Monday, March 7, 2016

Donald Trump, Mark Shea and the Facebook Generation

How we see own personal Trumps
By that, I don't mean Mark supports or likes Donald Trump. Quite the contrary.  Mark routinely takes on Trump and Trump's supporters the way Mark does most things: in the same manner as Donald Trump.  In fact, that's my point.  If you want to be brutally honest, you'll admit that Mark Shea is simply a Catholic Internet version of Donald Trump.  If you visit Facebook or similar Social Media sites, you'll see that Mark is far from the glaring exception.  Go onto most Internet sites, including major media outlets, read the comments and you'll see Donald Trump all over.  And in some cases, such as Daily Kos or or even such esteemed sites as the Huffington Post, you might find published editorials that aren't much different.

I hate to say it, but my boys are correct.  Donald Trump is the candidate that the Facebook generation deserves.  And it isn't because of a few radical exceptions to the rule.  It is the rule.  We are the generation that liberal society has been striving for over the decades.  From the 50s through the 60s and 70s and beyond, Trump is what we've been aiming at.

Just look at Mark Shea as an obvious example. Mark is familiar to most Catholics on the Internet and is highly regarded by many. And yet, not only does he resemble Trump in his approach to topics and interaction on his various sites, he does so as a representative of the Catholic Church.  At least Trump just represents politics.  And yet Mark is quite the hero for many Catholics.  For many non-Catholics, too.  Including those who are quick to attack and bemoan the Trump phenomenon.

How can I be so heartless and judgmental to compare Mark to Trump?  Or compare others on Social Media to Trump?  Easy.  I read.  I listen to Trump and what people criticize him for, and then visit various Facebook pages, including Mark's, and I see no difference.   Trump, beyond the policies he advocates - when we can figure them out - is brash, crude, rude, vulgar, sinful, mean spirited, ill-informed and simply a lousy person because of how he interacts with others and treats others who dare disagree with him.

So how is that different than Mark, or even Mark's own followers?  Or the followers on any one of a million sites?  For instance, Mark's own lack of substance and knowledge of topics he comments on outside of Catholicism is legendary.  Even those who support him and agree with him have hung their heads over his approach to such topics as the Death Penalty or Gun Control.  The same is a common complaint about Trump.  Mark thinks nothing of using the same language Trump is condemned for using.  Mark attacks through name calling and condescension and scorn any who dare disagree, unless Mark happens to be friends with the violators.  Mark isn't even above making false and slanderous accusations against people, even to the point of libel.

But Trump says horrible things!  He mocks people for things they can't help.  He made fun of Carly Fiorina's looks.  He talks about killing people.  He talks about destroying other countries.  So does Mark.  One of his Facebook followers recently said that things would be better off if America was burned to ashes.  Mark only disagreed because he said Americans, being the murderous barbarians that we are, would take millions of innocent lives with us.  Mark justified his view of America by reminding us of the millions of Indians and Slaves who fell to our murderous, barbaric ancestors.  Imagine if Trump or a Trump supporter produced the same dialogue about another country, like Mexico or China.  Imagine the outrage and anger.

And Mark not only uses death and suffering to advance his opinions, he even has begun to mock people murdered by guns - if those same people were hard right wing activists.  That might seem understandable to some.  But remember, Mark and many others were shocked at how many celebrated the death of Osama bin Ladin or Hugo Chavez, saying that the only appropriate Christian response was to pray for their souls.  Yet many of those same Catholics are rightly shocked when Trump appears so callous and cruel to other people in the world.  Notice a trend?   What about making fun of others like Trump does?  Last election cycle Mark was forced by his own readers to remove a post he had submitted that made fun of Michelle Bachmann's eyes and facial features.  Sound familiar?

If you want to be objective, there is little difference between how Mark Shea approaches the modern debate and the way Trump does.  Unless you blindly follow and agree with Mark, you see some glaring problems in his approach and his stances that are not unlike Trump's.  Ah, but that's the rub.  How can people honestly follow Trump despite his views and behavior?  I give you Mark Shea.  More than one Catholic on the Internet has railed against Donald Trump for multiple reasons, while at the same time endorsing and loving Mark Shea and similar individuals who approach the modern debate in the same exact manner for which those same Catholics condemn Trump.

It's not just Catholics mind you.  Look at Jon Stewart.  Look at Bill Maher.  Why, we've been wanting a Trump generation for decades.  From the movie Network, to George Carlin, to Clinton's famous War Room, we've been itching for a nation where people who tell it like it is are the heroes.  Those who hide under the hypocrisy of manners and polite conversation are, even today, mocked when convenient.  People on Mark's own Facebook page have been far worse than Trump to others who don't see it their way.  Heck, some of the people on his page are like that to people who agree with them!

And again, it's not just Mark's page.  But Mark is a grand example because so many on the Catholic blogosphere have hated Trump for myriad reasons only to turn around and cheer Mark and others despite the obvious similarities.  Such well known and celebrated Catholic voices as Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Simcha Fisher and Steven Greydanus all have heaped scorn on Trump but have celebrated and praised Mark Shea in turn.   I can't help but think the thing we hate most about Trump is that we know full well, after decades of comedians' specials, daytime talk shows, talk radio, cable news, Comedy Central, Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, and HBO, he is everything we have wanted all along.

That's ultimately the point.  People who love Jon Stewart or Dan Savage or Bill Maher or Ann Coulter and yet are appalled at Donald Trump are the problem. People who flock to Mark Shea and cheer him as he calls down Raca and Fool, bases his personal stances on little to no research, and even goes so far as crowing over the deaths of those he loathes and launching false and slanderous accusations, nonetheless despise Trump because of Trump's ignorance and manners.  These are the Trump generation.  They are the Trump followers, even if their own personal Trump goes by a different name.

If we don't like it, then don't live it.  And if we insist on living it, then when we see Trump finally come to the stage of power, then accept it.  Don't be like those old stereotypical hypocrites of days gone by, the Mrs. Robinsons who were filth and vulgarity expecting manners and politeness from a fake and superficial civilization.  If we want to act the way we act, and celebrate others who do the same, and give them passes because we like them, or agree with them, then for heaven's sake don't compound the problem we've created with glaring hypocrisy.

If we really are upset with Trump and don't want a country of Trump ethics and behaviors and ideas and dialogue, then perhaps it's time to look prayerfully at how we ourselves act in this era of Facebook and Social Media.  Admit that there is nothing about Donald Trump that the fan base of Jon Stewart, or Bill Maher, or Ann Coulter, or even Mark Shea can condemn. If we realize the error and begin cleaning shop first by looking at ourselves and how we have enabled this mess, then we just might be taking the first step toward turning things around.   And once we've cleaned our house, we can look at some of those figures of the modern entertainment, cable and Internet world, and begin insisting that they get their acts together as well.

A Lenten reflection, courtesy of the boys.

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
 and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Isaiah 58:4-7


  1. I was friends with Mark Shea on facebook but could not take him anymore. There is only so much nonsense one can tolerate. How he can continue to call himself a "conservative" while all he does is bash conservatism and label every conservative with the most vile attacks. A lady the other day on his blog said she could not vote for Bernie Sanders cause he is pro abortion and he and his minions ripped into this lady like she was attacking Jesus himself. He puts words into others mouths and his followers gleefully follow along. As I said I had to defriend him and block him. This is no way for any Catholic apologist to behave.

  2. Yes, that is a major problem with Mark. The three issues I had were 1. His insistence that he is still just a humble conservative when he hates virtually everything ever associated with Conservatives and American Conservatism, while simultaneously loving and giving high fives to a growing list of issues and attributes associated with liberalism. 2. The low quality of his arguments. By the end, some of his stances were straight of out of the ballpark loony. His approach to issues like gun control or the death penalty were even criticized by those who agree with him. And yet, to attempt to discuss the issues resulted in canned comebacks which were typically Catholic variations on ‘your mamma wears army boots and she dresses you funny.’ Finally, 3. he increasingly sinned by bearing false witness, lying, spreading false rumors, misrepresenting people and groups, and even falsely and slanderously accusing individuals of heinous things simply because they didn’t agree with him and weren’t a buddy or pal. That last part was what made it worse. At least most fundamentalists, per the stereotypes, would rip into a friend who wasn’t righteous enough. But Mark would literally accuse people of liking murder or not loving Jesus because of X, but then if a friend or pal said the same thing, in a burst of radical inconsistency, he would say why it was so wonderful that they made a great point (a point he attacked others for making). No, too many problems with Mark, to the point of being spiritually dangerous. Not only does he sin through disregarding clear Church and biblical teachings in how we treat others, but he encourages others to do the same, and even defends them when they do so. Despite it all, however, he is more popular among Catholic circles and Catholic leaders than ever before. What that means I can only guess.

  3. I have met Mark in person. He is super nice. It's only on the internet that he goes to the dark side. I pondered why this is and my guess is "time." He simply doesn't have enough time to do arguments of substance and he gets overwhelmed with people and gets frustrated and comes across as down-right rude and mean. I think he is scrapping so hard to get as many clicks as possible that his goal is not quality but quantity. That's how he used to make money on his blog, at least. I have no clue what he does now for money. But my impression is he sits in his living room and trolls facebook all day. I don't know how you make money doing that.

  4. I met Mark, too. And he is nice. That was a long time ago, but I did meet him. I can't account for why he does what he does, but he has crossed a line. Mean I can handle. But sinning, and then encouraging others to do the same and defending the sin of slander or bearing false witness, especially from a noted Catholic apologist, is the problem. I think some of your insights are probably close by. In the old days, Mark stuck to subjects he knew. Now he comments on subjects he clearly knows little about. And he responds to those who try to engage him with the aforesaid slander and false accusations. This encourages readers who are on his side to do the same. Some of it might also be Mark's continued insistence that he is just a down home conservative boy when virtually nothing he values at this point would be considered conservative, but increasingly hard to the left. That, too, could account for some of his acrimony.

  5. So Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and the scores of other conservative radio hosts played no role in the rise of Trump? Fox News is innocent in the emergence of Trump-style politics? Alex Jones, Breitbart, Red State and other media outlets of the right that spit out one conspiracy theory after another had nothing to do with this? It's good to know Trump is the fault of the Facebook generation of kids and their liberal heroes and not at all indicative of something very disturbing happening on the right. If only Stewart, Maddow and Maher had shown the same civility and respect for contrasting political opinion as we've seen from Limbaugh, Levin, Jones, Breitbart, Palin, Hannity and other conservative leaders, we wouldn't have the spectacle of Trump today.

  6. There are many to blame. That is the point. When adults descend on Facebook to argue in the same manner as Trump, and then get all bothered that Trump argues in their manner, that is a problem. I could have spent an entire post just listing all who are culpable for the Trump phenomenon. I focused on those on the Left because many are trying to insist Trump is only because of Right Wing media. As if there is a difference between Ann Coulter and Bill Maher, or Rush Limbaugh and Jon Stewart, or FOX News and MSNBC. Clearly there isn't. And yet there are those trying to act as if it is only one side of the divide that deserves blame. And the irony is, when you see some of those same individuals decrying Trump, his crudeness, his insults, his rude and obnoxious manners, they act the same way and encourage the same exact approach - as long as it suits them. And that is a major problem today. The idea that X is only wrong when "They" do it, but always awesome when "We" do it. I can't think of anything that enabled the Trump phenomenon more than that.

  7. Fr. Dwight Longenecker has encouraged Shea's attacks on Trump, but that's about it. I have been reading Fr. for a long time, and he is an excellent writer through and through. He is a lot more professional than Mark and doesn't rely on snark and name-calling. He is both highly intelligent and highly compassionate - two things a priest ought to be - but he doesn't water down or used minced language either. Fr. writes for the "Imaginative Conservative" and in general is much less critical of American conservatives than Shea is, but he doesn't feel conservatism is without criticism. And let's be honest here... the stuff he's critical of is perfectly valid (e.g., Trump is an indefensible embarrassment and voting for him in the primaries is nothing but stupidity). For that matter, some of the stuff Shea calls out in modern American conservatism is also worth calling out, but I agree with the premise of this article that he does rely heavily on snark and condescension, he does resemble Trump in some ways, and he has a tendency to exaggerate - big time - the opinions of his opponents. It gets old. Fast. But Fr. Longenecker is no Shea, even if he does "praise" Shea's anti-Trump rhetoric.

  8. No, Fr. Longenecker is no Shea. But Fr. Longenecker runs in the company with, and gives high fives to, and swings by, Mark's FB page to yuck it up with someone who is guilty of many of the things for which Fr. Longenecker condemns Trump (and rightly so). Same with Simcha and others. You can't say Person A is bad because of X,Y and Z, and then turn around and be seen yucking it up with person B, who everyone knows is just as guilty of X,Y and Z. And lest we think Trump is more important because he's running for the presidency, simply apply Mark's standard. That is, Trump is merely representing politics. Mark is representing the Faith; the Gospel. So which is worse? No, Fr. Longenecker is no Mark Shea. Nor is he Donald Trump. But to condemn one should bring with it the same level of treatment as you would have for the other.

  9. But what exactly do you mean by "high fiving" and "yucking up" ? Just stopping by and "liking" a few anti-Trump posts? Following them on facebook, that seems to be hardly all Fr. L does on Shea's page, granted I don't stalk their timelines and can only speak on what shows up in my newsfeed. That's the only real time they ever intersect. And as you said, condemning Trump is rightly done. So what's the real issue here? Is Fr. L at fault for "liking" some anti-Trump posts? I admit I'm a big fan of the man and am thus inclined to defend him, but I'm not seeing real issue with his "liking" of anti-Trump posts.

  10. Yeah, I mean just that. Would Fr. L. go to Trump's facebook page and give a thumbs up there? Further, Fr. Longenecker wrote a pretty tough piece on fundamentalism and the various problems it has, and why it should be avoided. And Fr. Longenecker has sent out kudos to Mark before. My problem is, that's like saying I love Football, but we should ban Rugby because it is too violent. Somewhere, something comes off as slightly askew of consistency. The greater point is that Mark is hardly unique. That was my boys' point. A generation that descends onto Facebook and other social media outlets to act the way Trump acts, to cheer the way Trump acts, and yes, to pardon the way Trump acts as long as it's my own personal buddy version ot Trump, has little reason to turn around and condemn Trump the real thing. Trump as a person is one thing. Trump as a concept we've long embraced is another.


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