Rockin’ with the Aqua Buddha

As you would imagine, the whole Rand Paul affair is a pretty big deal at the Louisville Courier-Journal. In fact, the newspaper’s lengthy profile of the candidate — paralleling a Jack Conway profile of similar length — began like this:

As a leader of the Young Conservatives of Texas in the early 1980s, Rand Paul railed against the Equal Rights Amendment and the notion of equal pay for equal work.

“Since when have any two people been equal?” he asked in a letter to the editor of Baylor University’s campus newspaper.

At the same time, Paul cavorted with a Baylor secret society known as the NoZe Brotherhood, which had been kicked off campus a few years earlier for conduct the school’s president called “lewd, crude and grossly sacrilegious.”

“We aspired to blasphemy,” said John Green, one of two alumni who confirmed Paul’s membership, “and he flourished in it.”

A few sentences later, the profile quotes the satirist Stephen Colbert on another issue linked to Paul. The profile, however, does not attempt to quote Colbert in a literal fashion — since Colbert is, duh, a satirist. When you are dealing with someone who specializes in satire, you have to take what they are saying with an ton of salt. In satire, up is down and black is often white.

Raise your hands, GetReligion readers, if you grasp the fact that Colbert is not actually a clone of Bill “Where’s my spin zone?” O’Reilly? You know that he is saying the opposite of what he means (most of the time)?

The Noze Brotherhood was and is a satirical society.

That is what the NoZe crew does. While I was at Baylor, the NoZe mocked Dan Rather, Richard Nixon, Bob Woodward, Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski (a powerful Baylor graduate, by the way) and anyone else who came within mocking range. And, of course, the NoZe mocked Southern Baptists and Baptist life in general, as I stressed in a post the other day.

Oh, and it is true that the NoZe had been kicked off campus back in the mid-to-late 1970s. Then they came back. Then they were kicked off again. Then they came back. Do you get the picture? The NoZe is in the Baylor archives. They have been on and off campus since World War I, or thereabouts.

From time to time, NoZe guys do brilliant work. One Noze friend of mine went on to become a speechwriter for the president of the United States. No, I won’t say which president, since the NoZe is a — say it together — a SECRET SOCIETY.

But most of the NoZe drippings fell way short of brilliance and often veered into rude stupidity. Welcome to college life.

It’s satire. As the old saying goes: Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

So why are we reading stuff like this in the Washington Post (this is a Chris Cillizza blog post, not the missing version that ran in the print edition) about that campaign advertisement?

“Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a ‘hoax’,” asks the ad’s narrator. “Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was ‘Aqua Buddha’.”

The ad’s charges both can be traced back to Paul’s collegiate years. In the “Aqua Buddha” incident — and, no, we never thought we would write those words (at least not together) in this blog — Paul vehemently denied being involved in any kidnapping, saying only that he went along with a college prank. (The woman involved told Greg Sargent, who writes the “Plum Line” blog, that the “whole thing has been blown out of proportion.”)

The “anti-Christian” charge comes from Paul’s membership in a secret society while at Baylor University that published mocking statements regarding the Bible in newsletters.

“This is an ad about things he did,” said Conway campaign manager John Collins of the allegations in the ad. “He has failed to deny any of these charges.”

It would really help if someone talked to someone at Baylor who understands what the NoZe guys are all about. Call the Texas Collection. Call the library’s reference desk. Do some basic journalism.

Meanwhile, at the New York Times we read:

The Conway ad that helped spark the debate dustup focuses on reports that, during Mr. Paul’s time at Baylor University, he and a friend tied up a woman and told her to worship a god they called “Aqua Buddha” and that he was part of a group in college that ridiculed Christianity. (Mr. Paul has dismissed the reports.)

That’s that. No NoZe information. (Cue: stifled scream)

Somebody, please, get a freakin’ clue.

Wait! I see that hand! Thank you, Andrew Sullivan.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Martha

    “Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was ‘Aqua Buddha’.”

    We don’t really have societies like the American university fraternities over here, but I think I’ve heard of – what are they called again? oh, yeah – a practice called “hazing”? Where people on probation for admission to these societies are given silly/humiliating tasks to do?

    Something that sounds rather like this?

    I cannot believe that a political campaign ad is being run on the equivalent of ‘what he did in Rag Week during college’.

    Actually, on second thoughts, I can. …

  • Jerry

    You’re looking for honesty and accuracy in the middle of a political campaign? Is your middle name Diogenes perchance? It’s overly cynical to believe that no one tells the truth, but too often campaigns are based on, at best, distortion and at worst outright lies.

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    I am weary beyond words of manufactured outrage in politics — and of the media’s general complicity in allowing such to be considered news. Witchcraft. Bearded Marxist. Aqua Buddha. He’s a Muslim. Death panels. Etc.


    No avoiding the less responsible partisans in the blogosphere whose mission is to keep such alive. But there’s been too little simple dismissal from responsible journalists.

  • tmatt


    Who cares about the campaigns. My post is about the biggest newspaper in Kentucky, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

  • JTierny

    “Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a ‘hoax’,” asks the ad’s narrator.

    Why was Jack Conway a member of a secret society that was banned from Duke’s campus for raping women and injuring pledges during hazing? Google: SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) banned from Duke.