Friday, October 12, 2007

The word of the day is 'Godless'

Didn't think I'd start off Year Four of LTR getting theological on all of you. But I have done crazier things here. So here goes.

Mark Green, president of Air America Radio, is either a marketing and publicity genius, or is just plain nuts.

Either description could be applied to the network's recent decision to add a show to their weekend lineup, Freethought Radio. It's referred to as "the first nationally broadcast radio show from the secular point of view." The weekly one hour show, which premiered on the network last weekend and airs on Saturdays from 1-2PM, is hosted by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The objective of the show is to offer programming for nonreligious listeners, and to "counter the religious right domination of our public airwaves." Segments of the show include "Theocracy Alert," Dan's "Pagan Pulpit," "Freethinkers Almanac," and music and interviews with authors and activists.

Yes, this is a show by and for atheists, agnostics and nontheists.

"We think it's a good show," Barker said. "There's a gap, there's a place for it. With all this religious broadcasting, there's nothing specific for atheists and agnostics."

Nothing has been disclosed publicly about how exactly Freethought Radio came to the network. It started as a little weekly show on WXXM in Madison, WI, an Air America affiliate.They self-syndicated to a few non-commercial stations. What likely happened next, like with Politically Direct, Go Vegan, EcoTalk and other minor Air America shows, is that FFRF found sponsors and funding for the show, so the network cleared it.

Now, my questioning of Mr. Green's motives are not based on anything dealing with religion. Far from it. I'm a believer in the Almighty, but I often find myself jaded by what passes for organized religion these days, which seems to be more about pointing fingers, lining pockets and exerting personal power. So, along comes this new show, Freethought Radio, and Air America's embrace of it is a move that will be subject either to mountains of publicity, praise for gutsiness, or loads of criticism about "dem Godless libruls."

I learned to ignore those holier-than-thou so-called fundamentalist conservatives long ago. Many of these people wield religion as a cold blunt weapon of hate and tyranny. The religious right movement seems all too often to be a breeding ground for hypocrites - sexually frustrated, homophobic, violent racists and control freaks who are really set not too far apart from other devoutly religious types, such as the ones who would hijack jet airliners and fly them into skyscrapers.

Air America should be ready for heaping piles of scorn from the rabid right. After all, the "War on Christmas" won't begin for another month or so. Time for them to get warmed up.

And boy, are the wingnuts up in arms. Bloggers are already drooling over this, as if there's some kind of connection that proves in their eyes that liberals are all 'Godless.' And just the other day, the big GOP propaganda juggernaut that is FOX 'News' Channel, has gotten in on the act. On America's Newsroom, co-anchor Bill Hemmer teased a segment about Air America's recent programming move by asking, "Is this the new war on religion?" And further proving that the people at FOX Nuisance are really out of touch with the times, the on-air graphic is of Al Franken, with the on-screen text reading: "War on God?" Keep in mind that it's been about eight months since Franken ended his Air America show.

Hemmer picked it up in the next hour, teasing the same segment by asserting: "Also, do you think religion is a sickness? If you think so, the radio guys at Air America have ... got one heck of a show for you. Straight ahead: on the air and godless." Again, the on-screen image was of Franken and the words "Godless Programming." Wonder how much Franken's Senate challenger Norm Coleman paid for that?

In the next hour, religion correspondent Lauren Green, who has actually worked in television in Franken's home town of Minneapolis, noted that Franken is "not actually -- not really working for Air America anymore." Okay, so someone there got it right. The on-screen crawl: "Godless Radio: Air America Radio Launches New Show on Atheism." Gee, talk about subtlety!

Not surprisingly, FOX Views milked the whole Freethought Radio story like a golden calf. Jon Scott on FOX News Live even interviewed Mark Green about it, while the on-screen text read, "Shocking Show." They also brought back their religion correspondent, who spouted some unproven and massively spun statistics about how many atheist college professors there are teaching your children. In addition, Scott was quick to add that he won't be listening to the show. Like we care.

FOX Noise and their ilk love to attack anything that smacks of liberalism, and that includes Air America. However, the show is not an Air America creation. Actually, it's been airing on WXXM in Madison, WI since April 2006. Yes, its those Godless heathens at Clear Channel Communications who started it. Those same heathens who own Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates Rush Limbaugh's show. So, in FOX Noise's view of the world, does that mean Rush Limbaugh's handlers are engaged in a 'War on God?' Guilt by association seems to work for them, right?

I find it highly ironic that FOX News would even 'go there' in regard to morality. After all, this is a 'news' channel that comes from a media empire created on a mountain of some of the most lurid, sleazy and violent content ever foisted on the mainstream masses. Rupert Murdoch boosted circulation over the last four decades by putting pictures of topless women in his newspapers. When they entered television by creating a 'fourth network,' FOX had to do something to get their foot in the door. Hence, their inaugural Sunday night slate on April 5, 1987 included the extremely raunchy Married...with Children. Another early show was called Women In Prison. The Parents Television Council has often criticized FOX for the content of their shows. They still air the outrageously raunchy Family Guy, which seriously stretches the boundaries of FCC standards for what's suitable for early prime time viewing. And it's a cartoon!

In the process of establishing a fourth network, FOX encouraged their affiliates to start up local newscasts. To attract viewers, the affiliates upped the ante in delivering heavy coverage of murders, fires and other various violent stories, combined with other lurid stories. Hotels in Miami refused to pipe in the local FOX affiliate, as Channel 7's heavy-handed coverage of violent local stories was bad for tourism. The network's news fare, or what loosely passed for it at the time, was heavy with coverage of dangerous criminals, police busts, animal attacks and dangerous car chases.

But I often gave FOX a pass on that stuff. After all, News Corp.'s media properties never claimed to be fundie propaganda. It was all just trash designed to rake in as much money as possible from the lowest common denominator. The 'news' channel is no exception - it's marketed toward lowbrow viewers who are gullible targets for advertisers. They're more entertainment than news. And at least they usually didn't try to bring The Almighty's name into it. Until now.

I do find it laughable that any News Corp. property would call anyone "Godless." But maybe they only hire church-going Page Three girls to pose for their newspapers.

What's even more ironic is how most conservatives and Republicans casually throw His name around. If one is to believe 'The Seven Deadly Sins,' an early part of Christian teaching, then this creates a real paradox for these guys. For example:

Lust - Limbaugh got busted coming back from a trip to the Dominican Republic, a well-known hotspot for underage prostitution, with a bottle of Viagara. This was illegal, since the pills were not prescribed in his name - a big no-no. Bill O'Reilly got slapped with a harassment suit for telling one of his employees what he'd like to do to her with flaky bread, a surreal scene that sounds like it came straight out of Last Tango In Paris. How about disgraced evangelist Ted Haggard's meth-fueled romp with male prostitutes? Holier-than-thou Idaho Senator Larry Craig's bathroom cruising? This list runs the danger of getting way too long.

Gluttony - Limbaugh. 'Nuff said. Ironically, it likely took a gluttonous addiction to Oxycontin (popping more pills than most people could possibly handle) to help him lose all that bulk.

Greed - Murdoch. 'Nuff said. Okay, that's too easy. How about Pat Robertson's dealings with corrupt dictators like Liberia's Charles Taylor and Zaire's Mobutu Seko, which resulted in bogus 'humanitarian' missions which were merely cover for extracting diamonds and gold out of Africa? Robertson also used a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, called Operation Blessing, for these purposes, then used his influence in the Republican Party to encourage the U.S. government to 'look the other way.' Also spent half a million dollars in church money to invest in a race horse named Mr. Pat.

Sloth - Sloth is basically laziness. And that could best describe the staff of FOX News, who often seem way too lazy to actually report the truth. Or the people who tag guys like disgraced Republican Congressman Mark Foley as a 'Democrat.'

Wrath - Oh, where do I start here? You'll hear lots of right-wing pundits and media goons casually throwing around phrases like "traitor," "helping the terrorists" and "un-American." You'll even hear some demand that someone blow up The New York Times building, like Ann Coulter did. I could go on and on, but isn't it ironic that these so-called God-fearing types so openly advocate the murder of thousands in Iraq? Can't you just feel the hate?

Envy - Could be construed as an intent to commit malice, or harm against another party. Kinda like the smearing of 12-year-old Graeme Frost over the S-CHIP health program. After Democrats chose Frost to deliver the party response to President Bush's weekly radio address, FOX Noise, Michelle Malkin, the National Review and the usual gang of idiots all went after Frost with guns-a-blazin' in an ill-fated smear campaign that came back and kicked them right in the asses. 'Swift-boating' a child? Now THAT'S "Godless!"

Pride - "The most powerful name in news." "Talent on loan from God." "The no-spin zone." Gee, talk about massive egos!

So, at least Air America is being honest. Much more than those fundie nuts who claim to be God's mouthpieces. It appears that Freethought Radio is designed to be a dialogue of sorts, to talk about how religion impacts everyone's lives. Nothing wrong with that. That's stuff that should be talked about. The show sounds like it would be a good fit with another Air America offering, State Of Belief, hosted by Rev. Welton Gaddy, which discusses religion and faith from a progressive perspective. Air America also aired a program called The Time is Now, hosted by Rev. James Forbes, which ended its run this past July. Doesn't sound all that 'Godless' to me.

Truth be told, my mindset on religion and its role in government (or vice-versa) is a very libertarian one - our government shouldn't be meddling in religion and religion shouldn't be meddling in our government. People should be free to believe how they want, if indeed they choose to believe or not believe. And in many ways, I do respect the atheist mindset. At various times, I went searching for biblical citations to bolster arguments, usually against hypocritical tyrants like Pat Robertson. Or I was just looking for deeper meaning from that Really Big Book. Turns out the best and most informative stuff came from - yes, you guessed it - atheist websites! Interestingly, I found that they seem to know more about The Bible than the fundie types that like to throw them at people! Ironic, isn't it? So why is that? Perhaps they see The Bible for what it is - a work started thousands of years ago, and mostly written by scholars and monks, distanced quite a bit from the outside world, who had a very conservative outlook on society. In turn, the things that they transcribed often reflected the way they saw things. Yes, The Bible was the ultimate spin job. After all, those scholars were only human.

Now, before you condemn me to that fiery place run by the guy with the horns, let me just add that I do consider myself to be spiritual. I do believe in a higher power. But that higher power most certainly isn't a bunch of guys holed up in a room writing what they think God is all about and demanding people obey. It's not about those idiots on the 700 Club. I believe it all comes, first and foremost, from within. I don't feel I need someone else to tell me how to believe. I think we all know the answer within.

Besides, most of these pseudo-Bible bangin' conservative types likely aren't all that into faith. Does anyone actually think people like Fats Lowbrow Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter attend Sunday services? Let's be real here. I doubt Limbaugh even leaves his house, unless it's to go golfing or score pills behind Denny's.

Listening to Freethought Radio likely won't doom one to eternal damnation. Believe it or not, it may even be enlightening and informative. At least more enlightening than the one-sided demagoguery that passes for religious broadcasting these days.


Jim said...

Al Franken's senatorial opponent is Norm Coleman, not Norm Green.

ltr said...

Damn Jim - I'm really slipping! I was thinking of another loathsome Minnesota carpetbagger - former North Stars owner Norm Green! Must have hockey on the brain.

Yeah, I meant Coleman. Good catch!

This entry must be cursed. I had to correct it at least four times for grammar, content, etc.

Craig C Clarke said...

They didn't put Franken's image up because they are behind the times, they did it knowingly as an attack. They knew he isn't with the network and has nothing to do with the show, they just hate him and leapt at a chance to smear him.

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