How Stupid Nonsense Beats The Media Filter

What can you do if established media refuses to print your hate- and nonsense-filled talking points verbatim? Start your own newspaper, of course! You can print it in tabloid size, forgo subscriptions, and publish propaganda screeds verbatim off the

What can you do if established media refuses to print your hate- and nonsense-filled talking points verbatim? Start your own newspaper, of course! You can print it in tabloid size, forgo subscriptions, and publish propaganda screeds verbatim off the ad revenue alone.

The Courier Journal, Volume 126, Number 44 arrived free in the mailbox of nearly 70,000 people in the greater Shoals area a couple of Wednesdays ago. It is often the only reading material the area's poorest citizens have.

Filled with ads, the Courier-Journal has grown its audience by nearly one-sixth in the last eighteen months. Headlining this week's edition is "Marriage Matters":

SHOALS--One of our greatest challenges as a nation is preserving the integrity and unity of the home. Many individuals have good intentions, but they lack the determination and skills necessary to keep a family intact.

So far, so good! What wrong with keeping families together? But by mid-first paragraph, you are already getting the spiel:

Using God-centeredness as the foundation, the Marriage Matters conference provides information for maintaining good marriages.

The front page article is basically an ad for faith-based counseling. It is like the "free pregnancy test" advertised inside, wherein young, terrified women get to watch a video about fetal development and are counseled to make "the right choice" before getting their test results.

Crosspoint Church of Christ, which offers the "Marriage Matters" program, has no connection to northeastern "Church of Christ" denominations. In fact, the southeastern Church of Christ has been connected to anti-alcohol politics, blue laws, and the so-called "Constitution Party" for a very long time.

Next to "Marriage Matters" we find a salute to Korean War vets. Who could argue with this patriotic reminder?

South Korea, with it's free-market economy, now enjoys the 14th largest Gross Domestic Product in the world at $888 billion in 2006. In contrast, North Korea remains staunchly communist. Their economy is ranked #80 in the world with a paltry GDP of $30 billion in it's last reporting period of 2003.

Actually, according to the most recent CIA Factbook North Korea is ranked 94th in the world. But who's concerned with facts? Speaking of facts:

MAGNETIC PULSES STIMULATE

Something called "Neurostar TMS Therapy" is "now available" in the Shoals area:

Anakwenze Psychiatric Outreach, located at (address redacted) in Florence, has been offering hope to the Florence area for over three years. Specializing in psychiatric treatments for schizophrenia, Alzheimers, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a wide variety of other illnesses, Dr. David Anakwenze has recently begun offering a new treatment to his patients that can aid in the healing of depression.

This technology is real. A mind-control technology gets approving front-page status:

An electromagnetic headpiece could help the millions of depression sufferers for whom antidepressants fail. The nonsurgical NeuroStar Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation system is as easy as a teeth cleaning. The patient sits in a chair as an electromagnetic coil pulses magnetic fields to his or her left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates mood. This stimulates neurons to make more mood-enhancing dopamine. After 30 40-minute daily sessions, half of the patients in a clinical trial experienced significantly reduced symptoms; a third reported complete resolution. Last fall, it became the first TMS therapy to earn FDA approval.

Costs start at $6000 for a four week treatment. On the seventh page of the FDA briefing (PDF), we find this description of the operating principle:

The mechanism by which the NeuroStar TMS System has its intended effect derives fundamentally from Faraday’s Law, which asserts that a time-varying magnetic field produces an electrical current in an adjacent conductive substance. In transcranial magnetic stimulation, the conductive substance is the brain, in particular the region of the cortex that lies beneath the NeuroStar TMS System coil.

[...]

Activation of adjacent cortical neurons occurs predominantly by trans-synaptic pathways. Human functional neuroimaging studies have shown that indirect change in brain functional activity also occurs at cortical sites distant from the direct area of magnetic stimulation presumably due to the known extensive neural circuits among cortical brain regions.

So why isn't this scary-sounding device being denounced? Probably because the article is really an ad for Dr. Anakwenze, who

also uses Alpha-Stim, a non-drug therapy for anxiety, and a virtual reality treatment for patients suffering from anxiety, phobias, and PTSD. Dr. Anakwenze practices these treatments along with a belief in prayer.

Other stories on the front page include the usual cheerleading for local institutions (the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the most recent United Way campaign). Inside, Thomas W. McCutchen uses his "Ask the Attorney" column to inform some poor, anonymous woman that she is totally screwed:

The bad news is that you are in deeper than you think.

[...]

It sounds as if you will also need a divorce lawyer.

[...]

I really don't have any good news for you and it sounds as if your husband has been less than honest with you. It seems to me that your choices are trying to stay together and work through this or divorcing him and seeing how the court divides up the debt.

But you really don't get to the meat of the Courier-Journal until page 14, where you learn why the right wing has invested in publications like this for 40 years. In the center, John Walsh reminds you to be very afraid that your children will go missing. Next to this is a reminder that Killen's "Founder's Day" event is scheduled this week. Last but not least, in the prominent commentary column the Courier-Journal's owner Tom Magazzu writes "NY Mosque Won't Improve Relations":

To start with, no religion is looked on as favorably now as Islam. It's really hard to understand, because Islam is more of an oppressive government ideology. The religious aspect gives it a clean exterior cloak.

[...]

We are talking about the building of a thirteen story shrine to the Trade Center bombing only 500 ft from the spot where 3,000 people died at the hands of militant Muslims. It's like sticking a stake in the heart of the families and friends of each victim.

I'll spare you the Pamela Geller-like details that follow, but Magazzu's half-truth half-madness is moderate compared to the reader letters. Most of the names are familiar; the Times Daily, our local newspaper, turns away many rants worse than this:

The Muslim god is a false god of terrorism and hatred, evidenced by its followers who instigated and carried out 9-11 and who are now trying to blaspheme our true God by erecting a mosque.

[...]

It is utterly sick that anyone ever became president of the United States who did not believe in the God who helped our leaders found our country. Obama has no respect for the Christian God. His willingness to let Muslims build that mosque is nothing short of insulting to our nation, and must not be tolerated. Obama must be marked and avoided (Romans 16:16-18)

The writer refers to this passage:

16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

I get it; a perfectly apt description of the Republican habit of inserting wedge issues into elections. But why include the kissing? Next up is a long letter from Thomas Bowden, Analyst for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, positing that we should do away with our National Parks because someone might exercise their First Amendment rights on us while we enjoy them. Really!

Because National Parks are Public property and not private property, any restrictions on leafleting, oratory, and picketing must pass First Amendment scrutiny. This is because such restrictions are government actions.

Going on to explain that a federal judge has overturned the National Parks Service's permit system, he ends on this note:

Instead of litigating over who can do what in public parks, federal officials should be investigating options for transforming vast public holdings into private lands.

Letters complain that the country has "gone to pot," that downtown Russellville is fulls of illegal aliens (he knows they are illegal because their store signs are in Spanish), and that Obama has appointed two -- TWO! -- Muslims to the Department of Homeland Security.

Not to head the agency, mind you, but to serve it with their, y'know, language skills. MUSLIM!!!

A tiny real estate section is preceded by the financial wisdom of Dave Ramsey, whose advice is grounded in a rejection of the reality that wages have been flat since 1980. If you're poor, it's because you're lazy. Pet advice, soap opera plots, and copious advertisements fill out the newsprint.

Before there was an internet, there was AM-band hate-talk radio and the Courier Journal. Before that, direct mail lists. All of those things are still extant, still pushing their propaganda. Most people don't take the CJ seriously as a source of news, but you can detect new memes early if you read it often. For instance, did you know that Obama ordered the sabotage of Deepwater Horizon? In a more carefully-worded form, that one actually did reach the op-ed page of the city's "newspaper of record." Having emerged here, it will show up in your town soon enough.

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