Memories reminders ghosts and myths

I have been reading some stuff on “community of memory” (Paige Baty on Marylin and Barbie Zelizer on Kennedy) and then recently came across these two quotes from quite different sources.

Firstly Derrida’s notion of ghosts from an this essay on the cultural history of the highway:

Jacques Derrida has suggested that ghosts come to talk with us both from the past and the future. Learning to understand these ghosts of the future-past or the past-future is necessary, he claims, if we wish to take responsibility for future generations:

[we must] learn to live by learning not how to make conversation with the ghost but how to talk with him, with her, how to let them speak or how to give them back speech, even if it is in oneself, in the other, in the other in oneself: they are always there, specters, even if they do not exist, even if they are no longer, even if they are not yet. (176)

In the case of highways, thus, it is important to understand the role that ghosts play in our constructions of the past and the future, if we are to learn to take responsibility for their role in the future. The way we imagine the roads of tomorrow suggests something about the way we value our selves, our environment, and our technologies — and suggests something about the way we must act, if we are to have responsibility for our future selves.

Secondly this essay from the Boston Globe on Oliver Stone’s new movie Alexander.

WRITING ABOUT the Romans seen on film 50 years ago, the French theorist Roland Barthes saw in their sweaty brows the mythology of “man thinking.” These days, however, our Greeks and Romans do not think, they remind. They remind themselves of their destiny. They remind their followers of the glory they might win. And their stories remind us a great deal of our current empire, and its strategic uncertainties.

The author J. D Connor makes not just the obvious comparison to Iraq and the American empire but also takes this new taste for epics (Gladiator, Troy, Alexander and others to come soon) as a reflection of the global empire of Hollywood: “These days any commercial filmmaker (and particularly one with a fondness for casts of thousands and lavish period detail) needs a certain amount of imperial hubris: that is, he needs to believe that audiences will flock to his or her films around the globe.”

Today’s events are present in the history remade on screen:

Since much of the action of “Alexander,” moral and military, takes place in what is now Iraq, it’s hardly surprising that Oliver Stone takes some potshots at the president. What is unexpected are the heartfelt neocon speeches Alexander delivers. Standing on his balcony overlooking Babylon, he goes on and on: “These people want change, they need change,” Alexander asserts. He lives “to free the people of the world.”

To be sure, Stone lays the irony on thick here. After the first balcony speech, Alexander’s boyfriend Hephaistion quickly changes the subject to his sovereign’s dreamy eyes. And during Alexander’s second major policy address on the balcony, he is too preoccupied with Babylon’s “deep water port” to notice that Hephaistion is busy flailing away out of focus in the background, dying of a poison-induced fever.

When a trusted commander complains that conquering all of Asia “was not your father’s mission,” Alexander responds (again la W.), “I am not my father.” Why stop now? Why stop ever? One more month, Alexander tells his men in India.

It’s all here in a condensed image. The anxiety over empire, the anxiety of sexuality, the anxiety over expansion and retreat. We are reminded of history, we see ghosts of past present and future. We see cultural production.

Academic blogging

Two very interesting posts, each with lots of comments, over at Crooked Timber (here and here) on academic blogging and its relationship to tenure processes, publications etc.

Eszter began the discussion with a post pointing to similarities with traditional academic journal publishing:

one extremely important component of the journal publishing process is very much present on blogs (or can be): the peer review process (this claim is in direct contrast with Brian Leiter’s assertion a while back). Blogs that allow comments make it possible for others to discuss the posted material. In many ways this is much more conducive to intellectual exchange and the advancement of knowledge than publishing articles in journals that no one will ever read. Not only is the original post available to all subsequent readers but so are the reactions of others.

John Quiggin and others prefer the analogy to op-ed pieces and small magazines:

Posts are like short versions of opinion pieces or contributions to magazines like The New Republic or, in Australia, Quadrant and Eureka Street. As was noted by some earlier commentators, blogs have pretty much captured the territory occupied by these magazines, to the extent that quite a few have responded by establishing their own blogs.

In the numerous comments in both posts (aside: in posts like these with lots of detailed comments it is not possible to hyperlink directly to comments as the comments don’t have permalinks, interesting point for future programers) a range of other analogies are evoked:

– personal blogs should be considered as a whole in the same way that new “courses” rather than individual “lectures” are counted as academic development.

– blogs should be counted as service to the academic and wider community

– blogs are more similar and often more related to teaching than to research

– blogs are similar to the discussions that have been happening for 20 years on email lists and usenet

– blogs are similar to conference panels or participation in academic seminars

– blogs are similar to the London coffee house phenomenon or American pamphleteering (interestingly no one directly invoked Habermas)

Both posts and all the comments are very interesting and worth a read. They point to the fact that we are currently at a critical transitional point in the emergence of academic blogging. Several commentators make the point that blogging will gain more academic credibility once more senior academics become involved in blogging or alternatively once more bloggers become senior academics.

David Tuft, a business academic (commenting in Eszter’s thread) makes a fascinating point on the idea of institutional “readiness” for the blogging revolution:

I know that my blog is academically useful. Microsoft (and others) have announced that they know that the blogs written inside their organizations are important. Universities need to figure this out. This will happen eventually, but probably not until there are more bloggers on tenure committees, and applicants with blogs.

Jonathan Dresner (in the Quiggin thread) also makes an interesting point about blogging as an indication of technological competence and engagement:

One more thought on why it matters now that blogging be listed on c.v.’s: the incessant calls for scholars and teachers to use “technology” as a teaching tool. The ability to write a post with hyperlinks is not a terribly significant one in itself, but it signifies an awareness and engagement with innovative (ok, fashionable) technology with educational implications.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, John Holbo, (in Eszter’s thread) begins a discussion of using blogs as a part of academic journal websites:

Having an academic journal with its own blog has obvious functional prospects, it seems to me. Especially if it is a journal that nobody notices right now. Also, you can sponsor discussions of all the articles in each issue as it comes out. And it would be easier to claim a kind of ‘service’ credit (I agree with Brian that we can use that label, if we must use one of the old ones). Being the blogger for a journal would be like being an editor for a journal. Worth something. And if you did long pieces, helped people find their way to the good stuff, you could plausibly claim to be more than an editor, and eventually everyone would get used to that.

Holbo also suggests that this kind of blog could assist in redefining academic discussion and even move the “reputational economy” in fields or sub-fields which are new or in some kind of crisis/transition.

He also rightly suggests that blogs are not just like papers/service/lectures etc they are something specific in their own right:

But the fact is: blogs are not really equivalent to anything but themselves. And we should avoid falling into the trap of looking like we are sureptitiously equating them what they are not when really we are saying: hey, they are good. So they should count.

Myth and structures of feeling

Over at the ever interesting Revealer, Gregory Grieve expands on an earlier post about "moral values" as a Barthian myth.

category of “moral values” was rhetorically powerful because it
operated as an empty signifier, similar to Barthes’ notion of "myth,"
onto which people are projecting their conceptions. As Barthes writes
in "Myth Today":
"The signifier presents itself in an ambiguous way: It is at the same
time meaning and form, full on one side and empty on the other."

What is it that gives this empty form authority? “Moral values” are
empowered by "scripturalism," a pattern of mediation that represents
texts as ahistorical and uses them to legitimize a specific regime of
practices and beliefs. Scripturalism rests upon a transcendental
understanding of religious texts. Scripturalism differentiates itself
from other forms of understanding those religious texts by accusing
them of idolatry—the worship of material human constructions.

He goes on to define scriptualism in relation to his own area of specialty, South East Asian religious movements,  and notes that it is "an
idolized notion of scripture that by denying the materiality and
history of the text, authorizes a vision of Christianity that is far
from moral".

Far from being a neutral taxonomy,
scripturalism tends to structure knowledge so as to benefit a elite,
educated, conservative worldview. It tends to privilege the linguistic,
the discursive, and the cognitized over the visceral and tacit. For
instance, in South Asian religions, scripturalism has forced local
traditions into a "world religion’s" echo of Christian theology. While
in the 19th century the scripturalism may have been solely a Western
concern, by the 20th century scripturalism had become one of the most
powerful rhetorical tropes of Hindutva fundamentalist political groups
such as India’s religious nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

In another Revealer post Omri Elisha proposes a different yet complimentary way  of understanding the rhetorical force of evangelical Christianity. If Grieves is interested in the broad discursive level Elisha focuses on the intimate language of believers:

not an evangelical, but I study them as an ethnographer. I listen to
the desires, fears, and ambitions of white, conservative evangelicals
in the so-called red state of Tennessee. I’ve come to know the
evangelicals who are the focus of my research very well, and I’ve
learned to anticipate their sentiments the way that one anticipates the
reactions of a close friend. If nothing else, I can speculate on a
particular structure of feeling that made many American evangelicals
rally their support and their blessings behind the President because,
rather than despite, the fact that his life before September 11, 2001,
seemed to contain so little that would have prepared him for what was
to come.

In a beautifully written piece Elisha argues that evangelicals see Bush not as a Messianic harbinger of Armageddon but as a reluctant Queen Esther, "called for a time such as this" as Laura Bush has described her husband in a widely circulated letter to evangelicals and as Esther is described in the Old Testament. Just as Michael Moore has done in a different context, Elisha tries to envision what Bush might
have been thinking while he sat in the classroom looking bewildered for seven minutes after learning that a second plane struck the Twin

What remains significant is how conservative evangelicals read that
moment, and every presidential moment since then. If we come at this
from a perspective that they might take, it follows that evangelicals
did not see a bewildered politician, a man in over his head, stymied by
his own inexperience and geo-political entanglements. Rather they saw
the reluctant Queen Esther struggling to come to terms with the abrupt
realization that she is implicated in a drama much larger than herself.

At that moment, Bush, like Esther, represented the evangelical’s
greatest ambition and anxiety — that one day he/she will be called
upon to surrender him/herself to an irreversible state of being where
personal faith and historical destiny become one and the same. The
higher the stakes, the tougher the personal challenge. Consequently,
the firmer the resolve to follow through — regardless of obstacles or
substantive realities — the greater the faithfulness.

Elisha links this specific Biblical reading into the broader ways in which the American media dramatize and personalise public life

On September 11 we all watched the towers fall, and those who see the
world through particular kinds of dramaturgical lenses — biblical,
cosmic, or nationalistic — also saw what they believe to be the birth
of an unwitting commander. This may be why so many Bush supporters seem
to care less about his past indiscretions: his substance abuse,
questionable service record, and spotty corporate career, for example.
All of that happened before. I don’t just mean before he was “born
again” — this is about a lot more than washing sins away. I mean
before the whisper in his ear that told him “America is under attack,”
and before everyone else saw it happen.

Three years later, people who support Bush are still waiting to see how
the drama will play itself out. Even those disappointed with his
presidency want to know what happens next, how the story will be
resolved. As for evangelicals, they are clearly deeply invested in the
Bush drama for a host of theological and political reasons. But Bush’s
appeal to evangelicals is tied to a particular structure of feeling,
one that expresses itself through scriptural allegories that evoke
notions of obedience, sacrifice, and piety, and affections of
sentimental affinity, barely distinguishable from that which makes
evangelicals feel spiritually connected to that ancient Persian queen,
the one who knew when “such a time” had come.

It is this set of "sentimental affinities" this "structure of feeling," which evolves through public media portrayals, interpretive communities, sub-cultural practices, conversations and private sense making processes, that makes the broader "scripturalist" discourse resonate so powerfully.

Project blogging and categories

RedMorals a blog set-up to track the hypocrisy of the “so-called moral majority.” Quite aside from its content RedMorals showcases an excellent use of categories for a project blog.

The unnamed blogger set out with a very definite purpose and judging from the datelines they have has obviously put the whole project together in a couple of days. He writes:

A lot of people, red and blue, seem to think that the Republicans rode the red wave of morals in the Election of November 2004…..So I think it’s only fair that we examine the morals of this so called “moral majority.” There’s a lot of catching up to do on a lot of people, but I’m going to do my best to chronicle the morals of this alleged oh-so-red “moral majority.” Even as I was posting my first entry, another “pissed off progressive” noticed, and referred to it as a Watchblog. I like that: The Red Moral’s Watchblog is hereby inaugurated.

What is interesting is that every entry is categorised against a series of what/when/where/who categories. So if I want to find out about religious leaders I can go to the “who” categories (red religious leaders/politicians/staffers etc), or if its a time period or type of scandal that I want I can search against the dated “when” categories (by year) or the “what” categories (abortion/money/drugs etc).

NYT quotes blog as “expert source”

Radosh notes another move of blogging into the mainstream. The NYT’s Edward Wong reports from Bagdad on Sunni disquiet over the US assault on Falluja and quotes an academic blog as an expert source:

“After the attack on Falluja, we decided to withdraw from the government because our presence in the government will be judged by history,” Mr. Abdul Hameed, an interim National Assembly member, said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

The move so alarmed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi that he met privately with Mr. Abdul Hameed hours later. But the party stuck to its position, and an aide said in the afternoon that it was not clear that the group would take part in the elections.

“We haven’t decided to withdraw from the elections; we’re still going forward with the process,” the aide, Ayad al-Samarrai, said. “But it will all depend on the general situation in Iraq.”

Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan, wrote on his Web log that Mr. Abdul Hameed’s move “raises the question of whether a mass Sunni Arab boycott of the elections is in the offing, thus fatally weakening the legitimacy of any new government.”

Radosh calls it lazy reporting. I wouldn’t go that far but I don’t think in this instance the expert quote adds much to what the reporter could have said himself from Baghdad. It is none the less an interesting milestone in the acceptance of academic blogging as a legitimate source of information and opinion.

However there are much more interesting stories on Cole’s web site that will probably never be followed up by the NYT such as his speculation about Dan Senor and the neocon influence on Bremer’s Iraq administration.

I have it from a source I consider reliable that the order for the arrest of Muqtada al-Sadr in early April, 2004, which came as such a surprise and threw the country into chaos for two months, came from Dan Senor. Senor is said to have acted on instructions from Neoconservatives in the Pentagon, and to have kept Paul Bremer, his putative boss, out of the loop. Bremer was presented with a fait accompli.

I speculated at the time that the Neocons came after Muqtada because he had objected so loudly to Sharon’s murder of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the clerical leader of the Hamas Party (the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood). …In other words, his position was completely intolerable to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Likud Party, and their American fellow-travelers among the Neocons.

The CPA had been tempted to go after Muqtada on more than one previous occasion, but it appears that cooler heads, like Gen. John Abizaid, had prevailed.

If this story about Senor’s perfidy is correct, it would shed light on a hitherto unknown fissure in the American administration of Iraq. We have long known that it was dominated by Neoconservatives, especially young persons who had applied to be interns at the American Enterprise Institute, which was apparently the recruitment pool. But I hadn’t earlier heard that there may have been a difference of opinion between Bremer and his Neocon employees, many of whom had contacts inside the Pentagon that they could use to make an end-run around Bremer.

This provides a really instructive example of the differences between blogs and mainstream journalism. Cole can quite legitimately post this story on his blog, while the NYT would have to verify from a number of sources and get appropriate denials from the players. However this is a really good feature waiting to happen and could provide the first source for an enterprising reporter to go out and round up the whole story about Bremer’s time in Iraq.

BloggerCon: Blog Values

Interesting article by Staci D Kramer in OJR about BloggerCon III. She reflects on her own experience of blogging the conference:

It also was my debut as an everyday blogger, someone responsible for the care and feeding of a news blog. The result was a tilt in my blogging worldview. Instead of exploring issues as a journalist and a user, I was adding in the concerns of a blogger and the energy that comes with being part of creating something.

I think this “energy that comes with creating something” is one of the overlooked aspects of blogging. And although in this context Kramer is talking primarily of creating news content, it is a much broader process: the creativity of blogs as a personal publication tool encompasses the link bars, the blog roll, the book and music sections, the furl list etc as well as an emerging sense of “blogger identity”. These elements can be viewed as part method and part embodiment of blogging values. Kramer goes onto consider these different aspects of blogging:

For most of the bloggers gathered at Stanford Law School Nov. 6 and for untold others, blogging is a culture with all the trappings including evolving standards (even if some don’t like the word), ethics, rituals and language. It is a community, or more precisely a cluster of communities threaded together. It was no surprise to me that a session on core values by Napsterization’s Mary Hodder overflowed an 80-seat room.

But blogging is also a tool, and for some, only a tool. It is a way of sharing news and information, a form of writing and publishing. It is not a way of life nor is it life-altering. While some bloggers may perceive blogging as a commitment, for others it is a method.

Kramer links to a range of other blogger participants from the conference. Trevor Cook an Australian blogger and PR consultant makes an interesting comment about mainstream journalism and blogs:

I think the blogging versus MSM [mainstream media] conflict is no good for anyone. Someone pointed out that blogging’s triumphs so far (those that are well-known at least) tend to be negative like the Trent Lott resignation and the Dan Rather ‘kerning’ episode. The big league is in generating new content not just criticising existing ‘content generators’ (previously known as writers). To this end, there was a lot of comments on the importance of bloggers as local journalists or specialist reporters rather than competing with the NY Times.

Another very interesting link is to Salon’s Scott Rosenberg who prepared a series of discussion starters for the blogging and journalism session and has now posted them online. He links to a fascinating NYT article by John Schwartz which is one of the best journalistic attempts I’ve seen recently to address some of the wider issues underlying of the journalism/blogging debate:

Increasingly, these smallest indivisible chunks of information are being subjected to microscopic scrutiny and high-energy attacks in the realm of public discourse, which has made things look a little less solid and more malleable than they might once have seemed.

Facts, for better or worse, have been stripped of the meaning that authority figures, like politicians and news anchors, once imposed on them, said Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor in the interactive telecommunications program at New York University.

That might not be an altogether bad thing. Authority figures have often abused the facts, and they are now held more accountable for what they say. But the flip side of all this truth-squadding in what Mr. Shirky calls “postauthority culture” is that facts themselves becomes more open to interpretation. “It’s much more difficult to get people to agree on what a fact is, or whether it’s important,” he said.

Political campaigns and their supporters tend to treat the atoms of reality as something to be molded, cracked and spun. Meanwhile, volunteer armies of nitpickers are taking facts down to the subatomic level where they can become as meaningless as a nose-to-canvas perspective on a pointillist painting.

Blogging has emerged onto the scene at a time of increasingly fractious politics and into a media environment where many of the fundamental cornerstones of traditional Anglo-American journalism are both under partisan attack and open to philosophical questioning. I think some of the debates about blogging have helped to bring some of these broader issues to the surface in mainstream media discussion. But the danger is that the debates get focused as debates about blogging rather than debates about journalism.

The other contribution that the blogsphere has made is to provide a utopian model for what a public sphere might look like. It is as flawed as any other utopian model but also has the essential power of utopias to inspire a movement of resistance and change.

Liberal Christians Challenge ‘Values Vote’

The Washington Post reports the results of a poll commissioned by a group of Liberal Christians which challenges the notion that "values" equal abortion and same-sex marriage.

Battling the notion that "values voters" swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation’s most urgent moral problem was "greed and materialism" and 31 percent said it was "poverty and economic justice." Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage….

The nationwide telephone poll of 10,689 voters was conducted by Zogby International for the Catholic peace group Pax Christi, the New York-based civic advocacy group Res Publica and the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a think tank allied with Democrats. It had a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage

The poll found that 42 percent of voters cited the war in Iraq as the "moral issue" that most influenced their choice of candidates, while 13 percent cited abortion and 9 percent same-sex marriage. Asked to name the greatest threat to marriage, 31 percent said "infidelity," 25 percent cited "rising financial burdens" and 22 percent named same-sex marriage

Acting as spokesperson for the group Jim Wallis called for a "conversation" about abortion:

"One of the things a few of us are talking about is a reassessment of how the Democrats deal with an issue like abortion — could there be a more moderate ground, where even if they retained their pro-choice stance, they talked about uniting pro-choice people together to actually do something about the abortion rate?" said Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal evangelical journal Sojourners.

If the Democratic Party were to "welcome pro-life Democrats, Catholics and evangelicals and have a serious conversation with them" about ways to reduce teenage pregnancy, facilitate adoptions and improve conditions for low-income women, it would "work wonders"
among centrist evangelicals and Catholics, Wallis said.

This notion of a "conversation" and the adoption of non-confrontational, non-judgemental constructive ways of engaging the "left" and the "right" is gaining currency in many commentaries on the net (check Barlow and Mumamusings). It is an obvious strategy and Wallis’ suggestion that it begin somewhere in the middle is a good one. But this startegy of localised conversations must also move firmly into the public arena and the public agenda. So much of our conversation today is mediated by the divisive frames produced by the media. If the grassroots conversations are to flourish then we must begin to move the media rhetoric that stresses the religious right’s all encompassing power.

This "power" is rhetorically created by the media, currenlty in awe of the success of the "Rove strategy," but it is also confirmed by the rigid boisterism of the myth of the Apocalypse of Empire which inflects the language, action and beliefs of the religious right.

The emergence of vibrant organised groups on the left, like MoveOn and Wallis’ liberal christian coalition, is one of the signs of hope to emerge from this election. Through a smart combination of grass roots and broader public sphere activism they have begun the slow incremental process of transforming the public terms in which politics, values and spirituality are conceived. Although their tactics need to avoid the "all or nothing" aspects of the Apocalypse of Resistance this is the alternate myth that in a sense guides their work.

Unfortunately if this does become a collision of two completely apocalyptic world views dialogue becomes impossible.

Wallis and other speakers noted the diversity of christian voting blocks. This is one step towards breaking through the binary opposition between the hard right and hard left that is currently set up as "common sense".

They contended that there is a vast religious middle, including "progressive evangelicals," "resurgent mainline Protestants" and "socially conservative African Americans," that could be attracted by biblically based "prophetic" appeals to make peace, fight poverty and spread social justice.

This kind of conversation and public activism from the left is also needed in Australia as the abortion debate seems to be taking on increasingly fractious terms here. At least there is a sense that the conversation has begun in America and their are leaders like Wallis attempting to bring people together, in Australia the broad church of the left is still very much in the wilderness.

Purple Hearts

US Graphic designer Jeff Culver has come up with a far more informative electoral map than those published by mainstream media.

It is an interesting example of how the graphic devices and rhetorical frames that we use actually construct very different narratives. While the election maps which show the blue and red states (say this example from Time) show a divided America with the red states in the ascendency, Culver’s map which shows the gradations of support for Bush and Kerry along a set of hues from red to blue portrays quite a different reality.


It’s the stupidity stupid!

The British Mirror ran with this hilarious and provocative post election headline


Now Bob Herbert at the New York Times has come up with some data to back-up the Mirror’s ballsy headline.

I think a case could be made that ignorance played at least as big a role in the election’s outcome as values. A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush’s supporters believe the U.S. has come up with “clear evidence” that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president’s supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.

This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.

The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there’s a fair amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd. The report said, “It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely to have misperceptions than those who oppose him.”

Although Herbert argues that this type of ignorance is more of a factor than “the values” vote, the two are pretty intimately connected. It is the self referential religious rhetoric of fundamentalism that cocoons its adherents in a world view that is impermeable to facts. Herbert goes on to provide a frightening example of just such rhetoric from Frank Pastore, a former major league pitcher who is now a host on the Christian talk-radio station KKLA. In an op-ed for the LA Times he wrote:

“Christians, in politics as in evangelism,” said Mr. Pastore, “are not against people or the world. But we are against false ideas that hold good people captive. On Tuesday, this nation rejected liberalism, primarily because liberalism has been taken captive by the left. Since 1968, the left has taken millions captive, and we must help those Democrats who truly want to be free to actually break free of this evil ideology.”

Mr. Pastore goes on to exhort Christian conservatives to reject any and all voices that might urge them “to compromise with the vanquished.” How’s that for values?

This is not balance or objectivity, it is bizarre, psuedo-mystical, nonsense that has no place in the pages of a paper like the LA Times.

Herbert makes a key point in this debate, which I have not seen made by many others:

All values are not created equal. Some Democrats are casting covetous eyes on voters whose values, in many cases, are frankly repellent. Does it make sense for the progressive elements in our society to undermine their own deeply held beliefs in tolerance, fairness and justice in an effort to embrace those who deliberately seek to divide?

The rhetoric of objectivity in journalism is supposed to ensure debate and the free flow of ideas. What seems to be happening instead is that balance is being turned into a polarising tool by ideologues who have an immovable, faith-based position which they want to impose. They are not interested in balance, objectivity or facts, they will not “compromise with the vanquished,” yet they skillfully turn the rhetoric of objectivity against the “elite liberal media” so they get a chance to preach crap from the op-ed pages.

Evangelical culture/evangelical politics

Interesting explanation from the Washington Post that tries to unpack the poll data on increases in the evangelical turnout in 2004

Exit polls do not permit a direct comparison of how many evangelical and born-again Americans voted in 2000 and 2004 because the way pollsters identified these voters changed. Four years ago voters leaving polls were asked: “Do you consider yourself part of the conservative Christian political movement, also known as the religious right?” In 2004, the question was changed to: “Would you describe yourself as a born-again or evangelical Christian?”

Fourteen percent answered “yes” in 2000 and 23 percent did so in 2004, but polling specialists said the 2004 wording virtually assures more affirmative answers.

The percentage of voters who said they attend church more than once a week grew from 14 to 16 percent, a significant difference in an election decided by three percentage points. These voters backed President Bush over John F. Kerry 64 percent to 35 percent. Similarly, the percent of the electorate that believes abortion should be “illegal in all cases” grew from 13 to 16 percent. These voters backed Bush by 77 percent to 22 percent.

In the two major battlegrounds, Ohio and Florida, exit polls showed Bush substantially improved his support among voters who attend church more than once a week. At the same time, the percentage of the electorate that goes to church this often actually fell.

The article also argues that the grassroots evangelicals were not driven by the Bush election team but were actually way ahead of the curve. The interviews with a range of Christian activists support Dana Milbank’s notion (which I posted about yesterday) that we have seen the emergence of a new evangelical politics in this election. Many of the activists interviewed in today’s Post article argue that they were better organised, and campaigning earlier within their christian communities, than the official Bush team. The picture to emerge is of both organised and grassroots action. Certainly the big names like James Dobson and his Focus on the Family were active – and in weekly phone contact with Bush strategists – but local ministers and smaller organisations and individuals were critical to the campaign.

As to the significance of the same sex marriage issue Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council puts it nicely. It was “the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term.”

But other factors certainly also drove moral values voters:

The Rev. Rick Warren, author of the best-selling “The Purpose Driven Life” and one of the most influential ministers in the country, sent a letter to 136,000 fellow pastors urging them to compare the candidates’ positions on five “non-negotiable” issues: abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage, human cloning and euthanasia.

Many of these activists regard Bush as slow to take up the marriage cause and they were working on a constitutional ban long before Karl Rove started to think of the issue as a voter turn-out technique.

Some Democrats suspected that the ballot initiatives were engineered by Rove and the GOP, but religious activists say otherwise. In Michigan, state Sen. Alan Cropsey (R) introduced a bill to ban same-sex marriage in October 2003 and assumed it would have the support of his party. Instead, the Roman Catholic Church in Michigan became the amendment’s main booster, spending nearly $1 million to secure its passage.

“I couldn’t say anything publicly, because I would have been blasted for it, but the Republican Party was not helpful at all,” Cropsey said. “It’s not like they were the instigators. They were the Johnny-come-latelies, if anything.”

Michael Howden, executive director of Stronger Families for Oregon, said it was a similar situation in his state. “There’s been no contact whatsoever, no coordinating, no pushing” by anyone at the White House or in the Bush campaign, he said.

Dobson sums up what a “values voter” means very clearly and very simply:

A values voter, Dobson said, is someone with “a Christian worldview who begins with the assumption that God is — that he not only exists, but he is the definer of right and wrong, and there are some things that are moral and some things that are immoral, some things that are evil and some things that are good.”

Although liberals may mock Bush for his good-vs.-evil approach to the world, it “is seen by many of us not as a negative but as a positive,” Dobson said. “Here is a man who is simply committed to a system of beliefs.”

This type of world view is not explicitly apocalyptic but is congruent with the type of moral universe that LaHaye and other producers of christian mass culture evoke. This also ties into broader streams of American popular culture as identified by Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence’s American Superhero myth.