Monday, May 23, 2011

Update on the Brisbane attack. Who to believe?

The Christian Right group, Operation Five Thirteen, is now portraying themselves as victims instead of attackers. I reported on OFT and their attack on rally for same-sex marriage a couple of days ago here.

Now OFT claims that they were peacefully minding there own business "some distance" from the rally when those nasty homosexuals attacked them. And, of course, the rally on the other side has a different story; which is why I didn't pay attention to either of them. I paid attention to what a reporter on the scene said happened. The reporter said the fundamentalists "interrupted" the rally and and "used a microphone to yell abuse at marchers." That does not correspond with what OFT claims.

OFT claims that police are charging a gay person with assault and another charged with theft, for supposedly taking an OFT sign. The Brisbane paper says police told them that no one has been charged with anything.

OFT alleges that video they took proves their claims. The problem has been that no such video has been release that I can find. The Christian sites that repeat OFT's claims don't show the alleged video. Neither does OFT. Raw, unedited video might help but with us approaching the two week mark since the incident one has to wonder what happened to the video. It should have been released immediately, before anyone had time to selectively edit scenes or distort context. But that has not happened. If it does eventually get released the length of time since it was taken, until its release, is certainly long enough to allow editing that changes the context.

Let me tell you why I am highly skeptical that OFT is telling the truth. As I have noted before, I know this religious tradition well, having gone to their schools and churches. I know they routinely exaggerate, distort and lie. I am sorry to say that such things are routine. They hold to their faith and try to bend facts to fit their religion. I've seen this up close and personal. I have written of numerous examples of this tendency among fundamentalists but will have to do a major piece on it sometime.

Let me give a few brief examples. During the Prop 8 campaign they produced television commercials which routinely twisted facts and lied in order to push their agenda. One example was their invented "facts" about a school allegedly forcing kids to attend a gay wedding. I outlined what they claimed and what the facts actually were here. Another piece I wrote looked at what one religious right group claimed were the ten worst cases of Christians being persecuted in America. I researched every single one of them and found that none of them even came close to be what they claimed it was.

Not all the lies are intentional. Some are just delusional or wishful thinking. An example from OFT is found on their own website. There is a fad called planking, where individuals lie rigid on top of something like a plank of wood and have their picture taken. It is pretty much senseless and mostly harmless unless one is incredibly stupid. A preacher from OFT wrote that he was preaching when "a few young blokes who had been listening to my message for a bit decided that one of them should plank beside me."

This "evangelist" did not know who the man was. And the fad is a world-wide thing with videos and pictures being posted all over the place. That was on Saturday, May 14th. One day later a young man stupidly tries to plank on the railing of an apartment balcony and falls to his death. As I said, it is safe unless one is incredibly stupid. But the OFT evangelist immediately jumps to the conclusion "that the young man who planked beside me was very likely the same man who fell off the 7-storey building to his death just hours later." Why is it "very likely?" Given how widespread this fad currently is, it is only possible that it was the same man, not "very likely." He says it is very likely because that makes a good story. And he uses it about how that young man heard him preaching and ignored the gospel and was dead just a few hours later and could be burning in hell right now because he ignored what the evangelist had to say. Maybe it was the same guy but odds are against it. This is just wishful thinking on his part.

In many cases these fundamentalists report what they wish were the facts, instead of what are the facts. And they are quite capable of convincing themselves that they are true. Often they just regurgitate accusations from other fundamentalists without bothering to check the facts. The "facts" fit their fundamentalist world-view and thus "have" to be true and are reported as such. When evidence arises to the contrary they ignore it, much as they do daily to maintain their fundamentalist faith.

Recently Louis Marinelli, the man who organized the anti-marriage whistle-stop campaign for the National Organization for (sic) Marriage, announced that his time on the road, meeting gay couples wanting to marry, and watching his own side protest this, convinced him that he was wrong. He said he was changing his mind about marriage equality even thought he is still a very conservative individual. Marinelli is now talking about the tactics he was told to use, which included distorting the facts about gay counter-protesters at NOM rallies. He wrote that NOM crusade is "all about image" and that means "painting them [gay people] in a negative way."

Marinelli wrote of one incident when some supporters of marriage equality stood silently on the sidelines with their backs turned to the NOM rally. But NOM's blog said they were "intolerant, inconsiderate bullies who down and insult anyone who disagrees with them, including women and children." (Why are women in the same category as children here?) But Marinelli, who organized the rally, said the protesters were actually silent, not shouting down anyone.

Marinelli claimed that NOM said counter-protesters in Rhode Island were "crazy" and that they had photos to prove it. Marinelli writes that some of the "pictures depicting their actions do make them appear that way" and that he was the man who took the photos. He also noted he was instructed by NOM's national office "to specifically take 'crazy' photos of gays and lesbians." The exact words used by NOM's head office was "I need crazy pictures of our opponents." Marinelli says his job included taking photos that would distort the facts about the counter-protesters. He says this backfired as NOM supporters then feared attending the rallies and they ended up with very small groups supporting them. He was then instructed to take different kind of photos.

The new photos had to "focus on the positive... We want happy people, people clapping, families, speakers shaking hands with people. We want to still capture the protesters (especially if they do something exceptionally crazy), but that will not be the main focus." Marinelli was told to take photos to make their crowd "look as big as possible." Now they wanted to distort how positive their side looked instead. But in both cases Marinelli was encouraged to distort the facts.

This is old stuff for the Religious Right. I well remember covering a rally of Moral Majority which was called to support legislation that would make homosexuality a felony crime in the state of Indiana. That was the purpose of the rally and Jerry Falwell, along with Anita Bryant, were the key speakers. Falwell got up and endorse the legislation to make being gay a crime. One week later he was at a press conference in Chicago and told reporters that it was simply untrue that either he or the Moral Majority want to strip gay people of any rights—the complete opposite of what he was calling for one week earlier.

Now maybe OFT will be able to produce video evidence that has not been edited that proves the Brisbane Times falsified the facts and that they really were victims. But as days continue to tick by without them doing so I have to wonder. Maybe they got left behind the video was raptured out instead?