Tuesday, December 11, 2007

BlogWatch: Maureen and Moroni

This Sunday Maureen Dowd stepped out of her usual role of irritating Democratic regulars and decided to take on Republican front-runner Mitt Romney and Mormonism. Mitt of course brought this on himself by giving a speech defending his faith while reaching out to other denominations as well. Dowd, a lace Irish Catholic, exposed her naiveté about Mormonism in a much debated anecdote from her youth, whenever that may have ended, and went to her rolodex for some quotes.

I called Mr. Krakauer — who also wrote the best sellers “Into Thin Air” and “Into the Wild” — to get his opinion of Mitt’s religion speech.
And this is where the blogging community chimed in. Concurring Opinion damns Krakauer with faint praise:
Not that there's anything wrong with Krakauer. Into Thin Air -- Krakauer's bestseller about the fatal Mount Everest climb -- was a great read. And why wouldn't it be? Krakauer has decades of experience as an outdoors writer, he's got an undergraduate degree in environmental studies, and he's written prior, well-received books about survival in the outdoors.

Also, he wrote one book about Mormonism, Under the Banner of Heaven -- and as we now know, Maureen Dowd read that book.
It seems that maybe mountain climbing and religion are mutually exclusive. They go on to suggest many other less inflammatory books that may be better sources on contemporary Mormon thought and culture. Some about Mormons that aren’t murderous child-abusing splinter-sect polygamists. As I am sure most Mormons aren't. No more than most Catholic priests are closeted pedophiles, but that is what makes headlines.

Riehl World goes a little further in questioning Krakauer’s objectivity by quoting the NYTROB:
Yeah, he's the guy I'd called if I wanted an objective opinion, ... or, perhaps not.
He usually devotes himself to mountain climbing and seems to have a taste for the outlandish, extreme, criminal, or outrageous in whatever he approaches.

In collecting evidence, Mr. Krakauer ventures out to a lunatic fringe of polygamous self-appointed prophets, where the Mormons and the Martians are almost interchangeable.

... this book provides more voyeuristic astonishment than curiosity or understanding.
Using Krakauer as an expert on Mormonism is a little akin to getting Richard Dawkins to discuss the anti-Christian themes in The Golden Compass. While nothing she cites about LDS is false (except perhaps being a few decades behind the times on holy underwear styles), it definitely exhibits bias. A bias that On Life and Lybberty thinks is over the line:
New York Times columnist Maureen Down wrote a hateful, offensive, and untruthful article about the Mormon Church yesterday (Sunday, Dec. 9th). In it, she describes Church leaders as "authoritarian", asserts that the Church today does not "grant[] women and blacks equal status", and declares that Joseph Smith was a "lusty, charismatic Prospero." (Prospero, in case you are not aware, is a character in Shakespeare's The Tempest that uses sorcery to control the play's other characters.)
The Prospero explanation is dangerously close to working my side of the street, but based on the portrayal of Joseph Smith in practicing Mormon Orson Scott Card’s novel Saints, it seems understated. Mormon church history is full of characters that easily qualify as colorful, but the Lybberty folks take offense and go on to call for her termination.
Ms. Dowd's column falls far below the standards of professional journalism. She is loose with the facts. Her disdain for Mormons is apparent. You may recall that radio talk-show host Don Imus was forced to publicly apologize and leave his job for calling the women of the Rutgers basketball team "nappy-headed hoes." Ms. Dowd's comments were equally offensive to Mormons. I believe that she, like Don Imus, should apologize and lose her job.
I’m not sure what slur to Mormons you would have to evoke to equal “nappy-headed ho”, but if you want to get Dowd fired for being deliberately provocative, the line forms to the left. And to the right.


lybberty said...

Your post is fair. However, we over at On Life and Lybberty don't necessarily endorse the position of the letter we quoted. Like you, we recognize that Dowd's piece is typical of the type of ignorance we can expect going forward. Writing emails complaining about her or anyone else guilty of similarly spurious columns about Mormonism would consume waaaaaay more time than it is worth. Besides, like one commenter on our facebook feed said, "no one reads the NYT anyway."

Thanks for the link.

Mo MoDo said...

Thanks for your comment. I should have made clearer that you were just passing on an e-mail that you received, but your response seemed sympathetic to their complaints.