Rolling Stone‘s piece on “Michele Bachmann’s Holy War” is “The Hit Piece That Hit Itself,” as John Hudson says, a profile that raises ethical questions about drawing heavily from previous reporting and what passes for journalism, even for magazines that allow more directed reporting.
We need to do a LeBlanc-style edit of this piece just so you can see some truly amazing portions, but please do not misunderstand this post. I am not defending Bachmann as a politician and would write the same post if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama had been portrayed the same way.
Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates cut the attributions because of “space considerations,” but as Gina Dolfanzo says, perhaps he could have made room by taking out a few other words.
Bates could have taken out “paranoid,” “psychopath,” “Machiavellian,” “pathological,” “conscienceless,” “dangerous,” “fanatic,” “narcissistic,” “hysterical,” “campy,” “bizarre,” “freakouts,” “grandiose,” “lunacy,” and “insane,” along with a couple of “Stepfords” and several instances of “crazy” (five of which appear in the same sentence). That would have provided plenty of room for attributions, although there wouldn’t have been much else left in the piece.
Back in the day, Jeremy Lott wrote about Matt Taibbi’s departure from the New York Press after his anti-pope cover story.
Taibbi acknowledged that the piece “was way over the top” but he argued that its very over-the-topness was “commensurate — to the 197 consecutive f*ck—g hours of Pope funeral coverage on cable we all know is coming very soon, with every politician on earth with a nose for Catholic votes lining up for a chance to blow into his hanky at the podium.”
Taibbi is awarded for his anti-religious views with a
horrifying hit piece extended profile of Bachmann, who officially announced her candidacy for the GOP nomination today. Bear with me as we examine some of the particularly frustrating paragraphs.
Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions.
What’s a religious zealot? How do you become a zealot–by believing that God calls you to a specific career? Is there evidence that Bachmann believes that God actually directly speaks to her in divine visions?
One of Bachmann’s step-siblings, Helen LaFave, would later come out as a lesbian, a fact that Michele, who became famous opposing gay marriage, never mentions on the campaign trail.
This fact isn’t a tax form or something. Are we supposed to expect her to disclose this for some reason? Should her views on society automatically change once something becomes personal?
To that end, Bachmann was mentored by a crackpot Christian extremist professor named John Eidsmoe, a frequent contributor to John Birch Society publications who once opined that he could imagine Jesus carrying an M16 and who spent considerable space in one of his books musing about the feasibility of criminalizing blasphemy. …Bachmann says she believes in a limited state, but she was educated in an extremist Christian tradition that rejects the entire notion of a separate, secular legal authority and views earthly law as an instrument for interpreting biblical values.
Why would the writer assume she is a clone of her professors?
(Bachmann seems so unduly obsessed with Shariah law that, after listening to her frequent pronouncements on the subject, one begins to wonder if her crazed antipathy isn’t born of professional jealousy.)
Whether or not you agree with Bachmann’s point of view, this is quite the leap.
To combat this dark outcome, Bachmann joined up with a Junior Anti-Sex League-type outfit called the Maple River Education Coalition, which was largely composed of Christian conservatives rallying against educational standards. The group met in a church, and its sessions resembled old-time religious revivals, complete with whooping and hollering. “There were enormous amounts of ‘amens,’” recalls Mary Cecconi, a Stillwater resident who attended an early meeting of Maple River. “It’s like a mission from God with those people.” Maple River was so out there that Minnesota’s then-governor, Jesse Ventura, no slouch in the batsh*t-conspiracy department, dismissed the group as nothing but a bunch of people who “think UFOs are landing next month.”
Apparently, all you have to do to discredit an organization is to find a resident who attended the meeting to say it was weird and that passes for journalism.
Maple River eventually morphed into an organization called EdWatch, which railed against various dystopian indoctrination plans, including the U.N.-inspired International Baccalaureate program, offered in some American high schools. Bachmannites despise IB because its “universal” curriculum refuses to recognize the superiority of Christianity to other religions.
The author provides no evidence that the reason “Bachmannites” hates the curriculum is because its refusal to recognize the superiority of Christianity.
In her later telling of the story, however, Bachmann substituted a higher authority than Bill Pulkrabek. It was God, she insisted, not a girlfriend-abusing politician, who instructed her to get involved in politics. “As if we didn’t have enough to do, He called me to run for the Minnesota State Senate,” she said in 2006. “I had no idea, no desire to be in politics. None.”
Let’s clear this up once and for all. It’s not unusual for Christians to say they believe God intended them to do something. They might cite certain circumstances, advice from other people, say they “felt called,” etc. etc. to different degrees, but this is not strange. There’s a big difference between someone who thinks that they are “called by God” to public service and someone who believes God ordained their specific votes.
Bachmann’s entire political career has followed this exact same pattern of God-speaks-directly-to-me fundamentalism mixed with pathological, relentless, conscienceless lying. …She is at once the most entertaining and the most dangerous kind of liar, a turbocharged cross between a born bullsh*t artist and a religious fanatic, for whom lying to the infidel is a kind of holy duty.
Where is the evidence that she lies or that she knows that she’s lying? Perhaps she lacks judgment or worries about things that might never happen, but that doesn’t mean that she lied necessarily unless we have more evidence.
In 2003, after the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued its famous ruling permitting gay marriage, Bachmann proposed an amendment to the Minnesota constitution banning gay marriage — despite the fact that the state legislature had already passed a law making same-sex unions illegal. Even the politicians who were sufficiently gay-phobic to have passed the original anti-¬marriage law were floored by the brazen pointlessness of Bachmann’s bill. “It’s unnecessary, it’s redundant, it’s duplicative,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ann Rest.
If she thought that Minnesota’s Supreme Court could make the same move as Massachusetts, it would nullify the state law. What was it about Minnesota’s constitution that made a constitutional amendment irrelevant?
She even told the congregation that she and hubby Marcus — who by then had opened a Christian counseling center — had been united not by love but by a unique series of divine visions experienced by three people simultaneously.
Did she say she and her husband were not united by love?
Bachmann has ties to the Left Behind crowd and has even said that Beverly LaHaye, wife of LB co-author and fundamentalist godfather Tim LaHaye, was her inspiration for entering politics.
Lots of Christians read Left Behind who don’t take on the authors’ views of the end times. What makes him think Bachmann believes everything LaHaye says?
… but often overlooked is her greatest quality, the gigantic set of burnished titanium Terminator-testicles swinging under her skirt.
How is this not completely offensive?
This is a case of 5,000 words of advocacy (perhaps more European) journalism with serious issues of accuracy and fairness. When lines like “a turbocharged cross between a born bullsh*t artist and a religious fanatic” and “Little House on the Never-Existed Fundamentalist Prairie sensibilities,” pass for reporting, what we get is a sloppy, crude, and depressing state of Rolling Stone “journalism.”
Update: I have partially edited expletives in this post that the reporter used in his piece.