Thursday, June 25, 2020

#2354: Martha Trowbridge

Birtherism” is an expression commonly used for the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US or that his father was not a US citizen at the time and that Obama was accordingly not eligible for being elected President. But other conspiracy-theories surrounding Obama’s heritage have been pushed as well. Joel Gilbert and the WND, for instance, for a time promoted the idea that President Obama’s real father is Frank Marshall Davis, and not all adherents of that conspiracy realized that this conspiracy would, if true, at least undermine the rather central claim among birthers that Obama was ineligible for being president.

Martha Trowbridge, who presents herself as an “Investigative Researcher” and “Executive Producer And Host” of a radio show called Terrible Truth, has contributed to the conspiracy theories in the form of speculations about who Obama’s mother was: “On the lam since 1985, F.B.I. Most Wanted Fugitive Domestic Terrorist ‘Elizabeth Ann Duke’ is the living, biological mother of United States President ‘Barack Hussein Obama II’. ‘Elizabeth Duke’ is one of her multiple known identities.”

But things are of course more complicated than what is summed up in the previous sentence: “In early October 2012, Private Investigator Neil Sankey identified F.B.I. Most Wanted Fugitive Domestic Terrorist ‘Elizabeth Duke’ as likely the same person as the woman identified at Terrible Truth as Jo Ann Newman the actual – and living – mother of the man who fraudulently presents as ‘Barack Hussein Obama II’.” You still following? “Terrible Truth Investigative Report II reflects ten months of dedicated research into Ms. Duke and her interconnections with Jo Ann Newman and ‘Stanley Ann Dunham’, the synthetic mother presented by ‘Obama’ to occlude his mother’s actual identity, political posturing, and criminal history.” Yes, it’s the kind of conclusions ten months of research will give you when said research is untainted by facts, truth, coherence, reason, plausibility or non-contradiction. And who is this Dunham character? “Also known in the late 1950′s through at least the mid-1960′s as Jo Ann Newman of New York City, ‘Obama’s’ mother was the white ‘Teenage Lover’ of civil rights leader Malcolm X. ‘BHO II’ is their son.” But of course.

Trowbridge is not alone. The suggestion that Malcolm X was Obama’s father has also been championed by e.g. Stephen Pidgeon (Trowbridge’s show named Pidgeon “Person of the Year” of 2015). Meanwhile, Trowbridge’s show “Dream Candidate, Nightmare Politician: The Political Narcissist And The Political Sociopath” was apparently hailed by Jack Cashill as “scarily on target”. That would be this Jack Cashill.

Oh, but she isn’t done! Did you ever consider to ask who Stanley Ann Dunham really was? And have you “been wondering why America Under A.k.a. Obama increasing resembles Hitler’s Reign of Terror over the German people” or noticed “how the American Government is swiftly assuming the ugly shape of Third Reich National Socialism”? Well, isn’t it obvious? The woman known as “Stanley Ann Dunham” is really “Baby Girl Braun-Hitler,” daughter of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Which makes Obama Hitler’s grandson. 

And I think we are done here. (Trowbridge is not, but we’ll leave it to interested readers to delve further.)

Diagnosis: Some might consider it wrong to laugh and point at people like Martha Trowbridge, but heck: we’ll keep her responsible for her words and actions. Totally off the hinges.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

#2353: Tom Trento

Tom Trento is a wingnut’s wingnut and, as such, of course a serious conspiracy theorist. Trento is director of the anti-“Shariah Islam” group The United West and sees the threat of creeping sharia and Muslim conspiracies virtually everywhere. So for instance, Trento saw strong connections, existing exclusively in his own mind, between the Occupy Wall Street movement and jihadists, claiming in particular that Occupy Orlando was a “move by a Muslim activist to take over control of ‘Occupy Orlando,’ in the ‘spirit of the Arab Spring.’” Trento warned especially about Shayan Elahi, a local Democratic activist, Muslim civil-rights attorney and legal counsel for Occupy Orlando, whom Trento says is “associated with CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood” because that’s how information about Elahi is filed in Trento’s paranoid mess of a mind, or: “Once we watched Shayan Elahi in action, running around, signing up speakers, providing direction, telling people what to do, we started to connect the dots to the stated Face Book Mission Statement of ‘Occupy Orlando,’ which reads, ‘…we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America.’” Yes, there are some dots to be connected here, but the resulting picture isn’t exactly flattering to Tom Trento. Trento’s claims were, however, picked up and promoted e.g. by failed Senate candidate Joe Miller.

Meanwhile, Trento has promoted the wingnut conspiracy theories of John Guandolo, including the claim that John Brennan is a Muslim convert, as well as the “independent journalism” of Laura LoomerHe is also the one-time National Security Chairman for the Tea Party National Convention. He did not do a more reasonable figure in that position. (He has in general, not unexpectedly, exhibited some trouble when it comes to drawing simple distinctions about politics).

United West (UW) is recognized as an active hate group in the United States by the SPLC and its core mission is to advocate for laws “to halt the expansion of Shariah law in the USA and other Free Nations,” something that for Trento includes treating accused terrorists who cite Islamic religious beliefs as their rationale as military combatants. UW has also called for cutting UN funding for programs that assist Palestine refugees and has tried to dissuade voters from casting ballots for Muslims who pursue elected office in the United States.

Previously, in the early 1990s, Trento headed a Denver-based outfit called Christian Research Associates (CRA), which peddled “young earth creation science” in the Rocky Mountain states and worked to restrict poor women’s access to abortion. 

Diagnosis: Deranged extremist who is clearly willing to subvert evidence, reason and democratic processes to reshape the US in his preferred image – it is not entirely unreasonable to suspect that part of what’s driving the paranoia of creeping-sharia conspiracy theorist is a certain sympathy with the political means and systems they associate, by projection, with their perceived opponents. Trento has plenty of supporters, connections and donors, however, and should not be overlooked

Hat-tip: Rightwingwatch

Sunday, June 21, 2020

#2352: Stella Tremblay

Like any disaster or terrorist attack, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings attracted its share of deluded conspiracy theorists. Indeed, this entry sort of merely continues on the theme from the last entry: Stella Tremblay has also suggested that the Boston Marathon bombings were a false flag operation planned and executed by the US government, linking to Alex Jones and suggesting as evidence (on Pete Santilli’s show) that the injuries sustained by Jeff Bauman (who lost both his legs in the bombing) appear to have been faked because Bauman didn’t appear to be in pain and traumatic shock doesn’t exist – a claim that, if true, would make him a crisis actor and thus strictly speaking contradict the false flag operation claim. But whereas last entry’s James Tracy was an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University, Tremblay was a state legislator representing Rockingham County in the New Hampshire House of Representatives (we’ve encountered the New Hampshire House of Representatives on several occasions before, by the way). Tremblay refused to apologize for her statements, claimed she was just JAQing off, and then predictably doubled down on them: On June 19, 2013, she circulated a document reiterating her claim and adding additional “evidence”, in the form of links to videos from conspiracy sites, to the entire legislature. She resigned the next day.

Of course, evidence that Tremblay was a nutcase was amply available also before the Boston Marathon conspiracy. Earlier that year, for instance, Tremblay co-sponsored legislation (with Al Baldasaro and Lars Christiansen) maintaining that the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 unlawfully abrogated the United States Constitution by removing the Titles of Nobility Amendment, so that the Constitution as generally accepted has been fraudulent since then. The underlying claim, which is very familiar from alt-right sovereign citizen types and associated pseudolaw practitioners, is that government has kept it a secret that the constitutional amendment, designed to prevent people with “titles of nobility” from holding public office, was ratified in 1819 before being deleted from the document as part of a conspiracy led by power-hungry lawyers and bankers, and thus remains technically still on the books – we just don’t know it. The aforementioned conspiracy theorists then typically go on to claim that lawyers, through the use of the title esquire, are therefore barred from holding public office, and often also that all members of Congress are technically lawyers and therefore prevented from passing laws.

In 2012, Tremblay sent an email to the other 399 state House members with a doctored video she claimed depicted President Barack Obama saying that he was not born in the United States, a video she claimed to be sufficient proof to open an investigation into Obama’s citizenship. And in February 2013, Tremblay told a legislative committee that former President Woodrow Wilson agreed with Adolf Hitler, even though Wilson died before Hitler rose to power (Tremblay’s dislike of Wilson is presumably connected to conspiracy theories and pseudolaw-related delusions about the Federal Reserve). She has also sponsored a bill that would have required the teaching of the Bible in public schools and a bill to form a committee to study the impact of Agenda 21, the United Nations’ environmental sustainability treaty, on New Hampshire. Neither bill passed, but the deranged lunatics of the NH House nevertheless did pass a measure to ban Agenda 21, which has never carried the force of law in US, in New Hampshire.

It is also worth mentioning Tremblay’s history advisor, David Johnson, who thinks that President Abraham Lincoln deleted the 13thAmendment mentioned above and thereby dissolved the United States, which is ostensibly therefore no longer a country but rather a corporation chartered in the District of Columbia, while also not freeing the slaves. Johnson also claims that the U.S. government is under the control of Queen Elizabeth II. He is also a Federal Reserve conspiracy theorist calling president Wilson’s decision to sign the legislation creating the Federal Reserve “stupid and dumb” and claiming that the Fed is not a U.S.-controlled entity but rather a “foreign bank.” It is unclear whether Tremblay would have done better without incoherently rambling lunatics as advisors, however.

Diagnosis: Oh, New Hampshire. There are, to be sure, plenty of good and wise and intelligent people from the state, but the deranged lunacy of Tremblay, several of her fellow legislators, and – not the least – the people who elected them, pulls so hard in the direction of idiocy that one might possibly legitimately say that the average New Hampshirite is an idiot. As for Tremblay herself, we don’t know what she’s up to these days, but it’s probably nothing good.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

#2351: James Tracy

James Frederick Tracy is conspiracy theorist and former professor of communications at Florida Atlantic University, who has managed to achieve international fame for his advocacy for Sandy Hook truther conspiracy theories. According to Tracy, the Sandy Hook massacre did not occur but was really a hoax perpetrated by the US government. The media was in on it, too: according to Tracy, the many witnesses interviewed or photographed by the press were actually “crisis actors” portraying the “official story” as part of the cover-up – indeed, Tracy can probably be credited with popularizing the “crisis actor” term, though the idea has been around in whale-to-type online communities for a long time (Ed Chiarini, for instance, has been promoting it for years). The government’s purpose for carrying out the hoax was apparently to help shape public opinion on gun control, and the evidence he cites for the conspiracy cited consists primarily of the usual nonsense gambits that characterize such conspiracy theories:

-       Discrepancies in news reports rapidly released during an unfolding event. (Which is somehow evidence that it is all orchestrated, in which case one would expect … consistency, wouldn’t one?)
-       Anomaly hunting in descriptions of an event with many quirky details.
-       The fact that the police and other official bodies weren’t keeping him continuously updated with any detail relevant to their investigation.

A fourth strategy employed by Tracy, and just as typical for deranged conspiracy theorists, is interpreting the fact that families and people who lost children and family members don’t wish to talk to him, a guy who denies that no one died and everything was staged, about the event – as clear evidence for a coverup as you could find, as Tracy sees it (of course, if they had talked to him, that would have been evidence for a coverup, too). 

Though he initially engaged in standard JAQing off when he raised the issue in 2013, he quickly and predictably devolved into harassing Sandy Hook hero Gene Rosen as well as Lenny Pozner, the father of Sandy Hook victim Noah Pozner, demanding that Pozner give him proof that Noah once lived, that Lenny and his wife were his parents, and that they were the rightful owner of his photographic image. The Pozners were naturally unwilling to engage, and when Tracy realized they would not respond, he subjected them to ridicule and contempt on his blog, claiming that the “unfulfilled request” was “noteworthy” because the parents had used copyright claims to “thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event”. Then he claimed that he, James Tracy, was the victim here, whereas “The Pozners, alas, are as phony as the drill itself, and profiting handsomely from the fake death of their son.”

Tracy was dismissed from his (tenured) position in January 2016, although a statement from his former employer asserted that Tracy was fired for repeatedly neglecting or refusing to file standard paperwork disclosing activities or employment outside his job that might pose a conflict of interests. The decision has been (repeatedly) appealed. It is probably worth pointing out that among the courses Tracy taught at FAU was Culture of Conspiracy, a course that his subsequenst actions demonstrate that he was magnificently unqualified to teach – a bit like letting a young-earth creationist teach evolutionary biology. Tracy’s career as a guest on deranged conspiracy theory radio shows – which took off partly because of his affiliation with the FAU – has not suffered, however, and though we don’t usually link to such sites, it is actually rather interesting to watch Tracy gradually fall apart on this one after being asked what proof he would accept.

Tracy’s delusions regarding American mass shootings are not limited to Sandy Hook. He also believes that the Boston Marathon bombing was a false flag operation perpetrated by the government – according to Tracy, the bombing may have been a “mass casualty drill” (which makes no sense whatsoever). Similarly, according to Tracy, “Craft Intl mercenaries carried out San Bernardino shooting”, the terrorist attacks in Paris were “manufactured” with actors, and the mass shooting at an Oregon community college was also a CIA false flag” operation. His blog has also promoted conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the Oklahoma bombing (“illusions”), London’s 7/7 bombings, the Madrid train bombings, Osama bin Laden’s killing, the 2011 Norway attacks, Charlie Hebdo, the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, Pearl Harbor, the World War I sinking of the British ship Lusitania, the 1898 explosion of the USS Maine, the Gulf of Tonkin, Israel’s 1967 attack on the Navy’s USS Liberty, the Colorado movie theater mass shooting, and the Charleston church shooting. 

Tracy is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also a global warming denialist. Indeed, Tracy seems to think that climate change is a cover-up for various geoengineering programs, including chemtrails. When Tracy “contacted to Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Lauderdale on a day with high aerial activity of this nature, I was consoled by an overly polite FAA agent that the trails were merely ‘water vapor,’” which is itself apparently very suspicious, especially because the explanation offered is in contrast with the research of various chemtrail conspiracy groups. Moreover, in 2011 his young daughter  suffered from “a long-running respiratory ailment which prompted me to send off a small sample of her hair for lab analysis. The results indicated a high level of aluminum. This was disturbing especially given that she had received an abbreviated vaccine regimen, drank water run from a state-of-the-art reverse osmosis filter, and ate only organic food.” You connect the dots.

Diagnosis: That Tracy’s actions have hurt FAU’s reputation is to a large extent on them insofar they hired him in the first place. A deranged green-ink kook who is ready to accept any and all conspiracy theories that come his way, though as opposed to most of his fellow conspiracy theorist (like Boston Bombing denier Cass Ingram), Tracy sometimes does come across as almost coherent – at least with respect to grammar. Though he isn’t exactly dangerous at a general level – perhaps apart from providing talking points to opponents of the tenure system – he does cause real harm to real people.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

#2350: James Tour

A nanotechnologist and Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, as well as Professor of Computer Science, at Rice University, James Tour certainly has reason to be confident about his skills and knowledge in his field of expertise. Unfortunately, that might also be part of the explanation for why he is willing to spew so much nonsense about fields he knows nothing about.

Tour is a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s silly petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, making him one of a very small number of nationally prominent researchers among the signatories as well as the even smaller number of those who seem to have been actually aware of what they were signing. Indeed, even Tour himself has said that “I have been labeled as an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent. I am not. I do not know how to use science to prove intelligent design although some others might. I am sympathetic to the arguments on the matter and I find some of them intriguing, but the scientific proof is not there, in my opinion. So I prefer to be free of that ID label.”

Despite demonstrably failing to grasp the basics of evolution (see below), Tour is nevertheless confident in his analysis: “if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules. I understand that if I take Nature’s tool kit, it could be much easier, because all the tools are already there, and I just mix it in the proportions, and I do it under these conditions, but ab initio is very, very hard.” Of course, evolution doesn’t make molecules to a specification, so his comparison is irrelevant, but it is very instructive that Tour doesn’t realize that. Now, he did follow the previous claim up with admitting that “I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you.” That hasn’t stopped him from offering his uninformed opinions (“egregious idiocy”) on the topic on numerous occasions – apparently doing so is justified because other synthetic chemistry experts he has talked with don’t claim to understand everything about evolution either (yes, the unstated premises in that piece of reasoning are somewhat hard to identify; more details about Tour’s ignorance here). So, Tour has for instance claimed that he felt the explanations offered by evolution are incomplete, and that he finds it hard to believe that nature can produce the machinery of cells through random processes, which is not what the theory of evolution says but which would also, independently of that fundamental error, have amounted to a reasonably clear example of a named fallacy. Taking a cue from standard creationist materials, Tour also claims that “[f]rom what I can see, microevolution is a fact” and “there is no argument regarding microevolution. The core of the debate for me, therefore, is the extrapolation of microevolution to macroevolution.” But of course, like the creationists who apparently supply him with his talking points, Tour offers no suggestion for what mechanism could possibly and magically prevent microevolutionary changes from accumulating into macroevolutionary changes over time – besides, one would think that if his considerations based on his own field were relevant (they are not), they would apply equally well to microevolution. We strongly suspect the issue is, for Tour, not ultimately a matter of science or evidence (Tour is, as you’d expect, a religious fundamentalist). 

He also thinks that brave, maverick scientists who question the consensus about evolution are persecuted in academia by cabals of skeptics. Suffice to say: there are better explanations for why you won’t find respected biologists being confused by the questions that confuse James Tour in the field, but we are hardly surprised that when the competing explanations for his observations are “maybe I am wrong about a field I don’t understand” and “I am correct in my claims about a field I don’t understand but it doesn’t look that way because there is a conspiracy to suppress the scientists who say what I do,” James Tour is the kind of person who opts for the latter.

At least creationists seem to have been very excited to have him onboard. Tour has also contributed chapters to creationist and anti-science books detailing his lack of understanding of the theory of evolution and drawing silly conclusions from that, as well as given numerous talks on religion, prayer and how the theory of evolution cannot explain abiogenesis, which it doesn’t purport to do. He also contributed e.g. to the 2018 Dallas Conference on Science and Faith: Tear Down that Wall on how to get faith to take some control back over science.

Diagnosis: As opposed to the vast, vast majority of the signatories to the Discovery Petition, James Tour is indeed a scientist. He is, of course, not a biologist and willfully fails to understand the fundamentals of evolution, but a modicum of confidence, religious fundamentalism, Dunning-Kruger and general ignorance make for a forceful combo. Currently, he is apparently also being persecuted, insofar as people have criticized him for passing desperately silly and ignorance-fueled judgments on scientists and scientific field he doesn’t understand.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

#2349: Steve Toth

Steven Hixson Toth is a wingnut who represented District 15 (suburban Montgomery County, part of the Houston Metro area) in the Texas House of Representatives between 2013 and 2015, and was reelected in 2018. Toth, who is partially responsible for allowing college and university officials to carry concealed weapons, the Firearms Protection Act (HB 1076) restricting federal control and regulations of firearms, and various heartbeat bills against abortion, is also the kind of wingnut who blames sex ed and Planned Parenthood for teen pregnancy and for kids having sex (no really: he seriously thinks instructions on proper use of condoms make teens who otherwise wouldn’t have thought about sex “hot and bothered”), supported by unverified and unverifiable anecdotes a person of his age and in his position really shouldn’t have had access to if they were true (unlikely). 

A long-time sufferer from the Obama-derangement syndrome, Toth has for instance claimed that “Obama is taking the US to war with Syria and Russia so he can support his friends from Al-Qaeda in Syria.”

He has also been involved in the Texas education wars, leading the 2013 wingnut campaign against CSCOPE, a curriculum management tool created through a collaboration of state Education Service Centers, based on the manufactured charge that the program’s lessons were anti-American and anti-Christian and promoted Marxism and Islam, a charge as baseless as it is revealing of the bias and post-truth-politization-of-facts mindset of people like Steve Toth (Dan Patrick and David Dewhurst were others making similar charges). He has more recently made good friends with the anti-vaccine group Texans for Vaccine Choice, who describes him as someone who “already has a strong baseline knowledge of our issue.”

And lest you’d think that Toth’s loss in the 2015 reflected a modicum of sense on the part of the Montgomery electorate, you should know that he was replaced by Mike Keough, who thinks that the separation of church is a humanist, socialist plot.

Diagnosis: Looney wingnut with a tendency toward endorsing deranged conspiracy theories – a typical representative of the post-truth phenomenon in the current political climate. Ultimately, however, it seems to be the voters of Montgomery County that are to blame here and who really should have been awarded with this entry.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

#2348: Paul Topete

The rock group Poker Face received some national attention in 2010 when the Anti-Defamation league reported that it had licensed a song to and defended the violent wingnut Hutaree militia terrorist group. Not a very savory collection of people in other words, and the band’s frontman (the others are Dennis Beidler and Brett Griffiths), Paul Topete, is known as an unabashed anti-Semite who, according to the ADL, once called the Holocaust “one of the largest if not THEE [sic] largest scam every played on humanity”. Continued Topete: “.. Yes that right... the HOLOHAUX aka holocaust. 1985 and 1988 Ernst Zundel DESTROYED the Myth known as the cult of holohauzianity. In a canadien court of law, Ernst zundel took on the biggest frauds in the SHOAH Industry, and showed them to be the frauds that they were.” (More Topete quotes here).

Now, Topete and his group were not particularly happy about the ADL’s coverage of them, and released a response saying that “[w]e are not anti-Semitic, but, we will shine the spotlight on those of Jewish faith who use their heritage to escape criticism, especially when it comes to crimes against this country, but also against their own people” before doubling down on speculations that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks: “Was Israel involved? It’s not beyond the scope of reasonable doubt.” Topete has also claimed that “the Rothschilds set up the Illuminati in 1776 to subvert the Christian basis of civilization.”

Now, Topete’s views are sufficiently extreme that his band has “been kicked off venues at Rutgers University in 2006 and a Ron Paul campaign event in 2007.” However, when he hosted his “Freedompalooza” event in southern Pennsylvania in 2013 (primary sponsor: the American Free Press), its list of speakers included people like Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt, convicted felon Jim Traficant and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. And previously, in 2010, the Colbert Report reported that now-Sen. Rand Paul attended a gun rally at which Topete threatened an armed revolt against the government.

Other speakers at the Freedompalooza event, in addition to several writers for the American Free Press, were:

-       Jim Condit, jr., perennial candidate for Congress in Ohio who primarily used his candidate status as a platform to promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories
-       Merlin Miller, the 2012 presidential candidate of the white supremacist American Freedom Party
-       Cynthia Steele, wife of the late white supremacist attorney Edgar Steele (who was then serving a 50-year sentence for conspiracy to murder Cynthia, a charge she claims is false).
-       Various militia group representatives
-       An Oath Keepers representative
-       Project Appleseed
-       Jeff Christopher, a Delaware sheriff with ties to Michael Peroutka

Diagnosis: And again, we have an illustration of how difficult it is to distinguish deranged and dumb, on the one hand, and evil, on the other. And yes, it is scary that they seem to have as many connections as they do, and – notably – both on the left and the right on the political spectrum. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

#2347: Mark Tooley

Mark Tooley is a Methodist writer and president of the D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a wingnut fundie think tank vehemently opposed to any hint of religious or social liberalism. Tooley is also a signatory to the Manhattan declaration.

Like most fundies, Tooley is concerned with tendencies and movements that he perceives as threats to Christianity or as going against the gospels, and he interprets the latter threats pretty broadly. Occupy Wall Street, for instance, was not only a movement dominated by feelings of “grievance, entitlement, idealism, and youthful naiveté” but by activists who “want an all-powerful state to seize and redistribute wealth according to some imagined just formula […] It’s a utopian dream, not based on the Gospels [note the elegant way he just throws that in there, without even trying to back it up], always monstrous when attempted, and premised more on resentment than godly generosity,” wrote Tooley, “[b]ut it’s a message that will always have an audience in a covetous world.” Yes, in the process Tooley mistakes for reasoning, Occupy Wall Street turns into the greedy part here, driven by material desires. And yes: the reasoning is rather good for illustrating something important about Tooley’s (and his ilk’s) particular brand of Christianity: it’s the poor who exhibit greed and materialism and thus sin. 

Par for the course from this type of source, we suppose. As is Tooley’s views on gay marriage. To the World Congress of Families in 2015 he declared that too many Christians fail to realize that God himself has ordered government to fight same-sex marriage and access to abortion. Then he complained about unchristian government overreach, pointing out that “God’s vocation for government” is apparently limited to “providing for public order – jailing criminals and deterring or defeating external aggressors”, not to be a “maternal provider, who feeds, clothes, heals, educates and reaffirms,” callings that should be left to the discretion of parents, families and the church. Yet the state should apparently definitely intervene in social issues when people have views Tooley doesn’t like, and yes: he is utterly oblivious to his own flirtations with the limits of coherence here. The IRD has also criticized the U.S. State Department for promoting the human rights of LGBT people.

Tooley is generally very concerned about immigration border security and the IRD has criticized evangelicals supportive of immigration reform, such as the Evangelical Immigration Table, for being front groups for George Soros. Indeed, perhaps Tooley’s main qualification for receiving an entry in our Encyclopedia is his criticism of pro-immigration reform leaders’ ostensibly  “superficial ‘God-talk’” and his suggestion that religious leaders should not be spending their time on immigration reform, which is not of the same “moral order” as “marriage, human life, and religious liberty;” indeed, when speaking about immigration, Tooley says it is “very problematic when people of faith start to claim that the Bible gives them very direct guidance on a particular contemporary political issue.” Because he and the IRD would never invoke the Bible on immigration or other contemporary political issues.

Diagnosis: Lack of self-awareness is common, and we are probably all guilty of it at times, but rarely do anyone reach the rarefied levels of self-delusion inhabited by deranged fundie Mark Tooley. He is, however, a force to be reckoned with on the religious right.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

#2346: Kathleen Tonn

Tonn and the sauna
Kathleen Tonn was a state senatorial candidate in Alaska back in 2014 whose main trick was speaking in tongues. As part of her campaign, Tonn posted a video of herself singing and witnessing to a woman identified as Suzie in the steam room at the Alaska Club West – ostensibly, Suzie “doesn’t know Jesus Christ as her savior,” yet nevertheless let Tonn “sing and deliver a message in the Holy Ghost and tongues,” Tonn said. Apparently speaking in tongues is a very powerful technique, since “the message cannot be understood by Satan. But the Holy Spirit can use that message to bring deliverance, to bring clarity, to bring discerning and words of wisdom and knowledge. And tongues is interpreted by a person who has the gift of interpretation.” One is forgiven for suspecting that clarity isn’t really the goal here. Back in 2013 she also posted a youtube video where she blamed an apparent lack of growth of daisies in the natural flora in Alaska on the presidency of Barack Obama and his support of same sex marriage. 

She didn’t win, but nevertheless returned in 2015 to deliver an impressively deranged diatribe, complete with props, to the Anchorage city assembly in opposition to a proposed ordinance to forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It is worth a watch, but is impossible to sum up (the conclusion was “now, since you want to create some ordinance to avoid discrimination for members of our community who engage in, I perceive, unhealthy, ungodly behavior, you might want to consider creating an ordinance for one who speaks in tongues.”)

Diagnosis: Mostly colorful and fun, though these days we are never completely sure that people like this won’t get elected to the positions of power they are running for, so it might be worth keeping an eye on them. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

#2345: Larry Tomczak

Larry Tomczak is an apostolic leader, evangelist and founder and leader of the fundamentalist organization People of Destiny International. He has also been editor of the People of Destiny magazine and author of multiple books, notably Clap Your Hands, the Church Planters Handbook (with Dick Benjamin, Jim Durkin and Terry Edwards), The Bullseye Challenge and the disconcertingly titled The Little Handbook On Loving Correction: How To Raise Happy, Obedient, Respectful Children and God, the rod, and Your child’s bod: The art of loving correction for Christian parents. It should go without saying that you don’t take parenting advice from people like Larry Tomczak. He is also a longtime board-menber of the Intercessors for America ministry and Executive Director of The Awareness Group. 

However, no matter what hat he is wearing, Tomczak is tirelessly combatting the influence of Satan. Why do you think American media is so biased against wingnut conspiracy theorists? That’s Satan, of course. “For hundreds of years, our beloved nation enjoyed a blessed reprieve from many aspects of Satan’s reign because of the prevailing influence of the gospel and our Judeo-Christian foundations,” claims Tomczak (black people and native Americans were presumably treated according to the will of God), but “[i]n the past few decades America has drifted rapidly away from our heritage,” and rather fallen under the sway of Satan (apparently the election of Trump was a prophetic “breakthrough – Tomczak was positively giddy – though the more recent impeachment efforts have proved to him that “we are in perilous times of the Last Days.”). Though Tomczak has assiduously worked to reveal a variety of ways in which “the devil is using the Democratic Party to try to destroy America,” including the devil’s / Democratic party’s “6-point battle plan, you can probably guess which of the devil’s most “diabolical schemes” is most clearly being pushed and by whom.

Yes, it’s the gays
Tomczak is, as you predicted, virulently and unhingedly anti-gay, and he has claimed that gays will destroy America like the Nazis did to Germany. In particular, gay people and their allies are putting America “on the path to destruction,” and events that “brazenly celebrate, legitimize and promote the gay lifestyle in America” are just symptoms of the country’s “downward spiral” and gay “tsunami”; as Tomczak puts it, “[i]t would do us well to recall that in Nazi Germany, only a small percentage of the people were part of the Nazi party. Amid the atrocities, the overwhelming majority were apathetic and afraid to speak up [not actually accurate]… Is history repeating itself?” Yes, that’s the entirety of the parallel, and it’s based on an easily demonstrable falsehood. But accuracy is, of course, not a relevant parameter here. He later likened opposition to homosexuality – including “courageous” African countries that “outlaw homosexuality”, thus “standing strong amidst this moral storm” – to the fight against Nazis; indeed, as Tomczak sees it, we are already “in a civil war” over gay rights. God, of course, is on his side, and is already punishing gay men and lesbians by making them “effeminate” or “mannish,” with Tomczak citing Romans 1:27 to claim that gays and lesbians “receive in their own bodies the penalty for their sin.”

Otherwise, Tomczak promotes most of the standard bullshit myths, such as the pseudoscientific “findings” of Paul Cameron, about  how people “become gay,” for instance through “spousal and child abuse; media influence, pornography; absence of a father; childhood experience; experimentation; seduction and molestation by peers or authority figures; [and] misunderstanding ‘artistic’ bent.” And among allegedly prudential reasons you have for rejecting the homosexual lifestyle is of course the idea that it inevitably leads to disease and misery: “Engaging in sodomy with the sewage system of another’s anatomy is contrary to God’s design and it will bring inevitable consequences,” says Tomczak. He also promotes the ex-gay movement.

Tomczak on popular culture
Like many other religious rights activists, Tomczak is no fan of Beyoncé, and is deeply concerned that Michelle Obama is apparently a fan because Beyoncé’s music will “lead naive young girls on a dangerous path that could lead some even into sex trafficking” and ultimately “abuse, abortions and abasement-sometimes death.” Tomczak’s criticisms of popular culture also encompasses “former Christian Katy Perry flaunting her sex in a satanic witchcraft spectacle with fire, horned men and a sacrificial offering to … ?”, Emma Stone (who is “compromising to defile our daughters) and “closet lesbian” and same-sex-marriage supporter Queen Latifah. In general, Tomczak warns of the dangers of music festivals and says that if deceased rock stars could return to life, they would tell everyone to “steer clear” of rock music. He has also warned that “Archie comics embraces homosexuality, witchcraft demons and occult practices” and that the film “Love, Simon” is “a sham. It’s also another device of the devil to ‘steal, kill and destroy’ (John 10:10) our children.”

A particular nemesis is apparently Ellen DeGeneres, whom Tomczak has accused of recruiting children into homosexuality. When the accusation received some attention, Tomczak asserted that he was merely trying to create a respectful and civil dialogue regarding homosexuality, before insisting that Ellen and her “partner” (Tomczak’s scare quotes) are harming children and their caregivers, and that her marriage and support for marriage equality will potentially doom “5000 years of Western civilization” and “the future of our nation” because marriage equality “opens the floodgates for other arrangements and legitimizes a lifestyle replete with dangerous, at-risk sexual behavior such as HIV/AIDS and over 30 STDs that are endangering lives, jeopardizing healthcare and impacting our economy.” All in the name of respectfulness and civility, of course. He also insisted that he was simply speaking the truth by condemning homosexuality – his ability to assess what he says being what it is – just like Martin Luther King, Jr. denounced racism.

Duane “The Rock” Johnson, on the other hand, seems to be some kind of prophet – at least Tomczak thought his movie "San Andreas" was some kind of prophetic warning about the impending end times. But then, Tomczak sees signs of the end times everywhere, though mostly in conspiracy theories about things that simply never happened. In fact, Tomczak’s end game is somewhat unclear – on the one hand, he accuses gays and others (most people he disagrees with, in fact) of bringing about the end times, though on the other he is also literally and explicitly praying for God’s judgement to fall upon this nation because “apart from divine intervention in holy judgment, America will simply slide deeper down the spiral of sin and destruction.” It really does make it unclear what he is really trying to achieve here, but the source of any confusion is probably due to trying to ascribe coherence and sanity to Larry Tomczak.

To no one’s surprise, Tomczak is a creationist and angry critic of evolution, a theory he doesn’t begin to comprehend and which belongs to a field (science) he doesn’t begin to comprehend either and is therefore deeply mistrustful of. In a criticism of current depictions of the Scopes trial and its aftermath for the WND, Tomczak laid out his misunderstandings of evolution with great fervor – for instance, according to Tomczak, the theory of evolution is the “dogmatic theory taught in schools and perpetuated by Hollywood [?] that human beings accidentally evolved over billions of years by ‘natural selection’,” and it “is mind-boggling. It’s akin to postulating that the images on Mount Rushmore formed spontaneously”; Tomczak is clearly referencing our common understanding of Darwin’s theory of evolution by spontaneous random manifestation. And he does, of course, have some damning refutations – most of it familiar creationist talking points, but some of it a bit novel, for instance his observation that “[I]n his 160-year-old ‘Origin of the Species,’ Darwin stated, ‘Let us assume …’ or ‘We may well suppose …’ over 800 times! We’re supposed to acquiesce so our youth base their lives on assumptions rather than the authoritative Word of God.” So yes, we’re headed for the end times, and it is partially Darwin’s fault. “Christians are not to be silent bystanders in the face of this tsunami of secular humanism,” implores Tomczak.

Diagnosis: We’ll grudgingly recognize the ability of such deranged fundies to come up with novel expressions of lunacy – the topics and general gist are the same, of course, but Tomczak does admittedly manage to add some individual touches of color. He also wields a bit of influence, and must be considered moderately dangerous.