We talked a while ago about Josh Duggar’s total lack of a sincere apology the first day I found out about the scandal. That lack of sincerity has always formed one of my two main points about what he did–the other being that he is the outgrowth of a deeply flawed and horrific system, which means that if we are to hold him responsible, which we should, then we also ought to hold his patriarchal brand of Christianity responsible.
I’ve been relieved that people are taking this scandal seriously. We’ve even heard from the convicted pedophile who gave Josh his “stern talk” back when Jim Bob, his father, finally semi-reported that he’d caught his boy in the act of forcibly fondling little girls under his roof. The pedophile in question, Joseph Hutchens, was at the time an Arkansas State Trooper. He has gone on record to say that Jim Bob only told him about one little girl and one relatively-mild-sounding incident, by which I mean “mild-sounding to a guy who ended up doing hard time for kiddie porn,” of course. Now, that’s still bad enough as it is, and he would have been required to open an investigation at that point.
But he didn’t.
Did Jim Bob know that his state trooper buddy had some sympathies for a young man tempted by overly-young female bodies? Or did he know his friend would cover up the crime to save a church friend’s ass? Or was this state trooper the only law-enforcement member of his church, which had finally decided that something had to be done to generally address what had happened? The now-imprisoned ex-state trooper said, “The young girl should have been my first priority”–which means that she wasn’t. What was? Helping protect Josh Duggar from the consequences of his actions, which would help protect the tribe as a whole. In light of that overwhelming urge, one little girl and her fate under the same roof as her attacker meant little.
Had he known it was at least five little girls rather than only one, would he have done anything differently? Had Jim Bob made him aware of the full extent of the molestation and assaults his son had committed, would Joseph Hutchens had taken his duty as a law enforcement officer more seriously? One suspects not; his excuse, just like those of everybody else directly involved here, has the whiff of damage control. One can only imagine how crushed Josh Duggar’s victims felt when they realized that the law would be of no help to them, any more than their parents and church had been.
Libby Anne has done an excellent line-by-line dissection of Josh Duggar’s actual apology by now and it is very much worth the read if you have anybody on your social media list or in your acquaintance who even halfway thinks that this sumbitch was even one-tenth sincere in what he said to try to wiggle out of what he did. Once you read it, I hope you’re as angry as I am that anybody is even still trying to defend him.
Even some folks in the right-wing Christian world are waking up to the understanding that Josh Duggar is not being straightforward, though even they don’t seem to realize that the problem isn’t just Josh but his entire wicked, dishonest religion and his revoltingly hypocritical parents.
Enter the PR spin-doctoring machine.
Hunter Frederick is a crisis management specialist. He specializes in helping celebrities who have been hit by scandals. He’s helped a number of interesting names including Saddleback Church and the cancer charity Dragonfly Foundation. Though he’s young, he’s apparently considered quite brilliant at what he does. I can tell you that I picked a couple of the lesser-known people and groups on his client list and did quick searches on them and couldn’t find much dirt at all, so I guess he did whatever they’d paid him to do for them.
A few days after Josh Duggar’s shocking–and completely involuntary–confession, his family hired Hunter Frederick to help them weather the horrifying scandal. That report came on May 25th. This date will be important shortly.
For what it’s worth, I kinda agree with Mr. Frederick’s viewpoint on how to handle a major public-relations crisis. He understands that an apology is only “one small thing that needs to happen in this very large problem.” In addition, he points out the following:
* People want Josh Duggar to atone for what he did to those little girls. But prison time is out of the question since the statute of limitations ran out–and let us not forget, escaping prosecution was actually the clear goal of the Duggars and their entire community the entire time, so that statute of limitations ran out thanks to their concerted efforts to deflect all consequences and attention away from Josh Duggar.
* The public censure Josh Duggar is facing is not atonement in and of itself, but rather part of living life “in the public eye.” Many Christians are trying to take that stance, but Mr. Frederick characterizes that attitude as “ignorant,” which is a little more gentle than anything I’d come up with, but at least he knows it–and friends, that makes him twice as knowledgeable as the folks on Team Forcible Fondling.
He also identified how his organization decides who they’ll represent in these kinds of scandals. Obviously “repentance” is important, though I’ve never known just how Christians identify true repentance. Tears, maybe? Sobbing? A proper catch in the throat? Amends being made? Hell, I didn’t know how they did it when I actually was a Christian; as the wife of a narcissistic compulsive liar and someone tangentially involved in ministry, I knew very well that repentance is not only cheap to manufacture but it is also the easiest thing in the world to fake. But Christian culture brutally punishes anyone caught questioning another Christian’s sincerity in anything Jesus-related.
Mr. Frederick also specified some other factors influencing his decision-making process regaridng who to work with: “a willingness to admit fault, transparency, willingness to want to change.”
Well that partnership sure as hell didn’t last long.
By May 28th, apparently Mr. Frederick had figured out that Josh Duggar and his family didn’t fit his criteria.
He wouldn’t identify exactly what the problem was, but it ain’t hard to guess that the Duggars flunked at least the transparency and willingness-to-change parts, and maybe Hunter Frederick is one of those Christians who thinks he’s really good at spotting who is and isn’t truly repentant. It also didn’t take most of the internet very long to figure out that Josh Duggar–and his parents–and his faith community–have been pretty much lying sacks of shit the entire way through this scandal since the day Josh got caught red-handed, and he still doesn’t appear to be taking responsibility for anything he did and barely acknowledges that any victims existed at all. Every single thing he or his family have said about the scandal has just made it worse and worse (which means tomorrow’s Fox News interview with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar is likely going to be both incredibly head-desky and massively sad all at the same time).
Whatever he discovered, the PR golden boy Hunter Frederick dropped the Duggars like a stone. He refused to take on their case and even Tweeted a rather plaintive-sounding plea that the internet leave him alone as he’s not even remotely involved with that fast-sinking family:
I don’t represent the #DuggarFamily just FYI everyone please calm down!
One really can’t blame him for saying it that way. Though Fox News is doing its best to sink the news–the right-wing mouthpiece and propaganda network has barely devoted more than one or two minutes to coverage of the scandal compared to about an hour from CNN and MSNBC (a ratio that seems about similar to what I’ve seen of fundagelical blogs versus non-fundagelical ones)–the scandal’s still gotten widespread attention from pretty much everyone who cares about religion in America.
It’s not going away, and the more the Duggars and their community try to defend Josh Duggar and make this about him being oh so very sowwy and oh so very persecuted, sane people are getting more and more revolted by this display of coddling. And, too, this scandal really exposes many levels of hypocrisy across many facets of the Duggar’s patriarchal culture–which is why we’re not letting it go. For every five little girls in the Duggars’ household getting forcibly fondled by their own brother and authority figure, for every two parents covering it all up to save their reputation and further their own ambitions, for every church mulling over just how to respond to allegations of molestation and assault received, there are many, many others out there that we do not know about.
Those victims deserve a voice. They deserve to know that they’re not at fault, that society will throw the book at those who condone or cover up any abuse of children, and that help is at hand. The more attention we pay to the Duggar scandal, the better it will be for those many nameless, voiceless victims. Indeed, I’m betting that law enforcement officers in fundagelical-heavy areas are getting some education right now about mandatory-reporting laws, and I bet any church that gets these allegations is going to be treading very carefully indeed in handling them.
Josh Duggar lied in his apology multiple times, yes, but he came by the habit honestly; his parents lied as well, minimizing the extent of the damage just like their son later would in order to protect a cherished ideology from all reproach.
At every single level, Josh Duggar’s victims have been robbed of justice: their attacker still doesn’t really acknowledge what he did and is doing his level best to minimize and negate the damage and make the scandal about himself instead; his parents are still evading their own role in the cover-up and phrasing their son’s assaults as an opportunity to grow together spiritually closer to their god, which is a shockingly insensitive sort of thing to say but which would play quite well to fundagelical crowds; this is their “redemption in the ashes” narrative, the same one that led Rick Santorum back in 2012 to deny abortion access to rape victims because he felt it was much better for them to “make the best out of a bad situation” by being forced to gestate and bear their rapists’ babies against their consent. The Duggars’ church and faith community failed these victims as well, as did the one law enforcement officer who got involved in time to do anything about the crimes. Right-wing Christians are, themselves, still falling over themselves to deflect blame from their most famous family. It’s turtles all the way down, and they just wish we’d shut up about it.
Had lil Josh turned out gay and never molested anybody, doncha wonder how this story would have turned out?
Chances are we’ll be talking next time about that Fox News interview, and also announcing the results of the movie idea–see you there!