Monday, May 05, 2003

My favorite bigot
Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff points to Gary Farber at Amygdala who points to Robert Ito at Los Angeles Magazine who has a profile on one of my all time favorite reactionary bigots, the amazing Jack T. Chick.

Chick publishes evangelical conic books from a strip mall in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He may be the most widely published writer on earth. His 142 titles have generated a half billion copies in over a hundred languages. Several countries have banned his comics. You probably know his work. Most of the comics are about seven inches wide and three inches tall, printed in black and white, and can be found in phone booths, tucked into the cushions of bus seats, slipped into the covers of dangerous library books, and under the winshield wipers of parked cars.

I think I was about fifteen when I discovered my first Chick tract. It was an anti-evolution piece called Big Daddy and I found it inside a paperback book in the downtown Book Cache in Anchorage, Alaska. Later I found out that Big Daddy is one of his most famous pieces.

Big Daddy? ©2000 by Jack T. Chick LLC

Chick wants to save your soul. His world is an extremely perilous place. Catholics, Freemasons, teachers, the Illuminati, hippies, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Wiccans, intellectuals, and rock musician all work for Satan (either directly or as unwitting dupes) and constantly set traps to snare your soul. Chick’s preaching style is classic hellfire and brimstone and his art resembles 1950’s EC horror comics. The bad guys leer and bellow. Their eyes pop, tendons stand out in their necks, and hands curl like talons. Sweat and spittle explode off their faces with every word. Meanwhile, the clean-cut conservatively dressed good guys maintain a divine—but somewhat smug—calm. These elements have made him a camp icon.

While some of his work is genuinely entertaining and perhaps inspiring to some, much of it has a decidedly nasty edge. His version the grand Satanic conspiracy leans heavily and uncritically on the work of Nesta Webster, an English anti-Semite who did much to create the modern narrative of the Jewish-Masonic-Catholic-Illuminati conspiracy. His brand of anti-Catholicism is the classic American “the Pope is the anti-Christ and the Vatican is the source of all evil” variety (did you know the Vatican invented Islam and Communism? Me neither). He is a strong subscriber to the myth of Christians as a powerless and persecuted minority in the evil modern world.

Jack Chick is the perfect poster child for the danger of extremism. He is apparently a nice man, shy, and polite to his neighbors and is work is so out there that it is easy to ridicule and dismiss. Yet, he speaks for at least some part of the worldview of a lot of Americans. And whether or not his readers buy into his full theological worldview, he familiarizes them with the major elements of far right conspiracy thought. It is possible to entertaining and very dangerous at the same time.

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