Friday, August 21, 2015

Josh Duggar and Ashley Madison Revelations: Commentary I Find Worth Reading

A selection for you this morning (blossoms or weeds? — you please decide) from things I've been reading about the revelation that, while employed by Family Research Council and attacking gay folks as premier threats to the sanctity of marriage, Josh Duggar had two accounts at the Ashley Madison cheat-on-your-spouse site: 

Jay Michaelson thinks that, instead of laughing, we might want to try being as mad as hell at the whole cottage industry of gay bashing in the name of God in the U.S., since the boot of that industry continues to constrict our throat even as we try to laugh:

Women, progressives, and queers have had to sit and listen to the likes of Duggar, Huckabee, Santorum, and Fischer talk about us, as if the outright lies they spread about our lives are somehow deserving of deference.  So you can’t blame us for smiling when they take a fall.  
But here are two reasons to get hopping mad instead. 
First, all of the people and institutions I’ve named, while they were lying, cheating, and having lots of illicit sex, were also working hard to demean me and my family, and deny us our civil rights.  They aren’t just hypocrites. Hypocrites preach one thing and practice another.  But these guys aren’t just preaching; they are actively, and sometimes successfully, restricting my freedom, encouraging my dehumanization, and telling lies about me and people like me. 
There are real-world consequences of this preposterous playing-out of religious conservatives’ inner psychoses, and real people who are affected. Kids attempting suicide, repressed men abusing their children and wives, and, of course, the victims of those who "stray," whose lives can be ruined. 

I like Jay Michaelson's reminder ("women, progressives, and queers") that Duggar's homophobia connects to misogyny. He was raised in a Christian home in which he was taught to regard women as adjuncts to men, as servants of husband and family, as obliged to obey. I for one see a direct line from these formative experiences to his treatment of his wife as an object, when he made the decision to sign up not once but twice on a spousal cheating site while professing to hold the highest ideals about the sanctity of "traditional" marriage.

Dan Savage looks at the moral quandary of celebrating the disclosure of the private information of millions of people who are not all Josh Duggars. He proposes that we should think twice about the glee many of us feel at seeing the private sexual lives of others revealed by the Ashley Madison hack. 

But he also thinks "Josh Duggar—demagogue, liar, political operative—was a legitimate target for outing." He explains: 

Outing someone for their private sexual conduct—even if everyone agrees that it's wrong—is a brutal tactic that should be reserved for brutes. Who's a legitimate target for outing? I'll let Barney Frank explain: "There's a right to privacy," Frank said on Real Time. "But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. People who want to demonize other people shouldn't then be able to go home and close the door, and do it themselves." 
To which I would add: People who accuse others of trying to destroy their marriages, fundamentalists who quite literally demonize other people, and who then go back to their apartments in Washington, DC, and cheat on their spouses are political hypocrites and legitimate targets for outing.

Brian Tashman provides a helpful set of clips of Josh Duggar attacking gay people as immoral and marriage equality as a threat to "traditional" marriage and Christian values — all while he was on Ashley Madison trolling for extramarital encounters. One of these is at the head of this posting: Duggar speaking at an anti-gay rally in Virginia last year as executive director of Family Research Council about the "beauty" of his marriage, which fits God's design for the "natural definition" of marriage, which is "foundational" for civilization.

While he had two Ashley Madison accounts advertising his interest in finding a "naughty girl" whom he could teach and who could teach him, who wanted a one-night stand and liked to give and receive oral sex . . . . 

Finally, Timothy Kincaid's satirical quip about the next Duggar TLC show we might now see coming down the pike:

I expect that the next thing we will hear from the Duggars is a new TLC reality series about how to keep your marriage strong after one party strays. These people have no moral center. At all.

We laugh. But we also live in a nation in which a boorish, half-educated, racist reality show t.v.-star-cum-billionaire is now dominating the lead-up to our next presidential elections.

In America today, anything is possible, and no nadir is too low when our appetite for "reality" is being whetted by folks like the Donald and the Duggars. Or so it seems to me as I stand in my tiny little patch of garden surrounded by weeds and flowers intermixed . . . .

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