Thursday, February 15, 2007

Team Spartacus

In a wicked turn of political turdsmanship, John Edwards has issued himself a stunning defeat. The affable and attractive candidate wasted no time, jumping into the lava pit of the far right hate caldera. History records few instances of a presumptive front runner shooting themself in not just one, but both feet. And this is before the race begins, before the first primary. It may just be a record, we'll have to consult with officials.

So the pols have begun to realize that all of us citizens are talking amongst ourselves, using our toobz. Some of us adorable specks have blogs. That's short for world wide web logs. These are web pages or web sites where "users" can post their opinions, ideas and other trivia. Some of these blogs have audiences in the millions, most in the dozens. Well, we know what the politician thinks. This isn't access to one's constituency. No, no. This isn't a force to further enfranchisement. No, no. This is something far more important. This is an opportunity to exploit the funds and energies of others. For next to nothing. Ah yes.

How to harness this upswell of public, political engagement? Buy some of it for yourself. So the politicians do some online shopping. They aren't sure what they're buying or how it works but everyone else is getting one. So Edwards hired Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte to blog for his campaign. Which is great, except blogging isn't stenography. The whole point of blogging is to work outside of the constraints of massaged and controlled message. Marcotte is a hell of a writer with a distinct voice. Which sort of disqualifies her from a campaign that will be micromanaged, consulted and focus grouped with the goal of saying as little as possible in the most words possible, offending the fewest folks possible.

Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister has been caught up in the faux-Catholic feeding frenzy. The Catholic League, a far-right, Catholic fringe group of ultra-vicitms has shed the thin disguise of civility and gone witch hunting. Besieged by hundreds of vulgar, personal attacks and threats, McEwan has also stepped down from her position as technical consultant with the Edwards campaign. Under the leadership of Bill Donohue, the Catholic League has put a new face on Catholic discourse in the public realm. A face of dangerous, ugly spite masquerading as defense of faith. Donohue has preached his gospel of bigotry, anti-semitism, racism, sexism and intolerance far and wide.

Donohue's hate list is a long and tawdry stream of targets, starring jews, women, gooks, queers and more. His brigade of pig ignorant, rump monkeys have called down their petulant jihad on these two women. The collected rape fantasies, threats and slanders are a living caricature of false piety and naked hatred. These goons and bullies are celebrating a "moral" victory in the wake of the resignations. Lick it up while you can kiddies. Old lady karma is a bitch with a long memory.

Now Edwards might be forgiven for being naive. It isn't so easy to forgive ineptitude, bumbling, disorganization and chicken shittedness. He had the opportunity to take a stand and he squatted. His last hope for digging out from under the dung stained knuckles of Donohue is to develop a pair of bollocks and play spin the table. If Edwards wants to salvage a vestige of hope before the primary season begins, he needs to take Donohue down. Amanda and Melissa don't have ready access to the big bad liberal media. Their supposed indiscretions are being presented almost solely from Donohue's point of view. Edwards certainly has access to the media. He will have to live with his bungling of the matter, he can't undo what is done. But Edwards can salvage some of his honour and dignity. John Edwards needs to do the right thing and stand behind two courageous women who were willing to stand behind him.

It is a travesty that political discourse and disagreement should devolve into such an ugly spectacle. The women have left their positions. It is now incumbent upon Edwards to come to the aid and assistance of good people whose lives have come under such bitter attack. Donohue's entire mission was to interfere in the Edwards campaign and take down individuals who advocated positions counter to his own. He used their words as weapons against them. Fine. There are no shortages of Donohue's public displays of racism, sexism, bigotry and bile. Someone in Edwards office should put a reel of choice cuts together and force Bill Donohue to own his ugly words and ideas before the public.

Donohue needs to be hauled before the IRS and have his organization stripped of tax exempt status. The larger Catholic hierarchy needs to come forward and either disavow Donohue and his extreme positions and tactics or accept them. As of this moment, Donohue is the voice and public perception of Catholicism in North America. His brand of bigotry will not be disavowed by silence. What do the real priests and bishops have to say? Will the church muzzle a rabid dog or will they endure his villainy as they have so famously enabled past scandals and crimes?

Edwards, it is time to step up. Good Catholics, it is time to step up. Until then, I too am Spartacus.


CC said...

Cynical pedantry here: I believe it's "Donohue," not "Donahue." And you can delete this comment once you deal with that.

Dave said...

Hell, I mispelled it at least twice. Personally, I prefer "shit-stain". Less chance of a spelling error.

Anyway, PSA, outstanding post! Well done!

Anonymous said...


Donohue and his organization do not speak for all Catholics, as I am relatively sure you know. Your exhortation "Good Catholics, it is time to step up" implies that anyone who does not do so is less than "good". Donohue is the only one responsible for his actions, and to insist that others vocally oppose him in order to prove to you that they disagree is illogical. Do you mean to say that you expect the more moderate elements of any group to publicly renounce the actions of their wilder adherents? Have you similarly called for moderate Muslims to publicly renounce terrorism, in order for them to prove that it is wrong in their eyes? If you have, then it is not inconsistent to call out Catholics in this case. But if you have not, doing so to Catholics alone would be hypocritical.
Since I have bothered to comment here in defense of Catholics-at-large, I will do you the courtesy of offering you the kind of reply you were asking for: Donohue and his group, in my opinion, are ill-mannered and nasty, always spoiling for a fight and ready to descend to the gutter to fight it. It is hoped that the rest of us are not branded with them, despite the fact that we should be given the benefit of the doubt even when we choose to ignore their childish rants.

Lindsay Stewart said...

dogan, thanks for your response. i think i'm pretty clear in characterizing donohue's organization as a "far-right Catholic fringe group...". my call for Catholics to raise their voices isn't for my gratification. i'm imploring good people of any and all stripes to deplore vengeful threats and attacks.

i want good people like you to be known for your own sake. we seem to be heading toward more extreme times at a breakneck pace. i know through experience, that the majority of Catholics are good and decent people, like my mom, the late mrs. stewart nee o'neill (i'm lapsed). for all intents and purposes, donohue is the public face of the church in north america.

he is the public voice of Catholicism, heading the Catholic league. he runs his non-profit, taxfree operation and appears to be the public relations/attack dog of the church. when he slanders other religions, races and directly attacks individuals, he does so as a spokesman for the Catholic faith. i haven't had the time to investigate the relationship his organization has with the larger church. until i find the time, or someone does the heavy lifting for me, what am i to assume? does the man from the Catholic league, on every major network and cable show have sanction for his comments? if Catholics don't correct the public record, who will?

ii do appreciate your personal clarification. as for moderate Moslems and terrorism, i've had conversations about life and the realities of their homes. i work in a funky cafe across the street from two universities, one of which i attended. what i've gotten from them, is that they are one hell of a lot more frightened of us (the generic west), than we are or have any right to be frightened of them. and a lot of them are from parts of the world where the middle east is a distant and worrisome place. the world is very large and very diverse and we had all better learn to get along a little better.

for the most part, everybody i meet wants some variation on a better life for themselves, their families and friends. they're people. middle eastern Moslems seem to want the same things i want. peace, success, love, safety and comfort. but they live where the fear of terrorism is based on the routine, daily occurance of sadistic violence. we had a group of iraqi students here on an exchange last year. over the course of a month, i served them soups and espressos. there were Shia, Sunni, two Christians and a Zoroastrian.

they broke bread and laughed together. they were working their asses off to get into grad schools to extend their student visas. they were scared to be sent home. they were scared for their families and they were all hoping to get their families to safer havens like jordan.

as for myself. i abhor violence. i am particularly offended by wanton and unnecessary violence. the indiscriminate use of force, targetting civilians, is a crime against humanity. it doesn't matter if the mania that convinces you to carry out the act is sectarian moslem extremism, northern irish extremism, i don't care if it's jim jones or david koresh, space aliens or mother goose. there is no just cause for terrorist activity or unlawful war.

which brings us back to donohue and the Catholic league. as you say, he is the only one responsible for his own actions. but through his actions, he has caused his followers to terrorize two women. they were not satisfied to take their jobs, they sought to destroy these two women's lives. in the course of the firing, rehiring and resignations, donohue unleashed a legion of harassers. they staged rolling denial of service attacks, overwhelming comments and email boxes with vulgar, hateful spite and threats. how is that not acting terroristically. this was an organized hit on two women.

this may just be the warm up act for further use of the church's brand and borrowed gravity to exact vengeance on private individuals. i'm asking you to help bring down a mean spirited villain, regardless of the flag of faith he flies. whatever the flag, he desecrates it. speak truth to power. we don't have participatory democracy without participation.

i'm stipulating that the vast majority of Catholics are good people, as are Moslems, Sikhs, gays and every sect, division or what have you. it is when the most extreme sorts take the lead that damage is done. in previous scandals, the church insisted on self policing and did not succeed. here is an opportunity for that failure to mitigated by positive action. don't allow the most extreme voices in the flock take over.

i've called bullshit on left wing extremists and i'll do it again. doing nasty little things in the name of the greater good is not acceptable, from any side of any fence. choosing to ignore the rants of donohue enables him to wreak his havoc and hurt real people. he's had a taste of blood. where will he stop and who will stop him? what happens when the next attack inspires arson, assault or even a death? it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt and then we will all have to question ourselves.

let's use our powers for good. that's all i'm asking.

Ti-Guy said...

Great post, PSA. Your writing is a treat to read.

Dogan, I still call myself a Catholic, but I'm just not very defensive about what the Church, or institutions closely affiliated with it, says or does. Remember, the Church isn't the faith and it isn't the faithful either.

For what's it's worth, I wrote to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and expressed my revulsion at the thought that a deranged, morally debased extremist like Donohue claims to speak for Catholics. The Catholic Church is not a democracy, however and the hierarchy remains a brick wall of indifference and non-communication, I'd be really surprised if it communicated anything official about this.

One thing we all have to push is the constant threat of removing the charitable status of these religious organisations which have become politically active in ways that are blantantly anti-democratic. If they think their piety and their expressions of religious morality are enough to shield them from the harsh realities of what it takes to play nice in a liberal democracy, they'll have to be forced to *think again.*

Anonymous said...

In my mind, you cannot compare a lobby group, which it what Donohue's organization is, with a true charity. Tax-exempt status is wrong for groups like this and should be denied, in my opinion.

Ti-Guy said...

Right. That's why we have to make sure just what their tax-exempt status is facilitating. As democrats, we should not be facilitating anti-democratic forces in our society.

If these religious delusionals want to force their moral standards (which they don't even live up to) on the rest of us, I suggest they move to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Alabama, or to the vestigial remains of the Papal States.

Lindsay Stewart said...

dogan, i agree. the problem is that donohue's lobby group causes real harm to real people. they do it using the name of the church. the scale of the attack on marcotte and mcewan tells us that they have a large enough network to expand their influence.

how long until the Cathjolic league becomes the american provisional wing? when do we stop being good germans (i don't like the reference much, but i think it's a clear analogy)? it all comes down to power and the wrong people are always eager to sieze it if we let them. left or right doesn't matter. the rise of extremism is a threat to all of our ways of life.