Juvenile Impudence

I’ve had something on my mind for a few days since catching an entry from Billy before heading off for the weekend. He refers to an Andrew Sullivan entry displaying this YouTube video of an 8-yr-old girl with, shall we say, "certain views" about religion and a few other things. It’s also partly an attack on Bill O’Reilly, whose response I will get to in a bit.

I suppose the common reaction to such a thing is that it’s a bit of an assault on the senses and sensibilities — impudent, perhaps. Sullivan thinks it’s the equivalent of the very devoutly religious using their kids to proselytize — in which he is correct, as I’ve witnessed it first hand. Beck’s is a wider integration. It’s not his view of how 8-yr-old girls or their parents conduct themselves in a rational, enlightened society. And he’s probably right. Kyle thinks it’s essentially in-your-face leftism, and he’s probably right too.

So why is it bugging me?

I suppose part of it is that a lot of what the girl says is simply true; but then again, all truths don’t have to be uttered all the time, they don’t have to always be in-your-face, and little girls don’t have to be the messengers. I think another part of it is that kids, in a huge variety of ways, just try to please and to be like their parents, which is probably why kids typically end up with the religious beliefs of their parents. That’s happened billions of times over thousands of years, yet one little atheist does it and the world’s going to hell in a hand basket?

So, if I am to understand this completely: billions of parents over thousands of years indoctrinate their kids with false delusions and that’s neither really problematic, nor newsworthy. But some parent indoctrinates their kid with the belief that false delusions are false, and it’s problematic because the message gets delivered via juvenile impudence?

Another part that bugs me is that the kid is talented. Forget the message; the delivery is superb, I think. I just wonder, now that it’s been on O’Reilly, if something could come of it. Does anyone seriously think that this is damaging to this little girl; and if so, more damaging than the indoctrination kids have been surviving for millennia?

And speaking of O’Reilly, here’s his nationally broadcast response to the whole thing, featuring "child advocate and attorney from Boston Wendy Murphy." Now this is where it gets interesting, and O’Reilly’s skill as a propagandist blow-hard really comes through. Watch it carefully. First, of course, is the pretense of a "debate" or "discussion." Then, Bill is going to "walk through it." The hardly-surprising conclusion? It’s emotional abuse, social services should get involved ("maybe they can make a case"), the girl should be taken from her parents, the parents prosecuted.

Hmm…. Maybe the kid’s video’s not so bad, after all.

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  1. Kyle Bennett on December 18, 2006 at 22:23

    Yes, O'Reilly is an ass.

    I'm just as hard on fundies who use their kids as pawns in their political posturings. But there's so many of them, and it's so commonplace, that it gets old quickly, so there is a selection bias at work here.

    The kid will be fine. The idea that this is something to get third parties forcibly involved with is just sick. But the parents are using the kid, and that's just not something parents ought to do.

    And using kids to mouth an adult's argument is a rhetorical cheap shot. The reaction they're going for is "aww, ain't the little rugrat cute" as a way of couching the argument in such a way that it can't be argued with, and to imply that the ideas are so obvious that even a kid knows better.

    But my main problem with this is that they're espousing a view that carries the same label as one that I hold, yet is so offensively different from mine.

    Yes, many of the words she says are true. But the meaning of the piece as a whole is not. It's not a reasoned position against beleiving in imaginary friends, it's a purely reactionary position against what religion represents – which to them is moral absolutes, objective facts, and the judgement of people that follows from the first two. Never mind that religion actually flies in the face of objective fact – to people like that, it's the idea of there being objective facts that they see religion as representing, and that they can't abide.

    Their atheism is just a mask. Their fight isn't religion versus reason, it's their imaginary friends against some other folks' imaginary friends.

    They're defining themselves in terms of an absence, a nothing. Atheism is not a defining characteristic, it's not even a characteristic. It's a corollary of reason, not a thing in itself.

    No, world is not going to hell over this. It's just that it's annoying, on several levels.

  2. Richard Nikoley on December 18, 2006 at 23:30


    I really can't find much, if anything, really, to disagree with. The video certainly makes me wince.

    By the way, someone has taken that same O'Reilly piece and spliced the sound into video footage of kids doing the bidding of religious parents, which is an interesting juxtaposition.

  3. solus on December 18, 2006 at 17:38

    Let me get this straight: O'reilly believes that having your child act in a video that condemns religion and republicans should be prosecutable child abuse. Pardon the slang but "What a tool"

    He gets paid for this?

    This country is in worse shape than I dared to imagine

  4. Kyle Bennett on December 19, 2006 at 06:55


    Is that on YouTube? You have a link? I'd like to blog that as counterpoint to my main article on this.

  5. Richard Nikoley on December 19, 2006 at 09:14


    Here's one:


    It may be the only one. It does two clips in one. The first is kids doing a political ad for their dad, and the second it religious proselytizing.

  6. Richard Nikoley on December 19, 2006 at 09:49

    Well of course it's staged; acted, if you will. Does anyone seriously dispute that?

    OK, there are negatives and extremes, but a lot of that is simply true. It's indisputable that religious dogma, through the ages, has killed hundreds of millions. So has the state, so the only real error there is naming the Republicans instead of the state apparatus in general.

    And there's a positive aspect too, about what kids ought to be taught: empathy and also to think critically from fact-based material.

    Don't use the kid. I agree. The message is in-your-face. I agree. But the facts are also the facts, regardless of the delivery.

    As Sam Harris says: "beliefs have geopolitical consequences" and the little girl, whether she understood it or not, was pointing some of them out.

  7. Billy Beck on December 19, 2006 at 12:58

    "There is a time and a place for everything."

    I maintain that the mouth of an eight year-old kid is no place for that sort of thing.

  8. Richard Nikoley on December 19, 2006 at 13:28


    I just read the post and the comments, and can't find that quote. Is it a quote or a derived implication?

    At any rate, I agree it's inappropriate.

  9. Billy Beck on December 19, 2006 at 13:31

    It's an old adage that I first at my father's knee.

  10. Billy Beck on December 19, 2006 at 13:32

    "first heard"

  11. SnoopyTheGoon on December 19, 2006 at 09:39

    Yeah. A bit difficult for me. O'Reilly being an ass is hardly disputable. However, using a kid (however articulate and clever) for a staged (and don't tell me different, please) monologue that includes "KKK, Nazis and Republicans" is quite a low blow.

    I am not worrying about the current state of the child, but about the indoctrination she is to undergo, which is based on a set of negatives and extremism of opinions that is hardly much better than that of the above mentioned ass.

  12. Richard Nikoley on December 21, 2006 at 11:59

    Personally, I prefer the Byrds:

    To everything – turn, turn, turn
    There is a season – turn, turn, turn
    And a time for every purpose under heaven

    A time to be born, a time to die
    A time to plant, a time to reap
    A time to kill, a time to heal
    A time to laugh, a time to weep

    To everything – turn, turn, turn
    There is a season – turn, turn, turn
    And a time for every purpose under heaven

    A time to build up, a time to break down
    A time to dance, a time to mourn
    A time to cast away stones
    A time to gather stones together

    To everything – turn, turn, turn
    There is a season – turn, turn, turn
    And a time for every purpose under heaven

    A time of war, a time of peace
    A time of love, a time of hate
    A time you may embrace
    A time to refrain from embracing

    To everything – turn, turn, turn
    There is a season – turn, turn, turn
    And a time for every purpose under heaven

    A time to gain, a time to lose
    A time to rend, a time to sew
    A time to love, a time to hate
    A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!

  13. Lute Nikoley on December 21, 2006 at 10:16

    The "there is a time and a place for everything" quote, I believe is a close quote taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. "To everything there is a season and a time" Eccl. 3:1

  14. murkin on December 21, 2006 at 19:25

    Does she know what she is talking about? The girl is Native American so I guess she has a grasp on "Genocide of Nations", just like smart black kids of her age know something about slavery.

  15. Richard Nikoley on December 22, 2006 at 04:47

    What do you think a kid of eight really _knows_, i.e., has _knowledge_ of?

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