Protest UCF’s “Ecclesiastically Motivated Witch Hunt”

26 07 2008

The persecuted PZ Myers today finally notices what’s REALLY going on down here, that this is a public education policy story and real kids’ real lives are at stake, right now.

I sure hope besides this Furbush fellow, PZ notices UCF student MICHELLE DUCKER and helps turn the investigative brainpower of Pharyngula’s informal research team toward her story, such as figuring out the real reason Cook’s countercharges against her were dropped with no investigation or temporary hold on MICHELLE DUCKER’s student registration . .near as I can tell, she’s central to this whole incident and may well have precipitated it, may even have had prior animus toward Cook, yet the Catholics have stage-managed her involvement after the fact (successfully so far) with the result that it’s been alternately covered up and pimped out as PR incriminating Cook.

Which makes perfect sense in this Bonfire of the Vanities remake, considering Bill Donohue’s belligerent media prizefighter role and this note accompanying MICHELLE DUCKER’s tiara-crowned publicity photo:

“This fall she’s interning with UCF’s Catholic Campus Ministry in marketing and public relations. . .”

UPDATE – some commenters in Pharyngula’s thread have posted great language from the letters they’re sending to the UCF president and other officials, for when you’re ready to write your own and in search of inspiration:

. . .To have an innocent student’s education curtailed due to the paranoia, bigotry and stupidity of a religious group’s unfounded beliefs smacks of the Spanish Inquisition. Such practices should have been relegated to the Dark Ages and should certainly not be allowed to corrupt an educational establishment of the 21st century.


As far as I know, there is no Constitutional protection against being offended and therefore no crime.


This entire episode is the result of religious dogma and a state supported institution has no legal interest in this matter except to the extent that the university must protect and defend the Constitutional rights of free expression and due process.


It is every Catholic’s right to believe that bread is their savior’s flesh, despite visual and olfactory clues to the contrary, just as it is every Muslim’s right to believe their prophet had a flying horse. It is not a requirement, however, that others embrace or even respect these irrational beliefs. While the student senate can take whatever action it deems necessary in Mr. Cook’s case, I hope that the University will reverse its charges against these students. To enforce someone else’s irrational beliefs is outside the bounds of your authority.

Carry on!



17 responses

27 07 2008

Catholic columnist from a newspaper just up I-75 north of UCF:
“Cases of Paralyzing Stupidity”

His very personal take is that Catholic extremists are just as badass as Muslim extremists, so you better watch out! I haven’t a clue how he misses the public education policy issue completely. As a newspaper professional, surely he grasped the journalistic ethics and freedom of the press argument in the Muslim cartoon case?

27 07 2008
Nance Confer

I’m supposed to be afraid of Catholics now? I don’t have time for all these scary people! 🙂


27 07 2008

Nance, frankly I’m surprised some of them didn’t get you long ago, one way or the other. You must have made a deal with the devil? 😉

27 07 2008

Great piece of investigative journalism there. This explains a lot. I’ve been following the money, as they say, and this puts the pieces together.

28 07 2008

Welcome watercat, thanks, glad you’re on the case, good to meet you.

The tragic news from Tennessee yesterday gives us a terrifying reality check to the overheated and irrelevant catechisms in the news for weeks now, about what is sacred and what’s a hate crime in or out of church, who does or doesn’t deserve human condemnation either on earth or for eternity, defining what it means to criminally disrespect churchgoers’ private constitutional and/or god-given rights. By contrast, it highlights when public provision of uniformed police officers and security cameras might actually make sense — although even after such real crimes, visible police presence during worship remains an unacceptable capitulation that most congregations have been brave and faithful enough to resist:

Sunday’s attack was the fourth time in 15 months that an American church became a scene of a fatal shooting.

I’m beginning to think we’re looking at the basis of an entire “cognitive psychology in public policy” curriculum and if I were a professional believer in public education compulsion, this is the study I’d compel, maybe for activating full citizenship (like Heinlein?) No pass, no vote!

I found a geek forum discussion last night started in early July by a young male UCF student who says he was at the campus mass that day, and that he’s “good friends” with everyone involved except Cook of course, who this poster claims they all knew would be trouble from the moment he walked in.

Starting from that, his story uses all the insider jargon and righteous indignation that street gangs use to keep members in and outsiders afraid. What he actually describes of the “mass” isn’t infusions of the holy spirit successfully keeping him and his friends humble and Christ-like but more like the opposite, feeding into what West Side Story once called a rumble and what the Urban Dictionary calls a gang bang: “When a gang or clique beats the living hell out of a smaller number of people, usually just one or two people. . .It is used in order for the participants to gain a feeling of self-betterment or higher social status. ” (Warning — take my word for this and don’t go look it up yourself, unless you want to sift through a lot of explicit sex slang for group dominance through violence, too.)

I’m no theology scholar but I’m fairly well-read and have studied the Bible over the years — isn’t that pretty much what the Church tells us happened to Jesus Christ himself, and why it happened?

Now granted, that’s some rhetoric too, but it’s just me as one person drawing a parallel I find relevant without a dog in the fight and no particular need to persuade anyone else to agree, after weeks of listening and watching what the subjective rhetoric has wrought. And obviously it is more rational and proportional than what the Church “public relations” pros (lolz again!) have ganged up to foment against Cook, and his friend, and PZ Myers.

It’s all Power of Story. Aha, THAT is what I’ll call my compulsory citizenship curriculum.

28 07 2008

Speaking of public relations and power of story —

More here from the willfully ignorant religious right contingent, apparently in desperate need of my mandatory curriculum! They reject Godwin’s Law as “baloney” and continue to attack Obama with the claim that all marketing-PR is automatically evil just because Hitler used it too.

Yes, there are many similarities. And they are not to be dismissed lightly. Because, after all, Hitler was a major PR campaign. And if you think that PR campaigns don’t work, ask CocaCola.

Assuming this bunch actually believes this as the strict constructionists they also claim to be, then logically the Catholic Church and its marketing-PR acolytes, from intern Michelle Ducker to bulldog Bill Donohue, must be monumental, historic evil!

And apart from incurring Catholic wrath for that conclusion, I wouldn’t want to piss off Coke either, by calling its Business as evil as Hitler —
but mainly I object to it not as dangerous, just so Unthinking, to hold the “all PR is Hitlerian evil” belief in the same mind with the usual free market libertarian elitist no-tax, no-regulation, property-rights-as-religion political “reasoning” this same gang swears to uphold and defend.

I don’t think even they are that stupid. This is just — gasp! — their propaganda machine at work! EVIL!

28 07 2008
Nance Confer

By contrast, it highlights when public provision of uniformed police officers and security cameras might actually make sense — although even after such real crimes, visible police presence during worship remains an unacceptable capitulation that most congregations have been brave and faithful enough to resist:

Sunday’s attack was the fourth time in 15 months that an American church became a scene of a fatal shooting.


We didn’t used to have armed guards and security screeners in schools either. Progress?


28 07 2008

Something I’m thinking about that probably relates and may tie this all together, more cutting edge thought about culture and human networking from

. . .“digital ethnologist” Mark Pesce makes the point that “we have a drive to connect and socialize: this drive has now been accelerated and amplified as comprehensively as the steam engine amplified human strength two hundred and fifty years ago.

Just as the steam engine initiated the transformation of the natural landscape into man-made artifice, the ‘hyperconnectivity’ engendered by these new toys is transforming the human landscape of social relations.This time around, fifty thousand years of cultural development will collapse into about twenty. . .

Hyperconnectivity begets hypermimesis begets hyperempowerment. After the arms race comes the war.” [hypermimesis meaning hyper-accelerated social learning.]

To understand this new kind of mob rule, it’s necessary to realize that “Sharing IS the threat. Not just “a” threat. It is the whole of the thing. A photo taken on a mobile now becomes instantaneously and pervasively visible on Flickr or other sharing websites. This act of sharing voids “any pretensions to control, or limitation, or the exercise of power”.

Pesce concludes that “the power redistributions of the 21st century have dealt representative democracies out. Representative democracies are a poor fit to the challenges ahead, and ‘rebooting’ them is not enough. The future looks nothing like democracy, because democracy, which sought to empower the individual, is being obsolesced by a social order which hyperempowers him.”

The criminal that violated the sanctity of life in TN apparently chose that church because UUs are open-minded to diverse human connections and not prescriptive, i.e. “liberal” in thought, word and deed — and so he projected all his fears and misery onto them and made it his cause to destroy them, and meant to die there himself, end it all. He just can’t function in this hyperconnected, equal access world, was literally failing as an “individual” among all this “social sharing.”

Taken together with the astonishing vitriol against Obama as Hitler, etc from supposedly Christ-revering churches and from the Right and Libertarians politically, it would explain a whole lot. Maybe some are starting to actually, literally fear they cannot function as rational individuals in this hyperconnected world? And perhaps that’s the thing they are most right about —

28 07 2008

Think about it, seriously. Communion LITERALLY is a powerful sharing rite, a loss of self as you become one with your earthly congregation and heavenly host. It is all about the sharing, not the individual who dares to do it a bit differently and thereby offends us all as a collective.

What’s weird is how hidebound the sharing gets, so that rite substitutes for real.

28 07 2008
Nance Confer

And on the other hand 🙂 . . .

I have been thinking lately about the increasing number of times that we are not out of the political loop. As fast as an event happens, we know about it. We battle to interpret the event but it isn’t just an inner circle that knows what happened.

Along those lines, I was mildly offended today when I heard in the background that the press was not allowed into Obama’s economic event today. I expect to have a front row seat!

As I was reading “All Quiet on the Western Front” yesterday (never read it in school. . .), I was thinking about the young man in the story and his limited world and his limited access to information. Not the point, I know, but with soldiers having their own blogs now, everything being caught on camera, secrets seem to be harder and harder to keep, information (maybe too much and maybe not accurate) swamps us.

And that seems like a good — and very democratic — thing to me. Maybe it’s a more direct kind of democracy? Maybe not. Maybe we just feel like we know what’s up and yell louder when things are messed up.

It is change though. Very fast change. And there are some people, many people, who have never been good with change.


28 07 2008

No, Nance, that’s the SAME hand! That’s it exactly, or a big part of it anyway. 🙂

But then, think about what happened to the NHEN forums and what’s happening to the schools and churches and political parties all under assault by radicals and very fast change.

To keep from just exploding into a thousand tiny pieces and flying off into space like the big bang, the reaction HAS to be inevitable fossilizing of the institution or entity, constantly defending against fire from all fronts, driven to become more and more conservative and traditional by their own good intentions just to define something worthwhile and then hold the line, to thwart chaos and impose order on whatever (creativity, information, ideas, knowledge, credentialing, socializing, governing, worship. . .)

All of our mass social institutions, developed at the start of the Liberal era, are backed up against the same buzz saw.

Politics, as the most encompassing of our mass institutions, now balances on a knife edge between a past which no longer works and a future of chaos.

29 07 2008
Nance Confer

I’m thinking they are all under assault from regular but informed people. All these institutions are not controlling all of the information and discussion.

A Mom — regular if a self-described tree-hugger — yesterday found my little umbrella school and we spoke briefly about attitudes toward school and learning. She’s no kind of radical, just a Mom trying to do the best for her kids.

Would that, and the rest of the growth in homeschooling, have been possible without improved communication on the ground? If the local school board controlled the information about education choices?

Maybe we are seeing slices of the same elephant. I just don’t see the gun-toting nut as the thing that makes an institution tremble. It’s the regular Mom and Dad, with an internet connection, that can do something different.


29 07 2008

I see why you’re drawing a distinction, I think — yes, we regular moms and dads can do something different and we’re doing it! And it is changing us as individuals AND changing all our institutions. The old hierarchies and controls are dysfunctional but still embedded in terrified, ossified minds so that people whose whole existence is built on established social rules and orders still “cling” desperately to them, as Obama said. Guns and bibles?

So the minority of gun-nuts or the polygamist cult controlled, for example, aren’t our radicals anymore at all, they’re the sad Old Guard, the last defenders of traditional control, the change-impaired! Someone on cable news the other day, Chris Matthews I think, made a campaign joke about the last Japanese warriors holed up in little island caves after WWII, fighting to the death for their old traditions as isolated individualists, ironic since the empire they were still defending had collapsed and didn’t exist any more.

You know how you and I saw these parent-empowering needs and possibilities 10 years ago and started working toward them, connecting with others in our own ways, without any title or program or supervisors etc. No one needs any “authority” or even earned access through passing some test to connect, learn, influence others by manipulating information, etc.

So in a way we all become the nuts and mixed nuts becomes the new cultural norm. 🙂
Just by being ourselves in this hyperempowered culture, we all are the fast-changing “radicals” spontaneously changing everything around us. The traditionally controlled cultural models have already collapsed but some of Tradition’s last uniformed defenders can’t conceive of a future without it, or their possible place in it without the old rules, so they fight on to the death from their little caves of blind conformity. If completely severing connection is a meaningful form of death (like being in a coma?) then building connectivity is meaningful to life, and hyperconnectivity enhances and extends life, might even be a very human path to personally meaningful forms of immortality. (Imagine how threatening THAT sounds to the hidebound change deniers!)

Like the last warriors of a proud but dying empire, they’re still dangerous to themselves and to anyone happening upon their path but they can’t be dangerous to the change, not to the future. And they can’t save the old ways and the old days, they can’t even save themselves. It’s almost evolutionary. They are not the radicals but the the reactionaries, the dying breed.

So here’s an interesting irony — by their own religious discipline and devoted acts of faith they become the Left Behind!

29 07 2008
Connected Catholics “Cook Up” Month of Prayer for PZ Myers « Cocking A Snook!

[…] No one needs any “authority” or even earned access through passing some test to connect, learn, influence others by manipulating information, etc.

So in a way we all become the nuts and mixed nuts becomes the new cultural norm. 🙂
Just by being ourselves in this hyperempowered culture, we all are the fast-changing “radicals” spontaneously changing everything around us. […]

29 07 2008
Nance Confer

“Change-impaired” — I like that.

And not to nitpick but. . .

I remember what Obama was talking about as being people who had narrowed their vision of what was important as far as making political choices because their actual political needs were not being met by anyone in any party. They are “bitter” because the government and the parties continue to be useless even when they obediently turn out to vote as they are told they should do. So, after the things that matter are ignored and it doesn’t matter which side you are on, you are left to care about guns and Bibles. If you still want to care about something.

Which fits in here somewhere. . .

Hope for the currently bitter versus clinging to the past for the change-impaired?


30 07 2008

Watercat and all — here’s much more about the money:

Oh. My. God. FINALLY! Check this out —
“Crackergate, Big Donors and the UCF Medical Enterprise”

And may I note, I read on a Catholic blog condemning the student and linked here last week, that Cook’s Catholic father is himself an MD. This is finally making more sense.

AND – note this comment, which confirms what I’ve suspected from the start. This was a clique of college friends, folks who knew Cook and didn’t like him long before he showed up in the student union that night. Michelle Ducker in particular was just enough of a self-important ninny to push it and get away with it because she’s a girl and had official status there as the PR intern. They were determined that night to shake Cook up, show him just how much they resented his lack of esteem for their chosen status in the Church and his high-handedness when HE was in control, lording his student government senator status and pecuniary powers over their campus “ministries”:

You haven’t met the guy. I’m an undergrad at UCF and I’ve had dealings with Cook.

We tried to get a bill passed to go on a trip (I wont go into details, rather not be recognized), and Cook took it upon himself to not only insult our group, but try to get policy passed and belittle our bill by taking it from 250 dollars a person, a fairly normal amount of our senate, to 185 dollars a person, an unheard of low amount. He the proceded to vote against us in every single tally.

The guy is an idiot that giggles and whisper to his friend whenever he votes no, and I’m glad he is impeached.

I’m probably biased because he picked a bone with my group, but I’m not the only one at UCF who dosen’t like former senator Cook.

Posted by: UCF Student | July 30, 2008 9:26 AM

I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of real Florida legislators at “work” over the years, and this is how they do business and why they are disliked but stay in power btw.

Cynically but objectively, I say not only shouldn’t he be impeached, but this proves Webster Cook is *perfect* for secular professional politics. 😦

22 10 2008
UCF Senator Webster Cook Impeached Secretly, Thus Illegally? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Protest UCF’s Ecclesiastically Motivated Witch Hunt […]

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