Sunday, April 21, 2019

#2177: Chuck Rogers

Chuck Rogers is an internet crank and the creator of the website Conservative Fact Check, more appropriately known as the Conservapedia of fact checking, a site “dedicated to providing a conservative alternative to enormously liberal-biased fact checking sites like snopes.com, factcheck.org, and politifact.com.” I.e.: he doesn’t like the facts other fact checkers use, so he’ll construct his own. As “definitive proof” of Politifact’s bias, Rogers added up all the times Politifact had called a political claim a “pants on fire” lie and noted that conservatives were more likely to receive that designation than liberals: “To have any semblance of fairness, PolitiFact should play it 50/50 and present an equal number of lies from both sides. They clearly are not concerned with any pretense,” said Rogers, who didn’t actually dispute any of the “pants on fire”-designations. Moreover, “[t]hey also unfairly tarnish Michele Bachmann as a liar, when anybody who follows her already understands that many of her statements aren’t meant to be truthful in the first place – she simply says what she feels.” Or, put more succinctly, it is unfair to call Bachmann a liar since she doesn’t even try to speak the truth. At least it is clear that an important motivation for Rogers and his project is not knowing what factsare.

Rogers is also a birther: “I don’t doubt for a second that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery — many other people, including Mr. Donald Trump, have said the same thing, so the evidence is overwhelming.” So he doesn’t know what evidenceis either. 

The site doesn’t seem to have made much by way of inroads, and it is hard to avoid suspecting parody (though there is quite a bit of evidence suggesting it isn’t). As for Tea Party activists spreading false voter fraud conspiracies: “We can’t blame the Tea Party for spreading these. As mentioned, many of them are politically and mathematically unsophisticated, but they make up for that with enthusiasm, and that’s what counts. By spreading these reports of voter fraud – whether true or false – they’re helping raise awareness of the voter fraud issue.” So, not only does Rogers not know what facts are; he doesn’t care either. 

Diagnosis: It’s hard to rule out parody, but there is quite a bit of evidence that Rogers is, in fact, completely and utterly delusional.

Friday, April 19, 2019

#2176: Samuel Rodriguez

One of the more powerful figures on the religious right, Samuel Rodriguez is a fundie pastor and founder and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC/CONEL), the largest Hispanic Christian Evangelical/Pentecostal organization in the world. As such, he is also a frequent advisor of lawmakers, wields a substantial influence on policy making, and has been a featured speaker in the White House and at Congressional meetings. Currently he also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Evangelicals, is chair of The Congress of Christian Leaders, and one of the leaders of the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

Though frequently portrayed as a political moderate – and despite his frequent self-comparisons with MLK (a cross between Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr. “with a little salsa tossed in,” according to himself) – Rodriguez is solidly wingnut. For the 2016 election he effectively endorsed Trump, for instance, claiming that his very freedom to preach the gospel would otherwise be at risk. (He has also endorsed Jared Kushner, but that’s a different story). Now, Rodriguez does indeed disagree with many fellow wingnuts on the topic of immigration when it suits him (he is on record defending Trump’s wall, however), though his professed reason is that the immigration of evangelical Christian Latinos is part of the salvation and replenishment of Christian America, which is currently under threat of secular persecution – “there is an attempt to silence the voice of Christianity, there is an attempt to silence the voice of truth, of righteousness and Biblical justice,” says Rodriguez – and a bulwark against Islam. Rodriguez was also co-founder and former vice president of the NAR-led, South Carolina-based political project The Oak Initiative, a religio-political organization with a mandate to save America from an imaginary Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic enemy, and represented the Initiative on conference calls in preparation for Lou Engle’s rally The Call, Detroit, in 2011, the purpose of which was to help cleanse the city from the demon of Islam by engaging in “spiritual warfare” (Rodriguez resigned from the organization when media started to pay attention). As part of his “nonpartisan” outreach efforts, Rodriguez has participated in numerous religious right rallies, including the 2012 prayer-and-fasting-to-beat-Obama rally “America for Jesus”, filmed an ad for GOPfaith, and appeared for instance in a Champion the Vote’s “nonpartisan” mobilization DVD “One Nation Under God” with James Dobson, David Barton and Newt Gingrich. There is a good portrait of Rodriguez and his wingnuttery here. For anyone still in denial and who doubt Rodriguez’s wingnuttery, the NHCLC has a formal agreement to make Liberty Counsel their official legislative and policy arm, and Mat Staver is a board member of and chief legal counsel to the NHCLC. 

There is a good resource on Rodriguez’s involvement with the NAR here; Rodriguez has for instance asserted that Cindy Jacobs, who routinely claims that her prayers stop terror attacks, save the economy, prevent coups, heal medical conditions, cure insanity, and resurrect people, is “a legitimate prophet of God.”

Rodriguez is, of course, staunchly opposed to marriage equality and abortion, both of which he claims to be the work of demonic spirits: Jezebel, which pushes people into “sexual perversion”, and the spirit of Herod, which is responsible for abortion. He has also called marriage equality an assault on religious freedom because views he disagrees with threaten his religious freedom and are therefore unconstitutional. “This is not an issue of equality. This is an attempt to silence the church of Jesus Christ,” says Rodriguez, a claim  so dumb that it is quite superfluous to point out the laughable false dilemma on which it rests. (It is, of course, this kind of nonsense that for instance qualified him for participating on Rubio’s Religious Liberty advisory board.) “There’s a great probability that in our lifetime,” said Rodriguez, “that we may have to be imprisoned and suffer great persecution, prosecution, as a result of our commitment to biblical truth, to Jesus, to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are there, my friend,” because America is currently engaged in modern-day Baal worship. “That’s not hyperbole,” Rodriguez asserted, which is technically correct: it isn’t hyperbole; it’s pure delusional fantasy. His evidence is that “many Christians have had conversations” about this very topic, which is not evidence. Since he is deeply confused about the difference between disagreeing with him – or making policy decisions he doesn’t approve of – and violating his religious rights, it is little wonder that he feels persecuted or thinks that marriage equality will lead to anti-Christian discrimination and hate speech laws. It doesn’t make the idea less silly, however.

Rodriguez also promotes right-wing positions on economics and government regulation, and has for instance taken part in a “prayercast” to ask God to defeat the ACA, signing onto declarations that oppose progressive taxation and embraced rhetoric about people being “enslaved” by government and “uber-entitlements.” He has promoted the LIBRE Initiative, saying that it is anti-Christian and anti-American to “punish success”, and embraces a prosperity gospel view of wealth. 

Rodriguez is also the author of e.g. Be Light and Agenda of the Lamb, and executive producer for the 20th Century Fox motion picture The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection.

There is a good Samuel Rodriguez resource here.

Diagnosis: Rightwing fundie extremist. He claims to be nonpartisan and moderate, since lies for Jesus apparently don’t count. Extremely dangerous.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

#2175: Charles A. Rodenberger

It’s somewhat interesting to go dumpster-diving in the Discovery Institute’s ridiculous anti-evolution petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, and see what you dredge up. Charles A. Rodenberger appears to be fairly typical of the signatories – at least among those who seem to know what they actually signed their name to (many apparently didn’t). Rodenberger (apparently the husband of author Lou Halsell Rodenberger) does have a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, which of course is completely unrelated to evolution and should therefore not give him any authority when speaking about matters related to biology, and was for a while professor at Texas A&M University. Currently Rodenberger is retired, but continues to teach Sunday school and write for Livestock Weekly as a “creation scientist”. Rodenberger has said that he is “convinced that Evolution is a nonscientific teaching based on faith because the laws of physics and chemistry prove that evolution of living molecules from the random interaction of hydrogen atoms is statistically impossible,” which, of course, is both false and entirely irrelevant to the theory of evolution. (He is not entirely specific about what “laws” he is referring to, but it is not unreasonably to suspect it would be the laws of thermodynamics, which would be indicative of a breathtaking lack of understanding of physics, evolution or both.) At least he has implored the United Methodist Church to teach the “evolution/creation controversy” in church. Churches are of course great venues for settling scientific debates. This was never about scientific debates, of course.

Diagnosis: A fairly typical representative of the signatories to the Discovery Institute’s list: has a real degree, but is perfectly willing to reject any piece of science when it doesn’t fit what he wants to believe. Well into his 90s, Rodenberger is probably not a major threat to civilization, but as a typical representative of a way of thinking that certainly is, we nevertheless think it is worth giving him an entry.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#2174: John Rocker

John Rocker is a former MLB pitcher and columnist for the WND. His main qualification seems to have been once saying that he hated New York because if you rode the NY subway you might have to sit next to a “queer with AIDS,” and because of the foreigners: “The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get into this country?” (Rocker’s rant manages to go downward from there.) Now, Rocker did get criticized for those remarks, however, and therefore concluded – entirely predictably – that criticizing him is a violation of his right to free speech. Here is Rocker ranting about a diversity seminar put on by the USDA where the speaker, to Rocker’s horror, claims that “ ‘America was founded by outsiders, who are today’s insiders, who get very nervous about today’s outsiders.’ He claimed the pilgrims were ‘illegal aliens’ and spends the next few minutes promoting amnesty. The indoctrination [is] paid for by you the taxpayer.” Rocker blames the communists: Seminars that promote diversity and anti-rasism and suggesting that America was founded by people of immigrant descent are “[r]eminiscent of the re-education centers of Maoist China or Soviet Russia.” Indeed, “The United States government is apparently readying itself for a massive war against Middle America,” says Rocker, citing InfoWars.

As a columnist, Rocker has at least realized that you ought to appear smart and well-read, and one hallmark of Rocker’s columns is therefore extensive use of words and references to events he apparently doesn’t quite understand. “The mid-’60s Democratic Congress along with Lyndon Johnson orchestrated the once ‘taboo’ New Deal, which was destine to eradicate poverty forever!,” says Rocker, in a column where he tries to argue that “[w]e haven’t quite reached the level of expectable in the American mentality as it relates to the deterioration of individual responsibility and its replacement by the proverbial government crutch, but rest assured that day is just around the corner.Here is Rocker giving financial advice. (It’s pretty funny.)

Diagnosis: It is hard to avoid concluding that Rocker is genuinely dense, and the WND should be ashamed of themselves for being so irresponsible as to give him his own column.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

#2173: Derrick Robinson & the FFCHS

Derrick Robinson is the president of Freedom from Covert Harassment and Surveillance (FFCHS). I suggest reading the name of that group again. Yes, the FFCHS is committed to fighting the use of (in particular) electromagnetic frequency (EMF) weapons (a weapons-grade version of this) ostensibly deployed by the powers that be to harass and monitor citizens, even driving them to acts of madness. Aaron Alexis, perpetrator of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, had for instance contacted the FFCHS before going on his killing spree to seek relief from what he believed was an attack by electromagnetic frequency. The FFCHS is not the appropriate place to turn to if you think this is happening to you. 

Like many others, Robinson, a Cincinnati-based janitor, is convinced that nefarious groups of people are following and controlling him, presumably as part of a test of neurological or other weapons, and he claims to have been tortured and abused by gang stalkers and “neurological weaponry” since leaving the Navy in 1982. “People will say you are delusional,” Robinson admits, but he insists that he isn’t. There are, in fact, quite a number of people with similar stories, and Freedomfchs.com’s stated mission is accordingly to seek justice for those singled out by “organized stalking and electromagnetic torture.” Apparently they have also arranged conferences and contacted government representatives who have sometimes pretended to take their complaints seriously. The group’s website is here. Here is their page on how to protect yourself from attacks. It is a very fascinating page, though it seems to have been partially hijacked by quacks peddling supplements and woo to a receptive audience. One of their tips is to use orgone, which in very many ways is probably the appropriate response to the threat. The suggestion that you get a concealed weapons permit is a bit more worrisome. (“The stalkers know I have a gun and know I am a crack shot, because they followed me to the shooting range and watched when I applied for my license” – user Dona.)

Apparently Robinson is also Executive Director at People Against Covert Torture and Surveillance, International. We are not entirely sure how this organization is related to the FFCHS. He has also been interviewed on Coast to Coast AM, of course.

Diagnosis: Let’s just be tactful and leave this section blank, shall we?

Friday, April 12, 2019

#2172: Scott Alan Roberts

Ancient aliens did not visit Earth to guide human evolution and lay the foundation for modern civilizations, but Scotty Roberts is one of those who think they did. It is all explained in his book The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim: The Untold Story of Fallen Angels, Giants on the Earth, and Their Extraterrestrial Origins, which is precisely as scholarly and intellectually compelling and rigorous as the title promises. Roberts’s guiding premise is a couple of passages in the Bible and the books of Enoch about Nephilim, giants and angels, which he interprets through an impressively delusional mass of associations and pseudoscience – including numerology – to arrive at the conclusion he had already decided was true, namely (it seems) that angels, which Roberts concludes must be aliens from outser space, begat the Nephilim. The Nephilim then mated with humans to produce a special bloodline of magic beings, and the Great Flood happened to destroy these “demonic hybrids” and remove all traces of alien DNA from the human gene pool. But then, Roberts actually seems to admit that what he is doing is not science or fact but theory and philosophy (he is not actually doing theory or philosophy either), therefore he can apparently also dismiss objections based on fact or science without engaging with them. His educational background apparently consists of a ride on the Bible college circuit.

Numerology? Oh yes: “In the occult science of Numerology, the number 33 represents the ultimate attainment of consciousness. Keeping that in mind, it is very interesting to note that the geographic location of Mount Hermon, the very place where the Watchers are said to have descended to the earthly plane, lies on the 33rd parallel, which is a latitude of 33° north of the equator. If you trace the 33rd parallel to the exact geographic global opposite from Mount Hermon, you will find yourself directly on top of the most controversially mythic place in current ufological history: Roswell, New Mexico. Mount Hermon, where the Watchers descended to the earth, and Roswell, New Mexico, are exact polar opposites on the same 33rd degree north latitude. The global coordinates of Mount Hermon and the Roswell crash site are no accident, and speak to some deeper, perhaps secret significance.” Of course, Roswell and Mount Herman are not even remotely global (or “polar”) opposites, but that observation would presumably be precisely the kind of fact in which Roberts is not interested. 

Apparently Roberts is not just any kind of whale.to-style whacko with a website, however – he actually seems to enjoy a bit of status on the ancient aliens conspiracy theory scene and has for instance arranged conferences (such as The Paradigm Symposium: Re-visioning our place in the universe; yeah “paradigm”– few things scream “crackpot” like (mis)use of the word “paradigm”) with luminaries like Erich von Däniken, George Noory, and Giorgio A. Tsoukalos. Roberts is also the founder and publisher of Intrepid Magazineand editor-in-chief of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters official publication, TAPS ParaMagazine. His other books include The Secret History of the Reptilians and The Exodus Reality.

Diagnosis: Completely unfettered by the constraints that control the intellectual capacities of the narrow-minded, such as reason, accountability or fact. Probably relatively harmless, but it isa bit disconcerting to note how popular this kind of nonsense actually is.

Hat-tip: Pharyngula

Thursday, April 11, 2019

#2171: Keith Roberts

A.k.a. GodsWordIsLaw

Keith Roberts is a raging, maniacal, religiously fanatic bigot known by the handle @GodsWordIsLaw (and, it seems, @GodsLandGodsLaw), though his Twitter account seems to be suspended at present. He was also the founder of the organization Christians for a Moral America and, for a few months in 2012/2013, generally known as perhaps the most homophobic and hateful lunatic on Twitter, especially in the wake of getting into a spat with Ricky Gervais after writing “Thank God for Christopher Hitchens’ death” the day after Hitchens died and subsequently telling Gervais that “Atheism is poison, may God have mercy on your soul before he dropkicks you into HELL” (no, he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of mercy; it’s not the only concept he doesn’t grasp). And when George Michael had to cancel some concerts due to pneumonia, Roberts claimed that “[a]pparently George Michael has AIDS. Figures since he’s a homosexual and it goes with the territory. Another sodomite bites the dust?” and encouraged his supporters to “[p]ray for George Michael’s demise. He has chosen a satanic lifestyle and must meet an appropriate end”. In general, Roberts has expressed concerns with a political environment that is supportive of gay rights: “We have an OBLIGATION to the general public to make sure homosexuality is recriminalized. Sodomy is destroying the health care system.” He would also engage with critics, offering nuggets of insight like “What a whiny old queer you are. You’ll be six feet under soon (AIDS) so hopefully we wont have to put up with it much longer.”

Here is Roberts arguing that atheists die sooner than Christians.

Diagnosis: A minor character, but a pretty deranged one. He’s been quiet for a while, so maybe he has come to his senses? We’ll include him nonetheless.