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May 2, 2005

And while we’re in the business of being pissed off, how about those fun folks at Disney/ABC? Who, last year, wouldn’t run ads from the mainstream Protestant denomination the United Church of Christ, because their ads referred to the church’s welcoming attitude toward homosexuals. And who, this year, are happy to run ads from James Dobson’s far-right extremist “Focus on the Family” group promoting their “Focus on Your Child” program built around Dobson’s bestseller Dare to Discipline.

Digby has samples of Dobson’s product. As he remarks, Dobson

thinks of children as animals and he believes that animals and children should be beaten. He believes that nine month old babies should be switched on the bare legs. He believes they should be pinched hard, on the neck, so it will hurt. He believes in things that could get parents arrested in many states in the union.

Yet his program is considered to be more wholesome and less controversial than a church that allows gays to be a member.

Max Blumenthal has the pertinent FCC addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses. Instead of being Afraid, Very Afraid, how about we use Max’s resources to express our opinion of Disney/ABC using its chartered chunk of the public weal to sell advertising to kinky right-wing discipline freaks while refusing to sell it to normal Americans who think it’s nice that gay people want to go to church. [04:00 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on And while we're in the business:

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:32 PM:

Anyone have the contact info for Disney/ABC? I'm more inclined to pressure them than the FCC. (Not that we can't do both.)

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:35 PM:

This might be it:

ABC, Inc.
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4551
Phone number: (818) 460-7477

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:59 PM:

I read Digby's samples. I was amazed. Dobson hit his dog with a belt? His hand wasn't enough to discipline a 12-pound dog, an animal he himself describes as "tiny"?

This was an animal he'd been giving orders to every day for six years, and it was an anomalous instance of non-obedience, but Dobson and the dog got into a "vicious fight" wherein "I fought him up one wall and down the other"?

I don't believe it. A dog that was going to challenge Dobson's authority that thoroughly would have shown signs of it before. My strong suspicion is that the dog was terrified.

We're never told how it was that "Siggie had become boss of the house while I was gone." We're talking here about a tiny and normally well-disciplined dog who, by Dobson's own account, didn't do anything to warrant correction until late at night. I literally can't imagine what the dog was supposed to have been doing in the meantime that constituted being "boss of the house." I can only think that Dobson has a hypervigilant sense of Who's Boss, and somehow felt that his authority had been questioned by his little pet dog.

Little pet dogs generally know who's in charge. Dogs are good at that.

By the way, one of Dobson's details can't be true. He describes the incident as "both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt." That's not possible. Dogs can't swing belts.

I think Dobson has to be displacing his own behavior onto the dog. I further think he does this in order to depict the incident as his dog and himself having a fight. The dog was trapped in an enclosure; and Dobson, who weighed sixteen times as much as the dog, as well as being much stronger and having much more reach, was beating the dog with a leather belt.

One of the things abusers do is to recast beatings as fights. If they other person hit back or struggled at all, then it was a fight, and the rules are different.

An instance of this that stuck in my mind was an explanation I once heard about how an eight-year-old girl had forced a fight on her father -- this was a fight in which she struck no blows, but nevertheless wound up on the floor getting kicked -- by verbally challenging his interpretation of events.

That's not a fight. Neither is James Dobson taking a strap to a small lapdog.

Nice to clear up what Disney does and doesn't feel is acceptable behavior.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:09 PM:

Even those of us who advocate spanking children (or, more accurately, will not rule it out) know that "spanking with 'sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely'" is just cruelty.

If it doesn't hurt you emotionally more than it does the child physically, you're not doing it right.

What Teresa Said.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:11 PM:

Emperor Bush II is sure that he's Boss, and has shown willingness to use whatever it takes to discipline Iraquis, Texas Death Row inmates, Liberals, Republicans not responding to the party Whip (a term of art in Discipline). Pope Benedict XVI used be the official dog-whipper of Theologians. Remember LBJ and the public response to his use of beagle ears? Note that all presidents, for PR purposes, have to have dogs, some of whom write books?

Tom Disch is still annoyed that the US publisher wouldn't use his title: The Puppies of Terra: Mankind Under the Leash.

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:22 PM:

He probably "disciplines" flies by pulling off their wings, too...

JamesG ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 06:52 PM:

How did we get to this point? I mean really, was it their parents, their grandparents, theirs...How did the human mind (I use both loosely here) evolve and mutate (site specific instances of course)to the point that anyone and I mean anyone in good conscious advocate taking a switch to a baby, yet cringe at the thought of sharing a pew with gay people or sharing the very air they breath with these...immoral strange strange people who have found love (oh, wait they must not be capable of love, being that they are a sin against nature and all)in the arms of someome of the same sex. Don't they know they have a choice? It's not like they are born that way.

I just won't ever understand how people with such small minds can have such a big influence over the masses. How can we expect to teach tolerance when it quite simply...won't be tolerated.

There is a town in Oklahoma that is in an uproar over a children's book. I think it is called "King and King", but the story is about a prince that chooses to marry...gasp, another prince. Parents are saying that it should be quarintined to the adult section, presumably to prevent our children from being "tainted" by reading the book.

I am just absolutely sick of all the mental midgets we have to put up with on a regular basis. When is it going to change and I mean for the better?

I'm tired of fighting with these jackasses. You argue and argue and the minute you start making valid points to debunk their bullshit, you can practically see their eyes glaze over. They don't want to hear anything that might jostle the little protective bubble that they put in place to ensure that their narrow minded views stay intact. Sadly, I just can't see a change coming in my lifetime. I have (had) great hope, but it is on a steady decline.

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 07:40 PM:

JamesG says: I'm tired of fighting with these jackasses. You argue and argue and the minute you start making valid points to debunk their bullshit, you can practically see their eyes glaze over. They don't want to hear anything that might jostle the little protective bubble that they put in place to ensure that their narrow minded views stay intact. Sadly, I just can't see a change coming in my lifetime. I have (had) great hope, but it is on a steady decline.

I was pondering just today the fact that none of us will ever live in the world we really want to live in. I want to live in a world that, I surmise from the above, is probably about like the one you would like to live in. Dr. Dobson would like to live in a world that would look like Hell to most of us who hang out in here, I'll bet.

There's a great moment in the movie Clockwise when John Cleese -- a prissy headmaster traveling to receive some sort of teaching award, encountering endless catastrophes along the way which threaten to make him miss the ceremony -- comes up against some disaster at the end of a long chain of disasters and he sits there in complete despair. But wait! Something happens, can't remember what, that offers the slimmest bit of hope. This shtick has been repeated over and over in the movie... And you can see him sitting there, exhausted, trying to summon the energy to try to keep going... and he finally cries out, desperately, to his traveling partner:

"Oh, it isn't the despair, Polly! It's the hope!"

Which totally cracked me up, because it's true... it isn't the despair that kills you. It's the hope. It's the struggle. It's the trying to talk sense to these assholes... again and again and again... uselessly.

But, you know... What can you do? None of us will ever live in that world where we no longer have to resort to hope. It's our lot to be tortured by The Hope.

I'll be long dead by the time the world ever becomes anything like the way I want the world to be. The same is true of you. It's true of everybody.

Go rent Clockwise. You'll laugh at that moment I described. It's a classic Cleese moment and there's no way I could properly describe it. And then every time you feel that voice in your gut saying to you "It isn't the despair, Polly! It's the hope!" you will chuckle a little bit, which should give you just enough of a kick in the ass to keep on fighting and hoping.

Remembering that moment, and laughing at the memory, has got me through a motherload of crap in my life. Here's hoping it does the same for you.

DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 07:56 PM:

Wow. Along of the lines of what Teresa called displacement -- you know how the anti-gays are obsessed with the idea that gay adults want to obtain children (as in adoption and foster care) in order to have sex with them? Perhaps the Dobson method of parenting is appealing to people who want to have children mostly so they can have someone to dominate, and they project parenting-as-abusiveness onto others.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 08:38 PM:

Jeez, Patrick, if we don't teach the next generation that strong authority is justified in brutalizing dissent, then how ever will we produce a nation strong enough to tolerate the extreme measures that are necessary to implement a Glorious Leader's will?

Chenanceou ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 09:31 PM:

I heard about the book a while ago and, as lame as it is, wrote a review at amazon.com protesting.

The scary thing is the book sells and there are testimonials of people saying it was the best thing that could have happened to them and their kids.

JamesG ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 09:37 PM:

Here's hoping it does the same for you.

Thanks, Michael. I will definately check it out.

Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:38 PM:

On the other hand, I've known, and you've known, children who have no boundaries to their behaviour, children who have no conception that other people exist and have rights, children who have never in their lives known effective sanction against any action they take. Those children are unhappy children and they make inadequate adults or worse.

Certainly children should not be beaten; I say again, in case it wasn't heard the first time: certainly children should not be beaten. But civilised behaviour is, by definition, not natural. It must be learned, and learning involves not only praise and reward for proper action. It also involves correction of improper action, and that correction must be enforced, not merely recommended.

There are times when that enforcement includes physical means: restraint; sanction; withdrawal; exclusion; punishment. Punishment does not ever mean "beating with an implement". It may include, in certain specific circumstances, an open hand to the seat of the pants. The circumstances I mean include egregiousness and immediacy.

Here is a good example of the failure of the "slippery slope" argument, rightly rejected elsewhere in this forum. The acceptance that in certain extreme circumstances it is proper to withhold the means of life and to allow the dying to die is not tantamount to killing the afflicted. A palm to the seat of the pants is not tantamount to assault and battery on a child.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:42 PM:

I agree completely. And I've known some of those kids.

Dobson's "dare to discipline" stuff isn't about sanely setting limits on kidly misbehavior; it's about adults giving themselves permission to be abusive creeps.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:52 PM:

Rev. Dobson on submission: lesser beings should submit themselves to christian men. Christian men are not required to show charity, humility, self-discipline, humanity or compassion in return

St Paul (far from the most liberal source of the scriptures - the man who - er- adjusted Christ's teachings to make them more acceptable to Roman patriarchalists) on submission:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.'

and then, of course, the forgotten passage: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it ... that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself ... For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

Anyone who believes that Rev. Dobson thinks his own flesh should be beaten viciously with a belt by someone stronger than he until he does what that person believes to be the right thing signify by googling Rev. Dobson and finding any indication that this is true.

Good luck.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:58 PM:

Dave? I realize every child is different, and I seem to have gotten a particularly easy one, but one of the results of my not lifting a hand to mine has been that when we do have cause to express disapproval of her behavior, it upsets her a great deal that she's done something that might make us think she's not a good person.

We've told her that we don't think doing something wrong makes you a bad person, just a person who's done something wrong, but children have a primitive sense of justice sometimes.

I'm not sure what putting myself in the wrong (I mean, we've told her there's no excuse for using violence to solve problems, unless in self-defense and when there's no alternative to self-defense) would do to clarify her view of morality and where she fits into it.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:30 PM:

Julia:

"Rev. Dobson on submission: lesser beings should submit themselves to Christian men. Christian men are not required to show charity, humility, self-discipline, humanity or compassion in return."
Forgive me for questioning you, but does he actually say this?

If so, I'm with JamesG: what lunacy have these people fallen into, that they think Rev. Dobson's views have anything to do with Christianity? Submission is made to God. Being a Christian certainly doesn't entitle you to the submission of non-Christians. Charity, humility, self-discipline, humanity, and compassion are required at all times.

It's right there in the book. They can look it up.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:33 PM:

The thing that surprised me is that James Dobson is still alive. He's been doing this for a long, long time.

When I was a new mother, back in the ice ages, I got into reading the literature of parental advice as literature. It didn't take many books to get a picture of what might be helpful in raising my children (who are absolutely wonderful young adults now), but the genre became interesting for its own sake. There was a series of horrendous books by Dobson in the library -- I thought they were old then. He had seminars and things and he went on TV to promote his child beating industry.

The thing that set him off from the other books I read was the place where he quoted, with approval, a father who had successfully graduated one of Dobson's programs. The man said "to be a parent, you have to cultivate a little sadism" (not an exact quote -- I read this a long time ago) He was talking about ingenious punishments, thinking about ways to make little miscreants suffer effectively.

It's disgusting. And it's very, very political. It's not, by the way, effective childraising: it doesn't develop a conscience, or a sense of obligation to other people, or responsibility. It develops fear, submission, resentment, and ambitions to get on the other end of the whip.

Like I said, it's very, very political.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:37 PM:

"It's disgusting. And it's very, very political. It's not, by the way, effective childraising: it doesn't develop a conscience, or a sense of obligation to other people, or responsibility. It develops fear, submission, resentment, and ambitions to get on the other end of the whip."

Lucy: Exactly. Also: whew.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:39 PM:

I want to say a thing about dogs too now that I've thought about it. I have a strapping fifty pound dog with a dominant personality, almost aggressive (she wants to play hard and the only times I've seen her in fights she seemed to think that the fights were just extreme forms of play -- a dangerous thing, I thought). When she was in her doggy adolescence, she wanted to have her way all the time -- runrunrun after the other dogs, nip their shoulders, roll them over, bark her fool head off, general obnoxiousness. We worked with her intensively for about a year. We used a lot of methods -- not one of the methods was strapping or beating. I don't mean she was obnoxious all the time for that year: I mean she needed to be watched, diverted, intervened with now and then.

Dogs want to do stuff that makes you proud of them, even when they have dominant personalities. It's not that hard to get their cooperation.

It's the same with children.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:05 AM:

I guess I'm extrapolating from (what I see as) the Reverend's profound indignation at being challenged, and his decision to deal with it, not by understanding, but by doing whatever would most effectively make the dog deal with him on his terms (those, and I don't think this is an unfair description of what he himself describes) being an acceptance of the Reverend's rightful place as the purveyor of abuse.

He's less explicit in describing female and child subjugation, but his obvious self-righteousness in describing his right to expect subjugation from, well, anyone he has a right to expect subjugation from and his attempts to define female and child rights as equally subject to righteous subjugation give me the creeps.

I guess I see his willingness - although I think you could fairly call it avidity - to use physical force to exert his will leaves me a little queasy in someone who is actively campaigning for People Like Him to be in charge.

Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:46 AM:

I congratulate Julia on never raising her hand to her child, and agree wholeheartedly that this would undoubtedly be the ideal outcome: a polite, civilised and charitable young lady with a developed code of moral and ethical standards, achieved without physical coercion.

For my part, I regret I did not manage to meet those high ideals. I have spanked my son, in the manner above, about twice.

On the other hand, my Quaker friend described him as the "gentlest and politest young man I know", so something must have gone right. This, incidentally, is not to crow. I did not do right, and Julia does not do wrong. I suppose that what I am saying is that there are no recipes for producing decent human beings.

Kathryn ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:58 AM:

Note that Dobson quite likely believes that he isn't capable of substantial sin anymore, due to a state of "entire sanctification" or "the second work of grace." (look these up, especially w/ respect to the church of the Nazarene)

A person reaching this state can only sin by accident. He is no longer proud, or boastful, but merely honest. He is not angry, but forcefully righteous. He does not lie, but knows that his own beliefs must be based on the truth however they might differ from others' opionions.

Of course, a child cannot yet be in this state, so in the case of a near-sinless parent disagreeing with anything that the child does, the child *must* be wrong, by definition. A kid trying to reason the parent out of punishment must be motivated by the devil's logic, because the parent just can't be wrong.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: Nothing scarier than a person who harms you for good motivations. A cruel person may tire of torture, or change his mind. The "good" person will never stop the torture.

zornhau ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 05:25 AM:

Pardon me for skipping to the end and commenting without reading the thread. However, I've just read the bit about Dobson advocating disciplining a 9 month old baby and it's going around in my head.

Disciplining it for what? IT'S A BABY!

There is no word low enough to describe Dobson or those who follow him. It seems that they are without honour, and without humanity, except for those parts of humanity we call inhumane.

Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:10 AM:

It boggles my mind.

I reread L.M. Montgomery's Rainbow Valley recently. It portrays a wide variety of parenting styles. The one that stuck with me was a widowed Presbyterian priest who neglects his children *horribly* - doesn't ever know where they are, hardly talks to them from day to day, doesn't provide them with proper clothing either for the weather or the prevailing social standards, allows them to be malnourished - and sometimes starved - and to live in squalor (because the housekeeper's an elderly relative and he doesn't want to offend her by getting someone who can cook and clean).

There's one chapter where his son Carl's done some awful social sin (I think it's the time they sang Polly-Wolly-Doodle in the graveyard during the Methodist prayer meeting) and he decides he has to whip Carl. So he goes to the woods and cuts a switch - not that one, it's too heavy, oh no, not that one, it's too light, it was a serious error, after all - and eventually calls Carl up to his study, agonises some more, then lets him go. The title of the chapter is 'Carl is - not - whipped.'

I'm not sure if I'm meant to read in a subtext of he neglected and ignored them all, but at least he didn't hit him, but I do.

Which is all completely beside the point.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 08:39 AM:

If you look up 'tulip church', complete with positively sweet flower logo, the 't' is 'Total Depravity'.

Which is a doctrine that comes down to 'kids start evil, and if you don't beat them enough they will always be evil'.

That a factual error; it's bad parenting; it's theologically dubious in the extreme if you actually read the Gospels.

But societies tend to distort themselves in order to maintain patterns of oppression, and the burden of acknowledging error is too great a lot of the time for individuals to undertake.

Which is about as far as my understanding goes; yeah, there are reasons that these people are intensely evil. Doesn't mean they're not intensely evil.

dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 09:48 AM:

In England if an animal has been ill-treated and there are children in the house it's SOP for the SPCA to call in the Child Protection squad. The abuse is linked. As we see.

fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 09:55 AM:

Another aspect to consider when you deal with the residents of Dobsonland:

They're desperately concerned about Who's In Charge--in everything. There must be control, one must know one's place in the Order of Things, and the Rules Must Be Followed.

Needless to say, these are not people who are either comfortable with self-examination, or, indeed any sort of questioning--if these exercises are a challenge for anyone, the excessively insecure will find them so far outside their confort zone they might as well take a trip into interstellar space.

It has doubtless struck you as odd that they should be so proud to be Americans, when our country has subscribed to the national mythos that we're all equal, more or less--a position that doesn't really match up with their dominance issues and need for strong hierarchy .

And it has just now struck me that this could be one of the reasons so many of these people automatically squick over homosexuality--if you've ordered your world so that, in your domestic partnership, the man is in charge and the woman obeys, who's in charge when you have two men, or two women? They sense the possibility of anarchy, or at least Rules Being Broken, and just can't cope. They aren't kidding when they say Queerness = Social Collapse, because in their ordering of the world, it would subvert things. Because There Are Rules. Someone has to Be the Boss.

Francis ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:26 AM:

Graydon wrote:
If you look up 'tulip church', complete with positively sweet flower logo, the 't' is 'Total Depravity'.

Which is a doctrine that comes down to 'kids start evil, and if you don't beat them enough they will always be evil'.

And, given Total Depravity (when not misinterpreted), beating them will not stop them being evil. All Total Depravity should say is that everyone's a sinner - which is as good an incentive to not consider yourself the master of someone else as I can think of. Note that "Entire Sanctification" should not be able to coexist with "Total Depravity" - one of the things the TULIP theology should guard against is such hubris.

(And IMO Entire Sanctification ("[Foo] can do no wrong") is far and away more dangerous than Total Depravity ("No one can ever be perfectly good"))

And I can't believe I'm defending Calvinism.

ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:33 AM:

Chenanceou, If you keep reading the Amazon reviews on Dobson, you'll eventually come across some written by adults whose parents used his methods to raise them. They warn those who think about using it to say no; they basically say that their parents were abusive freaks. Chilling stuff.

Teresa, I once read by accident an advice column by him--somehow I got there from Dear Abby. It did contain some suggestions to young Christian women on submission much as Julia phrased it, although I don't recall his exact words.

Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:36 AM:

For insight into why people believe it's not only okay, but necessary, to beat their children, I recommend the works of Alice Miller - For Your Own Good and others.

Lisa Bouchard ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:50 AM:

This is just horrifying!

I wonder when these "Dobson Parents" are elderly and dependent on their children if they will meekly accept their beatings.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Dave Luckett: the alternative to DObson isn't perfection. Dobson doesn't say "Good parents sometimes hit their children." He doesn't even say "Good parents ought to hit their children once in a while." He says that the backbone of childrearing is punishment and threat, including severe punishment as a routine element. He doesn't say it's okay to hit your children once in a while -- he says that it is necessary to hit your children regularly. And more.

Let me say this again: he says that to be good parents, good Christians, good people, you must threaten your children constantly and consistently, punish them regularly, and punish them inventively and severely.

He advocates the use of objects to make the beatings more painful.

There's nothing defensible here.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:27 PM:

I started reading this thread, but it's too upsetting to me to continue. (Those of you who know me well know why.) I will say that comments early on by DonBoy, Dave Luckett, and Lucy seemed to be hitting several nails on their respective heads.

Also that I feel that people like Rev. Dobson should be killed. I don't think or believe that, mind you; it would cause more problems than it would solve, and be wrong on many levels. But somewhere deep in my mind is a deeply uncivilized person who would dearly love to torture the man to death.

And call it a "fight."

Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:34 PM:

I've noticed a definite trend from 10 years ago. Born and raised in the bible belt, you can imagine that I was a church-going, god-fearing, child and I was.

But...

I turned from this as I became an adult because I was HORRIFIED and some of the things good christians get away with in the name of God. I would still say I am a Christian but I prefer to think for myself on certain issues. I mention this because since, I have met A LOT of people who feel the same way and have stopped attending regular church functions for many of the same reasons. Some of it just doesn't make rational sense.

This Dobson guy...he is the extreme that this religion is capable of. I agree with nothing, nothing the man has said. And he gives Christianity, not only a bad name, but a bad following.

I have two small children, toddlers... and while I have spanked them a couple of times... it was light enough to only frustrate them. And I found the results were counterproductive. The children were more upset that I was ANGRY with them than the fact that I spanked their bottoms. Meaning, I could accomplish the same effect WITHOUT hitting them. I've also noticed that, in doing this, now my children (when they are extremely frustrated) will lash out and try to hit in response. This is certainly NOT the effect I was going for.

Kids really do want to please and, if properly parented from the beginning, will be just as mortified at your disappointment in them.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Well, Xopher, you've hit on something important too. The urge to do damage to a thing has its roots in respectable animal behaviors (watch a dog with a stuffy toy that has begun to come apart, or more respectably with a bone with lots of connective tissue on it). It's no business of ours not to feel those things. (though feeling them a lot, or easily, or with respect to things which shouldn't elicit them, might indicate something one would want to do something about) It's our business to learn when to put them away and when to channel them into some other activity which is useful, productive, and helpful, rather than damaging. Dobson's childrearing advice teaches people to channel those feelings into bullying the dependent and vanquishing one's family and neighbors.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:57 PM:

I personally know parents who occasionally spank their kids, and I'm not remotely alarmed by this. They're good parents and good kids. I have no criticism of parents who maintain a policy of never striking the kids; and I have no criticism of parents who use moderate physical punishment in an occasional and careful way. Frankly, I suspect that consistency and dependability are most important; a parent who never raises their hand to a child but who's wildly inconsistent in how they treat the kid is likely to do more damage than a parent who uses mild physical discipline in a consistent way.

(Let it also be noted, of course, that my experience of being a parent consists of having no experience whatsoever.)

Anyway, as Lucy Kemnitzer points out, Dobson isn't about it being okay to sometimes swat an incorrigibly misbehaving kid; he's about the idea that children must be hurt regularly, constantly, "inventively and severely." Not to put too fine a point on it, he's a pervert, and his book is a hymn to perversion. This is what Disney/ABC thinks is more acceptable than a quiet mainstream Christian church that happens to welcome gay people.

As on so many fronts of our "culture war", the side calling itself "conservative" isn't remotely conservative; it's gaudily deranged.

Francis ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Dave Luckett wrote:
For my part, I regret I did not manage to meet those high ideals. I have spanked my son, in the manner above, about twice.

On the other hand, my Quaker friend described him as the "gentlest and politest young man I know", so something must have gone right.

Of course children who have been regularly beaten are gentle and polite while there is still someone in authority near them. They are too scared of being beaten to be otherwise.

The litmus test is in what happens to a child in the years after they leave home and cease having direct and immediate authority watching over them. And what they do to those they have authority over.

You may have done well- but gentleness and politeness can be evidence of terror every bit as much as evidence of being well brought up.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:21 PM:

I suspect that two spankings, even egregiously wrong ones of exactly the type I think those weren't, would not result in the terrorized-child kind of gentle politeness, however.

I was quite amazed when I got to college and first began realizing something was different about the way I was raised. I started asking people how often their parents hit them when they were growing up. I was expecting lower numbers than I was used to, but by "lower numbers" I meant something like "Oh, not more than once a week or so, I guess" not "I was spanked once when I was five - for not thinking for myself about wearing my boots in the snow" -- which is a quote from one of the friends I asked.

Ones and twos. EVER. Not "per week" or "per day." I was stunned.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Francis, and everyone else: Let's avoid judgemental remarks, even speculative ones, about the parenting practices of particular individuals in the conversation. In my experience that's something that can turn a good discussion sour in a big hurry.

Yes, I know Dave Luckett's earlier self-critical remarks can reasonably be interpreted as having invited comment. Nevertheless.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:46 PM:

If this Dobson guy is as twisted as he sounds, perhaps he needs MORE publicity . . . highly selective publicity shining some sunlight on the pale wormy things he's got squirming around up there, to help people realize what they're dealing with.

* * *

Oh . . . one of my co-workers grew up in Kansas. He mentioned a few months back that his *public* high school used to show, at assemblies, films provided by Focus of the Family.

What is the matter with Kansas?

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Patrick, while I agree (and even if I didn't etc.), but FWIW I for one did not read Francis' comment that way. I would summarize it as "Dave, some kids are gentle and polite because they were raised well, like yours, while others are that way because they've been beaten and terrified into submission, and it's actually hard for an outsider to tell."

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:28 PM:

Xopher, you're right.

Francis, Xopher's right.

Nevermind. Obviously I'm having a bad brain day. Carry on.

DrBB ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:53 PM:

Michael Weholt--
"It's not the despair. I can handle the despair. It's the hope...."

A kindred soul--you quote one of my own most frequently quoted lines from Clockwise. I didn't think anyone else had even seen the thing.

My own reasons for quoting it recently have to do with a drug-addict daughter who's currently in recovery. Having been down the relapse and remourse road so many times, those thoughts that "maybe this time she'll stay clean and get her life together" are almost unbearable.

And no, Dr Dobson, I don't think beating her up when she was a child would have helped.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:58 PM:

Dave, as I said, I definitely think I was given the wind-to-the-shorn-lamb baby (and for reason good) and my reaction to this particular subject is definitely shaped by the fact that corporal punishment was neither consistently applied nor moderate in my own upbringing, which makes me more of a risk to misuse it in the kid's than I was willing to take a chance on.

Her nanny slapped the back of her hand to get her attention when all else failed in his campaign to convince her that darting suddenly past the attending adult out into oncoming traffic was not nearly as much fun as she thought it was. I was pretty much in agreement with that one.

I think you have to know yourself as well as you know your kid, and be brutally honest with yourself about what you're capable of, to use corporal punishment in an effective way as an aversive. I don't think I'm a likely candidate to do that.

Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 05:04 PM:

DrBB, your memory is precisely correct. How do I know this? Because after posting about Clockwise last night, I went out and rented the DVD.

The farce is more gentle than I remembered it. I always think the Headmaster will be portrayed as succumbing to the hilarious violence of Basil Fawlty, but he isn't. It always surprises me how gentle and earnest he is. And I'd completely forgotten about the little band of ladies from the Hospital.

Oh, it's a very funny movie. Chuckle-funny. If one is in the mood.

Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 05:14 PM:

What fascinates me are the Dobson defenders on the Amazon reviews(*). For the most part, the objection that they seem to have is that dissectors from Dobson's view are just not being good Christians. Dobson isn't just a "doctor" he's also a minister, so he's transmitting God's word. Disagree with Dobson, and you disagree with God. Disagree with God, and you're on Satan's side, and are an agent of evil, presumably someone who, come the revolution would be first against the wall.

Not that these people are intent on a revolution, but if one came, I could see them OK-ing executions much in the way ordinary Germans and Poles did. The Germans didn't, by and large foment for a revolution, some sickos grabbed military power and made it happen, but the enabling was done by people who could view others as an impediment to the holy fatherland.

In the case of Dobson's followers, it's the same.

I hate being the invocation of Godwin's law, but the parallel was too striking (no pun intended)

(*)incidentaly, if anyone can find a link to a "Dobson Method Child" review from Amazon or elsewhere, I'd be interested, also instructions on how to use Amazon to search the text of his books.

Mary R ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 05:28 PM:

I have a friend who went to Falwell's Libery Baptist College and fled after a year. She said she was shocked by the percentage of students with serious psychological problems, and that many should be in a hospital receiving treatment rather than the school getting prayers.

Reading this makes me realize why.

ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:06 PM:

Reviews that come from Dobson raised kids can be found here and here and more here and I don't have the heart to search for more.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 07:52 PM:

Dobson comes from the same background that my parents did, and while my mother never hurt me, she let my father hurt me at least once a day. Now that he's old do I physically hurt him? No. I don't see him and I don't initiate contact. He's heading into Alzheimers so I suspect soon enough even that won't hurt him.

Like Xopher, I was surprised to find our life was not normal. My father was also in the Navy and there's a book that helped me a lot with how my brother and I were treated: Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress, by Mary Edwards Wertsch. I had no idea other children were hurt because they didn't have dinner on the table the very instant their father sat down, I thought that was just us. I read this book a chapter at a time with lots of crying between but it was a window into parts of my childhood.

No matter how often my father beat me or said horrible things to me, I never believed in his god, so he certainly failed in that area.

shelly rae ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 08:01 PM:

Dobson is scary in a great many ways. I find his views on homosexuality particularly offensive. Then there is this book...
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0842381074/qid=1115164136/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/102-0400778-5784120
...smack full of pictures of "boys being boys." Rather than being a celebration of "boyness" I found it rather creepy. I imagine it's the sort of picture book that NAMBLA people would like. Add the domination stuff in and it's a recipe for abuse. I really wonder it Dobson isn't transfering his own desires into punishing those he actually desires (and possibly hates himself for desiring). But I'm no licensed psychoanalyst.
Anon,

Gluon ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 09:41 PM:

If I had forty bucks, I'd check this out.

I remember lots of Dobson books on shelves at my friends' houses. My folks never had them, but they spanked my brother. All I could see in the way of results was that when they caught him doing something naughty, he would race to hide under a table, crying and wailing, before Dad even got out the paddle.

Me, I was too scared to do anything wrong, so I was never spanked. Granted there were other reasons for my fear - plenty of issues in the parental units, including the modeling of depression and anxiety and helplessness. But spanking didn't help, and it did in fact model violence in our case; I recall becoming very angry as a child at the family dog and laying into her with a stick, then weeping and swearing that I would never do it again. I learned to fear anger, which led to stuffing it down and denying its expression, which led to a long depression that ate two thirds of my life.

I think that, along with facts about sex and its consequences, we need to see some sort of basic relationship dynamics coursework in high schools. I would have pounced on it like a starving dog. Kids (well, some of them, anyway) who get the extreme spankings and emotional manipulations of the sort Dobson advocates (punishing kids for their "attitude" - the hell?) would benefit from exposure to alternative behavioral models. If anyone could have gotten me on the right track (or at least in the general vicinity of it) that many years ago, I would have spent less money on antidepressants.

pbg ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:43 PM:

Having had the parents I did, I could never understand the whole problem that seems to have twisted around Christian theology so badly, namely, how can a person obey God with joy and love in his or her heart, when they do it in fear of eternal punishment in Hell?
To me, the voice of God could very easily be the voice of both my parents saying, "No, I'm not going to punish you if you do that. Not at all. I'm asking you to do this because it's right to do so, and that should be reason enough to do it."
Dobson's entire universe is centered around the exact opposite pole. It's not just wrong and sick and cruel, it is evil.
I remember an article by Doktor Laura Schlesinger (in Parade or some such place) lamenting the fact that parents are always trumpeting about how smart their kids are, and wondering why parents didn't talk about how decent and moral their kids are.
My immediate reaction was "how would you know?" because my definition of being moral was doing the right thing when you would be completely free to do the wrong thing. And what child has that freedom (outside of Dickens novels?)
Of course, at the time, I didn't yet know who Dr. Laura was. I quickly realized, though, that when she said moral, what she meant was obedient.
And I realize that there are a lot of people for whom that is the only truth they know, and would stare at you uncomprehendingly if you said anything different.
And their name is Legion.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:18 AM:

There are a lot of parents out there who are terrified that they're doing it wrong, unsure of their own authority, and, when confronted by a two year old who is absolutely certain that she is right in wanting whatever it is she wants, feel that the only way to stand up to that certainty is to go ballistic. It takes a lot more confidence--of several sorts--to deal with a kid who is out of control, than to hit the kid and establish your right to rule by force majeur. If your child has a meltdown in the checkout line at Safeway, you have to deal with the idea that the adults around you may think you're a wimp. You have may have to leave the groceries behind and take the kid outside until she calms down. You have to deal with holding a line which may seem increasingly arbitrary the longer the scene goes on ("Why the hell don't I just buy the damned gum and have done with it?") in support of your authority. You have to believe in your authority as a parent, and that, for a lot of people, is really tough. Of course, nothing says "authority" like martial law.

Dobson seems particularly outraged by the idea of children who are out of control, but one of the things childhood is about is learning control. It's not unreasonable or unusual for a kid to be out of control for exactly that reason. One of the smartest things I read, when I was a Brand New Parent, was a description of a tantrum from the two-year-old's point of view--how frightening it is to be swept away by anger and fear and outrage, without any idea of how to get control of that outrage. A beating sure as hell isn't going to solve that.

And about that poor 12-pound dog...Dobson couldn't just pick the poor animal up and put him in his cage? His description sure makes it sound like it was Dobson looking for a fight.

Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:52 AM:

I have a young firstborn son, young enough that my wife and I haven't completely discussed corporal punishment. We love this nanny show, though, because of this quick-and-dirty soundbite parenting, and because we can watch it and laugh at the parents and kids. (Not schadenfreude, just the absurd comedy of it all, like last night when the 3-year-old screamed because Mom finally threw out his baby bottle for good.) And we don't feel guilty about studying the parenting with an eye to imitate.

My experience was different when I read Dr. Dobson's books some years ago. It was before I was married, when I wanted to learn more about marriage and relationships, children. I was ok when he talked about needing a gameplan with your spouse, consistent discipline. That sounded more like equality to me, another story. But I did feel guilty when he got around to the value of hitting your kids with a paddle.

As I recall, he said, and here is the passage (from his massive Q&A compendium, Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, 2000):

I recommend a neutral object of some type. To those who disagree on this point, I'd encourage them to do what seems right. It is not a critical issue to me. The reason I'd suggest a switch or paddle is because the hand should be seen as an object of love...

As I conceded above, some people (particularly those who are opposed to spanking in the first place) believe that the use of a neutral object in discipline is tantamount to child abuse. I understand their concern, especially in cases when a parent believes "might makes right" or loses her temper and harms the child. That is why adults must always maintain a balance between love and control, regardless of the method by which they administer disciplinary action.

Still feels weird to me.

I don't know where Digby got his quotation about 9-month child punishment. He mentioned The Strong-Willed Child, I guess. In the Q&A immediately following the above passage, "Is there an age when you begin to spank?", Dobson writes:

There is no excuse for spanking babies or children younger than fifteen to eighteen months of age. Even shaking an infant can cause brain damage and death at that delicate age! But midway through the second year (eighteen months), boys and girls become capable of knowing what you're telling them to do or not do. ...

Not to whitewash his political dealings, which I find reprehensible, or whatever else he has said about parenting. Maybe I am bamboozled here, maybe I fail to see the broader context, you tell me.

My wife and I have moved on to other aids and advices (Parenting with Love and Logic we have found interesting and helpful so far). We still notice that our Christian friends spank their children and wonder if we don't fit in the crowd somehow.

Back when I was first reading Dobson's work, though, I thought, "Well, you're the doctor," and took it in like it had some sort of Christian-physician imprimatur, despite my nervous feelings. Strong is the temptation to learn about science through "safe" Christian material, which can be trusted implicitly. At least, when you want a safe kind of Christianity.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:20 AM:

A few notes, coming rather late:

1. Hitting with a paddle or a switch is not spanking; these are paddling and caning. James Dobson, in abuser style, calls them spanking.

2. Caning and paddling children risks injury to the children, since canes and paddles do not have a sense of touch. It may be that Dobson himself advocates the use of canes and paddles because doesn't want to feel he is hitting children; he may also just be afraid of pain himself. In any event, his advocacy of the use of objects is dissociative and makes me wonder how he would feel if he were to shoot someone--would he feel that the gun had shot them?

3. I wonder about Dobson's upbringing and sexuality.

4 . I wonder that Dobson has not been arrested; it seems likely to me he is a criminal.

5. James Dobson is a major advocate of home schooling, apparently partly because he believes that brutality is an appropriate part of education.

6. Focus on the Family has become a magnet for abusers. Probably, some of this audience are potentially violent in other ways.

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 07:35 AM:

More "it was very bad to be raised that way" reviews.

It does seem that almost all the favorable reviews are from parents, not from those who were raised according to Dobson's ideas. I'm especially unnerved by the 2 or 3 positive reviews I saw from people who felt their three-year-olds were taking over their lives.

As seems usual at amazon, the favorable reviews get lots of stars and the unfavorable reviews get very few. Maybe people should give "that was useful" points when a review convinces them to not buy a book?

rhc ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:14 AM:

I've just begun to tell good friends from childhood what my real experience was growing up. Not the sanitized verson my upper middle class family presented to the world.

When I was about 5, I can recall one quiet weekend morning eating a banana at about 10 am in the dining room next to the upright piano,and thinking that I must've been very good so far that day because I hadn't been yelled at or hit yet.

It's taken me more than 45 years to get to the point of being able to talk about this openly.

Dobson's real agenda is to promote hatred towards those who cannot defend themselves, i.e. gays and the young. It's clothed in a veneer of religiosity but it stinks underneath.

Gluon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:09 AM:

I managed to get a copy of that paper I linked above. The local university library fortunately has a subscription to that journal.

Funny, how did I guess Dobson would be in it?

Donald Capps, in his book, The Child’s Song: The Religious Abuse of Children (1995), notes the interesting fact that James Dobson, a supporter of corporal punishment who was often beaten as a child, illustrated a repetitive compulsion.8 Dobson, who received his abuse at the hands of his mother, knew very well that certain behavior would illicit beatings. Yet, he could not stop that behavior. Capps believes that the compulsion between mother and son was fueled by a sexual component. The physical abuse of children awakens powerful ambivalent feelings in child and adult alike; ambivalent feelings that often lead to repetitive behavior. There is much more to the beating of a child than following scriptural or even godly advice.

I think the author means 'elicit,' but, hmmm. I'm not so keen on Freud, but I wonder.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 12:00 PM:

The school my kid goes to has parent book session Parenting with Love and Logic. I haven't actually had a chance to go yet or read the books, but it's on the list.
I do recommend The Good Enough Child by Brad Sachs. It's been very helpful to me, in realizing that a lot of times the stress is really about me projecting onto the kids. Very compassionate and forgiving approach to parenting, imo.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 01:03 PM:

I'm happy to say I've never heard of "Rev." Dobson.

I personally know parents who occasionally spank their kids, and I'm not remotely alarmed by this. They're good parents and good kids. I have no criticism of parents who maintain a policy of never striking the kids; and I have no criticism of parents who use moderate physical punishment in an occasional and careful way. Frankly, I suspect that consistency and dependability are most important; a parent who never raises their hand to a child but who's wildly inconsistent in how they treat the kid is likely to do more damage than a parent who uses mild physical discipline in a consistent way.

(Let it also be noted, of course, that my experience of being a parent consists of having no experience whatsoever.)

Patrick, you wouldn't know it. You're exactly right--and indeed, my own experience is that children will test you precisely about your consistency when they can (i.e., will daddy do what he did last time I slugged my 18-month-old sister in the face...gee, let's see...)

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 01:16 PM:

Consistency is a dangerous concept. Its best use is as a measure, not a principle. I mean you shouldn't do things in order to be consistent. You should use a consistency check to see if you have figured out what you want to do about things. If you're inconsistent in what you do or think about doing, you should rethink the issue at hand. That's all. I do remember when my son was maybe twelve saying that yes, I was giving different answers to similar situations sometimes, because I was figuring it out.

Retrogrouch ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:27 PM:

Quick Point:

It's not "Rev" Dobson. He has no theological training and is not an ordained minister in any church that I know about. He has a PhD - I think in psychology.

The clergy can produce enough embarrassments from within its own ranks without us having to inadvertantly saddle them with the travesty that is Dr. Dobson.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:31 PM:

Gee, my dad has a PhD in psych too. Coincidence? Perhaps!

Remember Dr. David Reuben? He had a fud, too: in nutrition science. Another shithead, by the way.

sars ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 07:37 PM:

5. James Dobson is a major advocate of home schooling, apparently partly because he believes that brutality is an appropriate part of education.

That is if anything the most frightening detail. The children can be kept out of sight when their bruises and the like render them "unpresentable."

The worst cases you hear of are foster care situations, where it looks as if the marginal self-restraint of "your own flesh and blood" disappears. Atrios posted about such an abusive foster home earlier this year; I can't recall the names of the couple.

I suppose this (and the American prison system) is what makes Abu Ghraib acceptable to many Americans. If you beat your kids, you probably have a light idea of "torture."

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 09:42 PM:

Sars, the problem is that Dobson's group is a focus for abusers, and in a nation of 300 million, he can find 1-2 million people who beat their children. In like manner, Fox News is a focus for right-wing extremists. It does not actually have that large of an audience, but in a nation of 300 million, that's still a lot of people.

It's old sf flashback day: I am put in mind of Pohl & Kornbluth's observation (old ad-men, both of the) that in a large enough population, you can find any sort of crazy.

Mister Nice Guy ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 02:01 AM:

There are so many kinky layers in this story, not least of them being Dobson's naming his dog, whom he supposedly loves, after Freud, whom Dobson loathes. And as a commenter at my own blog observed, Siggie was a member of a notably phallic breed (Sometimes a dachshund is just a cigar? But, unfortunately for Siggie, a leather belt is always just a leather belt).

"I love you, Sigmund, but I will master you with my will and my leather. You will submit to me, Sigmund, and acknowledge me your better . . . ."

And this man has devoted his life to telling the rest of us how to raise our children.

Teaflax ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:46 AM:

Corporal punishment as a child-rearing technique does not help anything, but it can hinder in a multitude of ways.

The prime factors are always love, consistency and the instilling of empathy. A swat every now and again will do no harm within that context, but I also doubt that it will help.

A swat that comes from outside of that (like, say, when a usually good parent strikes a child in anger or our of frustration) can do immeasurable harm, and worst of all: it promotes the infliction of pain as a legitimate way of establishing authority.

It's not that a light swat is BADBADBAD, but that it has a potential to do harm that may not be immediately obvious, while it seems to add absolutely nothing to a parent's main arsenal of tools.

In my country Sweden, spanking was outlawed when I was a kid (not that my parents would have laid a hand on me anyway), and not a single one of my circle of friends has ever been disciplined by violence (and yes, I do consider even a minor swat violence, even if it is in a mild form).

Not surprisingly, the more violent segments of society here tend to be from areas where families are more likely to use corporal punishment. I don't know that this shows absolute causation, but the correlation is definitely there.

Spanking is simply a risk not worth taking, and I speak as a step dad of raucuous and very active twin boys who have needed a *lot* of disciplining throughout the years.

DM SHERWOOD ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:50 AM:

Lot of inteligent stuff. I must read Teresa's page more.
Got hold of the book-alot of you will be glad its a fairly difficult book to get hold of in the UK- from a friend(Could have got it from amazon of course but I wasn't going to put money in the bastard's hand. Gave it a thorough skimming. Superficial imfpression => appreciation of bad taste joke and S&M interest centres in my brain will need surgical intervention to get them back on line. Managed to get 3/4 of the way thru by taking a tongue in cheek aproach them cold despair took over. This guy is INFLUENTIAL This guy has the AMERICAN PRESIDENT's EAR. Deep Sigh

Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 02:53 PM:

I can remember one spanking. By my mom with her hand. Corporal punishment was clearly not a feature of my life. What I remember was a warm, loving family. My parents were a bit shy and reserved with outsiders. I remember books and educational toys. I remember seeing Julie Andrews in "My Fair Lady" on Broadway. I remember trips to Canada and up and down the Eastern seaboard.

What might surprise some people here is that my parents were moderately conservative Republicans.

The first time I encountered real abuse was in the U.S. Army. I was a draftee in 1967. The second time I encountered real abuse was when I ran into some authoritarian leftists who had latched onto the antiVietnam movement.

It's probably those experiences that have led me to think abusive bullies like Dobson et al. aren't tied to any one particular point on the political spectrum. The governing factor seems more like how authoritarian they are.

I don't have any children. If I did, though, I would be tempted to pull them out of the public schools and home school them to protect them from the systematic abuse that seems endemic to our extremely hierarchical, heavily bureaucratic, overly centralized systems currently in place in the United States.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:19 PM:

It doesn't surprise me, Chuck. Real conservatives are not Dobson's target audience. Gaudily deranged people looking to justify their gaudy derangement are. The crazy-right are not "moderately conservative" at all: they're out to demolish everything that makes America great.

People in general are pretty stupid about their beliefs. The dictatorship of absolutism is what causes that. "If you're absolutely certain, chances are you're also absolutely wrong - or will be soon."

While I agree that authoritarian leftists are as bad as authoritarian rightists, authoritarianism in this decade is much, much more a property of the right than of the left. "Support the troops, not the War" was not a sentiment heard in the Vietnam area, more's the pity. And I'm sorry for what you endured then, by the way, not that I was part of the anti-war movement in any way other than wearing a peace medallion and watching it on TV.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:29 PM:

My parents were (and are) liberals, btw. They voted for Humphrey as the lesser of two evils, Bobby Kennedy having been shot.

Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:04 PM:

Lot of inteligent stuff. I must read Teresa's page more

Yes, Teresa's page is also great. Right now you're actually reading Patrick's page...

Xopher, I googled Dr. David Reuben, and based on the one article I read, he sounds pretty uptight for a sex "guru." Is that what you mean when you say he's a shithead or is there more to it?

Just curious...always like to know who's a shithead and why!

I remember seeing "Dare to Discipline" on the family bookshelves when I was a kid, but by the time I came along my parents weren't paddling or strapping anybody any more (I'm kid #7 in my big catholic family).

I was squicked recently when I heard a coworker - who seems to be a good dad, with happy, well-adjusted grown up kids - talk about how he and his wife always paddled their kids because "hands should be for love." Now I see that probably comes from Dobson. I guess the key would be that my coworker actually loves his children and is trying to do right by them, just following bad advice. As opposed to those who use it as a justification for their inherent sadism.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:41 PM:

Mary Dell,
I come from a similarly big Catholic family. Most of the time, my dad only had to raise his voice—but I do remember one time he saw me and my brother brandish hockey sticks at each other during a scrimmage outside with the neighbors. For that, we were hauled in and both got the wrap of his knuckles on the backs of our skulls on the way up to our room.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:58 PM:

David Reuben wrote a book called Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask). It was a typical book of the type we now see coming from the theocons, designed to sell many copies by confirming people's prejudices, rather than to actually inform or educate.

He adopted a pseudoscientific tone like that now used by advocates of Intelligent Design, and made ridiculous statements based on nothing but his own personal prejudices: no research done, used, or cited at any point.

Naturally his statements about homosexuality were designed to make it seem as disgusting as possible, but the story doesn't end there. The actual research (remember that, Davie? we call it science) done by Masters & Johnson and available while his book was being written, directly contradicts much of his book's content. I remember Playboy magazine had an article (I'm one of the few people who really did read it for the articles and stories!) in which they put quotes from his book next to quotes on the same topics from M & J, debunking his pronouncements in every case. The article led with a cartoon showing him looking professorial in front of two diagrams: an ass labeled "elbow" and an elbow labeled "ass."

Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Dobson always provokes this conversation. I don't have much to add, except this: nearly everyone has a different mental definition of "spanking", and decent people do not share Dobson's.

I've seen photographs of children who have been acceptably "spanked" under his definitiion -- they were illustrations for his work on childrearing. An acceptable "spanking" under the Dobson system leaves reddened bruises which last no longer than a week. If they last longer than a week, you were hitting your child too hard. If you broke the skin, so that the child bled, you were hitting too hard.

The article I saw was defending Dobson, supposedly showing that he wasn't encouraging parents to abuse their children. Just engage in firm discipline. It made me rather ill.

I seriously doubt that most of the parents here who spank their children mean by that that they leave bruises that last a week.

KJS ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 08:45 PM:

no doubt slightly off topic and obscure to other posters, but:
what i find rather disturbing is that the 11th floor has to produce dobsonesque/tim lahayes christo-fascist masturbatory-necrophillia materials like 'the last jihad.' (paraphrasing from a harper's review on the 'left behind' series: 'these are good novels for people who don't read novels.' it's 'adult abuse' just to see these manuscripts, let alone splashing them on the B&N new releases table.
if anything, tor/forge should be doing more rob't j. sawyer- (pick up 'mindscan' or 'factoring humanity')type authors--ENLIGHTENED.

darms ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 08:59 PM:

I was punished a lot as a child. None of the Dobson brutality, but I have no idea how many spankings/paddling I received, only that it was a regular occurrence. (The ones I do remember were the face slaps) My mother did so regularly until one day when I took whatever it was she was hitting me with away from her & told her that she would not hit me again. (Then the grounding started...)

I grew up in TX where they regularly practiced corporal punishment and by the time I was a teenager my butt was so numb they could hit me as hard as they wanted to, I didn't care anymore. I'm 48 now and that is one of the reasons I have never fathered a child & never will. The abuse stops here with me and will not continue.

Teresa, I've lurked here for a number of years, I may be a little OT but this time I had to comment. Thanx for writing.

BTW I sent ABC an email.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 01:38 AM:

In my family, there were a few spankings over the years, but very few.

The main thing was the use of what we call "the God voice", which carried a strong hint of an impending smiting. That alone usually did the trick.

David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:32 AM:

Beth: Good god.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:03 AM:

I seriously doubt that most of the parents here who spank their children mean by that that they leave bruises that last a week.

Holy shit. I've spanked the older kid (a single deliberate slap on the palm or slap on the butt), and always regretted it as it just seems to raise the antagonism on both sides in a tense situation. On the palm leaves both our palms stinging for maybe two minutes, on the butt, probably stings for her for a minute. I don't think the skin even gets red. The thought of anyone leaving bruises on a kid on purpose makes me want to throw up.
I'm done (God grant) with spanking and yelling. It just leads to damaging the relationship, imo.

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 10:41 AM:

I did a fast tabulation of the 108 comments about Dobson's book at amazon. I tried to only count people who cited personal experience with Dobson's ideas of discipline--not the people who were for or against for theoretical reasons, though I'm rather fond of the person who raised the question of whether Dobson would have used such punishment if he'd been raising Jesus.

Parents in favor: 18. Parents against: 5

People who'd been raised that way (ex-children?) in favor: 3 1/2. Against: 7 (quite harrowing)

Pro-Dobson, non-spanker parent: 1
People who said Dobson was useful but should be taken with a grain of salt: at least 3

Having done this tells me both why sociologists and psychologists use questionaires and how much of the flavor and variety gets lost in questionaires.

The variety of responses leaves me wondering if some non-pathological parents read Dobson, mostly pay attention to the parts about love, and end up applying more discipline than would be really good but aren't disasterously bad. On the other hand, if a parent's pathology matches, Dobson's, the result is serious abuse.

Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:06 AM:

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) wrote:

People in general are pretty stupid about their beliefs. The dictatorship of absolutism is what causes that. "If you're absolutely certain, chances are you're also absolutely wrong - or will be soon."

You grew up, I gather, in a home that tended to absolutism. I didn't. Yes, people can be stupid. They can also show remarkable intelligence.

For people curious about my family let me fill in a few details. I'm an only child. I'm also what's called a "cradle Episcopalian." The modern Episcopal church is run as a representative democracy. My family's structure was strongly democratic. Mom and Pop were really equals.

Bruises? Cuts? Boy did I have them -- but only because of my own clumsiness. I lost count of how many times I scared my poor mother half to death.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) also wrote:

While I agree that authoritarian leftists are as bad as authoritarian rightists, authoritarianism in this decade is much, much more a property of the right than of the left. "Support the troops, not the War" was not a sentiment heard in the Vietnam area, more's the pity. And I'm sorry for what you endured then, by the way, not that I was part of the anti-war movement in any way other than wearing a peace medallion and watching it on TV.

I actually became a part of the peace movement back then because I did encounter some "support the troops" pacifists in San Francisco. Once they got over their shock at my story (how many physicists did you think the Army drafted and then stuck in a civilian laboratory far from any Army base?) they were wonderfully supportive. They were extremely friendly. They were just as supportive of real soldiers. I personally witnessed that. A good bit of the peace movement was like that. I didn't encounter the abusive types until I was finally released from the Army and moved to New York State.

I don't know whether left or right has more authoritarian types today. These bullies are considerably more prominent in American life today than back in the 1960s. It's an issue I raise with all kinds of people. It does seem to me that people on the right and left are more tolerant of authoritarians who claim to be on their side than used to be the case.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:37 AM:

Chuck, I'm just puzzled about the statement "It does seem to me that people on the right and left are more tolerant of authoritarians who claim to be on their side than used to be the case."

Because I'm sincerely trying to come up with a current left-wing authoritarian, and I can't. I can come up with some left-wing authoritarians, but the latest I can come up with them is the early eighties. Who am I missing?

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:46 AM:

"... whether Dobson would have used such punishment if he'd been raising Jesus..."

Time out, Yeshua! I told you NOT to walk on water, it freaks out the neighbors all around the Galilee. I told you to STOP turning water into wine for your bad-ass friends, who are a bunch of low-class hoodlums and sluts so far as I can see. You need to work on your carpentry, because some day you'll inherit this family business. If you don't straighten up, I'll disinherit you and give the firm to your brother James. If you don't, what's next? Starting a riot at the Temple? And how dare you keep running to Mary for her permission for everything. I'M THE BOSS, dammit. Just wait until you're married and have children, THEN you'll understand about children...

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:35 PM:

And QUIT turning the sun black when I paddle you!

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 01:15 PM:

Chuck: first, it's just Xopher. The parens are left over from a time when someone was flakking about pseudonymous posters.

I actually grew up in a home that was too inconsistent to be either absolutist or relativist. Certainly I was taught relativist ideals (look at the evidence and form a hypothesis; if the evidence changes, adjust the hypothesis, not the evidence), but they didn't apply to issues of authority, and the one absolute rule was Dad Is Right.

When I said "I'm not at all surprised," I meant that it doesn't surprise me at all that your parents were good parents AND moderate Republicans. Not at all. In that range there are many good, decent people. There are none in the Dobson camp, almost by definition.

I'm glad you found "support the troops" pacifists in the 60s. This is just the first I've heard of such a thing. Of course, I was a child for most of that, so I may have missed it.

Lucy: Fidel Castro comes to mind, though I (of course, being a lefty) question his leftist credentials. I think he's an authoritarian who uses the rhetoric of socialism the way our president uses the rhetoric of democracy. Neither has the slightest interest in furthering the actual cause of socialism or democracy.

But he's an "authoritarian on the left" in terms of labeling. I can't think of another one, though. Certainly there are rank-and-file lefties who are pretty authoritarian. But the phrase 'libertarian socialist' isn't a contradiction in terms unless you capitalize at least the first word.

Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 03:05 PM:

Xopher, thanks for the correction. Please accept my apologies for my error.

For me it was, if anything, my parents were right because followed by whatever reasoning I could follow. Discussions, not orders. You're absolutely right about the Dobson types not being representative of most Republicans back then. One memory I have of my San Francisco days is more conservative parents wanting their children to be more like Roy Kepler of Kepler's Books in Palo Alto. OK, he was an absolute pacifist. But he was also a pretty nice guy, an independent businessman with a normal family, a house in the suburbs and even a white Ford station wagon. My parents drove a Chevy station wagon.

Lucy, unlike Xopher, I'm not counting foreigners such as Castro, Chavez (possibly) and Mugabe. That's too easy. Yes, they do seem to be on the left and they also are tyrants. Unless an American (or citizen of another free, democratic state) actively embraces them, I consider it somewhat dishonest to tar domestic leftists with that particular brush.

So when I refer to authoritarianism on the left, what am I thinking about? One character I truly dislike is Ralph Nader. He's been known to bully his staff. His general approach to politics seems to favor tight government regulation of people and business rather than compromise and developing better ways of doing things. I'm also pretty disturbed at the way schools are run these days.

Then there is the way some people argue. When something disturbs me, I try to give a clear explanation of what I'm thinking. This is true even if I really dislike the person with whom I am in conflict. For instance, I have very good reason to actively hate some people in the aerospace industry. Do I engage in name calling, though? No. Instead I describe in detail as best as I can what I don't like about them.

Sometimes, as well, people are too narrow in their views. Let me give a concrete example. Early this year I had an interesting conversation with a young woman from Alaska. She's in Maryland doing graduate work in some sort of literature. She gave me an interesting reason to support drilling in ANWR. Some people in Alaska think it better to drill in ANWR, where environmental controls can be implemented, rather than next door in Siberia, where controls, if they existed, would be a joke. I'm not up enough on that particular controversy to say who's right. But, if those Alaskans are even partly right, I think it tends to support my view that, rather than attacking our dependence upon petroleum, we should be developing better energy sources. That's democratic leadership, not authoritarian bullying.

Summing up, what I'm trying to say is that too many on both the left and right automatically dismiss ideas different from their own. You don't see nearly as much of that on this blog as other places, which is one of the reasons I like to read it.

I tend to describe my politics as progressive conservative libertarian socialist pragmatic. One Republican friend just uses the word "eclectic" to characterize me.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Anyone else here ever read any of the infant gospels? Here, from the Gospel of Thomas, a bit that reminds me of Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life":

IV. 1 After that again he went through the village, and a child ran and dashed against his shoulder. And Jesus was provoked and said unto him: Thou shalt not finish thy course (lit. go all thy way). And immediately he fell down and died. But certain when they saw what was done said: Whence was this young child born, for that every word of his is an accomplished work? And the parents of him that was dead came unto Joseph, and blamed him, saying: Thou that hast such a child canst not dwell with us in the village: or do thou teach him to bless and not to curse: for he slayeth our children.

V. 1 And Joseph called the young child apart and admonished him, saying: Wherefore doest thou such things, that these suffer and hate us and persecute us? But Jesus said: I know that these thy words are not thine: nevertheless for thy sake I will hold my peace: but they shall bear their punishment. And straightway they that accused him were smitten with blindness. 2 And they that saw it were sore afraid and perplexed, and said concerning him that every word which he spake whether it were good or bad, was a deed, and became a marvel. And when they (he ?) saw that Jesus had so done, Joseph arose and took hold upon his ear and wrung it sore. 3 And the young child was wroth and said unto him: It sufficeth thee (or them) to seek and not to find, and verily thou hast done unwisely: knowest thou not that I am thine? vex me not.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 03:30 PM:

Chuck, I'm glad to know what you're talking about. You're using the word "authoritarian" to mean "doctrinaire." You're not using it the way we usually mean it, except possibly in your allegations about Ralph Nader.

The thing I've been saying for the last several years is that the left has not been doctrinaire enough (don't anybody dare quote this sentence without what follows -- I will haunt your nightmares forever, singing off-key songs specially chosen to ruin your sleep). Not that I am asking for real single-minded, no-discussion, lockstep politics. But just to be willing to say, "yes, these are core values, yes we will stand for them, yes we will make alliance around them, yes we will return to these things and not be distracted by lies and diversions, yes we will exert some effort to act as unified people and not be afraid of being called a bloc." The left has been so shattered by the redbaiting and so humble in its response to attacks from the right that it has not had the courage of its convictions, and I would like to see more of what we've recently seen.

The thing is, whenever the left does anything with any kind of conviction, or any kind of semblance of unity, the right accuses them of being doctrinaire, or, as in this case, accuses them of being authoritarian, and then the left, historically, cringes and even crumbles.

We don't have to do that. We can understand that saying things with positive force, and agreeing to act together in coalition and have some discipline about it, are not the same thing as drowning out all discusion or forcing lock-step obedience.

-- and using the word "authoritarian" to mean "loud-mouthed and excessively sure of oneself" doesn't help to understand that.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:11 PM:

"The best lack all conviction/The worst are full of passionate intensity."

Lucy, here in Oregon we have a lot of the sort of doctrinaire left that renders itself impotent through its ideological purity--the kind of ideologue that is so pure it refuses to dirty its hands by associating with a political party that might actually win an election. Is it different where you are?

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 05:32 PM:

Randolph: We don't have much of those purer-than-thou guys any more. They've grown up, switched sides, learned tactics, or dropped out of public life, mainly, I guess.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 07:02 PM:

Lucy, or moved to Oregon, maybe. :~)

Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:21 PM:

I seriously doubt that most of the parents here who spank their children mean by that that they leave bruises that last a week.

Beth: My mom spanked me. Maybe twice.

Those kind of bruises found on my brother during a visit are why she fought for (and won) custody of him, as well.

That was NOT my dad's doing. That was my stepmother -- who has become an acceptable human being in the many years since. While much of the difference is that I'm an adult, some of it seems to really be changes inside her.

I'm glad of that, but still not likely to leave any hypothetical children of mine in her care.

My biggest reason for fearing to become a mother is always that I would hurt a child. I had a VILE temper as a child and a teen, and while parts of that got reined in, I still get told I have an edge. Not even considerting certain altercations with my brother (who is one of my best friends), I distinctly remember giving a hysterical cousin a slap when I was merely babysitting. His behaviour frustrated me. Mine appalled me.

That I feel badly about it isn't really enough to convince me it won't happen. Abusers have claimed to feel badly, too.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 10:07 AM:

I've taken the liberty of writing up how Dr. Dobson actually raised his son, in the years when Ryan and one of my brothers were in the same Boy Scout troop.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 10:53 AM:

Bruce Baugh annotates James Dobson!

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 12:57 PM:

Bruce, thanks for writing that up--it certainly isn't the sort of horror story I was expecting.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 01:54 PM:

Dobson's Focus on Family shows up briefly in the NY Times Magazine today, in Randy Cohen's The Ethicist column. I sympathize with the questioner's motives, but agree that pitching the magazines out is not the best tactic.

Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 02:32 PM:

It's not really that unusual to find extreme discipline advocates also spoiling their kids. There's a reason they think kids have to be beaten to listen -- it's because they don't know what it is to be merely firm.

Actually it was a mantra for me at a stage when I was teaching myself to yell less; "more firmness, less fierceness."

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 03:49 PM:

Several folks commenting on my LJ thought that my family's encounters happened before Dobson started publishing his advice, so I should clarify: this happened well after the first edition of Dare to Discipline and, I believe, at least one more book.

Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 04:31 PM:

My current notion is that Dobson published his revenge/control fantasies about his own kid.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 01:26 PM:

Small side note:

"Teresa, I've lurked here for a number of years, I may be a little OT but this time I had to comment. Thanx for writing."

Plus "DM SHERWOOD"'s evident belief that this is Teresa's blog. Remember, watch the skies!

Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 01:51 PM:

Related post to this thread over at Echidne of the Snakes here.

She quotes one Ronald E. Williams (who I won't link to, as I was unable to stomach following her link myself) thusly:

Both my wife and I have often remarked that it is good that one of our children was not our firstborn. This particular child who came along later in our family was extremely willful and rebellious toward our authority and would often require sessions of correction lasting from one to two hours in length before the will would finally be broken! Had this child been our first, we may well have been tempted to despair of the grace of God.
and also thusly:
My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year. To do this, a child must receive correction when he is a small infant. Every parent recognizes that this self-will begins early as he has witnessed his child stiffen his back and boldly demonstrate his rebellion and self-will even though he has been fed, diapered, and cared for in every other physical way.

Pretty terrifying stuff -- I wonder how Mr. Dobson would assess the even more disgusting methods of Mr. Wilson?

The rise of "Christian" Right in this country is leading to people like Dobson getting more and more publicity, which may lead many well meaning, but ill-informed, parents to follow their abusive child-rearing methods.

Beth Meacham wrote above: I've seen photographs of children who have been acceptably "spanked" under his definition -- they were illustrations for his work on childrearing. An acceptable "spanking" under the Dobson system leaves reddened bruises which last no longer than a week. If they last longer than a week, you were hitting your child too hard. I would like to know where this can be verified -- information like this could go a long way towards discrediting Dobson and his ilk, as well as towards discouraging powerful media networks (ABC), funders, or politicians from supporting them.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Well, they do say that married couples come to resemble each other over the years.

Alex R ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:15 PM:

(Oops -- reference to Mr. Wilson after the quote in my comment should of course be Mr. Williams... I don't think Mr. Wilson ever laid a finger on Dennis the Menace.)

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 03:48 AM:

Dobson's threats are out of line
The Denver Post
[as posted by the Pasadena Star-News]

All about Dobson punishing wavering Republicans.

"... Dobson hit the roof.... Focus on the Family targeted Brown, a conservative lawmaker by any measure, as a champion of pornography, hitting him with a flurry of radio commentary, columns and ads. All this for a bill that never even left committee, proving again that Focus on the Family isn't concerned about good government, but mindless grandstanding and obedient loyalty...."

Take a switch to 'em, Jimmy! Beat Satan out them, the bastards! Then go after their wives and children. Especially the children. Jesus!