Posts from August 2003

A Brief Open Letter to an Anti-Semite

Do not worry, gentle reader: I’ll be wrapping up my discussion of recent events surrounding Roy Moore soon. First, however, I have a minor personal matter to get out of the way: a brief open letter to whoever it is who has been posting a number of comments lately to several unrelated entries on Geekery Today and my Letters to the Editor:

Dear Anti-Semitic Asshole:

I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know why you feel that my letters on the war in Afghanistan, prison overcrowding in Alabama, and other topics are crying out for incisive commentary like the following:

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL or ZIONAL? ** – Are there a true Amnesty International office in Swedish Kingdom? – No!.. We have multi-faced Amnesty Bolaget in SvekJa Kingdom!.. – What does “Bolag” means? – Financial coup runs by the Evangelian Jewish lobbies… Administration serves for the Zionist Imperialism, if you listen to the insider analysis…

[… And so on, and so forth …]

Whatever your reasons, however, this web page is not the place for off-topic, anti-Semitic diatribes. While I want to provide an open forum for commentary, including those with whom I strongly disagree, your long-wided conspiracy theory postings about the International Jewish ConspiracyTM‘s long arms in Swedish affairs do not have anything at all to do with any past comments or with any of the content on the pages. They are nothing more than hit and run spam that is wasting perfectly good space in my disk quota. They have, therefore, been deleted.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to put together and post some of my thoughts on the issue of anti-Semitism on the Left, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. What I have to say consists mostly of warnings from more than one direction–I think we need to be very critically aware both of the way that charges of anti-Semitism are wrongly used to abuse and dismiss critics of Israeli government policy, and also of the dangerously uncritical and cavalier atmosphere that the Left generally and the anti-occupation movement particularly have begun to take towards real, mounting problems of anti-Semitism in the movement and in the world at large–problems that need to be seriously faced down and critically confronted if we intend to do any work for justice. However, thanks to you, my dear anti-Semite, I will have to put all that on hold for the time being, because you offer no opportunity for constructive engagement or critical dialogue. You offer only off-topic bullshit that wastes perfectly good disk space on my web host.

Please do not continue to spread this blight on my web-page. You can use the time for many other productive purposes, such as seriously examining the worrisome trend of anti-Semitism in the international Left, or reading more about what horrors sprung up when the dragon’s teeth of anti-Semitism were last sown across the European continent.

Sincerely,

Charles W. Johnson
Author and Editor of Geekery Today

Glad Tidings, and More on Moore

Glad tidings! Today, Roy Moore faced an ethics panel for his defiance of a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building. And the news just in is that they have issued a formal complaint against Moore — suspending him from his duties on the Alabama Supreme Court while the complaint goes before the Court of the Judiciary. If the complaint is upheld in the Court, Moore could be removed from the bench — a victory not only for the rule of law, but for the people of Alabama: someone who is willing to defy a federal court order in order to pull a petty political stunt and push his fundamentalist agenda is a threat to all of us.

Whichever way it turns out, the Associate Justices have at least found the backbone to unanimously overrule Moore and order that the monument be removed from the rotunda [WSFA]. (They can overrule the normal administrative authority of the Chief Justice by a unanimous vote.) So the state of Alabama will most likely not be facing fines for non-compliance, and the damn thing will be moved.

This phase of the battle is winding down, and unless something unexpected happens, you can count on the story to drop out of the national limelight soon. Unfortunately, the whole chain of events has left the national press more or less mystified as to what was going on. Worse, they didn’t realize that they were mystified; they simply substituted their own cariacature of Southern politics for the facts of the matter — redneck jamboree might be an apt description of the picture you get of the events in Montgomery from the coverage in, say, the Washington Post or the New York Times. So let me take a moment to talk about some of these misconceptions.

First, while Moore certainly has a strong base of support amongst white conservatives in Alabama — that’s how he got elected, after all — the crazy-Right Christian fundamentalist demonstrators who have been picked out as mouthpieces for Moore are, by and large, not from Alabama. The events in Montgomery were coordinated on the ground by flacks of the Christian Coalition; supporting organizations flew people in from nearly every state. Although there were certainly Alabamians demonstrating outside of the courthouse, local newsreporters found that they were distinctly a minority amidst the crowds brought in by the Christian Defense Council, Christian Coalition, and others. Meanwhile in television punditry, the only major Alabama faces were John Giles of the Alabama Christian Coalition and Roy Moore himself. Most commentary came from yet more out-of-state professional Christians, such as representatives from Concerned Women for America.

The point of all this is that national media has gotten it wrong about who they are reporting on; it’s not a matter of Alabamians, but rather a matter of the nation-wide network of Religious Right fundamentalists, who happen to be using events in Alabama as their focal point. To say that this reflects one way or another on Alabama is no more accurate than to say the 500 attendees of Southern Girls Convention 2001 in Auburn make Alabama a hotbed of radical feminist activism.

Closely related to this misunderstanding are the incessant comparisons that the national press makes between Roy Moore and George Wallace. Sure, both of them are Southern demagogues who rode a hard Right white quasi-populism to public office and national attention. Sure, both of them acted in defiance of federal courts demanding protection of the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Sure, both of them had a penchant for flamboyant confrontation and ultimately served to embarass the state of Alabama in the national spotlight. But the similarities end there. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of Roy Moore’s position and his motivations to read this as just another crisis over the powers of Southern states vis-a-vis the federal government. Although some of those supporting Roy Moore have given states’ rights as a reason against obeying the federal court, that is not the primary reasons that Roy Moore gives. Here are the reasons that Moore gives:

Separation of church and state never was meant to separate God from our government. It was never meant to separate God from our law.

The question is not whether I will remove the monument. It is not a question of whether I will disobey or obey a court order. The real question is whether or not I will deny the God that created us.

It’s not about states’ rights for Moore; it’s about Jesus. The issue is not his understanding of federalism but rather his understanding of the proper relationship between God and the State. His aims are not decentralist, but rather theocratic. To fail to understand this is to fail to understand the new breed of confrontational conservatism that Moore and his followers represent — a breed of conservatism that the Religious Right has been spreading for the past 30 years or so now.

Complaining about the Yankee press, of course, is not to say that there are not plenty of homegrown misunderstandings of Moore — there are lots, coming from his own defenders. But comments on the Right-wing deviationists will have to wait for a while. In the meantime, let’s just bask in the glow of these happy events: Roy Moore is suspended from his position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Hosanna, and amen.

For further reading:

Hallelujah, and Amen

At the time I am writing this, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court has been in contempt of a federal court for half an hour. As of 12:00am he carried his battle against the Establishment Clause to a new level, as he officially stood in defiance of a federal court order to remove his two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. In the process, he has created a national media circus; he has become yet another embarassment for Alabama in the Yankee press; and his actions may end up costing the State Treasury at the tune of some $5,000 / day if U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson makes good on the fine that he says he has been mulling over. But, as someone who’s spent the majority of my life in Alabama, right now I can feel nothing but excitement as Moore makes his lawless stand.

Why is that, you ask? Well, for those who have not followed Moore over the past decade or so of his career, he has made a long career of confrontational theocratic politics, from the original battle over his display of the Ten Commandments and other conduct in his Etowah County Circuit Court, to his ascent to the position of Chief Justice, to his use of the position to issue virulently homophobic tirades masquerading as case law. He is, at best, a dangerous zealot who is willing to use the State’s power of the sword to further his own ends. At worst, he is a demagogue and a charlatan blasphemously using a confrontational form of fundamentalist Christianity to pull media stunts for his own political and financial advancement. My own suspicion is that he is both–that he honestly believes in a version of fundamentalist Christianity that is actually much closer to a form of Gnosticism, a modern-day Right-wing revivalism that legitimates the use of such confrontational tactics and phony martyrdom.

Whatever his real motivations are, his presence on the Supreme Court bench in the state of Alabama has been a terrible liability for the state, and the more blatantly lawless he becomes, the worse it gets. The reason I am so excited is that Moore has gone too far out on thin ice. Tomorrow, the Southern Poverty Law Center will file a motion for him to be found in contempt of court, and if we are lucky, it will land his sorry ass in jail. More to the point, however, the SPLC is also initiating an ethics complaint against Moore, since his defiance of a federal court order is in obvious violation of several sections of the Canon of Judicial Ethics of the Code of Alabama. Moore’s latest exercise in demagoguery has given our state a wonderful opportunity–that is, it has made it quite likely that he will be thrown out of the Supreme Court within a matter of weeks.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t very much like petty vengeance in politics. I don’t usually delight in the misfortunes of people that I disagree with, even politicians that I loathe. It doesn’t fill me with glee to see Roy Moore act in defiance of the Constitution and the federal courts, or to know that it may well result in trouble for him. What makes me happy, and excited, is the prospect of a threat removed–I’m glad that very soon Moore may no longer pose a threat to the judicial system of Alabama.

(N.B.: Watch this space for more on the morrow. I have some more to say about Moore, as well as the local and national media coverage of the fracas. But it can wait; tonight I just want to celebrate the very real possibility of Moore’s impending fall.)

For further reading: