Mixtape (2)


A few days ago I received a drive-by email – i.e., one intended to convey emphatic displeasure and have the last word rather than hang around for a reply. I’ll spare you the more colourful bits; what matters is the question that was fired my way:

How can you – an atheist – defend Sarah Palin?!

There’s a lot crammed into those eight words, almost all of it mistaken. Firstly, I don’t recall “defending” Sarah Palin. I recently quoted Camille Paglia’s comments on Palin and noted reactions to the governor from large parts of the left and the feminist sisterhood. In recent days reactions have scarcely been more temperate. For instance, Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, yesterday offered this:

Please understand what you are looking at when you look at Sarah “Evita” Palin. You are looking at the designated muse of the coming American police state… Under the Palin-Rove police state, there will be no further true elections. 

Given the illegal hacking and distribution of Palin’s private email by leftwing activists, perhaps Ms Wolf should reflect on her convictions that,

[Palin] uses mafia tactics against critics.


Under the Palin-Rove police state, citizens will be targeted with state cyberterrorism.

And while it’s true such hyperbole is noted with more than a little amusement, I don’t think that technically qualifies as my defence or endorsement of any particular candidate. Though perhaps it lends weight to my suspicion that Palin’s most vehement detractors may prove much more revealing than Palin herself.

Secondly, I don’t recall ever referring to myself as an atheist. If pressed for a label, I’d probably opt for agnostic, insofar as there doesn’t appear to be a satisfactory answer to the question of a benign and ultimate cause intrigued by human beings, which is at least part of what the word “God” seems to mean. Regular readers will know I’m sometimes unkind to religious claims of entitlement and preternatural knowledge. If a person believes that the origin and nature of reality has much to do with the sadistic ravings of a Bedouin pirate, that person is ignorant, probably foolish and possibly unwell. And if a person doesn’t realise that the Biblical Jesus is, at best, a quasi-fictional amalgam of much earlier myths and stories, that person should read a little pre-Christian mythology and note the similarities.

But not being impressed by Islam’s warlord prophet or Christianity’s patchwork messiah doesn’t in itself address the question of how everything that exists came into being and whether or not its existence has numinous connotations. If a person maintains that the Bible is an original, non-fictional account of actual paranormal events, I’m not likely to take that person terribly seriously. If, on the other hand, a person has an ill-defined belief that the universe has some kind of agreeable cause – one not readily expressed in rational terms – then, whether or not I agree or grasp what’s allegedly being perceived, I can’t dismiss the claim in quite the same way.

It’s surprising what you can squeeze out of eight indignant words.



More sisterhood from Sandra Bernhard -
"The Republican V.P. nom would be "gang-raped by my big black brothers" if she enters Manhattan, Bernhard said. Palin is said to be making a campaign stop in New York next week."


How charming. It’s interesting just how readily righteous sisterly posturing turns into sadistic fantasy.


"Under the Palin-Rove police state, there will be no further true elections."

In much the same way that the Bush-Rove police state has already put an end to "true" - sorry, I can't resist the scare quotes - elections, I suppose. I get the impression that a lot of this is an unconscious betrayal of what at least some of the left would like to do themselves; that is ensure that only candidates that they approve of would be allowed to contest elections and to silence any point of view they don't happen to like.

Stephen Fox

"If, on the other hand, a person has an ill-defined belief that the universe has some kind of agreeable cause – one not readily expressed in rational terms – then, whether or not I agree or grasp what’s allegedly being perceived, I can’t dismiss the claim in quite the same way."

Absolutely right, but isn't the real problem not an 'agreeable cause' but rather the moral legacy of a story whose truth is not literal but allegorical. Aren't religions value-systems that depend on the learned experience of centuries, even millennia? The story is told in a simplified way, because most humans (even 'intellectual' ones) are fairly childish, with short, self-interested attention spans. Unfortunately, as your excellent work here shows, we (and perhaps especially the intellectuals) are capable of slipping away from all value-systems at the drop of a hat, like Bugs Bunny treading fresh air, and only falling into the chasm when he looks down. I'm also agnostic, but see in Palin someone who will not ever do that. The same does not apply to McCain quite so much, and not at all to Obama. To offer only change as your value-system is morally bankrupt, and in fact owes more to the teenage eros than to wider morality.

Quite a lot of Jesus' teaching is incorporated in human rights law in ways we might not question, but subjects like abortion, the family and gay marriage are more difficult. It should not be impossible to revise long held moral judgements. But it should be damn hard, and a large part of the function of government should be to resist, and be hated by hip culture for that reason. Hence the vitriol directed at Palin. The likes of Naomi Wolf may utter drivel from morning till night, but they know their enemy when they see her.



Well, the instructional value of a moral story, whatever it may be, doesn’t seem to depend on whether or not it’s historically true. If that were so, a great deal of art and literature would be much less interesting.

I’m not exactly known for being fond of religion, but it occurs even to me that religious affiliation isn’t always a matter of believing that some guy walked on water or did a neat trick with loaves and fish. I’ve known people who went to church almost despite those things. They enjoyed the social structure, the networking, the friendships, and they fudged a great deal of the theology so as to take part and belong. And for some it provides a place in which those with no great skill in philosophy can nod, perhaps naïvely, to life’s less tangible qualities.

In itself, I don’t think that’s necessarily something to be mocked.


Well Bill Clinton certainly understands her appeal:

NEW YORK — Former President Bill Clinton said Monday he understands why Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is popular in the American heartland: because people relate to her.

“I come from Arkansas, I get why she’s hot out there, why she’s doing well,” said Clinton, who supports the Democratic ticket headed by Barack Obama.

Speaking to reporters before his Clinton Global Initiative meeting, the former president described Palin’s appeal by adding, “People look at her, and they say, ‘All those kids. Something that happens in everybody’s family. I’m glad she loves her daughter and she’s not ashamed of her. Glad that girl’s going around with her boyfriend. Glad they’re going to get married.”‘

Clinton said voters would think, “I like that little Down syndrome kid. One of them lives down the street. They’re wonderful children. They’re wonderful people. And I like the idea that this guy does those long-distance races. Stayed in the race for 500 miles with a broken arm. My kind of guy.”


“I get this,” Clinton said. “My view is … why say, ever, anything bad about a person? Why don’t we like them and celebrate them and be happy for her elevation to the ticket? And just say that she was a good choice for him and we disagree with them?”

Wonder Woman

Being a definitive atheist and a supporter of Sarah Palin, I guess I'm a little confused about why this presents such a grievous contradiction, to your email correspondent. Is mandatory conversion to Christianity a policy proposal under a McCain/Palin administration? Is a person’s belief in God the moral and political equivalent of getting caught with a dead hooker in your hotel room? And if so, why aren’t these same people concerned about Obama’s 20+ years of devoted worship at a church with a history of being somewhat fervent in their faith?

I guess it doesn’t make me a very good atheist to admit that I am not particularly concerned about Sarah Palin praying to whomever she chooses, before she lays her head to sleep at night. When she maneuvers to revive the Spanish Inquisition, perhaps I will be more concerned. Of course, if a renaissance of Christendom’s glory days is on the table, might I suggest…The Crusades?


Wonder Woman,

“I guess I'm a little confused about why this presents such a grievous contradiction to your email correspondent.”

Me too. It wasn’t the most coherent of missives; just a pile of assumptions. I think one of them was, “Ah, he’s gay and not big on religion, therefore he must share my politics and hate everything I hate.” In much the same way that voting becomes polarised around abortion or race or whatever, as if that one thing must always be *the* defining issue. Plus, there’s a lot of speculative criticism of Palin’s religious views – much of it from supposedly rational non-believers – that isn’t based on what she’s actually said she believes, but on what she might be *guessed* to believe.

I’m often happy to badmouth people based on what they say and do. I’m not so keen to guess at what they might say - and then damn them - before they actually say it.


bge said it first: one tactic that the progressive movement employs to cover its tracks is the preemptive accusation.

It works this way: if the movement is using lies to force a narrative, it'll call its opposition "liars." If the movement is less than patriotic, and even openly seditious, it'll accuse the opposition of "questioning their patriotism." And if the prog's main coercive mechanism is the policing of speech codes and Fitzmas-like prosecutions for political dissent (ie. a "police state"), then they will pro-actively accuse their opposition of instituting a "Police State."

The net effect of this tactic is to degrade political discourse to a second-grade level: the give and take of political discussion is reduced to a "I know you are, but what am I!" stalemate.

To a seditious, vandalistic movement, this corruption of the national discourse is a feature, not a bug. Thus, "Bush Lied!"


"Please understand what you are looking at when you look at Sarah "Evita" Palin. You are looking at the designated muse of the coming American police state. Under the Palin-Rove police state, there will be no further true elections. "

And that's just the beginning, people! :D


If you read Wolf’s entire outpouring, it suggests a mental patient gnawing at her own limbs. It’s even more impressive in its derangement than Erica Jong’s tirade against “pink men” - also in the Huffington Post:

Stephen Fox


I was agreeing with you mostly, but just wanted more emphasis on the morality of religion. Rereading my comment, I did seem to be mocking religion, and the simplicity of its followers, which I didn't mean to do.
Skill in philosophy seems to me these days to have less and less to do with actually being right. The glib intelligence you hear so much is a bit like those footballers who are very good at dribbling, but lose track of where the goal is. It's good to come here and find well grounded intellectuality.
I admire and support Palin, and wish we had a politician like her here. No sign currently, though.


Wow. The commenters at Huffington are just as laidback:

"If McCain scares me, Sarah Palin scares me even more. I think she borders on pure evil in her aspirations to rise to the presidency."





Heh. Caps lock always convinces me of an argument. And you almost have to admire someone who uses the term “pure evil” in a non-ironic way, especially in this context. Almost.


“I was agreeing with you mostly.”

I always like hearing that. We’ll have to work on the “mostly”.


Some feminists actually are disgusted with their sisters who are tearing Palin down. I'm one of them, but Reclusive Leftist says it better:



Thanks for that. I suspect the clue is in the title: “Why Sarah Palin Incites Near-Violent Rage in Normally Reasonable Women.”

I somehow doubt that doctrinaire feminists who profess feelings of “murderous rage” towards Palin can be considered “normally reasonable”. But then I’m struggling with the idea that there are people living in the freest societies on Earth who still huddle in groups comparing victimhood and call themselves “feminist”. It seems a tad retro.


Naomi Wolf, Bernhard - keep it coming, the madder the better. Trumpet the lunacy all over the mainstream media - on TV, in newspapers. Shout it from the rooftops. Every article, every raving paragraph is worth 10,000 votes to McCain/Palin.

The Left is disconnecting its last few connections to reality and the spectacle is superb. If McCain/Palin win in November I will just about laugh myself into a hernia.


"You are looking at the designated muse of the coming American police state."

Naomi can see the End Times coming. And Satan has a Karen Walker hairdo.


"How, you may ask, can I assert this? How can I argue, as I now do, that there is actually a war being ramped up against US citizens and our democracy and that Sarah Palin is the figurehead and muse for that war? …Under the coming Palin-Rove police state, you will witness the plans now underway to bring Iraqi troops to patrol the streets of our nation."

It's like hardcore porn for leftists.


“Naomi can see the End Times coming.”

Or at least a spell in a Republican gulag. Like so many paranoid fantasists, she seems to think an awful lot of herself. She’s of such pivotal importance to the future of mankind – speaking truth to power as she does – that the Evil Cabal will stop at nothing to silence her. Dear God, they’re even tampering with her children’s report cards. The fiends!

What’s remarkable is that there’s a sizeable audience for this self-absorbed rambling. One HuffPo commenter is convinced that the attacks on the WTC and Hurricane Katrina were “designed to give this administration more power.” I wasn’t aware that the US president could conjure hurricanes from thin air purely to advance his diabolical influence. Dark forces indeed.

john Kelly

Steven Hick's book about postmodernism is very good at nailing the central conceit/problem of the extreme left. They have a dramatic reality gap between the way they imagine the world should be, and the way it actually is (or ends up as).
Rosy socialist futures somehow keep turning into miserable economic disasters. Glorious Communistic Brave new worlds end up being built on the smashed skulls of children. The list goes on.
The feminist's anger and disillusion is another aspect of this.
The left want women to be free to make their own choices -- as long as they don't make choices like Sarah Palin makes.
The left want undeveloped countries to be free to make their own choices -- as long as they don't choose capitalism.
The left want the poor to be free to make their own choices -- as long as they don't choose to become middle-class.

If they can't be trusted to make those 'free' choices, then we'll just have to redefine 'free'.

Their unfettered and undisguised hatred is always reserved for the 'victims' who refuse to play ball.

And on that note I'd just like to make a prediction here. If Obama wins the next election and becomes President of the United States, within one year of his inauguration he will become a figure of hate for the extreme left. The reason being, there is simply no way he can be left wing enough for them. At the moment they are so completely consumed by their hatred for Bush that they assume Obama will fulfill all their wildest fantasies. He can't. It's impossible. It doesn't matter who the man/woman is it becomes president. There is simply no way, with the responsibilities that they have, that they can act like someone from the comments forum of the Daily Kos.

My prediction: within one year of inauguration Obama will be known to the Daily Kos crowd as 'Uncle Tom'.


I'm reminded of Tom Wolf

"the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe."

The strange thing (as a previous commentator noted) is that the supposed religious loopiness of Palin is taken as read even though the allegations seem to always prove bogus, whereas the known ravings of Reverend Wright seem of little interest. Indeed most people in the UK know little of the controversies surrounding Wright and are totally unaware of Ayers.

Here's an interesting link on this subject

The blogger seems to think he has a real "gotcha". Maybe I miss the point but Jews for Jesus seem to me to be an fairly typical religious organisation in that they make unverifiable claims about the true path to salvation. The only difference being that this group falsely claim you can be Jewish and Christian simultaneously. I've have no wish to enter the debate about the viability of such an ecumenical movement, since that has to be the choice of the members that might become united but I can't find that particular claim more outrageous than any other.

"Moses spoke to God" - that's okay. "Jews can be simultaneously Christians and Vice versa" - no that's outrageous.



“The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”

Heh. The softer, infantilising kind of fascism, as peddled by Ayers, doesn’t seem to register as overbearing and intrusive, dressed up as it is as “social justice” - a hugely tendentious notion that’s remarkably pervasive in educational circles. See, for instance, this list of “achievement indicators” from a Vancouver high school course:

“Identify a range of ways in which social injustice is manifested (e.g. reduced self-worth)…”

“Demonstrate an understanding of the role of language in oppression (e.g. non-gender inclusive language, use of euphemism)…”

Note how “reduced self-worth” is deemed a “social injustice” – despite the fact low self-esteem can have any number of causes, including mental health problems, self-inflicted misery and habitual inadequacy. Note also how “non-gender inclusive language” is deemed a form of “oppression”.


Ironically, I'm looking over this thread as the radio reports that significant numbers of Americans believe that Obama is the Antichrist. Speaking of paranoid fantasists.

Chris S

The article Emma posted has a very interesting discussion in the comments. It ends on a very curious note as they have been discussing their issues with the 3rd wave feminism and how it doesn't really resonate with them. Especially the anti-Plain retoric.

"If you want to know the breadth of my thinking about where and how the Third Wave went off track and why it needs to die, I suggest you dive into the archives. It’s a theme I’ve been touching on since February at least. In short I see the Third Wave as the hopelessly compromised product of the backlash. That’s not the fault of the women; it’s the fault of patriarchy. That’s how it works."

So the issue of current batch of women and how they have derailed feminism is ultimately the fault of men. The last lines are a perfect reflection of what I often see as the feminism ideal. Not our fault, it's the mens fault, that's the party line. "That's how it works" indeed.



For many devotees in the developed world, feminism seems to have become little more than an oppositional reflex - a posture - a pantomime leftover from a different world:

In the freest societies on Earth, it isn’t clear to me what a separate thing called “feminism” is now for. The arguments presented to me are often inexcusably tendentious and devoid of evidence - as I think my recent, lengthy, discussion with Jean illustrates:

Note how the shortage of evidence to support key assertions has no significant impact on the overall position or how emphatically it’s held.


I never saw the resumed thread with Jean before but it is very good.

It's interesting that her final argument concerned attitudes to a female presidency (with, as you say, Clinton as the likely candidate). I wonder how that survey would play now given that the most likely female president is a Republican*.

[*Yeah yeah, I know there's some hurdles]



Compared to some exchanges on the subject it’s very restrained. But it does, I think, illustrate a broader phenomenon.

sackcloth and ashes

'It wasn’t the most coherent of missives; just a pile of assumptions. I think one of them was, “Ah, he’s gay and not big on religion, therefore he must share my politics and hate everything I hate.”'

That - in a nutshell - is symptomatic of the attitudes of many of those who pride themselves on being liberal, left-leaning, cosmopolitan and well-educated. They simply cannot handle the fact that intelligent and decent people might actually disagree with them. I used to think that being on the liberal-left meant that you actually had an obligation to argue for your beliefs in a coherent manner, in order to try and persuade people from a different political background to consider your point of view. Now it seems to involve pointing your finger and shrieking abuse at people who dare to disagree. This is not a liberal-left I want to be a part of.


“Now it seems to involve pointing your finger and shrieking abuse at people who dare to disagree.”

Funnily enough, there’s an example of precisely that in tomorrow’s ephemera roundup.

See also this:

sackcloth and ashes

IMHO David, the attitude of these people mirrors those of the McCarthyites in the early 1950s, and of the lunatics who thought that Truman was a traitor for relieving MacArthur of his command in Korea in April 1951.

In this case, there was a legitimate cause (namely anti-Communism/anti-Stalinism) that got infected by a hysterical, witch-hunting mentality that tarnished its reputation for generations. As John Lewis Gaddis noted, if you talked about the Soviet Union in hostile terms in 1970s academia you were regarded as a card-carrying member of the John Birch society.

Now, we've got to a stage where there are genuine grounds for the American and Western left to attack the Bush administration and the Republican Party for its ideological shortcomings and incompetence in office, but too many of its critics follow much the same demented approach in their attacks on their hate-figures as the McCarthyites did. And the end result of all this invective does not convert sceptics into supporters or win arguments in elections. It just serves to further marginalise the left.

If McCain and Palin win in November 2008, I would conclude that one reason for their victory against the odds would be that the likes of Naomi Wolf have undermined the left-liberal cause through their mania. And I personally would take no joy in that outcome at all.


"the Evil Cabal will stop at nothing to silence her (Wolf)"

They would be mad to do so. They should stop at nothing to give her free rein in the media, 24 hours a day.

BTW, how do you join the "Evil Cabal"? I'm up for it. Is it like the Rotary Club?


I suppose we'll just have to laugh at each other. But while you're laughing, consider this...

Blaise Pascal said there was a hole in the human heart the shape of God.
Nature does not like a vacuum.
Thus various things got created to try to fill this vacuum. This is the material from which you get your notion of a 'patchwork messiah'.
And then...the Monomyth arrived on History's stage. The Hero that had been longed for, the Desire of Nations.
As C.S. Lewis said he had studied myths, and then read of Jesus, and he was struck by how the story was written, by how different it was from every other myth, by how it was written like one would write a true story.

Its a commonplace in churches to talk of 'types of Christ', Old Testament personages who in their lives prefigured Christ. You might consider these more evidence of the patchwork, but I think I've advanced a more plausible explanation.

As to Atheist=Hate Palin, um, only if the Atheist is clueless and doesn't understand that the vast majority of Christians are believers in soul liberty and religious freedom. And besides, is this meme saying that Obama is not really a Christian? I'm not sure Obama's supporters want to go there.

Lastly, you're of course free to laugh and treat me unkindly. Perhaps its fair turnabout for I find atheism and a fuzzy agnosticism that denies Christ's deity to be lacking in logic. Logic and evidence drives me to Christ. Its only a very tiny step of faith to accept him.

sackcloth and ashes

Incidentally, I presume that this is the same Naomi Wolf that came out with all that Orientalist, border-line racist tosh about how wonderful it was that Moslem women could wear the veil and act as sex objects for their men, which might perhaps come as something of a disappointment to activists in Pakistan who might actually expect the support of Western feminists:


Sackcloth and Ashes,

Yes, it’s she. Charming woman, I think you’ll agree.


“I find atheism and a fuzzy agnosticism that denies Christ’s deity to be lacking in logic.”

Your argument seems to follow an erratic yet circular path. And perhaps you could tell me what’s “fuzzy” about what I’ve written above?

sackcloth and ashes

Are there any Western feminists left who are actually prepared to stand up for the rights of women whose oppression cannot be blamed on white European and American males? Or is that a spectacularly stupid question to ask?

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