I Am Simcha Fisher

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I wanna write like Simcha when I grow up

The Awesome Simcha Fisher (that’s actually her full name: she’s just too humble to use it) is apparently being attacked by a variety of Catholics I think we can all agree kinda suck: those without senses of humor.  The Humorless Catholic is a plague I thought was anathematized back at Trent (“Any man discovered to have a stick up his butt, let him be anathema.”), but then a new variety of Humorless Catholic emerged after Vatican II. Now we’ve got Humorless Proggy Catholics (“that’s not funny because SOCIAL JUSTICE!”) and Humorless Traddy Catholics (“that’s not funny because women are wearing PANTS!”)

The new non-controversy is over this post, mocking the idea of a Lenten cruise being sponsored by Michael Voris. The problem wasn’t so much the “cruise” part but the “Lenten” part, which is really rather absurd and deserving of good old fashioned satirical poke in the eye. Crescat did a boffo job of it, and The Jerk riffed on it to spectacular effect.

Karl Keating of Catholic Answers took exception to her criticism, since Catholic Answers also runs cruises and he sees no problem with them. I don’t really see a problem with them either, but they’re certainly open for a little satire. Keating focused on a throw-away joke about “all night buffets,” saying that he “checked the description of this cruise at the Princess Cruises website and couldn’t find any reference to all-night buffets. Catholic Answers has used several cruise lines over the years (but not Princess), and none of them had an all-night buffet.”

That sound you heard earlier this week? That was the sonic boom made by a joke flying over Karl Keating’s head.

I am the last person who should be teaching writers, but from time to time I do, and one of my throw-away lines is, “If you have to make a choice between true and funny, go with funny.” Yes, it’s a joke, but it conveys something important: don’t be so consumed with the heaviness of fact that you can’t find room for the lightness of humor. Exaggeration, absurdity, satire: they work. They make writing more interesting, and drive home a point with more power. And laughter is also the surest sign of the Holy Spirit.

Simcha’s posts are now drawing fire at the National Catholic Register, where she also blogs (and where I also contribute). Please note: the original post as did not appear on the Register site, but on Simcha’s personal blog. However, she followed that post up with one called “Charities You Ought to Know“, suggesting better ways to spend a thousand bucks than floating around the Caribbean with a lot of Catholicier-than-thou types. It was a good pointer to works of mercy and nothing that should bother anyone.

But it drew the wrath of the Voris defenders, who flooded the comboxes and are now, apparently, baying for her head. That’s just flat-out weird, since Simcha is a popular and gifted writer with a huge following, but there are strange things going on in Catholicism. The election (and, more importantly, the disgraceful support for Obama by nominal Catholics) gave everyone the jits. Their solution? That old Catholic standby: the circular firing squad.

I know Voris has his devotees. The content of some of his videos is fine, but too much of it crosses the line into “Yeah, thass right, I’m a WAY better Catholic than you Novus Ordo-attending, non-Latin speaking, Vatican II types.” That crap gets under my skin, and I actually know Latin and enjoy the Extraordinary Form.

I’m not sure if it’s the marmot on his head, the smirk, or the condescending tone, but he has an oleaginous approach that just grates. The kind of guy who would pose with a sword as if he’s the leader of the shock troops for the Church Militant just isn’t somebody we need to be pushing out there as the Voice of REAL CATHOLICS (TM). I find proggy Catholics as vexing as the next guy, but the idea that they need to be read out of the Church rather than corrected with love and charity has less to do with Christ and His Vicars and more to do with Savonarola. There’s such a thing as teaching truth in charity, and I don’t find too much of it in Voris.

Being on Patheos, I have a lot of leeway for what I can say. We have an entire channel full of twits offering little more than bitter hatred and calumny. The Register is owned by EWTN, however, so they don’t have that much latitude. It’s possible that enough Vortexers venting their spleen could cost Simcha her post.

This means that she could use your support right now, so throw some her way. I don’t want to live in an internet that isn’t safe for The Jerk to make jokes about traddy Catholics and transvestites.

[Completely unrelated footnote: Is that Paul Frees in the beginning of the Spartacus clip? Because it totally sounds like Paul Frees.]

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • alex

    OMG! are you and Mark Shea nuts? I am sorry, but this is getting ridiculous. How does it make me a Voris defender or devotee (or part of a CULT to use MS’s really extremist language) to think that Ms. Fisher’s Gilligan post and her snide responses to genuine posts like Mr. Keatings are not appropriate????
    Can no one disagree with your cabal’s opinions of MV without being part of his “cult?” I was in a hindu cult before I reverted to Catholicism and I am pretty sure I am not in any MV cult….sigh…

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Well, first: I didn’t know Shea posted (I don’t spend my days reading blogs), so I’m not responsible for what he said.
    Where did I use the word cult? It’s not something I would say, but Mark has a different style and tends to go for the big exaggeration. I doubt he thinks you have a little Voris Shrine that you pray to, which WOULD be cultlike. This is part of that whole Humor Deficit thing I’m talking about.

    So … hey, thanks for proving my point. Thus also, my point about Karl Keating, who does many wonderful things, but picked apart a throw-away joke with all the literal, flat-footed aptitude of a semiotics professors analyzing a standup routine.

    Second, I don’t care what kind of comments you fling around, but try to choke it down somewhere short of “She should be fired,” okay?

    Please pay attention to what is actually being said.

  • Mark Shea

    A) That is totally Paul Frees.
    B) Simcha is not the Jerk and the Jerk is not Simcha.
    C) I am Simcha Fisher.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    PS: “Cabal”? Seriously? Bwa-hahahahaha! I don’t even know Simcha, and I’ve met Shea once. This internet thing: it’s people communicating. It doesn’t mean we all have matching secret decoder rings and coordinate our coverage.

  • Mark Shea

    When did I say you were a member of the Cult? You asked why people had a problem with Voris’ demagoguery and I pointed you to links documenting why. Chill, dude.

  • The Jerk

    Mac, you’re still behind on your dues.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Great, now The Jerk and The Shea are both on my blog. Conspiracy proved. Thanks for blowing our cover!

    TJ: Same dues as last time? Eggs?

  • Baron korf

    I normally find her stuff pretty funny, but I think she was out of line here. Would it be so hard to err on the side of humility and apologize rather than fighting tooth and nail to insist that she is in the right?

  • The Jerk

    This like the time you tried to pay with Pez candy.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Look, she may well decide to do exactly that, which is just fine. There are times to fight, and times to work towards healing.

    My point is: I thought the post was broadly funny and pointed up some absurd parts of the Voris approach and the idea of a Lenten cruise. As humor, it worked. We’re talking about a ministry that routinely hurls calumny at others (and that got disciplined by a bishop for doing so) and can’t handle a little satire?

  • Mark Shea

    I have a better idea, I would like to see Voris and his cult apologize, just once, for something the Dear Leader and his Cult have said or done. Surely, they can wrack their brains and think of something. But no, Simcha has *already* said that she thought her hostility was out of line in the Register piece–and turned it to a discussion of charity. The Cult and their leader have never–ever–so far as I know ever acknowledged error or sin. Not even when the Dear Leader slanderously suggested that Bp. Mulvey was part of a shadowy gay cabal attacking the Living Saint Fr. Corapi. How’s about he apologizes–without excuse and without turning to an accusation against somebody else–in a Vortex Video. It will be a refreshing change from their normal habit of accusing the brethren.

  • Baron korf

    So her choice of targets is what justifies the article, not the article itself? OK.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Er, what? Explain how you connect point A to point B. I got lost in there somewhere.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    It’s not the candy: it’s the dispensers. They’re very collectible.

  • Kelly McClintock

    The Vorleks are just unhappy that the world did not end.

  • The Jerk

    Ugh, that’s what you said about the Jar-Jar beanie babies.

  • Baron korf

    Well you keep saying that since Voris beats up on others, he should be able to take it. Would that article still be able to stand if she was satirizing some other organization?

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    I didn’t “keep saying” it. I said it in response to a specific question, once. But okay.

    Please respond to what I say not to what you imagine I said. I don’t say, “Gee everyone should really love to be made fun of!” I said sometimes satire is a perfectly fine way to criticize. Can it cross the line? Can it wound? Can it be abused? Can it be wielded like a weapon against worthy things? Yes. Was that the case here? No.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Hold onto those. Their day is coming.

  • Baron korf

    That is strictly a judgment call. You are perfectly within your rights to claim that it was acceptable use as others are to say it was abused.

    I’ll stick to what you directly say, if you do the same and go fix the part on Karl Keating. You only mention the last point he made and not the other very valid points. You go so far as to say he focuses on the buffets, but looking at the text he focused more on the cost than anything. Or does that rule only apply in comboxes?

  • Jo

    Why are readers up in arms about a completely justified humorous jab at Voris? After all, he is the one who has been barred from attaching any variation of the name ‘Catholic’ in multiple dioceses-not Simcha. People should be wary of being so attached to an individual so preoccupied with counter-productive brashness masquerading as ‘telling it like it is.’ He may not be completely off-the mark about everything, but that kind of rhetoric is what turns people away from the Church.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    But I said I agreed with him on the fact that cruises were fine! Do I have to give equal time to every point?

    Anyway, this is my last comment on this thread. We’re heading into the last weekend before Christmas, I posted something slightly more upbeat, and I don’t want to get bogged down fighting internet battles. It’s not a good use of energy or a good showing for the faith.

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    Oooh, I didn’t dare touch the marmot. You’re a brave man, McDonald!

  • alex

    I do apologize for going off about MS on your site! duh, that was dumb…but where did I say she should be fired?

  • alex

    I know you did not directly say I was a member of the cult, but I assumed that you would lump me in there because I was defending him.I think the links were only to your stuff which is a bit unfair to use as evidence isn’t it? Got any outside sources? I will definitely read them. But You kind of scare me….prolly cos I am a chick…

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    Dude is acceptably gender neutral in these modern days.

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    I very much hope she doesn’t, since she didn’t do anything wrong. That bunch of pusillanimous morons trying their damnedest to wreck as much of her livelihood as they can should be horsewhipped.

  • Dale Price

    Keating would have had a better point if he hadn’t gone all nitnoid about Princess’ buffet practices and suchlike while sotto voce conceding (1) Voris needs to switch to decaf, and (2) cruise ships don’t evoke the concept of Lent very well.

    It reminds me of a legal brief that someone felt they had to file, but recognizes that the other side really has the better of the argument. So it attacks at the margins instead.

  • The Jerk

    Aaaaaand, the brochure for the Voris cruise mentions all night buffets. At least it did when I read it before I wrote about it. Don’t know if there has been any changes since.

  • http://www.DSDOConnor.com Daniel O’Connor

    I hope you’ll permit me to put a link to a post I made a while back (somebody deleted the comment last time I posted it) which I think has again because quite relevant http://dsdoconnor.com/2011/06/22/catholic-venom/

    Stay close to Our Lady.

    In Christ, through Mary,
    Daniel

  • deiseach

    Ladies, gentlemen, others: I don’t know Michael Voris from a hole in the ground. I have never read, seen or listened to anything of his. I have no dog in this fight (other than thinking Simcha Fisher writes awesome posts about family life).

    When I saw this whole thing about a cruise in Lent, my first reaction was along the lines of “Cruise? Lent? Cruise – Lent – Cruise – Lent. Does not compute. Cruises = holidays and having a good time. Lent = mortification.”

    Now, unless this cruise offers free hair-shirts and regular flagellation sessions (and who knows? maybe it does), then the notion of going on a cruise ship during Lent is one that is more than ripe for humour, satire and mockery. And that is what it is going to get, so I don’t think Simcha was out of line.

    Also, I agree: anyone who poses with a sword should have thicker skin than this – or at least, his followers should have.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    Well, I’ve heard the problem was a cruise during Lent, I’ve heard others say it was the money being charged, and I’ve read those say the problem is with Voris and his followers in general. It seems that the agreement was on it being a bad thing, the disagreement was on why. Which itself could say volumes. As for the humor, that comes with it. Not everyone appreciates the same type of humor the same way, and I’ve seen folks say we should chill out one time, only to be enraged when someone else says something humorous that they find offensive another. Just my 2 cents, who knows little about Voris or much about Fisher.

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  • Erin

    I linked here from Simcha’s blog where I have been following this whole thing. I am a frequent follower of Simcha’s blog and find 90% of what she writes brilliant, inspiring and truly funny (not mean). I had never really heard of Michael Voris before this except to watch one of his videos which someone posted on facebook once. I have read comments that argue whether one should have a lenten cruise, that value of money spent on a cruise, that people don’t have a sense of humor, the horrible cult of Voris people, etc.
    I read the post “Which one’s Gilligan?” on the day it was posted, my first reaction was that this was mean, uncharitable, and tears down rather than builds up the body of Christ. And what I find particularly distressing is that it incited many/most of Simcha’s followers to jump on board with the vicous attacks and ridicule of Michael Voris. Now, whether he is a scammer, a hypocrite, or whatever they claimed, making fun of his looks and judging him the way The Jerk did was not Christian. For goodness sake, I’m teaching my 4 and 6 year olds what I thought were pretty basic teachings: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” AND ” Two wrongs don’t make a right”. I have even had a talk with my boys about laughing or making jokes at other’s expense. It is not kind. Have you all not taught your children that, especially as Catholics and Christian? That kinda scares me because y’all have influence in the Catholic culture. Why does this seem to not apply to adults?

    Now, I’ve read some pretty vicious attacks these past days by people “in the name of truth and justice”. How is that justified with what Jesus came to die for? I don’t know The Jerk’s connection to Simcha, but her defense of him said something like, he just says what we are all thinking in our hearts. Wow! Maybe I’m the minority, but I never pretend that I know how someone else should live our their spirituality unless it directly goes against a specific teaching in the Catechism and I certainly would think twice about viciously ridiculing a child of God and fellow Catholic on a public forum even if I did feel justified. I think we are called to try to see the good in all and give the benefit of the doubt. The times that I read things on Simcha’s blog that feel uncharitable, I always think of her being the mother of 9 children, with a baby that doesn’t sleep, and I think, how difficult it is to come up with things to write (perfectly) all the time when your main vocation is so challenging. I end up admiring her and thanking God for the gifts she’s shared rather than jumping on her for something she said that I found disturbing or uncharitable.

    So there is my rant, attack me if you feel you must.

    I pray that everyone will have a very Merry and Joyous Christmas. I do hope that Simcha is allowed to continue her writing. She God has blessed her with a wonderful gift of writing, but I imagine great gifts like that come with great responsibility. I hope she might learn a little something from this fiasco.

  • Kate

    And this is why you screencap EVERYTHING. If there isn’t a picture, there’s deniability.

  • Kate

    Why would anyone attack you? You’ve written honestly, charitably, and reasonably, and you’re not using superlatives or absolutes or claiming to know the state of anyone’s souls. You’re a-ok. :-) And in fact, I agree with you – the Jerk’s post was not to my taste, so I passed it by. That post wasn’t the usual fare from Simcha’s *personal* blog, and though the Jerk isn’t to my taste I figure someone must like him, so I let it go, with a mental note to write Simcha a *private* email if it happens again. I was pleased to see Simcha’s post on the Register because it really struck me as desiring to take something negative – her reaction to Voris’ ridiculous lenten cruise – and turn it into something good, productive, and pleasing to God – a discussion of charity and a call to charitable giving.

    Watching her be attacked ON THAT POST, of all places, and then to find out people are trying to get her in trouble at work over something written *by someone else* on her *personal* blog? I suspect kindly written, thoughtful emails to Simcha and the Jerk might have procured an apology, but there are few people so heroically self-abnegating as to apologize to a pack of hooting hyenas.

    But if you’re not part of the hyena pack, please don’t take criticism of the criticizers to apply to you!

  • Paul

    Yes, what Kate just said.

  • Kate

    Thank you, Mr. McDonald – I learned a wonderful new word: “oleaginous.” Who said the internet was making us dumber? Regarding The Jerk’s controversial post: 1) he calls himself “jerk” so I think that is fair warning his writing content is not going to be Alan Alda-ish; 2) he’s male – I repeat, he’s male (my husband completely gets his sense of humor and doesn’t find it offensive). I find his humor funny, but dangerously so, but then I’ve often been “accused” of thinking like a man. If he had ridiculed Obama, would it have been more acceptable? How about a Corapi/Voris Cruise? I find the whole idea of Catholic cruises ridiculous, not just during Lent. Can’t people find something better to do with their money, even if they want to spend it on themselves? Maybe I just watched too many “Love Boat” episodes when I was younger to take this seriously. Cruises seem like such a cheesy, tacky way to raise money. I’m sure it would have been a great subject for Evelyn Waugh’s pen, as there is something definitely “Hooperish” about the whole thing.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Cruises aren’t my bag, but a lot of groups do them, and I won’t fault them if the format works for the them.

    I dunno, maybe it’s me, but I look at a Jimmy Akin video, and I see a smart, humble guy sharing his faith. I look at a Voris video, and I see a smug bully with the style of a used car salesman.

  • mchrsti

    Well I look at someone like you who says “I am Simcha Fisher”, and I think yes, that man has no balls.

  • Kate

    I hope I am not being unfair, but I get the feeling (from the type of people who send me Voris videos) that the kind of people who like to watch him are the same people who find Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Dr. Laura entertaining. They are the same people who are very critical of our parish priest because he doesn’t preach “hell and damnation” sermons or bang the congregation over the head with anti-contraception messages (even though he is a devout, kind and prolife priest and a good confessor). They tend to be choleric traddies and distrust all clergy (except traddie ones like Fr. Z), especially bishops. They are also the ones from whom I get weird Obama conspiracy info. At least that has been my experience.

  • mchrsti

    Of course you’re not being unfair dearie. Most MV haters would have packed way more stereotypes into their attempts to character assassinate others than you did. So don’t feel bad.

  • Stu

    I’m a male (Type “A” personality, military officer (aviator)) and I think “The Jerk” is nothing more than vulgar twit. Ironically, Alan Alda is actually more clever. (And I always was more of a Trapper fan.)

  • mchrsti

    Oh come on Stu, don’t you know that The Jerk is just saying what everyone’s secretly thinking in their heart of hearts according to Ms. Fisher? Of course if true, then that means his fans are vulgar twits as well, but hey who’s counting?! Besides, you’re losing your focus man, MVoris is the enemy here. You’re either with us or you’re against us.

  • nitnot

    You naiiled it … it’s that attachment to an individual … sometimes referred to “cult of personality.” Same kind of thing as Corapi, Euteneur, etc. only without the ordination. Creepy stuff and usually ends ugly, too.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    My filter is only calibrated for spambots, not vorbots, so I’m shutting down comments because it’s getting stupid, boring and repetitive and, seriously … it’s December 22nd: don’t you people have families? Go home, get off the computer, love God and your neighbor, and stop stewing. My gosh: none of this nonsense rises to the level of even passably interesting in the light of the miracle of the season.

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