Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We Should All Be Angry About This

SPOILER: The last part of this entry is POLITICAL!!

This past Sunday, some of you may have received a FREE DVD in your newspaper. I don't know about everybody else, but I love to read the Sunday paper and once and a while receive a freebie. I fondly remember getting those cute little boxes of cereal or a small sample of a household cleaner product. Certainly we know that curious kids are likely to be the first to try out such freebies. This past Sunday, if you live in a "swing state," you very likely got a DVD, along with a leaflet describing it as a "must see," distributed by an outfit called "The Clarion Fund." More about them in a minute.

Since Texas is not a swing state (alas, I wish this were not so), I did not get the lagniappe. But my daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon did find one. Actually she found on the front porch of the group home where she works, which is inhabited by girls between the ages of 13 and 18. These youngsters could just as easily have found it, and would have been quick to pop it in the house player. When she figured out what it was, she was incensed, so much that she called me and, voice quivering with anger, described it to me. The DVD is entitled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," and is quite a diatribe against all Muslims, filled with fear and hate. You can find countless articles and blog entries about this video and its nefarious distribution via newspapers and direct mailouts, as well as watch segments on YouTube. To make things worse, on Monday after the item was distributed in Dayton, Ohio, there was an incident at a mosque, where a 10 year old girl was directly sprayed in the face (through an open window by an unidentified man) with a toxic gas that also affected other children and several adults. Police there do not want to call this a "hate crime" but far too many others see the obvious connection.

So far I think this my account is relatively non-political in that this is a blog about technology and I think we must teach our patrons, whether they are teachers, parents, or students, to be very aware that everything they see on a screen or read in print is not automatically true. For this same reason I think secondary students should be able to see the scurrilous Martin Luther King site called "Martin Luther King: A Historical Examination"--
As usual, this insidious hate site came up #3 on a Google search for me just now. Visiting the site of the wacky Holocaust denier, Arthur Butz, is also a good lesson in web site evaluation.

SPOILER...SO NOW FOR THE POLITICS: I cannot conclude without pointing out that the timing of this distribution, so near our Presidential election, is far from coincidental. Also, you do not have to look very hard at Clarion Fund to see some reasons for concern. Like the Martin Luther King hate site, they stress that their goal is to "educate," and that they want to do so with video production. Their home page lists college outreach as a prime goal. The videos are NOT what any fair-minded person would want to see used in an educational institution at any level, unless it was to study bias, propaganda, and hate sites. And here's another thing...who do we see on the Board of Directors? This takes a bit of searching. As with many hate sites, Clarion Fund's gives NO names for authors or webmasters, or for those in leadership roles. However, delving just a bit more, you will find none other that "Rev" John Hagee, John McCain's fire-breathing preacher supporter whose endorsement pretty much resulted cessation of the right wing's over-the-top criticisms for Obama's association with his pastor since McCain had been sucking up to his own crazy preacher friend. Here is one link:

The one bright side to this sorry story is that without exception, subscribers and US Mail recipients of this scurrilous DVD have reacted with outrage. Many copies have been mailed back to the distributor, and countless letters to the editor have been written. As a proud mother, I cannot resist sharing the missive my own daughter wrote to her local paper, Portland's The Oregonian. Her response is more measured and reasonable than I fear mine might be had I received the "gift." Here it is:

"I am a supporter of free speech, and I have a soft spot for the ACLU. So, I do not attempt to suggest that inclusion of the "Obsession" DVD in last Sunday's Oregonian is anything less that perfectly legal. The law however, does not account for incidents of sheer tastelessness. As a transplanted Texan, you can be sure I know that. You can also be sure that I will not be purchasing another Oregonian for quite some time. 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...can't get fooled again.'"

No, her letter did not get printed, but I think that was due to the large volume of messages sent to The Oregonian, including one, I am proud to say, FROM A LIBRARIAN.

Enough! We must no longer put up with the politics of fear and hate. We must speak out loudly and forcefully against candidates and their supporters who continue to try to cram this bunk down our throats. We must remember the oft-quoted poem most often credited to Pastor Martin Niemöller and yes, I referred to Wikipedia:

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."
If I have offended anybody, then frankly I will count that as a success. People who support this kind of skulduggery deserve to have their cages rattled now and then.


  1. OK, Mary Ann, now you'll get me started!

    We are soooooo worried about kids not having math and science skills.

    Well how about critical thinking skills? How about understanding politics and government? How about being able to detect propoganda?

    I honestly think there is conspiracy to lock our kids into basic reading and math skills so that these other skills are not addressed.

    Great post, but now I am steamed!


  2. We had this a few weeks ago in our local newspaper too. I did not watch it but I understand that it was a paid advertisement.

    As long as the paper was not endorsing it in any way I would not have a problem with the newspaper. They are hurting for revenue now.

    This is the double edged sword of free speech. Having to let the bad ones have their say too. Though I might change my mind if I watched it.

  3. I get it about free speech. That is why I am decrying the distribution. I am trying to call them out on it. If they can circulate this, then I can badmouth them in return.