The most ridiculous person I've encountered in the course of my work was an intelligent design proponent associated with Uncommon Descent, the blog of professor, author, and all-around ID kingpin William Dembski. In 2005 I was asked to write a book on intelligent design, creationism, and the whole "America is a Christian nation even though most of the key Founding Fathers specifically wrote otherwise on numerous occasions" meme that has been plaguing our republic for some time. Quite understandably, Dembski retaliated with a couple of attacks, even accusing me at one point of being obsessed with sex (I'm still trying to figure out who narced me out on that one). I didn't respond or even keep up very closely with the whole ID thing for a while afterwards due to the recent release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, an extraordinary computer game in which I opted to play as a cat-like humanoid specializing in stealth though not without grounding in Illusion magic. Later, I was turned into a vampire.
But the game is in many ways inferior to its legendary prequel Morrowind, and I eventually lost interest. God, I wish I wrote about video games instead of all this crap. So a few months ago, I did an article on Dembski in which I highlighted some of the fellow's more bizarre undertakings, including the strange and hilarious instance in which he actually reported University of Texas professor Eric Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security; based on a speech that the fellow had given regarding man's impact on the world, Dembski had apparently gotten it into his head that the elderly academic could very well be planning to try his hand at killing off humanity with, one may suppose, some sort of dastardly virus. Incidentally, the DHS foolishly declined to arrest the mad professor; today he is still at large, presumably fortified in his high-tech Latverian castle and using robotic dopplegangers to trick the Fantastic Four into attacking Moon Knight. Or he might be teaching a class at UT. A class about KILLING EVERYONE WITH A VIRUS.
Anyway, a colleague of Dembski's by the name of Clive Hayden wrote a reply to my article in which he accused me of wholesale something-or-other and designated me as "Barrett Clown." Other figures in the evolution-ID conflict got involved, as often happens with these things, and meanwhile I agreed to address all of Hayden's points other than those that rhymed with my name, thereby prompting a back-and-forth that went on for a couple of days. In the midst of this little skirmish, one particularly enthusiastic ID supporter proclaimed that my work was contributing to the onset of what would result in a bloody civil war, which is probably a slight exaggeration.
Sadly, that's not the crazy part. An evolution enthusiast jokingly suggested that this agitated ID supporter was himself a menace to the country by way of his general wackiness and that he would thus have to call Homeland Security on him - a rather obvious poke at Dembski's notorious misuse of the national security apparatus, one would think. The ID supporter wasn't one who would think it, though, and announced that he'd just contacted the DHS himself in order to clear his name as well as to inform on the evolution proponent for making the false report that obviously wasn't made (and charged him with helping to bring about the civil war for good measure). The evolution proponent tried to explain that he'd clearly been making a humorous reference to an incident that had just been under discussion, but our excitable Cassandra brushed this off as further evidence of the terrible conflict that would soon tear the nation asunder or maybe just rip it a little. Tellingly, this war-warner is not just a random nut, but rather an active if minor figure in the intelligent movement with apparent connections to various other, more prominent ID advocates.
One is only privileged to meet a certain number of wacky characters in the course of one's life, although I myself have intentionally upped the crazy factor in my own life by associating with as many bizarre and insensible people as possible. It has been a beloved hobby of mine from the age of 13 or so to debate politics on random internet forums even if some of those fellow citizens with whom I'm debating are wacky freaks who hate me. Usually I do all of this under my own name and equipped with my own irritating opinions, although I once posed as a Muslim in order that I might debate other atheists for a change; this ended when I allowed myself to be converted to Christianity by an evangelical who had taken notice of my theological adventures. Whether performed in earnest or as a prank, the written debate is a grand diversion, good for the mind and fingers alike, and at any rate I have no one with whom to argue in real life other than various girlfriends who are more interested in discussing my own deficiencies than those of Thomas Friedman. Apparently I need new pants and Thomas Friedman is just fucking perfect with his turtleneck. Well, sweetheart, maybe you should have Tom Friedman take you out to Peter Lugar's for a steak next Friday. He can tell you stories about cab drivers who've misinformed him over the years.
Sometimes one encounters craziness by complete accident. Over the last few weeks, I've been haranguing anyone willing to listen regarding conservative pundit Robert Stacy McCain and the mounting evidence of his racism and various previously-concealed ties to the neo-Nazi movement. The whole affair has led me into a friendly coordination with Charles Johnson, the blogger who helped break the Rathergate story, co-founded the conservative blog consortium Pajamas Media, and otherwise served for many years as one of the right's most celebrated citizen journalists. It turns out, though, that Johnson is not so much a conservative as he is simply an adamant critic of Islamic fundamentalism - and, to the horror of many, an opponent of Christian fundamentalism as well, this being an unforgivable offense among many of those who once thought the noted blogger to be swell but today routinely dismiss him as "Mad King Charles."
The latest symptom of Johnson's astonishing descent into psychosis, as several conservative pundits have explained to me over the past couple of weeks, is his inexplicable insistence on pointing out that McCain has lately been exposed as the very thing that he's always appeared to be - a southern racist who associated for years with the now-jailed neo-Nazi leader William White and even helped to get his articles sold to The Washington Times during his stint as an editor; who wrote about the dangers of white "race suicide" by way of teen pregnancy prevention measures that target whites instead of just blacks - and did so under an assumed name inspired by various Confederate "heroes" - for the white supremacist outlet American Renaissance; who in an e-mail once characterized "revulsion" as a "natural" reaction to mixed-race marriages; who before his rise to national prominence wrote dozens of internet forum messages in defense of slavery and in support of white political control over non-white populations while using the same pen name (a name to which he has admitted ownership); and who has otherwise expended some very significant amount of time and energy in opposing the aspirations of black American citizens. Of all the clear evidence against him, he has taken issue only with a former Times co-worker's characterization of him as a loud, angry racist - apparently the accuser is simply out to get him and, worse, divorced. Even after addressing that particular charge against him in a recent blog post, he nonetheless announced a few days later that he shall not address any of my charges against him because I will simply keep coming up with more charges. He's right.
As others have been alerted to McCain's unusual status as a mainstream pundit who is no longer able to conceal his racist sentiments and longtime connections to the neo-Nazi movement, more evidence is being discovered. Holocaust researcher Sergey Romanov last week dug up an astonishing number of comments in defense of slavery, segregation, and other such things - and all of this comes only from the comments that are still available. The many others that he'd left on the conservative forum Free Republic over the course of several years were, as the owner himself notes, all deleted by ts McCain's own request.
It's almost as if the guy who is known to have written a bunch of racist comments under a false name and then sought to get many of them deleted is trying to hide something.
Which brings me to a fun and illustrative little anecdote. Last week, McCain published a rather well-inked and crisply-colored cartoon composed by an admiring conservative artist, with the thrust of the message being that Charles Johnson is a whining baby who wears baby diapers and soils his diapers and is otherwise a baby; meanwhile, several prominent conservative bloggers and newly-minted Johnson foes such as Hot Air headliner Ed Morrissey and actual cartoon character Pam Geller are standing around talking about how much of a big, diaper-wetting baby Johnson has turned out to be (the character depicting blogger Dan Riehl even explains, lest any subtlety make its way into the panel, that Johnson "just needs his diaper changed").
Still, I figured the art could be salvaged, so I downloaded the cartoon, changed all the text, and sent my new version to McCain, Johnson, and the artist himself. McCain responded with a big blog post in which he likens me to the commissar of "a Maoist re-education camp" and otherwise got so caught up in his inimitably flamboyant nonsense that he seems to have forgotten to thank me for the cartoon. The artist and some other person associated with the artist's blog, on the other hand, sent me a bunch of wacky e-mails to which I tried my best to respond. This afternoon, I received yet another e-mail from one of the two informing me of "the huge backlash coming [my] way" and warning that my career is now in danger. I gave them permission to print the e-mails only to realize that they'd already put them up anyway; I shall send the reader to go take a gander at them in a moment, as the whole exchange is wonderfully illustrative of the mentality of those who have defended McCain and accuse his attackers of libel without even bothering to look at the evidence being presented.
But the most telling bit of all is happening as I type this - one of these two cartoonist-bloggers sent me another e-mail in which I am asked, "why is it that no one that makes these claims ever links the evidence of it to their 'claims'?" Jumbled as it is, the assertion is clear - neither I nor Johnson nor anyone else has ever linked to any evidence of McCain's racism. I sent the following reply:
If someone makes a claim about another person without linking to supporting evidence, then that someone has done a terrible and irresponsible thing indeed. So, since you yourself are claiming that I don't link to evidence of my claims regarding McCain when I write about him, you should have no problem linking to an article I've written on McCain that does not include a link to evidence of his racism.
I look forward to your prompt and successful citation.
Amazingly, I received the following reply a few moments later:
Of course I would have no problem with it...where is it?
I figured it wouldn't hurt to give the conservative artist another go at deciphering my easy-to-understand challenge:
You might want to try reading my last e-mail again. I'm asking you to prove your assertion that no one links to the evidence of McCain's racism when they claim that McCain is a racist. To do this, you'll need to go through the articles I've written on McCain, find one that doesn't link to evidence of his racism, and then send me that link. Good luck!
That was 30 minutes ago as of this writing; soon we shall perhaps discover if a movement conservative blogger is capable of learning new information and applying it in a manner that indicates a reasonably high order of conceptual capacity, like those intelligent sharks from Deep Blue Sea. Meanwhile, you might go check out their blog and read the original e-mail exchange that I had with the other shark. Person, rather. The other person.
I received the following reply:
Good grief! A snipe hunt? Please, I am a little too busy to find random articles that you have written... I am a corporate strategist in my "spare" time. If you have the link and do want to have a productive discussion then please just provide the link.
And I replied thusly:
Let me try to explain this in a different way:
1. You claimed that no one ever links to the evidence of McCain's racism when they accuse him of being a racist.
2. I asked you to point out an example of an article in which I have accused McCain of being a racist without also linking to evidence of his racism.
3. You said that this would be fine, but then you asked me for a link.
4. It would seem that you haven't read my articles on McCain and say that you are to busy to "find" them, which is fine.
5. If you haven't read my articles on McCain, then you obviously have no way of knowing that no one ever links to evidence of his racism, since I may very well have linked to evidence of his racism in the articles you didn't read. So, you're making a claim about something that you can't verify.
6. Read number five again.
7. One more time.
8. Imagine I have several houses. You say to me, "Why is it that no one paints the inside their houses blue?" I reply, "Well, you can go in one of my houses and see for yourself that, in fact, the insides of all of my houses are painted blue." You reply, "I'm too busy to go look inside these houses because I'm a corporate strategist." Do you see how that might be silly? Here you are, claiming that none of my houses are blue on the inside, and yet you haven't really been inside any of my houses to verify this. All you'd have to do is go into one house to see that the walls inside are blue, and the very blueness of these walls in this one house should tell you that, contrary to your claim that none of the houses are painted blue inside, at least one is. And then later I could show all the houses and you would find that they are all blue on the inside - which is to say, again, that you were not only wrong about none of them being blue on the inside, but also extra wrong insomuch as that they are all blue.
9. I'm trying to think of an even simpler way to explain this but I can't. Anyway, the houses are my articles on Stacy McCain and blue interiors constitute links to evidence of his racism.
10. Still, let's do it your way. Below you will find links to a couple of my articles on McCain. You will notice that each of these articles includes links to evidence that McCain is a racist. Now, if you see even one link to evidence of McCain's racism in one of these articles in which I assert that McCain is a racist, that means you are wrong about no one ever linking to evidence of McCain's racism in articles in which it is asserted that McCain is a racist, wouldn't it? And if you were to see a whole bunch of links to evidence of his racism in a whole bunch of these articles, it would mean that you were very, very wrong.
So, there you go. Just click one of those links, take a look at one of these articles that you've already implicitly characterized as not containing links to evidence of McCain's racism, and then take a look at the links to evidence of McCain's racism. Meanwhile, I'm going to go kill myself.
And I did.
The End (?)
Further updates and provocations may be found here.