Friday, May 29, 2015

Duggar Saga: End-of-Week Wrap Up (with 10 Links to Valuable Commentary)

As this work week ends, I thought I'd update you on the ever-unfolding Duggar family saga, and provide you with some links to commentary on this story that, in my view, is well worth reading:

1. At Vox, Tanya Pai provides a helpful overview of the whole narrative as of two days ago.

2. Today at his Slacktivist site, Fred Clark offers a "reader" on the Duggar story, prefaced by this telling observation:

This is not the first time that prominent religious right figures have been exposed as sexual predators and hypocrites after making a career out of demonizing LGBT people while celebrating their own sexual "purity." Nor will it be the last.

3. Meanwhile, the story continues to unfold. As Josh Marshall notes at TPM two days ago, it appears that in 2007, Josh Duggar may have sued the Arkansas DHS to prevent that agency from making a finding against him and from ongoing monitoring of his interaction with his sisters. But as Marshall notes, the source for this story, the entertainment weekly In Touch, which has broken much of the news about Duggar so far, is thinly resourced and relies on an account by the Arkansas state trooper to whom the Duggar family turned when the parents first reported Josh to the police — who is himself now in prison on child pornography charges.

4. That state trooper, Joseph Hutchens, also tells In Touch that the Duggar family did not report accurately to him the actions Josh Duggar now admits:

2006 police report published last week by In Touch alleged that Josh Duggar molested five underage girls when he was a teenager. Duggar has since apologized for "acting inexcusably" as a youth and resigned his position as executive director  of the Family Research Council's lobbying arm. 
Yet Hutchens said that Jim Bob and Josh Duggar told him Josh had inappropriately touched one girl through her clothing while she slept. They said "it only happened one time," the former state trooper told In Touch
Hutchens told the tabloid that the information played a part in his decision not to report the abuse. 

5. As Scott Eric Kaufman notes for Salon, there appears to be a systemic problem that goes deeper than the Duggar family alone — a problem rooted in the structures of Arkansas state government and agencies including the state's DHS agency:

The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) is likely to face scrutiny in the coming weeks as two high-profile cases — that of Josh Duggar and State Representative Justin Harris — are shining a light on serious deficiencies within its walls.   
The earlier case is that of Rep. Harris, who used his connections to rid himself of two adopted daughters. He claimed they were "possessed by demons," and when exorcisms failed to cure them of their troubles, the girls were "rehomed" to Eric Francis — who sexually abused them.

6. The most recent revelations in the story have prompted Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to issue another statement about the Duggar story:

It's time for the Duggar family to break their silence about admitted child sex crimes by one of their own, especially in light of new revelations that they sued an Arkansas child safety agency. And it’s time for an independent law enforcement investigation into this serious matter.

7. As one commentator after another keeps pointing out, this story is claiming media attention because of the brazen trashy gall of a family that represents itself as a model Christian family, while attacking LGBT people as threats to children even as it knows about the threat its own model family has concealed. Here's Kathleen Furin at Salon on that point: 

Josh Duggar and his family worked hard to eradicate what they saw as "threats" from people who are transgendered. Yet most sex offenders and child molesters are either related to the victims or somehow otherwise associated with the family. Strangers commit just 2 to 3 percent of all such offenses, and teens are responsible for about half of all child molestations. 
The Duggars should be well aware of these statistics, especially since they have personal experience with sibling molestation. But rather than raising awareness around these issues and trying to put in place policies that could help keep all children safe from sexual abuse, they chose to vilify those people with whom they don't agree, without any evidence that the populations they were vilifying were any more likely to offend than their own son.

8. For Cosmopolitan, Jill Filopovic wonders why we the American public have long afforded this family a bully pulpit to preen and posture, when we have had every reason to know that the ideology they promote is toxic for women and LGBT folks: 

In other words, they're extreme misogynists. But treating women like second-class citizens and breeding machines wasn't just A-OK for TLC and just about every Republican presidential contender, but part and parcel to the family's "morality." In a civilized society where women are considered equal players, families like the Duggars would be marginalized. In our actual society, the Duggers were applauded, invited to political events, handed checks to star in a reality television show, and covered extensively and often glowingly by celebrity media. What is wrong with us?

9. As to the whys and wherefores of this story, the Diary of an Autodicact blog argues that abuse of women and children is embedded in fundamentalist religious ideologies, and may very well span confessional boundaries:

I believe Fundamentalism tends to breed predatory behavior. I also believe Evangelicalism has become influenced by Fundamentalism in the last few decades.  . . . 
I also believe that few churches are really safe places for victims, and I am not alone.

Autodicact's testimony is all the more powerful because, in his younger years, he was associated with the same Bill Gothard who helped advise Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar on Josh Duggar's abuse, and who has himself been dogged by allegations of sexual harrassment, molestation, and failure to report child abuse.

10. Finally, guess who's not talking about the Duggar story: as Carlos Maza and Rachel Percelay report for Media Matters, 

According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox News spent less than two minutes covering the story between May 21 and May 25, compared to almost an hour of coverage from the other cable news networks.

(My thanks to John Masters of the Deep Something blog for pointing me to the Diary of an Autodidact piece excerpted above.)

At the head of the posting: a Huffington Post video featuring the robocall made by Michelle Duggar last year to urge citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas, to vote down a city ordinance protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination on the ground that trans people would pose a threat to children.

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