My sleep was disturbed last night by a vision of PBS’ new schedule: “Not Now or Ever with Bill Moyers.” When I told the dog, he was suspicious: had I been thinking about the Mind/Body split before I went to bed?
Gadzooks, I expostulated, how did he know? In fact, I’ve been thinking about the Mind/Body split since my first grade class put on a show for our parents. We all wore the same thing—a white undershirt, black pants and a white and black Mickey Mouse mask—so I was mystified when my parents told me afterwards how good I was. How did they know which one was me? We were all costumed alike and wearing masks. I had no idea my body had given me away.
At six, my sense of myself as all head/no body may be understandable, particularly when—did I neglect to say this?—the school was in France, home of René Descartes, the French philosopher who invented the Mind/Body split when he said: “I Ain’t Got No Body.” Oh, no, wait, that was David Lee Roth, former lead singer for Van Halen. What Descartes said was: “I think therefore I am.” Which—trust me on this—amounts to the same thing.
For those lucky few who weren’t drilled in Cartesian rationality, the Mind in the Mind/Body split is the grand fromage. It’s not just Mind and Matter, it’s Mind over matter. Mind says Matter doesn’t matter. Mind dismisses the evidence of its senses, of its eyes and ears, like the jurors in the Rodney King trial or the Bush Administration’s jury-rigged insistence on WMD in Iraq. Or the “perception of a liberal bias in public broadcasting”— just in case you thought I’d forgotten my nightmare.
The man hawking the “perception of a liberal bias” is Ken Tomlinson, the Bush-appointed head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Congressional oversight committee intended to keep government out of public radio and television. That there is no actual evidence to support this claim is no worry to Tomlinson or anyone else in the Bush administration because they don’t believe in empirical data, they believe in Empire reality.
Yes, I know I already wrote about Empire reality in December’s Crackpot Theory but here it is in shorthand for those who missed it and are too lazy to click on Crackpot Archives and scroll down to December: Empirical reality is supported by evidence, it’s Science. Empire reality demands that we take it on Faith. Which brings us back to Tomlinson and the Mind/Body split.
Note that Tomlinson doesn’t say “there is a liberal bias”; there is a “perception” of one. The fact that surveys of PBS viewers and NPR listeners don’t reveal such a bias makes no never-mind to him. That would be empirical reality. Instead, he insists to the Senate that the perception requires correction. That’s why he put Paul Gigot, editorial director of the WSJ, on the air—in the name of “political balance”.
Which just goes to show how “unbalanced” Empire Reality is – “unbalanced” as in “crazy” or “insane”. It’s the Mind/Body split tipped into pathology, like anorexia, a perfect example of a perception—“I’m too fat!”—over-riding the evidence of your eyes and ears—“You weigh ninety pounds!”. That’s where therapy comes in, to try to bring the perception in line with reality. But hey, therapy’s for wimps, not for Empire builders.
Here’s how Empire builders deal with anorexia—by pandering to the perception. If the body politic were anorexic, the Empire builders would put it on a diet. No, wait—there’s no hypothetical “if” about it. That’s exactly what Tomlinson and his ideological cohorts are trying to do—starve the public of an evidence-based narrative. The “liberal” in “liberal media” means that the media promote a secular narrative. So the “political balance” Tomlinson’s talking about isn’t putting Paul Gigot on the air. “NOW with Ann Coulter” doesn’t cut it either. They’re aiming for “NOVA: how God created heaven and earth.” “NOVA: how the Rapture works.” “NOVA Scotia and the Christians who Live There”.
Hence, this month’s Crackpot Theory: The real agenda of the attacks on the “liberal media” is to replace Science with Faith as the author of our collective narrative.
You want proof? Just take my word for it.
Barbara Herman responds to “Will PBS Become the Protestant Broadcasting System?”
In defense of René Descartes. His argument implies that he was essentially neither old nor young, essentially neither rich nor poor, not male or female… but he was essentially thinking, whatever he thought he was. The audacity has to impress. Few post-moderns could offer such transgressive possibilities. Though the mind/body split has a very nasty legacy—but if you had to pick, is it clear that mind over body is worse than body over mind?—Descartes ought to be honored (and chided) for insisting on virtually unmeetable standards of rigor for thought. No Cartesian, and few Frenchmen, will worry about stem cells, or gay marriage, or the Rapture. When we are trying to know and understand, the ideas we aspire to should be able to withstand the austere discipline of skeptical doubt. Intelligent Design is just another good idea? Not a chance. So while, alas, on the crackpot scale, the theory that the guys in Washington aim to replace science with faith gets a “1”, on this issue, at least, Descartes is on our side.
Barbara Herman is a professional friend of the mind and Professor of Philosophy at UCLA.
Earl Katz responds to “Will PBS Become the Protestant Broadcasting System?”
Your Crackpot Theory deserves a 1. I’m working with Christian documentary directors John Fuller and Karen Drohan who are doing a lot of research on Dominionism. Here’s what I learned from them:
“I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen and coming again, with life and liberty to all who believe.”
If a radical group of Fundamentalist Christians has their way, this will be the oath your children will be forced to recite everyday in their Christian school.
They have a plan for this world. They believe that every man is a sinner. Only God and His son Jesus Christ are perfect. Laws created by man are not valid in their eyes. Biblical law is the only true law. And every Christian on earth is commanded by G-d Almighty to destroy the sinful, secular, unchristian societies created by man and replace them with the one truth: a global Christian theocracy, led by G-d’s chosen to prepare the way for the return of the one true king, Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords.
These Fundamentalists are known as Dominionists, and they may be the most dangerous religious movement you’ve never heard of. Their doctrines are shocking to ordinary Christian believers, and to most Americans. But the unprecedented growth of conservative religious influence in American government is due in no small part to the dogged persistence of this extreme, radical group of ultra-right-wing conservatives. And everyone from Pat Robertson to George W. Bush is listening.
Earl Katz is Executive Director of Public Interest Pictures.
Marilyn Levy responds to “Will PBS Become the Protestant Broadcasting System?”
As usual, you’re right on the mark. But I would add—because the government’s “theories” seem so ill-conceived and so lacking in empirical evidence, we liberal, fact-based, godless intellectuals also overindulge in misperceptions. It’s hard to accept that fumbling, bumbling Bush and Company can out-organize and outsmart us. But they do it over and over again by manipulating perception. By re-stating simple and often simplistic “facts” until they become truth, by re-framing and re-naming the concepts—as in “Personal Accounts” instead of “Privatization of Social Security”—they narrow the frighteningly wide world and offer the public relief with blinders on. Or as you say, they offer “a pared down anorexic evidence-starved narrative.”
Like anorexics, Bush and Company immediately negate any criticism or any attempt to prove, factually, that they are mistaken. Anorexics look at themselves in mirrors and see fat where there is none (WMD). No matter how many times doctors, family, and friends point out that they’re grossly underweight, no matter how often they step on the scale (see the facts for themselves), they believe their own perceptions. And that’s the key—belief. “The fat’s there. Maybe it’s hidden, but those idiots are so blind, they don’t see it. And guess what—I know how to bulk up before stepping on the scale. Fools them every time.” “Good job, Brandy (or Candy or Cory). You gained 4 ounces.” Good job, Rummy. You’re the best. Boy George has repeated that so often that he’s manipulated the general public’s perception, and many people still believe, regardless of the facts, that we’re safer now than we were before we invaded Iraq.
The administration has closed down the dialogue. They ridicule the “liberal media” and refuse to allow questions from reporters who confront them. Instead they plant their own “reporters,” so few point out that we now have an anorexic-inspired theocracy which governs by faith. God speaks to Boy George, (his words, not mine), so he doesn’t have to deal with facts. Neither do the people in his administration. Dr. Bill Frist “knew” that Teri Schiavo was sentient and should be kept alive —regardless of the facts. Karl Rove didn’t lie, and the president knew nothing about it, even if he did.
Okay, so maybe the administration got a little flack on the Teri Schiavo issue, but there are more important issues to deal with now. They’ve captured the public’s attention by nominating an anorexic Supreme Court justice. A man without a paper trail, pared down to the basics. The guy’s brilliant. Everyone says so, and that’s all we need to know. There are no facts, ma’am. He was arguing cases for clients. So what if his wife is active in a pro-life group; doesn’t mean he is. This nomination was a brilliant move by the Bush administration because there are very few relevant facts, at this point. And the Democrats are right to keep silent unless and until they can come up with some. But it takes deep insight for anorexics (and Senators) to accept the truth, even though they might suspect it. It’s just too frightening to give up the illusion, the structure upon which they’ve based their existence. Still, we can’t just accept John Roberts on faith! Because I agree that “the real agenda of the attacks on the ‘liberal media’ is to replace Science with Faith as the author of our collective narrative.” It’s already happening right under our noses. Millions of dollars have been ploughed into faith-based agencies and churches (even a few synagogues—for repairs) to rescue those “at risk.” All these poor souls have to do is accept Jesus.
It’s about Control! Getting it and keeping it. Even if you die trying. We just can’t afford to let our anorexic government take us down with them.
Marilyn Levy is a Screenwriter with an MA in Psychology.