Talk radio, taxes, and the Bible
Conor P. Williams, in Conservatism Isn’t Radical—It’s “Modular”, argues that there is a certain amount of mental jiu-jitsu involved in shifting frameworks from argument to argument. An interesting test of this very case came up this morning with the local radio talk host bringing up the topic of the death penalty in conjunction with a Time Magazine story covering the execution of one Carlos DeLuna, who a 5-year investigation has shown was almost certainly innocent of the crime he was executed for.
The argument from the talk host was that this was about “law and order” (framework #1), “justice” (framework #2), and “a state’s right to fulfill the sentence handed down by the judiciary” (framework #3, which also might involve dog-whistling of racist sentiment regarding court cases such as Leal Garcia v. Texas and Medellin v. Texas). A final framework, “the bible says an eye for an eye”, was brought up by many callers with an insistence that there is no way DeLuna was actually innocent (framework #4 the bible, framework #5 rejection of the results of the very thorough investigation).
One caller attempted to take the biblical framework and apply it more fully. The following is as close to a verbatim notation of their short conversation as I can make, allowing for shaky hands and the fact that podcasts of the show are unavailable. After the final comment, the host cut to a commercial break and dump-buttoned the caller.
Caller: The bible says thou shalt not kill. Jesus routinely stopped executions. Now we have proof that the state killed an innocent man.
Host: Well the bible says follow the law. The bible says an eye for an eye, the bible holds specific punishments and execution for murder is one of them. He was convicted so he can’t have been innocent.
Caller: And why don’t conservatives apply the bible to other things? Deuteronomy clearly says that a court system which gives more weight to the wealthy is unjust and illegal, but our court system definitely does that. The new testament and letters of the apostles talk very clearly about the responsibility of society to take care of the sick and the elderly and the poor, and you want to eliminate all the government programs set up to do that.
Host: The bible doesn’t say to pay taxes. Jesus never said to pay taxes. In fact if you look at your bible Jesus never advocated having a government large enough to do anything to anyone and he definitely didn’t advocate making a government so powerful that it took away people’s freedom of choice. If I want to donate to a church and give money that’s a good thing, but Jesus never advocated the government putting a gun to my head and taking my money and property to give it to some stinky homeless worthless bum.
At this point I was glad for a commercial break – I was quite upset at what I see as a base, ugly misinterpretation or outright misrepresentation of the holy book of my religion. Given that Jesus very clearly endorsed his followers paying their due taxes (Luke 20:25, Mark 12:17, Matthew 22:15; “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…”) at least the bolded part of the host’s claim above was nothing but a bald-faced lie.
After sitting back for a bit, and looking at it through the lens of the framework theory, I think I can see it. It mattered little what the bible actually said at this point in the conversation, as the host’s duty was to enforce – per the framework theory – the jiu-jitsu that the audience was to follow in eliminating any doubt created by the point the caller had made. The way to do this was to re-enforce the “no taxes = freedom” framework regarding government programs and taxation and subsume the biblical framework for the purpose of the topic. A final, new framework was also injected at this point, a sort of monetary-morality theory that seems to pervade right-wing radio (which can be roughly translated as “those who have the money are moral and good, those who lack money are by implication immoral and bad people, you want to have money so that you can be seen as moral and good and you shouldn’t question or criticize those who have money because they are moral and good”).
At least that’s the way I see it. The framework theory seems to hold, though I worry that I’m twisting the theory to fit the conversation, and I’d like to get some alternative thoughts on the matter.