Yesterday, we published the first half of our Ten Worst Christian Media Hacks, the Christian commentators whose writing is most likely to waste your time. (Click here to read the introduction and the first part.) Today, we continue with the top of the list—the worst of the worst. Enjoy, and let us know who we left out in the comments.
5. David Limbaugh
Rush’s younger brother has none of the conservative godfather’s crackling wit or sense of humor. If the parallel conservative media weren’t so generally populated with talentless automatons, we’d say the younger Limbaugh probably would not have a career if he had a different last name. But since he’s a Limbaugh, he’s got to have a platform, and he uses it to constantly reiterate the tired, garden-variety right-wing cant you can find at any conservative blog or Tea Party rally: Obama is a socialist, Obama hates the free market, patriotism is Christian, Sarah Palin is persecuted, and the liberal media is to blame for everything. He once even oxymoronically titled a column “Recapturing Supply Side Coherence,” which would have been great except … it wasn’t ironic. If you want a walking embodiment of conservative epistemic closure who isn’t named Jonah Goldberg, then David Limbaugh is your man. It’s hard to imagine that even people who agree with this stuff don’t get tired of reading it over and over, put exactly the same way every time.
Repeat offenses: Repetition; Obama Derangement Syndrome; America worship; humorlessness; intellectual dullness.
“Obama let slip his socialist proclivities to Joe the plumber when he denied he wanted to punish wealth and insisted he just wanted to spread the wealth around. Joe was justifiably repulsed by Obama’s cavalier attitude toward the American dream.”
4. L. Brent Bozell III, Media Research Center
The nephew of William F. Buckley and son of Catholic conservative activist L. Brent Bozell, Jr., is responsible for a host of ridiculous organizations devoted to policing decency and tracking “liberal bias”: the Parents’ Television Council, the Media Research Center, NewsBusters, and CNS News, to name a few. As recently as this month, his weekly columns were peddling vintage 1990s Christian hysteria about the National Endowment for the Arts and obscenity in art and media. Bozell takes a prurient delight in describing the latest outrages on MTV or at art galleries around the country, delivering graphic details with shock-jock flair. Long after the Christian world in general has admitted the need to get beyond counting swear words in popular entertainment, Bozell keeps it up tirelessly. And the fact that he’s trained as a decency cop doesn’t keep him from offering color-by-numbers political analysis that obsesses over Barack Obama’s “radical left-wing agenda” and “Marxist” advisers. Like Limbaugh, Coulter, and pretty much every other political hack right or left, he’s written the same damn column every week for the past decade. You can safely skip the rest of them without missing a thing.
Repeat offenses: Mind-numbing repetition; Obama Derangement Syndrome; conservative epistemic closure; hysterical, prurient prudery.
That’s just the beginning. Now a girl, handsomely endowed, takes a batch of pictures of herself wearing only panties. “High art” is how she describes her product. The curator examines her semi-naked pictures, with emphasis on her naked breasts, and deems the display to be “gorgeous.” But what the judges would later describe as “brilliant” is her special touch: setting these pictures next to a black felt-tip pen so the gallery audience could scrawl on them whatever graffiti or obscenities they inspire.
3. Frank Schaeffer, The Huffington Post
Most of us know what faith crises are like. The son of the evangelical lion Francis Schaeffer, who in his later days became a political hack himself and would probably be on this list were he still alive, might even deserve a bit of slack for his. But Frank has long since burned through any sympathy one might have felt for his childhood as a right-winger, becoming a typical paranoid, frothing Huffington Post blogger with nothing to do but smear Christians and conservatives with acidic bile and conspiratorial rantings. Worst of all, he continues to publicly dispute his own deceased father. Principled political deserters often make powerful critics of their old ideologies, but there’s nothing sadder than watching them become embarrassing mirror images of their former excess. Schaeffer might as well have stayed on the far right if he’s going to keep doing this much violence to public discourse. Far from exorcising personal demons, his naked public rage and awful political writing only keep the family trainwreck hurtling forward.
Repeat offenses: Hateful hyperbole; bad writing; relentless book hawking.
“Christians who believe that the Bible is without error and internally consistent are the victims of an ancient elitist cover-up. An ‘inerrantist’ is someone who believes that the Bible is without error in everything that it affirms. Stark exposes the circularity of such ‘Bible-is-without-error’ fundamentalist ‘logic.’ He calls out the double standards Evangelicals employ when defending their doctrines. Stark shows how the doctrine of biblical inerrancy actually works against Evangelicals, by undermining basic theistic tenets such as free will and divine sovereignty.”
2. Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily
Farah and his hysterical right-wing website need no introduction. A skilled demagogue and a relentless opportunist who makes millions stoking Birther conspiracies, Tea Party paranoia, and cultural resentment, Farah may be the most unforgivable Christianist in the world. When he says, for example, God gave him the “clarity of mind and discernment“* to drop Ann Coulter from a WND conference after she decided to give a fairly hostile speech at a gay conservative conference—a convenient fight that brought massive publicity to WorldNetDaily—it’s hard to know if he is really a poisonous bigot or a greedy sleazeball.
To his credit, Farah did break with conservative orthodoxy and come out strongly against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But in general, he believes in whatever is good for his bottom line, and in scaring as many unstable people as he can into parting with their money via the innumerable financial scams he promotes on WND. All of this somehow is promoting the cause of Christ on Earth, who as Farah would say, left behind more evidence of his birth than Barack Obama. Not that we need their word, but when conservative überhack Andrew Breitbart thinks you’re nuts and Ann Coulter calls you a “fake Christian,” you must be a pretty bad person.
What God cares about is spelled out with great care and specificity in the Bible. He cares about sin – which He defines. Nowhere in the Bible does God characterize the failure to ‘recycle’ as a sin. Nowhere in the Bible does God characterize using the world’s minerals and natural resources as a sin. Nowhere in the Bible does God characterize the creation of carbon as sin.
1. Dinesh D’Souza, The King’s College
Indian-born Dinesh D’Souza’s path to prominence blazed through virtually every bastion of the conservative movement: first the Heritage Foundation’s Policy Review, then the Reagan administration, then the American Enterprise Institute and later the Hoover Institution. The fact that these institutions do not typically produce America’s brightest scholars, though, is beside the point. By all accounts, D’Souza has a first-rate mind and a passionate debating style; many observers felt he held his own debating God with Christopher Hitchens in 2008.
That intellect makes D’Souza’s writing career all the more upsetting. His early books trumpeted the signature grievances of 80s and 90s conservatism: the injustice of affirmative action and black people’s blame for their own cultural condition. (“The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well,” D’Souza wrote in one infamous line.) His dubious arguments quickly made him a laughingstock among mainstream intellectuals and critics. But that wasn’t a provocation for the man who once led the invasive, pesky Dartmouth Review. The next political subject he attempted—a backhanded defense of the 9/11 terrorist attacks—earned him scathing reviews from conservative critics as well. The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 accused American liberals of creating a sexually licentious, secular culture by which radical Muslims are rightly offended. National Review said the book was “seriously misguided,” and the Weekly Standard called it “seriously wrong and foolishly divisive.”
That brings us to this year, when D’Souza unleashed his latest idea on the American media: a hare-brained theory about Barack Obama’s “Kenyan anti-colonialism,” expounded upon in a Forbes cover story, a Washington Post op-ed, and another massive book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage. The tome centered on a wild accusation that the president learned virulent anti-American views from his father, a thesis unsupported by even the most cursory survey of Obama’s biography or scholarship. D’Souza’s factual, historical, and logical mishaps were immediately and viciously tallied by scores of conservative commentators, including Daniel Larison, Heather Mac Donald, Andrew Ferguson, Ramesh Ponnuru, and the Economist. Larison called it “the most ridiculous piece of Obama analysis yet written,” while the Weekly Standard headlined its review, “The Roots of Lunacy.” D’Souza refused to budge.
It’s hard to attribute Dinesh D’Souza’s fantastic despicableness to simple opportunism; he may be the Kitty Kelley of academia, but he clearly believes in his own horseshit. And that’s why he’s the number one Christian hack with a job right now: he’s buried his brain so deeply in movement partisanship that he can believe something everyone on his own side thinks is madness. Despite his popular works of Christian apologetics, no believer can trust a man so deeply invested in perpetuating dishonesty. And because conservatives and Christianists always believe themselves to be under siege, his mind is closed to being persuaded out of his pernicious mission.
Repeat offenses: Right-wing fanaticism; psuedo-scholarship in defense of outrageous, false theses; petulance and partisanship in response to critics; Obama Derangement Syndrome.
“Obama supports the Ground Zero mosque because to him 9/11 is the event that unleashed the American bogey and pushed us into Iraq and Afghanistan. He views some of the Muslims who are fighting against America abroad as resisters of U.S. imperialism. Certainly that is the way the Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi portrayed himself at his trial. Obama’s perception of him as an anticolonial resister would explain why he gave tacit approval for this murderer of hundreds of Americans to be released from captivity.”
*This article originally stated Farah said God told him to drop Coulter from the WND event. It has been updated to reflect Farah’s statement more precisely.
David Sessions is the founding editor of Patrol. He covers religion for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and is a graduate student in the Draper Program for Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. He can be reached at hdavidsessions at gmail dot com.
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