On Facebook, Fox News, and Intersexuality

I swear, the people at FoxNews aren’t just idiots, they’re proudly ignorant idiots, mocking that which (and those whom) they do not (and refuse to) understand.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to "intersex...whatever that is".

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to “intersex…whatever that is”.

Facebook recently added additional gender options to its traditionally dichotomous male/female profile preferences. The gender terms provided by Facebook have been known for some time by those studying gender and sexuality, and have been explained to the public by professionals on several occasions.

So you can imagine why it may come as no a surprise to many that numerous pundits at Fox News not only do not know what many of these terms mean, but openly mock them.

Listen to the audio on the movie here.

Let me Google that for you: intersexThese are news people. They are supposedly investigators. So why mock intersexual people (or individuals exhibiting an intersexual condition) by saying on air “whatever that is”, when you can just as easily Google it.

Again, Tucker Carlson saying the words “whatever that is” in reference to intersex individuals is either evidence of incompetence as an investigative journalist, or sheer mockery of intersexuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

And when Todd Starnes, host of the radio program Fox News & Commentary and a regular guest on Fox & Friends, says on Facebook,

“In the beginning God made man and woman…but Facebook decided to improve on the original models.”

or the idiotic

“What if you identify as a pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker? Facebook doesn’t offer those options.”

and concerning “gender-fluid” individuals, who fluctuate somewhere on the spectrum between male and female, Starnes joked,

“You might want to have a roll of paper towels handy — just in case.”

I shake my head. It’s not news. And it’s a poor attempt at comedy. It’s a feigned ignorance for the purposes of mocking very real persons.

Intersexuals are not hypothetical individuals, and they are far more prevalent than you might think. Depending on the definition, about 1-1.7% of all live births – one or two out of every hundred people you know – show some form of sexual ambiguity, with 1 in 10 of those requiring optional surgery to assign them to a traditional male or female sex category.

I’ve blogged on this issue before. The case of Caster Semenya is but one higher profile example of an intersexual individual being questioned in the public spotlight.

And intersexual individuals are not new. There are photographs documenting intersexual individuals dating almost as far back as photography itself. Hell, the Greeks wrote complete myths about intersexuals in an attempt to explain their (divine) origin.

But it is this continued, deliberate ignorance of the existence of intersexual individuals – and the complete apathy concerning learning about them – that explains why so may religious conservatives (including those at Fox News) make the ignorant arguments they do concerning same-sex marriage. To put it simply, the existence of intersexual individuals implodes all arguments they make both about their opposition to anything but heterosexual marriage, and their claims that individuals choose their sexuality and are not born or “created” that way.

To argue age-old gender related religious arguments like “men are the spiritual leaders” and “women cannot be elders in the church” and “marriage is only between one man and one woman” falsely assumes that all individuals are either male or female. This is simply not the case, whether the Bible acknowledges intersexual individuals or not. Remember, science is not the Bible’s strong suit, and there are many realities of the modern world that the Bible simply does not acknowledge (for instance, that disease is caused by germs and not possession by evil spirits).

Intersexual individuals (formerly called Hermaphrodites after the Greek god Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who, according to Ovid, fused with a nymph (Salmacis) resulting in his possessing the physical traits of both a man and a woman) are very real individuals who do not fall into the traditional male-female dichotomy. Additionally, intersexual organisms are very common in nature. For example, clownfish (of the subfamily Amphiprioninae) of “Finding Nemo” fame are sequential intersexuals, with all specimens being born initially male, but with the largest fish in the group transforming very naturally into a female for reproductive purposes. (Remember that next time you watch the Disney favorite!)

Again, if you are going to argue that God made people, then God made intersexual people the way they are. (Right? Because “God don’t make no mistakes.”) They certainly didn’t “choose” to be intersexual; they were born that way. And while many intersexual individuals are proud of who they are and of the way they are, many others struggle with acceptance in a society so obsessed with sexuality and sexual conformity (especially to conservative religious traditions).

So tell me, praytell, who can intersexual individuals marry? Can they serve in leadership roles in a church?

These are real questions about real people, and the idiots at Fox News are too ignorant to know what they are, too stupid to look it up, and to bigoted to do anything but laugh at them. There is no excusing it. It is sheer mockery. They mock what they do not (and refuse to) understand because it does not fit their religious right wing narrative.

It is not news; it’s public social mockery of that which is “different” or “outside” and “beyond” the conservative worldview resulting from the religious blinders imposed by the Conservative Evangelical Republican political machine.

kudos to smithsonian channel for putting “gospel of jesus’ wife” documentary on hold

Smithsonian ChannelWord from the Smithsonian Channel is that they’ve decided to shelve a new documentary on the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” due, in part, to a high degree of scholarly criticism ranging from claims that the fragment is an outright fake to claims that it appears to be a cut-and-paste job of verses taken from the Gospel of Thomas.

This is a good thing! Kudos to Smithsonian for listening to the facts, weighing the evidence, and evaluating the scholarly critique instead of rushing to air a sensationalized documentary that may turn out to be nothing but an hour of strained speculation sold to a cable channel in the hopes of making quick money, archaeology be damned.

I applaud Smithsonian Channel. And I applaud Harvard Divinity School’s Dr. Karen King. Dr. King released this fragment the way it should be released in this new digital era of immediate feedback: first to a group of scholars for review, and then to a professional conference of her peers for review, and only then to the public.

And, when the scholarly experts began to raise doubts and voice their concerns about the authenticity of the object and its interpretation, the planned documentary was put on hold to preserve the credibility of the network and of the scholar making the claim, despite the fact that there was quick money to be made. There is no highly speculative, popular book to recall because Dr. King went through the academy first. And now that the scholarly community has voiced its desire for more research, Dr. King (who has repeatedly expressed her own doubts about the fragment’s authenticity) appears all the more professional and the Smithsonian Channel looks all the more responsible.

It’s a shame that other networks can’t follow Smithsonian’s lead and cancel other documentaries they believe to be highly problematic, factually challenged, speculative, and mere attempts to make a quick buck on potentially pseudoarchaeological claims.


[N.B.: We have yet to hear if the documentary's producer has decided to sue Joe Zias for millions of dollars because a growing majority of the scholarly community has questioned the validity of the documentary's claims, causing it to be shelved and potentially canceled. Because obviously, any documentary related to the Bible and archaeology that is shelved due to a growing critique of the sensational claims by a number of scholars must be Joe's fault alone. ;-)]

no, no you didn’t find the remains of john the baptist

John Electrophoresis Gel

Gel electrophoresis does not work this way.

Come on people, this is getting ridiculous!

Reports out of Bulgaria are that the remains of John the Baptist have been found while excavating a 5th century monastery on the Black Sea island of Sveti Ivan. Yes, that John the Baptist.

But here’s the problem: they didn’t, and there’s no way of ever proving that they did. And they know this. This is nothing more than a small island community attempting to drum up tourism for their local Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The BBC video of the press conference demonstrates as much. This same gimmick was recently attempted by another small island community, who claimed to have found nails from the cross of Christ. Needless to say, the fact that the story is getting picked up is evidence of the success of their campaign.

There is never any way of knowing whether or not the remains of some ancient person are who people claim they are. Remember when James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici claimed that a tomb with ossuaries with names like ‘Mary’ and ‘Matthew’ and ‘Judah’ was the family tomb of Jesus? Really? How can anyone ever prove that the buried remains of someone are who some other ancient person says they were, especially when the remains are venerated relics transported thousands of miles from their original context? A historical John the Baptist would have died in ancient Israel/Palestine. Additionally, there have been dozens of claims regarding the whereabouts of the remains of John the Baptist. What is a DNA test going to tell the discoverers? Running a DNA gel doesn’t return a result of, ‘Yep, it’s John’ (see photo).

Here’s a rule of thumb: if someone claims you’re dealing with the remains of some venerated individual from 2000 years ago a thousand miles away from where said individual supposedly died, you’re probably not.

sbl media guide now available

SBL Media Guidethe society of biblical literature has recently published a media guide for scholars. the media guide is contains comments and suggestions about scholars and their interaction with the media. chronicle of higher education senior reporter jennifer howard discusses ‘how to talk to the media: tips for scholars.’ concerning television documentaries, university of north carolina, chapel hill archaeologist dr. jodi magness warns: ‘tv documentaries: proceed with caution.’ author and publishers’ weekly journalist marcia z. nelson offers, ‘ten commandments in
ten minutes: how to talk to the public via journalists.’ finally, ucla’s dr. robert r. cargill discusses ‘the camera friendly scholar: essentials for giving great tv interviews.’

check it out.

oye vey: 3d creation movie coming soon

mike fleming brings exclusive news in a deadline new york article entitled, ‘god stars in 3d book of genesis bible tale.’
in the story we learn:

Paramount Pictures and former Walden Media co-founder Cary Granat producing with Reel Fx are mounting In The Beginning, a 3D telling of the creation story. The film is using The Book of Genesis as its primary resource. A script has been written by John Fusco (Hidalgo), and directing will be TV vet David Cunningham.

we also learn that:

the $30 million film will use 3-D visuals to transform the oft-told tale into a spectacle that the filmmakers hope will attract family- and faith-based audiences that flocked to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, that first Chronicles of Narnia installment made on Granat’s Walden watch.

so there you have it. the next great mythological story told in 3d will be the story of adam and eve. and i can’t wait to hear the debates this movie will generate. here are a few just to get us started:

  • will the movie tell the genesis 1 story or the genesis 2 story (or harmonize them into a single creation story)?
  • will the movie give a literal account from the bible or will it embellish the story at all?
  • will the movie be praised by the evangelical christian crowd as much needed in a liberal hollywood climate, or will it be criticized if too much liberty is taken and the script deviates from the biblical account(s).
  • will it be a good script?
  • will it look as good as avatar?
  • will the academic community:
    • embrace it for its portrayal of a biblical story (thereby welcoming a movie based upon a piece of ancient literature)?
    • reject it for propagating a creation myth as historical (if the movie based upon a creation account is marketed as ‘factual’)?
    • embrace it because it embellished a mythological account of creation (and fictional stories should be celebrated as such)?
    • reject it because it feeds a frenzy of fundamentalist religion at a time when we should be critically examining the fundamental stories of various religious traditions over and against our modern, scientific understanding of humanity and the world?

what are your thoughts?

you must watch scott bailey’s theology nutjob channel

you must watch scott bailey’s theology nutjob youtube channel. it’s simply one of the best compilations of everything that’s wrong about modern christianity. not that christianity is bad, but there are some very bad folks out there giving christianity and christian worship a very bad name.

we can’t stop them from saying what they say. what we can do is the very opposite: highlight what they say publicly and put on the web, and expose it for the nonsense that it is. this is precisely what scott has done.

it’s half comedy and half tragedy, but you should watch it when you can. and check out scotteriology, his excellent blog as well!

have a nice day.

now where have i seen this before? using aliases to support or attack an idea

Sabrina Eaton

Sabrina Eaton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer

‘ellie light’ is the pseudonym used by someone who loves and supports president obama. according to several news agencies, ‘ellie’ has been sending letters to the editors of various news outlets supporting the president and bashing the media for daring to criticize him. one editor, sabrina eaton of the cleveland plain dealer, bagan to notice that the same letter, often word for word, was sent to different papers by the same alias, ‘ellie light,’ but stating different local addresses within the expected readership of each of the papers. when eaton wrote a story about the phenomenon and exposed the alias, ‘ellie’ wrote in response continuing to bash the press coverage of president obama, but never answering eaton’s questions of ‘ellie’s’ identity. for instance, eaton asked ‘ellie':

But why did all those letters say you lived in all those different places? It seems quite peculiar.

and

This email of yours has apparently been published in scads of newspapers. Each of them lists you as residing in their circulation area. How can you simultaneously reside in Kellogg (Michigan), Midland (Michigan), Follansbee (W.Va.), Myrtle Beach (S.C), Waynesboro (Va), Vallejo (Ca.), Mansfield (OH), Salinas (Ca), and Three Rivers (N.M.)? I also found your Haiti email printed in the paper in Lebanon, (PA). That one claimed you reside in Cornwall.

How did your missive end up in all these different publications, citing all these different residences for you? Where do you actually live? What do you actually do for a living? Are you sending these emails at the behest of any organization or politician? Are you the same Ellie Light who was once a reporter for the Bergen Record? Please respond ASAP because I plan to write about this.

Sincerely,
Sabrina Eaton
Plain Dealer, DC Bureau

‘ellie’ did respond, but answered none of eaton’s questions about her identity. and this reminded me of something very similar that has been taking place for the past three years with regard to the dead sea scrolls: the case of ‘charles gadda’ and raphael golb, who is under indictment in new york for, among other things, forgery, aggravated harassment, identity theft, and criminal impersonation, all stemming from a letter writing campaign used to promote a certain view of the origin of the dead sea scrolls and to attack scholars that disagree.

it is, of course, not illegal to pose as a different person and send the same letter to a bunch of different newspapers online. but when one is exposed as being deceptive online and attempting to use aliases to feign the appearance of widespread support or outrage, it makes the cause for which one is advocating appear weak. in fact, appearing to require a bunch of aliases to write scathing letters to press agencies with the hopes of drumming up some invented controversy in support of a cause makes the entire cause look so weak, it’s embarrassing. is it illegal? no. but it makes the one for whom you are advocating (in this case president obama) look like he needs to depend on fake supporters to prop up his ideas.

however, what is illegal would be the following hypothetical situation: the person behind ‘ellie light’ writes an article accusing sabrina eaton of plagiarizing ‘ellie light’s’ real-life father. then, ‘ellie light’ takes out a gmail address in the name of sabrina.eaton (at) gmail.com and proceeds to email the real sabrina eaton drawing her attention to the false article. when eaton does not respond, the alias emails sabrina eaton’s colleagues and, in the first person singular, admits to the false plagiarism that ‘ellie light’ originally posted in the internet. because gmail, yahoo, and other private email providers are commonly used as alternative personal email addresses for professionals who are required to use their corporate email addresses for business correspondence, this impersonation could cause many to assume the email is legitimate, and this impersonation could cause eaton’s employer to question her work as a journalist. that kind of forgery and impersonation would be criminal. and as absurd as the above hypothetical situation sounds, it is the very thing for which raphael golb, son of university of chicago oriental institute historian norman golb, stands accused of in new york superior court.

so let’s recap:

  • using aliases on the internet is legal.
  • using aliases to promote one’s point of view is and create the appearance of widespread support or outrage is deceptive, and is embarrassing and perhaps even counterproductive if exposed.
  • defaming, harassing, and libeling others on the internet using aliases is potentially a civil crime remedied in civil court via civil law suit if it can be proved who is behind the aliases.
  • impersonating others and forging their name in emails to confess to false accusations of plagiarism with the express purpose of harming one’s credibility as a professional crosses the line into criminal behavior.

in a business like journalism or academics, where the credibility of one’s written work is central to one’s success in one’s job, this kind of forgery and impersonation with the intent to damage one’s credibility and therefore livelihood would potentially be criminal.

one should be very careful when writing letters of protest or support on the internet. for those who wish to do so, here are a few tips to follow when writing on the internet:

  1. don’t use aliases.
  2. don’t say anything on the internet you wouldn’t say in your own name.
  3. and for the love of god, don’t be a prick online.

there is no such thing on the internet! all is known by someone, and when it becomes known, the prophetic words of 2 samuel 12:12 become very true.

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