Posted: December 3, 2020 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Military, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, election fraud claims, GOP election officials, Ivanka Trump, Jim Inhofe, Joe diGenova, Mike Pence, narcissistic supply, newsstand art, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Nixon, Trump crimes, Woodrow Wilson
Painting by Paul Renard
On Tuesday, I asked if we will ever be free of Trump and his demands for narcissistic supply–even after we pry him out of the White House. At The Atlantic, two writers argue that Trump is already losing his battle to remain the center of attention.
David A. Graham: Trump Is Rapidly Becoming Irrelevant.
To a remarkable degree, people have already stopped paying attention to the 45th president.
The past few weeks have offered a preview of what Donald Trump’s post-presidency might look like: The president fulminates at length, playing pundit, but is a practical nonfactor in policy discussions. He can still command the affection of millions—and raise millions of dollars from them—but the balance of the country has already moved on and tuned out. Trump’s ability to command the news cycle has been eclipsed by the virus he couldn’t be bothered to stop and the rival candidate he couldn’t beat.
Graham notes that we still must be alert to Trump’s efforts to damage our democratic institutions and policies.
His election-related efforts are sputtering: Trump has watched while state after state certifies election wins for Biden. He has watched as dozens of judges have punted long-shot lawsuits out of court. He watched as dye ran down Rudy Giuliani’s face in a news conference that was somehow both jaw-droppingly insane and jaw-clenchingly dull. Having exhausted nearly every option, the Trump legal effort has now resorted to recycling old, failed gambits. With the Electoral College meeting on December 14, the end is in sight.
The relevant description of Trump’s role is “watching.” The president has long been an obsessive TV viewer, but without a campaign to run and with no events on his schedule, there is less to distract him from the tube—and his gripes about Fox News and praise for the network’s smaller rivals, Newsmax and One America News….
Paris in the Rain, by Dan McCole
He is now back to feeding his followers a steady diet of false and misleading claims about the election results, though it is difficult to tell whether he really believes his claims, is just processing his grief, is simply taking advantage of a lucrative fundraising opportunity, or some combination thereof.
This punditry will likely be the central element of Trump’s post-presidency. Armed with his Twitter following and perhaps a cable-news show or even channel, Trump will be able to spout off to his heart’s content….
Trump’s diminishing relevance over the past 10 days is a good preview of what to expect come late January. Trump won’t go away entirely, and he certainly won’t get quiet, but fewer Americans will listen to or care about what he has to say. They’ve voted with their ballots, and now they’ll vote with their attention.
Yascha Mounk: Why Trump Might Just Fade Away. Americans will soon grow tired of the president, despite his efforts to stay in the limelight.
Trump’s veneer of invincibility is fading. He lost his bid for reelection, and staged the most incompetent coup attempt since Woody Allen’s Bananas. He can rant and rave about what happened in November, but he can’t keep his followers from seeing Joe Biden inaugurated in January. Fear of what he might attempt next is giving way to laughter. He looks weaker and more scared by the day.
When Oprah Winfrey left her show to start her own network, she was the biggest star on television. Many analysts predicted that her new venture would be a huge success. At the time, some press reports even suggested that bosses at the main broadcast networks were seriously worried about the competition.
Contrary to these expectations, the Oprah Winfrey Network struggled to find an audience. In the first years of its existence, it bled tens of millions of dollars. Today, OWN has established a stable niche for itself, and even makes a little profit. But with an average viewership of fewer than 500,000 people in 2018, it plays in a completely different league from the four major networks and the most commercially successful cable channels.
This should serve as a warning to anybody who is now fielding pitches to invest in the Trump News Network. If Trump follows the lead of other authoritarian populists like Hugo Chávez and hosts a regular television program, he can undoubtedly induce his most devoted fans to tune in. But to be commercially viable, his channel would have to expand that core audience, recruit other hosts who are capable of sustaining the public’s attention, hire journalists who can actually cover what is going on in the world, and attract advertising from run-of-the-mill corporations.
Mounk argues that Republicans are unlikely to supports Trump’s plans for another presidential run in 2024, even if he is capable of carrying if off four years from now and it’s likely that most Americans will be sick of his antics by then, if they aren’t already.
Times Square Station, by Louis Ebarb
Another Atlantic writer, Timothy Noah suggests that we may learn much more about Trump’s time as “president” after he leaves office: The Trump You’ve Yet to Meet. Just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out.
How well do we know Donald Trump? Pretty well, it would seem. Nobody has ever accused the outgoing president of possessing a complex personality. His behavior in office confirmed the common view, barely disputed even by his allies, that he is a shallow narcissist, blind or indifferent to common decencies, with poor impulse control and a vindictive streak. His futile attempt to litigate away electoral defeat may appall you, but it probably doesn’t surprise you.
Still, just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out. Journalists like to pretend that we know everything about a president in real time, but our information is never close to complete. There’s always more to learn, and it’s seldom reassuring.
Americans had no idea until after he left office how completely Woodrow Wilson depended on his wife, Edith, after he suffered a stroke in September 1919; she waited two decades to admit in her memoirs that, on instructions from Wilson’s doctors, she’d winnowed his written communications with Cabinet members and senators, digesting and reframing “in tabloid form those things that … had to go to the president.”
Nor did Americans learn until a decade after his death that John F. Kennedy, a much less devoted family man than Life magazine let on, shared a mistress (sequentially if not concurrently) with the Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana, whom the CIA recruited in one of several harebrained plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Then there’s Richard Nixon. Americans knew many shameful things about Nixon thanks to the Watergate investigation that prompted his resignation. But only after he left office did we learn, for instance, that Nixon ordered an aide to compile a list of Jews who worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics so he could demote some of them.
Noah lists many possibilities for how we will learn more about Trump and his time in the White House. I hope you’ll read the whole thing. Some possible sources of information and questions to be answered:
Trump, for all his talk about loyalty, has never commanded much from the people who work for him. No visible bonds of affection or respect bind Trump to his employees, leaving fear the sole motivation for keeping the troops in line. (See Cohen, Michael.) Most of that fear will evaporate by January 20, by which time trade publishers may be turning away proposals for tell-all books lest they create a market glut. Unlike the previous two administrations, which were somewhat difficult for reporters to penetrate, the Trump White House leaked like a sieve. Après lui, le déluge….
Digital art by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.
How close did we come to war with North Korea when Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on Kim Jong Un? After Trump decided instead to become the first president to meet with Kim, how close did Trump come to agreeing to remove U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula?
Exactly how much revenue did Trump properties collect from the federal government during his presidency? How much from people seeking to influence Trump’s presidency?
Who has received promises from Trump that they’ll be pardoned? Did Trump promise in advance to commute Roger Stone’s sentence?
What were the domestic arrangements in the Trump White House? Can Melania and Barron really be said to have lived there, or did they spend more time in their New York apartment, or at her parents’ house in Maryland, where Barron went to school?
Did White House aides observe signs of mental decline in Trump related to aging?
Some stories from today’s news that suggest Trump’s power to control the narrative and intimidate fellow Republicans is fading:
The Daily Beast: Mike Pence Backs Away From the Trump Election ‘Fraud’ Train Wreck.
Vice President Mike Pence has been a go-to fundraising draw for the president’s campaign, and since October, no more than a day passed without his name emblazoning a fundraising email for the Trump reelect.
But that changed late last month. Since Nov. 25, not a single fundraising email from the Trump campaign or its Republican National Committee fundraising account has featured Pence’s name in the “from” field. And this week, that Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, made another subtle change: a handful of its emails swapped out the official Trump-Pence campaign logo for one featuring just the president’s name….
Newspaper Kiosk in Bologna, Italy, photo by Fillippo Carlot
Several high-level sources say that the graphics change, along with Pence’s disappearance from the headers of President Donald Trump’s increasingly frantic and conspiratorial pleas, are not actually coincidental. According to four people with knowledge of the matter, they reflect an effort by the vice president and his team to distance Pence from some of the president’s more outlandish claims about a conspiracy to undermine the election and illegally deny him a second term in office.
“It is an open secret [in Trumpworld] that Vice President Pence absolutely does not feel the same way about the legal effort as President Trump does,” said a senior administration official. “The vice president doesn’t want to go down with this ship…and believes much of the legal work has been unhelpful.”
Axios: Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told President Trump on Wednesday he’ll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: “This is the only chance to get our bill passed,” a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.
Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump’s threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.
The backstory: Inhofe leveled with Trump — over speakerphone while walking through the Senate’s Russell Building — that the bill won’t meet his demand to repeal liability protections for tech companies, or block efforts to re-title military bases named for Confederate figures.
The Washington Post reports on the public disgrace of a Trump sycophant: Joseph diGenova resigns from Gridiron Club after saying fired cybersecurity official should be shot.
Joseph diGenova, the Trump campaign lawyer who had been a fixture in Washington legal circles for decades, resigned under pressure Tuesday from the elite Gridiron Club after an uproar over his comments suggesting a former government official should be executed.
DiGenova later said he was joking when he made the comments about Christopher Krebs, the federal cybersecurity official who was fired by President Trump after asserting that the 2020 election was secure and free of widespread voter fraud. “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs . . . .” diGenova said on the conservative “Howie Carr Show” on Monday. “He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”
Still, the White House denounced the statement, Krebs said he would consider legal action — and the 135-year-old Gridiron Club asked diGenova to step down.
Painting by Vlad Yeliseyev
Ivanka in legal trouble? CNN: Ivanka Trump was deposed Tuesday in DC attorney general’s inauguration lawsuit.
Posted: April 9, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: 2020 Census racial identifications, attacks, israel, Oprah Winfrey, Palestine, Syria, The Victims of Lynching Memorial, Toxic Masculinity, Tribes
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I seem hard wired to avoid the caves and to wander the plains and mountains. For this, I believe I have my mother to thank. I imagine lurking some where in my family are Irish ‘traveller’ genes but who knows. I do not understand people who find one location and surround themselves with sameness. The lily white Midwestern suburbans filled with snotty WASPS were a prison to me. My mother’s insistence we travel frequently was the only thing that saved me, we used to stay at Marriott hotels all the time. It showed me there was more to people and life than a backyard prison.
Later, as a young mother, I unfortunately discovered way too late–because of promises of other things–that I basically married a potted plant who wanted nothing more than to drag to and from work day in and day out. The sofa was the center of life. I got some pleasure in taking my summers off and taking baby Doctor Daughter on the road. That worked until my parents moved back to the prison and I was surrounded by boring sameness day in and day out. It felt like being entombed in a cavern surrounded by slugs, potted plants, and narrowness in a world ruled without color or the discovery of abstract art and erotica. This came home as an astounding lesson with my inoperable cancer diagnosis at 34 and a six month old baby. I was not going to let my children suffer the same fate. They needed more back yard to play about and I would give them that for as long as I could live.
The word that best describes the circumstances of my youth is people attached to “homophilly”. It literally means the “love of the same.” It is the tendency of people with similar characteristics to congregate. That pretty much describes the WASP enclave that ensconced me. Same boring stuff day in and day out. My mother drove us to Pow Wows. She stuck us in station wagons and campers to search the far corners of the American West. We eventually landed in Europe. These were all places where I would dream I would have the courage to run away into so I would never EVER have to go back. My cousin who moved to NYC to do Broadway was my siren. She led me to believe that one day I would escape. History taught the progress of human kind was to leave caves and tribes to build cities. American History taught the American spirit is to get out there to discover and explore and build something new. None of this included the iconography of firmly planted sofas.
But, firmly planted sofas in limited areas show us that our tribal roots are still lurking. These lead to dark times, genocides, war, and oppression. I was looking at the various news items I’ve collected for today trying to find some theme. You’re probably wondering at this point too. I think therefore, I babble. Unfortunately, it all seems to be an expression of our primal fear of other and the desire of so many to huddle into a tribe based on iron age mythologies, the social constructs of race, sexuality and gender roles, and the dark side of homophilly. If we only love the same, do we also have to adapt the hate of the different?
I have two items of interest on the construct of separating humanity by race. First, is this new classification system for Black people living in the USA. How do you elect to be “just black”? From NPR: “2020 Census Will Ask Black People About Their Exact Origins”. Why is this necessary? Furthermore, a lot of us either came or were drug over way back and don’t know, a lot of us are a blend of all kinds of things, and why should the government be focused on which part of what continent spawned our ancestors?
For the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau is changing how it will ask black people to designate their race. Under the check box for “Black or African American,” the bureau is adding a new space on the census questionnaire for participants to write in their non-Hispanic origins, according to a recent memo from the head of the 2020 census. “African American,” “Jamaican” and “Nigerian” are listed as examples of origins on a questionnaire the bureau is testing for 2020.
The change means many black people in the U.S. may have to take a closer look at their family trees to answer what can be a thorny question: Where are you really from? While many black immigrants can cite ties to a specific country, that question is difficult, if not impossible, for many U.S.-born African-Americans to answer.
The bureau has not responded to NPR’s questions about why it is making this change to both the “Black” category and the “White” category,” which will also include a new write-in area for origins.
But researchers at the bureau have said they have been trying to respond to requests for “more detailed, disaggregated data for our diverse American experiences as German, Mexican, Korean, Jamaican, and myriad other identities.” (The bureau was considering an overhaul to all racial categories that would have added check boxes for the largest ethnic groups and a write-in area for smaller groups. But it would require the Trump administration’s approval of an Obama-era proposal to change the federal standards on race and ethnicity data, which census experts say the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is not likely to move forward.)
My WASPY family has our family tree detailed out to when the first of whatever line came from where ever but only because my mother got obsessed with researching it decades ago as a hobby. And, this details one important distinction. Every one of my ancestors arrived here of their own volition. None of them were kidnapped and enslaved. None of them were here already where they were frequently murdered and driven from their lands. How does this information do anything positive?
Sebastian Junger wrote a book called “Tribe” that was published in 2016. He argued that on some level having wars and enemies is something humans enjoy because it gives us a sense of belonging. I can’t imagine needing that enough to be violent and oppressive to others. But, I see it in Trump’s White Nationalist cult and realize it has a draw.
During John Ford’s celebrated western film The Searchers, John Wayne’s character spends years hunting for his niece Debbie, kidnapped as a child by Comanche Indians.
When he finally finds her, she initially wants to stay with her Comanche husband rather than return home.
Although shocking in the film, it’s historically accurate. White people captured by American Indians (author Sebastian Junger’s preferred name for Native Americans) commonly chose to stay with their captors – and the book cites a case of a captive woman who hid from her would-be rescuers.
Even more astonishingly, from the earliest days of Europeans in America, settlers of both sexes ran away to join Indian tribes. This wasn’t just a few people, it was hundreds and hundreds. The practice was so rife that in the early 1600s settler leaders made it an offence with harsh punishments, but over the following centuries people still ran off in huge numbers.
And it hardly ever happened the other way. Indians didn’t want to join white society.
The attraction, argues Junger, was the sense of community, the importance of the tribe, evident in other primates and in primitive human societies. The superficial attractions of American Indian life were obvious: sexual mores were more relaxed, clothing was more comfortable, religion less harsh.
But mostly it was the structure of Indian society that appealed. It was less hierarchical, essentially classless and egalitarian. As the people were nomadic, personal property hardly mattered, since it was limited to what you or your horses could carry.
What changed this natural way of living for humans was first agriculture, then industry. Accumulation of personal property led to people doing what they thought best for themselves, rather than for the common good. But, suggests Junger, we’re not happy like this. We’re wired to the lifestyle of the tribe.
So tribal connectedness really doesn’t need the social construct of race, and yet it frequently and murderously oppressively does. From CBS: “Why 60 Minutes aired photos of lynchings in report by Oprah. The reason behind the broadcast’s decision to show graphic photographs of lynchings in this week’s report by contributor Oprah Winfrey”.
This week on 60 Minutes, Oprah Winfrey gets an early look at the memorial, which will open to the public on April 26. The memorial contains 805 steel markers, one for each county where lynchings occurred for more than 70 years following the Civil War. The markers are suspended in air to evoke the horror of being hanged.
To tell that story on 60 Minutes, Winfrey and a team of producers felt it was important to show historical photos of lynchings, images that are likely to disturb many viewers. In an interview with 60 Minutes Overtime, Denise Schrier Cetta, the producer of the story, and Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the broadcast, explain their decision to air such upsetting photographs.
“I don’t think the story exists without those photos,” Fager says. News executives have a tendency to self-censor too much, he says, out of concern that viewers will be turned off. For him, the decision to show the photos was about reporting important facts about a little-known but important chapter of history.
“That’s reality; that’s what happened,” he tells 60 Minutes Overtime’s Ann Silvio in the video above. “Our story is about a part of history, really almost 80 years of American history, that isn’t in the history books. We don’t see these pictures. We don’t talk about it.”
One photograph that surprises Fager the most is an image of a crowd that showed up in Waco, Texas to watch the lynching of a man named Jesse Washington. The hanging tree stands in the center of the photograph, Washington’s tortured body lies beneath it, and hundreds of well-dressed white people look on.
“I really thought most lynchings were in the cover of night and Klan outfits, and not that it was a part of life to that degree—that the town would turn out to watch it happen in broad daylight,” says Fager, who feels that many viewers will learn a lot from the story.
The Guardian previews a book written on the idea of how tribe of masculine warps young boys. The author of The Shepard’s Hut is an Australian Surfer. “About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny. In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight.”
There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
So what really got me thinking about all of this and finding thread was this late news and the news of IDF snipers targeting children (male) and journalists in an attack on Gaza during protests near the wall. This is from The BBC about some of the oldest tribes defined by religion still left: “Syria conflict: Israel blamed for attack on airfield”. People of the Jewish faith have been targets of tribal hostilities for so many thousands of years it’s hard to believe. And yet, they are still capable of these things. At first, we thought the US was attacking Syria based on the chemical attacks. Instead, it was a rogue(?) Israel.
Monday’s attack hit the Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near the city of Homs. Observers say 14 people were killed.
Israel, which has previously hit Syrian targets, has not commented. Syria initially blamed the US for the strike.
The incident comes amid international alarm over an alleged chemical attack on a Syrian rebel-held town. The US and France had threatened to respond.
Reportedly, there were Russians and Iranians there. From The Israeli Times a few months back: IDF accuses Iran of setting up air base outside Syrian city of Palmyra.
The Israeli military on Saturday accused Iran of controlling an airbase outside the Syrian city of Palmyra, from which the army said the Iranian drone that was shot down over northern Israel earlier in the day was launched.
“Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Saturday night.
So, it likely was an attack based on a response to that. It’s just hard to know these days.
This comes on the back of two items posted to Facebook feeds from two separate Jewish Friends. It’s quite odd, but within in my WASPY cocoon it was quite acceptable for me to have many Jewish friends as long as I didn’t try to have a Jewish boyfriends. My mother actually got a call from an angry grandmother matriarch telling her that I needed to leave them to Jewish girls once in high school. In my neck of WASPishness dating Catholics was much more suspect. Especially, if they came from Eastern European or Southern European roots. I wasn’t even allowed to pierce my ears because I’d look like some immigrant baby. See, the rules of tribalism can be very fickle as well as stupid.
From WAPO: “He was wearing a vest marked ‘PRESS.’ He was shot dead covering a protest in Gaza.”
Yaser Murtaja had often filmed from the sky, but he never lived to fulfill his dream of flying on an airplane through the clouds.
The young journalist shot drone images and video for Ain Media, a small Gaza-based news agency he started five years ago. Just two weeks ago, he posted an aerial photo of Gaza City’s port on Facebook. “I wish that the day would come to take this shot when I’m in the air and not on the ground,” he wrote. “My name is Yaser Murtaja. I’m 30 years old. I live in Gaza City. I’ve never traveled!”
It was one of his last posts.
Murtaja, who was married and had a 2-year-old son, died Saturday after being shot the day before while covering protests at the edge of the Gaza Strip.
His work had appeared on networks such as Al Jazeera, and in 2016 he worked as a cameraman for Ai Weiwei’s documentary, “Human Flow,” which covered the global refugee crisis, including Palestinians in Gaza. The Chinese visual artist posted photos of Murtaja on his Instagram account on Saturday.
And there as this: “Israeli Citizens Watch As Their Military Attacks Unarmed Palestinians”.
As violence continues to rage along the Israel-Gaza border, an Israeli reporter shared a photo that could only be described as inhumane.
“Best show in town. Residents of Nahal Oz in the stands,” read the caption for the image that showed a group of young Israeli spectators sitting on an observation tower near the Israel-Gaza border line, watching and waving as unarmed Palestinians got brutally murdered and wounded at the hands of Israeli troops.
The images were later shared by Reuters as well.
From Haaretz: “The Cold Calculation Behind the Israeli Army’s Sniper Fire on the Gaza Border. The politicians instructed the military to prevent a breach of the fence, but it’s doubtful that they held detailed discussions about the means to achieve this.”
Testimonies of correspondents on the Israeli side about the rate of firing and Palestinian reports of 800 people wounded attest to quite permissive orders given to the snipers. Even when the area is divided into sectors, commanded by senior officers, an area commander has no close control over the sharpshooters’ every shot. This situation leaves a lot to the discretion of relatively young soldiers, even though they were reinforced by more veteran police and Border Police snipers. The number of casualties was in accordance with these circumstances.
The number of fatalities yet again underscores Israel’s long-standing failure – commented on by the State Comptroller in 2003 and 2017 – to develop nonlethal measures which would be effective in dispersing demonstrations and marches from a relatively large distance.
There seems to be a huge human cost to feeling that sense of belonging you get from a Tribe. And don’t even get my started about the many other gangs and such I’ve written about in the past.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Posted: May 23, 2015 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Arkansas Department of Human Services, Bill Gothard, christian cults, Duggar family, Jim Bob Duggar, Jim Hutchens, Josh Duggar, MIcah Murray, Oprah Winfrey, The Learning Channel
The Duggar family
I decided last night that I was going to write about the Duggar family today, but I’m really resisting getting started. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading about Josh Duggar, the Duggar family, and Bill Gothard, who heads the home schooling/religious cult they follow.
I’m beginning to realize that I should be watching more television. I pretty much broke the TV habit back in 2008 when I wanted to avoid all the Hillary hate, and I’ve never really gotten back to watching regularly. I’ve never watched a reality TV show, and now I think I should have been checking them out selectively so I would know what’s going on in popular culture.
I come from the days of situation comedies like I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, and Bob Newhart. When did TV become so sick and strange? Does it trace back to those awful talk shows that used to be on–the ones that brought on weird people to be mocked by the audience?
Everyone knows by now that one of the Duggar children, Josh Duggar has been revealed to have molested four of his sisters and another girl 12 years ago. Josh is now married with his own children, who are certainly in danger.
Here are the essentials of the scandal, based on a police report obtained by In Touch magazine, which broke the news a couple of days ago.
Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were interview by the Springdale Police department on Dec. 12, 2006. The report says that James told police he was alerted in March, 2002 by a female minor that Josh — who turned 14-years-old that month — had been touching her breasts and genitals while she slept. This allegedly happened on multiple occasions. In 2006, Jim Bob told police that in July, 2002 Josh admitted to fondling a minor’s breasts while she slept. “James said that they disciplined (redacted, Josh) after this incident.” The family did not alert authorities.
Jim Bob told police that about nine months later in March, 2003 “there was another incident.” Josh was again accused by a female minor of touching her breasts and genitals. Josh was accused by several minors of touching their genitals, often when they slept, but at times when they were awake.
Children of The Family cult from Australia
Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”
He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.
Asked about the training center that Jim Bob said Josh was sent to, Michelle told police, according to the report, “it was not really a training center. Det. [Darrell] Hignite asked if the guy [redacted, Josh] talked to was a certified counselor. She said no. She said it was a guy they know in Little Rock that is remodeling a building. Det. Hignite asked if the guy was more of a mentor. She said “kind of.”
So basically, the kid was sent to do some construction work, presumably on assumption that he didn’t have enough to do with his hands? And what about the girls? What help did they receive for their traumatic experiences?
The Duggars told police that Josh “apologized” to the female minors and that they had “forgiven” him.
An alleged victim told police in 2006 that Josh had told “mother and dad what had happened… (and) asked for forgiveness.” The report notes the alleged victim says Josh “sought after God and had turned back to God.
Josh Duggar and growing family
Oh. And then there’s this:
Jim Bob told police in 2006 that when Josh returned home in 2003, Jim Bob, accompanied by some of his church elders, took Josh to Arkansas State Trooper, Jim Hutchens. Jim Bob knew Hutchens personally. Hutchens did not take any official action and instead gave Josh a “very stern talk.” As In Touch magazine reports exclusively in this week’s issue, Hutchens is now serving 56-years in prison for child pornography. He took no action on the Duggar case.
Again, why were these sick people ever on TV? I don’t understand, and I’m realizing I need to become more aware of what’s happening. It’s just unbelievable to me that religious cults are being promoted on what are supposedly publicly-owned airwaves!
From Jezabel: The Duggars Aren’t Just a Family, They’re a Cult, by Tracie Egan Morrissey.
It’s also noteworthy that Josh’s history of sexual assault has been known by plenty of people since at least 2006 when Oprah Winfrey learned about it and reported him to the Arkansas Department of Human Services? Are we to believe that The Learning Channel didn’t find out about this before now? Come on!
The other important fact about the Duggars is that they are active participants in a “christian” cult, which was headed by Bill Gothard until he was forced to resign over accusations of sexual abuse of young girls. From the Washington Post: Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations.
Bill Gothard, an Illinois-based advocate for home schooling and conservative dress who warned against rock music and debt, has resigned from the ministry he founded after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at his ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.
Gothard’s resignation from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, according to a letter sent to families affiliated with the ministry he founded, comes a week after he was put on administrative leave. According to an organizer involved in the whistle-blowing website Recovering Grace, 34 women told the website they had been sexually harassed; four women alleged molestation….
Gothard’s ministry had been a popular gathering spot for thousands of Christian families, including the Duggar family from TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting.” Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute conferences were also popular among families within the Quiverfull movement, who eschew birth control and promote big families.
Gothard has also rubbed shoulders with Republican leaders. He and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee were photographed at a campaign lunch together; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue spoke at one of Gothard’s conferences; and Sarah Palin, when she was a small town mayor in Alaska, attended his International Association of Character Cities conferences declaring Wasilla among Gothard’s “Cities of Character.”
From an insider:
On Growing Up in Bill Gothard’s Homeschool Cult, by Micah Murray
We talked about how it was a cult, joking at first. Outsiders could point and accuse and question, but we knew that it wasn’t what it looked like.
Yes, we were often mistaken for Mormon missionaries. Yes, the red neckscarves were reminiscent of Nazi youth. Yes, we knew that sometimes we were simply trotted out as props for political stunts. We knew, and we joked about it. Don’t worry, it’s not what it looks like.
I remember saying, more seriously than joking, “If this is brainwashing, it feels good to be brain clean.”
But as I spiraled closer and closer to to the center, the realization began to sink in. The jokes became real.
“Cult-like”, sure. I’d call it that. Authoritarian, legalistic, overbearing. But not a real cult.
The worst thing about brainwashing is that you can’t see it for what it is. You never think you’re in a cult when you’re in a cult.
Until the day you can’t deny the reality of what you’ve seen, what you lived. Until the day you speak out loud what your mind has known for a while,
“I grew up in a cult.”
And now, perhaps, “I grew up in a cult run by a sexual predator.”
Read more of Murray’s story at his website (link above).
Duggar girls with serial abuser Bill Gothard
After the revelations about Gothard, JM Bishop wrote at The Powder Room: How are the Duggars dealing with the Gothard sex scandal?
If there is anything that the Duggars love more than tater tot casserole and Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray, it is the Institute of Basic Life Principles (which is the umbrella organization that runs, among other things, the Advanced Training Institute, providing homeschoolers with a Bible Based curriculum, including the promotion of ideas around Young Earth Creation), the organization founded by fallen leader, Bill “Grabby Hands” Gothard. And why does he deserve this delightful moniker? Bill has harassed and assaulted many women in his organization. In response, the Duggars’ increasingly glamorous fundamentalist sheen is perhaps being used to distract us from his multitude of sins.
So let’s start with who Bill Gothard is. Bill Gothard is the famously unmarried, 79 year old head of an organization which emphasizes women’s Godly obedience to men within the confines of marriage and separateness from potentially harmful secular influences, like public school, television or the democratic party. Micah J. Murray, who grew up in “Bill Gothard’s homeschool cult,” wrote that Bill Gothard cultivated an atmosphere that was “system of absolute authoritarianism” that built on “the idiosyncratic whims of an old man with way too much money and power.”
Earlier this year, 34 women brought forth allegations that Gothard sexually harassed them and 4 women reported being sexually assaulted. In response, Gothard was forced to step down from his leadership when he was placed on indefinite leave.
Again, go to the link to read about how this relates to the Duggar family and their behavior.
There are hundreds–if not thousands of these christian cults around the world. I don’t understand it, but there’s obviously something about human psychology that makes us susceptible to being drawn in by authoritarian movements like these. What better way to brainwash people than to begin in early childhood?
These people are dangerous, and they have burrowed into our politics, our system of education, and popular culture. It’s frightening.
I’m running out of space and time, but here’s Amanda Marcotte on the phenomenon of right wing christian cults and sexual abuse:
Duggar Revelations Are Just the Latest Sex Abuse Scandal to Rock Far-Right Fundamentalism.
Score one for the tabloid press. Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the creepy super-fundamentalist clan at the center of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, has admitted to charges of molesting multiple underage girls when he was a teenager; he has since stepped down from his position as a sex scold for the Family Research Council. Duggar admitted to molesting five girls—some of them reportedly his sisters—and while the family claims to have addressed the situation, a timeline constructed by Gawker suggests he did not get counseling while managing to dodge any prosecution.
The family’s fame guarantees this story will stay in the public memory for awhile, but it’s far from the first sex abuse scandal in the tight-knit world of far-right fundamentalism. As I wrote last year for Slate, Doug Phillips of the far-right group Vision Forum was forced to step down after admitting to “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman.” The woman in question, Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, claims it was more than “inappropriate,” noting that they met when she was 15 and that he “methodically groomed” by moving her into the house as a nanny and becoming “the pastor of her church, her boss, her landlord, and the controller of all aspects of her life” before pushing for sex. The Duggars were tight with Phillips and Vision Forum, which promoted a lot of Duggar-related material.
Marcotte also discusses Gothard, with lots of good links to more information. Check it out.
As always, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great Memorial Day weekend!