Originally posted at Talk to Action.
In his most recent New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich declared über-traditionalist Catholic movie star Mel Gibson’s fall from grace to be “good news” — suggesting that as goes one downwardly spiraling Hollywood star, so goes the Religious Right.Too bad the facts don’t support the pundit’s pronouncement.
Rich traces Mel Gibson’s journey from Toast of the Religious Right to toast: beginning with the 2004 release of his anti-Semitic overtoned film The Passion of the Christ, through his anti-Jewish, expletive punctuated tirade during his 2006 DUI arrest; the divorce from his wife; to the recent ugly break-up with his most recent girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.
Rich then goes on to describe Gibson as a metaphor for the Religious Right in decline:
The cultural wave that crested with “The Passion” was far bigger than Gibson. He was simply a symptom and beneficiary of a moment when the old religious right and its political and media shills were riding high. In 2010, the American ayatollahs’ ranks have been depleted by death (Falwell), retirement (James Dobson) and rent boys (too many to name). What remains of that old guard is stigmatized by its identification with poisonous crusades, from the potentially lethal antihomosexuality laws in Uganda to the rehabilitation campaign for the “born-again” serial killer David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”) in America.
As well as:
Conservative America’s new signature movement, the Tea Party, has its own extremes, but it shuns culture-war battles. It even remained mum when a federal judge in Massachusetts struck down the anti-same-sex marriage Defense of Marriage Act this month. As the conservative commentator Kyle Smith recently wrote in The New York Post, the “demise of Reagan-era groups like the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority is just as important” as the rise of the Tea Party. “The morality armies have failed to inspire their children to join the crusade,” he concluded, and not unhappily. The right, too, is subject to generational turnover.
“Shuns the culture war battles”? Perhaps Frank Rich should go back to film reviews.
As has been reported by Bruce Wilson at Talk to Action, the Tea Party movement is very much into continuing the culture wars. In fact, the two conservative movements have found candidates who appeal to both, such as Republican US Senate candidate, Sharon Angle of Nevada and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Rich could also turn on Fox News and discover many leaders of that Old Time Religious Right being hosted by their newest media advocate, Glenn Beck. (Or for that matter, by the once and future Religious Right presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee.)
Beck – who recently joined Gibson in echoing the allegation of Jewish deicide – made the theme of his July 1, 2010 Fox News cable television show “The State of Religion in America.” Among his guests were such Religious Right stalwarts as Ralph Reed, Catholic neocon strategist Robert P. George, Christian Zionist powerhouse John Hagee and Wallbuilders president and Christian historical revisionist, David Barton. Beck’s guest spoke not as defeated warriors but as leaders preparing for the next phase of the culture wars.
Lest anyone think that this was an exception to an otherwise stellar record of sound judgment, unfortunately it is not. Here are a few examples: While he bemoaned the racism of others,, he was a regular call-in guest of Don Imus. Throughout the 2000 Presidential Election, he and fellow Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd engaged in a de facto ‘war on Gore’ that may have done more to put George W. Bush in the White House than either Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. The Daily Howler‘s Bob Somerby nailed Rich’s fatuousness in a 2006 reply to a reader’s e-mail:
Here’s my general view: Rich is a completely reliable “blue-state” social liberal. That is, he will always repeat the reliable case about how dumb any “red-state” manifestation is. For that reason, he’s generally easy for most liberals to like. But the underlying theme with Rich must always be: “I, Frank Rich, am brighter than all.” (“Along with my upper-class Manhattan cohort.”) So he had to be smarter and better than Clinton and Gore-although, quite plainly, he isn’t-and he reacted with horror any time they did anything that might suggest respect for the “red-state” electorate. When Gore occasionally mentioned his religious faith, for example, this struck Rich as fake and reprehensible, and he offered thunderous complaints about what a phony Gore was-just like Bush. [This also explains the absurd remarks in Rich’s recent column about the fact that Gore once owned a rifle. He’s kissing up to the NRA!]
For the record, Rich did more than fall for the scripts; in fact, he invented the script on Love Story. And after Gore gave his 9/02 speech on Iraq, Rich trashed him in a deeply dishonest way (see tomorrow). The record here is just horrible.
You’re right, in that Rich would score well on an IQ test. But I think there’s something unbelievably dumb in the Millionaire Pundit Values I have discussed-and Rich is clearly the reigning poobah of the Manhattan branch of this worthless brigade. His “reasoning” in Sunday’s piece is so dumb that it borders on mental dysfunction. (Gore was right about global warming. But he once owned a rifle!) This would be easy for liberals to see-if we weren’t inclined in his favor because he takes our side (often embellishing facts) about those worthless red-staters.
When it comes to Frank Rich, liberals and progressives need to take a caveat emptor approach. Meanwhile, the movers and shakers of the Religious Right are going nowhere but to prepare for the next round of battles in their theocratic war on the rest of us.