The Feckless Ficus

December 6, 2019

In the New York Times Magazine, former Alex Jones/Infowars employee Josh Owens tells of his experience in the Crazypants Machine:

Suddenly, I was no longer a bored kid attending an overpriced art school. I was Fox Mulder combing through the X-Files, Rod Serling opening a door to the Twilight Zone, even Rosemary Woodhouse convinced that the neighbors were members of a ritualistic cult. I believed that the world was strategically run by a shadowy, organized cabal, and that Jones was a hero for exposing it.

I had my limits. I can’t say I ever believed his avowed theory that Sandy Hook was a staged event to push for gun control; to Jones, everything was a “false flag.” I didn’t believe that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama smelled like sulfur because of their proximity to hell or that Planned Parenthood was run by “Nazi baby killers.” But it was easy to brush off these fever dreams as eccentricities and excesses — not the heart of the Alex Jones operation but mere diversions.

And yes, Jones is absolutely nuts:

Once a co-worker stopped by the office with a pet fish he was taking home to his niece. It swam in circles in a small, transparent bag. When Jones saw the bag balanced upright on a desk in the conference room, he emptied it into a garbage can. On one occasion, he threatened to send out a memo banning laughter in the office. “We’re in a war,” he said, and he wanted people to act accordingly.

And later…

Once my beliefs began to shift, I saw the virulent nature of his world, the emptiness and loathing in many of those impassioned claims. But I was certain that after four years working for Jones, I would never be able to get another job — banished into poverty as penance for my transgressions, and rightly so.

Well, I mean, getting to write a feature for the New York Times Magazine is a pretty good start, so, you know. Not exactly “penance.”

Climate change is, obviously, going very badly for us. Protests from the Youth Climate Strike will block up DC streets today by the World Bank headquarters. In Free Inquiry, Karen Shragg wonders why the hell we’re not equally up in proverbial arms over what a comorbid and just as serious threat: overpopulation:

Competition between these two critical issues is not productive. They are intimately and inextricably connected, and both are important. Climate Chaos affects wildlife in its droughts and loss of arctic habitat, but it is often treated as the only culprit. Overpopulation is responsible for desertification as forests are cut for farmland, as suburbs sprawl over arable soil, and as water is drained from aquifers due to high demand. Ideally every paper, NGO, activist, and journalist would never speak of one without discussing the other.

A quarter of Canadians are young-Earth creationists, rejecting evolution and convinced that God created humans a few thousand years ago. 61 percent say humans “probably” or “definitely” evolved over many millions of years. 17 percent were unsure. This is much worse than I expected of Canada.

Remember how recently Texas’s Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded a judge who refused to conduct same-sex marriages? Well two of the commissioners that voted for that reprimand were just given the boot by Texas’s governor. The Houston Chronicle reports:

[Ousted commissioner Amy] Suhl said the governor’s office wanted to “change them out with the hope that maybe more people would vote the way they want.”

“I thought it was wrong,” she said. “That commission is there to serve the public, to make sure judges are operating ethically, and not to serve any one group’s interest.”

Steve Cuno in Free Inquiry tries to wrap his brain around religious apologetics:

Jesus cursed the fig tree. And the fig tree died.

The slaughter of the feckless ficus might have blown away my faith had not religious apologists set me straight. It turns out that … the lying sonnuvva plant was asking for it. Any fig tree knows not to grow leaves without figs. …

… If you haven’t studied apologetics, I encourage you to dig in. In no time, you’ll be explaining with the best of them how “lock kids in cages” follows from “love thy neighbor as thyself.” You will never again have to admit you were wrong, about anything, unless you want to.

A U.S. appeals court rejects a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by a Temple University housekeeper who claims to have been fired for being openly Christian. The university says he was canned for threatening other employees.

A former priest is suing the St. Louis Archdiocese for including him on a list of alleged sexual abusers. The Post-Dispatch reports:

The list was compiled after a monthslong inspection of diocesan records by former FBI and law enforcement agents whose findings were reviewed by a lay board before publication, according to the archdiocese. Church officials have said an allegation is “substantiated” if the review board found enough evidence to show the allegation is “more likely true than not true.”

A spokesperson said in an email Wednesday that the archdiocese is “confident in its position” regarding [Michael] Toohey’s case, the first example in its records of a current or former clergy accused of abuse suing the archdiocese. …

… Toohey denied sexually abusing anyone and said the archdiocese never told him he had been accused of sex abuse of a minor until the list was released.

Scientists discover the biggest black hole ever seen. Gizmodo reports:

It’s 40 billion times the mass of the Sun big—that’s around 2.5 percent the mass of the entire Milky Way galaxy.

It’s 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 paperclips, if that’s how your mind works.

It is.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.