Ben Stein to battle `anti-religious dogmatism'
Ben Stein to battle `anti-religious dogmatism' with pro-intelligent design film
`Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,' takes on Darwinism, and uses Hitler's concentration camps to push `intelligent design' and build a movement countering evolution
Five years ago, in the days before Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII set the FCC and the television networks off into a cleansing frenzy, Ben Stein, the television game-show host and pitchman who was once a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, gave Arianna Huffington the finger during a live CNN talk show.
Now, Stein intends to give the vast majority of the scientific community the finger by attacking evolution and touting intelligent design in a new film due out early next year.
And, Stein, who's co-hosting the upcoming VH-1 reality show "America's Most Smartest Model," is movie-making in the name of "battling anti-religious dogmatism."
Move over Michael Moore, here comes Stein's pro-intelligent design documentary
Come next February, be on the lookout for "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed."
At his new blog, Stein introduces himself to what he hopes will become a core of intelligent design volunteers and supporters:
I'm Ben Stein - many of you know me from the classic film, `Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' or from my Comedy Central show `Win Ben Stein's Money.' Still others of you may know me as a speechwriter, for presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. You may even have read my books, attended one of my lectures at The American University, Washington DC, or seen me on the talk shows.
According to Stein, his documentary - produced by Premise Media and marketed by the Westlake Village, California-based Motive Entertainment -- "chronicles" Stein's "confrontation with the widespread suppression and entrenched discrimination that is spreading in our institutions, laboratories and most importantly, in our classrooms, and that is doing irreparable harm to some of the world's top scientists, educators, and thinkers."
Stein hysterically points out that
Under a new anti-religious dogmatism, scientists and educators are not allowed to even think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator. Do you realize that some of the leading lights of "anti-intelligent design" would not allow a scientist who merely believed in the possibility of an intelligent designer/creator to work for him... EVEN IF HE NEVER MENTIONED the possibility of intelligent design in the universe? EVEN FOR HIS VERY THOUGHTS... HE WOULD BE BANNED.
According to Stein, "In today's world, at least in America, an Einstein or a Newton or a Galileo would probably not be allowed to receive grants to study or to publish his research."
They cannot even mention the possibility that- as Newton or Galileo believed - these laws were created by God or a higher being. They could get fired, lose tenure, have their grants cut off. This can happen. It has happened. EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed comes to theaters near you in February 2008. To learn more, check out my blog here often ... and explore the rest of our site for new developments, or to volunteer to help spread the word.
The trailer for the movie - using George Thorogood's rebel anthem "Bad to the Bone" as background music - portrays Stein as the courageous "rebel" fighting against the storm troopers of Darwinism. "I'm not going to let it stop me from investigating or speaking about it [intelligent design]," Stein says during a speaking engagement.
Building Michael Moore-like buzz
Stein's collaborators intend to use the months leading up to the film's release to drum up Michael Moore-like buzz and directly appeal to anti-evolution evangelical Christian pastors and religious school teachers. In mid-August, a Beliefnet reporter "attended a presentation to drum up advance support for the film. It was led by Paul Lauer -- a Christian marketing maven best known for helping make [Mel Gibson's] `Passion of the Christ' the blockbuster it was -- and one of the film's co-producers ..."
Beliefnet reported that the film "presents a world of ... "the new scientific movement" (Intelligent Design) ... vs. the tired, old `theory' of evolution. Relying on news-clip montages, interviews, even cut-away shots of concentration camps, `Expelled' talks of faithful scientists and other believers losing jobs, losing grants, even losing friends in defense of ID. And, relying on footage of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other atheists du jure, it sets up a worldview of ID vs. atheism, with no gray areas in between.
And, taking it even further, it posits that, without God, there can be no source of morality, no reason not to `stab someone on the subway,' to borrow another phrase I heard a couple of times yesterday (and which explained, according to Lauer and Logan, the concentration camp scenes, since the film will explore the influence of Darwinism on Hitler). So the battle for ID to be taught on par with evolution is no more, no less than a battle for the legitimacy of morality itself.
According to Motive Marketing's website, the organization was founded by Lauer, "who has pioneered the development, production, sales, marketing, and distribution of media, entertainment, and consumer products worldwide for the last 20 years." The site points out that "Lauer is also one of the most well connected entrepreneurs in the Faith and Family Market ..."
Lauer has gone on to manage grass roots outreach campaigns for the Tom Hanks/Robert Zemeckis film, "The Polar Express," as well as the record breaking Walden Media/Disney epic series, "The Chronicles of Narnia." In addition, Lauer has assisted with the marketing and distribution of numerous independent film projects.
Lauer's resume includes serving as president for three media companies: Veritas Communications, Publishing Services, and Lauer & Associates. He was also the founder and publisher of YOU! Magazine, published worldwide in six languages (3,700,000 copies distributed), and Youth Beat, a syndicated youth page with 1,000,000 circulation.
Huffington wins Ben Stein's finger
In his intro, Stein doesn't mention perhaps his most historic television appearance. On January 11, 2002, he was one of the guests - along with Arianna Huffington, comedian Kate Clinton and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and Queen of Weight Watchers -- on CNN's "TalkBack Live: America Speaks Out." Stein, incensed by Huffington's comments, actually flipped her the bird on live tee vee.
Here's what I wrote at the time in a column posted at WorkingForChange:
From the beginning of the program, Stein was a bit edgy, appearing miffed the other guests would have the audacity to mildly, and I stress the word mildly, criticize U.S. government policy.
The first few topics were related to the war on terrorism. The discussion ranged from how the Al Qaeda/Taliban prisoners transported to the U.S. Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba should be treated to how much access the media should have to the prisoners and to information regarding the overall state of the war. The group also discussed the recent suicide of the deeply troubled 15-year-old Tampa boy who crashed a small airplane into a high-rise office building.
The other guests didn't actually disagree with many of Stein's views on the war. However, they did allow that there were questions that needed to be raised. In fact, some of his early remarks received the loudest applause from the audience. It's just that from the beginning of the program Stein seemed agitated and angry. He was certainly not very comic-like; I am told by a friend that's how Stein normally is. He was surly, sour and clearly pissed off.
According to the CNN transcript, when discussing the treatment of the prisoners in Cuba Stein said: "They are extremely dangerous in any circumstance. They have shown that they like to kill civilians whenever possible. I think by all means tranquilize them and drug them and keep them in chains. I think they are being treated incredibly well, not just to be put up against a wall and shot, considering their behavior."
While no one on the panel disagreed that the prisoners had done despicable things, they expressed the hope that they would be treated humanely -- if only to show the world the U.S. is concerned about the human rights of all people.
As the discussion proceeded, Clinton raised a question about press access to the prisoners. "The problem for me," she said, "is that we have not allowed the press to come in, the press has been told to leave. They can't tape. They can't actually watch what is going on, which raises a lot of suspicions."
Stein huffily responded: "I don't understand why we have any concern about these people at all. I mean, these people are major league scumbag killers. The problem in the world history in the last 40 years has hardly been U.S. mistreatment of prisoners. It's been mistreatment of U.S. prisoners by people with whom the U.S. was engaged in conflict. And we have no doubt that if these people captured our men, they would torture them and kill them."
A short time later, Huffington picked-up on the press access question. She was concerned that although the press briefings of Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld were entertaining, they were often devoid of solid information. (Even the President recently joked the afternoon briefings have turned Rumsfeld into a matinee idol.)
Huffington: "I think this problem, not just in terms of the detainees in Cuba but generally, the restriction of the amount of information given to the press is very troubling. That is what happened in Vietnam. And a lot went on behind the scenes that the American public did not know."
The conversation included comments about the Tampa teen, and Huffington pointed out that all societies have people who do evil things, and it is simplistic to divide the world into the evil-doers of Afghanistan and the Middle East and the good guys of America.
This set Stein off: "I think what we should care about is comments like the ones I have been hearing in the last few minutes which are endlessly blaming America and trying to shift the focus away from the fact that we had a massive, historically unique act of terrorism directed against America by foreign people, and somehow making it change to say, well is America treating these people right now after it captures them? That's one thing. I'm really sick of blaming the victim, especially when the victim is America."
In no time, Stein accused Huffington of dominating the conversation; the audience made a few comments; and then Huffington delivered the final blow. She told Stein "we should be able to hold two contradictory thoughts in our head, at least all of us except for Ben Stein, who seems to be only able to hold one thought. But we should be able at one and the same time..."
Quick shot of Stein; he's delivering the finger to Huffington.
Maureen O'Boyle, the host: "Oh, my goodness."
Huffington: "No excuses for Charles [the Tampa teenager] and for what he did, and, at the same time, be able to try and understand what brought him to that point. These two things are not impossible to hold at the same time."
O'Boyle: "Duchess, do you have something to say?"
Ferguson: "Great role model, Ben."
O'Boyle: "Yes, really. Hello."
Stein: "I can't believe that. I don't think I want to -- why should I be here and be criticized by Arianna? I think my credentials for commenting on this are at least equivalent to hers. And I didn't say anything even slightly as belittling as what she said. What's the point of a conversation in which there's just belittling, slurring of one another?"
The transcript notes applause from the audience.
Stein: "If you want to just have a group of dogs barking at each other, just go to the pound and put your microphone there and you'll have a group of dogs barking at each other. "
After the commercial break, O'Boyle returned and told the audience Stein had decided to leave. And, at the end of the show when it came to thank the guests, Ben Stein's name wasn't mentioned.
Meanwhile, taking a break from "battling anti-religious dogmatism," Stein is co-hosting -- along with celebrity fashion expert Mary Alice Stephenson -- a new VH-1 series called "America's Most Smartest Model." According to Starpulse News Blog, the "reality competition series brings together fourteen models, (7 men, 7 women) all of whom think they are the perfect combination of beauty and brains. In the end, only one model will prove that they are more than just another pretty face and take home a $100,000 prize and the coveted title of `America's Most Smartest Model.'"
For more please see the Bill Berkowitz archive. Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.