Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nice Christian Reconstructionists

Scott Simon interviewed Washington Post reporter Hanna Rosin about Patrick Henry University, an far-right, Bible-as-literal-truth based university that has deep roots in the current White House.

The report is a maddeningly sloppy and de-contexualized downplaying of the threat of Christian Reconstructionism and Christian Extremism in the United States. Nothing is mentioned about the armed wing of Christian extremism as evidenced by Blackwater or the takeover of military chaplain corp and the Air Force Academy by Christian extremists.

Instead of a serious discussion of this troubling movement Simon and Rosin engage in the childish nonsense about how "nice" the students of Patrick Henry are. They don't give one bit of attention to the founder and chancellor, Michael Farris and his roots in Christian Reconstructionism, and that in spite of his leaving COR because he supposedly "doesn't believe in theocracy", he still is deeply entwined with the Christian Reconstructionist movement.

Simon tells us that students of Patrick Henry "tend to be smart, thoughtful...and nice" and asks Rosin "so why are some people so frightened by them?" Even though Rosin mentions that students at Patrick Henry call themselves "the tip of the spear" who talk about "taking back the nation," she mainly talks about how amazing the students are. One who lived with her for months is described as "so fabulous, and so smart, and so impressive, and so incredibly successful, and attractive and funny."

Seriously, is there any serious journalist or thinker who doesn't know that agents of the most vile and reactionary change and policies can be "nice," "funny," "thoughful," "smart," and even "attractive?"

A particularly insidious portion of the interview comes when Rosin claims that her "lefty journalist" friends, would ask her - regarding her Patrick Henry boarder - "Why are you harboring Nazis in your attic?" To which the ever "nice" Scott Simon says, "What was she scared of. I mean that strikes me, I've got to say, as a very hard-hearted reaction. You know call someone living in your attic a Nazi just because what, she's Christian?"

My reactions were first, I seriously doubt that Rosin of the Washington Post even knows any leftist journalists. Secondly, I imagine that such comments were not made to her as fodder for critiquing on the air with Scott Simon. Finally, it really pissed me off to hear Simon say that the reactions are because the student is a "Christian." No it is because she represents the Christian Supremacist/Dominionist "tip of the spear." And yes that is something to greatly fear and something that responsible journalists should be trying to uncover and not downplay.


Porter Melmoth said...

Wow, I must've slept through that one as well. Unbelievably awful claptrap, but classic Simonizing in action.

There's that red flag word again: 'nice'! To me, it should be a city in France, and not applied to anyone at NPR.

I think Scott Simon fancies himself as a bit of an 'activist journalist' with an effect similar, if one thinks about it, to activist judges. If he had his own Rush Limbaugh or Imus-style chat show, that would be one thing, but funneling his 'agenda' (for lack of a better word) through public broadcasting is definitely out of order. Despite having the privileged access to many important people in current events and the arts, Simon has chosen to be a doofus - you know, a person who poses as being really smart but is actually doomed to mediocrity. Maybe choice has nothing to do with it. In show biz (which is what he's in) if you have no talent but remain on the air, it's the producer's fault, to say nothing of the audience's tastes.

One thing is for certain: in serious journalism, particularly investigative journalism, Simon's is a name that never comes up. He's found his niche, but it is of little serious consequence.

I imagine Patrick Henry - the real historical figure - is vomiting worms in his grave for having his name exploited. The perversions practiced at this so-called university named for him aren't what any patriot (in the traditional sense) would die for.

artes moriendi said...

The most telling part of the interview was the conclusion, when Scott Simon asked his exceedingly canny and shrewd right-wing Christian guest whether he believed the Dalai Lama was going to hell. The intent of the question appeared to be to demonstrate that the guest and others like him are not hard-hearted, fire-and-brimstone spewing fanatics who believe every non-Christian is hell-bound. The guest gave a tortured, opaque, equivocating answer that Simon, after a bit of prodding, appeared to accept as the denial he wanted to hear. In Simon's view, the guest's statement that he couldn't judge the spiritual state of another human being and that the Dalai Lama in some secret corner of his heart might have done what was necessary to secure salvation displayed a willingness to admit that non-Christians might have a place in heaven too. Anyone, however, who is acquainted with evangelical rhetoric (and having grown up in the Deep South and been acquainted with numerous evangelicals, many of them in my own family at that, I've heard a good deal of it) would understand that the clear subtext of the guest's slippery rhetoric, which was precisely tailored to fool media rubes like Simon and Rubin, was yes: the Dalai Lama _is_ going to hell unless he has accepts Christ as his savior, whether in some private corner of his heart or publicly. Christian evangelicals are highly skilled at speaking to the media in this shrewd forked-tongue way, snowing Washington beltway types like Rosin and Simon with rhetoric that seems inclusive and accommodating while simultaneously delivering an uncompromising evangelical Christian message in code-speak that their constituency will clearly understand. They get away with it because of the low expectations of idiots like Simon and Rosin, who are amazed and gratified if a Christian conservative is simply articulate, "nice," and "intelligent." Come to the South, Scotty boy, and I'll introduce you to any number of smart, gracious, beautifully mannered, wonderfully intelligent evangelicals who will charm your socks off while subscribing to doctrines and ideas that are repellent and radically extreme. It would be nice if our NPR hosts' understanding of human nature was a tad more refined and nuanced than that of some privileged, moony adolescent who meets someone outside of their narrow social echelon and exclaims, "Golly, they're people too--just like us!" But this is too clearly much to expect from Simon, with his incurable attraction to bathos and preference for feel-good "we're all the same!" sentiment over complex and uncomfortable truths.