Thursday, April 06, 2006

Religious bigotry still a hallmark of the media

Excerpt from Don Feder

Last week (March 27-28), Vision America convened a War On Christians conference in Washington, D.C. It was the first to address escalating attacks on Christians from Hollywood, the news media, academia, the courts, and activist groups like the ACLU and Anti-Defamation League.

Speakers included scholars, authors, clergy (among them an Orthodox rabbi), lawyers and members of Congress. Delegates came from as far away as South Africa. I was the conference coordinator, as well as a speaker on two panels ("Jews Confront the War On Christians" and "Hollywood: Christians Through a Distorted Lens").

You will be shocked - shocked! - to learn that the mainstream media did its best to trivialize and marginalize the conference: to present a thoughtful examination of the rising tide of anti-Christian bias and persecution as the work of hysterical, paranoid whack-jobs who are manufacturing a crisis to generate donations and mobilize Republican votes.

* An alleged news story in The Washington Post, (March 29th) by Alan Cooperman, was headlined "'War' on Christians Is Alleged." Try to imagine the Post covering the 2005 conference Examining the Real Agenda of the Religious Far Right and headlining its story "Coming `Theocracy' Alleged."

* Cooperman misidentified Dr. Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America (the conference host) as a "radio commentator." You know, one of those guys who screams at you over the airwaves. In fact, besides being the head of a growing national movement, Scarborough is a Baptist minister, an author and an acclaimed speaker.

* Cooperman included extensive quotes attacking the conference - SOP for reportage on conservative events. A professor of social ethics charged that the meeting was "a spoiled brat response by Christians who have always enjoyed the privileges of a majority position." A mainline Protestant cleric claimed that by calling attention to the war on Christians in the U.S., the conference "disrespects the experience of people who have been jailed and died because of their faith."

* This theme dominated news "coverage" - Christians are so powerful that it's absurd to claim they're persecuted. Thus, a commentary in USA Today (March 28th) by Tom Krattenmaker (who called the conference's theme "overblown" and reckless): "We are in the second term of the most faith-friendly, explicitly Christian presidency in many a decade..Hollywood is producing more Christian-friendly movies [like The DaVinci Code? - DF] while Christian news media, Christian music, Christian novels and other forms of Christian pop culture continue making their strong mark on society." I'm only surprised Krattenmaker didn't cite the presence of "In God We Trust" on our currency to refute claims of Christian persecution.

Apparently, a majority of Americans are equally hysterical, reckless and disrespectful of real persecution. According to a FOX News poll taken in December 2005, 59 percent of the American people agreed with conference organizers that "Christianity is under attack" in the U.S. today. In reality, you have to be dogmatic, blind and biased - which pretty much describes the mainstream media - to miss the obvious here.

More here


Robert Bidinotto has written the following letter to Borders Books

I have been a loyal Borders customer -- now a Borders Rewards customer -- for quite a few years. I spend many hundreds of dollars annually in your store.

However, I have just learned that Borders and its affiliated Waldenbooks have banned the next issue of a publication, Free Inquiry, from your magazine shelves, because that publication is reprinting the controversial Danish cartoons of Muhammad on inside pages. The reason given by Borders is alleged fear of violence from radical Muslims, and desire to "protect" customers and employees.

Your company's craven policy of capitulation in the face of the mere hypothetical threat of terrorism is absolutely appalling -- a complete moral abdication that only encourages those threatening our rights and liberties.

I am a writer, and the editor of The New Individualist, a news and cultural magazine. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I am the first editor in the nation to dare to print one of those "offensive" cartoons of Muhammad right on the cover of our Winter 2006 issue. I therefore have no doubt that our magazine, which is still available only by subscription, would have been banned by Borders, too.

Let me be clear: I did not publish the cartoon to offend Muslims. I did so as a profound matter of principle: to stand up to those who are trying to annihilate our First Amendment rights. I did so because here, in America, nobody can be permitted to get away with coercion and intimidation against anyone's freedom to write and speak and publish. I did so because I learned many years ago, as a child on school playgrounds, that when you surrender to bullies, you grant them dictatorial power over your life.

By its public declaration of pre-emptive surrender, Borders has given the bullies of our age a clear message: Your intimidation works. Your bullying works. Your coercion works. Your terrorist threats work.

Borders has set a morally irresponsible and frighteningly dangerous precedent. It has told fanatics everywhere that all they need to do in order to obliterate First Amendment rights is to growl menacingly -- at which point a leading bookstore chain in America will clear its shelves of anything that could possibly offend the thug of the moment.

Having now encouraged the use of violence and intimidation, which magazine or book are you next prepared to expunge from your stores? Will you remove books about abortion, for fear of provoking some "right to life" fanatic? Will you eliminate Jewish magazines or black publications, for fear of upsetting neo-Nazis and skinheads? Scientology has been known to intimidate critics; are you about to bow to their demands for "proper" treatment in magazines and books, by eliminating all critical material? Or if some investigative journalist probes organized crime, will you hide his work in the back room, for fear of retaliation from the Mob?

You have given a sorry example of where such capitulation begins. But where does it end?

Not only is your policy ethically disgusting and counter-productive, it is completely nonsensical. With many thousands of book and magazine outlets in this country, there is absolutely no reason for Borders to believe that its stores, staff, and customers would be singled out for harm. Yet despite all of this, Borders does stand out: as the first and most gutless of them all. It is the first American bookstore chain to adopt a policy that I have labeled "anticipatory capitulation": advance surrender in the face of a mere hypothetical threat.

Terrorism and fanaticism are the gravest menaces of our age. Our nation is dispatching thousands of soldiers abroad to meet that threat to our liberty and our modern way of life. But after 9/11, it should be clear that all of us -- not just our soldiers -- are on the front lines of this war.

If we value our rights and freedoms, all of us must stand together and resolute in the face of threats, intimidation, and violence. The worst possible message we can give to terrorists or to anyone else willing to initiate force is that we do not stand united against them -- and that their tactics work.

I exhort you to rescind immediately this contemptible cut-and-run policy. Until and unless that happens, be advised that I will no longer be shopping in your stores, and that I will encourage everyone I know to do likewise.


Let's not bother with the evidence about whether "organic" is good for you!

Veggies at the University of California, Berkeley, got a little greener with Monday's debut of what campus officials say is the first certified organic salad bar at a college or institution. Berkeley, which started serving organic carrots, dressings, kidney beans and other salad fixings at its Crossroads dining commons, joins a number of colleges nationwide offering organic food.

What makes UC Berkeley different is that it has certification, which means it follows a detailed set of rules governing everything from how dishes are washed and pests chased out to how food is prepared. Organic produce is kept separate from the moment it arrives on the loading dock under a meticulous system that includes color-coded cutting boards and a food processor earmarked for organic produce only. "It shows just that much more effort toward being dedicated to serving organic and making sure the product is as organic when it's in the counter here as it was when it left the farm," said Jake Lewin, director of marketing and international programs at Santa Cruz-based CCOF, which issued the certification.

A key challenge for campus officials was adding organic products, which can be more expensive, without pushing up fees, said Shawn LaPean, director of Cal Dining. They were able to do that by negotiating with vendors.

Berkeley officials hope to expand the salad bar to all four dining halls and are looking into offering more organic options. At the Organic Trade Association, based in Greenfield, Mass., spokeswoman Barbara Haumann said a growing number of colleges are going at least partially organic, but it appears Berkeley is the first to get certification. "It definitely gives a guarantee and assurance that procedures are being used so from the OTA perspective, yes, it's certainly important," she said.


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