Though I think all one has to consider is the content of Mark's blog. It is mostly political at this point with little apologetics. He would disagree perhaps, but polemics is not apologetics.
I think that this is best manifested in Mark's angry response to a former reader. The comments in the combox were, as is rapidly becoming standard fare, much better than the blog entry itself:
In general, despite the quibbles described in Mark's post, I think "Former Fan" is generally right. I certainly don't read this blog as often as I used to. There are better places on the internet to learn about Catholic doctrine in the news, without all the name-calling and labeling people as Faithful Conservative Catholics.
It's less about Mark's politics than his attitude and name calling. He displays a beligerance against people he knows nothing about that is shocking. Yes, his personal hatrid of Cheney is certainly Kos-like, despite denials. But that's not what has kept people away, I suspect. I think it has more to do with Mark being much more effective in making enemies of people than he is in bringing them around to his side through persuasion and tolerant conversation.
I saw the comments that Mark linked to, when he claimed that I was one of two people who thought he hated Bush. I thought about responding, but I figured it wasn't worth it. I've asked him to quit using names and to try to be more polite, but that's just too difficult for him I suppose.
Even now, in this post, he's calling "Former Fan" a "follower of the Bush Cult of Personality." It's just shocking that Mark would continue to say things like that, even to a Bush supporter. It is an incredibly demeaning insult, depersonalizing the individual, telling him he's stupid sheep blindly following the party line. The guy is a freaking Bush supporter, and thinks you go a little over the top in your criticism. And for that, you basically say he's drinking the Kool Aid??
Mark, do these insults come to you out of force of habit? Or are you angerly pounding the keyboard as you write these thing? I can't determine what's worse: that you say these things without giving one thought to how insulting it is to the other person, or that you may be doing it intending to hurt them. Either way, you're not coming out good. What's more, I can't imagine how many people have pointed out to you that your attitude is a serious problem, yet you continue to attack those people.
I've seen enough to know that it's not going to change. And I don't think you're providing a good example for a person struggling to be Catholic. Every time you do this, you're sinning. And I don't think it's a good idea for me to read a Catholic blog littered with sin day in and day out.
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 6:34 pm | #
It's demeaning and depersonalizing to be lied about.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 6:44 pm | #
You're right Mark. You get to sin because other people do also. How silly of me.
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 6:47 pm | #
Writing a rebuttal of a bunch of lies is "sin"?
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 6:52 pm | #
No, but deliberately insulting someone is. Isn't it?
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 6:55 pm | #
In your first note, you said nothing whatever about Former Fan's lies about me. You did, however, say you agreed with him, except for the little "quibbles" (which happened to be the very core of everything he was saying). And now you are mad at me for doing what you have still do acknowledge he did?
And you expect me to take you seriously?
For the record, most of what you just accused me of is words you put in my mouth (yet again). I never said, "he's stupid sheep blindly following the party line". I never said he's "basically say he's drinking the Kool Aid". You did. I criticized his telling lies about me and his tendency to see personal loyalty to Bush as being of greater importance than the documented blunders, crimes (if you include torture, which I do) and follies of the Administration. I'm sorry you insist on hearing things I don't say. But that's how it goes.
Now you strangely accuse me of sin, but not the person with whom you agree. I don't get it.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 7:45 pm | #
I agree with Former Fan that you're succeeding in driving people away from your blog because of your attitude. That's why he was "generally right." I did note, though, that you corrected him on some points. I'm not ready to call him a liar when all he may have done is misinterpreted you to some degree. But his basic thrust is accurate: you're driving away your readers. And it doesn't matter if he was lying, because you decided to insult him. Hence, your sin.
I don't know how to interpret calling some a "follower of the Bush Cult of Personality" except as calling them a stupid sheep blindly following the party line. Yes, the "stupid sheep" words were mine. But is "follower of the Bush Cult of Personality" NOT the same kind of insult? How are your words any better? I don't see your phrase as a criticism of a tendency to put loyalty of the administration above its bad policies. It is a personal attack. It was directed towards him, personally. And I don't care if he's the most vicious liar on the planet and is devoted to destroying you: it is supremely difficult to read a religious blog about trying to life a Catholic life when the host is throwing insults at people. Don't you see the terrible irony in that?
Once, I would've believed that you were not personally attacking people you disagree with. But of course, you invented the phrase "Faithful Conservative Catholic" as an insult. How often have you had to apologize for your colorful remarks, that to the targets aren't so colorful and can actually be quite hurtful?
How is it possible that you can be so oblivious on the effect your words have on people? And even more, how is it possible you can be so oblivious that you continue to do it after people have been telling you for years that your words have this kind of effect?
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 8:10 pm | #
Briefly: I've already shown that you put words in my mouth, Syd, I will not rehash my point about the "cult of personality" gibe.
I did not invent the term "Faithful Conservative Catholic". What I did was juxtapose it with various egregious acts of dissent from the clear teaching of the Church. I'm sorry if you dislike that, but what you should really dislike is the hypocrisy I was pointing out, Syd.
Finally, I see little evidence that I've "driven away" many people. Factoring in the normal summer slump, my readership is pretty much what it always was in terms of numbers.
Mark Shea | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 8:26 pm | #
Mark, "Pre-emptive war is not in the Catechism" is hardly a declaration that the war in Iraq is not a just war. In fact, and not in your opinion, neither Pope has made a statement relating to that topic. There are a lot of things that are not in the Catechism and that neither makes them morally wrong or write, merely not addressed by that document.
It's the Pope's job to oppose war, all wars. It is to be expected that a Pope will make comments about war being a bad thing. I was not surprised by any of the statements from the Vatican. Given our current level of theological understanding, I would doubt that any modern Pope will ever make a statment advocating violence, no matter what the reason.
Based upon just war reasoning, our fight against Germany in WWII was not just. We declared war on them. Our first battles were against Vichy France, a country that had never attacked us. Our war in Europe was pre-emptive.
If you must invent a moral reason for not going into Iraq, fine. WMD's were found. Saddam did violate the ceasefire. Saddam did conceal forbidden programs and weapons programs. Saddam was a danger to his neighbors, having invaded two of them in the recent past. Saddam was an evil person, surrounded by other evil people, doing evil things.
But the morally correct thing to do was leave him be?
Chuck Simmins | Homepage | 07.18.07 - 8:29 pm | #
Of course you won't re-hash the point about the "cult of personality" gibe. Because it was an insult, and a sin, and a perfect example of why I think your readers are leaving you (and even if they aren't, it wouldn't matter, because God doesn't care how many readers you get if you're still sinning).
You weren't thinking "love thy enemy" when you wrote that, and you know it. And that's what really bothers me about reading this blog. Honestly, if the title of your blog didn't have the word "Catholic" in it, I'd think that you wouldn't know what the heck "love thy enemy" means.
Sydney Carton | 07.18.07 - 9:08 pm | #
Please understand: I think our troops are valiant and heroic. However, they don't control policy. And from all I can see, it appears that Iraq is dissolving inexorably into a civil war they are being forced to babysit by an incompetent administration. It's because of my high regard for our troops and their valor that I am so vexed by the disastrous job Bush has done.
I do understand that Mark but it seems from your posts that you believe that we will fail and that there is nothing we can do to make anything better over there. The Yon blog and others tell a different story.
You are a man of good faith Mark, I don't doubt that but if we can't succeed in this war which is much more difficult and bigger than most people give it credit for, than absent serious Divine intervention, Christians are doomed outside of the US, in my opinion, and we are in isolating ourselves, letting the rest of the world go to hell.
I often find that blogs (not yours specifically but all that I read) from the US believe that if we just get out we'll be safe one way or another. I think that's foolish when examining the terrorist's attack history. So how do we fight them? We can criticize the Bush admin. all day long but we are still left with that question and how do we as Catholics and Chrisians respond to he plight of Christians in these nations.
The Vatican believes that preemptive war is wrong? So are we to leave the Christians in Iraq, Africa and everywhere else to the ravages of AQ or other terrorists? I just don't get that. And for people who say we can't be the policemen of the world, I agree. It's a shame that other than minor support from Britain and other eastern European countries we are in this alone, but should we just leave those mentioned Christians to be crucified by radical muslims? What does the Vatican have to say about that? It seems opposite of what Christ asked us to do in defending those who can't defend themselves. I just don't get that. A priest from Europe recently challenged me on this position and I replied, "We can't change the world but shouldn't we try to do what we can?" It really boggles my mind that those that criticize the current administration have no plan how to help the sufferring in these countries.
When NATO troops go into a county to stop a coup is that not a type of preemptive war? How does the Vatican feel when NATO troops pulls out of a peace keeping operation and chaos errupts as a result?
Sometimes I think we could point the finger back at the Vatican in the same way it has been pointed at the Bush administration. And I'm not talking about the abuse crisis, I'm talking about the results of what they advise on the ground, to Christians and any other person in those countries.
Send me the U.S. troops to do what they can to help them because the Vatican cannot. The Pope should always pray for peace but the last 40 years have shown that diplomacy has not worked in this regard and the problem is not going to get any better if we go that route.
I don't know what more to say but the problem is hugely complicated, and to judge the BA in unprecedented circumstances by Catholic standards, and, yep I'm going to say it, by Geneva Convention standards in an unprecedented situation, is not giving the BA any credit for the situation they were and are faced with. That doesn't make them innocent, but when I try to put myself in their shoes given my charge would have been to protect the American people and prevent another 9/11, I would have probably also used any stretch of power to protect those in my charge. That's human reality. And I don't believe many people give Bush and Cheney credit for being just that, human, in a very unprecedented situation.
History will tell.
Read Yon, Simmins and all their links. You might be surprised about what is REALLY happening on the ground there.
It may be that we can't fight terrorism and we have to isolate ourselves. I hope not, because then the ME is doomed and the ones who will suffer the most are the Christians there. Not only in Iraq, Iran and other muslim nations but also in the Holy Land. America abandoning them, as the Christian nation, does nothing to help muslims see the Beauty of Christ, at all.
That's my .02 today.
Anon this time | 07.18.07 - 9:31 pm | #
You should listen to Syd. As I drop by this blog less and less frequently, he’s one of the very few guests who stands up to you with respect, intelligence, and the charity of the brother in Christ.
Don’t dismiss what he said. Please.
Perhaps you’re not losing numbers. But you are losing guys like him.
If I come back and visit your site in two years, will you be pushing your new book about a geo-centric universe or a conspiracy of Neo-cons? Are you sure you’re not on that road? It doesn’t start with outrageous and foolish ideas, it starts with anger and self-righteousness.
Or maybe you're not in danger of sin?
Gordon | 07.19.07 - 2:28 am | #
I have to agree with Former Fan's basic point.
I used to come here often to read about religious matters. Then the level of invective started ratcheting up as numerous political topics became more frequently discussed, and it got to the point where whether or not I agreed with Mark, it was no longer enjoyable to read what he was saying to people. Now my visits are generally only when referred to a potentially interesting story from another blog.
I offer two things for you to consider, Mark. The first is that although you did address some factual issues on portions of Former Fan's message, you DIDN'T address his actual topic - that of people feeling uncomfortable to disagree. (I disagreed on a couple of occassions in the past under several names, and was thoroughly stamped on.)
Second, the way you address/judge people is worthy of your consideration. Look at these words of yours: "my reader apparently believes that no matter how contemptuously Bush treats the law, the gravest sin an American can commit is supposing that Bush could be corrupted by power." Former Fan didn't say anything remotely like that. You put your own assumptions in his mouth - with a rather abrasive tone.
Please, think about it.
Joey W | 07.19.07 - 12:21 pm | #
It's less about Mark's politics than his attitude and name calling.
Amen! Amen! Amen!
anon in self-defense | 07.19.07 - 1:40 pm | #
I've been reading your blog for a long time, since before most people even knew what a blog was, back when the sexual abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese was breaking news. But I have also become increasingly uncomfortable with your tone. And it's not because you've skewered my sacred cow, as Zippy suggests...I am gravely disappointed in the administration, and am horrified by the torture apologetics and a number of apparent abuses of power. But I honestly have trouble stomaching the bitterness here. Your attack on Former Fan...saying his opinion is "sleaze," and putting words into his mouth ("my reader apparently believes that no matter how contemptuously Bush treats the law, the gravest sin an American can commit is supposing that Bush could be corrupted by power")...is bad enough, in that it displayed a distinct lack of Christian charity. But your treatment of Sydney is just shameful. He's obviously concerned about you and your spiritual welfare, and makes valid points in a respectful manner (which Former Fan was admittedly short on), and instead of trying to understand where he's coming from, or seriously consider what he has to say, you just cut him down.
I sincerely hope that your readership numbers are not your only gauge on whether or not the work you do here is to the greater glory of God.
Eileen | 07.19.07 - 8:04 pm | #
I think that this a pretty thorough commentary of what I would have already written about Mark's continuing deterioration. Oh, and contra Zippy in a comment I did not transcribe, there is a big difference between being disenthused with George Bush and believing that a cult of personality is the only explanation as to why anyone would possibly support the man. Combine that with Mark's ever-increasing forays into black helicopter land and there you go.
As to the substantive points Mark attempts to raise in his defense:
Remarks like this remind me of stuff I read ten years ago from die-hard Clinton Defenders. The more you pointed out the obvious about Clinton, the more hysterical his defenders became in shouting "Clinton Hater". "Bush Derangement Syndrome" has really passed the sell-by date as the all-purpose conversation stopper for any substantive criticism of his disastrous performance. So has the mischaracterization of those who make the criticism.
Except the thing about Clinton haters, like Bush Derangement Syndrome afflictees, is that both actually existed. There were (are?) people who seriously believe that Clinton had any number of people murdered while in office. Similarly, there are people who believe all manner of equally nutty things about the Bush administration, a category that Mark has been part of for quite some time now ever since he decided that Bush had turned the United States into a torture state and subscribed to an ideology that is the forerunner to that of the Antichrist. The frequent use of totalitarian rhetoric to refer to both Bush and Cheney is sort of a dead give away in this regard.
What should trouble defenders of the GOP's patented "pretend we care and keep the prolifers on the reservation" strategy is that Bush *is* "the most effective pro-life president" we've ever had and yet the fact remains that we *are* only at Carthaginian levels of respect or protection for human life. The battle for the unborn was so vitally important for Bush that he nominated Harriet Miers and consistently phoned it in on Roe v. Wade Day. I'm happy we finally got the Justices we got and I'm happy for the PBA ban. But come on: this is not a big priority for the GOP or the Administration.
No doubt Mark imagines this situation will be rectified significantly in a Paul administration. This is a criticism that I am more sensitive too, though I honestly fail to see what difference it makes in terms of practical policy distinctions as to whether or not a president phones in on Roe v. Wade Day. The idea that the entire GOP leadership contains no one who is seriously committed to the pro-life cause is pure slander, albeit one that he continues to repeat. And if memory serves, while there remain questions about Harriet Miers's pro-life credentials, wasn't one of her primarily selling points that she was an Evangelical and hence would likely be pro-life? The issue there was primarily one of qualifications, cronyism and philosophy, at least for the people who actually followed the controversy until the very end.
My discussions of "grave sin" have not been directed to the war (which I recognize is ultimately a prudential judgement and honest people can disagree about) but against the Bush Admininstration's damnable policies of legal torture and against those in the (usually) Right Wing punditocracy and (most inexcusable of all) the Church who have labored to excuse, nuance, foggify, finesse, and promote said torture (often while screaming "BDS" at those who protest it. That, not the justice of the war, has been the focus of my discussions of grave evil.
If he's referring to anyone higher than Father Harrison, I'd be interested to hear about it. And if he is talking about us, I'm more than happy to be lumped in with Dave Armstrong, Father Neuhaus, Jimmy Akin and Chris Blosser.
I did, briefly, get snookered by an article by Jerome Corsi which suggested that Bush's (documented) contempt for the law could have dire consequences. However, upon being shown clear evidence that Corsi was all wet, I retracted what I wrote. So, as I have repeatedly said I think Bush will be retiring on January 20, 2009. As an American, I have a high level of distrust for Executives who believe, as Bush/Cheney have clearly demonstrated, that the law doesn't apply to them. As a follower of the Bush Cult of Personality, my reader apparently believes that no matter how contemptuously Bush treats the law, the gravest sin an American can commit is supposing that Bush could be corrupted by power.
Actually, that wasn't what Corsi wrote. The whole thrust of his alarmist piece on WorldNutDaily was that the administration was setting into motion some kind of mechanism for dictatorship, one that Mark is all too eager to buy into because (his denials aside) it fit with his view that Bush and Cheney are simply speaking individuals who engage in evil for its own sake. I'm still interested to know why he doesn't favor impeachment if he believes all of this, by the way.