Rand Paul, the NoZe Brotherhood, and the TRUTH!
My post of four days ago on "Rand Paul: NoZe Brother" generated a lot of traffic for my blog, or so my site meter informs me. Apparently, people are interested in Mr. Paul and the NoZe Brotherhood, and are probably asking three questions: what's the NoZe Brotherhood, what does the NoZe do, and what did Mr. Paul do as a Brother? For those who are asking a fourth question, namely, who's Rand Paul, well, never mind. I'll answer the other three questions in no particular order.
I can't personally vouch for certain that Mr. Paul was in the NoZe since I graduated from Baylor in 1979, and he entered that university in 1981, according to the online issue of GQ in an article by Jason Zengerle, "GQ Exclusive: Rand Paul's Kooky College Days (Hint: There's a Secret Society Involved)" (August 9, 2010), which proceeds to demonstrate pretty convincingly that Mr. Paul was a Brother:
According to several of his former Baylor classmates, he became a member of a secret society called the NoZe Brotherhood, which was a refuge for atypical Baylor students. "You could have taken 90 percent of the liberal thinkers at Baylor and found them in this small group," recalls Marc Burckhardt, one of Paul's former NoZe Brothers. Sort of a cross between Yale's Skull & Bones and Harvard's Lampoon, the NoZe existed to torment the Baylor administration, which it accomplished through pranks and its satirical newspaper The Rope. The group especially enjoyed tweaking the school's religiosity. "We aspired to blasphemy," says John Green, another of Paul's former NoZe Brothers.That report sounds to me like an entirely authentic depiction of the Brotherhood, except for the part about "liberal thinkers," which is a gross exaggeration, precisely the sort of blanket overstatement that a typical NoZe Brother would make. This blog post, however, is about the TRUTH, so let me correct Mr. Burckhardt on this point. The NoZe was not a political organization, but a satirical one, and it included anybody of any political stripe whatsoever so long as the person was very funny, willing to be utterly outrageous, given to smoking cheap cigars large enough to raise Freudian suspicions, and entirely unafraid to confront authority while garbed out in Groucho Marx nose-glasses, carefully unkempt wigs, and bemedaled tuxedos that had seen better days. That 'dress code' preserved our anonymity -- or rather, our pseudonymity, for we chose individualized NoZe names, which we crafted carefully. My own was "Brother AgNoZetic." One of my close NoZe buddies, a missionary kid, was "Brother NebuchadNoZer." Another couple of NoZes whom I knew well were "KimoNoZe," from Japan, and "UnamuNoZe," a philosophy student. There were many other Brothers with equally inventive names.
And so the NoZe Brothers would perform "Christian" songs like "Rock Around the Cross"; they'd parade around campus carrying a giant picture of Anita Bryant with a large hole cut out of her mouth after the former beauty queen proclaimed oral sex sinful; and they'd run ads for a Waco strip club on the back page of The Rope. In 1978, the Baylor administration became so fed up with the NoZe that it suspended the group from campus for being, in the words of Baylor's president at the time, "lewd, crude, and grossly sacrilegious." During Paul's three years at Baylor, according to former NoZe Brothers, if the administration discovered a student was a member of the NoZe, the punishment was automatic expulsion.
But how did the NoZe Brotherhood get suspended from campus by the Baylor administration? In an article for The Baylor Lariat last year providing a potted history of the Noze, "Brotherhood NoZe no boundaries" (Oct. 23, 2009), Trent Goldston explains:
[A] major reprimand to the NoZe was made in 1978, when they stole the Lariat nameplate and printed a fake Lariat with the headline, "Homecoming Cancelled." The NoZe were . . . forced underground for a time.That bit of information could use a little more detail, so let's see what the January 1979 issue of Texas Monthly had to say at the time, in an article titled "No NoZe is Good NoZe":
[T]he Brotherhood published a fake edition of the Baylor Lariat -- the official, if rather stuffy, student newspaper -- that included the banner headline, HOMECOMING CANCELLED, [and] an account of Bertrand Russell's conversion to the Baptist Faith (he was "impressed by opulence and white shoes") . . .Whoa! What's this about Bertrand Russell? Well, therein lies the TRUE story of how "anyone caught wearing fake NoZes and glasses on campus," as the Texas Monthly noted in the same article, "would be expelled" from Baylor University. I actually wrote a blog entry on this very issue five years ago in a post titled "Down Memory Lane . . . hey, this is a dead end street . . .", and in the interest of TRUTH, I repost some of that entry here today:
[I]n the Fall Semester of 1978, we Noble NoZe Brothers cancelled Homecoming. We printed our fall issue of The Rope -- a parody of the campus paper, The Lariat -- with the bold headline:Readers of Gypsy Scholar can draw their own conclusions about which of the two articles in that fake Lariat might have been the deciding factor in Baylor University's expulsion of the NoZe. I'm told that Pastor Criswell did not at all appreciate the satirical Bertrand Russell article, and that several Baylor trustees were utterly outraged about it as well, but I've always been rather proud of that piece of sharp satire because it was well-honed, accurately aimed, and entirely appropriate in its choice of target. If it was 'blasphemous', then thank God for blasphemy!"Homecoming cancelled"We waited until the campus paper had been delivered to the dormitories early on the Thursday morning before Homecoming, then sneaked around to each dorm and placed hundreds of copies of our parody on top of the newspaper piles. Since we had designed this special Rope to look exactly like a Lariat, the effect was convincing and devastating.
Students really believed that Homecoming had been cancelled. People were weeping, distraught, angry.
We thought it was pretty funny.
The administration was not amused. They banned us from campus. If a NoZe Brother were to appear on campus, he would be faced with arrest.
That just made tweaking the administration's collective nose all the more enjoyable, and it certainly didn't stop us from making our mischievous appearances. We just had to run more quickly, chased by Baylor's Keystone Cops . . .
* * *
Now, I maintain that Baylor expelled us from campus because of the ruse about Homecoming being cancelled, but there is a revisionist view.
In the same issue of that parody, Brother NebuchadNoZer and I (Brother AgNoZetic) published a satire about the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas and its pastor W. A. Criswell. At the time, we had just read a report that Rafael Septien, who was an excellent placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys football team in the late 70s to mid-80s, had recently joined First Baptist Church of Dallas . . . as the 20 thousandth member.
It seemed odd to me that a really famous person would just happen to be number 20,000. After all, that's a two followed by four zeros.
"Look," I told my friend Brother NebuchadNoZer, "they made this guy wait to get baptized so that he would be exactly the 20 thousandth member!"
We decided to satirize that, and for your convenience, I reproduce it here:As I noted above, some revisionist historians point to this satirical piece as the real reason for the NoZe's expulsion from campus. I'm willing to concede that the Bertrand Russell article written by Brother NebuchadNoZer and me may have been one deciding factor.Bertrand Russell joins Baptist faithImpressed by the church's opulence and the pastor's white shoes, Bertrand Russell accepted Christ into his heart as his own personal savior and submitted himself as a candidate for baptism and membership in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, the largest Southern Baptist Church in the entire world.
W. A. Christwell, currently celebrating his 50th year in the ministery, expressed genuine pleasure at the famous atheist's sudden reversal, noting, "We are really pleased to have Bert as one of our congregation; it's always nice to have famous people join our church."
Russell, the 144,000th member at First, followed in the steps of Dallas Cowboy placekicker Rafael Septien.
"I guess I made it by the skin of my teeth," he quipped.
When asked about his surprising move, Russell said, "I was standing gripping the pew in front of me and asking myself why I am not a Christian and I couldn't think of any logical reasons; then it hit me, by God, there are a lot of good benefits to being a Christian, especially in America."
Russell did not elaborate.
But I still think that the Homecoming deception most annoyed the administration.
I would like to point out, however, that Mr. Rand Paul had nothing to do with any of these NoiZome antics and thus can share neither blame nor glory for whatever 'blasphemous' actions the NoZe might or might not have carried out during my days as an active Brother. As for what Mr. Paul himself may have done during his years at Baylor as a NoZe Brother, I know nothing about that, other than what I've read in the news. Rafael Septien, however, who was never a NoZe Brother, eventually proved himself an embarrassment to the First Baptist Church of Dallas.
By the way, for anyone willing to sit through 15 long minutes of NoZe infamy, here are a couple of videos from 1980 showing the NoZe acting out at Laughingstock, apparently a parody of Woodstock but actually a satirical send-up of Baylor for banning the Brotherhood. Mildly amusing NoZe antics, perhaps, but I guess you really had to be there.
Which I wasn't, having already left for Berkeley and the big, wide world . . .