The Doll Is "An Idol"

Barbie Fatwa
by Cliff Walker
from various reports

December, 1994

Kuwait City -- Sheikh Khalid al Mathkor, the chief of the Higher Islamic Consultation Committee in Kuwait, issued a strange "fatwa." This ruling prohibits Muslims from buying human-like dolls, especially Barbie dolls.

The edict specifically bans Barbies because they resemble an adult woman and have no relationship to childhood, thereby qualifying them as idols under Islamic law.

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Barbie Fatwa Continues
by Conrad Goeringer

October 28, 1996

Not to be outdone by their more fundamentalist Taliban counterparts currently running amok in Afghanistan, clerical leaders in Iran have identified the latest threat to religiosity and wholesomeness. It isn't the shenanigans of the CIA, or a military incursion from neighboring Iraq. It's Barbie.

We refer, of course, to the famous (or, in this case, infamous) Barbie doll which despite being prohibited in this showcase of Islamic idiocy and repression, nevertheless has managed to slip across the border and display herself on the shelves of toy outlets even in the capital of Tehran. The "Barbie-at-the-prom&qu ot; version sells for $40, while the fully decked-out bridal model is available for the inflated price of $700.

Now, Islamic authorities have begun combating the insidious Barbie by producing a pair of "mullah approved" dolls named Sara and Dara. Sara wears the traditional, Islamic mandated full-body covering known as the chador, a symbol of female "modesty" in a culture besotted with sexual repression and cultural authoritarianism. Dara is to be marketed as Sara's brother, and sports a long coat and turban -- costume favored by Iran's thriving class of mullahs, "religious scholars," and political Koran-meisters.

The rationale for Sara and Dara is truly an experience to hear. Indeed, the dolls are the result of almost Stalin-esque centralized cultural manipulation, the product of a herculean two year effort by the Amusement Department of the government-run Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. Designer Majid Ghaderi charges that "Barbie is like a Trojan Horse...It carries its Western cultural influences, such as makeup and indecent clothes. Once it enters our society, it dumps these influences on our children."

And we certainly can't have that, can we?

Ghaderi also charges that "Barbie is an American woman who never wants to get pregnant and have babies. She never wants to look old, and this contradicts our culture."

The government wants to pump-up demand for Sara and Dara by flooding their images into theatrical performances, cartoons and even computer games. The dolls have already been used as characters in elementary schools, but they have been unable to stop the competitive power of Barbie. CNN notes that "dozens of Tehran shops display genuine Barbies, some wearing only a swimsuit," and that merchants intend to continue selling them.

Well, the lesson here should pretty obvious. We're told that there are big differences based on exotic doctrinal points between the clerical regimes in Kabul and Tehran. Really? Does those quibbling questions about doctrinal succession to the Prophet Mohammed really made that much difference in everyday practice?

Of course not.

Scratch any clerical regime and you discover the same sorts of restrictions on free inquiry, civil liberties and personal choice. You find government -- under the command of priest-bureaucrats -- enforcing invasive and at often ridiculous religious edicts. You find the church and state working in concert to manipulate as many areas of personal and social existence as they possibly can.

And it reaches the point of absurdity at times. Who would have thought that Barbie would become a practical argument on behalf of state-church separation?

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Church Deacon Kills
Motorist with Crossbow
by Jan Cienski
The Seattle Times / Associated Press

December 3, 1995

BOSTON -- Donald Graham saw Michael Blodgett flash his high beams at another car, and Graham didn't like it. Graham chased Blodgett's car for seven miles on Interstate 95 before both men pulled over.

As Blodgett approached Graham's car, the 56-year-old retired autoworker and church deacon reached into his trunk for his weapon and shot Blodgett -- with a crossbow.

The arrow hit Blodgett in the shoulder, and its expanding head scissored his insides. Within six hours, the 42-year-old emergency medical technician had bled to death, another victim of a fearsome weapon that dates from the Middle Ages.

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by Cliff Walker
from various reports

April 20, 1996

A 73-year-old woman who claims she began having spontaneous orgasms after an electronic bingo board fell on her won't get her day in court.

Milwaukee Circuit Judge Patrick J. Madden threw out Mary Verdev's lawsuit against St. Florian Catholic Church because she repeatedly failed to undergo the psychological exam he ordered.

Verdev said she suffered nearly $90,000 in injuries when a 300-pound board fell off the stage during a bingo tournament back in 1990. She also claimed that, for the first time, she found herself sexually attracted to women and that she subsequently "suffered" spontaneous orgasms, sometimes in clusters.

Instead of seeking credit for the side effects, James C. Green, a lawyer for the church, was unimpressed. He characterized Verdev as dishonest and psychologically unbalanced. "It is unexplained in modern medicine how a bump on the head can alter sexual orientation or cause recurring orgasms," Green said in court papers.

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So, which one is the "real" hoax?

Scientist Hoaxes Journal
by Cliff Walker
from many sources

May 17, 1996

Alan SokalAlan Sokal (right), a physicist at New York University, recently wrote an article -- an impenetrable bramble of physics and philosophy that appears to argue that the physical world does not exist -- that was close to pure gibberish and sent it off to a respected social science journal to see if it would be published. The article is titled: "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity."

It was, in the spring-summer issue of Social Text, a leftist journal of cultural studies published by the Duke University Press. Then Sokal, adding insult to injury, wrote a gloating article about his own hoax for Lingua Franca, a magazine about academia. This second article is called: "A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies."

The editor of Social Text said he thought the Sokal article was simply a bad attempt at philosophy by a scientist. He included it in the journal's new issue -- which is devoted to a rift between scientists and cultural critics of science -- as a "curio" intended to reflect the scientists' side of the debate.

In the opening paragraph of the article in Social Text, Sokal lays out his basic theme: There are scientists, he asserts, who "cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole." In other words, some dumb scientists actually believe that the world exists. There follow many pages of impossibly dense scientific mumbo-jumbo, all supported by lengthy footnotes. From time to time, Sokal slips in little parenthetical zingers. "Mathematically, Einstein breaks with the tradition dating back to Euclid (which is inflicted on high-school students even today!)," he writes. It's not hard to imagine him chuckling over his keyboard.

Sokal wrote in Lingua Franca that he decided to write the hoax out of a concern, heightened by his own left-wing politics, that leftist social scientists were spreading "nonsense and sloppy thinking" about science. Many articles have been written either criticizing or "explaining" Sokal's act, including a to-the-point piece by Gary Kamiya, called: "Transgressing the Transgressors: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Total Bullshit," in the May 17, 1996, issue of Salon .

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Man Claims TV Chef
Raped Him As A Teen
"Frugal Gourmet" Denies Suit
Alleging Molestations
by Eric Nalder
The Seattle Times

January 24, 1997

A 36-year-old man is suing popular television chef Jeff Smith, "The Frugal Gourmet," alleging that Smith sexually molested him and other teenage boys in the 1970s.

The suit, filed yesterday in Pierce County Superior Court, alleges that Smith "pursued a pattern and practice of grooming high-school-age boy employees for sexual intercourse" when he ran a Tacoma food-service business.

Smith denies the allegations in a response also filed in court yesterday. He offered no public response, but his lawyer, Ed Winskill, said, "The allegations of this lawsuit are denied absolutely and categorically" and the suit should be dismissed.

Yesterday's filing is the culmination of more than a year of speculation-much of it aired on talk radio-about potential legal action against Smith. The Seattle Times had investigated claims by the man now suing and others that Smith had molested them years earlier. But the newspaper did not publish a story at that time because people making the allegations were unwilling to go on the record and could not provide sufficient corroborating material.

No criminal charges have ever been brought against Smith in relation to such allegations.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff is referred to as "Boy A" and other alleged victims are called "Boy C" and "Boy S.C." The plaintiff is named in Smith's response.

The plaintiff had talked with a Times reporter previously but declined to be named or to participate in a newspaper story. The Times has a policy against naming victims of sexual assault when they request anonymity.

The plaintiff's lawyer, Mike Shaffer, said his client is suing without his name because of concern about how publicity might affect his parents, who are in ill health.

The allegations

In the suit, the man claims that when he was 15 years old, he and other male students at Tacoma's Stadium High School were assigned to work at Smith's delicatessen and catering business as part of a career-training class. He said he was molested several times over many months and raped in a back room of the business.

The suit alleges that as a result of the attacks, the plaintiff attempted suicide and continues to suffer from mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. He said he discovered last year that all these troubles were the result of Smith's sexual abuse of him as a child. The man is married and has children.

In the court papers, Shaffer described other victims, including a couple who allegedly say Smith raped their teen son after he hitched a ride with the television personality in Tacoma in 1992.

The couple are not part of the lawsuit. Shaffer predicted they and others will be coming forward to file separate complaints.

Out-of-court deal claimed

Smith is an ordained Methodist minister, and his Tacoma deli was called the Chaplain's Pantry. He no longer owns the business.

Shaffer said Smith is "a person who holds himself out as a man of God but who has a history of sexually molesting one child after another." The lawsuit says Smith agreed to a $3 million out-of-court settlement with two alleged victims about six years ago.

One of the men who says he took part in that settlement, Clint Smith of Eatonville, Pierce County, came forward with his claims against Jeff Smith in June 1995 on the controversial radio talk show hosted by Mike Siegel. (Siegel later was fired by KVI for airing unsubstantiated rumors of sexual misconduct by Seattle Mayor Norm Rice.)

Clint Smith, no relation to Jeff Smith, said he, too, worked at the Chaplain's Pantry in the 1970s and was sexually assaulted there. He said Jeff Smith agreed to pay him and another man $3 million and had made some payments but abruptly stopped them. Clint Smith was named in papers filed with yesterday's lawsuit but is not a party in it.

The plaintiff in the suit said in an interview more than a year ago that when he heard Clint Smith on KVI, it was something he had been waiting to hear for years: confirmation he wasn't the only person molested by Jeff Smith.

He said he called KVI immediately that day and spoke on the radio without identifying himself. He said the only other person he had talked to was a counselor at his church.

The man told The Times that the experience with Smith "has totally destroyed me."

'Ridiculous,' TV chef says

In a brief interview last year, Jeff Smith said the accusations by Clint Smith and others were "ridiculous" and dismissed the whole matter as an "odd situation."

He noted that Clint Smith had been convicted and sent to prison for stealing money from him at age 18. He indicated that Clint Smith was seeking revenge.

Clint Smith admitted the theft but has said he took the money to get back at Jeff Smith for having molested him.

Clint Smith was not available to explain his role, if any, in the lawsuit.

Winskill, the defendant's lawyer, argued in court papers that Clint Smith is behind all the other allegations.

"Clint Smith instigated the action of the other 'plaintiffs' to further his own wrongful aims," Winskill wrote.

Winskill denied that the television performer ever made an out-of-court settlement with Clint Smith.

He asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit and to require the plaintiff to pay Jeff Smith's court costs and attorney fees "as a sanction for this false and wrongfully brought complaint."

The lawsuit also names the television chef's wife, Patti Smith, and two of his companies, The Frugal Gourmet Inc., and Frugal Gourmet Productions Inc. His wife is accused in the suit of knowing about his "compulsive pedophilic compulsions" since the 1970s and doing nothing about them.

In a response filed yesterday in court by her attorney, Patti Smith denies all allegations.

'The Frugal Gourmet'

Jeff Smith celebrated his 58th birthday on Wednesday. His show, which mixes humor, warmth and food, is seen nationally by about 15 million public-television viewers. "The Frugal Gourmet" appears locally on KCTS, Channel 9, on Saturdays.

Smith has published a dozen cookbooks and was the first to have two on The New York Times best-seller list at one time.

He graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 1962 and from Drew University in New Jersey in 1965. He was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1965 and served as a chaplain and assistant professor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma from 1966 to 1972.

He operated the Chaplain's Pantry from 1972 until 1983, when his TV program began.

Smith lives in Seattle's Pike Place Market neighborhood.

It is unclear how the lawsuit might affect Smith professionally. His producer, in San Francisco, was not available for comment, nor was his agent. Pat Mallinson, a spokeswoman for KCTS, said the station had no comment.

How matter got to court

The lawsuit took a long and circuitous route to court. It is sure to be challenged in part because of the age of the allegations and because of the reluctance of some parties to participate in the suit.

Last August, Shaffer presented Jeff Smith with papers indicating he planned to file a lawsuit against him, not only on behalf of the man who filed yesterday, but also on behalf of Clint Smith and the couple who claim their son was attacked four years ago.

Shaffer said the lawsuit was not filed at that time because he and his client were waiting to see if Jeff Smith would offer some sort of settlement.

Meanwhile, Clint Smith and the couple decided not to participate in the lawsuit and withdrew from the suit in papers filed yesterday.

The suit does allege that another man, identified only as "Boy C," made a similar threat to sue Smith for the same reasons in 1990. He, too, participated in a settlement, the suit says.

"Boy C," reached by The Times in Thurston County more than a year ago, refused to confirm or deny the existence of a settlement.

Marvin Shain, who served as principal at Stadium High School from 1980 to 1994, said last night that many of his students had worked at Smith's shop as part of a program that provides training and after-school income. He said he knew nothing about any allegations of sexual assaults by Smith.

"If I had known it, I would have pursued it," Shain said. "Legally and morally and ethically, in a heartbeat."

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