Saturday, May 30, 2015

Them or Us

It's interesting, and perhaps revealing, that from what I've seen so far, the most incisive and in-depth coverage of the Duggar scandal seems to be coming from "gossip" oriented sites such as Gawker and Jezebel. Not in the "hey, let's revisit the creepy details of teenaged Josh Duggar fingering his sisters while they sleep" sense, but in the much more important "do y'all know what these fucking people fervently believe and preach" sense.

And while of course it's sad and awful about the specifics of what Josh Duggar has admitted to doing, the fact is that the sisters in question are all adults now. They can leave the cult any time they want, get away from the parents who chose their brother over them, simply because he has a penis and they're just females, pure chattel. That they so far have chosen to stick with it is proof that Stockholm syndrome is a thing.

Probably due to these sites' typically snarky, irreverent tone on virtually any and every subject, they are much better suited to tackling this sort of story than any network news org would bother with. Looking not only at the Duggar family but at the individuals and organizations that underpin their belief system, as well as the entire Quiverfull cult (it's a "movement" much like the eight-pound growler I had after surf-and-turf and oatmeal stout the other night), and understanding what their overall goals really are is critical.

Network newsies don't bother with these sorts because they're terrified of offending Middle 'murka with their atheist attacks of good god-fearin' Chris-chin foke. But we are not talking about, say, the Amish, who reject modernity but also have no higher aspirations, no political ambitions, and who actually give their children the option to go or stay, to experience the rigors of the outside world and make a conscious decision. This is all well and good, near as most of us can tell.

The Quiverfull sorts, and their various and sundry movementarian brethren, are a different can of dog food altogether. I couldn't possibly give less than a tenth of a fuck what Jim Bob 'n' Michelle Bob have to say about the kerfuffle, or what their excuses are for "curing" Josh Bob by sending him to live for the summer with a man currently doing 56 years for child porn, while doing fuck-all for four of their daughters. (No, "praying on it" doesn't count.)

What I care about is that Jim Bob was in the US Congress for a brief spell, and ran for the US Senate. What we should care about is not that the children are "homeschooled", but that they are inculcated into the bizarre teachings of a crap factory called  the Advanced Training Institute (which, yes, just like the Holy Roman Empire and health care reform, has nothing to do with any of the words in its name).

The ATI, run by a man named Bill Gothard (giggity) who seems to be having some sort of weird contest with Bill Cosby, essentially tries to reduce the last several thousands of years of accumulated knowledge and understanding to a reductionist, camera obscura view through the Bronze Age palimpsest they revere when convenient. Then they send these under-educated chuckleheads out into the real world to lecture us heathens and run things for us.

This, to radically understate the case, presents a problem.

It probably makes me something of a bad or at least heterodox atheist to say that I don't have any problem with politicians espousing or adhering to religious beliefs, so long as it stays with them and is not overtly inflicted on everyone. I don't give a shit about prayer breakfasts or ceremonial benedictions. I don't care about "God Bless America" or "In God We Trust" (though I wouldn't mind losing them either). People want their warm pink blanky, and as long as it doesn't smother the rest of us, that's fine.

But when kids are indoctrinated into viewing all females as breeders and housekeepers, things to be subjugated and impregnated early and often, I have a problem. When hordes of maroons are groomed for decades to believe that their highest calling is merely to reproduce -- something even fucking amoeba can do routinely -- I want said maroons as far away from the levers of power and influence as possible.

The US in particular, and the world in general, face some serious, truly catastrophic issues which, if they even can still be resolved at this late date, will take most of the rest of this century to do so. It will require concerted efforts from people who have high levels of practical knowledge to alleviate the damage that's been done over the last hundred years or so, and has only accelerated.

Overpopulation, wealth inequality, environmental degradation, climate change, mass extinction, and more -- these are not problems that can be addressed, much less solved, by the providential thinking these doofuses truck in. Mass prayers and courthouse rain dances are not going to preserve the Antarctic Ice Shelf or the Himalayan snowpack. The nation and the planet no longer have time for the pestilential nonsense these jabbering peckerwoods are peddling.

And that's what is most troubling about the apparent success of "reality hillbilly" shows such as Eight Million Kids and Counting or Fucktard Dynasty -- the gimmick of such shows is that the protagonists are by nature the sorts of "odd ducks" whose entertainment value would ordinarily be the very thing that rightly marginalizes them. Instead their ill-gotten fame has empowered these poltroons, given them an unearned platform on which to further spout their Christofascist horseshit.

From the very start of the "reality teevee" craze, I knew nothing good, much less actually entertaining, could come from it. Sure enough, it's metastasized into turning families who would have been held at arm's length sixty years ago into cultural rock stars with real influence among certain swathes, especially those who regard their own relatives as potential paramours.

Hunter S. Thompson famously said that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. I think this phenomenon of marginal outliers becoming mainstream cultural talking points and touchstones is a manifestation of that idea.

In the meantime, while we've all been distracted by gay marriage and the steady whittling of women's reproductive rights, the evangelicals have infiltrated the inner workings of vital government institutions. They claim to just want to be left alone, but they really want it all -- your money, your mind, your loyalty, your agency as a free adult American, your very soul. They are easy enough to hoot at, with their bizarre sex fetishes and simplistic paranoia. But they are dead serious.

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