Get your Rapture hats ready, kiddies! The sky is falling, and our wise gift of nuclear winter will propel us all into the loving arms of the all-knowing and all-everywhere G-d.


American Military & American Propaganda (Book Notes: Operation Hollywood)

No one will be surprised to hear that the American government generally and the military in particular have engaged in deliberate propaganda efforts. Despite this, few people are aware of the extent to which such propaganda efforts exist - and the sorts of propaganda which is created. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it appears that little which the government tells us can be trusted. Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies

In Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, David L. Robb writes:

In “spreading the faith,” facts rarely appear to be a barrier to a good story — from the military’s perspective. For example, military and intelligence sources framed an account of Pfc. Jessica Lynch that was almost entirely manufactured for public appeal. With a headline proclaiming that Lynch was “fighting to the death,” the Washington Post cited military sources to give a breathless account of how the supply clerk fought Rambo-style in close combat until she was wounded and captured. The tale of her rescue was equally breathless and equally false — based on an edited Pentagon video showing Special Forces giving the appearance they were under fire as they whisked the heroine away.

Stating that the rescue “did not happen” like the military said, Lynch objected that “the military used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. . . . [I]t hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about.” After Lynch came forward with the true account, the film Saving Private Lynch was dropped, after a chorus of criticism, the military dropped the use of its sensational rescue film.

The military created a myth out of Jessica Lynch because a myth was useful both for selling the war to the public as well as for encouraging more people to join the military. In effect, the government was acknowledging that it’s best case for getting people to support the invasion of Iraq needed to be built upon deception and falsehood rather than the truth — after all, if telling the truth would have served just as well, there would have been no reason to create the lies. People only lie when the truth is inadequate to their purposes; governments lie when they don’t want the public to know the truth.

Unfortunately, in a democracy it is indispensable that the people be told the truth — a democracy is founded upon the principle that the people are sovereign, but people are unable to exercise that sovereignty if they are not adequately informed both about what is going on in the world as well as about what their government is doing in their name. Propaganda created by the government undermines this process by feeding people falsehoods and misinformation, thus preventing them from properly exercising their sovereignty and making responsible decisions about who will govern.

After a certain point, propaganda is an exercise in tyranny because it is an attempt to get people to make pre-determined decisions on the basis of false information created precisely for that purpose. Such propaganda is most likely created either by leaders who are afraid of what the people will decide if they learn the truth or by leaders who don’t trust the people to make the right decisions if they learn the truth. Either way, such leaders are trying to deny the people the ability to make informed, responsible decisions as is their right in a democratic system.

If you can’t trust the government to tell you the truth about what it’s doing and why it’s doing it, then you can’t trust the government to make responsible decisions and do the right thing. This makes the need to take power from such people especially imperative because they are exercising power and authority in our name, but in an irresponsible and untrustworthy manner.


Read More Book Notes from the Book Reviews on this site.

Friday August 25, 2006 | comments (0)

Puritan Theology and Evangelical Christians (Book Notes: American Jesus)

For modern Christians, Jesus is the focus of everything they believe and do. What many don't realize, though, is that Jesus wasn't always the focus of American Christians. In the past, God was the focus - even to the point of Jesus being shoved out of the picture.

In American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, Stephen Prothero writes: American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon

The Puritans... were a God-fearing rather than a Jesus-loving people, obsessed not with God’s mercy but with His glory, not with the Son but with the Father. The logic of Puritan theology turned on what the theologian Karl Barth, in “The Epistle to the Romans,” would later describe as an “infinite, qualitative distinction” between a righteous God and sinful humanity. In that system, there was some space for Christ, though that space was carefully circumscribed. He was the incarnate God who came to earth to suffer and die on the cross in order to reconcile the sinful elect to his angry Father. [...]

Evangelicals, instead of defining Jesus in terms of God, increasingly came to define God in terms of Jesus. God was loving and merciful, they argued, and His character was most clearly manifest in Jesus... but as evangelicals weighed the challenges of modernity, two distinct positions emerged. Those positions began to harden as evangelicals debated the proper role of Christianity in society. Conservatives faced modernity by holding fast to the inspiration of the Bible. Liberals responded by carving out a mediating position (often referred to as the “New Theology” ) between capitulation to modern thought and rejection of it.

Perhaps what is most interesting about this is not the fact that people don’t realize it, but how the shift in focus has also led to a shift in doctrine, theology, and attitudes. There are obviously quite a few differences between the Christianity of early Americans and the Christianity of modern evangelicals.

At the same time, though, there is some continuity. Conservative evangelicals have retained a fear of God — how similar is that to the fear experienced by Puritans? Perhaps conservatives’ continuing emphasis on fearing God is tied to their emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible. Liberals can afford to gloss over the passages where God is obviously acting like a vicious tyrant, but conservatives cannot — and it’s unlikely they would want to. They need a vengeful God in order to fuel their ideology of retribution for the cultural decline they see around them.


Read More Book Notes from the Book Reviews on this site.

Sunday August 27, 2006 | comments (2)

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