Thursday, 12 July 2012

Sympathy For Mittens

Posted 7/11/2012 by the Salt City Sinner

"Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste"
       --"Sympathy For The Devil," the Rolling Stones

Willard "Mitt" "Mittens" Romney is not the easiest human being on the planet to feel sympathy for.

It doesn't help that while a lot of his countrymen are barely scraping by (or not scraping by at all, actually) he can't seem to stop himself from behaving like a rich, self-entitled prick, swanning around in his luxury boat and throwing $25,000-a-plate fundraisers in the Hamptons with the likes of this astonishing piece of work:

A New York City [Romney] donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. "I don't think the common person is getting it," she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. "Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them. 
"We've got the message," she added. "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies - everybody who's got the right to vote - they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income - one, you're not as educated, two they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."

That particular specimen was stupid enough to pop off to a reporter from the L.A. Times. The New York Times also got a taste of Mitt's crowd:
A woman in a blue chiffon dress poked her head out of a black Range Rover [in the Hamptons] on Sunday afternoon and yelled to an aide to Mitt Romney, "Is there a V.I.P. entrance. We are V.I.P." [What is it with these @$$holes and Range Rovers? - Ed.]
So: Mittens is still a rich prick and his most prominent fundraisers and donors are even bigger pricks - in fact, such colossal pricks that it almost defies comprehension. No sympathy there.

One always wants to believe that one's "team," such as it is in electoral politics, is virtuous - that even when on the attack, one's ideological fellow travelers will be righteous and metaphorically strike down one's opponents from a position of moral superiority. It is a frequent and tremendous source of disappointment for me when people who are ostensibly on my "side" scrap the rule book in favor of a rancid pamphlet on the Dark Arts authored by Lee Atwater by way of Karl Rove.

Let me be clear: I think that attacking Romney about his years at Bain Capital is completely justified, as is attacking his offshore bank accounts, his privileged background, and the company he keeps - which, I would like to emphasize again, consists of harebrained plutocrats and smirking exploiters of "the baby sitters, the nails ladies - everybody who's got the right to vote."

Many lefty or radical bloggers - the ones who think that the 2012 presidential election is worth covering or represents a choice of any kind, anyway - have chosen to criticize Romney from this perspective. Others, however, have decided that what is essentially a cheap shot represents a more appealing strategy; that cheap shot is to attack Romney's LDS faith and/or the Mormon church in general.

Don Hazen, formerly of Mother Jones, started the American liberal / Democratic news and news aggregation site Alternet in 1998. Along with the Raw Story, it's one of the largest and most popular lefty sites on the internet. Generally speaking, I find Alternet's coverage to be irritatingly partisan but usually worth a read, as long as one keeps one's perspective and carefully notes the ideological blinders that Alternet has welded to its misshapen head.

It being silly season 2012, however, Alternet has gone over the cliff and is now the leading purveyor of "OMG ROMNEY'S A MORMON!!1!" nonsense. This is unfortunate, as they are now plumbing WND-esque depths of stupidity to support this narrative.

Now, I'm not averse to an intelligent discussion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I'm not Mormon myself, nor was I raised Mormon, nor do I have any relatives who are Mormon. I have many Mormon friends, even a few who are what you could call devout.

The LDS church has invited discussion of its role in politics by throwing itself headlong into the arena of public policy - from the John Birch days of the 50s through the 70s, right up to its support of California's ballot initiative to ban marriage equality for LGTB citizens.

If Alternet et. al. were pursuing questions about the LDS church's role in politics, there would be quite a bit to say, and most of it would have the potential to be fair while also being critical of the actions of "the Church" (as it is simply known in Utah). Stories about "magic underwear," on the other hand, have about as much potential for intelligence and salience as your average race-baiting conspiracy nutjob rant at Big Joe Farah's Clearinghouse Of Lies And Garbage, abbreviated in most circles as "WND."

Probably the dumbest single thing written about temple garments (the so-called "magic underwear" that devout members of the LDS church wear) comes from apparent professional troll and smug dip$h!t Valerie Tarico. Tarico is an ex-Christian who was originally part of an Evangelical sect, and now spends her time writing about how much religion blows.

Valerie Tarico
(Just as a side note, either Tarico or whoever writes the headlines for her pieces has adopted the incredibly irritating recent trope of making everything a form of "top ten list" - some titles of recent articles include "8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert - To Agnosticism Or Atheism," "No Religion? 7 Types Of Nonbelievers" and "3 Ways Conservative Christianity's Obsessions Promote Abortion" just to name a few. She should just go all in and entitle her next piece "One Weird Spice That Cures Religious Faith" or post an ad with her picture and the text "Religious Believers HATE Her - Learn The Secret!!")

Any how, the mean-spirited, stupid article in question by Ms. Tarico is called - I $h!t you not - "Are Mormon Underwear Magic Between The Sheets?" When syndicated this particular item, they trimmed the salaciousness from the headline and ran it as "Is Mormon Underwear Magic?"

Tarico's source for her assertions is "comments on blogs and forums" (her exact words). Well, what better-educated, more reasonable demographic could you possibly ask for?*

Look, some of the LDS Church's beliefs and practices are terrible (see "denying the priesthood to African Americans until the late 70s" - see also "'treatment' for homosexuality and opposition to marriage equality"), and I'm not here to stand up for them. What I would ask, however, is that if we're going to discuss Mormonism, we find sources better (and more authoritative) than comments on blogs or forums or Twitter, or Mitt Romney's cousin, whose expert opinion is that "Mormonism is a fraud." Thanks for clearing that up, random human who happens to be related to Mittens.

Park Romney, Mitt's cousin (apparently)
Here's the thing. I'm a big fan of tolerance, and I'm not a moron. The fact that Alternet is is all over the Mormon faith during an election year when one of the candidates is Mormon - the one that they oppose, by a funny coincidence - strikes me as the most crude and idiotic form of punditry as a blunt instrument.

As much as I hate Romney, not just as a candidate but as a human being who smirks and fiddles while my own personal financial situation and those of my friends burn down, these cheap little jabs at his faith rub me the wrong way, and should rub anyone who believes in the peaceful coexistence of differing faiths or lack thereof the wrong way too.

Tackle Romney on issues of privilege and income inequality. Tackle him on substantive matters of policy.

Leave the "magic underwear" out of it, unless you want to look like a jackass.

* - There's a new face at WND who has pushed them (finally, perhaps inevitably) into Stormfront country (expect a post soon) who also uses "comments on blogs and forums" (and Twitter) as his primary sources. He sucks even more than Tarico.


  1. Well said! Facts not fluff. There is so much about his policies not to like, who needs his personal life to deal with.

  2. Good piece Charles. I agree with you although CP will be taking on the whole magic underwear and extra chromosome because we're fans of Fox News style of reporting. Jackass is what we do! But I share your concern, not because of the cheap shot angle but because anything that distracts the public discourse is counterproductive. Talking about Mitt's undies (when we should be talking about his wife's undies, right?...but that's a whole other topic...) detracts from the real issues in the campaign and therein lies the real problem. The politics of distraction are the most frustrating and enraging features of a political campaign in our ADD culture. It actually helps Mitt to talk about his undies because then we're not talking about his stint at Bain or his offshore accounts or out of touch lifestyle. This is the real harm. But hey if you show me your underwear and they're funny, dude you're fair game, I don't care why you're wearing them.