May 02, 2005

The Knuckle-Draggers

Listen. I'm aware that there are some smart so-cons out there. Heck: a lot of my readers are highly intelligent social conservatives.

But there are a few who are just dumb as boards. The hubub over the First Lady doing a comedy routine is a perfect example of the idiocy within the right wing of the party. The Coalition for Traditional Values actually presumes to guess what the "structure" of the First Family is, based on a series of jokes by Laura Bush. Utterly amazing.

Via Outside the Beltway.

UPDATE: Oh, thank God. It was a joke after all. The sun is shining; birds are singing. My beloved war machine coalition can skip merrily around the playground together. Yay!

UPDATE 2: I've been asked how I can leave up a post that shows me being taken in by a hoax. I've also asked how I could have been so stupid as to fall for the old fake-letter-from-a-real-organization ploy.

1) I really try not to take down posts. I've done it, but it seems like an extreme measure. People should be able to figure out what has happened by following trackbacks and reading through archives. Gaps are bad. Truth is good. This is not enough of a public embarrassment to me to be worth taking a post down.

2) It has to be remembered that I was in a Christian cult when I was 12-14, and the attitude expressed in the fake letter is not far from the real thoughts and feelings of my co-religionists at that time. Remember Betty Ford's statement that she hoped her daughter wouldn't have premarital sex, but if that were to occur, she hoped the lines of communication would stay open between mother and offspring? This was condemned in my church as condoning immorality.

I know these people. They exist. That's why I found the letter believable. Thank Bob Hymers.

UPDATE 3: Eric at Myopic Zeal sniffs that

This sounds like something from the Clinton White House, not a comedy routine you would expect to hear from Laura Bush:

Eyebrows were raised by the first lady’s bit about the president’s ranching skills, which Mrs. Bush said her husband lacked because the elite schools he attended, Andover and Yale, “don’t have a real strong ranching program.”

She then added:

“He’s learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What’s worse, it was a male horse.”

Then he remarks:

While the milking the male horse joke may be funny, it simply does not fit the public persona that Mrs. Bush has groomed. I wonder why the change.

He implies that I'm dumb for being taken in by a hoax based on negative reactions to the First Lady's routine. This is irony you could cut with one of the chainsaws at the Crawford ranch.

And anyone who suggests that I was referring to all—or even most—so-cons as dumb should re-read my post. Okay?

UPDATE 4: Okay. Got the names straight, finally. I must bring my fact-checking mindset with me when I blog. The Traditional Values Coalition is the real one, which issued this statement:

The hoax press release distributed under the name of the Traditional Values Coalition is the most recent tactic in an ongoing campaign of harassment of the conservative church group over the past year, according to the Coalition’s Washington office.

So I took that to mean that the names matched. Not quite. The joke press release purported to come from something called the Coalition for Traditional Values. From a Rev. DeLong, which should have tipped me off—but did not.

Posted by Attila at May 2, 2005 01:41 PM

We socons may be dumb as boards, but we weren't the ones punk'd by this piece of satire.

Posted by: craig henry at May 2, 2005 02:08 PM

I think the first and second comment posts tell the story of the entire debacle.

Post 1 - Liberal/libertarian (feminist?) gets her panties all wadded up, ending her post with ALL CAPS!!!

Post 2 - Conservative Christian calls BS on the story.

I scanned forward through the next twenty or so comments, and the pattern seemed to hold.

Oh yes. That speaks volumes.

I'm not going to claim I wouldn't have been taken in, as I backed into this story after the truth came out, but reading through the article, I have a hard time believing that anyone would have taken this seriously, and if they did, why it would not have been immediately obvious that this "Coalition for Traditional Values" is some kind of fringe group of loose cannon nutcases.

Maybe it takes a Conservative/libertarian Christian to recognize how unlike most Conservative Christians this fictional group of people is, and how absurd their assertions sound, even to us.

But as far as feeding into the stereotypes and deep seated prejudices of the left and the non- (or nominally) Christian right--trolling for a rise out of them--the piece was brilliant.

Knuckle-draggers indeed...

Posted by: Desert Cat at May 2, 2005 11:21 PM

Actually, DC--it's a real group. They were utterly dismayed by having a fake press release sent out in their name.

Posted by: Attila Girl at May 3, 2005 11:53 AM

Why feel bad about being taken in? It's hard to satirize these people, they're so extreme. A Bear Flagger told me he thinks women who have abortions should be sterilized & the doctors killed. WHACK JOB

Posted by: jeff at May 3, 2005 12:20 PM

reading through the article, I have a hard time believing that anyone would have taken this seriously, and if they did, why it would not have been immediately obvious that this "Coalition for Traditional Values" is some kind of fringe group of loose cannon nutcases.

That's exactly my point, DC. There are "fringe group loose cannon nutcakes" out there. And the fact that the Coalition for Traditional Values doesn't happen to be one of them doesn't negate the fact that they exist.

Posted by: Attila Girl at May 3, 2005 12:36 PM

A couple of points.

1. I agree with not taking down posts. I've definitely created (and left up) my share of regrettable posts.

2. I didn't mean to imply you were dumb, only that I thought it was funny that you called others dumb for getting upset at LB's routine.

3. I was not upset at her routine, I was quoting the bogus news source (yep, me too!), but my comments were more about my surprise at the "out of character-ness" of her routine, not personal objection to the content itself.

Anyway, no offense intended, I know you're not dumb, I just love irony. And I'm glad I could add to the irony surrounding this story with my own chainsaw-worthy post. :-)

Posted by: Eric at May 3, 2005 02:01 PM

I have always subscribed to the "leave it up there and just post an update" theory. people make mistakes, get caught in webs, etc. It happens. It is just honest to leave it up there.

Plus, it makes for great Bonfire of the Vanities material :)

Posted by: William Teach at May 3, 2005 02:24 PM

As far as I'm concerned AG, highest of high marks for honesty. If you can't change a position when the known facts change, you might as well be in office (Bush senior knows all about that one.)

Don't let the whack jobs (so-called) become the poster children of conservatism!

Posted by: douglas brown at May 3, 2005 03:04 PM

It's the painting with the (perceived) broad brush that is objectionable. (BTW, the Coalition for Traditional Values does not exist, but a group called the Traditional Values Coalition does.)

Let me frame this a different way. Let's say I came across an article purportedly written by a member of a particular minority group--African Americans let's say--that played upon the stereotypes and prejudices that some people still hold about them. Let's say I took the opportunity of that article to say something like, "I know there are blacks who are intelligent and cultured. In fact, some of my readers are highly intelligent African Americans. But there sure are a few dumb n*****s out there."

When it turned out later that the article was written by a spoof site with racist inclinations, and the worst I got was someone saying that it was rather telling that I was taken in by the fake article, I would have gotten off *really* easy, don't you think? I don't think claiming that I know a few blacks just like those in that article would have helped me much.

I know I know, it's different because it's just Christians we're talking about, right?

Just saying.

Posted by: Desert Cat at May 3, 2005 05:20 PM

Alright who here hovered over the "dumb as boards" link and looked in the lower left just to make sure your site wasn't there.

Yeah, me neither.

Posted by: Don at May 3, 2005 11:31 PM

Rush Limbaugh was taken in by it too for at least a few minutes. Not the worst company to be in by any means.

Posted by: Tom Hanna at May 4, 2005 12:13 AM

Desert Cat:

Let's begin with the double-standard problem. It's real, though I'm not sure your analogy is 100% perfect: after all, what's that old chestnut about street profiling?--picture yourself walking alone after dark. Four black guys are coming toward you. Suddenly, you discern that the objects in their hands are Bibles. Do you feel better?

But, okay: let's talk about race. The first time I was mugged, it was by two black guys. The second time I was mugged, it was by two black guys.

I had to think about that, because I didn't want to let my experiences turn me into a racist. But I was sure tired of getting mugged: it was a terrifying experience.

I decided that indoors, race didn't matter. I only mattered on the street. I just didn't let men (black or white) near me for a while. The third time I got mugged it was by a female, and so I wouldn't let women near me unless they were carrying babies (or maybe maybe maybe a bag of groceries).

Our experiences leave scars. These scars can be hidden, or they might show. But they are there.

Do I get mad at black people because they cannot control the tiny group within their population that likes to commit crimes? No. Obviously not, because 1) blacks suffer much more from black crime than whites [that is, despite the fact that black-on-white crime loomed large in my life, I know black-on-black crime is a bigger problem]; and 2) white people can't magically make white criminals stop, either. The real divide is those who live their lives within the law and according to basic decency vs. those who do not.

So. I know there is a lot of prejudice against Christians, especially those who really try to practice a more orthodox, "pure" form of the faith. And I understand that Christians are not protected by PC rules prohibiting public discussion of their faith, as black people are by the strange state of public discourse. So there's a double standard, and it isn't fair.

But I'm not sure the answer is for society to be muzzled in its discussion of faiths and the faithful to the same degree as it has been with respect to race.

I'm sorry if you were offended; I certainly didn't mean to offend you and I selected my words very carefully, so that you and a few others would (I hoped) not feel that my contempt was aimed in your direction.

But I suffered some terrible things at a very tender age by people posing as fundamentalist Christians, and it's left a mark on me.

I have scars, and I'm not going to go out of my way to cover them up.

What I can do is promise to try to understand your POV as much as possible, and to make an effort to portray people of faith in the best light consistent with my personality and my perception of the truth. After all, I'm a Christian myself, though not a terribly good one. (I content myself with the fact that God famously likes to use broken vessels.)

One more thing: there are a lot of people in this country who claim to agree with you on theological matters, yet would never ever socialize with prostitutes (as our Lord did). To what degree do you identify with them?--or is there a distinction to be drawn between those who truly live their faith and those who see it as a way to fix others--not themselves?

Posted by: Attila Girl at May 4, 2005 01:29 AM

I have known Desert Cat all his life, and I can assure you that he is definitely not one to judge or condemn anyone.

Posted by: Dad Cat at May 4, 2005 12:12 PM

I know, Sir. Thank you for stopping by. DC is one of my favorite bloggers (and commenters). We do have discussions, and he's always conducted himself with decency and treated others with respect.

His political views, also, are not those of someone who wants to enforce a universal code of morality at the point of a gun. So that is understood.

When I spoke of those who judge others, it was with the understanding that this would not be DC's approach. I'm hoping that he read it that way, though if I were perfect in expressing these things he and I wouldn't be having the present debate at all ;)

Posted by: Attila Girl at May 4, 2005 12:24 PM

Well now ain't that just as awkward as all get-out? ;) (hi dad...)

I expanded on my previous thoughts more here, but I appreciate that you have largely and effectively addressed what I was trying to say. And I'm not offended so much as uncomfortable with the rhetoric.


Those people. Not like us. Wackos. Extremists. (Insert epithet here). Get the rope and the torches people, we're gonna deal with this "problem" ourselves.

All PC BS aside, there is a tendency to "otherize" people who differ significantly from us in some way. I mean I love lefty bashing as much as the next conservative, but I have to say there are times and places where it clearly goes overboard. There are bloggers whose disturbed anti-hippy fantasies have led me to stop reading their site. So this "otherizing" happens sometimes no matter one's political or social orientation.

I used the example of race, however flawed, because most people put a sincere effort into *not* otherizing people of different racial backgrounds--not making generalizations that are too broad, based on some individual bad experiences, and especially not on "received" prejudices. But this seems to be so easily neglected when the differences are political, social or religious in nature.

TBH at a lot of sites I wouldn't have bothered, but you run a different kind of site here. "Attack ideas, not people", as the header says. You at least, seem cognizant of and sensitive to some of what is behind my concerns. And I really don't mean to take you specifically to task here, especially considering your experience with what sounds like some very unfortunate spiritual abuse. Just wanting to (to borrow a lefty term, ugh!) "raise awareness".

On your last question, yes and no. Yes, I draw distinctions between myself and those who see it as their duty to enforce a moral code in society at large, based on their religious tenents. You are aware, I think, of my exodus from fire-breathing social conservative to my current location in the conservative-libertarian camp. If they are hoping to advance the cause of Christ, I think those social conservatives that actually want to do this are wrong both politically and spiritually, as I was wrong back then. And some of them I disagree with theologically too. Many people I believe, place an incorrect emphasis on the externals, when Christ was concerned chiefly about the internal condition of a person. The externals seem to work out over time when a person's heart is focused on Jesus. You probably noticed a number of people taking the fictitious Pastor DeLong to task for his faulty exigesis in the comments of that article.

But I'm not looking for somewhere to draw a line between here and there and say, "past this line it's Them people who are wrong and deserving of scorn, ridicule and abuse. Over here it's Us who have the clue." I generally see a continuum of people who have beliefs and particular emphases on beliefs and values that differ from my own. And I have no idea today if I will find myself in a very different place ten years from now.

This is not to say I don't sometimes do this or join with others in doing this. Lefty bashing is fun, so long as it's done in a spirit of fun. I just don't think it is necessary to otherize a person or a group of like-minded people in order to disagree, even sharply, with them. Hippies are people too, however misguided.

Finally, I'm not sure what you would consider a "good Christian", but I don't count myself in that number either, whoever they are. It's a struggle for me as much as anyone to do what I know I need to do, when part of me would quite frankly just rather not be bothered. And I don't think my blog would ever be held up as an example of a "model Christian" blog either. **snork!**

I mean Heavens to Murgatroid!! Look who's in my Daily Territory. And--Mabel get the smelling salts--look who I link to here!

Posted by: Desert Cat at May 4, 2005 03:05 PM

While the tempest in a teapot over the faked quote continues, a real tempest has brewed up over a real quote by Pat Robertson on May 2. More over the top than the Somme.

Posted by: douglas brown at May 4, 2005 06:52 PM

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