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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 40: Rude, Prude, and (Definitely Not) Tattooed

Are people who get tattoos or body piercings in league with the devil and Charles Manson? At least one WorldNetDaily writer thinks so.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/1/2006

WorldNetDaily is not just anti-tattoo, it's anti-anyone who has one. Or has pierced anything other than an ear (and it might be against that, too).

There has been a sudden spate of WND articles likening body modification to homosexuality, the devil, and even Charles Manson.

We kid you not. What apparently started all this is the idea that people might oppose getting fired from a job because of their tattoos or piercings. An Oct. 20 "news" article by Joseph Farah started off ostensibly about employers being sued for discrimination against employees with tattoos and piercing -- of which Farah cites only one example. But then, it quickly devolves into a screed against body modification.

Farah declares, "Children -- both boys and girls -- are staining their bodies with the permanent ink for no better reason than 'everybody is doing it' or 'I thought the picture was cool.' It's not just an urban thing any more, either," and laments that "[t]he tattoo taboo is definitely breaking down." And in case Farah's rant was somehow too subtle, his article is accompanied by pictures of extreme examples of modification, such as a woman whose face is tattooed and a man who has had demonic horn-like indentations implanted in his forehead. 

Farah also makes an inflammatory guilt-by-association claim for which he offers no evidence for: After noting the existence of "children's books like 'Mommy Has a Tattoo' and the 'Tattoo Coloring Book,' " Farah claimed:

Just as "Heather Has Two Mommies" is now required reading for kindergartners in some school districts, how long will it be before the tolerance police mandate Phil Padwe's new books. He's the author and illustrator of the two new children's books on tattoos. 

So, getting tattoos is the same thing as being homosexual? And, of course, Farah never names the "some" school districts in which "Heather Has Two Mommies" is "required reading." (And how many kindergarteners read, anyway?)

An Oct. 20 WorldNetDaily article by Joseph Farah used these extreme pictures as representative of all people who get tattoos.

Such anti-tattoo paranoia is not new at WND: A January 2004 article by David Kupelian -- which also appears in his book "The Marketing of Evil" a book filled such paranoid attacks on culture, as ConWebWatch has detailed -- went after today's "insane" youth culture by lumping tattoos and "earrings for males" with "[r]itual scarification and 3D-art implants ... genital beading, stretching and cutting, transdermal implants, scrotal implants, tooth art and facial sculpture," not to mention branding, tongue-splitting and non-medical amputations.

Kupelian also throws "bug-chasing" -- people who purportedly deliberately try to get infected with the HIV virus -- into the mix, citing a January 2003 Rolling Stone article on the subject. But that article has been mostly debunked; its central claim that 25 percent of new gay male HIV infections are due to bug-chasing merely one doctor's estimate and not substantiated by research. Further, according to an article by David Salyer, the article quotes only "a grand total of two" self-proclaimed bug chasers, "one of who is undeniably mentally disturbed and quoted under a pseudonym -- hardly representative of a trend."

Of course, no Kupelian rant is complete without blaming the ills he writes about on the Clintons, and here he drops in a reference to "a traumatized, amoral sociopath of a baby-boomer named Bill Clinton," adding: "If you don't think Bill Clinton's escapades with Monica – covered by the media like the Super Bowl – had everything to do with the explosion of middle-school sexual adventures across America, then open your eyes."

An Oct. 1 WND article promoting "The Marketing of Evil" featured a testimonial from "a veteran of the body modification movement – a professional body piercer deeply involved in today's radical and often-shocking youth culture" who claims the book caused him to experience a "personal transformation after reading the same Kupelian chapter on youth culture." The writer goes into guilt-by-association mode, asserting a slippery slope from ear-piercing to "self-inflicted castrations, lobotomies, amputations, disfigurement of every conceivable nature":

You see, it starts so innocently, so pure with a simple labret or cage in the ear ... but in the tinniest increments it turns darker and darker until we are far beyond the innocence and purity of our beginnings.

If only the slippery slope was the only guilt-by-association attack WND launched. Farah's article was followed by an Oct. 24 column by Richard D. Ackerman, who kicks the guilt-by-association into high gear: After noting that "49 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 to 29" have gotten a tattoo, he writes:

Isn't it just grand to think that 49 percent of our young adults are doing just what Charles Manson, war-torn veterans, convicts, primitive tribal members, rogue bikers, drug addicts and the like have done to themselves?

Frankly, it makes little sense that one would want to mimic the behaviors of people who voluntarily hurt themselves and find no other positive way of expressing themselves except through pain, bleeding and permanent scars.

The irony, of course, is that Ackerman describes himself as "[b]edecked with dragons, skulls, a burning cross, a unicorn, and other mystical images." But he has repented -- he's now a lawyer and the president of the Pro-Family Law Center -- and he considers his tattoos "images of alcoholism, drug abuse, abortion, my Gen-X culture, a disconnect to God, and a desire to express myself through silent rebellion against God and society."

Indeed, Ackerman insists that tattoos, piercings and body modifications are evil:

Body modification always starts off with the premise that ‘I need to express myself.' As with all things evil, self-interest is never a good starting point for any human endeavor. When one modifies the body, it is always to garner attention to the self at the expense of another.

He further states that the devil is likely involved in the choice to get a tattoo (after eliminating the possiblility of "evolution or natural selection" as a motivating factor), because God isn't:

Thus, we are left with the possibility that our God, the devil, or culture led him to do this. Given the Biblical precept that the body should be kept pure and without marking, the idea that God silently drove Jon to the tattoo parlor seems unlikely to me. However, I am open to the other two related alternatives.

One thing, however, is missing from Ackerman's column: a little disclosure. Ackerman, formerly with the U.S. Justice Foundation, represented WND in its fight to obtain a permanent Senate Press Gallery pass. And as ConWebWatch has noted, in 2003 and 2004, WND promoted Ackerman's plight when, while at USJF, he was sanctioned by a judge for filing "frivolous" charges against Planned Parenthood affiliates and faced purportedly "crippling sanctions" of up to $75,000 in fines. (Ackerman returned the favor by sucking up to WND, calling it "fair, equal and balanced" and a provider of "truthful, accurate and timely information.")

One has to wonder if WND's tattoo tirade is less out of conviction than out of a need for a new victim to abuse -- past targets have included gays, Hollywood and adulterers. Despite such an illustrious list, WND apparently needed someone else to demonize.

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