Paul Mirecki professor (and former chairman) of the University of Kansas Department of Religious Studies, reported that he was attacked by two men at about 6:30 AM on last Monday, 05/12/05. As one may observe from the link above, Panda’s Thumb has to date not discussed this issue beyond merely mentioning that it occurred. This was the result of considerable debate, hundreds of emails- many very heated, amongst the dozen or so of us who are regular contributors to the Thumb.
The religious right was not so restrained. Within hours, “conservatives” were claiming that Mirecki’s report was false and that his injuries were faked Mirecki hospitalized after beating. Within two days William Dembski promoted the idea that Mirecki had faked the attack. The website Dembski directed his readers to also held the possibility that Mirecki was a drug addict and/or drug dealer;
Comment by Sean — Wed 7 Dec 2005 @ 6:39 am
I think it’s most likely that he was beat up for some completely different reason, which would have been embarrassing, or even incriminating, for him to admit. A drug deal, perhaps.
Without any supporting evidence at all, or time to reflect, right-wing zealots began braying about Tawana Brawley and Al Sharpton, and comparing Mirecki with Kerri Francis Dunn. We have seen the far right employ this technique so often it is now known as “swift boating.” I am reminded of the advice provided to the Army’s Airborne Rangers if captured, “Admit nothing, Deny everything, Make counter-accusations.”
There are also a scatter of left leaning blogs, and websites which have commented on the case. A left of center blog, The Carpetbagger Report carried an item regarding Mirecki that had some considerable amount of anti-conservative, and particularly anti religious right posts using phrases such as “American Taliban.” An example follows;
The assault on Mirecki is like the Pat Robertson pronouncement of doom upon Dover, PA for rejecting creationist twaddle for science–it shows the real face of these self-styled “Christians”. They may shout the word “Jesus” every chance they get, but they’re strictly intolerant, ignorant, lame-ass cretins incapable of defending their blinkered view of the universe, and so turn to threats and violence. It’s the Old Testament via Natural Born Killers.
Ignorance is ugly. Comment by Gregor — 12/7/2005 @ 12:32 pm “
Accepting Mirecki’s account at face value, an assault by two men is hardly the “American Taliban,” albeit that the American Right is historically far more violence prone, and far more deadly (efficient? successful?) than the American Left. And I must also disagree that relating Robertson’s clownish threat to the multiple outrages visited on Mirecki is to cheapen his real experience.
Background of the Situation
What, you might ask, is going on here? Who is Paul Mirecki and who cares? After all, in the time you have already spent reading this so far, people have been murdered, raped, committed suicide, blown up, died from lack of medical care, and starved to death while others simultaneously died from obesity. Mirecki is an “Embattled KU professor” who has long history with religion. Indeed, among this former seminarian’s notable contributions to Christian theology was the co-discovery of a lost Christian gospel, called the Gospel of Savior.
The controversy today surrounding Mirecki begins with his decision to offer a university class titled “REL 602 Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies.” We do not know how the class might have been taught because the class never will be taught.
A fury of right-wing creationist letters and emails poured out of the ether when an Email by Professor Mirecki to a supposedly closed membership list was published by a longtime far-right activist, John Altevogt.
This is the e-mail by Paul Mirecki, a religious studies professor at Kansas University, that has sparked the controversy. Mirecki posted the message on a Yahoo! listserv of KU’s Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, a group for which Mirecki is the faculty adviser.
To my fellow damned,
Its true, the fundies have been wanting to get I.D. and creationism into the Kansas public schools, so I thought “why don’t I do it?”
I will teach the class, with several other lefty KU professors in the sciences and humanities. Class is: REL 602 Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies. Tuesdays 7:00-9:30pm. Smith Hall room 100. Open to undergrads and grads. Enrollment limited to about 120. 3 credit hours.
The fundies want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category “mythology.” I expect it will draw much media attention. The university public relations office will have a press release on it in a few weeks, I also have contacts at several regional newspapers.
Of course, I won’t actually be teaching I.D. and creationisms, but rather I’ll be teaching ABOUT I.D. and creationisms as modern mythologies, indicating that these ideas have no place in a public school science class, but can certainly be analyzed in humanities classes for their function in society. Basic approach is my usual: anthropology with a focus on religious thought and behavior.
Any ideas for textbooks, guest lecturers and panels would be appreciated.
So far, six faculty have eagerly signed up to lecture. I can probably pull Chancellor Hemenway into this also, especially in the light of his public comments supporting evolution.
Doing my part to piss of (sic) the religious right,
Evil Dr. P.
Regarding the text of Mirecki’s Email, Altevogt said,
”… he was concerned about the focus of the religious studies department and he wants to see Mirecki and another faculty member moved to another department. He said he also wanted the religious studies department cleaned up and perhaps transferred to a religious organization that can monitor it; the chancellor fired, and the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics student group kicked off campus.”
John Altevogt and all his far-right fundie allies are hypocrites.
They hate liberals and publicaly associate them with murder, greed, lies, etc. Further, they hate “Hate Crime” legislation, driven to rabid frothing at the mere mention of “politically correct” language. They are such fierce opponents (they say) of limits to free speech intended particularly to block racist speech; the term “PC” in the mouths of the far right is an epithet. The creationist movement commonly associates scientists generally, and particularly evolutionary biologists with the Nazi Holocaust, Communism, Pol Pot, Racism and every other perceived atrocity and social failure of the last 2000 years.
However, in the following sections, we see that a minor slight of the American religious right by an obscure professor has provoked an event of international outrage.
The Political Whores
Referring to the Mirecki email that used the phrase, “a nice slap in their big fat face” State Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, said the comments concerned her.
“His intent to make a mockery of Christian beliefs is inappropriate,” she said. “We have to set a standard that it’s not culturally acceptable to mock Christianity in America,” she said.”
And how would Brownlee respond to Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes.” (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371).
Well, Senator Brownlee, what perversion of America are you trying to create? I take back my early rejection of “American Taliban” as an apt label for your ilk.
“This man is a hateful man,” said state Sen. Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe. “Are we supposed to be using tax dollars to promote hatred?”
What would O’Conner say to Jefferson when he wrote,
And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a Virgin Mary, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.… But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away [with] all this artificial scaffolding. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 11 April 1823, as quoted by E. S. Gaustad, “Religion,” in Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: A Reference Biography, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1986, p. 287.)
Sen. Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe, seeks to hold official hearings forcing Mirecki to justify his religious opinion having said that the course’s demise was “only one step.”
“I think I see crow feathers,” O’Connor said. “There’s some folks eating crow … I’m concerned about the taxpayer-funded hatred that he has apparently been promoting. It’s an issue that’s not totally resolved.”
And to O’Connor, I refer Thomas Jefferson: “I will never, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, Eds, “The Harper Book of American Quotations,” New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 499.)
State Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, Sen. Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe, and State Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, are a dishonorable bullies using their public offices to attack the Constitutional rights to freedom of religion and free speech of American citizens. Their out and out hateful speech could have had more moment as the instigation of the assault than anything said by Mirecki. Again, Thomas Jefferson, “History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)
However, I personally reserve my greatest disgust for Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka called Mirecki’s e-mail “disturbing and inexcusable” and claiming the professor “damaged civil discourse in Kansas.”
“Mirecki has disgraced a department and university which is otherwise a beacon of tolerance and acceptance. I believe it was the correct decision that Mirecki not teach this course,” Hensley said.”
Well, Mr. Hensley, what is disgraced are the State of Kansas, and the University of Kansas for abandoning all pretence of Academic Freedom, and Free Speech, and for promoting violence against academic opponents of creationism. Why not just declare a fatwah?
The Physical Attack
As a former private investigator, I have investigated incidents from minor “fender benders” to missing persons and even murder. I have professional expertise in the damage and post death modification of bone, and I have been court certified as an expert in this area, which is known as Taphonomy. I have assisted legal authorities in about a dozen murder investigations while on the faculties of the Medical College of Georgia, and Saddleback College in California. However, I have also seen a few hundred bruises on the living and the dead. These is the experience base I use to examine the news photos of Mirecki before and after his attack.
First, many uncharitable, incompetent, or dishonest people have denied that Mirecki was even injured, and have claimed without evidence and in my opinion falsely that his injuries were faked.
“bwahaha! The guy didn’t have a scratch on him. I’m laughing just imagining him in front of the mirror trying to slap himself in the face just to make it look real. Use your closed fist next time, you pansy.” Posted by: dcb at December 8, 2005 10:51 PM
“However, I have seen lots of liberals who will lie, cheat, steal, kill, distort and heaven knows what else, to make money and gain power. Methinks Professor Mirecki is looking for someone with deep pockets to sue. Someone like the University of Kansas. He will make the case that by not supporting his (vile and dispicable) actions, the University enraged the right which led to his injury. I would not be even remotely surprised if the his wounds are self-inflicted.”
In fact, Mirecki’s injuries are totally consistent with someone who has been held (arm) and lightly struck in the face while wearing eyeglasses!
Now look at the lower right corner of the photograph. See his eyeglasses? In fact, the black eye photo is the only one of Mirecki I could find without his eyeglasses on his face, and even there they are in the photo. It is absolutely absurd that anyone that welded to his glasses would have struck himself wearing them.
Referring back to my most severe beating at the hands of criminals, I was unable to identify them (8 punks with ax handles) or read their car license plate numbers, because I lost my eyeglasses when I was attacked.
Also, I was mugged in the dark, and I didn’t get descriptions, or names or addresses, or license plate numbers. And in both my private investigator days, and as a professor of medicine, I interviewed many people who had been in accidents, and victims of muggings and rapes who somehow failed to get the criminal’s cv.s, and in fact could not even remember all of their injuries as documented in hospital records. Maybe because I have some actual personal and professional experience in this, I lack the fine discrimination of those on the far right about what is plausible.
But, the following right wing internet posts have some real points of interest.
“If I, or any number of other “Rednecks”, had beat his ass, he would be feeling it a lot more than the faking act he’s puttin’ on. 85 posted on 12/07/2005 10:59:25 AM PST by BnBlFlag (Deo Vindice/Semper Fidelis)
And, “BnBlFlag” is absolutely correct about the amount of hurt done to Mirecki! His injuries were far too minor for the uncontrolled “redneck” attack that BnBlFlag boasts of being able to administer.
“I hope they catch those two incompetent rednecks for not even doing a simple assault properly! posted on 12/05/2005 8:25:27 PM PST by Publius6961
And, “Publius6961” is absolutely wrong! The attack was anything but incompetent.
Mirecki noticed he was being tail-gated. Mirecki pulled over to the side of the road in the dark. (Dumb move).
Two men approached him.
Mirecki got out of his car. (Very dumb move).
He was attacked, and ONLY received a bruise on his arm, black eyes from his glasses, and a few sore spots.
His chipped tooth could only be the result of being hit with his mouth open, as his lips were neither cut or swollen. This is also a strong piece of evidence that Mirecki’s injuries were not self inflicted.
From the background information provided, Mirecki is not a particularly physical man. When he said that “they beat the hell out of me,” I am certain this was from the point of view of someone who has never actually been severely beaten. He was hardly beaten at all. He does not know how to fight. (Mirecki is a sissy IMHO).
(Some relevant points of fact- I have been severely beaten, and I was not walking around 6 hours later, or even 2 days later. Second point of fact- I have examined bodies (and parts there of) of people who have died from violence including being beat to death. Third relevant point of fact- I have spent up to 38 hours on a surveillance, but always with a partner).
Based on the above presented above: Mirecki was not “spotted” on the road, he was followed, and probably from his home. He did not notice being followed until they were in a rural area. That is very hard to do in the dark with little traffic. During part of, or even most of the attack, one man held Mirecki while the other struck him.
Their attack was controlled so as not to kill or maim, hell, he did not even really need medical attention. The two assailants were obviously trained and worked together as a team. Having a partner is a critical need under the circumstance; the target might know how to fight, the target might get lucky. But the most important function of a partner is to stop you from going too far in your “lesson.” I learned while still in High School from one of my fighting instructors.
Who are the most likely people with that combination of training and conservative religious leanings in the relevant area?
It is a rather short list. Men trained in martial arts should have the technique and control to have produced Mirecki’s injuries. However, in my study, I never had a Sensei teach how to tail a suspect.
This outrage was sparked by Mirecki’s comment “a nice slap in their big fat face” referring to Intelligent Design Creationists.” It seems that egged on by political extremists including elected officials, Mirecki was physically slapped in the face. I find it notable that one religious right commenter actually referred to Mirecki being slapped ( Posted by: dcb at December 8, 2005 10:51 PM ). I have no doubt that his attackers felt quite proud of themselves.
The Police Investigation
“He said he was interviewed by officers several times, “once for five hours straight. They keep asking me the same things over and over. They seized my car; they entered my office and seized my computer. They said they need them for their investigation but it didn’t make any sense to me.”
This is a potential reinforcement for my conclusion that it is likely that men somehow associated with law enforcement attacked Mirecki. This can be a number of professions, former military police, prison guards, current or former police officers. This conclusion is obvious to anyone with the proper background. If my speculation as the identity of the assailants is correct, then the following events are perfectly plausible; The car will be carefully examined for any evidence that might need to be eliminated, Mirecki’s private Email will be reviewed and archived, and who knows but there will be “kiddy porn” or some other reprehensible material “discovered” on his hard-drive.
A totally different possibility is that the investigators intend to “prove” Mirecki invented the entire event. I think this could be possible because the police anywhere in America today are not noted for their liberal leanings. The police will have reacted much like their political brethren on the far right and deny that a “hateful” antichristian leftist intellectual could have ever told the truth about anything. It is also very likely that the police sympathize with Mirecki’s attackers and will make every possible effort to discredit his account before even considering the alternative.
The Fundie Fascists (or is that Fascist Fundies)?
The following are all comments typical of those that flooded the Internet bulletin boards, and conservative “blogs” within hours of the news that Mirecki had been attacked. The racist, religious bigotry and pure bloody mindedness is manifest.
http://lucianne.com/threads2.asp?artnum=250220 “However, I have seen lots of liberals who will lie, cheat, steal, kill, distort and heaven knows what else, to make money and gain power. Methinks Professor Mirecki is looking for someone with deep pockets to sue. Someone like the University of Kansas. He will make the case that by not supporting his (vile and dispicable) actions, the University enraged the right which led to his injury. I would not be even remotely surprised if the his wounds are self-inflicted.”
The Drudge Report http://www.drudge.com/news/76166/pr[…]nt-designers “Mirecki told the student newspaper, The University Daily Kansan, that he spent between three and four hours at the hospital. He said his injuries included a broken tooth.” Perhaps he can use the tooth to create Son of Nebraska Man? Just a helpful suggestion…”
(I found that an amusing reference to the creationism that underlies this conflict).
Free Republic http://126.96.36.199/focus/f-news/[…]osts#comment?q=1 Ha hah! LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIArrrrrr! The filthy pervert leftie, made it up! He was never attacked by any “fundies”. He probably got beat up by his drug dealer or bookie.
7 posted on 12/07/2005 6:56:37 AM PST by Baby Driver
A left of center blog, The Carpetbagger Report carried an item regarding Mirecki that had some considerable amount of anti-conservative, and particularly anti religious right posts using phrases such as “American Taliban.” There were also posts from the rightwing members:
“Naaah. I also believe Mirecki’s outbursts need widespread publicity and plan to return here and remind the readers of Mirecki’s hijinks often. I hope you don’t mind.
When he is shown to be a loudmouthed leftie fraud, like that Lady Professor in California who sprayed her own car with graffiti and then accused her white male Christian students, Mirecki is going to plead mental disorder or some other leftie defense to spreading hatred.
Mirecki is just like white women of 100 years ago who blamed black men for rape in order to garner sympathy. Only he target is diffent now. Instead of blaming black men, the new leftie n*gger is Christians. Comment by Big Bill — 12/9/2005 @ 2:34 pm “
“When Mirecki is found out to be a liar, no one is going to go after him for the hate crime of filing a false police report and trying to blame it on white Christian men in order o drum up hate an violence against Christians. For example, the California Lady Professor who did the same thing was only busted for insurance fraud (she damaged her own car) and filing a false police report (she blamed her white male Christians students). The fact that the colelge shut down for two or three days and anti-white Christian rallies were performed by the entire student body makes no difference.
Of course, if he lied and accused black students of beating him, he would be arrested for a hate crime. White people really don’t matter, though, and particularly not men, and particularly not Christians, and particularly not that lesser sub-species called “fundamentalist”, because they are just plain evil.
So, not to worry, Edo, your boy Mirecki will get off scot free for any hate crime rap. Comment by Big Bill — 12/9/2005 @ 2:41 pm
(A very good example of right-wing racism).
“Sound like mirecki needs to take a long vacation at the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’s obviously delusional and very seriously mentally disturbed.
mirecki’s two tailgating rednecks no more exist than Dan Rather’s, Kenneth. I recommend intensive drug therapy for mirecki, maybe even a lobotomy is in order.
“My money says it was a phony episode.
IF he was really beaten up by strangers, it was probably a robbery and he saw an opportunity to bash Christians.
Too bad they didn’t break his knees. 266 posted on 12/06/2005 7:36:32 AM PST by Muzzle_em”
“Another stalinist academic bites the dust.
Now he should be prosecuted for filing a fake police report.” Posted by: Carlos at December 8, 2005 03:00 PM
So, here we have a good sample of the American right in today’s sorry subspecies called “conservative Christian.”
Professor Paul Mirecki proposed to teach a course in creationism and mysticism. He used some references to “fundies” in an Email to a student group. In comparison to the common invective the far right, and religious right use to insult liberal Christians, or anyone not conservative, or not Christian, Mirecki’s remarks were very tame. The Email was published by John Altevogt who somehow obtained it. Mr. Altevogt is not a member of the KU campus, and has carried on a campaign against Mirecki for some time.
The University administration at first voiced support for Mirecki. However, when mostly Republican politicians criticized Mirecki the KU administration abandoned their support for academic freedom and abandoned any claim to honor. The politicians used far harsher language attacking Mirecki than the language of his to which they objected. The subsequent physical attack against Mirecki followed these politicians calling Mirecki a “disgrace,” a “hateful” man, implying that it was illegal to criticize Christian fundamentalists, and demanding further actions against Mirecki. Well, they got what they were demanding, and have made no public apology. University of Kansas’s response was actually worse. Mericki was forced by the University Administration to resign as Chair of the Religious Studies Department.
“He (Mirecki) said he had no choice but to sign the resignation letter, which was typed on stationery from the office of Barbara Romzek, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”
Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Provost David Shulenburger, and interim dean Barbara Romzek are cowards in the eyes of any person committed to academic freedom, and the provisions of the First Amendment. The University’s public statement is so much like the extremist rightwing pack’s “He Did It To Himself” as to lack any credibility.
The right has taken “swift boating” to new lows, and for the first modern instance I know of, physical violence has entered into the Evolution debate in America.
PS: This is my last post to Panda’s Thumb. There are contributors to PT whose personal politics are far closer to the rightist mob revealed above than to people with whom I will remain associated.
I have not opened the comments becasue I will not manage them. If some current contributer is willing, they can do it.
[Ed Note: Comments may be left here.]
[Note from Nick Matzke: Gary said we could edit this post as needed. For the record, most of us at PT find no merit in the suggestion that the Lawrence police had something to do with the Mirecki beating. (**See note 2 from Nick Matzke, added 12/20/2005) It is a wild speculation no more credible than the suggestion that Mirecki made it all up.
Since I’m here, I might as well offer my 2 cents, although really this is a matter for the law enforcement people in Kansas. My opinion: The other common speculations are not much better: the “road rage” speculation is weakened by the fact that 6:30 am on a rural road in Kansas is an extremely odd place for road rage, and the “drunken bar fight” speculation, or other variations on “blaming some other fight on the creationists” is badly weakened by the fact that no one else has yet come out to the police or press reporting an altercation with a religion professor. So, we are left with Mirecki’s account of events. None of the reasons people have offered to doubt Mirecki’s story hold up, as far as we know. The most common question, “Why would Mirecki get out of his car?” is a thoroughly big-city kind of thing to say. In the predawn morning in rural Kansas (civil twilight began at 6:55 am that day in Lawrence, and there was no moon, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory), someone might tailgate you and get you to pull over because e.g. there was something wrong with your car. Gary makes several good points, above, that victims of assaults often do not remember license plate numbers, the exact location of events, etc., so none of those criticisms have much weight. The idea that the perpetrators could not have identified Mirecki’s vehicle in the dark assumes that this was a random event – but if, for example, the attackers were waiting outside his house, that “mystery” disappears.
Here is what I think is most likely, for what it is worth, which is not much: Someone, perhaps some Fred Phelps goons or something, was following or keeping tabs on Mirecki, perhaps just to try and dig up some dirt on him, or perhaps to intimidate him by following him around. They followed Mirecki when he left that morning, but sooner or later he noticed the tailgating and pulled over. When they stopped behind him, Mirecki got out to see what they wanted. Then an unpremeditated confrontation developed – perhaps the people doing the tailgating took Mirecki getting out as a challenge or something – but Mirecki didn’t put up much of a fight, and the assailants took off. This would explain the odd timing, the comments about his class Mirecki reported, and the fact that Mirecki was not severely injured (although I am sure this was a terrifying event for him). And, although not quite as sinister as the ridiculous idea that fundamentalist Christians had sent a hit squad after Mirecki, it is sufficiently disturbing to remind everyone that there are nutsos out there, and overly heated rhetoric can sometimes encourage them to take action we would hope not to see in a civilized society.
Regarding the kerfluffle between PT contributors, the basic problem was that politics got involved, and we have definitely determined that while we agree on science, we definitely do not all agreed on politics.
[**Note 2 from Nick Matzke, 12/20/2005 – Gary Hurd points out that all he said was that someone with law enforcement training conducted the beating, not necessarily current law enforcement in the Lawrence area. I was confused by the suggestion that the attackers were “associated with law enforcement” – Gary’s next sentence does clarify that this simply meant those with some law enforcement training.
It has also been pointed out that the specific agency doing the investigation is the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, not the “Lawrence police.” However, I will leave the original sentence up for context, and because it does remain a clear statement of what I and many other PT posters do not think – just so there is no confusion from casual readers. Finally, I have fixed some typos in my original comment.]
End note from Nick Matzke]