Saturday, October 4, 2014

The reality of evil & videos- scapegoating the innocent

This is about human evil via two very different radical feminists. It is also about how a failed view of human nature too often leads to greater evil. One of the radical feminists, Naomi Wolf posted on her Facebook page her thoughts about ISIL and the beheadings of innocents, the other radical feminist, Camille Paglia, wrote an article, “The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend evil,” which is published on Time's news site.
Wolf is an author and activist I used and quoted in my master’s thesis. Her latest book is “Give Me Liberty: A Handbook For American Revolutionaries,” and one of her more popular books is “The Beauty Myth.” On her blog she states that she is co-founder of “The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership” and “The American Freedom Campaign.”

Wolf on her Facebook page posted her thoughts, about ISIL and their beheadings. Because a reporter who covered the NYT’s article about the beheadings and ISIL questioned her integrity on posting the information and gave her more information she removed her posting just several hours after I began work on this post.* But here is what she wrote:

“Ok….two of the hostages just happened to go from long careers into the military to…sudden humanitarian work? (same was true of the latest British hostage.) Where are they getting all these folks from? If someone is abducted there is a record with Amnesty and with Reporters without Borders. Can someone please confirm that these organizations have any record of this person having been abducted? The NYT yesterday ran a depressingly sloppy editorial claiming that all the ISIS beheading videos and atrocity videos must be real because "there are so many of them on youtube." THAT's journalism??? They also called ISIS "evil" many times -- which is not language of a news analysis, it is a theological category for some faiths and a Global War on Terror talking point… this may all be true but it takes five people to stage an event like this -- two to be 'parents' -- two to pose for in a ninja outfit….and one to contact the media that does not bother checking who ANY Of these other four people are....…/isis-militants-threaten-kill-a…

Following this posting of Wolf’s were many comments speculating and even insisting that the YouTube videos were all faked and produced by Israel, or the United States or both. Wolf went on later to try and avoid criticism by suggesting that she was just asking for better reports.  She never denounced those who tried to make a conspiracy theory out of the beheadings. She attempted to safe guard her statement by saying yes she believed ISIL was “Very, Very, bad.” But even after taking her posting down Wolf is still complaining. Her words:

“For the record…sigh…internetland, I am not "calling into question the authenticity of the ISIS videos." I don't KNOW if they are authentic or not -- no one can -- because no one that I am aware of has found a second source for them. I am not making ANY assertions or drawing ANY conclusions. I am just…engaging in journalism which requires two independent sources before you can post or publish something as true. I wonder why this bears so much repeating….it used to be something all journalists abided by.”

But seemingly, Wolf didn’t do any double checking herself. She could have researched the parents and friends—they did have friends—of those who died at the hands of ISIL. She should have noted that even government agencies were cautious about the videos until they were confirmed as real. If anyone is doing bad reporting and wild speculation it is truly Wolf. But my point here is that as it happens too many times, failure to accept the evil inherent in all of us—in humanity, leads to gross scapegoating. Wolf is willing to accuse the Western governments. Her readers truly wanted to pin the awful episodes on Israel. They probably still do. And this is where Paglia’s article, “The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend evil,” is helpful.

The first time I became aware of Paglia, she was on a team of women, including Betty Friedman, debating William Buckley, Ariana Huffington, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and another woman whose name I don’t remember. The debate centered on whether the feminist movement had lost its way over the abortion movement. Paglia was plucky and Buckley wished her on his side. She didn’t budge.

Paglia, who sometimes surprises her readers, writes about the vulnerability of young college women who are led to believe that all attempts by males to have sex with them are simply misguided efforts, a part of the “hook up” culture. As Paglia puts it, “Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark.” She blames both progressives and conservatives. But Paglia’s words about progressives are stinging:

“The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.

Liberalism lacks a profound sense of evil — but so does conservatism these days, when evil is facilely projected onto a foreign host of rising political forces united only in their rejection of Western values. Nothing is more simplistic than the now rote use by politicians and pundits of the cartoonish label “bad guys” for jihadists, as if American foreign policy is a slapdash script for a cowboy movie.”

And here is the big problem—Paglia’s words—a lack of a profound sense of evil. Wolf cannot envision any human removing the head of another in the name of their ideology. Most of us can’t but it isn’t because of our ideology, it isn’t the backbone of our understanding of human nature. We know humanity is evil. We know what evil is. We are not surprised by it. No scapegoating allowed. As Pogo says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

So as Christians, who understand that one of the truths about our humanity is the existence of evil, in us and outside of us, we also believe in redemption.  When one acknowledges real personal evil, one can also acknowledge redemption.

Wolf only makes it more difficult when after all is said and hopefully done, she links to a news item reporting on the UN’s report of ISIL’s horrific deeds. She acknowledges that they are, “super, super bad,” but then in the comment section cannot refrain from writing, “Still can't help asking….if they are in charge in that region, why the masks?” Once again, terrible comments follow which she allows and even in at least one case praises.

Thomas doubted the goodness of the resurrection because he knew the evil and reality of the crucifixion. Wolf doubts the great evil and danger in ISIL because she doubts the evil of the human heart. And perhaps in doubting doubts redemptive grace, while perpetrating additional evil.  So likewise do too many of us.

* The changing Facebook of Wolf: She now writes that she stands by her original post and adds this:

"On a larger picture note: had an evening with a group of well-informed international attorneys and prosecutors. A Pakistani lawyer who is a fourth-genera...tion scion of a major Pakistani political family explained what I keep hearing from many parts of the plugged in educated elite of the Middle East: ISIS, he said, is grassroots Wahabism - the extreme and brutal "version" of Islam (many moderates say it bears no likeness to Islam.) But these grassroots, uneducated, extremist people are funded heavily by a) Saudi Arabia b) Israel (!) and c) America. Why? I asked. He replied: Saudi Arabia which has 14,000 princes and princesses -- vast wealth -- wants to replicate its extremist version of Islam around the world for ideological reasons and have endless resources to do so. B) Israel has long had a policy of 'divide and conquer" Muslim states and wants an alliance with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to go up against Assad and Iran (this is the third solid source we are hearing this 'new alliance" from.) He said that Israel has heavily infiltrated the Egyptian army and security services by bribery, which is one reason Egypt did nothing for Gaza but close its borders.And C) America has several powerful factions: Big Oil, war interests, right wing christians, AIPAC, the Armenians (!) who are trying to organize like AIPAC, and Arabists, who are the only groups who care about what happens in the Middle East. And they all mint money and prestige by having a brutal Muslim threat on the horizon."

Wolf's anti-Semitism is huge.


Jeff Winter said...

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is desperately wicked; who can understand it.

Viola Larson said...

Exactly Jeff.

Mark Ian said...

Ironic that these 'experts' cite money as the root of the evil from the Saudis and Israel. The PCUSA, at last count, has a $6 billion dollar endowment. That money isn't corrupting the leadership? They're not using it for political gain and ignoring ministry and mission? They don't bribe and threaten using funds as a weapon?
Our church saw that they did, and we left and took 1500 members over to ECO.
Thanks for the post!