no offense taken: the edwards bloggers

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 10, 2007

The flash of pure hatred in his face, but hatred, as it were, crystallised so that it was no longer a passion, was like touching metal in the Arctic where metal burns.
-- C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength.

Bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan have long luxuriated in anti-Catholic invective (OTR gave you a quick tour of the terrain in 2005; Dawn Eden has been keeping track more methodically). Now that Marcotte and McEwan have been hired as staffers for John Edwards's presidential campaign, their writings have become an embarrassment to his supporters -- not that those supporters don't share the convictions expressed, but the perfunctory apologies tendered in consequence of the outcry put the Edwards campaign "off message" for a day or two.

For a sampling of the thought of Marcotte and McEwan, go here and here. Pretty much standard liberal vocabulary when the conversation is in-house and cor ad cor loquitur.

Two aspects of the controversy stand out for your Uncle Di. First, the laughably supine harlotry of the prestige media in their coverage of the story. Below are the sole specimens of the bloggers' bliggotry cited in yesterday's New York Times article:

In some of their online writings, Ms. Marcotte and Ms. McEwan used vulgar language to characterize religious conservatives and Roman Catholic teachings on birth control, homosexuality and the virgin birth.

On her personal blog, Shakespeare's Sister, Ms. McEwan had referred to conservative Christians as "Christofascists." On the Pandagon blog site, Ms. Marcotte had said that the Catholic Church's prohibition on the use of birth control forced women to bear "more tithing Catholics."
True, of course, but benign to the point of distortion. It's wryly amusing that the Times should adopt such Victorian primness toward piarum auribus offensiva when the party that stands to lose by accurate transcription are left-liberals. A dutiful shill, reporter John Broder helpfully floats the vast-right-wing-conspiracy balloon: "Some bloggers saw the controversy as manufactured by conservative groups." Manufactured?

Good puppy, Jack.

The second and more intriguing aspect of the flap is the nature of Marcotte and McEwan's anti-Catholicism. To call it "offensive" misses the point. It's the hatred behind the offensiveness that's the interesting phenomenon. After all, ridicule -- even ridicule intended to offend -- need not proceed from hatred. But Marcotte and McEwan's does. Nor is their antipathy "anti-Catholicism" of the old fashioned tribal variety. Their language about the Catholics they hate differs in no respect from Bishop Reggie Cawcutt's language about the Catholics he hates; tidy up the spelling, and you can't tell them apart. Whom do they hate? Anyone that professes orthodox Christian doctrine. McEwan, in fact, inadvertently concedes the point in her gloriously naive protestation that she can't be anti-Catholic because she voted for John Kerry:

I'm not going to say a lot about this right now, but suffice it to say that the fact I cast a vote, without hesitation, for a Catholic during the last presidential election might suggest I'm not anti-Catholic. My degree from Loyola University might also suggest the same.

With precisely the same justice Sid Blumenthal and Anna Quindlen might object that they're not ill-disposed toward the Baptist Church because, after all, they voted for Bill Clinton. The shell-game of identity politics works such that the stigma attached to racial bigotry can be extended, when expedient, to rational preferences as well; and conversely, detestation of religious believers can be exonerated, when expedient, by pointing to good-will toward persons who lay claim to the religion but reject the belief (the Jesuit universities, in large measure, and the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, in essentia, exist to facilitate this glissade).

To understand what's going on here it's vital to grasp that left-liberals are incapable a priori, on axiomatic grounds, of acknowledging their own hatred. It may be said that, performatively, they define and distinguish themselves from their adversaries precisely in virtue of their being preserved free from this sin. There is simply no such thing as a "left-wing hate group," as a Nexis-search will attest. That conservatives have a monopoly on this vice is dogma -- perhaps their only dogma. This means that the hatred that exists within left-liberal breasts must be accounted for as something other than what it is. In the case of in-house antipathy, of leftist versus leftist, malice is reflexively attributed to a recrudescence of right-wing politics (sexism, racism, hetero-centrism, etc.). When their hatred is directed toward non-leftists, it is explained as some variety of righteous indignation.

Because universities tend to be kindergartens of leftist catechetics, this double standard is particularly evident there. Think for example of the asymmetrical treatment accorded the Nazi swastika and the Communist hammer-and-sickle. To display either is to make implicit reference to millions of victims of ideological murder and say, "I'm glad you're dead." But only one counts as symbol of hate, and, at a university today, a faculty member wearing a swastika t-shirt will be charged with a hate crime, while a faculty member wearing a hammer-and-sickle t-shirt will be defended against objectors (if any) on the grounds of academic freedom. Sure, the latter academic is announcing to Christians, "I wish you were dead," but this desire, no matter how fervid it may be, does not qualify as hatred, and if you protested to a university administrator your complaint would bewilder him utterly. (Were he the kind of person capable of taking your point, he almost certainly wouldn't be a university administrator.)

In spite of their hatred, it's a mistake to call Marcotte and McEwan bigots in the strong sense. True bigotry involves irrationality, i.e., blurring of distinctions that the bigot himself deems important, whence bigots treat all Jews or all blacks under the same description of opprobrium, whether a given individual exhibits the despised quality or not. Further, the bigot will cheerfully indulge his bigotry even if his own interests suffer therefrom, as when the anti-Semite hires a less-competent gentile salesman in preference to a more competent Jew. There's no indication that the Edwards bloggers succumb to either sort of irrationality (as McEwan says, she voted for Kerry -- unquestionably her kind of Catholic). My sense is that if these gals and I were conducting a prisoner exchange, they would place the correct tags on the correct people and assign to each the proper level of utility or harm: "Ratzinger's your guy; Cawcutt is ours; Sam Brownback's your guy; Nancy Pelosi is ours." Like the hatred C.S. Lewis describes in the quote above, Marcotte and McEwan's is not hot and diffuse but cold and well-targeted -- too cold to arraign them for bigotry.

For these reasons the usual exchange of complaint and concession disguises the key factors in this controversy. Those Catholics for whom extracting an apology is important can only get one by playing along with the identity politics game, and that means feigning (or exaggerating the centrality of) hurt feelings -- feelings, that's to say, that libs are willing to concede Marcotte and McEwan may have wounded. But to my thinking this ploy is largely disingenuous. A man's feelings are hurt not by injury simply, but by injury where good will is expected. Five minutes' browsing on the damsels' blogs suffices to show there's no good will to abuse. And, paradoxically, when one belligerent openly declares war on another, it can thereafter hurt everything pertaining to its enemy except its feelings. Marcotte and McEwan may be "offensive" in the military sense of aggressive, but for Catholics to complain of being offended by their antipathy is to imply a human bond that isn't there. In sum, it's to pay them a compliment they don't deserve.

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Show 17 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Feb. 15, 2007 6:07 PM ET USA

    The bishop of Orlando, Bishop Thomas Wenski, just gave $10,000 to Protestants to rebuild their church destroyed by the tornado 2 weeks ago. All of you saw that church on the TV news (over & over & over).What if it had been a mosque. Would he have given them money also? Bishop Wenski is clueless about a lot of things, but he cluelessly thinks protestants think well of the Catholic Church. They don't. I was a Protestant, so I know. Picture on Orlando diocesan site,

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2007 7:38 PM ET USA

    Chiostroman, no one in my life has said, "hats off" to me, so this is a banner day for me, and thanks. Before I get too taken with my perspicacity, let me remind myself that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 13, 2007 8:39 AM ET USA

    In re the Marcotte's resignation. I was wrong. There are limits. A victory, of sorts. Hats off to Sterling.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2007 8:22 PM ET USA

    Posted by Amy Marcotte on Pandagon this PM: "Regardless, it was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign. No matter what you think about the campaign, I signed on to be a supporter and a tireless employee for them, and if I can’t do the job I was hired to do because Bill Donohue doesn’t have anything better to do with his time than harass me, then I won’t do it. I resigned my position today and they accepted."

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2007 5:37 PM ET USA

    Sterling: this is win/win for Edwards. How much traction do you think even a Republican could get attacking somebody for attacking (take a deep breath) the Catholic Church and its teachings? Would Rudy do it? McCain? How far would it get them? How fast would the Times line up to carry water for Edwards and every other idiot he and that wife of his hire? Remember, this is primary time. He has to please the base, and the base is Howard Dean country. How does he lose? Not at all. They'll be back.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2007 4:28 PM ET USA

    Hatred aside, doesn't it seem as if it would embarass Edwards, who cultivates an image of having some class, to employ such obvious MORONS? Their smutty mouths and nutty rants make them more pathetic than offensive, really too simple-minded to take seriously. The only surprise about these silly gals is the Edwards pays them to work for him. I can only surmise that the last remaining female roller derby closed down somewhere and Edwards could hire them for cheap.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2007 3:10 PM ET USA

    The bigoted intolerance of the bloggers is quite in line with theleft-wing fascism of the past. In Germany before their rise to absolute power the Nazis preached tolerance of a live and let live type. Only when they got total control did they attack conventional morality. The bloggers have revealed themselves and their intentions too soon. We already have an amoral society obsessed with hedonism. Enough so that a backlash is forming. The Church will survive the attack.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2007 12:14 PM ET USA

    I just finished a discussion with a left leaning friend on this very subject. He gave me the typical "your making a big deal of nothing" comments. I read the "tithing" quote to him substituting "Jew" for "Catholic". He got quiet for a moment then said; "You're still making too big of a deal out of it." A vision of three monkeys flashed in my mind.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2007 11:50 AM ET USA

    Gene Church has it right...The candidate's immediate priority is to win his party's nomination.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 12, 2007 8:35 AM ET USA

    One of your very best, Di. Keep it up.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2007 7:08 AM ET USA

    While agreeing that the lack of antipathy relieves the faithful Catholic from being offended by Marcotte and McEwan as acting subjects, I don't think it stops one from being offended by their hateful, bigoted, and heretical language. If such "free speech" is not immediately identified and forcefully rebuked in the same Public Square from which it arises, then it runs the risk of adversely affecting the minds of the unsuspecting.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 11, 2007 6:48 AM ET USA

    And yet horific as this is, there would not be the votes to keep Abortion legal in this country without Catholic voters and Catholic politicians. If we could convert our own house, we would never need to worry about candidates like Edwards.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 10, 2007 10:38 PM ET USA

    At this time, Edwards is concerned about capturing the left, not the "right."

  • Posted by: - Feb. 10, 2007 8:30 PM ET USA

    These two bloggers are fascinating. The intelluctual refinement and felicity of expression they show is redolent somehow of a distaff barracks whose inmates don't shave their legs and who spend a lot, a lot, of time fantasizing about kicking somne hapless Buchanan or other in the 'nads. Do these women all know one another?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 10, 2007 2:29 PM ET USA

    Of course,we as Catholics, do not have a mutual bond with these three, Marcotte, McEwan, and Bishop R.Cawcutt's "filthy mouths", a trait of flaming homosexuals. However, we can't let horrific and blasphemous language go unchecked. Our Constitution never allowed us to have a "filthy mouth", downing an icon of any religion, let alone The Mother of God and Jesus. People have been blaspheming for many years under the guise of freedom of speech. This is a Sin and not to "hate" sin is not an option!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 10, 2007 12:26 PM ET USA

    There is a curious and serious lack of concern about these revelations on the part of the Edwards campaign here as well. After all, which Democrat in the running down the road will recklessly accuse him and his campaigne of anti Catholic bigotry? And if a Republican does ... well, we all know how the NYT will spin that.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 10, 2007 11:29 AM ET USA

    They truly are "The Party of Perversion".