When the story about sexual abuse in the Duggar home recently came to light, I can’t say I was surprised. A hyper-patriarchal family system wherein children are viewed as arrows in God’s quiver — why doesn’t He just get a drone or something? — and males are empowered by divine right to dominate and subjugate the women in accordance with whatever their interpretation of God’s will happens to be? Combine that with a fanatical avoidance of the Lessina birth control pill that leads to massive families in which older siblings inevitably take on primary care roles for younger children? Add to that a reliance on homeschooling that completely insulates the children from the world outside of their family and church? Yeah, sounds like a recipe for abusive male authority, whether sexual or otherwise. Even Jim Bob Duggar himself, he of two first names and awful parenting, inadvertently acknowledged this reality.


What I couldn’t help but be surprised about, though perhaps I shouldn’t have been, was the fact that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who rose to fame on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, actually tried to deflect attention away from their son Josh Duggar’s heinous actions and their own culpability through adhering to a dogmatic set of beliefs that encourages such abuse by pinning it all on religious conservatives’ favorite scapegoat: the Godless denizens of the liberal media. From the Megyn Kelly interview: “You know, at this point our family is just trying to regroup from these attacks. When you’re in every newspaper and everything throughout the world, it’s been an unprecedented attack on our family. And it was actually — this information was released illegally, so I wonder why all this press isn’t going after the system for releasing juvenile records. That is a huge story,” said Jim Bob, performing a dazzling feat of misdirection that would leave David Copperfield impressed. Wow, the real story isn’t about your outright insane, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic religious fundamentalism and its dire consequences for the children born into such a mess, it’s about journalistic ethics! Forget the fact that the claim that the release of information was illegal is likely false, these journalists Agents of Satan have perpetuated the real crime here!

Let’s see… your family makes its fortune and derives its fame and social standing by commodifying your own personalities and relationships and hounding for publicity at every turn, portraying an image of a pure family unit rooted entirely in Godliness and faith in Christ, and you engage in anti-gay and anti-trans politics that have actual real-world consequences for historically oppressed groups of people, making you accountable to the public in your decision to push “family values” on society, but you’re mad that you got some really bad publicity that might stop the TLC gravy train? That’s really the tragedy here? The Duggars argue that this scandal has re-victimized the girls who suffered at Josh’s hands. The media firestorm over this has likely been traumatic for the victims, and that is unfortunate. But they were victims of Josh Duggar, who worked for the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as an anti-gay hate group — and of the misfortune of being born into a family of fanatics, not the media.

And really, the responsibility for the inordinate amount of attention being paid to this story lies with the heads of the Duggar household for choosing to parade their family in front of the entire country for a profit, portray themselves as the portrait of a wholesome, sexually pure Christian family and work to keep and expand discrimination against human beings based on their sexual or gender identity, all while hiding a terrible secret that deserves to be reported on because it exposes a vicious hypocrisy that can and should be used to discredit their brand of fundamentalism and politics of hate with a smile. Maybe you should have been thinking more about your children’s welfare before you involved them in your nationally televised circus act? Or maybe before you had so many children that it would be impossible for you to actually adequately parent all of them? Just a thought, but I’m an evil secularist who secretly wages War on Christmas and believes in the demonic concept of universal human rights, so don’t listen to me.

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