Alternative Realities? Or The Twilight Zone?

  • Political links as views into an alternative reality, or perhaps the Twilight Zone;
  • Michelle Goldberg about Mark Robinson; Peter Wehner about how Christians support a morally depraved ex-president; hypocrisy in Alabama; two pieces about Christian nationalist Matt Schaefer;
  • Short items about the Courts, DeSantis, who Republicans hate, and the scam of trickle-down economics;
  • And two more pieces about Katie Britt, and what her speech revealed about Republicans, and the Republican way of life.

First, I’ve added a follow-up thought to my discussion of the Thomas Nagel book, in that post, about what philosophy professors, or writers, do or do not tell students/readers about philosophical issues that have been solved by science.

Second, another batch of what might be called political links. It occurs to me these might be taken as explorations into an alternative reality instead, a reality apart from standards of reason and evidence and progress. (Or perhaps… explorations into “the twilight zone.”) Another way of looking at “polarization.”

Some of these items concern topics already discussed.

NY Times, Opinion, Michelle Goldberg, 7 Mar 2024: We Need to Talk About This Republican Candidate’s Antisemitism

Mark Robinson is *so sure* that so many things in life are lies or conspiracies. What a frightening world he must live in.


Peter Wehner in The Atlantic, quoted by The Week, 9 Mar 2024

“One might reasonably expect that Christians, including white evangelicals, would be a unifying, healing force in American society. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God,’ Jesus said. Yet in the main, the white evangelical movement has for decades exacerbated our divisions, fueled hatreds and grievances, and turned fellow citizens into enemies rather than friends. White evangelical Christians are the most consistently reliable supporters of the most polarizing and morally depraved president in American history. It has hurt America, and it has done tremendous damage to the witness of the Christian faith.”

This would be one of my primary arguments against religion, especially Christianity.


Media Matters, 7 Mar 2024: America is producing more energy than ever, but Fox News is attacking Biden over it anyway


Salon, Randall Horton, 10 Mar 2024: The state of Alabama hypocrisy, subtitled “A twisted version of rogue Christianity governs my deep-red home state in matters of life, death and control”

Alabama purports to be a fire-red Christian state with deep family values. And perhaps in their own eyes, no one is more Christian and has a more personal relationship with God than the good citizens of Dixie. In reality, it is a twisted version of rogue Christianity in which two-faced thought is at the epicenter of any form of truth.

With many examples. (The writer is *from* Alabama. But doesn’t live there anymore.)


The arrogance and fascist tendencies of Christian nationalists.

Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, 11 Mar 2024: Texas State Rep. Matt Schaefer: Every elected official in America is required “to worship God”, subtitled “You have two choices, said the Christian Nationalist: ‘Obedience or rebellion.'”

Right Wing Watch, 8 Mar 2024: Texas State Rep. Matt Schaefer Provides A Case Study In Christian Nationalism


Headlines and a couple comments.

Slate, Steve Kennedy, 12 Mar 2024: It Sure Seems Like the Courts Have Placed Christianity Above Other Faiths

The Guardian, 12 Mar 2024: Ron DeSantis’s next chapter in book bans backlash? Blame someone else (I missed covering the court case that essentially overturned DeSantis’s “don’t say gay” edict. Here’s one item about it.)

Washington Post, 12 Mar 2024: In states with laws targeting LGBTQ issues, school hate crimes quadrupled (Obviously revealing who Republicans/conservatives hate, not that this is news.)

Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, 12 Mar 2024: Opinion | ‘Trickle-down economics’ is a scam that ignores decades of evidence

(Republicans “believe it” — despite evidence — because such policies benefit the wealthy, their primary donors. A broken-record theme on this blog. Conservatives don’t do evidence.)


What brought to mind ideas of alternative realities today were two more pieces about Katie Britt.

Los Angeles Times, LZ Granderson, 11 Mar 2024: Column: What Katie Britt’s misleading, melodramatic speech revealed about the Republican Party

After discussing the dishonest story about sex-trafficking, LZ says,

The question for the evangelical voters who make up much of the Republican base is how much more politics can outweigh morals in the name of whatever conservatism even means anymore. Politico reported Monday that an evangelical group is spending north of $60 million to get a twice-impeached, repeatedly indicted former president back in the White House, so perhaps that is our answer.

The whole “moral majority” movement in conservative politics always involved theatrics and cosplay. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took it to a new level by deploying Hunter Biden’s sexting photos during a House committee hearing. And now the future of the Republican Party is sitting in a kitchen purporting to speak honestly with voters of faith while telling a lurid lie for political purposes.


The fallout is an embarrassment and a setback for Britt, but it is ultimately unlikely to do her any grave political harm. The leader of her party is facing imminent trial for paying hush money to an adult film actress and has been found liable for sexual abuse so, yeah, Britt will probably be fine.

The same can’t be said for her party’s claim to any sort of true moral high ground.


And then this one. I don’t think conservatives (and maybe some progressives) truly understand the world outside their — I’m not going to say bubble, I’m going to say — culture. Most of humanity has lived within local cultures without any exposure to other cultures, of which there have been thousands around the world — let alone exposure to reality, the reality identified by science, as indicated by actual facts. Thus the arrogance and blinkered reality of Christian politicians. (Which I’m supposing is shared by Muslim politicians, and leaders of many other religions around the world.)

Salon, Lucian K. Truscott IV, 12 Mar 2024: The pure emptiness of Katie Britt, subtitled “The Republican way of life has emptied her of anything even marginally recognizable as real”

The writer describes Britt’s SOTU response, as so many others have done.

Watching Britt’s face and listening to her whisper her way through the introduction of her remarks, I felt embarrassed for her. Really, I did. She had no sense at all of what she was saying, or how to say it, because she was just reading words, not expressing them, or feeling what she said. She whispered, “our country is less secure,” and then smiled widely into the eye of the camera. That is simply not the way you say those words, and having said them, how you react to what you’ve said. It doesn’t even rise to the level of fake. It’s just…nothing, a pure emptiness knowable only to, yes, Katie Britt.

I’m going to do something I probably shouldn’t attempt. I’m going to try to figure out why she read the phrase the way she did and then punctuated it with her wide, entirely inappropriate and obviously insincere smile.

And then he explores Britt’s background at the University of Alabama’s “Machine” about how to get ahead. And provides a devastating reading of her speech (“It’s hard to capture just how blatantly studied and overacted and false Britt’s entire spiel was..”) . And concludes with the point:

Watching her face with even just a smidgen of empathy, you can’t help wondering what it must be like to be Katie Britt, to have been given what has to be seen as evident ambition and talent and squashed it in service not just to Donald Trump – that’s bad enough – but to an idea and a way of life that has so emptied her of anything even marginally recognizable as real.

At least an actor in a role on the stage or in a film knows they are delivering lines, picking up a paycheck and moving on to the next role. Katie Britt is playing a self she gave up rights to long ago. The “Machine” ran her at the University of Alabama. Now the Republican Party runs her. Imagine how that must feel. She’s not a shell, or in words we would apply to a man of her ilk, an empty suit. She is a Republican ideal of womanhood. She did what they told her to do. She said the words they gave her to say. She accomplished everything they set out for her to accomplish. The question is, can reality – any reality – penetrate the pretense of life she and the Republican Party are presenting to the American public?

There’s something here I’m not quite ready to place my finger on. It has to do with communities, physical communities and not just internet groups or social silos. It’s more about living in a community with group values you cannot challenge without social cost; you are unable to think for yourself, or express what you think, when you’re beholden to living with your family or your neighbors. People who live in such communities might be really smart, but, as Heinlein said somewhere, the first thing you do when settling into a community is learn how to pretend to honor its values. (Or you will not survive.)

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