Morning Ed: Religion {2017.08.10.Th}

[R1] A look at white supremacy and Odinism.

[R2] Shadi Hamid looks at how we can look at the burqini.

[R3] Among other interesting aspects of this profile of young evangelical female Trump voters, they went harder for Trump than their male counterparts.

[R4] Jesse Smith sings praise to middle persons and the service industry.

[R5] Bethany Mandel announces that the opioid crisis is a Jewish one.

[R6] Helen Pluckrose considers where New Atheism goes from here.

[R7] The history of the KKK’s war on (some) religious schools.

[R8] Deepak Chopra is evidently indistinguishable from bullspit.

[R9] Now I have the song Jesus Was An Alien stuck in my head.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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119 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Religion {2017.08.10.Th}

  1. [R2] We can look at it any way you want. It’s still none of my business what people wear. More people need to learn the STFU and mind their own business.

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      • I don’t think he’s necessarily wrong, but I’m also not about to knuckle down and conform to socially mandated religion. You can have “a deeper shared purpose, ideology, or mission” without religion. My life is not dreary or unexciting.

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        • To be free meant to give up on an ideological mission, and that, too, came with its own costs

          That was the bit I was focused on. If it isn’t causing harm, stop effing worrying about it.

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  2. R8 this isn’t the first study I’ve seen to show that people are really bad are parsing language if it’s structured to appear insightful. This is the first one to use a specific person as a source of specific phrases.

    I blame the beatniks & hippies.

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  3. R8 The Chopra quote in the a article isn’t an example of what it’s presented as (pseudo profound word salad). I know exactly what it means, perhaps because i hang out with hippies.

    “Attention & intention are the mechanics of manifestation” – I think the meaning is BS, but it’s not without meaning.

    Exactly the way i understand that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NIV, today’s passage of the day at biblegateway.com) has meaning, and also think that meaning is BS.

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    • The only way it has meaning is if there are alternative definitions for mechanics and manifestation, or if there is some critical context that is lacking. If there are alternative definitions or missing context, then the statement isn’t profound, it’s code.

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      • I’d agree that it’s jargon, which you could call a kind of code I suppose.

        “Manifestation” in this context is, um, well. Oy. It hurts my head even to try to explain it. “The Secret” / “Law of Attraction” type idiocy.

        If you google it, you will
        1) rapidly know all you ever need to on the topic
        2) rapidly wish you hadn’t

        “Mechanics” as in the interaction of physical objects. Analogy to interaction of “law of attraction” idiocy type objects. No secret code there.

        At a guess, the author of the study, or at least the article about the study, recognized the tweet as BS, but mistook it for meaningless BS rather than a statement whose meaning is BS – they could have googled the the terms and understood the meaning, but didn’t bother, because they “knew better”.

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  4. R1 I love Norse mythology and all the Creative Anachronist type Norse cosplay stuff – mead and drinking horns and twined animal jewellery and wool kirtles and leg wrappings and so on.

    And now the frigging white supremacists have dibsed it.

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  5. R2,
    As long as they hurt no one else. Which is really just liberalspeak for you’re allowed to hurt your own kids, but nobody else’s.

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  6. R6 exemplifies the kind of shoddy reasoning that is a) characteristic of New Atheism, b) completely lacks self awareness about the shoddiness of said reasoning and c) reeks of smug superiority about one’s allegedly superior rational bonafides.

    It also repeats the false and pernicious claim that liberalism and religion are inconsistent.

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  7. R3 – Women tend to be more devout. It looks like the more serious an Evangelical was about his faith the more likely he’d be to vote for Trump. I wonder if that’s it. I also suspect that younger women are harder to bully into supporting a woman on the basis of her sex.

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    • On the other hand, I’ve seen studies that, among those who identify as evangelical, church attendance was negatively correlated with voting for 45. Which suggests that it wasn’t those whose faith was strongest, but whose identification was strongest.

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    • The French Third Republic and many other republics in majority Catholic countries frequently used anti-clericalism as a reason to deny women the vote. Since women were more devote than men, giving women the right to vote meant that the Roman Catholic Church would gain unwanted political power, for the anti-clericals. I’m sure that the RCC would like the political power.

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  8. R1 – “I wanted to kill Jews, not people,” he told the court that sentenced him to death.

    That might be the tidiest sentence ever written.

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  9. A1: Odinism is not an old religion. It has as much to do with the ancient Norse religion as Wiccanism does with the religion of the Celts, nothing. Its a modern construct invented by White Nationalists that were too intellectual honest to pretend that Jesus was an Aryan rather than a Jew.

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    • I’ve always wanted to bring back Zeus-ism and the Olympian pantheon. The world is run by a committee and all its members are working at cross-purposes. Seems to be the best fit to the facts.

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        • the Greco-Roman pantheon. It was always a mishmash of Celtic and Norse beliefs.

          Wait, what? I am pretty sure this isn’t true, unless you merely mean that it bears some genetic resemblance to Celtic and Norse beliefs, which is hardly surprising given that we are all Indo-Europeans here.

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        • I’ve always wondered why Neo-Pagans never really latched onto the Greco-Roman pantheon.

          Too much of a direct evolutionary ancestry from Roman state paganism to Roman Catholicism maybe?

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              • That’s the point. It’s too hardy. All things Greek was so cool the Romans copied it wholesale and Roman things were so cool that Western high culture copied it en masse. Latin in our science, roman numerals on our monuments, greek symbol in our medicine and science books, neo-pagans couldn’t copy the Greek and Roman pantheons; western civilization had pumped that well dry centuries before.

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            • Domesticated/admired/drew inspiration from, you weren’t going to scandalize the neighbors by having a naked statue of Mercury in your lobby and talking a lot about Latin- they’d just think you were pretentious or cultured. Getting sky clad and praying to the earth mother? Yeah that would gin up the controversy the neo-pagans were looking for.

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        • My own two cents:
          We forget, perhaps not at our peril but we forget, that Christianity* was/is theologically a really advanced piece of technology. They took some really useful and powerful theological concepts from the Jews** then tacked on the whole new testament and created something that’s was really appealing on all kinds of levels and something that could sustain the practical body blows that the world flung at it and come out smiling. The old polytheistic faiths had really shitty answers for every day questions and problems and people ended up noticing. What were the Odin worshippers or the Zeus worshippers offering? Sacrifice a horde of cattle to Zeus and then crappy things ended up happening anyhow? The Priest could offer “it would have been worse if you hadn’t offered sacrifice” as he was climbing out the back window of the office. The Christians would say “God doesn’t work that way and doesn’t ask for that stuff.” Plus Christians were marketed beautifully, so beautifully that their themes are basically all pervasive. The meek shall inherit the earth, the last shall be first, if you keep faith there’s a whopping big paradise in it for you on the other side. Turns out that there were a lot more meek: women, poor people, slaves, than there were strong and on top of that those meek people, especially the women, tended to raise the next generation of strong people. Go figure as time passed the new generations of strong people tended to turn out Christian. The priest of Odin wasn’t raising his son; the priest of Odin’s wife, slave, sister and daughter were and Christianity offered them a much better deal.

          When people ponder why we haven’t gone back to serious pre-Christian faith worship it sounds to me like people wondering why we haven’t gone back to mass adoption of the wall mounted hand crank land line. It’s obsolete theological technology, why would anyone do that? What does Odin worship or Neptune worship actually offer? Keep the priest in ladies and food and your harbor will be safe and your ships sound? When the storm rolls through there’s going to be some ‘splaining to do. Other than ethno-back to your roots-ism that you find in a grotesque form in Odin worship or a harmless sweet form in Wiccans there’s just no point. Why don’t we all wear cloaks? Because we learned how to make sleeves.

          *Islam, Christianity’s fraternal twin, basically fits into the same narrative.
          **I mean credit where it’s due the Jews figured the monotheistic angle out first and sorted out the distant more impartial god way ahead of time but Judaism wasn’t evangelistically motivated and it didn’t have the same marketing. Also they pissed off the Romans and were geographically affixed which turned out to be a bad idea.

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          • Good explanation but not what I’m talking about exactly. I’m not talking about en mass. I’m talking about the intellectuals, bohemians, and other malcontents that created Neo-Paganism in the mid-20th century looked towards the Celts and the Norse rather than the Greeks and the Romans.

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            • Oh well that’s easy. The mid-20th Century high culture esteemed the Greeks and Romans as did all the high cultures prior to that. Greece and Rome were the heart of western philosophy, the birthplace of institutional Christianity and the wellspring of modern science and government. Bohemians and malcontents couldn’t embrace Greeks and Romans, the elite they were trying to scandalize would have just nodded and said “Oh yes, quite so” instead of dropping their monocles in their tea. The Celts and the pagans, on the other hand, were the spear dragging savages that the Romans and Greeks whupped.

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              • (And from whom they stole a whole wack of stuff to include in Christianity – they just credited the Greeks and Romans in the endnotes but not the Celts)

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                • Early Christianity was a combination of Judaism’s ethical monotheism combined with the Mystery Cults that were popular in the Roman Empire. The early Church leaders also turned certain pagan Festivals like Saturnalia into Christian ones, Christmas in Saturnalia’s case, because they were intelligent enough to realize that getting rid of these festivals entirely was a no go proposition.

                  The first Gentile Christians weren’t strictly pagan either. Judaism wasn’t a proselytizing religion but many people in the early Roman Empire were into Judaism in the same way that people in the Counter-Culture were into Buddhism. The Temple was a big tourist attraction and nearly every Jewish community had a adjacent community of God-fearers, gentiles that worshiped the One God of the Jews but didn’t formally join the community. These God-Fearers became the first Gentile Christians.

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                  • Judaism wasn’t a proselytizing religion

                    You say this, but isnt the old testament full of prophets performing miracles and getting assorted kings (and their whole country) to pray to YHWH.

                    Also there was once this chinese lady who tried to get me to convert to Judaism. But maybe she was just crazy as she also said that no one other than God truly loved me, not even my parents.

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                    • Murali,
                      Judaism isn’t the folks tales Jews tell about it.
                      It doesn’t really start until Elijah and the rest of the prophets started walking in from the desert.

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                    • Jonah is the only example that I can think of and Jonah needed a lot of compulsion first. He was rather reluctant. The other prophets aimed at an Israelite/Jewish audience for the most part and were trying to get their fellow Jews from stop backsliding into paganism.

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                  • “The early Church leaders also turned certain pagan Festivals like Saturnalia into Christian ones, Christmas in Saturnalia’s case, because they were intelligent enough to realize that getting rid of these festivals entirely was a no go proposition.”

                    Why do you go with that explanation? Why not simply that Christians had things to celebrate? There are Christian feasts around the year, just as there were Roman feasts. There’s probably no two-week period that doesn’t have one. Does the proximity of Christmas to Saturnalia invalidate it as legitimate? A thousand years from now, will it look like Valentine’s Day was turned into Superbowl Sunday? The sacred military games of Apollo were celebrated on June 6th – was that the origin of the D-Day legend?

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                    • The NT doesn’t exactly say when Jesus was born but a lot of the background evidence suggests it was in the spring and not the winter. Most of the early Church leaders knew this but decided on a winter date to celebrate Jesus’ birth. This was because they were competing with Saturnalia.

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                    • There are Christian feasts around the year mostly because Christianity kept moving in on territory dominated by other religions that had feasts at various times. Faced with a choice between a losing battle to try to get the locals to stop celebrating Ostara, Yule, Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, etc., or simply declaring that those festivals were totally Christian, wouldn’t you know it – the church fathers went with the “embrace and extend” approach latterly famous via Microsoft.

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                      • That’s weird. Three of them got turned into Christmas. Those early Christians must have been stupid, forgetting about Christmas all the time and then reinventing it every couple hundred years just to steal it away from pagans.

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          • Christianity may have offered a better narrative, but it helped that Christian powers started to defeat the other powers. It’s easy to believe in the gods of the conquerors. That’s not the entire story, but it’s an important part of it.

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            • Well we have a generally pretty good idea of how things went from the creation of Christianity up to it romping across the globe. Thing is that before there could be Christian powers to win militarily some power had to adopt Christianity. Constantine didn’t paint a cross on his soldiers shields because Jesus showed up and had a chat (or at least that ain’t the only reason) but also because there were getting to be a lot of Christians rattling around and that had nothing to do with conquest.

              But yeah, definitely during the exploration and colonial eras conquest was definitely a huge element too.

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        • In addition to what other people have said, my understanding is the Greco-Roman pantheon wasn’t consistent across the empire, going syncretic in almost all the areas the Romans made substantial cultural inroads with. Which was fine with the Roman relgio-political authorities, as long as the main Roman gods (and the deified dead emperors) had a place.

          Which of course, neither most of the people of Judea nor, later, the early Christian communities would accept, and thus happened a lot of history with those two religions.

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      • If this catches on, it’s a really interesting moment. People do things in the name of their religion either because they genuinely believe it’s true or at least because of some social pressure to conform. Nobody who is picking up Odinism currently believes it’s true, but it has the potential to become a cultural touchstone for these guys and get passed on along with whatever traditions they attach to it right now.

        And like all religions, the beliefs and traditions they attach to it will be whatever their culture says is good and right at this moment. So if it actually hangs on for a bit, we could actually have a legit white-supremacist god that people believe in after the origin story becomes fuzzy. It could become an interesting self-perpetuating reinforcement of a current belief system that might not have held on as firmly if it didn’t have some theological basis, the same way a lot of iron age cultural norms hang around today partially because their religious traditions outlived the actual practical arguments for them.

        If they can pull it off, they may succeed in anchoring their current beliefs into their grandchildren and great-grandchildren far better than just being really adamant that Jews are bad and trying to list practical reasons why.

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    • I agree that Odinism is made-up; we don’t know enough reliably about pre-Christian religious practices in Northern Europe that it couldn’t be. But I think its unfair to proclaim it a White Nationalist construct,some are racial supremacists,some aren’t. I mean there are factions within Odinism that certainly believe the correct gloss is racist, but I don’t think we should be agreeing with them. I think we should be issuing letters of marque and reprisal to the anti-racist Odinists to raid and pillage the racist Odinists.

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      • The burden of proof would be on the Odinists to demonstrate where their rituals, theology and dogma are coming from. We have really little information about how very many of the pre-Christian religions actually worked with regards to ritual and theology. The Odin worshippers, in particular, were not exactly prone to writing stuff down and the Christians who supplanted them were especially keen on erasing all records and works of their predecessors.

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              • FWIW there is a great You Tube channel run by Jackson Crawford a scholar of Nordic languages and translator of Icelandic sagas. He has dozens of interesting vids, not exciting though it’s just him talking, about old nordic peoples including their religion, language, etc. Very short version if people don’t’ want to spend hours watching all his vids; we don’t know much about the actual beliefs or religious practice of old Nordic believers.

                But anyway, Jackson Crawford, look for him on Youtube.

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              • Trail of theological genealogy. An authentic Odinism would, plausibly, originate from some kind of trail of either preserved documentation, oral history or scholarly unearthing of the tenants of the original Odinism. An authentic Odinism would be able to point to where their tenants are coming from and we would be able to verify that. As Greg notes in his excellent comment, we really don’t know a lot about how the old Nordic believers actually lived, what they actually believed or how they worshipped.

                Inauthentic Odinism? Well if you track their theological genealogy and it tracks back to some skinhead in the 60’s who got high on PCP and wrote down his vision while staring at some Marvel Thor comics that’d be the obvious one but in general if a given Odinism lacks the genealogy and evidence we’re looking for then we are stuck with our null hypothesis: that their Odinism is just shallowly Norse branded racialism with no serious connection to the ancient faith who’s fossilized carcass it’s parading around.

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                • Well if you track their theological genealogy and it tracks back to some skinhead in the 60’s who got high on PCP and wrote down his vision while staring at some Marvel Thor comics that’d be the obvious one

                  How do we know that Odin would not reveal himself through such an experience?

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                  • We don’t. Then whatever Odins revelation was would have to stand on its own merits.
                    -If you bring in an anthropologist and he gapes and asks how the hell a skinhead on PCP in the 60’s wrote down what appear to be a series of religious tenants in what appears to be flawless 790 AD runic that tells us something.
                    -If it’s the Stormfront manifesto with viking horns in bad grammar English that tells us something else.

                    But even if it IS the former the claim that this new faith is authentic vis a vis the old one is a lot weaker than it’d be if you could go “I learned it from my Granny who had it passed down to her in these old scrolls from her granny who got it from her grampy who was part of a community etc.. etc.. descended from a viking Odin priest who washed ashore from a viking shipwreck in Vinland in 790 AD…

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          • Since I made a similar claim, I would point out that on one hand, I think the mythology pertaining to the gods, their stories, and the creation, nature of the cosmos and the prediction of the end times are accepted as common tales or beliefs of the Vikings.

            But the ritual aspects are speculative. They did not appear to have a specialized priesthood, or if they did, we don’t know anything about it. I think it is accepted that human sacrifices were made, but the specifics are disputed.

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      • This isn’t an answer to notme or Lee or the others so much as it’s a thought on “is Odinism made up or not?”:

        It’s the wrong question. All religions are “made up.” Some have deeper connections with a given theological genealogy, as North puts it. And some have less deep connections.

        Some are examples of a community or group of individuals trying to develop a tradition, perhaps out of certain folkways, but in a way that doesn’t track with a certain theological genealogy. That’s my impression of Kwanzaa, for example. I also realize it’s a “holiday” and not a “religion” per se, but my point is that I’m not going to denigrate others’ belief systems simply because they don’t track in a way that marks it as an “authentic” outgrowth of whatever preceded it. (And maybe Kwanzaa is ultimately a bad example. I should stress I know too little about it.)

        I do admit that the “authenticity” claim does have some relationship with practitioners’ consistency and with the richness of whatever religious tradition is being claimed. Some “new agey” inclinations can be so touchy-feely or so ad hoc that perhaps they merit criticism on that ground. Still, most (all?) belief systems can be inconsistent or ad hoc, and as long as no one is compelling me to hew to their belief system, it’s mostly none of my business.

        Mostly, but not entirely. If a belief system promotes or validates white supremacy that threatens others, then I feel licensed to criticize it. Even then, as a practical matter, simply ignoring it could be a better strategy. My overall point, though, is that “authenticity” isn’t the problem.

        ETA: for full disclosure: I didn’t actually read the article on Odinism. I’m just commenting on the comments.

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          • Joke: I’m doing something that I made up out of whole cloth!
            Broke: I’m doing something that my grandparents made up out of whole cloth!
            Woke: I’m doing something that my great-great-great-great-(and back 1500 years) grandparents made up out of whole cloth!
            Bespoke: I’m doing something that is so old that we have no idea who made it up out of whole cloth!

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          • I also like it when somebody complain that word is “made up.” Like the other words were found in a rich seam of words in a word mine alongside diamonds and gold.

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          • Thanks, but I should probably disclose my (ideological? tribal? dispositional?) commitments. I do think there’s something sincere and “real” to religion that seems at first glance counteracted by my claim that religions are sometimes made up.

            I do think those who would debunk specific religions by disputing their “authenticity” are, err, invoking a false god.

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    • But what about the pizza parlor???

      I read the link. I’m not techie enough to know whether they are full of poo or not. However the piece clearly, loudly, announces it’s strong biases right up front. That isn’t just some science, it’s a polemic in search of the truth they want. But whatever helps you sleep at night with all the dripping.

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      • greg,
        Come the fuck on, if the Clintons wanted to have a sex ring, they’d not do it in a pizza parlor.
        That’s amateur crap.
        If the Clintons wanted a sex ring, they’d find a nice tropical island, where it’s nice and legal to fuck a 12 year old.
        If.

        People act like the Clintons are POOR or something.

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        • Not trying to change the subject, i’m directly mocking right wing conspiracy theories. I read the article and found it started with an overt bias which makes me wonder. Like i said i dont’ know any of the techie stuff so i can’t speak to that. But as you and George well know it was our intell agencies that have repeatedly said it was the Russians. That is a factual statement. It isn’t some made up plot or blogger who said it was the Russians. It was the FBI, NSA and CIA.

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              • Back in the 80’s and 90’s when i was reading the Nation and before liberals ruined our public discourse with hyperbole, accusations of D’s and lefties being f’ing commies were a dime a dozen. You may think you are joking but that was what conservatives continually said. Do you remember conservatives in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?

                Oddly i just a few days ago i saw a bumper sticker that said Democrats=Communists. Those are a bit rare now but it brought back all those fun memories.

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                • And if The Nation was not a propaganda arm of the Russians in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, what would they have done differently?

                  If they were not a propaganda arm of the Russians at the time of their article exonerating the Russians, what would they have done differently?

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                  • So is it a question if they were a propaganda front for the commies for all those decades?

                    Beats me but i’m not really sure what you are asking. The link i posted criticized their reporting so have at it.

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                      • What’s weird about it? For decades conservatives called D’s and liberals commies. It was all around. I heard it for years. Heck it was the standard conservative go to insult, sort of like what “racism” is now. What kind of bubble were you in if you didn’t hear it. Are the russians commies now? No, harsh authoritarians probably covers it now.

                        FWIW i have an old college friend whose family is from Ukraine. She’s not all that fond of Russia now.

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                          • Ummm you raised the point about The Nation being a propaganda arm of the Russians decades ago. I was responding to your statement.

                            Jay: “Everybody knows that The Nation has been a propaganda arm of the Russians for the last 100 years.”

                            Me: Do you even remember conservatives back then?

                            Discourse often works that way.

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                            • And you started talking about how crazy the conservatives were with regards to the “commies” and not whether Russia had propaganda arms.

                              Do you believe that Russia does not have propaganda arms, Greg?

                              Would you rather complain about conservatives? Would that be more fun?

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                              • I see the mistake i made was in responding to a point you raised with things you didn’t want to talk about. My bad. I’m just so poor at being led to the proper conclusion.

                                You tell me what you think the propaganda arms are, then i’ll give you my opinion. You put some facts on the table. I’ll give you a free one. RT is a propaganda arm of the current Russian gov.

                                So i’m assuming you do actually remember back then so you are conceding the point by changing the topic.

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            • What bias? There is a lefite fringe that so hates American imperialism, neo-cons, militaristic American foreign policy, the nat/sec state that they have gone anti-anti-Trump since they see Trump as somehow an enemy of all that. Think Glenn Greenwald. Clinton was associated, not unreasonably, with all that bad stuff so anything that took her down was also somehow good on the stuff they liked. The hard left has never been all that friendly to D’s and the Clintons.

              There is this rebuttal to the Nation article
              http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/08/the-nation-article-about-the-dnc-hack-is-incoherent.html

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              • Oh OK, I was confused by the mention of right-wing conspiracy theories in the context of this link — so I gather that wasn’t directed at the article itself but the people who jumped on it.

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              • All kidding aside, there’s a specific RussophilIa & Russoapologia strain that runs thru vanden Huevel (and her husband) that goes back at least ten, fifteen years – but nobody’s noticed till now, as it its only now that it puts them in tension with the center left and larger Democratic party mainstream.

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