So I screwed up. In my last post, I said:
You see, Bible Believers is a Christian hate group which publishes all sorts of bigoted literature. I kind of want to show you the antisemitic filth this group publishes, but I can’t bring myself to link to any of it. This group of people Jeff Id defends are literal deniers, as in people who publish material denying the Holocaust happened.
It turns out I made a mistake. There is a group located out of Australia with the name Bible Believers that has been known for its bigotry, especially its antisemiticism. It has even had some odd legal issues due to posting literature on its website which denies the Holocaust.
I mistakenly thought this was the same group as a Bible Believers group that operates out of the United States and travels internationally. This group, headed by a man who goes by the name Israel Ruben, publishes all sorts of vile bigotry on its site as well.
Given the similar names, similar purposes and similar behaviors, I think it's understandable why a person might mistakenly think the two groups are one and the same. Still, it was wrong of me. I should have done more research into the matter before writing my last blog post. The sad truth is I didn't because I found reading all the propaganda and bigotry too disgusting. Because of that, I failed to do the proper research.
I wanted to post this to acknowledge my mistake, but since I had to spend time learning about the differences between these two groups, I thought it'd be worth having a discussion. So while I've already explained the overall mistake I made, I'll be highlighting a couple specific errors it caused me to make in my post as I discuss some broader issues.
The first thing to note is this discussion came about when the prominent skeptic blogger Jeff Id made a comment on a website discussing an incident which happened in Dearborn Michigan. To make a long story short, the American Bible Believers group attended an Arab International Festival there, yelled offensive remarks about Islam, carried signs which insulted the Islamic religion and carried a severed pig's head on a pole as they walked through the festival.
This provoked a variety of reactions, and over approximately 90 minutes, people attending the festival threw things at the Bible Believers group. This happened on a couple occasions, interrupted by various things like police officers coming by. However, police officers made no meaningful effort to stop this sort of violence from happening, and after a while, they kicked the Bible Believers group out of the festival due to the reaction they were receiving. The Bible Believers filed a lawsuit over this, claiming their First Amendment rights had been violated, and the courts eventually sided with them.
That is a short and simple version of what happened. As you can see, there is no single "good" or "bad" guy here. The Bible Believers went to an Arab International Festival and spouted bigotry with the intention of provoking people. That is legal. What they did was a protected form of expression under the First Amendment. It is also disgusting.
The people attending the festival who threw things at the Bible Believers broke the law. Other people at the festival discouraged violence. Some people actively pulled their children or friends away. One person even stood in front of the Bible Believers in the hope acting as a shield for them would prevent people from becoming violent. This shows what one might expect from any community or large group of people being subjected to vile bigotry like that coming from the Bible Believers - some people will react poorly to the provocation and want to break the law while many others will not. Some will even react admirably and try to discourage people from taking the bait. This means one should acknowledge there was goodness coming from this crowd, and the violence which happened was provoked. Even so, the violence was wrong.
Finally, the police could have done far more to stop the violence. In fact, it is likely there wouldn't have been any violence if the police had put even a minimal amount of effort into protecting the Bible Believers. It was wrong of them not to, and the courts were right to rule in favor of the Bible Believers in their lawsuit. Still, one can understand why police might not be inclined to jump to the defense of vile, bigotry-spewing hate groups. As wrong as it is, it is a human reaction.
So in all this, there is no single "good" or "bad" side. People are, of coures, free to side with one group or another based on whatever personal preferences they might have, but all sides did bad things. That's something anyone and everyone should be able to acknowledge. For some reason, Jeff Id cannot. In his original description of these events, he said:
There are plenty of muslims who act moderate and therefore see islam as good, but there are plenty of liberals who think what Obama has done to America is good too. I watched a video of a few guys with Jesus loves shirts be attacked physically and verbally by a crowd of hundreds of muslims in Dearborn Michigan. I was born in that area and much of my family grew up there. The influx of Muslims to that region has now almost fully displaced Christians and despite there being plenty of opportunities for the ‘peaceful’ muslims to speak out against intolerance, there was nothing but middle east style culture in evidence. Like the European no-go zones, the police refused to intervene.
No common sense moderate Muslims in sight. None of the outrage at how these Christians were being treated that you would expect from modern moderate muslims. I’m sure there was some outrage actually, but the religion as practiced doesn’t allow dissent and those who would speak out in that crowd would likely be punished.
This is not a remotely fair or reasonable description of what happened. Portraying the Bible Believers, who had shouted out bigoted remarks and paraded a severed pig's head on a pole as merely "a few guys with Jesus loves shirts" is unacceptable. By his description, Jeff Id would have the reader believe all that happened is "a few guys with Jesus loves shirts" were walking in some area doing nothing noteworthy when hundreds of Muslims descended upon them and attacked for no reason.
That's obviously not what happened. Even if Jeff Id's description might be technically accurate, the impression it creates is completely misleading. Nobody reading what he wrote would have the slightest idea the Bible Believers had been shouting out bigoted remarks in order to provoke the crowd. Jeff Id effectively covered that up, pretending this group wasn't a vile hate group actively promoting bigotry. Naturally, that bothered me so I wrote a post. In it, I pointed out how misleading what Jeff Id had said was. I also said:
You see, the police did intervene. On multiple occasions, the police demanded the Bible Believers stop using a megaphone as it was considered too loud (especially with the racist slurs they were shouting, which Jeff Id failed to mention). And later, the police intervened further by kicking the Bible Believers out of the festival. Jeff Id somehow manages to ignore that, instead pretending “the police refused to intervene.” In reality the police did intervene, in a bad way. They likely responded that way because they didn’t like the Bible Believers, but as the courts have since ruled, they were in the wrong.
So to be fair to the racist Christians Jeff Id portrays as innocent victims, the police did treat them unfairly. As hateful and disgusting as their behavior was, it was a lawful form of expression protected by the First Amendment. The police were wrong in kicking them out to stop the escalation of violence rather than addressing the people who actually committed the violence.
As it turns out, the American Bible Believers group hasn't said (as far as I'm aware) anything racist. It publishes tons of bigotry against religious groups and homosexuals, but it seems to treat people of all races the same way. I was wrong to refer to its bigotry as racism and its slurs as racist. I don't know of a good word to replace that with for when the prejudice is against a religion rather than an ethnic group, but I should have found one.
This brings up something of another issue though. Jeff Id, and in fact the Bible Believers, say this attack was by Muslims. Jeff Id further states no Muslims spoke out against this violence (which is simply false, flying in the face of readily available and uncontested evidence). He also says things like:
I did not look up a group of bible thumpers crazy enough to carry god signs in a muslim neigborhood because they looked like morons.
The bible thumpers were crazy to go into an intolerant muslim community with signs and shirts
I want to take a moment to point out these events happened in a festival on public streets, not in a neighborhood or community. Jeff Id got a lot of basic details like these wrong, but what's more interesting is he calls these "a muslim neigborhood" and a "muslim community."
This was an Arab International Festival. Being an Arab doesn't make you a Muslim. In fact, attending the festival doesn't even make you an Arab, as many non-Arabs attended as well. That's not the point though. The point is Arabs are an ethnic group, describing people whose heritage is of a certain part of the world. Muslim is a religious group, describing people who adhere to the religious tenets of Islam. They're not the same thing.
You can be an Arab Christian. You can be an Arab Jew. You can be a African American Muslim. One's ethnic group doesn't have to determine one's religious group. And yet, people like Jeff Id seem to treat them as one and the same. They see people at an Arab festival whose skin color is all the same, and they label all of them Muslims. Then they express prejudice toward Muslims. Isn't that racist?
Think about it. Hating Arabs because of their ethnicity would be ethnic prejudice, or racism. Hating Muslims because of their religion would be religious prejudice. Normally the two wouldn't be the same. However, if a person, albeit incorrectly, associates all members of one ethnicity with a particular religion they are prejudiced against, then they are prejudiced against all members of that ethnicity. Even if that prejudice is based on a misunderstanding, isn't it still racism?
I'm not sure. I hadn't really thought about it before. It's probably not important, but it was something which added a bit of extra confusion when I was thinking on just what to call certain people.
In any event, due to disputes over the blog post I wrote, Jeff Id wrote a blog post of his own. In it, he quoted the whole comment I excerpted the portion on this incident from and said:
Definitely a strong comment, which I do believe is accurate. The evidence of the video however, caused Brandon Shollenberger to go off the deep end and post a blog using the video part of my comment only and left the rest of the context out. I’m rather pissed at him for his mischaracterizations and hadn’t realized just how far some people would go to defend evil behaviors but the internet never seems to have a lower bound.
I'm at a loss as to how anyone could think I defended "evil behaviors," but that's not really important. What's important is I had described the events which happened at Dearborn Michigan, as they had actually happened. I did so to highlight the vast discrepancy between what had actually happened and what Jeff Id had portrayed as having happened. I provided details which were readily verifiable, and I even provided links which documented what I said.
But still, Jeff Id stood by his depiction. In fact, he had continued and still continues to stand by his portrayal, not changing a single word of it. Earlier in response to me pointing out problems with his portrayal, Jeff Id said:
You can see they did not use megaphones as they were not allowed. Your claim is false. You can also see them being stoned and the back of their shirt says Jesus saves. Not a bad description of what happened
(As a quick aside, this megaphone issue is an incredibly trivial, but rather fascinating one. I had made a remark about the police telling the Bible Believers they needed to stop using their megapohne. Jeff Id said that was a false claim. However, the video he posted a link to shows, just a minute in, a police officer telling the grouop they need to stop using the megaphone. Despite me pointing that out, he has continued to insist I'm wrong about the megaphone issue again and again. Anyway, moving on.)
According to Jeff Id, because these men were wearing "Jesus saves" shirts and had stones thrown at him, his portrayal was "[n]ot a bad description of what happened." He keeps saying things like this, as though a statement being technically true makes it a fair description of what happened. He also resorted to a defense of:
I expected some rational commentary on what is wrong with a temporary halt to importing muslim extremism. Instead I found he removed everything relevent to the comment I made, pulled the wrong video apparently from a different year and made a bunch of ranting claims while calling me names.
I believe Brandon grabbed the video from a different year as I stated before. I’m not sure because the video I linked is very long. I didn’t see any pigs heads, I did not see megaphones because the cop banned them at the beginning of the video and the crazy bible thumper tried to argue and I did not see less than a couple hundred muslims.
I didn’t see the part where they said the prophet wanted to molest their children. Are you on the right video?
But the video he linked to is a heavily edited video created for propaganda purposes. Any sensible person would realize not seeing something in the video doesn't mean much. Here is the video Jeff Id watched:
Here is the original, uncut version:
Both versions are readily available on the internet. You can easily find both with a simple internet search. Anyone remotely interested in what happened could choose to watch the unedited version. But instead, Jeff Id watched only the version edited for propaganda purposes. Even after being told it was propaganda dishonestly edited, Jeff Id went back and watched it again to check for facts rather than looking for the unedited version.
So here's what I'm getting at. The Australian Bible Believers group is a hate group for bigots who hate Jews and deny the Holocaust. They're different from the American Bible Believers group who hate Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, Hindus, gays and probably plenty of other groups. One of the big differences is the American Bible Believers group does this thing they call "street preaching," like what they did in this incident.
The bigotry of that is obvious. The bigotry of publishing literature which says Jews are an inferior race is obvious. But what about what Jeff Id does? Jeff Id posted an incredibly misleading depiction of what happened in this incident, portraying the bigoted Bible Believers group as innocent victims of a Muslim mob that acted without provocation. When confronted with clear evidence showing his portrayal was false, he repeatedly defended it as accurate and fair.
Is that bigoted? I don't know. What about when he intentionally depends only upon what he's been informed is a propaganda film when real evidence is readily available? Is that bigoted, with his hatred for Muslims causing him to refuse to look at the evidence? Does that explain why he refused to admit simple and obvious mistakes he made that exaggerated the supposed misdeeds of the (people he labels) Muslims in this incident?
I don't know. Jeff Id is very different from the American Bible Believers. I'd like to believe that indicates he's not a bigot. Unfortunately, I've spent quite a bit of time today looking at the various hate literature these different groups publish. While it's largely fried my mind (hence why this post isn't structured, and is likely more rambly/stream of thought than normal), it's also showed me not all bigots are the same.
Some bigots can appear perfectly rational even as they say horrendous thinsg. Others sound like raving lunatics even when they say things you agree with. There doesn't appear to be any single key indicator. But in Jeff Id's case, it seems everything he does is biased to make Muslims look worse, even if that means massively downplaying the bigotry of vile hate groups like the Bible Believers.
And honestly, it doesn't matter which Bible Believers we're talking about. While I was wrong to say Jeff Id defended the antisemitic group which denies the Holocaust, he would have. As his behavior shows, he didn't care what anyone did to provoke reactions from the Muslims. He didn't even care how the Muslims actually reacted to that provocation.
He just liked that he had a "story" he could use to confirm Muslims are... whatever he thinks they are. That he had to ignore evidence contradicting his story and cover up the actions of vile bigots involved to get it didn't matter to him. Because he is that bigoted.
Or at least, that's how it seems. Maybe I'm wrong. By the twentieth screed I read about how gay people are terrorists or god knows what else, I think my mind stopped working.