Monday, July 16, 2018

Should I really be laughing at this?

Alex Jones with a full head of steam

...trouble is I can't help but laugh. I have said it before and I say it again: As PZ Myers, the cleverly sarcastic, cynical and abrasive atheist confronts and comments on some of the cheerfully weirdest fish who float around on the web, I find a sublime form of comedy. I sometimes wonder if the anti-theist Myers is in a kind of  hell already and is having paraded before him, for his utmost torment, some of the most annoying, frustrating and crankiest characters the world has ever produced.  An endemic crackpotism seems to be part of the human predicament and Myers has a particularly low tolerance for it: Anticipating and watching his reaction and reading his comments as he is tortured by the latest extreme wackaloon who flits across the line of sight is some of the best humor I can think of. Perhaps I'm just sadistic. 

Two of his latest stories don't disappoint (See here and here). Firstly there is the ever vile and utterly debased Alex Jones with a line of conspiracy theorism only rivaled and exceeded for crankiness by the deranged David Ike. Myers latest blog on Jones tells us that Facebook wants to crack down on fake news and yet is allowing Jones to remain on Facebook peddling his line in baroque fantasy.  Quoting Myers:

Which one of these InfoWars claims can’t be demonstrated to be false? How stupid are the people at Facebook?
I would like to know which of these Mark Zuckerberg thinks might be true. I want to see his personal testimonial for each and every one of them, or I’m calling shenanigans on the frauds at Facebook.
I was aware of some of the daft delusions listed above, but not all of them. Nice to have a list for the record. Thanks PZ! Well, I might agree with Facebook actually; if you crack down on people like Jones you may be playing into their hands. That's the dilemma. In someways Jones, who professes a Christian faith, is a caricature of the fundamentalist Christian witness which has a tendency toward conspiratorial fantasy and a sense of being surrounded by total & utmost depravity. For example, Jones gross and fantastic stories are reflected by Kent Hovind and the like. See here:

And of course Ken Ham does not mince his words when it comes to accusing even "fellow" Christians of heinous sin. See here.

The second post by Myers informs us that the Turkish Islamic creationist Adnan Oktar has been arrested by the Turkish authorities. Oktar is a rabid anti-evolutionist who appears to mercilessly crib much of his material from US creationism.  Oktar doesn't have a large eye catching exhibit like Ken Ham's ark-shaped shed. No, Oktar has another way of catching eyes with a different kind of shape but nevertheless with the emphasis remaining on bows and stern: Viz:

Accompanying Oktar in this picture are, let's call them Oktar's "educational assistants". They help present his anti-evolution programs. When I watched one of Oktar's videos these assistants don't come over as people of independent conviction and frankly these videos are embarrassing and disturbing to watch. Bearing the scars of cosmetic surgery Oktar's "kittens" look like Barbi clones. They move and speak in an highly orchestrated and contrived way; they come over as awkward self-conscious bad actors who are performing under orders. Oktar makes a point of speaking highly of women, but is there more to this than a man speaking highly of the treasures he owns? These women have been turned into sheer ornamentation and yet they must, of course, have their own inclinations, ambitions and aspirations which, no doubt, have been corrupted and exploited by Oktar. I would cry buckets if one of these girls was my daughter. 

One interesting little side-light is how Oktar repsponded when asked why he was being detained. See below:

dokuz8 NEWS
 Jul 11
Leader of Islamic creationist cult Adnan Oktar and 235 of his followers have been detained with dawn raids in 5 provinces in Turkey.
"The British deep state has ordered the operation; I am not upset but surprised" said Oktar in an interview to Cumhuriyet during his detention.

....there is also this:

dokuz8 NEWS
Adnan Oktar was asked why he was detained while being taken to health inspection at Haseki Training & Research Hospital, "A game of the English deep-state"

I'm not quite sure why Oktar should think the UK "deep state" should be involved, unless it's something to do with Darwin being an upper crust English country gent. It may also be because the UK, along with France presided over the demise of the Ottoman empire. 

Now compare Oktar's words with this: On Alex Jones' wiki page Jones is reported as follows:

In March 2018, Brennan Gilmore, who shared a video he captured of a car hitting anti-racism protesters at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, filed a lawsuit against Jones and six others. According to the lawsuit, Jones said that Gilmore was acting as part of a false flag operation conducted by disgruntled government "deep state" employees in furtherance of a coup against President Trump. Gilmore alleges he has been receiving death threats from Jones' audience.

Here we have two conspiracy theorists, one Christian and the other Islamic who share a similar paranoid theory about a "deep state". Remember also that Donald Trump hasn't exactly discouraged this line of thinking with his talk of the "swamp" he is going to drain. It is no surprise that Trump and Jones have engaged in mutual support. That Trumpism, Farageism and the appeal to an almost xenophobic nationalism have gained traction is, I suppose, evidence of a more general malaise, a malaise that in some quarters is far more extreme than even conceived by Trump and Farage. To the xenophobic paranoid conspiracy theorist the whole social system is knit together and controlled by covert malign intelligences (See relevant link I give at the end).

We seem to be living in times when a pathological tribal xenophobia is fertile ground for the fantasy narratives promulgated by the likes of Kent Hovind, Steve Anderson, Ken Ham, David Wolfe, William Tapley and various flat Earth fundamentalists and newagers, not to mention Jones and Oktar; it is noticeable that these are all men with a lucrative public power base to satisfy, a power base that competes to a lesser or greater extent with the state. They no longer trust that state and in fact see it as conspiring to pull one over on them and their followers. However, I believe it's not a safe policy to screw down on their delusions with censorship, for if anything the resulting sense of persecution helps justify their distrust and adds credence to their baroque delusions. Baroque these delusions may be but in whatever doctrinal dress they come, whether Christian, Islamic or new age they nevertheless have at their heart a simple us vs them tribalism which catches the disaffected and alienated mood of the day. This malaise can, I believe, eat away at civilization and bring the apocalypse for entirely different reasons:

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