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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This Fluff Was from Its Screening Room Untimely Ripped

Red [and they mean that] alert! Red alert! There has been a security breech [sic] at the Expelled moon base! We need to raise a lot of money to encircle the moon with our space ships and prevent the Reds from seeing this film before it opens in Februar - uh, April, and in - well, wherever it's supposed to be playing.

We already had our first security breech [sic] and are asking YOU now for your support to stand up for EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. Hosted by Ben Stein, EXPELLED contains a critical message at a critical time. As an underdog in Hollywood right now, we need your support.
Recently Robert Moore, a film critic from The Orlando Sentinel pretending to be a minister, snuck into a private screening, did not sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and criticized the film the next day in his article.
Moore compared Stein, who is Jewish, to Holocaust Deniers and charge that Stein's linking of Darwinism to the Holocaust was "despicable." Stein states, "The only thing I find despicable is when reporters sneak into screenings by pretending to be ministers. This is a new low even for liberal reporters."

As someone who's been a film reviewer, this just makes me want to cry with laughter. If someone had made a film with this plot, I wouldn't have believed it. I would have ripped that film for being utterly preposterous.

Robert Moore was invited to attend the Expelled screening! We don’t sneak into films just to ruin anyone’s premier (or preview), honest.

This reminds me of the drama that ensued when I was the only person (as far as I know) on the fucking planet to review a hideously sophomoric novel that tried to be both a Philip Marlowe rip-off and a public service announcement about wife battering. The (very liberal) author, having just whined on MPR about how nobody was reviewing his book, slammed me in the next issue of Twin Cities Revue for my “subjective” “trashing” of his “art.” Well, the only claim to objectivity this hack had was a correspondence writing course, which he actually bragged about in his author’s bio! Holy cow, you do not do that! To get the last laugh I snuck into his disastrous book signing at Barnes & Noble and giggled in a corner as his blank-faced friends stood figeting at his lonely table. Good times. :-)

Ben Stein’s paranoia has now reached a fever pitch. I’m sure in response to this “news” we’ll get a flutter of breathless blog posts from self-styled evangelical gadflies who think that education consists of puerile arguments launched from one side to the other in “Crossfire” fashion while engaging in the same repetitive, popular foolishness, the madness of the crowd.

As for me, upon reading Christopher Hitchens’ thoughts on anti-Semitism in the latest Atlantic Monthy, I had this to say at AtBC to one of the writers for Expelled (isn't the internet wonderful?) about Ben Stein:

"You may be interested in Christopher Hitchens' essay about anti-Semitism (Hitchens is particularly enraged by it) in the current Atlantic Monthly. What is particularly revealing, in my opinion, are the parallels between it and the arguments made (including those by Ben Stein) against evolutionary theory:

Political anti-Semitism in its more modern form often de-emphasized the supposed murder of Christ in favor of polemics against monopolies and cartels, leading the great German Marxist August Bebel to describe its propaganda as “the socialism of fools.” Peter Pulzer’s essential history of anti-Semitism in pre-1914 Germany and Austria, which shows the element of populist opportunism in the deployment of the Jew-baiting repertoire, is, among other things, a great illustration of that ironic observation. And then there is the notion of the Jews’ lack of rooted allegiance: their indifference to the wholesome loyalties of the rural, the hierarchical, and the traditional, and their concomitant attraction to modernity. Writing from the prewar Balkans in her Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West noticed this suspicion at work in old Serbia and wrote:

'Now I understand another cause for anti-Semitism; many primitive peoples must receive their first intimation of the toxic quality of thought from Jews. They know only the fortifying idea of religion; they see in Jews the effect of the tormenting and disintegrating ideas of skepticism.'

The best recent illustration of that point that I know comes from Jacobo Timerman, the Argentine Jewish newspaper editor who was kidnapped and tortured by the death-squad regime in his country in the late 1970s. In his luminous memoir, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, he analyzes the work of the neo-Nazi element that formed such an important part of the military/clerical dictatorship, and quotes one of the “diagnoses” that animated their ferocity: "Argentina has three main enemies: Karl Marx, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of society; Sigmund Freud, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of the family; and Albert Einstein, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of time and space." [emphases mine]

"Note that Albert Einstein has now been replaced by Charles Darwin. Note also that 'Darwinism' is, as was Jewry, portrayed simultaneously as a hideously strong force about to overwhelm the nations, and as on the brink of collapse.

Anti-Semitism is an elusive and protean phenomenon, but it certainly involves the paradox whereby great power is attributed to the powerless. In the mind of the anti-Jewish paranoid, some shabby bearded figure in a distant shtetl is a putative member of a secret world government: hence the enduring fascination of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. (Incidentally, it is entirely wrong to refer to this document of the Czarist secret police as “a forgery.” A forgery is a counterfeit of a true bill. The Protocols are a straightforward fabrication, based on medieval Christian fantasies about Judaism.)

"ID has its lengthy record of straightforward fabrication as well.

That is perhaps what distinguishes it from other forms of racism. Almost every tribe or ethnicity has a rival tribe or ethnicity that it views as inferior or dirtier or more primitive: the Hutu with the Tutsi, the Sinhalese with the Tamil, the Ulster Protestant with the Irish Catholic, and so forth. The “other” group will invariably be found to have a different smell, a higher birthrate, and a lazier temperament. These poor qualities are sometimes attributed even by Jews to Jews: elevated German and Austrian Jews once wrinkled their nostrils at the matted sidelocks and large families of the poor Ostjuden who had come from the backwoods of Galicia and Silesia; and Ashkenazi-Se­phardic rivalry in Israel sometimes recalls and resembles this hostility. But garden-variety racists do not usually suspect the objects of their dislike of secretly manipulating the banks and the stock markets and of harboring a demonic plan for world domination.

"Note now this quote from Stein [from his infamous New York Times column]:

Just as a tiny example, years ago a close friend, now deceased, was a trader in London for a big financial house. As he told it, one day I.B.M. came out with stellar numbers. The boss of the trading floor said, “O.K., the guy who’s getting the prize is the one who can make us money selling I.B.M. short.”
So the traders grabbed for their phones and started to put out any bad thoughts they could dream up about I.B.M. They called journalists, retailers, anyone. They sold huge amounts of I.B.M. short. Soon, they had I.B.M. on the run, made money on their shorts and went to Langan’s to drink champers.
As I see it, this is what traders do all day long — and especially what they’ve been doing since the subprime mess burst upon the scene. They have seized upon a fairly bad situation: a stunning number of defaults and foreclosures in the subprime arena, although just a small part of the total financial picture of the United States. They have then tried — with the collaboration of their advance guards in the press — to make it seem like a total catastrophe so they could make money on their short sales. They sense an opportunity to trick other traders and poor retail slobs like you and me, and they generate data and rumor to support their positions, and to make money.
MORE than that, they trade to support the way they want the market to go. If they are huge traders like some of the major hedge funds, they can sell massively and move the market downward, then suck in other traders who go short, and create a vacuum of fear that sucks down whatever they are selling.
Note what is happening here: They are not figuring out which way the market will go. They are making the market go the direction they want.

Weeks before this it was Goldman Sachs out to corner the market and dominate the world. Stein's allegedly being no one's toady does not rule out his having a blind spot to his embracing of this absurd archetype of paranoiac revelation, in his own words, of cliches such as "the scales fell from my eyes." I am not a biologist, but a scholar of languages and literature. The use of rhetoric, special pleading, and emotional manipulation, as opposed to sound arguments, in both of these cases leaps out at one."

It certainly does leap out at one, and the bright spot in all of this is, ideas have validity when they stand the test of time, and scholars are going to have real fun with this phenomenon in the coming years. I certainly look forward to researching the making of this film, Expelled, for therein lies the real story. From what I have seen so far of the behavior of Stein, his producers, and his writers, I can only guess at the treasures that await me. Hand-picked audiences, non-disclosure statements, a security “breech” – this film is certainly experiencing a painful birth! Come April, will it be aborted or replaced with a changeling? What will posterity say about this film?

I can guess.

Shimmies to Pharyngula.

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Blogger Nebulous said...

That was a very interesting post! I'd seen ads for "Expelled" a while back in some debate forums, but haven't heard a thing about it since. Seems like they intended for the film to go mainstream and challenge secular minds (ha), but apparently it's so ludicrous that even Ben Stein doesn't want it shown to the general public. Self-defeating! The funniest part was the accusation of sneaking into the film. "You cheater! You're not supposed to see that!"

Also sounds like the film is a bunch of rehashed, classic theist arguments; basically, that secular thought is the root of all evil. As the Christian mythology and belief sets get older and older (and more noticeably ridiculous), people are really having to struggle to keep it from becoming obsolete. First it was the humiliating defeat of "intelligent design" in public schools (humiliating because the proponents were so dishonest), and now it's linking anti-semitism to Darwinism. Regardless of the fact that it's a silly argument, why would you make a film about that now? Is anti-semitism a raging problem these days?

March 06, 2008 11:54 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Actually, I think that anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head again. It was not too long ago that some fundy group called evolution a Zionist plot or something like that! I'll try to find the link, but I think they took the page down.

March 06, 2008 4:34 PM  

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