Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#2094: Ileana Paugh

Ileana Johnson Paugh is an author, blogger and columnist, who has for instance written for the WND, which is sufficient to establish with some confidence that she is a serious loon. Paugh delivers. In 2013, for instance, Paugh criticized Pope Francis’s commitment to social justice teachings (really a core component of the Roman Catholic Church doctrine, to the discomfort of numerous wingnuts) and tied them to the KGB, no less. So, in her column “Communism and the Pope,” Paugh “traces Francis’ thinking to KGB-influence in S. America”, claiming that social justice is foreign to the teachings of Jesus Christ but instead a “Soviet communist-led idea” that have helped the KGB “infiltrate” the Catholic Church. It’s worth noting that she relies to a large extent on the writings of Ion Pacepa (Paugh, like Pacepa, apparently grew up under communism in Romania). 

Perhaps Paugh’s main schtick, however, is Agenda 21 conspiracy theories. She has even written a book, U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy, where she describes Agenda 21 as a nefarious conspiracy that “has been in the works for decades, spearheaded by environmentalists, foreign individuals, third world countries, and non-profit organizations around the worldIn the name of protecting the environment, socialist global governance has been quietly implemented at all levels of government” to mandate “population re-distribution in the name of biodiversity”, brainwashing our kids and “rezone us, resettle us, reduce our numbers, and tax us into the sustainable community described in the Wildlands Project Map.” In short, it is an agenda to control and oppress us all: “Our sovereignty is at stake. We must stop U.N. Agenda 21 before it is too late. Every chapter of it violates our Constitution.” Yes, environmentalism is a depopulation conspiracy.

Of course, Paugh is a hardcore global warming denialist (when you’ve already decided that the UN is an evil conspiracy to oppress us all, you better make the data fit), claiming that the global warming idea “lacks academic rigor” and “intellectual honesty” (Paugh seems to have no scientific background and doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish scientific rigor from stream of consciousness ranting if her life depended on it); instead, it is apparently a conspiracy among scientists to take our money and give control of the world to George Soros (or perhaps, it seems, Maurice Strong).

Her other books are Echoes of Communism and Liberty on Life Support.

Diagnosis: Crazy as they come. That this is standard wingnut fare does not exactly make it any better.

Monday, October 29, 2018

#2093: Don Patton

Don Patton is a young-earth creationist, close associate of Carl Baugh of Paluxy River footprints-fame, and leader of Metroplex Institute of Origins Science (MIOS) near Dallas. Patton is often referred to as “Dr. Patton”, and he has claimed to have a Ph.D. (or a “Ph.D. candidacy”) in geology from Queensland Christian University in Australia, an unaccredited diploma mill. The WND calls him a “geologist,” which really should on its own be pretty good evidence that he isn’t.

A reasonably central figure in the creationist movement, Patton was for instance, because of his anti-science credentials, invited to testify before the Texas Board of Education during the 2009 evolution hearings, where his testimony was sufficiently insane – at the “no, The Flintstones is really a documentary”-level – to win the sympathy of board member Barbara Cargill and subsequently earn him the 2009 Crocoduck Award.

Patton is particularly famous for his quote-mining abilities and practices (a good collection here; another example is here), which often reach staggering levels of dishonesty, including quotes from The Origin of Species(like most creationists, Patton predictably thinks of Originas some sort of Bible for Biologists, being fully unable to comprehend that, as opposed to his own views, science, well, evolves) of questions Darwin raises without quoting his answers (thus suggesting to his readers that Darwin had none and throws his hands up), as well as a quotation with an ellipsis that spans four whole chaptersof the book. Otherwise, his claims are characterized by claiming that gaps in the fossil record is evidence against evolution (no, he really doesn’t get it), complaints about radiometric dating, as well as the “were you there” gambit that so nicely demonstrates the complete lack of grasp of the basic idea of science (i.e. testing hypotheses about the not-directly-observed by their observable predictions) so characteristic of young-earth creationists. Another illustration of his inability to distinguish scientific inquiry from religious dogma is his tendency to refer to biologists as “people with great faith in evolution” or “devout evolutionists.”

At least he was somewhat critical of a Chinese expedition’s claim to have found Noah’s Ark in 2010, but not for the obvious reasons. 

Diagnosis: As delusional as they come, and as so many of them Patton compensates for lack of reason with fundamentalist zeal. It would be fair to call him “dishonest”, but we suspect he is delusional enough not to notice himself. Tireless, though – we’ll give him that.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

#2092: Roger Patterson

Roger Patterson is one of the creation “scientists” affiliated with Answers in Genesis. Patterson has no background in science, of course – otherwise he would not have had that job – but he knows how to swamp his writings with Bible quotes, and that is what matters.

Indeed, it is, for Patterson and the AiG, explicitlyall that matters. It is instructive to look at how Patterson and the AiG think critical thinking works. As he states in his writeup of how to do critical thinking, AiG-style: “To really determine what is true and what is false requires that you test everything in light of the only source of ultimate truth – God’s Word.” Indeed, “[w]hen we look to God’s Word as the standard for understanding truth, we have a solid foundtion from which to begin applying critical thinking to claims we hear. Further, God does not leave us alone in this endeavor. He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us and other believers to support us. Working together with the body of Christ from a biblical framework and empowered by the Holy Spirit, you can discern truth from lies, even in areas where you may not be an expert, by asking the right critical thinking questions.” The questions are:

-      What is this person’s Authority to make such a claim?
-      From what Starting point is this person looking at the world?
-      How do they Know what they claim to know?

And the answer to the questions should be Scripture, of course. To determine whether someone has the relevant authority, look at whether they have a Biblical worldview. And the starting pointshould be the Word of God (“Ultimately, these are the only two options –  you either trust God or you trust man. Although humanistic philosophy must borrow ideas from a Christian worldview in order to make logical arguments, it is very dangerous to make human reasoning the absolute standard.”) As for the how do they know, “the knowledge claim must be compared to the truth of God’s Word. If the truth claim disagrees with a clear meaning of Scripture, it must be rejected.” In short, critical thinking AiG style involves neither criticalnor thinking. But it is probably in this light you should understand creationists’ argument that creationism should be taught in science class alongside evolution to promote critical thinking.

Here is Patterson discussing creationist debate tactics and how you should try to subvert a discussion of science to give you an opportunity to talk about God, essentially by pointing out that science doesn’t yield absolute certainty but God’s word does. With evolution and the origin of the universe, you see, we have no eyewitness testimony, and to Patterson it is incomprehensible how we can know anything without someone observing it directly. In short, he fully and completely reject using scientific methods to figure stuff out and seem unaware of the idea – science – of testing hypotheses about the unobserved by its observable consequences. It’s telling.

Nevertheless, Patterson wrote a Chapter on “What is Science?” for his AiG’s online creationist resource Evolution Exposed – Biology. It is, needless to say, a thoroughly confused document. To write The Evolution Exposed series, Patterson “got copies of the three major biology textbooks used in most public school systems across America,” then “carefully went through each of them and noted every place where there’s a reference to millions of years and evolution, […] researched the evolutionary claims [using AiG-approved resources, presumably], and then read hundreds of articles and contacted experts in their fields [remember, from above, Patterson’s point about authority] to ensure he’d write the best rebuttals possible.” The series is marketed as “your evolution answer-book for the classroom;” that is, the point is that students using any of the most popular textbooks can now go online and get AiG’s responses to the most unbiblical passages. Here is a summary of Chapter 2 on the Big Bang.

Together with one Joseph Paturi, Patterson is also the author of AiG’s guide to World Religions and Cults Volume 2, What Is Hinduism and Hare Krishna?(“they are ultimately pursuing salvation through vain means – denying Jesus as the Savior and only source of salvation for fallen men” – Patterson has a curious fondness for the word “ultimately”), which is typical of their guides to World Religions.

Here is Patterson demonstrating that Earth is approximately 6000 years old, and not billions of years. The point is that using science to get billions of years is hard; using the Bible to get 6000 is easy. Therefore 6000 is correct. Moreover, scientific calculations depend on “assumptions [that are] unreliable and totally disagrees with the Bible. We are talking about thousands versus billions – that’s more than a rounding error.” Indeed it is.

The Roger Patterson in question is presumably not identical to (apparently long deceased) Roger Patterson, one of the originators of the modern Bigfoot myth.

Diagnosis: A very typical example of his ilk, really, and a fine illustration of the standard creationist combo – completely failing to understand the basics of science makes science look to them like a form of witchcraft, which they promptly fear and hate.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

#2091: Dan Patrick

Daniel Goeb Patrick (born Dannie Scott Goeb) is the 42nd and current lieutenant governor of Texas, serving since January 2015, having previously worked for a long time as a radio talk show host (he is largely responsible for launching Rush Limbaugh’s career, for instance) and radio and television broadcaster, before representing the 7thDistrict (and the Tea Party) in the Texas Senate.

Creationism and education
On most issues Patrick supports the populist and deranged versions of the positions you would expect from someone like him (he ran on trying to scare voters with ISIS infiltrating Mexican drug cartels to sneak their way into the US among illegal immigrants – who also are “bringing Third World diseases with them,” for instance). For our purposes, he is particularly notable for being on record as a determined champion of including creationist pseudoscience in the Texas public school curriculum, the Constitution be damned – though a passionate defender of what he imagines the Constitution to say, Patrick is actually no fan of what the Constitution in fact says. (“There is no separation of church and state. It was not in the constitution,” says Patrick.) Instead, Patrick has strong dominionist leanings, claiming that the US is a Christian nation, that politics is about building God’s kingdom, and that America’s policies must be grounded in the Bible; indeed, elected officials must look to Scripture when they make policy “because every problem we have in America has a solution in the Bible.” This is not true. Though he has emphasized that his call for a “biblically-based” policy mindset “doesn’t mean we want a theocracy,” he followed that up by saying: “But it does mean we can’t walk away from what we believe,” which, given the context, pretty much contradicts the previous sentence. 

During the LG primaries in 2013, Patrick blasted the school curriculum for teaching evolution (and not also creationism), calling it a form of “political correctness” and linking it to a broader sense of moral decline in America: “The breakup of the family in this country has started when we took God out of the classroom,” said Patrick, who apparently thinks biology is a branch of theology. As he sees it “[o]ur children must be really be confused. We want them to go to church on Sunday, and we teach them about Jesus Christ. And then they go to school on Monday. They can’t pray. They can’t learn about creationism. They must really be confused. And they have a right to be confused because we as Christians have yielded to the secular left and let them rule the day in this country. … When it comes to creationism, not only should it be taught, it should be triumphed. It should be heralded.” At least Patrick is confused, no question, but it’s hardly the schools’ fault.

For the record, the other candidates fpr the 2014 gubernmental election, then Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples all agreed. “As a Christian, certainly creationism should be taught,” said Staples (why “as a Christian” matters is worth pondering), and Dewhurst agreed: “It’s a fair discussion to expose students to both sides and let them make the decision with the advice and counsel of their parents,” he said, taking a page from the Discovery Institute’s Teach the Controversy campaigns and missing the whole point of, you know, school. Patterson also lamented how the country has removed religious instruction from government institutions such as schools; surely, he is referring to this.

It is worth mentioning that Patrick used to chair the Senate Education Committee, where he promoted creationist teaching materials and fought bitterly against what he delusionally perceived to be “un-American, anti-Christian, pro-Islamic and Marxistcontents of the school curricula (he admitted to not even having read them, of course). But then, when it comes to American history, for instance, Patrick relies on the pseudohistory and fabrications of David Barton, including Barton’s many fake quotes, to justify an alternative (and false) historical narrative. Here is Patrick on sex-ed.

Gay rights
Patrick, a firm defender of bathroom bills, doesn’t like gay people, and has vowed to fight the Supreme Court decision ruling bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. 

Hours after the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Patrick tweeted a picture of Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Though it was deleted and one of his adviser’s claimed it had been pre-scheduled and therefore didn’t reflect Patrick’s reaction to the shooting, Patrick intervened and emphasized that God’s “word is never wrong,” which sort of suggests that he at least doesn’t mind the rather obvious implication of the tweet.

As you’d expect, Patrick is no supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. In July 2016, with regard to the infamous Dallas protest, Patrick called participants “hypocrites” for running from gunfire when the shootings started, characterizing them as being “anti-police” but still expected the police to protect them once the shooting started. No, he doesn’t really have a clue what the BLM movement is about, but doesn’t care (neither do his voters, of course).  Then he said that concern about police violence is new and must stop. This is not true. He is also no fan of Planned Parenthood, though his attempts to attack them don’t always turn out the way he plans.

With regard (presumably) to climate change, Patrick criticized Obama for thinking that he can change the weather; Obama thinks he can, Patrick claimed, “because he thinks he’s God.He thinks he is the smartest person in the country. He thinks he knows better in Washington what we do in Texas.” As for himself and his own religious beliefs, Patrick apparently also believes that God is speaking through the Duck Dynasty reality TV star Phil Robertson.

Diagnosis: Theocratic conspiracy theorist and staunch anti-science and anti-education activist. A thoroughly frightening guy. Texas, as expected, promptly elected to give him lots of power.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

#2090: Carmen Pate

Another day, another fundie wingnut talkshow host. This time it’s Carmen Pate, currently producer and host of Saving Grace, a podcast ministry of Grace School of Theology. She is apparently also a “Principal with Alliance Ministries, Inc.,” and affiliated with the Human Coalition. Her podcast/show is devoted to the promotion of ridiculous fundamentalism (this kind), in particular from the Truth in Action Ministries, with a clear focus on – of course – anti-gay conspiracy theories associated with the “gay agenda”, such as “the sad belief that they [i.e. gay people] have that they were born with this propensity to engage in sexual sin.” And it really is a conspiracy; given all the homosexuals “struggling with that lifestyle” and “desiring to leave it”, says Pate (ex-gays are systematically oppressed by the media and the government, apparently), it’s really important that religious fanatics step in “when we consider that our government ignores the truth and instead supports an agenda that really keeps them in bondage;” it is “important that we speak truth so they might find that healing and restoration.” Pate does not speak truth. 

She did, however, use to host (and may still be – we cannot really be bothered to pay close attention) Truth in Action Ministries’ flagship radio program Truth that Transforms. She is also a former Concerned Women for America president.

But not only is society being corrupted by homosexuals; Pate also complains that evolution and feminism have “infiltrated” almost all aspects of society: “our education system, even our churches and certainly our entertainment, our media,” which means that “we have lost sight of what God’s word has said about the protection of the innocent.” You fill in the blanks in that piece of reasoning. In particular, the education system is controlled by “those who really don’t want our kids to understand what the Constitution has to say”, which is apparently (as John Hostettler put it) that “government is an institution that is not just a God-centered one, but it was ordained by God,” which of course means that e.g. the separation of church and state is a myth and that the Bible should be the central book of all education by Constitutional demand. Why don’t you know that? “Not to sound conspiratorial here,” says Pate, and promptly goes full frontal conspiratorial: it is because of “attempts perhaps by those secular humanists, those on the left, to really not allow or to take away some of the opportunities for learning more about what the Constitution has to say.” It must have worked very well. At least Carmen Pate has no idea what the Constitution says. 

She is also worried about theoccult underlying themes” in children’s cartoons and books like Harry Potter, suggesting that public school-sponsored Earth Day events have a “focus on Gaia worship” and the “worshiping of Mother Nature.” Of course, when you have no reasoning abilities yourself, any opinion or belief anyone else holds will probably seem like a matter of blind faith, too.

Pate has also participated in a number of religious right promotional efforts, such as their short film Losing Liberty, about the alleged moral decline and spiritual collapse of America.

Diagnosis: Pretty much a personification of everything that is wrong with everything. And yes, that’s the same diagnosis as former entry’s Janet Parshall. Like Parshall, Pate wields quite a bit of influence on the religious right as an enabler of all sorts of deranged fundie extremism. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

#2089: Janet Parshall

Janet Parshall is the host of the popular wingnut fundie talk show In the Market with Janet Parshall (replacing Talking it Over), broadcast on the Moody Radio network on over 700 stations. She was also the host for the 2004 documentary George W. Bush: Faith in the White House, for which she was awarded, by Bush, with an appointment to serve as a public US delegate at the 49th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 2015. She is also on the board of directors of the National Religious Broadcasters, where her husband Craig Parshall is senior vice president, and has coauthored numerous books, mostly with her husband. 

Parshall is a fanatic pusher of the Christian persecution myth, even claiming that the “Father of Lies” himself, no less, is working “through a UN resolution or funding from the United States to try to silence the proclamation of the gospel”. In 2008 she hosted the TV documentary series Speechless: Silencing the Christianson the Inspiration Network. Public schools, constitutionally unable as they are to force students to share Parshall’s religious convictions but instead pushing science, are an important Satanic pawn in the oppression of her Christians. Public schools are, as Parshall sees it, a “Hitlerian idea” and are run by atheist, communist teachers who may disagree with her just seek to eradicate Christianity – indeed, they are run by cabals of gay rights activists, no less. Parshall is notably a supporter of young-earth creationist high priest Ken Ham and Ham’s Creation Museum and Ark Park, saying for instance that hesitations over giving Ham’s park tax breaks means treating him “as a second class citizen” and making him the victim of “viewpoint discrimination.” This is incorrect.

Environmentalism is of course part of the plot. In 2012 Parshall narrated the wingnut conspiracy flickResisting the Green Dragon”, claiming that environmentalism is an anti-Christian religion. Many segments of her show have similarly been devoted to strikingly deranged anti-environmentalist campaigns (another example here). Parshall also took part in the efforts of the antiscience, climate change denialist wingnut organization American Environmental Coalition.

God is already punishing us for our audacity, though. The ebola virus, like most violent events the last few years, are a part of God’s judgment on us; apparently He “gives us a warning, another warning, another warning, another warning because he is a gentleman God.” Given the nature of ebola outbreaks it is interesting to consider how Parshall understands “gentlemanly”. 

And of course, Parshall is vehemently opposed to gay rights. No shit. Equally predictably, Parshall maintains that it is really the devil that is behind LGBT rights efforts, the purpose apparently being “to tear down the idea of Christ’s unconditional love for us” (the relationship between means and end being, as usual, somewhat convoluted). Satan is ostensibly also behind legislation limiting ex-gay reparative therapy: “this really is spiritual warfare, it may look like a bit of legislation but in the end it’s really the old Deceiver rattling his tail,” like everything else Parshall disagrees with, of course. It seems inconceivable to her that those who disagree with her doesn’t really know that she is right; therefore, their lies must be the work of demons (she has explicitly stated for instance that it is impossible to be Christian and gay). Her self-awareness isn’t prime grade either. Satan, working through the “radical feminist movement”, is presumably also behind the efforts to allow the Army to put women in combat situations, something that apparently flies in the face of God and what is “natural”: “I thought men were made by God to defend women,” Parshall lamented.

Together with several other central religious rights figures, Parshall helped organize the 2012 American Prayer Initiative, which would offer its members a specific prayer for every day of each month until Election Day, including prayers condemning homosexuality and the separation of church and state; one message asked people to pray for God’s “healing for those who struggle with same-sex attraction” and to “replace unnatural affections”.

Diagnosis: Pretty much a personification of everything that is wrong with everything. She’s a pretty influential figure in the wingnut movement, however.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

#2088: Craig Parshall

Though his wife, Janet Parshall, may be more famous (and is coming up next), Craig Parshall is a loon in his own right. Parshall is senior vice president and general counsel of National Religious Broadcasters, but is probably more famous as an author of several legal suspense novels, including (with Tim LaHayeEdge of Apocalypse.

As you might expect, Parshall is vociferously opposed to gay rights, and has claimed that giving gay people the right to marry will mean the deterioration of the health America and the end of free speech (“the next victim will be not just the traditional view of marriage and the health of society, but it’s going to be the free speech rights of Christians as well”), presumably based on projecting from how he would like to treat those who disagree with him if he got the chance. Also, gay rights are apparently not real rights – they couldn’t be, since the gay rights movement started “in a riot outside of a gay bar in New York” in 1969.

Parshall wouldn’t trust the legal system to recognize this, however. With regard to Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing Parshall and his sometimes coauthor LaHaye said that Kagan “presents a danger as old as the book of Genesis” and that her confirmation could be a sign of the End Times. So yes, the courts have been compromised by demons, or – as they put it – “legal globalists”, who are liable to approve international legal standards. Apparently they show how this situation “might create a modern-day legal nightmare for conscientious Christians” in their novel Edge of Apocalypse

As an example of how the globalist mindset of the courts lead to “Spanish inquisition-type investigations” taking place in America, as well as a “tsunami” of threats to the freedom of speech (his ability to choose descriptive terms doesn't exactly make us ache to read a full-length novel by him), Parshall cites the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case that struck down anti-sodomy laws, which, as Parshall sees it, clearly paved the way for hate speech laws because the majority opinion used international law in its decision. If you feel there is something missing in the reasoning here (like, for instance, the hate speech laws Parshall mentions), you are probably not in his intended audience.

Parshall is also vigorously opposed to net neutrality, and apparently so should you too be if you want to “protect the internet” as a free and open “village green being the place where the public can get together to exchange ideas”. Parshall has not the faintest idea what net neutrality is, of course.

Diagnosis: Yet another one. And it’s the same errors, and the same kinds of delusional lunacy, as always. We’ve got nothing to say about it that hasn’t been said a thousand times already.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

#2087: Bob Parks

Bob Parks operates the website Black & Right (currently Blackandblonde) and specializes in voter fraud conspiracy theories. And Parks will pretty much run with everything. “[U]pwards of 19 states have counties with more than 100-percent voter registration.You have situations … I believe it was in the Allen West race in Florida where the voting was 141-percent,” claims Parks. “You can’t tell me there’s not a voter fraud problem.” No, Parks does not have a basic grasp of how voting works, and is not at all interested in learning. Even fellow rightwing voter fraud pushers have debunked that one (in St. Lucie County, the district in question, ballots were at least two pages or “cards”; policy dictates that each card be counted separately; voter turnout was really 69.5 %). True to form, the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow nevertheless picked up Parks’s claims.

Apart from voter fraud conspiracies, Parks pushes anti-gay conspiracy theories and global warming denialism (mostly promoting the usual myths). Suffice to say, Parks is about as trustworthy on these issues as he is when discussing voter fraud. The general tenor of his posts is that he and likeminded loons are being persecuted by the elites because the media and many politicians are biased and claim that he is wrong.

Diagnosis: Yes, yet another wingnut conspiracy theorist playing the “I am persecuted by powerful elites” card. Parks actually wields some influence, though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

#2086: Star Parker

Star Parker is the founder of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), columnist (e.g. Townhall and the WND), sometimes politician (running unsuccessfully for Congress for California’s 37thDistrict in 2010), author, activist and extreme wingnut. According to herself, she used to be a “welfare queen” who realized the sinfulness of her ways and went on wingnut welfare instead.

She is, accordingly, probably most famous for her views on welfare, which she claims has become like a “government plantation”, creating a situation where those who accept the invitation switch mindsets from “How do I take care of myself?” to “What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?”. Her views on these matters are laid out in her books Pimps, Whores and Welfare Brats: From Welfare Cheat to Conservative Messenger(1998) and Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do About It(2003). In 2010, Parker sued the White House over its efforts to rebut misinformation regarding health care reform.

Religion and Politics
Politically, Parker is an admirer of Christian Reconstructionism founder R.J. Rushdoony, which is well illustrated by her 2010 talk to the John Birch Society claiming that Obama “is a secular leftist” who doesn’t have a “biblical worldview” and is “pushing the envelope as far as angering God.” Whether he is a “Pharaoh or a Nebuchadnezzar we don’t know, but we do know that ultimately he will not succeed. The Scriptures are very clear, that God abhors the bloodthirsty and the deceitful,” said Parker. Indeed, the whole Democratic Party is “evil” and “the party of anti-Christ.” In 2015, when Obama had the audacity to make entirely reasonable but very moderate comments about religious violence, Parker accused him of committing “verbal rape. Frankly, what the president did was verbal rape.” It was not, in part because the phrase is utterly nonsensical.

Meanwhile, secularists hate America. They have also taken over America, to the chagrin of delusional conspiracy theorists everywhere. Fortunately, as Parker sees it, God will come and beat them all up.

At least racism doesn’t exist anymore. In a 2010 WND article titled “Why Are We Discussing Racism?” Parker pointed out that “[a]ccording to Gallup polling of last week, the issues most on the minds of Americans are the economy and jobs followed by dissatisfaction with all aspects of government. I didn’t notice racism on the list anywhere.” So that settles that.

In the wake of the Parkland shootings, Parker refused to blame gun access. Instead she blamed the students for not being “nice enough” to the attacker.

Promiscuity and moral chaos
Otherwise Parker is an uncompromising champion of the religious right’s view of sex and the body, being opposed to abortion (claiming that “rampant abortion” has hurt black families and pushing the thoroughly debunked claim that abortion leads to mental health issues), divorce, homosexuality (e.g. this one) and birth control, things she believes are factors contributing to the decline of America. In particular, argues Parker, all of America’s ills, from excessive government spending to poverty, can be accounted for as results of “sexual promiscuity” and “immorality.” We “can’t divorce our sexual promiscuity from our fiscal promiscuity,” Parker says, and “sexual irresponsibility and immorality” have already brought us “the top three social crises confronting us as a nation today,” namely “AIDS, abortion, and the entire welfare state.” These are not the top three social crises facing the US today. If it were, however, it would, according to Parker, have a quick fix: by reducing our “sexual energy,” we can produce “economic health as well as moral health”. Moreover, politicians who currently represent poor communities are like “tyrants” who “sell a lie,” since “the redistribution of wealth” is “inconsistent” with Parker’s political views Scripture (chapter and verse not provided) and American values. Here Parker compares the Congressional Black Caucus to slave masters; “the overseer today is the Congressional Black Caucus, their exclusive job is to keep them on the plantation, keep them uneducated, and keep them unarmed. And this was the same job as the overseer of the slave plantation, which was liberal Democrats,” which is one way of viewing things; “they would take that slave, they would strip the skin off of him and make everybody watch,” Parker adds, “and that is what they do to us,” the Black Caucus leaders. Apparently Parker seems to think that her, uh, analogy can do the work of a political argument.

Based on that line of “thought”, Parker has devoted some effort to criticizing the major players she thinks are wreaking havoc with these destructive sexual forces. Speaking at the Values Voter Summit in 2012, for instance, Parker strongly criticized Sandra Fluke: The “HHS Mandate has made Sandra Fluke a national icon for sexual promiscuity,” said Parker, which is a very silly thing to say.

By contrast, Parker firmly supported Mark Sanford’s return to Congress because he is “principled”.

Gay marriage
As for marriage equality, Parker has compared gay marriage to (of course) slavery, arguing (well, claiming) that it leads to “moral chaos” (she expands upon that claim here, in a column that is remarkable for its ridiculousness and tortured attempts at drawing connections, even by wingnut standards). Moreover, writes Parker, “homosexuals have hijacked the civil-rights movement” and “have interjected the very values that are destroying black communities,” such as “the escalation of crime and disease – much tied to irresponsible sexual behavior.” The one tying “irresponsible sexual behavior” to “escalation of crime and disease” is of course Parker herself, not the evidence (there has been no escalation in crime and disease). Then she argued that “enemies of God” (i.e. liberals) are using the issue of homosexuality to undercut marriage and “bring hostility into the public square,” for instance by comparing anti-gay activists to slave holders, we presume. Moreover, gay marriage is, according to Parker, killing black people.

No fan of Obama, Parker claimed in 2013 (in a notoriously incoherent ramble) that Obama’s government is going to turn America into an openly gay nation of emotionless, disconnected zombies like “in Europe”, where people exalt “vileness.” In particular, Europeans are currently “just a bunch of zombies” who have stopped talking to each other because of growing distrust caused by gay rights and, in particular, equality-promoting legislation, “laws that are pushing homosexuality out into society;” “when you have this type of vileness exalted, the wicked go on the prowl,” says Parker. And make no mistake: zeh gays are coming for your children.

Expanding on her point about the hostility of the gay rights movement, Parker pointed out that liberals have “declared a war on marriage, weakened women and opened the door to this culture of meaningless.” Moreover, “[t]he feminist movement was nothing more than the promotion of monism, the elimination of gender binary. It’s an attack on the Creator, the created, the distinction. He said if we look at marriage, we see Him. Conjugal and sacramental marriage is the capstone of creation and, as a result of its collapse, homosexuality is now dividing us and bringing horrible hostility into the public square.” If you haven’t noticed, Parker’s rants are – as so many wingnut rants – entirely devoid of argument, evidence or use of reason (unless you count this?) but merely sequences of descriptions of stuff they don’t like using more and more colorful language.

In 2010, Parker warned that marriage equality in DC would lead to the spread of HIV – it’s like thinking “that serving up another glass of wine is the way to help a drunk” – saying that “it should concern every American as we watch our nation’s capital city transform officially into Sodom.” That is already setting a pretty high bar for oneself in terms of ridiculousness. She has managed to top it, though – we’ll give her that. For instance, Parker has gone on to compare the rainbow flag with the Confederate flag, pointing out the “incredible irony” in the fact that it “is the same people that are demanding that the Confederate flag comes down are the same people that are insisting that the rainbow flag goes up. These two flags represent the exact same thing. That certain people groups are not welcome here.” Yes, she said that. 

The real goal of the gay rights movement is of course to vanquish Christianity. In a WND column “‘Gay’ Agenda: A Cultural War Against Christians,” for instance, Parker points out that “the ‘gay rights’ crusade” wants “to push Christian reality, once and for all, into the closet and to lock the door.”

Parker has also tied marriage equality to failing public schools, and LGBT-inclusive rules in schools amount to the “molestation” of children in Parker’s mind.

Pointing out that conservative talk radio is bigger than liberal talk radio, Parker hypothesizes that this is “because talk radio is a medium of the mind and of thinking and discourse. This works well for conservative and free-market ideas, which get sold on thought and logic;” by contrast, the “liberal message is emotional, not logical. This is why it doesn’t work on talk radio. Liberalism operates by provoking emotions such as guilt, fear and envy. This works in sound bites and visual media, but not on talk radio.” Not a hint of irony.

Diagnosis: Yes, another one. But Parker has managed to attain quite some influence in wingnut circles, and it is certainly not because of her reasoning skills.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

#2085: Thomas John Paprocki

Thomas John Joseph Paprocki is a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who serves as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, and a strikingly unsavory fellow. Paprocki is primarily famous as a tireless opponent of contraception and giving people access to contraceptives, but also drew attention to himself when he said that the devil was the principal force behind lawsuits related to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (that is: the devil wasn’t behind the abuse, but behind the victims’ attempts to seek redress for the abuse): “This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd. We must also use our religious discernment to recognize that the principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil,” said Paprocki. In 2007 he also told a group of judges and lawyers in Michigan that monetary awards to victims of sexual abuse by priests were excessive and that the legal system needed reform, because such awards affected the wealth of his church: “the law is being used to undermine […] the religious freedom of the Church,” said Paprocki, suggesting some interesting and novel views about what kinds of actions should fall in the category of religious practices with which society should not interfere. He also apparently, in all seriousness, believes that no one has dealt with sex abuse scandals “as responsibly as the Catholic Church has.” Criticisms of the church’s handling of the scandals, however, reflect “anti-Catholic bigotry” and “profound ignorance.”

He also made some waves in 2010, when he – during the Christmas Eve midnight mass – castigated airport security personnel for not profiling Arabs and warned that Muslims would impose Islamist values in the United States by moving here until they constitute a majority. In 2012 he also warned his parishioners against voting for Obama, “a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

Paprocki is a staunch campaigner for the practice exorcisms, organizing for instance a conference on exorcism in 2009 with the goal of ensuring that someone in every American diocese could at least screen potential candidates for exorcism. He assured us, though, that exorcisms were only to be “used in those cases where the Devil is involved in an extraordinary sort of way in terms of actually being in possession of the person.” For instance, doctors should rule out mental illness before a patient is sent to exorcism. Homosexuals, however, is another matter.

The gays
No, Paprocki doesn’t like gay people. In 2013, he said that Satan was behind the recent Illinois legalization of same-sex marriage, and responded by arranging an exorcism ceremony, during which he read the exorcism rite “in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage”. According to Paprocki the prayer service was “not meant to demonize anyone, but are intended to call attention to the diabolical influences of the devil that have penetrated our culture, both in the state and in the Church. These demonic influences are not readily apparent to the undiscerning eye, which is why they are so deceptive,” which certainly sounds like he is quite literally demonizing someone. The debate over gay marriage, says Paprocki, “is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a ‘move’ of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.” Then he said that “the division brought about by the Devil due to same-sex marriage may be seen in the way our society, our families and our friendships have become so divided and polarized over this issue,” which is hard to read as anything but an admission that he himself is doing the work of the devil. Apparently he also hoped that the exorcism would show gay people that he and his church love them, which suggests a serious level of confusion concerning relatively central issues.

In 2017 Paprocki instructed priests in his diocese to deny communion, last rites and funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages (unless they repent and seek conversion, no less). Similarly, Catholic politicians who have been involved in making gay marriage legal in the United States should refrain from Holy Communion until they had sought forgiveness in the confessional.

The fact that gay marriage has popular support has been referenced by Paprocki as demonstration that the United States is now a “pagan” culture no different from the era of the Roman Empire when Christians were oppressed and martyred, since there is no difference between disagreement and persecution. Apparently the First Amendment is being sorely tested, too, since people are allowed to disagree with and criticize him for being the horrible person that he is, and he is not always getting his will in political matters. It’s persecution, no less.

Diagnosis: Angry and confused, but Paprocki also wields a lot of influence with a lot of people. Dangerous.

Friday, October 12, 2018

#2084: Gwyneth Paltrow

Yes, a celebrity loon, but this one’s different. Gwyneth Kate Paltrow is, in addition to being an Oscar-winning actress, the, uh, brains behind the website, which is notable for making even hardened tinfoil hatters hesitate over its promotion of sheer nonsense and delusional pseudoscience. If you can think of a health scam too stupid for regular people to fall for, we’ll promise you that Goop’s got something sillier, and that people do, indeed, fall for it. “Nourish the Inner Aspect” is their slogan, which is just as meaningless as most of the information offered in support of their health claims (the rest is just lying). Paltrow, however, seems to believe that she is offering advice that is actually helpful, though nothing she promotes is even remotely supported by anything resembling reality. Paltrow has no education or background in reality or truth whatsoever.

An incomplete list of health wellness woo offered or promoted by Paltrow and/or Goop (hat-tip: rationalwiki)

·     Vaginal steaming; perhaps their most famous item. Unless it’s:
·     Putting a jade or rose quartz egg up the vagina, which may lead to infections and potentially fatal toxic shock.
·     Colonics, including a $135 coffee enema called “The Implant O’Rama”. It’s hard to resist the “if you fall for this one, you deserve it” sentiment.
·     Psychological astrology.
·     Urinating in the shower for health reasons. The rationale offered offers nothing by way of rationale.
·     Apitherapy. Oh yes, she does. She really shouldn’t have, but she does.
·     Yawning correctly, for health reasons. Again, the explanation is thin on substance and coherence.
·     Earthing. “I don’t really know that much about Earthing,” Paltrow admitted in an interview: “There’s this type of electromagnetic thing that we’re missing and it’s good to take your shoes off and walk in the grass … I don’t know what the f—k we talk about.”
·     Activated charcoal; the Goop brand has been instrumental in promoting the now-popular and idiotic idea that activated charcoal is a potent detoxifier for everyday use
·     Annee de Mamiel, skin-cream maker and insane woo-promoter, notable primarily for her extraordinary prices. 
·     After riding airplanes, you need to seek out nice warm, dank sauna and “sweat out” the germs. This is not how it works.
·     The strikingly thoroughly debunked bra–breast cancer link (still promoted by morons everywhere).
·     Quantum woo for every and any taste, including Masaru Emoto and Habib Sadeghi.
·     Water memory; water is sentient, and uses its cognitive abilities to make homeopathy work. Apparently yelling at water hurts its feelings – no really, Paltrow really thinks that. Of course, homeopathy does not work; looking for the mechanism would hence be tooth fairy science, to the extent that it even qualifies as pseudoscience.
·     Ayurvedic medicine, since it’s really old and efficaciousness is a function of age, like wine and witch burnings.
·     Faith healing.
·     Crystal woo, including crystal healing.
·     All manners of fashionably nonsensical detox regimes.
·     Sound healing.
·     Homeopathy, including homeopathic parasite treatments: “You Probably Have a Parasite. Here’s What to do About It,” says the Goop website, referring to a claim by Linda Lancaster, a strikingly deranged and dangerous lunatic “Santa Fe-based naturopathic physician and homeopath.” You don’t have a disease caused by parasites. Lancaster recommends “safe, raw goat’s milk” for children as a preventative measure, which is definitely not a good idea.
·     Aromatherapy.
·     Acupuncture.
·     Essential oils.
·     Psychic vampire repellents (“not evaluated by the FDA”), which contain “sonically tuned water, moonlight, love, reiki, and gem elixirs which is totally not left over water from a rock polisher.” They are marketed as “female empowerment.
·     The Body Vibes stickers:, wearable stickers that promote “wellness” for the meager sum of $60–$120; ostensibly the stickers “rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies” (indeed, they “come pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances”, whatever that is supposed to mean (nothing, of course)) and were falsely claimed to be made of a NASA-developed material. As Gizmodo put it, the marketing material sounds like “what you’d expect if you threw Enya lyrics in a blender.”
·     A “morning smoothie” containing Cordyceps, the parasitic fungus which turns insects into zombies by infecting their brains. 
·     “spirit truffles” that contain “spirit dustthat apparently “feeds harmony and extrasensory perception through pineal gland de-calcification and activation”. No, seriously.

The Body Vibes, by the way, are claimed to help with various ailments, including anxiety and pain, by using something called “Bio Energy Synthesis Technology,” a trademark of AlphaBioCentrix, a Nevada-based biotech company that sells “Quantum Energy Bracelets” and “Health Pendants.” Its founder, Richard Eaton, helped create Body Vibes after ostensibly meeting some “engineers” in a dark alleyway some years ago that revealed their secrets to him. “Without going into a long explanation about the research and development of this technology,” says Eaton (no shit he doesn’t) “I found a way to tap into the human body’s bio-frequency, which the body is receptive to outside energy signatures.” Unfortunately, “most of the research that has been collected is confidential and is held as company private information.” Yes, right. It is, however, important to remember that Paltrow’s idiocy isn’t only harmlessly funny. More on those vibes, including the completely ridiculously false claim that they are somehow connected to NASA technology, here and here.

Concerning the jade eggs (more here), these are apparently made by one Shiva Rose. According to Rose, “The word for our womb, yoni, translates as “sacred place”, and it is a sacred place – it’s where many women access their intuition, their power, and their wisdom. It’s this inner sanctum that we can access when it’s not in use creating life. Sadly most people use it as a psychic trash bin, storing old or negative energy.” Yes, apparently whereas men think with their brains, and use reason, women gets their psychological proclivities from the womb. The distinction between woo marketed as “female empowerment” and misogynism too extreme even for MRA groups, is apparently blurry one. Paltrow is selling the eggs for $66. You should really rather take free advice from real doctors, who will point out that using them is definitely not good for you. The “energy glow” that Goop anecdotally observes in people using the product is probably not energy glow. Apparently you are supposed to recharge the eggs with “energy from the moon. Apparently she is not joking. Meanwhile, critics of jade eggs apparently hate women’s sexuality.

When confronted with the fact that their products lack scientific and evidential (and for the most part coherent) support, Goop and Paltrow point out that science doesn’t know everything. This apparently means that their products dowork since you can know that water has feelings because scientists don’t know how to cure cancer. Goop is thus proud to emphasize that their supplier Anthony “gets his information from ‘Spirit’ – not from medical textbooks or studies.” Moreover, scientists are indoctrinated against alternative medicine and other ways of knowing (like the water-memory-is-real-because-solving-cancer-is-difficult-way of knowing and other types of PIDOOMA); as Paltrow puts it, in an effort to take the side of us ordinary people against the elites: “When you go to Paris and your concierge sends you to some restaurant because they get a kickback, it’s like, ‘No. Where should I really be? Where is the great bar with organic wine? Where do I get a bikini wax in Paris?’”). It is, admittedly, correct that their trainingtends to make scientists unable to know what Paltrow believes she knows because she wants it to be true. (Under the assumption that she actually believes the bullshit she peddles, which is not always clear).

On other occasions Paltrow has challenged her critics that “if you want to f**k with me, bring your A-game”. Apparently real doctors correcting her misinformation to save her victims’ health and lives are “f**k”-ing with her. Remember that her own A-team consist of luminaries like Eaton, Shiva Rose and Linda Lancaster; a couple more, featured at the Goop health summit, are discussed here). “When they go low, we go high,” Paltrow commented on her response to skeptics. They definitely did not go high. Here is a discussion of a good example of Goop’s response to critics – note the attack on the persons as well as the striking and complete lack of attempt to offer support for their own products and recommendations – and there is an excellent analysis of their defense strategy here; given the ideology and critical thinking abilities of Goop supporters, the strategy probably worked very well. There is also a fine and very telling summary of her LA Goop summit, where many members of her A-team gave presentations, here. The overall message is instructive (hat-tip: respectful insolence):

1.     Nature is always good and healing, never harmful or dangerous.
2.     Death is neither real nor permanent.
3.     Intuition trumps any other source of evidence.
4.     Love can heal anything, even death.

“But that’s religion – it’s just like a religious cult,” some may say. And indeed: it is. This is religion– hardcore, religious fundamentalism whose message is all about community building and shielding oneself to criticism from the outside (and it will never come from the inside) – fluffy-solid, fundamentalist, religious extremism.

It is also worth pointing out that Goop, at an earlier stage, wanted to produce a magazine with Condé Nast, but that negotiations fell through because Condé Nast wanted fact-checking of the contents.

But let’s have a brief look at some members of Paltrow's A-team:

-      Eben Alexander, who allegedly died but came back to share information about the afterlife.
-      Tracey Anderson, Paltrow’s personal trainer, and one of the most cynical bullshitters in the whole Hollywood circus.
-      Taz Bjatia, a former pediatrician who is now a “board certifiedintegrative practitioner and onetime guest on Dr. Oz’s show, which is not an endorsement to be proud of.
-      Richard Eaton, described above, a conspiracy theorist who has “found a way to tap into the human body’s bio-frequency” but won’t tell us how (trade secret).
-      Julius Few, who offers natural face-lifts starting “at $3,500 and lasts two to three years.” (Blindness is apparently a potential side effect, but Few tends not to focus on that.)
-      Sara Gottfried, an OB/GYN who uses those who seek her advice to push expensive supplements, a “detox” plan and “hormone balancing.”
-      Stephen Gundry, described here, one of the most spineless pushers of useless supplement frauds we have ever encountered.
-      Laura Lynn Jackson, a “research medium”.
-      Alejandro Junger, a dr. Oz acolyte, detox advocate and anti-gluten activist who scams his victims by pushing a battery of tests that show that they suffer from precisely the conditions for which he conveniently sells expensive treatments. 
-      Linda Lancaster, described above: deranged homeopath who claims that parasites are the main cause of our ailments but that it can be cured by raw milk, a claim roughly as far out there as claiming that it is caused by time-travelling aliens and can be cured by cutting down shrubbery with a herring. 
-      Anita Moorjani, who, according to herself, once died of cancer but remained conscious and decided to heal herself. No, seriously. (Turns out she was really in ICU and was, in fact, treated with chemotherapy, but since she doesn’t believe in chemotherapty that doesn’t count.)
-      Aviva Romm, a vaccine skeptic who has later tried to distance herself a bit from Goop.
-      Shiva Rose, described above, who produces the infamous jade eggs.
-      Habib Sadeghi, who will teach you about “integrative photosynthesis,” “spiritual Wi-Fi,” “neuro-vegetative signs” and “the ontological experience called your life,” and who thinks that scientists don’t know how birds fly. “I am probably one of the most authentic human beings you will ever meet,” says Sadeghi.
-      Sherry Sami, who tells us that children teach their mothers how to be “a great digestive enzyme” to help said children “metabolize their experiences” while leading the mother towards her “divinity.”
-      Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, who can tell us that we are all pawns of something called The Field, “the invisible force that makes things happen that you can’t do on your own” but which is opposed by “a devil living inside you, a demon” who “wants to f**k you up any way he can.” (It’s pretty much The Secret).

Much of Goop’s marketing strategy is based on chemophobia and the toxin scare (e.g. “spray sunscreens are bad news bears, as you’re sending nano-particles of toxins into the air which can then be inhaled”), and Paltrow has accordingly presented her fans with non-effective detox after detox after detox regimes supposed to expunge unnamed toxins from your body. She is rather selective, however, and also has a whole section on her website devoted to the joys of alcohol, which is definitely both a carcinogen and a toxin. There is a good portrait of Paltrow and her toxins scare here.

Paltrow is also an important advertiser for anti-GMO activism. She has also toyed with HIV denialism and anti-vaccine views.

Finally, let us introduce the AI at Botnik studios trying to write its own Goop-style website. The results are both hilariously ridiculous and scarily convincing.

Diagnosis: Genuinely stupid. But if you are a celebrity, with plenty of cash, time and self-confidence, you can build an empire on stupid, and a horde of frauds and deranged lunatics will emerge from the woodwork to help you out (and benefit from it). Gwyneth Paltrow is, in other words, everything that is wrong with the world.

Hat-tip: rationalwiki.