Mormon joke watch: Are we perhaps a small tiny bit like the folk we revile?


Selecting a sauce for the imperfect gander: Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t know Charles Blow or Joan Walsh.

We're sure they're both perfectly decent people. Most people are.

Is either one of these people a bigot? We would be hugely surprised if that were the case—and we think all meaning has been drained from that term by its promiscuous use. But even as the New York Times was throwing its B-bombs around this past week, Blow and Walsh were apologizing for their own imperfect statements.

Everyone says something dumb at some point. Even folk in our own tribe!

Uh-oh! As Blow live-tweeted the last GOP debate, he threw down a fiery remark about one of the candidates’ “magic underwear.” It was a semi-nasty Mormon jibe! A jibe aimed at Romney’s religion!

Two days later, Blow apologized, congratulating himself for his forthrightness. For a review of the facts from New York magazine, click here. For a conservative reaction—and for a few more of Blow’s fiery tweets—check this Newsbusters post.

Walsh’s subsequent Mormon joke came on primary night. For her apology, click here; you can note the several ways she couched her own apology. It’s always great when you can hide behind Elie Wiesel and the late Daniel Pearl!

(Question: In 2004, did we like it when the other side tried to make Candidate Kerry answer for his own church’s behavior and views? If memory serves, we did not—although your lizard brain will be able to churn a long list of major distinctions.)

Romney is a horrible candidate with truly gruesome proposals. But that doesn't seem to be enough. Even worse, he’s a Mormon! With funny clothes and beliefs! Completely unlike us Catholics! Maureen Dowd has now played this card in at least three columns (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/17/12)—but Dowd is the unchallenged worst in show. Now, in fairly rapid succession, two leading liberals have gone there too.

No, it isn’t the end of the world. But we do think it’s kind of amazing—and perhaps a bit instructive.

Walsh likes to recall the terrible ways we Catholics were treated by those people back in the 1850s. Given these heartfelt sentiments, we don’t know why she’d be inclined to play the Mormon card against Romney. Unless our side might even have some of the same unfortunate impulses/instincts we’re eager to savage in others! Unless we’re human too!

Good news! Your lizard brain will be able to explain away events like these with ease. Your lizard brain will help you see that we are not a bit like them, not in the slightest way. But remember: Last week, the New York Times unleashed its B-bombs again, complaining that “right-wingers” in the New Hampshire legislature have a bigoted view on marriage equality. The Times forgot to mention the fact that the bigots’ view is the same as President Obama’s. (Although his view is evolving!)

In the case of Blow’s live Tweet, the newspaper gave its own guy a pass. We don’t necessarily disagree with that response, although his tweets were unattractive. (Why must they tweet?) But why are those other people so vile while their guy is so meritorious?

Lizard brains function like that! As a general matter, we aren’t real high on Blow or Walsh, which is part of the reason we note these remarks. But no, these imperfect people aren’t “bigots”—and everyone on every side is imperfect in various ways.

Among other shortcomings, we think Blow and Walsh tend to be unhelpfully tribal. No, their jibes aren’t the end of the world. But this may help you see what we mean.


  1. you bemoan bigoted remarks aimed at gop candidatesMarch 3, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    you bemoan bigoted remarks aimed at gop candidates and I agree in principle but i wonder if youre aware of the larger context of american politics, currently and historically.

    even before they added the south the gop were a nativistic lot at the grass roots level going back to 1800s. and they are not shy about broadcasting their bigotry to the multitudes although theyve learned to use code words, such as liberal for non-realamerican.

    a felt hatred does not have to be an expressed hatred and if one is trying to fight an opponent whose group elan vital is in fact bigotry, then its important to avoid leaving ones self open to charges of the very thing youre opposing. but I dont know how one gets up for a fight against such a vicious ad homin-istic political adversary without some level of hatred. you may be more christian in this regard and disagree.

    it sounds to me like you are trying to 'handcuff' the dem supporters by making them feel guilty about feeling anger back at people who given their druthers would do great harm to them. perhaps i shouldnt try to read your mind but on the other hand you are not shy about ascribing the worst of motivations to certain factions on the d side.

    lastly, hatred doesnt have to be bigotry if it is simply a self defense mechanism which would abate if and when the other side relents in its bigoted antagonisms.

  2. Imagine a political culture where candidates can hold patently absurd beliefs -- from Adam & Eve to magical underwear -- but it's simply wrong to say so, because it's not nice and all religions get a pass, even when the candidates runs on his religious probity.

    You'd think would this prohibition would bother Mr. Somerby more than the ravings of Ashley Parker. But you'd be wrong

    1. I don't think Blow's a bigot because he thinks Mormon theology is absurd; he's a bigot because he ignorantly mocks Mormons for beliefs they don't have. Mormons don't believe in magic underwear. It would be the same as mocking a Jew for his "magic Kippah" or a Baptist for his "magic cross." The problem with bigotry is its foundation in ignorance.

    2. Mormonism, like a religions, is full of magical notions. How about the Angel Moroni?

      The rationality of anyone who runs for president actively espousing his religious righteousness -- and even insisting that his religion trumps the Constitution -- demands to be examined. Would you buy a used car from someone who insists on the literal truth of the ridiculous?

  3. Every religious belief is absurd to those not sharing that belief, just as atheism is absurd to religionists.

    1. Atheists typically don't insist that their beliefs are based in the supernatural or personal revelation or that their scripture precedes secular law.

      However, the burden of proof is somewhat hirer for anyone insisting that the burning bush spoke Moses or that Jesus rose from the dead, and that his scriptural book is the source of both law and morality.

  4. I see the Newsbluster story got in a dig at the "offensive" things Paul Krugman has said, without, of course, mentioning any of them?
    I suppose he said something like tax rate decreases do not raise revenue.

  5. Bob, thanks for the link to New York Magazine and thanks for pointing out the weakness of Blow's apology: "Btw, the comment I made about Mormonism during Wed.'s debate was inappropriate, and I regret it. I'm willing to admit that with no caveats." A real apology would be an important post on its own, not just a "BTW". A truly sorry person wouldn't be "willing to admit" his error. He'd be eager to clear the air. And, as Bob pointed out, a truly sorry person wouldn't be praising himself for apologizing. (E.g., I think we'd all be unimpressed with this hypthetical apology: "Btw, using the N-word to refer to President Obama was inappropriate, and I regret it. I'm willing to admit that with no caveats.")

    New York Magazine's coverage was quite different from Bob's. NY Mag praised Blow for an apology that was "free of justification", although I cannot imagine how Blow's bigoted comment could have been justified.

    Later NY mag says: "Romney responded...without addressing Mormonism head-on." Why should Romney have to address Mormonism? He (as well as all Mormons) was the offended party. Should Romney have to explain or provide justification, because Mormons give special significance to special underwear, as Jews give significance to a yarmulke, as Catholics do to a cross or to ashes, as Muslim women do to a head scarf? Give me a break.

    1. Romney should answer basic questions about his faith. He's very secretive about it.

      We have a very good sense about President Obama's religious affiliation and experiences given how he was raked over the coals.

      We knew about Clinton's beliefs, what they were. We knew that George W. Bush was a born-again Christian and belonged to the Methodist faith. Anyone can attend a Methodist church and view their services. Anyone can talk with a born-again person and find out what they believe.

      Anyone who wants to can go to the Episcopalian church(es) that George H. W. Bush attends or attended.

      But neither you nor I can set foot in a Mormon temple. It is a very secretive religion that had a long history of overt racial discrimination against black people. The church still secretly baptizes Jews and other non-Mormons after their death. This has caused tremendous controversy.

      Many of the tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are secret. God lives on the planet Kolob, in outer space.

      I am not making that up. Those are Mormon teachings.

      Do most people know that? Did you? If that's your faith, so be it.

      Does Romney believe this stuff? Why won't he answer a few questions about this and his beliefs, and how they'll influence how he'll govern?

    2. Here are the links:

      Mormons believe people live on other planets.

      Mormons believe God lives on the planet Kolob, from which we all come.

      These were revelations Joseph Smith had. Does Romney believe them? If so why not be clear about this? There is not a Roman Catholic politician out, nor a Jewish one, who would be unwilling to discuss the tenets of their faith.

      Why won't Romney?

    3. Here's a question for AnonymousMar 4, 2012 10:11 AM:

      Are you primarily concerned about the secrecy and unusual practices in the Mormon religion? Or are you primarily pointing them out as a means of attacking a Republican?

      Here's a suggestion to help identify your motives: Asjk yourself whether you have raised the same concerns about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

    4. Last time I checked, Harry Reid wasn't running on the religious teaching he grew up with, or calling for diminution (or an end to) of church/state separation

      To the extent a candidate keeps the nonsense he was taught as a child to himself, those beliefs needn't become an issue.

      But religion is front and center for the Republican candidates, including explicit calls for reducing the separation between church and state.

      As such, Romney is under a special burden -- of his own creation.

  6. Yes I remember the long, detailed discussion Obama had about his and Reverend Wright's beliefs. Wait, no I don't.

    1. Obama, however, didn't run on his religious faith, as all 3 Republican front-runners are doing. Nor did he promise, as all 3 Republican frontrunners have, to bring his religion beliefs into public policy.

  7. The nice thing about new religions, like Mormonism & Scientology, is that the crazy hasn't been lost to history - it's right here with us today.

    Is it wrong to criticize someone for their religion? Depends. But, in my opinion, it is perfectly legitimate to wonder whether crazy policy views derive from crazy religious views.

    In the case of Mormonism, you take some good old magic garments, like the Jews wear, & mix it up with the rites of a good old secret society, like the Masons. Add some old time religion, & some SALESMANSHIP & you got the hottest thing since Studio 54. Ya need a rope & bouncers to keep the hoi polloi lined up on the street fingering their coin purses.

  8. "Of course, you may discover what I am saying is not really true, but that's only
    because you have the mind of a repulsive reptile."

    Is this really how they teach discourse at Harvard? Maybe so, but "The Daily Howler"
    just doesn't get any worse. Preemptive name calling is a poor strategy for a scold, and it is, at best, the hallmark of a hack.
    Salon and Joan Walsh have done a lot of a lot of bush league work this past year; worst of all was the obnoxious, invented John Wayne Gacy nonsense. For that, they deserve all the derision for that the world can spare them. Here, however, I barely see a reason for Walsh to apologize at all. Far from hiding behind Wiesel, Walsh is pointing out that this Mormon practice (that the Daily Howler won't even mention) is offensive to many jews, and will (with some of the other more colorful aspects of Mormon Mythology) inevitably be revisited in the general election. Of course, it was the Daily Howler who told you how ABSURD those intellectuals were who suggested there might be something anti-semitic about poor Mel Gibson and his jew baiting movie. Blind spot much?
    It does raise an interesting point, do we keep legitimate religious questions out of our politics TOO MUCH? I would love for the President to be asked to explore his drone strikes in the context of his christianity. Mitt should be asked if he really believes God lives on Kolob. I doubt either would say anything that would in itself would disqualify them from my vote.
    Can't help noticing that this week when decent people across the board may finally be calling Limbaugh to account, The Howler dreams up this puffery.
    But in any case, this was a horrible, cranky post. Today it is the Daily Howler who is The Lizard King, he can write anything.

  9. How strange it is that in America it's considered bigotry to mock or simply criticize someone for their own, avowed beliefs merely if they're religious. How blatanly dysfunctional can a political culture get?

    A person who openly believes in crackpot things is very likely a crackpot. That might go a long way towards explaining Romney's extreme inconsistency in position. Or it could just be that saying you believe something ridiculous when you need others to believe that you believe it in order to get ahead may be a very hard habit to break.

    Mormonism was founded by a known con artist, is based on clearly crackpot notions such as the Garden of Eden being located in Missouri, committed an incredibly ugly atrocity (the Meadow Mountain Massacre, which included the butchering of women an children)and, yes, insists that its adherents wear special underwear--a concept so nakedly perverted that Catholic priests should, by all rights, be laughing at them behind their backs as a momentary but nevertheless bright distraction from their own garish peccadilloes.

    JFK understood the reasonableness of fears that his religion would dominate his judgment. Catholics are supposed to do what the Pope says even though it is now obvious that they quite sensibly don't. He didn't play victim of bigotry. He addressed the issue head on and won the presidency by indirectly assuring everyone that he didn't take his religion too seriously. That's really all that ought to be required.