Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#1128: Alan Sears

Alan E. Sears used to be the Staff Executive Director of the Meese Commission (and federal prosecutor in Meese’s Justice Department during the reign of Reagan), whose role was to investigate pornography in the United States in the 1980s. Currently Sears is the president, CEO, and general counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund and a columnist at Townhall. His parting of ways with the Meese Commission is itself quite legendary: In 1986 Sears he sent a letter from the Commission over his own signature to thousands of retailers warning them, in an attempt to intimidate them into not selling Playboy and Penthouse, that they might be publically identified as pornography dealers, with the result that more than 17,000 retailers stopped carrying the magazines. The Meese Commission was promptly sued, of course, Sears’s actions found to be quite astoundingly inappropriate, and the Commission forced to retract the letter. Sears, who apparently has some trouble distinguishing his official duties from his personal agenda, quit the Department of Justice in disgust (no, not over his own actions – he’s not that kind of guy).

The Alliance Defense Fund (apparently now the Alliance Defending Freedom, though everything else remains the same, of course) is a wealthy rightwing legal group committed to fighting the War on Christmas, defending Christians’ (though only Christians) perceived rights to violate the Establishment Clause (and, of course, defending the poor, persecuted Christians who are criticized for doing so), combatting pornography (Patrick Trueman misunderstands issues here), gays, sex education, the Internet, and what they take to be leftist judicial activism (any legal decision they don’t like – a typical rant by Matt Bowman is discussed here), and fighting for their own, Orwellian interpretation of the separation of church and state – they’re a sort of twisted, wingnut parody of the ACLU, in other words. They are also funding “education” projects.

Sears also writes for the WND, for instance about gay marriage. You can discerns his ability to maintain a grasp on reality in this attempt to argue against gay marriage by analogy. (Hint: the analogy is poor. Indeed, the analogy is poor enough that it would have qualified Sears for an entry in our Enclyclopedia if he’d done nothing else.) But Sears has also written The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today. Why is it a threat? “Because no compromise is possible with the agenda, and those who advocate the agenda want to not only stop all disagreement – they want to punish anyone who does. It’s a form of totalitarianism.” Projection much? Also “Garden of Eden [shows that marriage] predates any human instititution.” Seriously. And this madman (still unsure? Check out this) once had an important government position. As CEO of the ADF Sears has also called for a “National Day to Pray for Marriage”, even releasing their own Prayer Guide to help ensure that the prayers are as efficacious as possible.

Diagnosis: Zealous and cognitively deficient bigot. A common condition, of course, but Sears does wield quite a bit more influence than most. Dangerous.

Monday, July 21, 2014

#1127: Wesley Scroggins & Melissa DuVall

Wesley Scroggins is apparently an associate professor of management at Missouri State University. In 2010 Scroggins wrote an article called “Filthy books demeaning to Republic education”, in which he claimed that L.H. Anderson’s Speak, Slaughterhouse Five and S. Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer should be banned because Scroggins is a deranged hater they “expose children to immorality,” and at least be removed from the high school English curriculum. And because of Scroggins’s complaint the school board in Republic, Missouri, did indeed vote to ban the latter two books from the school library. Said Board Member Melissa DuVall: “We are not going to make everybody happy – and rarely do we […] What we have to be proud of is we took a complaint, we took is seriously and we gave it due diligence.” In other words, DuVall is possibly as intellectually unqualified for her position as it is possible to be. At least the actions of Scroggins and the school board generated some noise. Still.

Diagnosis: Haters gonna hate, and Scroggins is a hater. DuVall, on the other hand, seems primarily to be merely helplessly incompetent.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

#1126: Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott is a clairvoyant, a medium and an “animal communicator” offering spiritual readings and counselings to the Walla Walla area. You can see her on youtube talking about animals and the afterlife here. She has even written books. Religion vs. Spirituality, One Psychic’s point of view was apparently, by one reader, described as taking “the ‘woo-woo’ out of what being psychic really means,” which really makes one wonder what the comparison class might have been. How old are We “talks about how old our souls are and where we might have come from. It talks about the Universe and the laws that run it and us.” It is all made up, of course – or “intuited”, as they say, a popular way of getting the answers you want to stuff you don’t know anything about – but is probably comfy and appropriately fluffy for her audiences. Her CD Telepathy and Animal Communication will give you the basics for starting “to communicate with your pets and other animals by giving you tools to practice so you will begin having better conversations with your pets and understanding what they want from you.” The tools have not been tested on animals. Or anything else.

Diagnosis: Nothing distinguishes Scott from other online clairvoyance services, and I think she was noticed for inclusion through an Amazon recommendation. But she definitely fills the bill quite nicely.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

#1125: Peter Dale Scott

Peter Dale Scott is a batshit insane conspiracy theorist; that is, he rejects the label “conspiracy theory”, of course, going instead for “deep politics”, a branch of pseudoscience for which he may claim to be the proud founder. Scott is also a former English professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former diplomat (he is Canadian, though his career in the US arguably qualifies him for inclusion in our Encyclopedia). That doesn’t confer much authority on the subject matter of deep politics, and it is telling that his “research” is published in book-length monologues from non-academic publishers rather than in peer-reviewed journals.

Though he avoids the standard references to organized shadow groups such as the Illuminati, Scott maintains that a large number of terrorist acts and assassinations (including JFK and Anders Breivik) are inside jobs; perhaps not fully, consciously and carefully planned and organized from the top – there is no unified group at said top – but inside jobs nonetheless (he has, though, thus far, as far as I can tell, refrained from proclaiming 9/11 an inside job, though it was, it seems, a result of deep politics – there are some comments on his book on the issue here). Despite the absence of a powerful, single, unified conspiracy, Scott’s theories nevertheless relies on “secret” decisions made by “small cabals” of persons within our (public) governmental institutions, for the deliberate purpose of replacing the “public” dimension. Evidence that these are inside jobs or that such evil, secret plots exist? Well, governments have been involved in lots of shit over the years, so it is not impossible that they could have organized these things as well. “But,” you might object, “could hypothetically have does not imply did.” Ah, yes, but you see, officially Scott is really Just Asking Questions (he just tends to forget sometimes). Besides, he can point to nefarious government schemes at some times in some places in the past (mostly Italian fascists, in fact) – so he has the resources to mingle his narratives with actually documented claims. And when you selectively look at the evidence gathered at various conspiracy sites and fail to distinguish an untested hypothesis from a fact, it all fits. It is worth pointing out that Scott has no background in critical thinking or scientific reasoning, nor does he display any interest in how psychological biases work.

I really don’t wish to link to much of Scott’s drivel, though as a typical example I can give you his “9/11, the JFK Assassination, and the Oklahoma City Bombing as a Strategy of Tension” (here). As usual, he mixes the reasonably well-documented claims about governments being involved in organized crime (and as usual, the examples are from Italy), to claim that at least the following were false flag operations by shady government cabals: JFK, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the 1993 first World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11 or at least “the subsequent false flag anthrax attacks of 2001”. Because these are structurally similar to the other examples and because governments used these events to implement new laws; no, the distinction between using an event for political gain – and it is in most cases pretty unclear what these gains might have been – and deliberately planning and carrying out that event, is not one Scott is overly concerned with. Nor is he very concerned with accuracy or avoiding question-begging (“all of these events were blamed on marginal left-wing elements, but in fact involved elements inside America’s covert intelligence agencies, along with their shadowy underworld connections”).

Diagnosis: Scott is, in fact, among the most influential conspiracy theorists out there, and by mixing his batshit, evidence-free musings with long, more or less accurate explanations of actual, historical events he manages sometimes to create an illusion of carefulness and sensitivity to evidence. But really, there is little to distinguish his claims from those made by your standard mainstay (and Scott is, in fact, one of those himself). 

#1124: Melissa Scott

Melissa Scott is the widow and heir of the now deceased Gene Scott, subject of the 80s documentary God’s Angry Man, and has mostly inherited Gene’s depravity, lack of moral character, and zeal, though she has removed much of the pseudo-history, demonology, musings about Atlantis, Herbert Armstrong stuff, aliens and so forth from Scott’s website. She is nevertheless also the current boss of the University Cathedral, best known for its radio broadcast sermons and hamfisted fundraising, though she has not managed to maintain her husband’s audiences, and his empire is currently a fundie moneymaker in serious decline – the choice of Melissa as his successor was apparently not popular with all of Gene’s fans, as shown by this not entirely sanity-anchored rant by one Steve McHenry.

There is, even in the absence of much of Gene’s incoherent New Age drivel, enough lunacy left to qualify Melissa Scott for inclusion in our Encyclopedia many times over. Indeed, the inecessant money-raising schemes should really be sufficient on their own, but Melissa Scott is also a staunch opponent of the theory of evolution – apparently “evolution is something that is easy to swallow because it’s a simple solution to a complex universe and complex people. But the fact of the matter is, if you take the time to read your Bible and study your Bible you have to come to the conclusion that it can’t be,” whereupon she offers this piece of amazing gibberish (see if you can make sense of it).

Diagnosis: Though compared to the batshit, lunatic ravings of her husband, Melissa Scott’s brand of evangelicism seems rather middle of the road, she is still a batshit crazy fundie. Fortunately Gene’s empire seems to be rapidly crumbling, but there is still some punches against civilization and sanity left in it. Continue to maintain a safe distance.