The various kinds of baptism: Maureen Dowd has been the most influential, and most destructive, print journalist of the past thirty years.
As she has simpered, minced and clowned, she has helped a fatuous upper-class press corps complete its move toward total trivia.
She has pushed a set of throwback gender values which went unchallenged by major players until Clark Hoyt finally spoke.
And uh-oh! In recent years, she has displayed the bigot’s impulse with respect to Mitt Romney’s religion. She has now written at least five columns which urge her readers to focus on Mormonism’s very strange, scary ways.
She has finally stopped mocking the “magic underwear” to which she referred in two of these columns. Last Sunday, though, matters got worse.
She worked Elvis into her headline, hid behind Anne Frank at the end. She began her discussion by recalling the day when Illinois folk would just murder such people. In the middle, she pimped and clowned about Mormons’ strange beliefs.
Two pathetic doctored examples, straight from the cesspool that’s Dowd:
First, this simpering clown with the bigot’s impulse played you about a non-event from Campaign 2008:
DOWD (3/18/12): Mitt works overtime pretending he’s a Nascar, cheesy-grits guy and masking his pride in his bank account and faith.Does Romney mask his pride in his bank account? Briefly, Dowd went off-message. But Romney provoked very little confusion through the five-year-old statement Dowd chose to quote, except in the brains of mossbacks like Dowd.
When he talked about his beliefs in his last presidential run, it sometimes provoked confusion, like this explanation to an Iowa radio host about the second coming of Christ: that Jesus would first appear in Jerusalem and then, “over the thousand years that follow, the millennium, he will reign from two places, the law will come from Missouri, and the other will be from Jerusalem.”
This is what actually happened:
Dowd is quoting something Romney said while off the air in August 2007. He was speaking to an Iowa radio talker who wanted to discuss various aspects of Mormon theology and belief. Romney told this flyweight, again and again, that he wasn’t running for president as a Mormon—that he didn’t plan to go on radio shows to discuss such irrelevant topics.
Romney wasn’t on the air during the discussion from which Dowd cherry-picked one statement. But as it turned out, he was being videotaped by this radio host’s in-studio cameras, and the tape became public. You can see the entire discussion here, not just the part Dowd cherry-picked. The relevant part starts about nine minutes in. The whole discussion is fascinating. (For the record, Romney talks about what “the church” believes. He doesn’t assert his own belief.)
Completely predictably, Dowd clipped Romney’s comments to make them seem as strange as possible; this is how bigots play it. But this utterly pointless non-event was included in Dowd’s column for an obvious reason—to satisfy her inner bigot, to help you fear “those people.”
Please note: Mormon theology doesn’t “make sense.” Neither does the theology of Dowd’s own Catholic faith. Question: In 2004, did Dowd complain that Candidate Kerry wouldn’t discuss various aspects of Catholic belief theology and belief?
Actually no, she did not. Darlings, she was much too busy sliming Kerry’s wife!
As Sunday’s column continued, Dowd was soon playing the bigot role in a more pitiful way. To see her impulse at its purest, note the highlighted statement at the end of this misleading discussion of so-called “proxy baptism:”
DOWD (continuing directly): Just as Romney did not step up immediately after Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke “a slut,” he has yet to step up as the cases have mounted of Jews posthumously and coercively baptized by Mormons, including hundreds of thousands of Holocaust victims; the parents of the death camp survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal; and Daniel Pearl, the Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. (His widow, Mariane, told CNN she was “shocked.”)You just knew Dowd would her way around to Mormons and menstruation! Before we see where that reference came from, let’s consider the matter of “proxy baptism”—noting the double standards and deceptions Dowd smuggled into your heads.
Believing that only Mormons can get into the highest level of heaven, the Celestial Kingdom, and that others will be limited to the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms, they have baptized anyone and everyone, including Anne Frank, Gandhi, Hitler, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin and Elvis.
Asked by Newsweek in 2007 if he had done baptisms for the dead, which involve white garb and immersion in water, a startled Romney replied, “I have in my life, but I haven’t recently.”
Mormon feminists got upset this winter when they found that young women in some temples had not been allowed to do proxy baptisms while they were menstruating.
Should Romney go around stating his view on proxy baptisms? More specifically, should he state his view on proxy baptisms of people who aren’t family members? As Newsweek did in 2007, Dowd gave readers the impression that Romney has engaged in the latter practice, which some people find offensive.
We’ve never seen any indication that Romney has engaged in such baptisms for non-family members. According to authoritative reports, Ann Romney’s family did conduct a proxy baptism for their late father. (Ann Romney’s two brothers were also Mormons; her mother converted to Mormonism near the end of her life.) But unless Dowd plans to make herself grand caliph of every other family’s faith, that’s different from conducting such baptisms for non-family members.
(In Dowd’s faith, babies are baptized by their families! This was even done to us—or at least, so we’ve been told. Should families be allowed to do such a thing? Should Dowd be in charge of this?)
Dowd helped confuse you about this matter, then suggested that Romney should speak out about the latter practice. Question: Did Dowd insist that Candidate Kerry go around stating his views about various aspects of Catholic practice?
Actually, no—she didn't. These kinds of demands are always reserved for The Other, against whom the bigot is moved to stir up resentment and fear.
And this, of course, explains why Dowd ended up talking about menstruation, as her tiny, disordered mind tried to spread its revulsion and fear among the wider population.
Where in the world did that reference come from? Completely and thoroughly by accident, David Axelrod accidentally pimped it around last week, a thoroughly accidental matter you can read about here. Axelrod did this completely by accident. He wasn’t trying to push the idea that Mormons are weird and scary.
Axelrod’s completely accidental link went to this pointless, stupid column in the Salt Lake Tribune. On Sunday, Dowd became the first major journalist to say a word about this.
Let’s repeat that: According to the Nexis archives, every other American journalist took a pass on this topic. But darlings, the tale involved menstruation and Mormons! Dowd had to get involved!
Maureen Dowd is a horrible mossback—and she has the bigot’s impulse. But within the upper-class guild, this broken-souled loser is very powerful. The career liberal world has been averting its gaze—and eating her shit—for the past thirty years.
As Bob says, Maureen Dowd is notorious for doctored quotes. A famous example was when she misrepresented a Bush statement to imply that he said the Al Qaeda terrorist network is "not a problem anymore."ReplyDelete
A complete discussion is at Spinsanity
While I agree with your assessment of Dowd, I wonder why there is this issue with judging candidates for their religious views. I believe strongly held views are among the best information to decide whether to support a candidate. If someone believes (or is a member of a church that does) in something that I find insane or irrational, I can no longer trust their judgment. Whether that belief is in strange undergarments or in virgin birth, they both are disqualifying for my vote. Does that view make me a bigot? Perhaps. But I prefer to judge people by the content of their character and not give free passes to those who justify anti-social behavior as sacrosanct religious views.ReplyDelete
You are free to have and express those views, and I am free for thinking you a fool for doing so.
Then I fear, TZ, you have just opted out of voting entirely. Quite frankly, as an atheist, I find all religious beliefs insane/irrational, but because of the nature of politics and the American voter, there are NO candidates for public office (at least none that I have the luxury of voting for) that speak out against religion and magical thinking.Delete
Which leaves me, the atheist, back where I started. Religion cannot be a factor in my decision as every viable candidate on the national or local scene regularly makes obeisances to dogma. And for me, ANY belief in the supernatural is delusion and madness.
I hold my nose and vote for the religious candidate that seems to be less of a missionary panderer than the others. But they're all nuts and/or cynical liars out of the gate.
Couldn't agree with TZ more. If we question the views of jews we are anti semitic, and now we are not allowed to question the views of mormons or we are bigots (questioning Islam is ok for the moment though). We reserve our greatest bigotry for the atheist. An avowed atheist can't even run for office so they pretend to be something.Delete
Mitt Romney can be any religion he wants in america and I will fight for his right to that. I will however never vote for a man (or woman- though there is no danger of a mormon woman ever running for president) who is mormon. If someone can believe in that poppycock as an adult their judgement is seriously flawed. I put born again christians in the same category- not getting my vote. Any person who doesn't accept evolution gets the same treatment from me. Is that bigotry? Not in any sane world.
Sherrlock, you are right on the money.ReplyDelete
However, most Americans don't think like you.
Most indulge in magical thinking, and were told all their lives to respect other's magical thinking.
Because of this, most of us accept the fact that virtually all politicians in America are, and must be, magical thinkers, with all the drawbacks that magical, as opposed to fact-based thinking, bring to pass.
So was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. one of your "magical thinkers"? How about the Berrigan brothers? Or Archbishop Oscar Romero? Or Dorothy Day?Delete
Or do they get passes from you as "fact-based" thinker because you have let them into your "tribe"?
Now before you start making assumptions about me, I happen to be quite liberal (never voted for a Republican for president in my life, and my first vote was for George McGovern), who also considers my faith to be important to me. In fact, it is the very teachings of Jesus Christ that have informed and inflamed my passion for the poor, and by strong belief, both political and religious, that nations are to be judged by how well the weakest and the poorest are faring. Read Matthew 25.
Hilarious that upthread we have someone, apparently without irony, affirming they "judge people by the content of their character" and thus the religious have a "disqualifying" flaw.
Yo, TZ -- you might want to google that whole "content of their character" thing...
Magical thinkers, right, you better avoid following in their footsteps!
I agree with Anonymous 9:37 whole-heartedly about the teachings of Jesus Christ. But surely I don't have to believe in him as my lord and savior.Delete
And the point of my little diatribe above was to suggest that it's silly to judge American politicians according to their religious beliefs as 99%+ are believers. It is, in other words, a constant. Background noise. Thus "disqualifying" candidates for their beliefs - whether in magic underwear, virgin births, sons of god, or any old deity - is foolishness.
Additionally, true non-believers have no tribe. There are so few of us, in my experience, that I only encounter them on-line. My own wife, whom I adore, is a devout Christian progressive who insists on saying grace before meals. I would never argue with her faith, even as I find it utterly nonsensical. We are, however, political soul mates.
I'll be happy to tell you about the magical thinkers you list as soon as you tell me what political offices they were elected to.
I will also tell you about the magical thinking of Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, and Sarah Palin, all of whom have been elected to political office in the United States, and all who have relied upon the religious right or the Evangelicals to carry them over the top.
This comment has been removed by the author.Delete
Interesting dodge, gravy.Delete
So would you have supported the Southern CHRISTIAN Leadership Conference in it's religiously-based campaign for civil rights, or would you have flippantly dismissed them all as "magical thinkers."
Anon 11;12 AMDelete
Have you heard of the warning, when you find yourself in hole, stop digging?
Sorry, Anonymous. You have completely buttressed my argument.
Every person you named attacked their prevailing government and sets of laws, and was in return counterattacked by their own governments.
I have been a great admirer of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. since the early 60’s, when he was was spied upon and followed by the FBI and hated by J. Edgar Hoover, the nation’s top cop, for being a communist and adulterer.
During the 60’s and 70’s I attended many antiwar rallies in NYC and Washington DC, and made sure my car was filled with likeminded people. We respected the Berrigan brothers who were on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and hounded by their own government. Fr. Daniel Berrigan was called an anarchist and a communist because he opposed the war in Vietnam and sympathized with the Vietnamese. Phillip Berrigan was also called an anarchist and charged with belonging to a Communist front group.
The government of El Salvador murdered Archbishop of El Salvador Oscar Romero when they realized that Born Again Christian President of the United States Jimmy Carter was on their side. Why? Because Romero spoke out for the poor, which is what the communists did. Romero was considered to be a communist by the very people that were oppressing the poor and weak..
Romero wrote to President Carter asking him to stop supporting the US trained and assisted military because of its oppression of peasants and workers. Carter ignored Romero and supported the right-wing government. Shortly thereafter Romero was murdered by a death squad.
I must confess little knowledge of Dorothy Day, but she did influence the Berrigan brothers, and supported workers against the power of corporations.
Her pro-labor and pro-union activities branded her as a… you’ll never guess… communist.
All your examples were not politicians that wore their religion on their sleeves, or prayed loudly in the street.
On the contrary, they railed against the hypocrisy and intolerance of the politicians and challenged them openly.
They were maligned and persecuted by our so-called Judeo-Christian government.
And they were all called communists, as in Godless communists, by high-ranking officials of our government.
The SCLC was not using political power to force their unproved theology on the rest of America.
They were attacking the people that were forcing their unproved theories of racial differences upon powerless minorities, minorities that had no political power and faced fierce opposition from elected officials all over America.
And those are FACTS.
YOU are the one using a dodge.
The devoutly religious have no right to define the moment a fertilized ovum becomes a human being, and is imbued with an unmeasurable soul by the direct hand of THEIR God, and force that definition on all citizens, and this is precisely what most Republican politicians and candidate strive to do.
It is wrong. Their personal religious opinions have no place in our legal codes.
I will fight anyone that tells me right from wrong when they also tell me Adam and Eve rode around on dinosaurs wearing saddles six thousand years ago.
That is Magical Thinking, and people that believe that do not belong in positions where they can control other's destinies, they belong on a funny farm. Newt Gingrich has a place for them, the Moon Colony.
As far as supporting the SCLC activities, there is no would. I did, and I do.
"Maureen Dowd has been the most influential, and most destructive, print journalist of the past thirty years."ReplyDelete
Really Bob? I'm supposed to read the rest of a blog post that begins with that preposterous, hyperbolic statement?
Your infatuation with Dowd has now reached the point of obsessive/compulsive disorder.
not to defend her superficial writing style, but change the name to michelle doe and somerby would give the exact same columns much less attention.ReplyDelete
he uses both techniques of the bigot. he outright accuses or implies the person he is bigoted against of having an inherent bigotry themselves, thereby damning the whole 'group' that person is of, whether that group is socially coherent or not. more successfully the 'group' singled out does not cohere well so its easier to do it unchallenged, like americans who have some irish-catholic heritage.
the second technique is much more common today: multiple individual members of the targeted ethnicity/religion/race are continually highlighted for every real or spun transgression. mention is not made of the individuals group or supposed group when using this technique. the deleterious effect on the scapegoated group is cumulative over time. people get the message eventually. they connect the dots for the bigot.
both have been been used very successfully against americans who have irsh-catholic heritage going back to mid 1800's by the nativists here to unite themselves by having a common enemy, a common white enemy.
it serves a function and somerby is being a good person when he does this. he is providing order.
i analogize it to the hierarchical utility of variances in physical attractiveness and our hypersensitivity to such minor differences. this helps serve to form a pecking order within the biological tribe (not somerbys usage of the word) to minimize the friction of constantly having to reestablish dominance.
so bottom line you are a good man mr somerby. a very small man, but a good man. . . . but dont delude yourself -- you yourself are a flamboyant bigot. . . . and also not as brave as you may think you are, taking on a non-socially-coherent group.
what intrigues me is whether you are acting on your own initiative in this regard or in the service of others.
"change the name to michelle doe and somerby would give the exact same columns much less attention."Delete
Maybe it's because michelle doe doesn't have a Pulitzer Prize and hasn't been a regular Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times for 17 years?
Yeah, that could be the reason that Somerby is so obsessed with her. But to call her the "most influential, most destructive print journalist of the last 30 years"?Delete
Where? Maybe inside the Beltway media bubble, but where I live I can't think of a single person in my wide circle of well-educated family and friends who bothers to read her column in the KC Star.
And I can tell you the last exact date a Maureen Dowd column was brought up in our frequent and often lively discussion of politics: NEVER!
As for me, I found her columns a long time ago to be so superficial and shallow that I did the adult thing and stopped reading them, rather than lay awake nights dreaming up the next blog post.
Who's been more influential/destructive, then? It's one thing to say no one you know reads her, but it's another to say someone else is more influential/destructive.Delete
@ matt in the crownDelete
im not a fan of dowd as a writer but offhand how about george will pushing the gop policies genrally all these years and tom friedman pushing the world is flat economic meme which has given cover to the moneyed interests off-shoring so many jobs?
@ Anonymous Mar 21, 2012 11:50 AMDelete
"Where? Maybe inside the Beltway media bubble, but where I live I can't think of a single person in my wide circle of well-educated family and friends who bothers to read her column in the KC Star.
And I can tell you the last exact date a Maureen Dowd column was brought up in our frequent and often lively discussion of politics: NEVER!"
>>>exactly right anonymous. somerby creates an implied straw man to begin with: that being influential among the media equates to being influential generally in america. then he imputes to her a svengalli-like ability to influence her fellow writers -- they are powerless to resist. voila, she is the worst thing to hit america since typhoid mary.
Matt in the crown, I can only speak for myself, since I have no way to measure the influence and destructiveness of Maureen Dowd, and Bob Somerby certainly provided me with no tools to do that.Delete
So excuse me if I don't take "most influential and most destructive" at face value while I ask Bob to support that with some kind of evidence beyond the fact that she's a Pulitzer winner and writes for the NY Times. Lots of people have done that over the last 30 years.
"Maybe it's because michelle doe doesn't have a Pulitzer Prize and hasn't been a regular Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times for 17 years?" -- anonymousReplyDelete
>>>what i meant to say was if you not only kept *the columns* exactly the same, but kept everything about the author the same, awards, gender, age etc. ... everything but what might indicate the fact that she has at least some irish-catholic heritage. for all this i substituted her irish-catholic-heritage sounding name to keep it shorter, but at the expense of clarity.
another thing, i neglected to add at the end, something else which intrigues me. ... who is somerby shifting blame *away from* and why? the bigotry serves two overarching purposes, one of *order* among the various factions or imagined factions which i described. this is very much a human instinctive kind of thing.
the other is a very conscious effort on the part of the haves to keep the have-nots divided by hating on each other so they cant easily unite against their true enemy, the moneyed interests. has he been bought off to further divide people or is he just a simple instinctive bigot, or both?
Dash, way back once upon a time before Bob came to believe that the entirety of the American media consisted of the New York Times, the Washington Post and MSNBC, he used to write brilliantly on the themes laid by James Fallows in his extremely important 1996 book, "Breaking the Media: How the Media Undermine American Democracy."Delete
In that book, Fallows warned of a growing millionaire culture of celebrity journalists who were losing touch with middle-class working stiffs whom they should be serving.
Bob could brilliantly write, in real time, how that culture was playing out, as celebrity journalists would openly boast about the wonderful dinner parties they held with the people they were supposed to be covering as the guests of honor, and about how "boring" they thought reporting and analyzing real issues was compared to the catty, personal stuff about candidates.
This is what I miss about the old Bob, who is now down to repeating himself incessantly with post after post after post about Gail Collins, Maureen Dowd and now Rachel Maddow.
As I alluded to in another post yesterday, it's growing as predictable and boring --- and in many ways strikingly similar to --- the late Andy Kaufman's "inter-gender" wrestling schtick.
And your idea that perhaps Bob is revealing a bias against Irish-American Catholicism is quite interesting. I'll give that some thought.
And while I do, I hope people realize that there is no such thing as an Irish-American Catholic monolith, as if all its products come out in cookie-cutter uniformity.
As one myself, I can assure you that Irish-American Catholics run the political spectrum these days, from Tea Partiers to Occupiers, and finding the common thread among them is going to be pretty difficult.
By the way, dash, I kinda find it a bit curious that Bob has had nothing at all to say about Olbermann ever since Olbermann took his schtick over to his buddy Al Gore's Current network.Delete
“...there is no such thing as an Irish-American Catholic monolith, as if all its products come out in cookie-cutter uniformity.” - anonymousDelete
i remember reading a book on americans with irish catholic heritage back in the seventies, i think, by father greely who was also a sociologist who did a lot of work with a polling organization. one study tried to measure the various ethnic/religious/racial groups as to their level of liberality on a variety of issues. the most liberal, with a large lead, were americans who were jewish. but given the horrible pr put out about irish americans over the years and centuries I dont think anybody would have guessed that ranking second was . . . yes, americans with an irish-catholic heritage.
"As I alluded to in another post yesterday, it's growing as predictable and boring --- and in many ways strikingly similar to --- the late Andy Kaufman's "inter-gender" wrestling schtick."Delete
Talk about coming out of left field. Andy Kaufman- "predictable and boring"? Like I bet you predicted that Andy and Jimmy Hart were going to turn the tables on Lawler?
Honestly, I'm not sure that the American electorate is as obsessed about the difference between the Mormon brand of Christianity and other Christianities as the media is. Or maybe it's me who doesn't care that much, given that I don't subscribe to any of the name-brand religions. All cats are grey in the dark, as far as I'm concerned.ReplyDelete
I do think it's a mistake, however, to think that just because a pundit isn't well-known among the electorate that he or she is not influential where it matters. The Beltway people are like a high-school clique, in that they care intensely about what the other kids in school are saying about them. Unfortunately, they get to set policy for the entire country based on what they think, and what they think rarely deviates from Beltway opinions.
but even if just for the sake of the point we concede these pundits are very influential generally, on what basis do we decide that ms. dowd is in fact influential among the other pundits? we take bob somerbys word for it?Delete
this could very well be an error in logic, cum hoc, ergo propter hoc (with this, therefore because of this). if dowds style and many of the others writers styles seem to be correlated, its more likely because of some other outside factors affecting both dowd and the other pundits at the same time independent of each other.
people got decadent and intellectually lazy generally including the pundits. it was in the air. now scapegoats are sought. thats my take.
That's what it comes down to? You accuse the author of this blog of bigotry because he says that Dowd was an influential figure in the decline of American journalism, and your theory is, ... wait for it ... , "it was in the air."Delete
Please take the time to look in the archives to see the many, many pieces of evidence regarding Dowd's influence, including editors and publishers praising her insight and style.
You mean if I look in the archives, I'll find that Somerby has said it before, so it must be true?Delete
What I have objected to is Somberby calling Dowd "the MOST influential, MOST destructive print journalist in the past 30 year." [emphasis added].
Sure, she may have her influence in the small "village" of upper-class journalists and their wanna-bes. But as for me, I can hardly imagine a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the nation's leading newspaper with LESS influence among the public than Maureen Dowd.
I agree with the Daily Howler about Dowd, but I do not believe she is self-aware. I think she thinks she is doing good, no matter what she does in print.ReplyDelete