Thursday, June 2, 2016

Social Media and the Catholic Pitchfork Brigade

OK, so it's this.  Without getting into the nuts and bolts, it's come to my attention that a young woman who is running for the position of circuit judge in Wayne County, Michigan, is under assault.  Who is assaulting her you might ask?  Could it be the press?  Could it be terrorists?  Could it be sexist men who are ticked at a young woman advancing through the judicial corridors?

No!  She's being attacked by Simcha Fisher and the world of Catholic Social Media.   Why?  Well, it looks like this.  Apparently Simcha posted a Facebook article in which she said that the parents of the boy whose actions led to the killing of a gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo might not be guilty of any wrong doing.  Sometimes kids act out and it's not the parent's fault.

Fair enough.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don't.  For my money, a little accountability in our day and age might do us adults some good.  That does't mean, of course, that the parents in question are guilty.  Most of the comments followed that line of non-accountability, a line not exactly uncommon nowadays.  But a couple bucked the trend, including Melissa Cox, the aforementioned judicial candidate.

Now my approach to Facebook is 'don't'.  It was Mark Shea's page that broke me.  When he and some of his readers descended on me and mocked and belittled me because I agreed with one of them (yeah, I agreed with one of the readers who then turned and let loose with both barrels), I figured it was time to get a real life.

Apparently Ms. Cox is made of stronger material than me, or is more patient, or maybe even naive.  I don't know. She stayed and tried to make the claim that yes, the parents might be guilty of wrong doing.  When pushed, she admitted she wasn't there.  Apparently there were some bystanders who were there who frequent Simcha's Facebook page.  In reaction to that, Ms. Cox explained that there could be many factors behind why a parent might or might not be guilty: Drugs. Alcohol. BAM!

That was what done her in.  By bringing up those examples, she was accused of falsely accusing the parents of being drug addicts and alcoholics.  Simcha and others swooped in and laid layer after layer of condemnation and contempt on Ms. Cox for being judgmental and sinning by bearing false witness against the parents.  I don't know the full extent of the discourse, because eventually Ms. Cox left and deleted, or blocked, her statements.  Those I did see were kept by some of the readers:

As the comments continued to pile on, a growing number of readers shook their heads at just how much of a disgrace Ms. Cox was to the legal  profession.  Soon Simcha floated the idea that she might have brought the drugs question up because the parents are Black (and you know what that means). Naturally others ran with the race card.  During that time a bright light came on.   While Simcha stated she didn't want to ruin anyone's career, she and others  then converged and began shouting out to different individuals from Ms.Cox's district; calling on reporters to dig up dirt and rake up some muck, calling for articles to discredit her and work to wreck her life, her career, her livelihood:
Simcha Fisher Rebecca Kavan If you are interested in pursuing this, Damien says you should contact the Detroit Free Press and let them know you have a tip, including screenshots, of some nutso stuff that judicial candidate and prosecutor Melissa Cox said on Facebook and then deleted. You could contact Charlie LeDuff, who is a muckraker and might be interested. This is stuff that should disqualify her to be a judge.    (Emphasis mine) 

Wow.  My head is still spinning. This is not an endorsement of Ms. Cox, BTW.  I don't live in Michigan.  I don't know her from Eve.  For all I know she dresses like Himmler in drag and attends KKK rallies.  I have no idea.  Perhaps some of the comments that were deleted that nobody reposted showed her true colors,  Maybe in those missing comments she guffawed at the dead gorilla and officially made a legal charge against the parents for being drugged up while their child was put in mortal danger simply because they were Black.  I don't know.

Three things, however, suggest otherwise.  First, with a little bit of research, I found several sites supporting Ms. Cox's campaign.  I noticed many had African Americans, and among those were people who seemed to reckon Ms. Cox as a friend.  This, in addition to a laundry list of endorsements and awards for her legal career up to this point.  Forgive me for bucking the John Lennon principle of Liberalism, but I look at what a person does and how they live, not what people on Social Media say about them or their failure to speak the Sacred Word of  Correct Thinking.

Second, the copies of her comments that were posted were nothing close to what she was accused of saying.  They were merely posts, musings, opinions not shared by Simcha and most of her followers.  They were thinking out loud about what possibilities might and might not implicate the parents.  That they were seen by the followers as official accusations rather than opinions brings up the Third point.

I know all too well the tendency of Social Media to go straight to lunatic, partisan accusations.  I recognize the tactics, the 'I would never ruin a person's career' followed by calling for people to flock to the individual's district in order to ruin that person's career.  I also recognize the fact that Simcha and her followers were attacking Ms. Cox for making a false accusation (which Ms. Cox denied) by then piling on multiple false accusations against Ms. Cox, mocking her, deriding her, spewing contempt on her, and then, as can be expected in our modern climate, playing the race card.  After all, the family was African American, couldn't that be why Ms. Cox suggested drugs or alcohol?  Not saying it is the reason, but you know. All of this, and then moving to have the young woman's career derailed and her campaign damaged.

The sad irony in all of this is that based on Ms. Cox's quotes that were provided, that others referenced as justification for the witch hunt, this represents a gross violation of the Church's clear teachings on how we are to interpret the statements of others.  Basically we are to assume the best unless we prove otherwise.  And yet Simcha and her followers took the absolute worst possible spin on what Ms. Cox said, piled on, and proceeded to call for her judicial career to be harmed.

Despicable.  It made me ashamed to be Catholic.  Hey kids, Catholic kids I mean.  We Catholics have a reputation for the Crusades, for the Inquisition, for witch burnings.  It would do us well to remember this fact and not act like Facebook is the best alternative we have since the Rack and Thumbscrews went out of fashion.

As for the modern Catholic Church and its field of amateur apologists, I'm sure back in the day this seemed like an awesome thing.  Heck, Pope Francis says it's awesome now.  And I'm sure it can be a good thing, this idea that Catholics with no particular irons in the ministry fire can nonetheless proceed to the world of the Internet to lay down their opinions and insights, their views and reflections.

But watch out.  The Internet has no peer review.  It has no checks and balances.  It has no level of accountability.  I could start a blog based on molecular biology.  I could use my blog for anything I want.  When we have amateur Catholic apologists who feel that they can use their station and their popularity to attack the livelihood of someone about which they know nothing, then I dare say we've crossed a line.  To continue to give a nod to such people is to engage in the worst elements that have come to plague the world of Social Media.  That's bad enough.  But when you are doing so with the moniker 'proud Catholic', then think of what that says to a wider world.

To be an apologist is to be a minister.  Jesus didn't go through the agony of the Cross in order to provide us with a happy living and a Messianic shaped club with which to bludgeon others and be awesome on the Internet.  If people who go by the title Catholic Apologist can't handle the cause without using their position to advance agendas and, worse, harm the livelihood and lives of those they disagree with, then they shouldn't be apologists.  They certainly shouldn't be the recipients of praise and adoration from actual Catholic leadership.  That would be like giving a gun to a child who just used the last gun to shoot a classmate.  This is a wake-up folks.  Is this what we want people who represent our Faith on Social Media to act like?  


  1. Simcha and her husband are part of the Catholic Bashing Trinity with Mark Shea. It is wise and prudent to stay away from all of them, i.e., peas in the pod and all that.

  2. I usually do. To be honest, I know little about Simcha since what I do know hasn't impressed me. But this, to me, crossed a line. This is using the Catholic web to wreck a person's life just because she dared hold a different opinion about something that doesn't really have to do with Catholic anything. Normally I don't dive into things like this, but somehow I just couldn't sleep well last night after what I read.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. And it's part of a pattern. Indeed, stay away. (Sorry for using your blog a place to brush up on my html tag skills.)

  5. Batch, I wondered what that first comment was. :)

    Yes, it is a pattern, and a disturbing one. It's even more disturbing when they feel they can move to the next level and not just attack and accuse, but actively move to ruin someone's career.

  6. Always nice to be gossiped about behind one's back the Righteous. For what it's worth, I take it as a great honor of which I am not worthy to be numbered with the Fishers. Let the passive-aggression continue!

  7. When you make it a habit of banning people for criticizing or disagreeing with you, or ordering them off of your pages, expect things to be said where they can be. Especially where the well-being of others might be in play. As for approving of Simcha’s attempt to wreck a woman’s career with no more evidence than a Facebook comment, then I’d say yeah, I’m not surprised. Saddened, but not surprised.

  8. So, Mark, u drive everyone away then are shocked to find that they talk elsewhere without you. Maybe you should self reflect a bit more.

    Your attempts at shame are funnier than your attempts at comedy.

  9. Where does your paragraph beginning with "Simcha Fisher Rebecca Kavan" come from? Was that a comment on her original Facebook post or on some other post? Is there a screenshot of it? Or am I missing something? I may write about this on my blog (if that's okay)but I want to make sure I understand the facts.

  10. Hi Oakes,

    I don't know how to do a screenshot on my own comments section! If you follow the link at the beginning of the post, you'll see the entire thread. You have to click 'view all comments' to find the one in question, responding to a Lina M. G. Martin. Under that, click to 'view all' again and start reading. There are about 100 replies. The above quote comes way down, after Melissa Cox left the discussion and blocked her comments. What follows is the Facebook equivalent of a shark feeding frenzy, though one that Mark must approve of since Simcha and others let fly after Ms. Cox left, and Mark clearly approves of Simcha. So what exactly he was getting at with me writing about him when he wasn't here is beyond me. :)

    Anyway, that is where you will find it. I might find a shot and copy it in the post since I can't do it here. Since I don't know Ms. Cox I don't want to make a call out for people to support her. Who knows? Maybe one of her blocked posts included her calling for all Black children to be fed to gorillas or something. Based on the treatment she received, I hope that's what she said. The post copies provided, however, suggest no such thing. Since I can't vouch for her, I can't call for support. I can say what I'm witnessing on Simcha's page, her followers, and others like Mark who support such actions, is a frightening thing indeed.

  11. Mark's comment had to be the most hypocrital comment I've ever read, and that's saying something. The whole point of this thread is that Simcha and company have engaged in complete character assassination, and Mark had the temerity to complain that he is being maligned. What an absolute disgrace.

  12. Paul, truth be told, it's worse than just character assassination, as if that's not bad enough for publicly declared Catholic representatives. They are trying to ruin her career, her hopes, dreams and potential livelihood. All because she disagreed with Simcha and her readers. That Mark approves of this should speak volumes. That Mark then seems to chastise me for what he is willing to give Simcha a pass for is indicative of another problem in certain corners of the Catholic Internet fraternity.

  13. Steven, I don't know how vindictive, but certainly a problem with using one's station as a Catholic representative to wreck a person's career. I've seen a few speak of this as character assassination. That's bad enough. But this pushed it to the next level and actually acted like that growing trend of people who are seeing their livelihoods compromised because of LGBTQ issues. Same basic problem. Someone holds a different opinion today, we don't just stop at calling them stupid and evil. Now we move to the next level and try to hurt their physical well being. Catholics, who are not happy about that trend as it impacts religious liberty, should not turn around and join it when it suits them.

  14. This entire story has kind of made me hit my breaking point with the current mob mentality of our society (quick everyone change their Facebook photo to a gorilla so everyone knows you're a compassionate human being.) That it has spilt into the Catholic world is upsetting, and names don't really need to be mentioned as if you frequent the blogsphere enough you know which independent bloggers are in the crosshairs simply for voicing their concerns. Are we really concerned about looking like the biggest baddest Catholic there is, or should we be more concerned about decreasing ourselves? I'm not going to cast judgement as I'm confident that most bloggers are sincere in their love for Christ. Yet, we all have own biases and our own sinful nature creates in us a tendency to create our own dogma and damn those that violate that dogma. What Ms. Fisher intention in all of this, is a mystery. She's a prominent enough blogger to know her words carry weight and that if she takes up a cause others will follow. I think you're right David that we need to be careful not fall into the trap of following the same pattern that many in the secular world follow.

  15. Mob mentality probably describes it best. It's becoming too common in our society. What we are seeing at political rallies is just an extension of what we're seeing across the spectrum, including things like this. That is becoming too common for my comfort, and I certainly don't want to see Catholics, once again, jump on board the latest trend for which future generations will need to apologize.


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