Rightwing Film Geek

Lab-coat Killers

This is the kind of news that makes you angry at God for not smiting the people doing this and raining fire on the culture that loves it. Some Korean scientists have cloned human beings and then killed them at the embryo stage for use as spare parts. And this is hailed as a great scientific breakthrough, because these Dr. Frankensteins succeeded for the first time in actually harvesting the cells they wanted, actually getting the gold from the teeth. Though not without some collateral damage: “the Seoul team … succeeded in cloning 30 blastocysts — early-stage embryos containing a mere 100 cells. From those, they harvested just one colony of stem cells.”

This is murder, blessed by a lab coat. Which of course means, in the Culture of Death, that the “objective” media will hail it as a very good thing. And sure enough, they got as weak-kneed as a bobby-soxer within 100 feet of Frank Sinatra. This is the sort of story that tells me that the so-called “objectivity” of the mainstream media is nothing but a sham. Several things worth noting about the first version of the Associated Press story.

We aren’t even finished with the first paragraph before we get told of all the wonderful things cloning does. The third paragraph begins “This is not cloning to make babies” (can you hear the writer emphasize the word NOT, NOT, NOT, DAMMIT?) as though some other purpose makes it something other than cloning. It is reassuring, though, that this “cloning” is not gonna result in something as horrible as babies. Can’t have that, can we, in this overpopulated, messed-up world?

The rest of the paragraph gives us a soothing bit of doublespeak — “embryos … are grown … to supply,” like they were a herd of cattle and with no mention of how this “supplying” is achieved. The herd needs to be culled, though at least the farm industry is honest enough to call them “slaughterhouses.” In fact, you’ll see words like “kill” or “slaughter” more often in stories about mad cow disease than about human embryo and tissue research.

Throughout, the story pays obeisance and hinges around this nonexistent and evil (CQ) distinction, dreamed up by self-justifying researchers and medical “ethicists” (sic), between “therapeutic cloning” and “reproductive cloning.”

Since when have medical or scientific procedures been distinguished according to the use to which identical products from the identical process would be put? It’s like saying there’s some ontological or definitional difference between building “bank-robber getaway cars” and “nursing-home trip cars.” It is pure euphemism designed to hoodwink gullible people and illiterate lawmakers into thinking scientists aren’t “really” cloning human beings, and thus what they are doing is somehow morally acceptable. But cars is cars. Judging from history on partial-birth abortion, you almost expect the next edition of the AP stylebook to make the preferred style “so-called ‘cloning’,” or “the procedure opponents refer to as ‘cloning’.”

Then in the 15th paragraph of the story that we get this little sentence. “Culling stem cells from embryos kills them…” What is so remarkable about this is not just that it uses the world “kills,” but that it considers 14 paragraphs of material somehow more important than this indisputable scientific fact about “culling” — what an unintentionally revealing metaphor, human beings as livestock herd. Imagine, if you can, 14 paragraphs about Jack Kevorkian (or a state executioner, pick according to ideological fancy) “giving chemicals” and “providing injections” and then a casual aside about the fact that people die from these “chemicals” and “injections.” No worry; they were just culled from the herd so to speak. Actually, my 10 years as a daily newspaper wire editor tells me I hardly have to “imagine” such blowsy euphemism in stories about subjects such as abortion, euthanasia or the other Blessed Sacraments.

What’s even more contemptible and disgusting is that later write-thrus of the AP story in question, such as this one, cut that paragraph down, and eliminated the word “kills.” But it keeps this odd locution: “Bush administration policy forbids any federally funded research on stem cells from embryos destroyed after Aug. 9, 2001.” How is “embryos destroyed after …” in any sense different from “embryos killed after …”? Oh, it’s less direct all right and different in connotation. The word even has literal meanings other than “kill”: “The detonation destroyed the building and cleared the way for a new development”; or “Manning destroyed the Chiefs secondary, throwing five TD passes and no interceptions.” Something tells me that was the point.

But journalists are supposed to be the enemies of obfuscation, cant and euphemism. Either “culling” does not mean killing, and hence “destroyed” is inappropriate; or it does, in which case, it’s euphemistic in meaning and the story also buries the most-important detail. Why bury the fact that human embryo research kills the human embryos? To ask the question is to answer it.

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February 12, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

The Kazan haters

It’s unfortunately not on the Web site, but the December issue of The Atlantic has a postmortem on Elia Kazan from conservative writer Mark Steyn, in a bit of a reined-in writing persona compared to what he did at, e.g. the American Spectator. Steyn has an interesting take on a film (GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT) that I found pretty weak but Steyn makes me want to see it again. But most importantly, he states bluntly the principle behind supporting Kazan.

kazan.jpgBut the arts have little time for anti-Communists, especially premature anti-Communists, especially as premature as Kazan: he quit the party in 1936, after he’d refused to help it turn the Group Theatre into an actors’ collective …

But if we were to frame Kazan’s testimony to HUAC in terms of personal loyalty, what about his responsibility to, say, Vsevolod Meyerhold? When Kazan joined the Group, straight out of Yale, the company looked to the Russians for inspiration — not just to Stanislavsky, but also to his wayward disciple Meyerhold. The latter was a great mentor to the young Kazan and other Group members. This was a period, remember, when the Group frequently visited Russia; [Waiting For] Lefty, for example, was staged in Moscow. Meyerhold loved the older stylized forms — commedia dell’arte, pantomime — and refused to confine himself to Socialist Realism. So Stalin had him arrested and executed.

Think about that: murdered over a difference of opinion about a directing style. As ‘persecution’ goes, that’s a lot more thorough than forcing some screenwriter to work on a schlock network variety show under a false name.

And that really says it all about why I scorn the professional anti-McCarthyites, and why Kazan’s memory was honored by these rodents’ hate. Any comparison or parallel between McCarthyism, HUAC, loyalty oaths and the rest of it and the *ordinary way of doing business* in the Soviet Union is obscene. Anyone who’d make it has no sense of proportion or a sense of what a monstrous evil Communism was, and therefore thus how derivatively evil supporting it was.

November 24, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a theater …

christcross.jpg

Well, that’s not exactly what the New York Post did in its forum Monday on THE PASSION OF CHRIST (now only available here; scroll down to the post by “respaul” at 00:15, 22-11-03). There’s an academic professor of theology, standing in for the Protestant minister, though she has an Italian-sounding name. There’s also a Post reader and one of its film critics. Follow the links at the end of the main page for their reactions from each of the individuals. (Aside: one of the reasons I don’t like to read newspapers outside work is that I find myself looking at them with a professional’s eye — I can’t look at the second page of the spread on the hard copy of the paper without realizing that the dominant art, a still from THE PASSION OF CHRIST, has been flip-flopped.)

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The intro material repeats the meme that Gibson has violated the Second Vatican Council’s denunciation of the deicide libel in Nostra Aetate, but it at least actually quotes what the Council said, which is revealing: “what happened in [Christ’s] Passion cannot be charged against all the Jews without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” But in Rabbi Robert Levine’s hands, that statement becomes the claim that the movie “undermines the 1965 Vatican II declaration that Jews are not responsible for the death of Christ.” When you realize and have pondered on the difference between those two statements, you’ll have a sense of why I have so much scorn for the ADL and its ilk on this topic. In fact Nostra Aetate specifically does *not* say with the Rabbi says it does. Right before the part the Post quotes, it reads: “Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ …” The mere fact that one portrays some Jews demanding Christ’s blood does not make a film contrary to Church teaching. As usual, what Vatican 2 actually *says* is the opposite of what some theologians discern its “spirit” to mean.

Rabbi Levine is fibbing, unless Gibson does something specific to endorse intergenerational, collective guilt (the fact it is generally considered an absurd idea today means that the presumed default from silence is that the film doesn’t endorse it) or to tie the Jews of 1st century Jerusalem to the Jews of today. And e.g., the fact that Christians who have seen the film said Gibson excluded Matthew 27:25: “His blood be upon us and our children,” suggests he doesn’t do that. The Rabbi doesn’t say to the contrary (in fact, I was generally dissatisfied with the Rabbi’s review in that it served up the same ADL talking points and he *could* have written it without having seen it). The problem, I suspect, is that Rabbi Levine seems to be looking at the film qua Jew, i.e. his primary interest in THE PASSION OF CHRIST is its representation of Jews. Maybe that how a Jew would view it, and so he’ll be offended by *any* reasonably faithful depiction of the Gospels. Nothing I can say to that.

castelli.jpgBut if we are gonna be making *predictions* about hate crimes, or ripping the scabs off, or inspiring violence against Jews, like the theologian Elizabeth Castelli does, then you just as clearly, for that purpose, have to privilege how actual Christians (or atheists/agnostics too I guess, but that’s really not what people have been talking about) see the film, what their reaction will be to THE PASSION OF CHRIST. Cuz *they’re* the ones that supposedly are gonna be motivated to go out and Jew-bash. For one thing, Jews have no more to say on the matter of Christian consumption than I do to their offense-taking. And for another Castelli can complain all she wants about ahistoricity, the latest scholarship and Mel’s ignoring “years of important work … between Jews and Christians on understanding the effect of the Passion narrative on their relationship.” (Can you hear the “don’t crap in my garden” tone there?) She can be as right as rain theologically, but unless Christians react in her predicted way, the whole dispute is academic, in the worst sense.

And the reaction of the one panel member, Joan Wilson, who was not a professional theologian or minister was instructive about what I think will be both the dominant reaction of the Christians who see the film (assuming, as I must, that it doesn’t anachronistically pander to contemporary Jewish stereotypes). I also think she represents the dominant view among Christians today — that portraying 1st century Jews as out for Jesus’ blood in no way implies guilt on the Jews of today, whatever might have been true in other times. As Wilson puts it: Caiaphas “was doing what he believed he had to do to protect his faith … a Catholic or a Protestant would have defended his religion too.” And again, unless the film plays down the Jewishness of Jesus of Nazareth and all His early followers (which is nowhere to my knowledge charged and is contradicted by every Christian to my knowledge who has seen the film and spoken to that matter specifically), it is simply nuts to come away from an internecine dispute among two groups of Jews and blame “the Jews.” Or to put it bluntly, the rabbi and the theologian are going into the film, looking to take offense. And such people can always find what they’re looking for. Or to put it even more bluntly, the ADL and the rest have effectively poisoned the well against Gibson’s film.

lumenick.jpgI also predict that Lou Lumenick’s reaction on this matter, two handwringing paragraphs (“deeply troubling”) that make a concession before soberly siding with the ADL et al, will be the commonest one among daily newspaper critics. The alt-weeklies and the committed-left journals will … um … crucify the film and Gibson.

Since I slagged on the Rabbi, let me spend at least as much time on the priest, Father Mark Hallinan. If you can get past the phrase: “It doesn’t touch on the values that [Christ] represented and that continue to be a positive force in the world today,” without wanting to say “oh, come off it,” you’re a better man than I, Gunga Din. “Values”? “Positive force”? This is the language of a Jesuit? (Don’t answer.)

fatherhallinan.jpgThe priest at least provided some specifics about the film, so I have to defer to him on those. But he got my blood boiling with this little crack: “Unsophisticated people viewing the film will see Jews as cold, heartless people.” How does a man with advanced theology degrees know how “unsophisticated” (what a Spongian term!!) people will react? Particularly since the least-sophisticated person on the panel did *not* come away from the film denouncing the Jews, citing the blood oath, subscribing to Al-Jazeera on her satellite or anysuch.

Then we get this complaint: “Hallinan also questioned the depiction, during the crucifixion, of Gestas, the bad thief, having his eyes plucked out by a crow after he questions Christ’s divinity. ‘It’s contrary to the Gospels,’ said Hallinan, adding ‘Jesus taught us not to persecute our enemies’.” Is there any oxygen in the House? One of the Gospels (Luke) starts with the story of the coming of John the Baptist and has a very similar story about his father Zachary and how he was struck dumb for doubting a divine messenger. The Gospels repeatedly have parables in the general character of “God is not mocked,” which is what happens here. Sure, the specific detail of the eye-gouging is not in the Bible, but there’s a rich and thoroughly orthodox Catholic tradition of embroidering around the Passion narrative and fleshing out details in works of art. Surely Father Hallinan has often led the Stations of the Cross, though several of *them* have no Biblical antecedent or only the vaguest … there’s no mention of Veronica (much less of the Lord’s face on the hankie) or of any specific number of falls. And who’s “persecuting our enemies”? As Father Hallinan tells the story, the one doing the persecuting is … a crow.

November 19, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

And now Weekend Update …

Breaking news on several fronts over the last few days (when I was away for a film festival) and on which I have posted here before:

First, Mel Gibson landed a distributor, Newmarket Films, and confirmed the planned release date for the newly titled THE PASSION OF CHRIST as Ash Wednesday. I’ve already made my predictions — a firestorm of anti-Semitism charges (the Lent opening will give another excuse … er … news peg to accuse the Church of anti-Semitism and assorted other bestialities), and a negative critical reception since some critics already have their leads written, and I refuse to believe this is an isolated attitude. Box office, we’ll have to wait and see, but subtitled films just don’t do well in the United States. I think only two, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and CROUCHING TIGER, have ever even broken $50 million. (And if it’s not two, it’s no more than three.) Any good? I’ll get back to you.

Second, the screener issue was “solved,” with the MPAA agreeing to lift the ban, but only for Academy members. This solves some of the problems, but leaves critics groups, primarily those for critics working in smaller markets, out in the cold.

Third, Michael “Killer” Schiavo is starting his Public Redemption Tour facing the tough, incisive questioning of Larry King. “My girlfriend supports my stance on Terri because the kind of care I want to give her will remove Terri as an obstacle and we’ll be free to marry.” Or something like that. And of course, the Atheist Press is spinning this story as a “right-to-die” case, when curiously, the person who will die never herself asserted that right.

Finally, on the Canadian tolerance beat, theological liberals in the Episcopal Church prove their open-mindedness, Celebrate Diversity and fight the forces of inquisitorial reaction by threatening heresy trials for those who repudiate the One Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Be Intolerant Of Mine Approved Groups.

October 28, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What liberal media?

CBS News has, for the last two nights, sullied its newscasts (if that were possible) with reports on child abuse among home schoolers. Yet, if you actually listen to or read the transcripts of the two-part series, available here (Day 1) and here (Day 2).

The teaser at the top of the Web site home page, next to D-n R—-r’s mug shot breathlessly blurts out: “Abusive parents sometimes hide in our unregulated home schooling system.” Well, yes, I suppose. And they also hide in our unregulated housing system. And travel on our unregulated highway system.

Now, it is certainly theoretically possible that there is a higher rate of child abuse or child murder in home-schooling families. And if there were figures suggesting or proving such a correlation, that would obviously be a legitimate news story. But you will comb these pieces of CBS “journalism” in vain for any such figures, even bogus advocacy numbers, that could even begin to suggest it. In fact, near the end of part 2, we get this: “But it’s hard to know how widespread abuse might be because the government doesn’t keep track. It doesn’t even know how many children are taught at home in this country.”

cbs.jpgWell, whoop-de-doo. In other words, we don’t even know if there’s a story here, but we’re still gonna report it anyway.

This is pure, undiluted journalism-by-anecdote and journalism-as-prejudice-stoking and audience-stroking — the liberal equivalent of conservative tales about welfare queens driving Cadillacs. It’s like Tales from the Crypt, only not as campy. See the Manhattan and Georgetown cocktail partiers scare each other (booga, booga) with dark stories on Halloween night of the “unregulated” things they hear go on in the red states, and what you can learn if you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park.

Just for fun, let’s try this method of “journalism” with … hmmm … the Springfield, Ore., school shooting. Kip Kinkel killed two classmates and wounded 25 others after murdering his parents, both schoolteachers. Would focusing on that angle (the killer’s home situation and his being raised by two schoolteachers) ever be done, well, actually … PBS did focus on this shooting in a Frontline episode here. There is even a section called “blame” section here focuses on video games, music and guns (all perfectly plausible contributing factors), but couldn’t it have centered around his family situation and how schoolteachers raise children to become killers? In fact, I’ll bet it’s hard to know how widespread children of teachers becoming killers might be because the government doesn’t keep track. It doesn’t even know how many children schoolteachers have in this country.

The ugliest part of these reports comes in part 2’s bid to blame home schooling for the Andrea Yates murders. Exqueeze me? Baking powder? Of the five children she drowned (Noah 7, John 5, Luke 3, Paul 2, and Mary, 6 months), only one was definitely school-aged, so her family’s home-schooling decision could have burdened her only slightly beyond what a woman with that many children would have if the family choose public-schooling. And how many other contributing factors *were* there in her case — post-partum depression, living in a trailer with that many children, being on powerful prescription drugs, only just out of a mental hospital. All this was widely reported at the time, and led to quite a bit of “I can see how all that would drive her to this” sympathy on her behalf (rightly or wrongly). But we’re now supposed to believe that this is an example of Home Schooling Syndrome. Puh-frickin-leez.

I carry no brief for home-schoolers — I am single with no children and am a product myself of public and Catholic schools. A few are a bit fruity in that “Protect Our Children From The Atheist ATF And Their Black Helicopters” way. But those CBS pieces were so sloppily done, such a failure measured by the basic canons of journalism, that the only way a prestigious news network could publish them would be an expression of naked prejudice. Just because they’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not persecuted.

UPDATE:
I deliberately didn’t address the substance of the charges, the details of the cases, and the home-school regulation schemas in the states in question because all that is simply beyond my knowledge. Further, I didn’t need to know them to realize how slipshod the smear-by-anecdote story was. Well, there are now some rebuttals on the merits here and here, although you need to go down a little to get to the meat of the latter article’s details. Also near the end of this article, columnist Zan Tyler quotes a 1979 Supreme Court decision that already rejects the implicit reasoning in the CBS piece — that state regulations on all parents are justified merely on the basis that some abuse their children.

October 15, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment