Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 09:14:50 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 24, 1996 A M E

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 09:14:50 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 24, 1996 Reply-To:, A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #184 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu10/24/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * Dole Backs Off: Should Robertson-Lippo Ties Be Probed? * Poland: Legislature Stands Up To Vatican Demands * "Millennium" ~ End-Of-The-World Jitters * About This List... ROBERTSON-LIPPO ''SOFT MONEY'' LINK OFF POLITICAL RADAR SCREEN Dole Suddenly Retreats On Campaign Funding Issue Despite revelations that "soft money" is pouring into the coffers of both major political parties, there is still little scrutiny in either media or on capital hill between the powerful Indonesian mega-billionaire Riady family and televangelist Pat Robertson. Republicans have spent the last week capitalizing on the so-called "Asian connection," especially following revelations that the powerful Lippo Group had been funneling money to the Clinton Campaign through Webster Hubbell, former deputy attorney general convicted of fraud and sent to prison. An estimated $250,000 is known to have changed hands. Yesterday, AANEWS outlined the relationship betwen the Riady family, founders and owners of the Lippo conglomerate, and televangelist Pat Robertson. Lippo and Robertson are involved in a giant "family channel" outreach in China and other Asian countries as partners in China Entertainment Television Broadcast Ltd, a venture formed by Honk Kong broadcaster Robert Chua. Robertson's International Family Entertainment Inc. based in Virginia made an initial investment of $10,000,000 in the project with the Lippo group, and gained a major foot in the door to the enormous and lucrative cable television market in Peoples Republic of China. Robertson, Lippo, Chua and the Chinese Communist Party apparently all share a common interest in "no sex, no news, no violence" programming. Yesterday, Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole suddenly and unexpectedly stopped hammering Clinton on the "soft money" and Lippo-Riady connection. Even the right-wing Washington Times expressed disbelief, noting that "The 'Indonesian Connection' has been pegged by senior Dole advisers as his best hope to draw voters' attention to the character issue and overcome Mr. Clinton's double-digit poll lead in the last two weeks of the race." Dole had been joking that "Foreign aid is finally coming to America. The problem is, it's all going to the Democrats." But yesterday, while on the stump in Michigan, the Republican candidated suddenly declared that "all of us in politics have been guilty one way or another when it comes to campaign finance." Dole suddenly shifted ground in his speech to supporters , instead dragging out the old chestnut of President Clinton being a draft dodger, and saying "Take a look at my record of my service, take a look at the record of his service, to his state, to his country, whatever..." Something To Hide? Or A Double-Standard ? While Dole was unexpectedly trying to move the campaign focus away from Lippo and the "soft money" issue, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was blasting away at the Riady-Hubble-Clinton connection in a speech in Michigan. While he accused the media of being "lax" in demanding an explanation from the White House about the contributions, he made no mention of the involvement of Riady and Pat Robertson. He also promised a full investigation into the contributions to the Clinton campaign when the House reconvenes. But the Lippo-Robertson link -- one involving a leading American religious-right televangelist and an Indonesian conglomerate allegedly involved with improper campaign contributions -- has dropped off the nation's media and political radar screen. Indeed, the Riady-Robertson association was not mentioned earlier this week by Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed, who was busy denouncing the disingenuous role of Buddhist Temple monks in Los Angeles in a scheme to funnel chunks of cash into the coffers of the Democratic National Committee. Technically, there may be nothing improper about Robertson's business deal with the Riady family; and the former presidential candidate and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network refers to the Riadys as "friends." Robertson has said that he "doesn't understand what all the flap is about," although Speaker Gingrich is less generous with his words, referring to James Riady, son of Lippo patriarch Mochtar Riady as as "Indonesian billionaire" and "foreigner (who is allowed) to corrupt our system." Indeed, any investigation which starts digging into the numerous links between Riady and Clinton may end up backfiring, and take a circuitous path to the right and Pat Robertson. ** POLISH LEGISLATURE BUCKS VATICAN: LIBERALIZES ABORTION State-Church Ties At "Lowest Point In Years" The Polish Parliament's lower chamber yesterday defied both the authority of the Vatican and thousands of church-mobilized demonstrators outside and enacted major liberalization of the country's strict abortion laws. The measure overrides a veto by the other legislative body, the Senate, and will permit women to have abortions up to the 12th week of pregnancy if they are in financial need. The vote was 228-119; and President Aleksander Kwasniewski has announced that he will sign the legislation into law. Yesterday's vote highlights the growing tension between secular institutions and the Roman Catholic church. Following the establishment of a post-Revolution Solidarity government that toppled Poland's Communist Party, anti-abortion laws were enacted at the behest of the Vatican. In addition, a Concordant between Rome and Warsaw was concluded in 1993, but never enacted; the church has been pushing for ratification of the agreement. In addition, Rome wants the nation's new constitution to acknowledge God, an idea rejected by secularists in Poland who see it as an incestuous relationship between church and the state. In anticipation of yesterday's vote in the Parliament, Catholic officials mobilized over 40,000 demonstrators, many "pushing baby carriages, carrying rosaries and crosses" according to the Washington Post. Pope John Paul II had scolded Polish legislators earlier this month for attempting to liberalize abortion, saying that "a nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope." The new law will anger ecclesiastical officials over more than just the abortion issue; it provides for sex education in the school system and wider, less expensive access to contraception. Yesterday's vote brought words of dismay from Church officials, include Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, who said that "all threads of agreement" between Rome and the Polish government "have been snapped." He added that relations had reached "their lowest point in years." The Church is involved in an alliance of nationalist and right-wing political parties which are throwing their support to the pro-Vatican Solidareity group in anticipation of elections next year. ** "MILLENNIUM'' EXPECTED TO BOOST DOOMSDAY, END-TIMES FEARS A New Program From The Creator Of "The X-Files" Rides A Cultural Wave Of Fin de Siecle Angst In yet another media production cashing in on fears of impending catastrophe and doomsday, the Fox Network launches its hyped-up and highly anticipated series "Millennium" tomorrow night. That didn't stop Fox from giving enthusiasts a sneak preview though; last night, the opening program in "Millennium" was shown in 29 theaters across the country, followed by a live conversation via satellite link with producer Chris Carter, the brains behind Fox's other hit show "The X-Files." In terms of plot, Millennium is partly what has now become somewhat standard fare on the tube; a former FBI agent tracks down serial killers. If this sounds like "Red Dragon," "Silence of the Lambs," or even the script from NBC's "Profiler," though, it isn't. "Millennium" is more meancing, darker, and more evocative; it plugs into a growing wave of fears and expectations related to the onset of the next millennium, an event just three years away and one repleat with eschatological, transformational and doomsdayesque overtones. "Millennium" stars Lance Henriksen (a veteran of plenty of sci-fi genre films including "Terminator") as a former FBI agent now working for a shadowy organization called The Millennium Group. Unlike the cabals in other Carter creations like X-Files, though, they're the good guys trying to fight off an epidemic of serial killing and other senseless violence threatening to overtake society as the millennium bears down on us. Reviews of last night's theater previews all seem to agree that the tone of "Millennium" is more menacing and creepier than anything we've seen to date. There is the usual gratuitous violence and special effects, of course; what's a horror show without some decapitations and bleeding walls, fare that was served up over a decade ago in movies like "The Omen" and "The Shining"? What distinguishes "Millennium," though, is its context -- along with its title. "Millennium" is fast becoming synonymous with notions of impending doom, biblical judgment, armageddon, and the end of the world, whether at the whim of a vengeful god or a chance encounter with a rogue asteroid. For Chris Carter -- and advertisers -- the timing couldn't be better. There have always been warnings that the prophetic visions of apocalyptic writings such as Book of Daniel and Book of Revelations were about to be fulfilled. Early church fathers learned quickly to discourage such anticipations, fearing that second-coming mania was interferring with the more mundane, lucrative and theo-politically correct tasks of organizing the institutional church with its hierarchy of doctrinal authority. And over the past two thousand of so years, just about every political and social event -- invasions, wars, revolutions, famines and other catastrophes -- has been fitted into the Revelational timetable as a "sign" of prophetic fulfillment, even if it requires some Procrustean selective thinking and distortion of evidence. William Miller, for instance, predicted the end of the world for three different dates in the mid- nineteenth century, and thousands of expectant followers unburdened themselves of worldly ties and possession to await the Second Coming and their Rapture into heaven. In the 1970's, pop-eschatologist Hal Lindsey started to establish his reputation as a drum beater for Armageddon and the "end times", a refrain echoed throughout the Christian fundamentalist and evangelical subculture, from the more bizarre predictions of Edward Whisenant and the Southwest Radio Church to the latest novel of televangelist Pat Robertson. A number of factors are fueling this millennialist angst, not the least of which is that the year 2000 is no longer some far off date in a science fiction novel or mid-50's grade-b movie. Historians and social scientists have noted the prevelence of fin de siecle turmoil in the human consciousness; Stjepan Mestrovic, for instance, finds remarkable similarities to our present millennialist anxieties, and the rampant dislocations and uncertainties of Europe (particularly France) in the 1890's. Those problems are "remarkably similar to our own," says Mestrovic in his book "The Coming Fin de Siecle: An Application of Durkheim's Sociology to Modernity and Postmodernism" (1991, Routledge). "Syphilis, wars, political scandals, economic catastrophes, the increase in rates of mental illness, sucidie, smoking and drug abuse concerned them (the Europeans). They read in their newspapers about satanism, devil worship, and the spread of the occult, and of course, our media is saturated with similar reports. They started talking about the rise of homosexuality -- lesbianism became almost a fad. Sado-masochism was much discussed, and they wrote much about the rise of immorality in the family, in sexual relations, and the general style of life..." Today, the fin de siecle of Europe a century ago is tame in comparison's to the turbo-charged, media-driven culture which is rushing headlong toward a new millennium. A 1992 poll taken by Cable News and Time Magazine showed that 53% of Americans were expecting the second coming of Jesus Christ to take place within the next millennium. What was once the province of sects like the Seventh Day Adventists -- a curious remnant of the old Millerite movement -- has become a pop-christian belief finding credibility in the utterances of a U.S. President (Ronald Reagan) or on bumper stickers seen on the nation's highways which warn motorists "This Vehicle Un-Mannned In Case of Rapture." New Agers, environmental catastrophists, Christian Fundamentalists and others all have different visions of what is in store for the human race, but an astonishing amoung of those expectations and concerns appear focused on one event -- the coming of the new millennium. Books like Mestrovic's, or Hillel Schwartz's updated tome "Century's End: An Orientation Manual Toward The Year 2000" and newsgroups such as TALK2000 try to monitor and make sense of the growing number of events which seem to reflect the apocalyptic mind set. Millennialism is emerging as a common analytical thread -- if not a philosophy -- linking crazed militia groups, outburst of ethnic nationalism, waves of new-found religious fundamentalism, epidemics of Virgin Mary and UFO sightings, "instant-mix" doomsday ideologies espoused by groups like the Aum cult in Japan, and even the seemingly more benign expressions of nagging unease found in the abundance of "invasion-subversion" motif films gushing out from Hollywood onto the big screens and into our living rooms. "Millennium" certainly promises to amplify end-of-the-world anxieties which already permeate popular consciousness. Serial killers and crazed juju cultists join an ever-expanding list of entitites which threaten to innundate and overwhelm our illusory bourgeois sensibilities; they bolster the ranks of maurading aliens, shadowy satanic cults, lurking paedophile rings, drug-mad street gangs, lone stalkers, amorphous cabals, and other vestiges of afternoon talk-shows and prime-time scare features that too often seriously alter our sense of what is real and what is not. "Millennium" also might turn out to be, along with other expressions of doomsday angst, a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, the year 2000 sounds as good a time as any for at least this generation of people to believe, as many of their ancestors did, that the Second Coming -- or some other significant eschatological event -- is just around the temporal corner. (The "Millennnium" website at launches tomorrow. If the world lasts that long.) ** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send mail to and include your name and postal mailing address. Or, check out our cool site on the web at You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER ( Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait,


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank