Weinstein Conspiracy Theories Get More “Creative”
Michael Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation may have finally proven his reliance on conspiracy theories to advance his cause. He recently gave an interview to American Muslims Today, broadcasting in Nebraska, which headlined the interview thusly:
Who would Jesus bust a cap on?
In this part of the series we discuss The New Crusade. We explore how the fundamentalist Christians have fully infiltrated and some say taken over the US military.
(Apparently the impending repeal of DADT is actually an elaborate diversion by fundamentalist Christians in the military…)
In the interview, Weinstein says he can “basically trace the start of the foundation” to the fact his children at the Air Force Academy “were being forced to go see” Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, and “that’s what stimulated this particular fight.” The interviewer is understandably surprised by Weinstein’s assertion that his children were forced to watch Gibson’s movie. With some crosstalk (audio file follows):
AMT: “It was part of the curriculum…?”
Weinstein: “It was worse than that…
There is no doubt the interviewer believes Weinstein is saying his children were forced by the US Air Force Academy to watch The Passion of the Christ, which Weinstein, as is his custom, mockingly calls “The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre” or “Freddy versus Jesus” (to the laughter of the interviewer). That belief, of course, is unsubstantiated by any statement to date. Before this interview, not even Weinstein had ever said anyone was ever forced to watch the movie, nor was that ever a claim in the complaints at the time, five years ago (see this page for lawsuits and complaints). As usual, Weinstein provides no evidence to his new claim that cadets were forced to watch a movie.
Weinstein’s penchant for “creative storytelling” was highlighted in yet another radio interview he gave recently.
When asked by the radio show host to give an example of a “Christian Zionist” and a “real whacko…running the Pentagon,” Michael Weinstein had an intriguing answer: General David Petraeus (audio file follows).
Host: I’d like to think of the Christian Zionists and the real whackos as being, you know, an unfortunate but definite segment of the Republican Party’s voting bloc out there. You know, the whole thing about them running the Pentagon, that really bothers me. Can you tell me the names of some of the guys that really believe in this nonsense? General McChrystal in there?
Weinstein: Well, McChrystal, um, has not popped up as an offending [unintelligible]. I can start with a guy named Petraeus, um, General David Petraeus backed a, uh, actually blurbed a book called Under Orders. I thought he made clear in the blurb which is you know the endorsement on the jacket of the book, I believe was written by a fundamentalist Christian Chaplain, that said every Soldier should keep this in their rucksack as they go into battle.
And it made it very clear the book makes a folly of the separation of church and state and makes it clear that if the Soldiers don’t have the appropriate Christian faith they will be weak links and endanger their units.
Remember how Weinstein likes to define religions as he sees fit? As noted here two years ago, the author that Weinstein calls a “fundamentalist Christian” is Chaplain (Lt Col) William McCoy, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Far from fundamentalist, it is one of the most liberal Christian denominations in America. His book generally follows liberal theological themes, which is one reason it garnered a negative review here (and a curt defense from the author).
However, in order to raise the gravity and shock of Petraeus “endorsing” a book, Weinstein has to creatively describe the book — and thus the author — in the worst terms possible, even if those terms are, arguably, fictional. (This is similar to the MRFF’s previous accusation that an aid group was after violent “world domination” — despite the fact it included Quakers.)
Interestingly, the interview moved on and the listener would have been left with the stock answer from Weinstein that Petraeus was an example of a kook and Christian Zionist, except the host returned to the question later:
You’re saying now that he [General Petraeus] sucks up to these kind of religious kooks in the same way that he sucks up to Max Boot or you’re saying that he’s actually one of these kooks who thinks its his role to force Jesus to come back sooner here?
I don’t know the man.
In his original answer, Weinstein categorically included Petraeus with crazy Christians trying to take over the world — but when pressed to clarify, he equivocates and admits he doesn’t know enough to make such an accusation. What he does claim to know is materially irrelevant to his claim (audio file follows):
All I know is that he’s done at least one thing that was clearly, he’s allowed massive violations of standing General Order, used to be 1A, now its 1B…that created a complete prohibition…of any proselytizing of any religion, faith, or practice…
While Weinstein cites incidents of troops distributing local language Bibles, he provides no evidence that Petraeus had anything to do with those allegations, nor does he provide any proof the allegations are even true. In short, his accusation is nothing more than a sensationalized and flippant cry for attention.
Ultimately, Weinstein’s apparently false assertion and baseless accusations are a result of his desperate desire for attention. Weinstein knows the public loves a good sound bite, so his monologues — rather than stating and supporting a position — generally string pithy and shocking one-liners together, often without any attempt at substantiation. (In the second interview, the host repeatedly interrupted Weinstein to have him explain his strings of one-liners.)
In his efforts to create a shocking statement to garner attention, he sometimes plays loose with the truth. In a similar example months ago, he claimed his organization was responsible for the Air Force shuttering a squadron, despite the fact his organization didn’t even exist when that decision was made. Here, he claims his children were forced by the military to do something — a claim he makes for the first time in five years and without substantiation. His creative revision of history clearly got the attention of his interviewer — undoubtedly his intent – despite the fact it very likely wasn’t true. He is also unable to explain or support his answer of “General Petraeus” to a question about who “believes in this nonsense” of Christian Zionism and religious supremacy. Name-dropping is merely a self-serving means of trying to get attention (he’s done it before with Sarah Palin), and he has no rational basis for even suggesting that name.
Weinstein’s tales are little more than an ongoing fish story, and he is like the relative at the family reunion, desperate for attention, whose stories get more and more “fantastic” (not in a good way) as the night wears on. He has to shock, and sometimes the bare facts just aren’t shocking in their own right.
And that is the corollary to the Weinstein Method: If you’re not getting enough attention, increase the shock value…even if doing so means you can’t support your assertion, or that your assertion itself may not be factually correct. Weinstein frequently cites unsupported anecdotes and anonymous complaints as the basis for his claims; this demonstrable exercise in creative storytelling undermines any shred of credibility he may have had.
Remember, too, that this isn’t just the attention-seeking relative at a family reunion, who at worst is pitiable. Weinstein is the “founder and president” of a “charity” with a six-figure donation base whose stated purpose is not to defend “religious freedom,” but to
directly battle the far-right militant radical evangelical religious fundamentalists.
The disturbing part is Weinstein may actually believe some of his own tripe, like his belief that Christians are secretly conspiring to take over the world and reinstitute the Holocaust. A representative of Weinstein’s organization has previously said the US is run by a “shadow government” that includes James Dobson and Dick Cheney.
Fortunately, despite his money and platform, a man who struggles with basic facts and sees a conspiracy around every corner will ultimately fade into irrelevancy…as Weinstein clearly has.