As an affirmed denier of all things supernatural, I must consider my recent deep dive into Critical Race Theory and Bob Price’s latest “troubles” to be entirely coincidental. To show you how far out of the loop I’ve been, I hadn’t the slightest inkling something was amiss in Priceland until I saw his rebuttal to Derek Lambert on Facebook. Oh, look. He’s being “canceled” again. Dear me.
First, I need to apologize to any and all for trying to compartmentalize for so long — gaining insights from Price’s religious research while ignoring his extremist authoritarian political, economical, and social views. I had held Price at arm’s length for many years, having at first approached him by email and then by phone, with the hopes of learning at the feet of the master.
He gave me a list of books to read, and we worked out a preliminary syllabus. At the time, I was working a lot on the road, which made things difficult, and then, late in the year, my mother’s health took a turn for the worst. She had been battling multiple myeloma. In 2010 I took a great deal of time off work to look after her. I fell into a profound melancholia.
In that same period, I became aware of Neil and his blog, Vridar. As my mom succumbed to the disease that was literally etching her bones, Vridar gave me an outlet, a place to divert my attention and keep my mind occupied. But at the same time, I became more aware of Price’s views on foreign policy, race relations, bad people on the left, etc.
The last record I have of direct contact with Price was in September of 2010, and then nothing until he and John Loftus started talking about a new anthology — published recently as Varieties of Jesus Mythicism.
The latest dust-up with Price has been building for some time. I’m not really surprised by it. However, the very public nature of Derek Lambert’s cutting ties with him has caused a lot of people like me to realize we have to choose a side. Actually, at one point I had considered saying nothing and just looking the other way, but that’s the sort of tacit approval I can’t stomach any longer.
I had stopped listening to the Bible Geek podcast quite some time ago when Price decided to explain why he was against Barack Obama. He went on a long tirade and did not fail to mention every single right-wing talking point and lunatic-fringe accusation. If we had still been communicating, I would have told him, “Bob, it’s like a smorgasbord, or the Old Country Buffet, you don’t have to eat absolutely everything they put out. Pace yourself!”
But this is how Price’s mind works. When it comes to the Bible, he has the reputation of reading everything, checking his sources, searching for the truth. They say he keeps an open mind. On the other hand, when it comes to politics, he trusts second-hand accounts implicitly. He strives to keep himself just informed enough to believe what he wants to believe.
For example, much of what he believes about Black Lives Matter is easily debunked, but he will not take the effort to find out. Through such studied ignorance is the right-wing bubble constructed. Here’s what he said in a recent interview with “Doug” on the Pine Creek YouTube channel.
Bob: And when you have Black Lives Matter, for instance, saying that they are against the nuclear family and want to see it dismantled, what are they aimin’ at there? Well, they are anarchistic —
Doug: Did Black Lives Matter say that?
Bob: — Oh, yes they do! It was, it was until recently on their website as part of their statement of principles. They admit they’re Marxists and they’re against the nuclear family. And of course to, not to have chaos with people wild in the streets — though they also don’t seem to mind that — but they’re aiming at a state in which children would be brought up by the state, not by the parents, which you had to some degree in the Soviet Union. . .
It’s like that’s what I see in Hillary Clinton who’s a confessed Alinskyite, she she — It Takes a Village, you know you’re like it’s a kibbutz kind of thing, I guess . . .
. . . but I think she probably should have called it, It Takes a Gulag, because it’s the anti-family thing is pro-state ownership of children. You see, that again with these teachers telling kids, well, we’re gonna talk about you changing gender, but we’re not gonna . . . Why do they think they have the right to do that? Because they think the state owns the children, not the parents.
Throughout the interview he swings from avuncular scholar to wild-eyed lunatic. I had to stop when he began to fawn over Trump. I simply could not muster the fortitude to get through it. But it is instructive to hear him say “I don’t believe that!” when Doug asks him about the “Grab ’em by the p—-” line. Price thought it was an accusation by one of his “lying” rape victims, apparently unaware that it was Donald himself who said it on the Access Hollywood tape. Of course, it wouldn’t matter if Price knew; he’d simply brush it aside. If inciting a riot at the Capitol is hunky dory, merely latching onto genitalia is nothing, right?
If you expect me to debunk everything he just said, you’ve come to the wrong place. Only someone drowning in the deep end of the stupid pool would equate the rather benign proverb that puts the burden of raising children on society as a whole with (shudder!) the Gulag. Besides, debunking doesn’t work. A thriving cottage industry continually churns out books debunking the lies and fantasies of the Right. It doesn’t help. The indoctrinated faithful will scream foul when the fact-checkers tell them they’re being lied to by their media darlings.
The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” has obscure origins. Some have described it as an African proverb used to the point of cliché. Others have likened it to “some sort of pseudo-African mix of Hallmark and folk sentiments.” But one African studies professor put it this way: “Proverb or not, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ reflects a social reality some of us who grew up in rural areas of Africa can easily relate to. As a child, my conduct was a concern of everybody, not just my parents, especially if it involved misconduct. Any adult had the right to rebuke and discipline me and would make my mischief known to my parents who in turn would also mete their own ‘punishment.’ The concern of course was the moral well-being of the community.”
See the NPR story: It Takes A Village To Determine The Origins Of An African Proverb
More important in this discussion is the issue of why Price believes the way he does. We’ve already mentioned the positive effort it requires to remain ignorant in matters one wishes to disunderstand. I prefer this word to misunderstand, as a parallel to misinformation and disinformation. The right-wing stream of disinformation would hardly be so damaging if it weren’t for millions of people willing to believe the worst about their “enemies” and eager to disunderstand whatever they read in the mainstream press.
But more than that, Price’s fundamentalist political views make it virtually impossible for him to understand the concept of society. As Margaret Thatcher put it, “There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” For Price, the nuclear family is the proper sort of family. And the concept of extended families — grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends forming close-knit communities, wherein everyone takes part in the raising of children — is alien to Price and to anyone in strict denial of society.
The phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” will naturally sound like the state-ownership of children to a person who cannot (or diligently will not) imagine anything but the American ideal or its polar opposite — in Price’s terminology, the Gulag. There can be no viable alternative. There are no shades of gray. I know it sounds like a stupid thing for him to believe, but it is stupidity that requires effort. It takes a great deal of brain power to remain perpetually angry and ill-informed on so many topics. That’s why I prefer the term “studied ignorance.”
We should probably talk more about the insidious nature of agnotology here on Vridar, since it affects religion as much as politics. Robert Proctor provides a useful taxonomy of the types of ignorance.
There must be as many kinds of ignorance as of knowledge — perhaps more, given how scant is our knowledge compared to the vastness of our ignorance. And though distinctions such as these are somewhat arbitrary, I shall make three to begin the discussion: ignorance as native state (or resource), ignorance as lost realm (or selective choice), and ignorance as a deliberately engineered and strategic ploy (or active construct). (Schiebinger and Proctor 2008, p. 3)
With this framework in mind, let’s return to the Black Lives Matter accusation. Price says BLM wants to dismantle the nuclear family. Well, that sounds extreme. Let’s look at what they actually said in context.
We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable. (See Jelani Greenidge’s “Black Lives Matter and “The Nuclear Family Structure” on medium.com. Red emphasis mine.)
In the dishonest conservative press, fueled by think tanks that convert money into anger, all you would know is that they “want to disrupt the nuclear family” or worse “want to destroy the nuclear family.” The Heritage Foundation has a long tirade on its web site explaining how Marxism has to destroy decent, honest, American families in order to destroy capitalism.
How long did it take me to find Greenidge’s column? Maybe five minutes. Maybe less. But I recognized my ignorance on this matter as my native state, and out of curiosity I sought more information. And the truth is that instead of being anti-family, BLM embraces larger families, extended families, non-traditional families, and refuses to be bound to the (very paternalistic and very European) ideal of father, mother, and children living in isolated dwellings, competing with other families, alienated from society as a whole.
However, Price’s ignorance is an active construct that must be sustained through a steady diet of disinformation gathered from curated newsfeeds that will never contradict what he already “knows” about the world. That’s why in his Zarathustra article, “Is Secular Humanism a Religion After All?” — in which he professes his undying ignorance on the subject of Climate Change — he doesn’t cite NASA, Scientific American, or even National Geographic. No, he refers us to the Daily Caller. That’s right: in order to prove that belief in Climate Change is politically driven, he directs us to “read more” at a website notorious for its politically driven denial of Global Warming.
Secular Humanism bears another prominent mark of religious faith: the Chicken Little apocalypticism of Climate Change. Global Warming believers repeatedly set deadlines for melting ice caps, species extinctions, rising sea levels, etc., etc. In short, the Great Tribulation. And like the doomsday deadlines of Jehovahâ€™s [sic] Witnesses and Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth), these predictions are embarrassed again and again. Judge Rutherford, Harold Camping, Al Goreâ€ [sic] ”whatâ€™s [sic] the difference?
[“What are those funny characters?” you may ask. I guess Bob and Carol think Unicode is a leftist plot. –taw]
Who’s to blame for this “Chicken Little apocalypticism”? You guessed it. Global elites. Leftists. The big, bad boogeymen who want to kill capitalism.
I ask â€œWho [sic] benefits?â€ [sic] and it seems to me that the whole business is intended to promote two things: first, the gradual transfer of power from elected officials into the hands of unelected technocrats . . . And second, Globalist redistribution of Western wealth (instead of encouraging capitalistic development, teaching the poor nations to fish instead of just giving them a fish).
Occam’s Razor might lead one to suspect that unelected billionaires and oil company CEOs might be the beneficiaries of climate science skepticism. It might seem unlikely (even fishy) that thousands of scientists all over the globe would conspire to kill capitalism.
And in a bizarre twist, the priesthood of global warming denialism — those who live in luxury while the world burns — have known for decades that burning fossil fuels would lead to our current climate crisis. The only faithful doubters are those who choose to remain ignorant through force of will.
In fact, behind closed doors and in academic circles, Exxon has known that its products would likely cause dangerous global warming since at least the 1970s. By way of its trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry as a whole has been on notice even longer — since the 1950s. (Geoffrey Supran in “Tracing Big Oil’s PR war to delay action on climate change,” The Harvard Gazette, Sept. 2021)
Price’s hatred of any political discourse to the left of the Sheriff of Nottingham sometimes leads him to post borderline-racist memes. And his penchant for assuming everything he doesn’t like is a “Leftist Plot” leading us all down the road to Communism leads him to borderline lunacy.
We used to say of people like Bob, “Well, he doesn’t know any better.” But for a public intellectual, that isn’t an excuse; it’s an indictment. People who set themselves up as experts should know better. And I include those experts who say, “Aw, shucks, I don’t know nothin’ about climate science,” and then blather on about a batshit crazy conspiracy theory about Globalists and lying scientists. I also include a pompous fool who claims to tolerate and even love LGBTQ+ people, but in the next breath tells you he suspects leftist teachers are encouraging students to “switch over.”
The only immoral part of the whole trans thing is when kids are actually indoctrinated by leftist teachers who say well, you know, maybe you ought to switch over and so they have no business doing that and especially suggesting medical procedures that may do permanent harm, which is why you have an unusual number of suicides among people who have transitioned.
Leaving aside the jackassery about leftist teachers, suicide is distressingly high among trans people. However, studies show that it is for all the expected reasons, like being discriminated in housing and employment, being rejected by parents, spouses, children, being bullied, etc. For example, this NIH study explains why transgender youth are especially at risk.
But the data do not show that those who have transitioned are at an increased risk. In fact, it’s just the opposite. A recent JAMA study showed that gender-affirming treatments improved overall mental health, including a reduction in thoughts of suicide.
The study, titled “Association Between Gender-Affirming Surgeries and Mental Health Outcomes,” compared the psychological distress, substance use, and suicide risk of 3,559 transgender people who had undergone gender-affirming surgery with those of 16,401 transgender people who desired gender-affirming surgery but had not yet undergone any. It found that transgender people who had received one or more gender-affirming surgical procedures had a 42% reduction in the odds of experiencing past-month psychological distress, a 35% reduction in the odds of past-year tobacco smoking, and a 44% reduction in the odds of past-year suicidal ideation. (See “New Study Shows Transgender People Who Receive Gender-Affirming Surgery are Significantly Less Likely to Experience Psychological Distress or Suicidal Ideation” at fenwayhealth.org. )
How long did it take me to find out about this study? About ten minutes. But then, of course, I was looking for medical studies, not political screeds that affirm my worldview.
I think I’ve said enough for now. Please don’t flood the comments with fanboy statements professing your love and affection for Price. He doesn’t need it. If anything, my cutting ties will feed into his cancel-culture paranoia. In that sense, I guess I’m doing him a favor.
Live long and prosper, Dr. Price. Go and do what you feel you need to do. But not here.
Schiebinger, Londa, and Robert N. Proctor. Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.
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