For those of you who don't live in political minutia, the John Edwards presidential campaign recently hired two bloggers, Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon and Melissa McEwan from Shakespeare's Sister, to act as coordinators and liasons for the netroots community. Both have built up sizable readerships and considerable name recognition without any institutional support, rich daddies, etc. Good hires. Good opportunities for two very committed, passionate activist writers. But they're staffers, nothing more.
Both tend to be a bit ... salty in their blog posts. As a man who's dropped a few "fuck"s into the conversation, I can't say they're beyond the pale for blog-discourse. Amanda in particular can be scathing when it comes to women's issues. She does not care much for the institutional policies of the Catholic Church as applied to birth control. Her views are certainly no more extreme than, say pretty much every American Catholic I know. (EDIT: Just to be clear -- Amanda is an atheist, and quite vocal about what she sees as undue influence by religious conservatives of ALL stripes. But the Catholic Church comes under no special consideration, and Catholics as individuals, never. My statement as to her similarity in birth control policy views to most American Catholics of my acquaintance, however, stands.)
Both have been targetted by a particularly spiffy assault by right wing fringies. Amanda gets right under the skin of Michelle Malkin, the semi-famous blogger whose main claim to fame is arguing that interning the Japanese during World War Two was not only a good thing, but we'd better start locking up Muslims toute suite. So, you know, working from very high moral ground. Essentially, she's been DynaGirl to Ann Coulter's ElectroWoman for years, and is just now starting to make her bones.
Malkin whipped her posse of fringe wingnuts into action. The sniping remained stalled in the realm of high-school jealousy and very poor attempts at satire. They read a bunch of Amanda's posts on v-logs, basically screamed that she was unhinged and uncivil (we'll get back to that). But just impotent childishness. Then William Donahue got in on the act.
William Donahue is the President of the Catholic League. He's on A.P., bitching and moaning that Edwards has hired "anti-Catholic bigots." A.P. hungrily sucked that tale up, and now even Time has run a story on this. Edwards is apparently considering firing Marcotte and Melissa based on this complaint.
Now wait one fucking minute.
William Donahue does not speak for Catholics. The Catholic League was founded in the early 70's to fight bigotry towards Catholics. Way to ride the curve. Maybe someday soon we'll have a Catholic President, if they keep up the good work. We can dream.
I've been an Irish Catholic my whole life, and I can honestly say the only time I ever encountered anything like "bigotry" was the occasional crack about priests raping little boys. Just as a sidebar, I'd personally suggest the Catholic Church could have more effectively fought this "bigotry" by not, say, making it an institutionally approved policy to actively cover up for priests who rape little boys. But hey, that's why I don't have a bishopric. The League is considered fringy and right-wing by most Catholics.
But the same thing that keeps Donohue in the press prevents him from becoming truly respectable within the religious community, where his antics are a source of frequent consternation.
Mark Silk, director of the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College said, "He's a thug. He reverts to bullying because he thinks that's what the job entails."
Rev. Mark Massa, a Jesuit priest and co-director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University, accused Donohue of being unable to differentiate between healthy debate and real religious bigotry. "Not everyone who criticizes the church is anti-Catholic," he said.
The editors at the Catholic weekly magazine America seem to agree. In 2000, they chastised Donohue for denouncing movies he hadn't even watched. "While being first may increase one's chances of attracting media attention, there is a danger that the Catholic League reinforces the stereotype that the Catholic Church is at best unreflective and at worst unfairly biased and paranoid," wrote Rev. James Martin. "In the long run, this may do more harm to the church's reputation than a short-lived movie or play."
Last time I checked, the Catholic League claimed membership of about 350,000. Or roughly, twice the monthly sales of the Justice League comic book. Granted, the Justice League has the advantage of Batman and the Red Tornado but it also costs about 3 bucks a month, while membership in the Catholic League is free. So all in all, I'd Fermi out that the constituencies were equal in weight. With 24% of Americans self-identifying as Catholics, spitballing us into 75 million or so American Catholics -- let's just say that if we're not going to listen to the Pope about birth control, Billy Donahue and his mighty 0.5% ain't gonna tell us who to vote for.
Donahue is a professional smear artist who alternates between screaming victimhood about anti-Catholic prejudice and spewing some really choice bigotry which , frankly reinforces stereotypes about Catholics. Not only that, it's not even pure religious fervor: his books are published by the Heritage Foundation. He lets conservative criticism of Catholics pass, he actively campaigned against Kerry, calling voting for Kerry "evil"" -- essentially, he's the Catholic Wing of the Wingnut Welfare Squadron. He's the whole package, kiddies. Let's just take a look at his file over at Media Matters:
We've already won. Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost. [MSNBC, Scarborough Country, 12/8/04]
And THIS is the guy who, when he says "bigot", the mainstream press scurries around to attend to his judgment. Well, he would know. (UPDATE: more choice quotes from Media Matters) I want to make this crystal clear: Bill Donahue is a racist publicity whore. I'm not saying Catholics are racist publicity whores. I'm not saying the Catholic League is made up of racist publicity whores. I am saying the individual Bill Donahue, in the eyes of fellow Catholics and by the evidence of his many public on-the-record statements, is an anti-Semitic gay-bashing publicity whore. With a tiny, tiny following and no real influence in his declared constituency. Why the hell should anyone, anywhere, care what he has to say?
But the mainstream press is just loving this. As noted, Time Magazine picked this up -- and their article is filled with amateurish, blatant inaccuracies. Hey, we're just filthy private citizens, who are we to expect accountability and accuracy from major news magazines? There is now, of course, a hailstorm of concerned, sagacious posting and reporting about these out of control bloggers on the left. The right? Nah, pussycats. None of them ever called for the murder of supreme court judges, or implied treason on the part of all American Muslims, or slagged 9/11 widows, or ...
Listen, there are two points here. First is specific to Edwards. Hey, John? If you can't nut up and fend off a piddly practice-run swiftboating like this, then your campaign is sunk. Say you're proud of your two workers. Like every other boss in the world you don't agree with all the positions of your employees, but that you're not going to fire them based on the arguments of a fringe scandal-mongerer. And say "fringe scandal-mongerer". 2008 is going to be a fucking knife fight, Johnny, and we cannot afford any more "Yes sir, may I have another" Democrats in elections. No one who listens to Bill Donahue is ever, ever going to vote for you, no matter what you do. And those of us Catholics who don't listen to Bill Donahue, the other 99.5% of American Catholics, are a little more concerned with health care and the Iraq War and will forget the name and literary proclivities of one of your many low level staffers before Friday. So you might as well do the right thing.
Second point -- when somebody starts harping on your language, or saying you're crazy, they are trying to marginalize you without engaging your arguments. This is, to be blunt, class warfare. I recently read a fascinating quote by right-wing pundit Dinesh D'Souza, fascinating in how it unintentionally, obliquely, revealing it was:
In response, D’Souza calls for the American right to build a traditional values coalition with what he calls “traditional Muslims,” who abhor both bin Laden and Britney Spears. “Admittedly,” he acknowledges, “some on the right may feel uncomfortable about teaming up with Muslims. Yes, I would rather go to a baseball game or have a drink with Michael Moore than with the grand mufti of Egypt. But when it comes to core beliefs, I’d have to confess that I’m closer to the dignified fellow in the long robe and prayer beads than to the slovenly fellow with the baseball cap.”
Slovenly. You can practically see D'Souza's pert little nose wrinkle up under his pince-nez at this fellow in -- how unfortunate, how very earthy -- a baseball cap. That's the problem, as always -- the peasants are revolting. Now that blogs have given them a publishing voice, why the national discourse is destroyed. When Judith Miller corrupted the New York Times in order to print lies about WMD's and lead us into war, there was nothing to get upset about there, because she didn't say fuck. Everyone's aflutter at the swear words and some clumsy jokes in two relatively unknown women's websites -- they're being called "mentally ill" by the right wing bloggers -- while Dick Cheney subverts the Constitution, billions of dollars go missing in Iraq, habeus corpus is gutted, illegal wiretaps slide into place -- oh, yes, you can disagree with thse things, but don't dare raise your voice. Why, it brings on the vapors.
Class war on many levels, some of it institutional, some of it pettily personal. You see, if just anybody can express an opinion, then the professionals aren't special anymore. And a lot of them spent their entire lives getting into the special club. They're taken seriously, now, mister, they're on TV and they wear ties and make speeches and just because you somehow managed to get an audience without any help doesn't mean you're going to strip them of their Heathers-like victory. No sir. Some have even managed to get semi-famous by sucking up to the pros, making "civility" their whole mission, covering that flank for them.
If we're uncivil, it's because we're angry. Because being polite, and reasonable, and taking it in the fucking neck for the last six years got us nowhere. People swear, my MOM swears, this is how real people talk -- it ain't quite as pretty as how the professionally trained pundits and journalists and politicians speak, but I'm still not quite sure how my saying "fuckwit" is worse than outing a CIA agent or cutting VA funds during a war or stop-lossing National Guardsmen.
Some professional bigot says that as a Hollywood writer, I love anal sex and abortions and hate families, he slams my many Jewish friends, he can say that on national TV ... and I'm supposed to cluck my tongue and pen a thoughtful rebuttal, citing the many academic studies documenting the number of sodomy-free hours on the Fox lot?
Spider Jerusalem cannot get here fast enough.
It's not like I'm standing on a pristine hill and saying it's time to piss down the immaculate green slopes. We're in a memetic fight with the bullies of greed, of social control, of bigotry, of fear, we've been in it for years. I personally am sick of some Administration official telling an outright lie on television, or some pundit spewing racism that you wouldn't accept at a barbecue, and the liberal on the split-screen coughs and moves on to his next bloodless talking point.
Fill your hands, you sons a bitches.