations are building new plants in America. Does any of this count with you?

 

.. Jack Sonville .. As a Jew, to me the most sickening characters in this plot line are the Jews in his cabinet–people like Cohn and Mnuchin. It is not enough to say, well, I know Donald Trump and he is personally not anti-Semetic. They are enablers and excuse-makers. They like being in power so much that they will broach any indignity and throw their heritage and people under the bus.

My question to them: After your time with Trump is done, where will you go to get back your dignity and self-respect?

 

.. zoe .. I watched the entire press conference. How many times did he say “fake news”? Are there people in this country that believe these statues should remain? Of course. Do you really think that they were marching with torches and armed with riot gear simply to protest the removal of a statue? What is more symbolic that marching with torches? It was very easy for the donald to state what some CEOs have since stated, what Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, what just about anyone on the street could have stated, at the beginning, as soon as we heard what had happened. He was waiting for the facts? Seriously? The donald never waits for facts. Whether you support him or not you know this is true. I watched the entire presser and someone with presidential temperament would have handled it differently. Nuance? He’s afraid of alienating his base. Do you believe him when during the campaign he said he knew nothing of the KKK or David Duke? There were no “fine people” marching alongside people caring Nazi flags and KKK ornamentation with guns at their side.

 

.. Bob israel .. I am sure that Charles Blow is not naive. When he excoriates President Trump for essentially telling the truth about the Charlottesville riots , that there were people with legitimate motives and also people with violent intent on both sides, which is now becoming clear, he is being disingenuous, at the very least.