Fraysters debate whether the religious right is getting the shaft.

Fraysters debate whether the religious right is getting the shaft.

Fraysters debate whether the religious right is getting the shaft.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Aug. 10 2005 8:16 PM

Bearing the Cross

Fraysters debate whether the religious right is getting the shaft.

Unit 731: Sixty years and a day after the United States dropped the second of two atomic bombs on Japan, MsZilla looks at the generation-old moral debate through the prism of Japan's Unit 731:

…I got into a rather nasty argument with someone I know who really got ticked off about it. I don't know why; he's from Mexico. But this anniversary seems to have kicked something off in him. He thinks that the American government should have made a huge movie about how awful this was and show the whole world what an awful thing we did to commemorate the whole thing and the American people should be held accountable. I pointed out the US reconstruction of the entire country after the war, and I told him it was a little silly of him to be holding me personally responsible for something that happened six years before my mother was born. He just repeated himself that it was horrible. I'm afraid I kind of lost my temper. I told him okay, I'd do it. I'd write his script. Just as soon as he writes and distributes in wide-release in Japan and China a solid documentary about Unit 731. He didn't know what that was, so I sent him the links that are farther down this post. He hasn't answered me back. I may have lost an acquaintance there. It's true, though. The Japanese have several dirty secrets of their own from that time.

Unit 731 was one such deep dark secret. Josef Mengele had a Japanese counterpart, and he worked unhindered on a scale his German alter-ego never dreamed of in the Chinese province of Manchuria. Mengele just had prisoners and Jews to work with. Isshi had his prisoners, plus the entire province and he used it. He did experiments on prisoners; killing over 9,000 at one facility alone. But his real work was out in the countryside. He field tested several biological agents, killing tens of thousands of civilians with bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax and other diseases. He also experimented with gasses and poisons, and is credited with the base research that resulted in the nerve agent Sarin. He was never brought to justice and died unrepentant in 1959. For some good summary info, start with this and here. There's a great Wikipedia entry on it here or a Google on "Unit 731 Manchuria" will get you a long list of other sources to go through, too.

Fritz_Gerlich's reply:

"The debate over whether the atomic bombs should have been used will never end, nor should it." It should never end not only for in the interests of justice and remembrance to those who lived and died those events, but also because since that time nuclear weapons are with us forever, and not only with us, but soon with pretty much everybody. What the world thinks today of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will help define future thinking about the use of nuclear weapons. It may help determine whether New Delhi or Tel Aviv or Riyadh gets nuked ten or twenty years from now.

I'm quite aware of Unit 731, the Rape of Nanjing and the Rape of Manila. I've never tried to excuse Japan's crimes. I also don't excuse Japan's continuing failure to own its past. I am, literally, the only person I know who despises a film by Kon Ichikawa titled in English Harp of Burma (also The Burmese Harp). The movie has always been lauded in the West as a pacifist morality tale, which it is, superficially. At a much deeper level, though, it is a subtle statement that only we Japanese understand each other. Outsiders cannot understand us. Nor can they judge us. In other words, exactly the mindset that made Japanese militarism possible in the first place.

But whether two Japanese cities (that were chosen precisely because, having no significant military or industrial targets, they had not been previously bombed) should have been turned into mass human sacrifices, is a completely separate issue from Japanese war crimes, for which Japanese leaders and military commanders were tried and punished after the war. Unit 731 is irrelevant to that question, just as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were irrelevant to the charges against the men in the dock at Nuremberg (a defense some of them actually tried, by the way).

Get in on the thread hereKA5:15 p.m.

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The Tail Wagging the Dog: There are two minds on the left as to where power resides in the ruling majority. Some secularists and civil libertarians maintain that the barbarians at the gate are evangelicals who've wrested control of the Republican majority from the cuddly, pallid Episcopalians and monied paternalists endowed with noblesse oblige who used to stand at the portals of power. Then there are the skeptics, like Thrasymachus, who believe that religious dogma is being pawned by leaders of the conservative movement as a means to consolidate power. T. writes an open letter to religious conservatives, evoking conservative luminary Russell Kirk:

Nobody "upstairs" in the conservative movement really thinks the way you do. To them, you're useful dupes.

Conservative intellectuals like to peddle religion as a socially useful instrument of control, but they don't buy into it. In point of fact, most of them can't buy into the crude religious dogma they've been selling you.

In the works of C.S. Lewis, you'll find a good modern example of the kind of intellectual contortions that intelligent, well-educated people have to engage in if they want to be doctrinaire Christians. It's nearly impossible.

But it's important to them that the likes of you be indoctrinated with strict religious teachings to restrain your bestial nature. As Russell Kirk put it, "the common man tends to dislike abstractions." If you can be satisfied with religious ghost stories, then you must, ipso facto, be someone who should be left to the tender mercies of the Church, since reason and your own moral sensibilities can't keep you in check.

For that reason, conservative intellectuals have decided to lie. As Russell Kirk put it, "reflective men and women [must] labor for the restoration of religious teachings as a credible body of doctrine" for you, but as to themselves they're aware that "[n]o one can sincerely embrace a religious creed merely because it might be socially beneficial to do so. -Kirk, Civilization Without Religion?

…In essence, it's the substitution of "pious frauds" and "noble lies" for the darker truth. It's the doctrine of conservatives back through Strauss and Burke and Machiavelli. Plato too, actually.

They don't believe in Jesus or Hell or the Resurrection; but it's extremely important to them that you do, so they can keep you under control.

Just about every prominent conservative thinker is in on this little joke. And now you are too. I'm interested to see what you make of it.

What say locdog in response?

even today, in this puritanical hell we conservative Christians have wrought, the liberals have somehow managed to find a way to turn our universities into ideological echo chambers--what the aging burnouts who currently run them would have called "conformity factories" back in their own time. and let's not even get into primary or high school education. i'm opposed to teaching creationism in our schools, but every time i hear one of you pinkos start bitching about it i just want to retch, because those same aging burnouts who've turned higher education into an orwellian nightmare are writing the history books that spend 7 chapters on the internment of japanese americans during WWII while barely making mention of, say, the american revolution.

hell, i'll stipulate everything you said in this article and still be ten times less the idiot than you, or anyone else who believes that "conservative Christian" is a bigger scam than "liberal atheist" or "secular humanist" or any other categorization of flawed, fallible man you care to apply.

Can They Hackett in '06? J_Mann is an OH-2 resident and feels that Democratic candidate Paul Hackett's 48 percent can be more faithfully attributed to the Ohio GOP's mess than taken as a harbinger of a national Democratic tidal wave in 2006.

Assassin of the Week: Don't mind the shifty formatting, because 300andahalf's post debunking of Elisabeth Vincentelli's Music Box piece is well worth the read. Check out 300's litany of complaints about Slate's music writing hereKA 10:10 a.m.

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Monday, August 8, 2005

For Your Reference: Though Wikipedia maintains that a vanity page is grounds for deletion, don't tell that to SwingLowSweetDeej. Subscribing to the "say something good or say something bad; but say something" school of publicity, Deej announces that he has expanded The Fray's Wikipage, pimping BOTF strong in the process:

While each Fray typically has a parent article that Slate publishes, the discussions in each of the forums are often of varied topics, independent of the main thrust of the forum. Some of the forums do not currently have a Slate parent article or department, but these forums, Best of the Fray in particular, can have thriving discussions spanning a wide breadth of human interests.

Ender has been chronicling the Wikipedia campaign and the debate over whether BOTF and the Fray warrant inclusion in everyone's favorite info-emporium. Apparently, dubious Wikipedia entries must endure a process referred to as "VFD"—Votes for Deletion. The discussion encompasses some interesting, relevant, and wholly masturbatory questions. For his part, locdog implores Wikipedia to nix what was merely a BOTF entry at its inception:

as a BOTF regular, i beseech you wikigods, please, in the name of all that is holy and just, delete the BOTF entry. as i perused your six-part pikachu tractate or your even more elaborate explorations of the rim job and the Mandalorian War, i became increasingly convinced that not only is this probably not the best showcase for BOTF, but that no sane person would voluntarily come within 100 furlongs of you freaks or anything you consider "notable." –locdog

So far as Fray Editor can discern from the arcana of the Wiki-chat, consensus prevailed that changing the entry from BOTF to a more general exegesis on the Fray and its attributes was more sensible. The most endearing quality of this discussion is that whether to include a BOTF of Fray entry into Wikipedia has evolved into what Wiki's FCYTravis calls, "World's longest VFD vote in history."

Why doesn't that come as a surprise? … KA4:35 p.m.

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Friday, August 5, 2005

Senor Bomb: Doodahman's Dan Senor Boycott, which began here, has officially come to a close. For his part, dood explains:

The motive for the boycott is not that the positions of known liars and frauds are aired. Those positions rise or fall on their own merits and the more they are discussed, the clearer we can see them for what they are…

Haven't these people had a more than ample opportunity to spread disinformation, change their stories, hide important information and restrict the debate into an unrealistic and dishonest frame? … Why the hell do we need to tap Dan Senor into the debate? Surely somebody who is not tainted with actual involvement in this crime would have done a much better job, even if only because they are not personally tainted with it.

I have never had a problem with debating the war issue, even though the efforts of the media, including Slate, have all been to narrow the range of viewpoints so that the real truth, that this war was phony and fraudulent from the get-go, gets no hearing whatsoever. We are, in fact, forced to debate the issue in an Alice in Wonderland world where administration officials known to be bloodsucking liars and corporate shills are accorded every honor and credit normally reserved for folks with a reputation for integrity when, the real world, such people would be hooted out of the room…

We return you now to regularly scheduled programmingKA7:05 a.m.

Fat Doesn't Enlarge People, the Media Do: Aided by an MSN link to Seth Stevenson's Ad Report Card on Dove's "Real Women, Real Curves" series, hundreds of new users jumped into the Fray last night to assault Stevenson, even though Fraywatch finds nothing remotely sniping about his portrayal of Dove's lineup of "real women." I always enjoy, in mild doses, when a torrent of non-Slate regulars storm the Fray, if only because it's during these incursions that the forum is boiled down to its essence.

Scuseme brandishes the predictable Madison Avenue hammer:

It is because of media, that women have a poor self image in general anyway. It's media, that gives the world its ideas on what the female figure should look like. None of those women in that ad are fat, by any means. But you're an idiot!

And this

Wow, if this isn't an example of discrimination and hate speech, I don't know what is.

Replace the word "fat chicks" with "muslims", "jews" or "homosexuals" or some such thing and the FBI would arrest this person.

I guess since "fat chicks" aren't loved by the media and hollywood, they are free game for those people who can do nothing but hate.

Then you've got dinoman_73, who is grateful for the Dove ads because

any ad that can get women to feel good about how they look is 30 minutes I don't have to spend listening to my wife complain about having to go on a diet to look "good."

Finally, you have proud, self-proclaimed "fat chick" pimpstressV being courted by self-proclaimed lover of fat-chicks, Smart_Assessmets [sic] in this threadKA5:45 a.m.

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Thursday, August 4, 2005

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Shock the Monkey: Robert Mapplethorpe—15 years after the Cincinnati donnybrook—is the subject of Slate's Lee Siegel penned slideshow. This summer, the Guggenheim exhibits Robert Mapplethorpe and the Classical Tradition: Photographs and Mannerist Prints. Here, sfdoddsy comments that divorcing Mapplethorpe from the context of public reaction to his work over the last two decades is a sticky proposition: 

I agree with Lee Seigel's overall point that trying trying link Mapplethorpe with previous traditions is stretching a tenuous bow, except in the sense that all art is influenced by what has gone before. The purpose is obviously to 'legitimize' him.

But surely Lee is trying to do the same thing. Yet I'm not sure it is successful. Criticizing our concentration on the context of Mapplethorpe's work and the public reaction to it, while still emphasizing it throughout the article, is a tad hypocritical, but it did make me look at the photos themselves.

Okay, so what about this Mapplethorpe-as-formalist meme that Siegel hit upon?  In this thread, ksuave and NovaEx touch on it (ever so slightly), though Nova relegates Mapplethorpe to the trash bin, while ksuave gives Mapplethorpe his props as a an "excellent portrait photographer" and reminds us that:

Mapplethorpe was an arts elitist who eschewed the very idea of government funding. He never wrote grant proposals; he f*cked for money.

…To deny RM's sexual context is of course absurd, but RM himself actively contributed to the notion that he was a "fine artist". He was extremely pretentious in his endeavors and was often successful. He exhibited at the leading fine art gallery during his life (Light Gallery) and has been collected by serious photo collectors (including Sam Wagstaff) from early in his career.

For Zonemind-PDX, Mapplethorpe's oeuvre was merely "a high-gloss output of a game we called 'Freak the Mundanes.'  " Splendid_IREny counts herself among those "shocked" by Mapplethorpe's work, but her shock emanates not from the work itself so much as …

looking at photography from a comfortable distance. Mapplethorpe's subjects are not Arbus' fragmented and marginalized "freaks." Even if some of his subjects are posed in a "shy, textbook manner," they also seem conscious of the juxtaposition in which they've been placed.
Maybe the subject's awareness of the line between the pose and the reality, is what I find shocking.

Is S_I saying that it's the restraint of Mapplethorpe's subjects that she finds shocking? The way Mapplethorpe is able to arrest them in pose? Visit with S_I hereKA9:55 a.m.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

When Nontheists Attack: The anti-clerical side of Christopher Hitchens' curious brand of New World Straussism has enraged Catholic fraysters. In case you missed yesterday's Fighting Words, Hitchens questions whether John Roberts' faith will inhibit his ability to preside over Supreme Court cases. Anticipating the critics, Hitchens points to recent declarations by Catholic clerics that American politicians who don't conform with the church on abortion should be effectively excommunicated. Hitchens writes:

we have increasingly firm papal dogmas on two issues that are bound to come before the court: abortion and the teaching of Darwin in schools. So, please do not accuse me of suggesting a "dual loyalty" among American Catholics. It is their own church, and its conduct and its teachings, that raise this question.

Publius regards  the article as pure Catholic-bashing:

one might overlook some of Hitchens' eccentricities but his attacks on the Roman Church are pure venom that would put him in good company with Rev. Ian Paisley or the Indiana Klan of the 1920s.

There are 55 million Roman Catholics in America and their participation in public life from top to bottom as Democrats and Republicans, left and right, in the White House and the state houses, on the bench and in our legislatures is well known and ought to have long ago put to rest the old-time Protestant paranoia about hocus pocus and the Pope of Rome sending orders through Jesuits.

Not apparently for Hitchens, who does not seem to know or care that leading American Catholics of the past two generations have inlcuded the entire Kennedy clan, Mario Cuomo, Chris Dodd and John Kerry, to name just a few. So let me get this justification for discrimination against American communicants with the Roman Church based on the Church's role in civil matters right: we should make sure we ask Catholics who may pass throught Senate confirmation process how their religious convictions might affect their views and governmental decisions but not ask the same of Protestants, Jews or others?

MarkBrown calls it bigotry:

Hitch's rant reminds me of the vile, nativist Thomas Nast cartoon where the threat of bishops, their mitres drawn to resemble alligator jaws, came crawling up on America's shores. Beware! Beware of the Papist horde. Soon he'll be telling us that nuns are killing babies in the convents, as said in a widely circulated (and believed) anti-Catholic screed of the 19th century.

Though koplaw falls short of wrapping Hitchens in the bed linens, he maintains that—even as a self-confessed Bush-hater—Roberts is no "Manchurian Conservative":

First, the whole account is third level hearsay which does not ring true based upon how close to the vest Roberts has kept his views.

Second, Roberts went to Regis, a Jesuit prep school. If you tell most conservative priests you went to a Jesuit school, they will tell you it's a shame that you never had a catholic education. Jesuit training incorporates precisely the type of outcome determinative manipulation to reach the desired result as law encompasses, in other words, he can justify any legal result even if it is inconsistent with a Papal decree…

Third, historically, catholic jurists have been no enemy of the right to abortion. Look at Brennan. Further, all over catholic europe, catholic politicians are thumbing their nose at the church by approving gay marriage, etc, etc. Nobody has been excommunicated…

…even a broken clock is right twice a day … I expected a right wing religious freak. But, Bush must have been advised that the cultural war is better as a moot battle than the real thing, because this guy is not an ideologue unless he is truly the ManchurianConservative. He will certainly be no less conservative than O'Connor, but he is no Bork. If you start picking about his catholic faith, you are reaching.

But SacSays writes that Hitchens' objections are reasonable, if framed correctly:

The right question is directly related to what Hitchens focuses on -- the church's newly minted threats to excommunicate politicians who vote in favor of abortion rights. The question for Roberts should properly be something along the lines of, "On the Supreme Court, you may author a decision, or vote in a case in a way that could lead the Vatican to excommunicate you, as it has said it may excommunicate politicians who vote in certain ways or take certain public positions. Are you willing to risk excommunication from your church if you feel the U.S. Constitution requires a decision by you that contradicts Rome?"

Something like that.

Jester2459 splits the difference here, while JohnLex7 takes up for Hitchens heartily here and in many of the dissenting threads (against Pub here) … KA10:45 a.m.