Frances Kissling, head of Catholics for a Free Choice, talks about the right-wing activist who forced the John Edwards campaign to part with one of its bloggers.
What happened is [the Swiftboating of John] Kerry repeated, in a way. I think that's the goal. What you have are these right-wing Catholic groups, the Catholic League and Priests for Life and Fidelis, which came out after Donohue went after [Marcotte] calling for Obama and Hillary to repudiate Edwards for hiring them. What it is is part of the 2008 attack by conservative Catholics against Democrats, whether they're Catholic or not: Anything they can do to discredit the candidates is what they're going to do.
Any comment, any statement, and he's right there to claim that it's anti-Catholic. And one is used to this kind of thing getting attention from Fox [News]. But it's surprising that it's now being treated seriously by the mainstream press.
Now, were those bloggers pushing the envelope? Yes they were. Is it surprising that Edwards would hire them? Yes! From my perspective was that a good thing? Yes! From a mainstream perspective? Maybe not.
But what Amanda wrote is certainly no different from what prominent Ph.D.s, tenured professors of theology, are saying when they're talking about sex and Christianity. But this is it, Donohue doesn't like serious scholarly examination of Christian principles, or stories, or myths any more than he likes satire of it. He is an equal-opportunity bully when it comes to those things. It's a basic belief, whether it's about this or the Danish cartoons, put forward by some in the religious community, which says that what we believe is off-limits; it cannot be criticized because we have said it is sacred. And then there are the rest of us in democratic societies who say nothing is above criticism and that democracy even includes the right to ridicule.
There is something about this man and his attacks on women that is frightening. There was a while when I refused to go on air with him [for television appearances] because -- you know I am a very strong person -- but I felt physically threatened by this man. He never physically threatened me, but I felt like I was in the presence of an abuser. So for a long time I just refused because it was too degrading to be in his presence. I got over it eventually and have done a few things with him since. I understand that he is so offensive that he does himself damage; as long as I can maintain my equilibrium with him attacking me in the most vicious ways possible -- that only does me credit and makes him look like the abuser that he is. But the glee with which he went after Vanderslice and the glee with which he has gone after these women marks him as an abuser.
The Charlotte Observer
Donohue throws fire bombs for a living.
He takes aim at popular culture that invokes, spoofs or criticizes Catholic (read: Christian) symbols or tenets. The trouble is, he can't differentiate between healthy debate -- or meaningless entertainment stunts -- and real religious bigotry.
Donohue is also just as guilty of using overblown language and expressing bigoted ideas as the bloggers he criticizes.
Consider his remark, reported above, about Hollywood and Jews who hate Christians, made on the MSNBC program "Scarborough Country" in 2004.
Consider this statement made in 2005: "The gay community has yet to apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done -- for contaminating the blood supply in New York City and around the country."
It's hard to take someone that uninformed seriously when they see anti-Catholic bias behind every tree.
He gets paid $300K a year to do that. Plush pay for a cush job in which there's no real work, so he makes damn sure he finds bias "behind every tree" even if he has to invent it himself.
What it comes down to is this: People like Bill Donohue are bullies. They use fear and derision to derail views and ideas different from their own. That's dangerous. It short circuits the fundamental right of free speech.
AlterNet. Paul Waldman takes the MSM to task.
Donohue runs an ongoing medicine show of disingenuous outrage, charging that any criticism of the Catholic Church -- if it comes from progressives or Democrats -- is "anti-Catholic bigotry," while defending all manner of bigotry so long as it comes from conservatives.
Again and again, all it has entailed is a call from Bill Donohue -- whom Mark Silk, the director of the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, described as "a thug" -- to set reporters' fingers tapping on their keyboards, another "controversy" made to order.
Despite there being some factual element buried deep within the story -- the two bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, were, in fact, working for John Edwards, and they had previously written strong, even intemperate words criticizing the Catholic Church -- this controversy was at its heart no different from the madrassa fiction.
Both were attempts by right-wing operatives to create a scandal out of nothing in an attempt to damage a Democratic presidential candidate; in both cases these right-wing operatives sought to enlist the help of the media to do their dirty work.
And in both cases, the liberal blogs fought back (albeit for slightly different reasons; it wasn't Edwards they were defending, but two of their own). They spread the facts, they put pressure on the media to report them accurately and they generally made the kind of ruckus the right wing has been much more effective at creating. In the end, Edwards did the right thing and refused to fire Marcotte and McEwan. Still, Donohue got the scalp he wanted: Marcotte quit the Edwards campaign this week. (You can read her explanation.)
The 2008 election will be a test of whether blogs have the power to enforce some standard of truth and shame on those news organizations that buy into made-up tales like the Obama madrassa story.
During the 2004 campaign blogs were still a novelty, an emerging information source and organizing tool with mostly unrealized potential. Four years later they have become a major player, and journalists -- terribly threatened though they may be by the idea that ordinary, uncredentialed people might be checking their work and calling them on their mistakes -- have finally realized that blogs can't be ignored. And if there's one thing bloggers don't hesitate to do, it is calling journalists to account when they have sinned.
As many a blogger has argued, they are much more accountable than traditional journalists -- write something inaccurate on your blog, and within minutes others will fact-check you and demand a correction (which on blogs is put right with the original post, not buried deeply somewhere in the publication a week later). So we can hope that that spirit of accountability will extend to the reporters currently booking hotel rooms in Des Moines and Manchester.
You don't have to let the right-wing smear machine lead you around by the nose. You can exercise your own judgment about what's true and what's a lie. You can give the public something better than what they've gotten in the last few campaigns. You can be true to your profession's noble ideals and the demands of democracy.
Lastly, Media Matters says Donohue knows a 'gook joke' when he tells one.
In a September 19, 2003, article on the annual game, the Columbia Daily Spectator, Columbia's student newspaper, reported that at the 2002 contest, the "Columbia University Marching Band, long known for its clever and often off-color jokes, made one that eventually gained national media attention." According to the Spectator, Hao, who was the "Marching Band Poet Laureate," "referred to 'Fordham tuition going down like an altar boy,' angering many students and fans from the Jesuit Catholic-run university."
Donohue subsequently appeared on Donahue with Hao to discuss the joke and promised to "demonstrate that the kid's a phony." Donohue then added that he had mentioned a hypothetical to Hao earlier that day on a different MSNBC program: "[W]e could hypothesize that there'd be a Columbia University pingpong team made of Asians, and somebody goes out there and says 'All gooks go home.' " Donohue finished his demonstration by asking: "Now, what's wrong with a gook joke?" After Hao responded that "the gook joke's completely irrelevant," Donohue stated: "All I'd ask for you is show the same degree of respect for Catholics as you would for Asians. You don't like the gook jokes? I don't like them, either. So just wise up." After a commercial break, Donohue returned to his argument and asked: "What about the gook jokes? I want to know, why don't you have a sense of humor about gook jokes?"
From the transcript:
DONOHUE: Why don't you lighten up a little?
Let me answer that. Because you got everything comin' that I can possibly shovel on you, and then I'll jam the shovel up your ass.