News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

*'Jesus wants me for a douchebag'*

While teaching journalism courses and advising publications, I was still teaching the dangers of libel as covered in text books and professional journals, but the rules were changing.  They were changing not by revisions of applicable laws, but because of a changes in the way those laws were regarded by the courts and by custom.

I practiced journalism in a time when the rules were simple:  if you libeled someone, you and your publication would pay heavily in damages for doing so.  If the facts stated were untrue and potentially damaging, the damage was presumed.  The victim did not have to prove damage.  The fact that something damaging was said or published and was not true was sufficient to provide recompense to the person defamed.  And the defamed did not have to show that the damage had hurt them in their occupations; if it defamed them socially, the damage was presumed inflicted.

I and my journalistic colleagues spent a prodigious amount of time insuring that nothing libelous ever made it into print.  If we had information about a person that was damaging but true, we had to make sure of our facts and literally build a court case in support of them, should they be challenged. The press had two responsibilities that defined the matter of libel:   it took serious its responsibility to monitor acts by officials and others that affected the public, and  it worked prodigiously to report those acts; it took just as seriously its responsibility not to unfairly and falsely tarnish or destroy the reputation of any individual.

Among writers, editors, teachers, and other students of the language, keeping the integrity of the word was a sacred calling.  Students of language understood that free speech had to be practiced with a commensurate responsibility to keep speech free of malignancies that decay and destroy language and the trust in it as a constructive tool.  

That reverence for careful and responsible use of language has been severely diminished by the new media.  Blogs, their comments, and discussion boards in general show the severe deterioration and state of decadence to which language can be reduced.  Now people feel free to utter any malicious, nasty, ignorant, and scurrilous thing that pops into their minds.  The new media is an eternal playground on which people give in to their infantile and malevolent urges to bully and malign, and that playground defines a part of the culture that shapes much of current society and politics.  People are not afraid to appear stupid and mean anymore and, in fact, take great pride and pleasure in displaying those characteristics.  Part of this is because of the serious decline of language arts education, which is really in a much more deplorable state than the U.S. lag in math and science when compared with other developed countries in the world.  Juvenile bullying is regarded as witty repartee, and the most uninformed, ill-formed opinion is regarded by its utterer as a jewel of free speech when in reality is merely mental fecal spatter on face of discourse.  Free speech is valuable, but not all free speech has value.

An example of the decline of rhetoric into the detritus of decay is part of a political campaign in Rapid City.  Flyers which have been produced and distributed against city council candidate Ritchie Nordstrom have been covered by Cory Heidelberger at Madville Times and Kevin Woster at the Rapid City Journal.  The mailing is the work of Family Matters PAC, a group which claims to uphold Christian family values.  The only thing remotely Christian in the mailings is that they perversely refute the commandment not to bear false witness.   Their  only purpose is to make false and defamatory representations about the council candidate.  

The situation could be called ironic if it were not so decadently perverse.  People use a Christian posture to preach a theology of hate, intolerance, and falsehood.  They allege that candidate Nordstrom's support of equal rights for all people comprises "a radical homosexual agenda."  The appeal of these flyers to gay haters is of precisely the same appeal of the KKK to the anti-Semitic and anti-racial-minority hatreds harbored by some people.  It is the same appeal the Nazis used to mount their pogrom against the Jews. 

And, like some of those Nazis, they claim their defamation rises from a Christian motive. The only relationship the pink flyer campaign has to Christian principle is in its flouting of the commandment not to bear false witness.  The perpetrators of the flyer baptize themselves by  immersion in falseness.

 As it turns out, Ritchie Nordstrom received the largest number of votes in his district and is headed for a runoff election.

What goes on in Rapid City is a symptom of a very serious national malaise of the soul.  People of a certain political strain seem most vulnerable to it.  And one of the most prolific vectors that spreads disease of mind and soul is the nightly talk radio show Coast To Coast AM, hosted by George Noory.  Noory presents an unctuous front and a smarmy claim that the show, which obsesses on paranormal kookery, extra-terrestial aliens, and every conspiracy theory that dementia can dream up, is the only medium that concerns itself with truth.  

An example of the show's truth-telling is one of its regular visitors, Jerome Corsi who was a co-author of the book that Swift-boated John Kerry by making up falsehoods about his war record in Vietnam.  Among Corsi's exercises in truth-telling are these observations:

  • on Islam: "a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion"
  • on Catholicism: "Boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn't reported by the liberal press"
  • on Muslims: "RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters -- it all goes together"
  • on "John F*ing Commie Kerry": "After he married TerRAHsa, didn't John Kerry begin practicing Judiasm? He also has paternal grandparents that were Jewish. What religion is John Kerry?"
  • on Senator "FAT HOG" Clinton: "Anybody ask why HELLary couldn't keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?"

The latest truth pursued by Corsi is Obama's false birth certificate.  His latest book is  Where's the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President The book was released after Obama produced his original birth certificate.  Corsi appeared on Coast To Coast AM last week claiming that he can prove the certificate is a forgery.  The claims of forgery are refuted by experts on the scanning of documents.  But one of the claims of forgery is that the official physician who signed the certificate put a smiley face by his signature.  Such claims send Noory into an ecstasy of praise has he lauds the truth-telling that takes place on his show.  He brings up the general disrepute that Corsi is held in by journalists, but then asserts that Corsi is just another journalist reporting what he finds in the online news publication WorldNet.Com,  which is one of the more extreme right-wing propaganda sites that publishes the character assassination of the more extreme and unbalanced wingnut hacks.  

When Corsi was finished with his unsupported and largely refuted claims on Coast To Coast, the next guest was a Dr. Dan Horowitz who came on to claim that the E. coli epidemic in Germany and other countries in Europe was a deliberate attack of biological warfare with a strain of bacteria that was designed somewhere for the purpose of killing off people to reduce the world population.  He said, "The kidney complications and hemorrhagic nature of this new strain of E. coli is suspicious-- it looks like a lab-created mutation, similar to how Ebola works. This seems to smack of the globalists' depopulation agenda," he said, adding that  military experiments have used E. coli as a weapon.

Then this week, Noory had on another conspiracy theorist who made the same claim.  His name is Steve Quayle who stated, "This is a specific biowarfare agent that has been designed to thing well, and that's kill people." The strain, he  said, could perhaps be traced to a laboratory dealing with antibiotic resistance, and may be related to a scheme against natural foods. 

While Horowitz and Quayle depart from the personal defamation and fabrications make by Corsi against Obama, their attempts to incite fear and hatred against some unknown group  has the same intention.  These kind of messages go out from Coast To Coast every night on more than 500 radio stations to reach 4.5 million listeners.  It broadcasts misinformation in the guise of entertainment and discussion.  Unlike cable television prattle shows, it offers no discussion, however, that refutes or criticizes the contentions which often spin off into pure insanity.

Just as the libelers in Rapid City hope to gain power and influence by making false allegations against individuals and obtaining power through fear, the purveyors of preposterous conspiracy theories damage the trust that people rely upon for language to be a constructive medium.  Instead, language becomes a vector of the cancer of hatred, fear, and suspicion.  

And the defamers and spreaders of false rumors are always called upon by some god or motive of high purpose to unleash their hatred and fear.  They provide a portent of what is to come if their influence on the media and our educational institutions is not reined in. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States