- America's fundamentalist carnival includes many fascinating
acts. Pay your money, and you can watch preachers weeping and screaming,
dismissing whole segments of humanity as evil, threatening murder, shaking
down congregations for extra donations to named-after-themselves projects,
or hitting people in the head to heal cancer. You will also see some monsters
finally caught after years of molesting children or hear others advocating
crimes against humanity such as using nuclear weapons.
- Pat Robertson is one of the Christian Sideshow's longer-running
acts, periodically adding some new nightmare to his grim repertoire. Oddly,
Pat regards himself as a kind statesman-preacher, a latter-day boondocks
version of Talleyrand, Talleyrand having started his remarkable and utterly
unprincipled career as a Bishop. Pat regularly mixes the tax-free benefits
of religion with the promotion of nasty politics. He has run for President,
started quasi-religious organizations to promote his political ambitions,
and freely offers his uninformed advice on national and world affairs.
- Talleyrand had his various church properties and offices
to support him in princely fashion while he worked at politics. Pat supports
his public-minded work on resources gathered through one of America's greatest
money-changer-in-the-temple careers. The fortune generated through decades
of his appeals to unhappy, lonely people watching television gives him
access to a genuine commercial empire, from so-called Christian broadcasting
to oil refining.
- A key difference between Talleyrand and Pat is that Talleyrand
was frightfully clever and was a breathtaking success at politics. I put
the difference, in part, down to style. Talleyrand in person might remind
one of the late Archbishop Sheen, snapping and twirling his scarlet cape
and watching his listeners with penetrating eyes - to all that would added
something of Lord Byron's fascinating stench of corruption. Robertson has
never quite escaped the Jesus-on-the-dashboard flavor of his early career.
Pat is pure Super Duper Auto Parts, Aisle Six, smiling salesman for mud
flaps and sequined sets of big dice, but with enough animal cunning to
have risen to running every Aisle Six on the continent.
- Pat recently announced on national television that America
should murder the elected leader of another country, President Chavez of
Venezuela. Previously Pat restricted himself to insulting the religion
of a billion people, Islam, or insulting the victims of natural disasters
in the United States. After a hurricane in which old men, women, and children
died, Pat blamed the victims for their fate by claiming God was punishing
America's immorality. His latest effort breaks new ground, being, by any
meaningful definition, public advocacy of terror.
- Why won't Pat Robertson be treated as a terrorist? Believe
me, if you said what he said about any of America's current leaders, you
would be arrested quickly under the Patriot Act and locked away. Why will
Pat Robertson's broadcasting empire not be classified as an organization
supporting terrorist activities? Perfectly legitimate organizations in
other parts of the world have been declared outlaw in the United States
for having less direct association with terrorist hate-speech. Several
bloodthirsty-sounding Muslim clerics, completely unrepresentative of their
faith, have been jailed recently for speech closely resembling Robertson's.
- At the very least, Robertson should be charged under
hate-speech laws. But such laws are weak in the United States, and many
Americans fear the idea of hate-speech laws. So radio and television broadcasters
continue spewing hate and dishonest claims in the exalted name of free
- We really do know why Pat Robertson won't be treated
as a terrorist. It's for the same reason Bush's former Attorney General
of the United States could tell a group of decent, honest, hard-working
American Muslims that they should count themselves lucky they weren't being
treated the way Japanese Americans were during World War II. It's for the
same reason that Bush protects a mass murderer named Luis Posada Carriles
from extradition and trial. It's for the same reason that American troops
have made a horror of the lives of millions of innocent Iraqis. It's for
the same reason a distraught mother who lost her son in Iraq is vilified
by Right Wing savages. It's the same reason why the morally-contemptible
Bush is President.
- The reason is the worship of power and greed. While it's
true that a great deal of America's history has to do with worshipping
power and greed, never in my memory has it been so openly expressed, so
contemptuously embraced as it is today. It is a sad to reflect in my twilight
years that almost everything I was taught as a boy has proved to be wrong.
I don't mean subjects like math or English. I mean values. Most of the
evidence of my adult life tends to support the opposite of every moral
lesson of my youth, certainly as they apply to the land of my birth, a
place where power and greed now trump everything.
- I was taught murder always is wrong. I was taught lying
always is wrong. I was taught that lusting after money and power is wrong.
I was taught that good men prevailed and evil men sooner or later paid
for their acts. These lessons came from a ferociously-honest and brave
mother who alone raised two boys on the South Side of Chicago. They came
also from the church I attended. And they came from some wonderful books
and stories I read.
- The success of vicious Pat Robertson and his even more
vicious President, George Bush, provide almost perfect allegories for the
soul-dead thing America has become.
- Religion, politics, journalism, and even academics serve
the American worship of power and greed. I had a brief exchange recently
with an exalted fellow from one of America's many well-financed propaganda
mills tarted up to resemble research organizations. This exalted fellow
had been on a national radio interview, interestingly enough on the same
subject of Venezuela. Apart from inaccurate claims about a new broadcast
network established in Venezuela while he made a case for American interference,
when reminded that Mr. Chavez was democratically elected, he chimed in
with, "So was Hitler!"
- Hitler, despite huge expenditures and desperately hard
campaigns, never received more than just over a third of votes. He was
appointed Chancellor, after a long series of backroom manipulations, by
the Republic's ancient and exhausted President von Hindenburg. Hitler's
rise more closely resembles that of some of America's favorite shady men
in Iraq and Pakistan than it does that of a man whose election was closely
scrutinized and declared fair by international watchers.
- I couldn't let such an inaccurate claim stand and looked
up his outfit on the Internet. There, on a page resembling something from
a university or research center, was a large quote from Rush Limbaugh about
the tremendous job they were doing. What kind of a research institution
quotes Rush Limbaugh? There were also, importantly, links for bequests
and gifts. And there was an e-mail link to the man on the Venezuela case.
- My particular exalted fellow answered at length, accepting
the truth of my correction, but making a mighty effort to turn someone's
getting one-third of the vote into a de facto election. There were paragraphs
of labored reasoning larded with unnecessary facts, perhaps from a history
text quickly consulted before replying. He missed the point entirely of
respecting a genuinely democratic decision. Here is the kind of analysis
being touted across America in an effort to influence the world. And these
people do influence the world. The same people helped bring you the murderous
disaster in Iraq.