A return to respectability for Know-Nothingism?

posted at 12:01 pm on January 14, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

If nowhere else, that’s certainly the case at US News and World Report. A week ago, the news magazine published a column from Jamie Stiehm that demonstrated ignorance on many levels — the law, history, Thomas Jefferson’s ideas on the role of government among them. Mostly, though, Stiehm made the assumption that a Supreme Court justice issued a temporary stay in a challenge to the HHS contraception mandate based not on the case nor on law but solely on the basis of her Catholicism, and spun that into a rather paranoid fantasy about Catholic conspiracies to pursue “Vatican hegemony,” implying that Catholics shouldn’t be trusted in public office or even in the public debate solely on the basis of their faith — with exceptions for “good Catholics” like, er, Nancy Pelosi.

This echoes a long-discredited and bigoted nativist movement in mid-19th century America called Know-Nothingism. It relies on the notion that faithful Catholicism is inherently disloyalty to America, and the Know Nothing Party platform called for the restriction or outright denial of civil rights for Catholics. That movement passed away a long time ago, although one sometimes hears the same argument made against Jewish Americans who support Israel.

In any case, after an avalanche of criticism last week, US News and World Report editor Brian Kelly defended the publication of Stiehm’s column as “within the bounds of fair commentary” — and a positive step for diversity, of all things. After writing updates to this issue in the Green Room, I decided to address it in my column at The Week with a thought experiment:

Let’s try a thought experiment to test the bounds of fair commentary and editorial responsibility. A film reviewer detests a film that pushes values he sees as un-American in some fashion or other, and notes that the director is Jewish. The reviewer deduces from that one fact that the director’s religion is what produced the the film’s disagreeable values, and then deduces that Jewish control of the media is what allowed the movie to reach theaters in the first place. The reviewer then implies to his readers that Jews should not be allowed in positions of power in the entertainment industry lest a Zionist hegemony result.

Would any editor of a mainstream media outlet publish such an essay? And would any editor defend such a piece as “fair commentary” when criticism arose over the decision to publish it?

The obvious answer should be no to both questions — but US News and World Report would beg to differ.

The issue no longer is Stiehm’s column, which was easily shredded by a number of commentators. Nor is it the “firing” of Stiehm from either US News or Creators Syndicate, because she doesn’t work as an employee at either.  The issue here is the editorial choices made at US News in publishing this piece, because Kelly’s response was a non-sequitur. No one is demanding that Stiehm be muzzled, but US News chose to run this despite its obvious fallacies, leaps to conclusions without any supporting data, and obvious bigotry.

How did that happen? Has Know-Nothingism returned to “the bounds of fair commentary” and ignorant and bigoted rants good enough for publication in mainstream news magazines? My conclusion:

Kelly offers a non-sequitur rather than a response. Perceived bias on the Supreme Court is certainly a mainstream concern, but that’s an ideological issue. Stiehm blames Catholicism without providing even a shred of evidence in support. Surely the editors didn’t miss Stiehm’s acknowledgment of that when she wrote, “Of course, we can’t know for sure what Sotomayor was thinking.” Stiehm gets the law wrong, gets Jefferson hilariously wrong, and constructs an elaborate fantasy of Catholic conspiracies — and the editors considered this “fair commentary” worthy of inclusion in a major media publication?

Jamie Stiehm is entitled to her opinions, as factually ignorant and bigoted as they may be. But Brian Kelly and US News provided her a platform for her ignorance and bigotry, and should answer for that decision.

The commenters at US News on both the Stiehm piece and Kelly’s response aren’t fooled by the non-sequitur, and it should not stand unchallenged.

USA Today’s editors have another take entirely on what Stiehm calls “the seemingly innocent” Little Sisters of the Poor and their challenge to the HHS contraception mandate.  They can’t believe the White House is seriously going to push this all the way to the Supreme Court:

The accommodation is more of a fig leaf than a fix: Although religiously affiliated non-profits do not have to supply birth control coverage themselves, they must sign a certification that allows their insurance companies to provide it instead. Some non-profits have acquiesced, but not the Little Sisters and others who argue that this makes them complicit in an act that violates a tenet of their faith. If the non-profits refuse to sign, they face ruinous fines — $4.5 million a year for just two of the Little Sisters’ 30 homes.

So far, the government is on a losing streak. In 19 of 20 cases, including the Little Sisters’, judges have granted preliminary relief to the non-profits, allowing them to press their claims. The administration should take the hint.

In several cases, even if the government wins, the whole exercise will not result in a single woman getting a single free contraceptive, because under a different law, the insurers themselves are exempt. So what exactly does the administration hope to gain?

None of this had to happen. Federal law has several constitutionally vetted religious exemptions. The administration should adopt the most expansive, such as the one that exempts employers who share “religious bonds and convictions with a church.” One of Obama’s most prominent Catholic supporters, John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, urged the administration to do just that in 2011 when it was formulating its policy.

Even this is nonsense, which is why the Little Sisters case is one of the weaker challenges. The issue is that this mandate forces employers to participate in birth control when there is no need for them to do so, and no pressing state interest for the federal government. The government’s own agency, the CDC, concluded that there is no problem with access to birth control for women who want it based on its own 20-year study of unplanned pregnancies. Without an urgent state interest, the government can’t impose on religious expression not just by religious organizations but by anybody, especially when other solutions exist — such as expansion of Title X funding, or the approval of birth control as over-the-counter medicine rather than by prescription.

The whole structure of the mandate is asinine, much like Stiehm’s column and Kelly’s defense of it.

Update: Deacon Greg Kandra highlights the column at Patheos, where he — as a former journalist for CBS — has been appalled by US News’ decision and its response.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Ignorance is still bliss.

Schadenfreude on January 14, 2014 at 12:02 PM

The issue is that this mandate forces employers to participate in birth control when there is no need for them to do so, and no pressing state interest for the federal government.

To the progressive-fascists at the heart of this mandate, and at the helm of this federal government, their motivation is very simple… the expansion of the power of the federal government over as much as they can control.

To them, power exists to be exercised. If one can’t exercise power, then one doesn’t have any power. And power is both used and needed to fulfill their agenda and vision for what is ‘right’.

That’s the pressing state interest for the progressives in the federal government…it’s with the use of power and control over the plebs.

Athos on January 14, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Let’s try a thought experiment to test the bounds of fair commentary and editorial responsibility. A film reviewer detests a film that pushes values he sees as un-American in some fashion or other, and notes that the director is Jewish. The reviewer deduces from that one fact that the director’s religion is what produced the the film’s diagreeable values, and then deduces that Jewish control of the media is what allowed the movie to reach theaters in the first place. The reviewer then implies to his readers that Jews should not be allowed in positions of power in the entertainment industry lest a Zionist hegemony result.

Would any editor of a mainstream media outlet publish such an essay? And would any editor defend such a piece as “fair commentary” when criticism arose over the decision to publish it?

Short answer: Yes, they do it all the time.

jerryofva on January 14, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Is it keeping within the bounds of fair commentary to suggest that Brian Kelly’s mother commits crimes against nature with canines thus explaining his face?

Spade on January 14, 2014 at 12:16 PM

6. What are the statutory exemptions from the requirement to obtain minimum essential coverage?

Religious conscience. You are a member of a religious sect that is recognized as conscientiously opposed to accepting any insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration administers the process for recognizing these sects according to the criteria in the law.
Health care sharing ministry. You are a member of a recognized health care sharing ministry.
Indian tribes. You are a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe.
No filing requirement. Your income is below the minimum threshold for filing a tax return. The requirement to file a federal tax return depends on your filing status, age and types and amounts of income. To find out if you are required to file a federal tax return, use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA).
Short coverage gap. You went without coverage for less than three consecutive months during the year. For more information, see question 22.
Hardship. The Health Insurance Marketplace, also known as the Affordable Insurance Exchange, has certified that you have suffered a hardship that makes you unable to obtain coverage.
Unaffordable coverage options. You can’t afford coverage because the minimum amount you must pay for the premiums is more than eight percent of your household income.
Incarceration. You are in a jail, prison, or similar penal institution or correctional facility after the disposition of charges against you.
Not lawfully present. You are not a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or an alien lawfully present in the U.S.

Schadenfreude on January 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

ot: Obama not waiting on legislation: ‘I’ve got a pen and I can use it to sign executive orders’…

and so it begins…

cmsinaz on January 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Catholicism–and all genuine Christianity–is inherently disloyal to Leftism, which the Left wants to install as the State Religion.

njcommuter on January 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

The whole structure of the mandate is asinine, much like Stiehm’s column and Kelly’s defense of it.

True but at the same time, why are there no Protestants on the SCOTUS? Seems like Know-Nothingism in reverse.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

If nowhere else, that’s certainly the case at US News and World Report. A week ago, the news magazine published a column from Jamie Stiehm that demonstrated ignorance on many levels — the law, history, Thomas Jefferson’s ideas on the role of government among them. Mostly, though, Stiehm made the assumption that a Supreme Court justice issued a temporary stay in a challenge to the HHS contraception mandate based not on the case nor on law but solely on the basis of her Catholicism, and spun that into a rather paranoid fantasy about Catholic conspiracies to pursue “Vatican hegemony,” implying that Catholics shouldn’t be trusted in public office or even in the public debate solely on the basis of their faith — with exceptions for “good Catholics” like, er, Nancy Pelosi.

This echoes a long-discredited and bigoted nativist movement in mid-19th century America called Know-Nothingism. It relies on the notion that faithful Catholicism is inherently disloyalty to America, and the Know Nothing Party platform called for the restriction or outright denial of civil rights for Catholics. That movement passed away a long time ago, although one sometimes hears the same argument made against Jewish Americans who support Israel.

With all due respect, this isn’t Know-Nothingism. This is the same progressive loathing of religion that has been abundantly on display for the past generation. The only reason the rant is against Catholics specifically is because 6 of the 9 SCOTUS justices are Catholic.

The rant would have been just as unhinged if Sotomayor had been a Baptist or Presbyterian. The writer would have been happy to have any excuse to scream about theocracy and claim that religion is oppressing the progressive ideal.

There Goes the Neighborhood on January 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Why? For the same reason Catholicism produced Aquinas and Suarez: contrary to almost every popular assertion, and even some of its own tendencies, Catholicism holds reason in higher esteem than any other belief system except, perhaps, certain practices of Judaism, thus its adherents are better at reasoning.

njcommuter on January 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

The whole structure of the mandate is asinine, much like Stiehm’s column and Kelly’s defense of it.

It’s not about contraception, it’s about perverting the traditional relationship between the state and religion in this country. Win on this and they can cram many other things down the throats of those practicing their faiths in the future.

NotCoach on January 14, 2014 at 12:23 PM

The Obama administration reminds me of school bullies: You play by my rules. If you play by any other rules, I will beat you up (in this case, court). There are no exceptions.

sadatoni on January 14, 2014 at 12:23 PM

ot: Obama not waiting on legislation: ‘I’ve got a pen and I can use it to sign executive orders’…

and so it begins…

cmsinaz on January 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

And he also has a phone!

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:23 PM

If just 50% of Catholics followed the precepts of their faith, we wouldn’t have articles like these in major news outlets. Anti-Catholicism maybe the last respectable bigotry but the fault is ours alone.

celtic warrior on January 14, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:23 PM

why yes he does :)

arrogant son of gun

cmsinaz on January 14, 2014 at 12:29 PM

True but at the same time, why are there no Protestants on the SCOTUS? Seems like Know-Nothingism in reverse.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

We don’t talk about over- or under-representation here on the Right; we don’t play bean-counting games. The only thing that should matter among the justices on the Supreme Court is their judicial philosophies.

thebrokenrattle on January 14, 2014 at 12:29 PM

True but at the same time, why are there no Protestants on the SCOTUS? Seems like Know-Nothingism in reverse.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Know-Nothingism eternal twin (which happens to be the same phantom enemy) is the fear of dominionism.

nobar on January 14, 2014 at 12:33 PM

The administration should take the hint.

So what exactly does the administration hope to gain?

None of this had to happen.

Three strikes, they’re out. Total cluelessness of the nature of the Left.

Here’s your answers, USA Today idiots:

The Left doesn’t and won’t take hints because it has a mission.
It hopes to gain the mission.
Yes it did have to happen, because the mission says it does.

rrpjr on January 14, 2014 at 12:35 PM

The only thing that should matter among the justices on the Supreme Court is fidelity to the Constitution their judicial philosophies. thebrokenrattle on January 14, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Couldn’t resist.

Akzed on January 14, 2014 at 12:37 PM

that demonstrated ignorance on many levels — the law, history, Thomas Jefferson’s ideas on the role of government among them.

…the left says to throw way more….way more money…WAY MORE!…into education…

KOOLAID2 on January 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Know-Nothingism eternal twin (which happens to be the same phantom enemy) is the fear of dominionism. nobar on January 14, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Please translate to English.

Are you saying that “dominionism” is equally to be feared as Know-Nothingism?

What do you mean by dominionism?

Akzed on January 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Please translate to English.

Are you saying that “dominionism” is equally to be feared as Know-Nothingism?

What do you mean by dominionism?

Akzed on January 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM

The same people who think know-nothingism is valid also hold the belief that dominionism is a valid threat to the country.

nobar on January 14, 2014 at 12:41 PM

What is even better yet, is that the mandate is not a part of PPACA, but a HHS contrivance.

That means the whole DoJ is fighting to defend Sebelious’ whim. Unless O is using her as his sock puppet (a possibility) the whole case is the DoJ refuses to allow any peasant to deny any FED bureaucrat’s wild hair.

And the Nun’s position could be stated more sympathetically for nonCatholic Christians.

Since anybody who didn’t fail seventh grade biology knows a fertilized zygote is “Homo Sapiens” at some stage of development, abortifacient drugs (even when labeled just “birth control”) that kill that life are killing the children that have not been born yet. Every Christian should refuse to put themselves in the position of having to excuse themselves before God, or whine to Satan, about their complicity in the deliberate murder of those children ( the whole “in the mother’s womb” reasoning here for the Judeo Christianity impaired)

They also have, as an article of faith, a belief that extramarital sex is wrong (as are enabling devices such as barrier birth control and hormonal drugs to make the body work wrong) and that all birth control except for abstention is a sin.

Start with the big one (committing infanticide), and not get bogged down with their terms from the direction of the smaller one.

jhnone on January 14, 2014 at 12:41 PM

The same people who think know-nothingism is valid also hold the belief that dominionism is a valid threat to the country. nobar on January 14, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Okay, and dominionism is…?

Akzed on January 14, 2014 at 12:42 PM

That means the whole DoJ is fighting to defend Sebelious’ whim. Unless O is using her as his sock puppet… jhnone on January 14, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Eeeewww!!! Where’s his hand go?!

Akzed on January 14, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Okay, and dominionism is…?

Akzed on January 14, 2014 at 12:42 PM

A very small sect of Christianity that believes that total control of every nation (under the banner of Christianity) must be in place before Christ’s return.

Whenever I see know-nothingism arise, dominionists boogeymen aren’t far behind.

nobar on January 14, 2014 at 12:45 PM

We don’t talk about over- or under-representation here on the Right; we don’t play bean-counting games. The only thing that should matter among the justices on the Supreme Court is their judicial philosophies.

thebrokenrattle on January 14, 2014 at 12:29 PM

True but it does seem odd that only Jews and Catholics seem to get the nod.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM

nobar on January 14, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Ah. That is what most Christians believed until John Nelson Darby came along. You know, based on Genesis 1:26; Genesis 9; Matthew 28:19-20.

The “very small sect” part actually describes Darby’s followers better.

Akzed on January 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM

True but it does seem odd that only Jews and Catholics seem to get the nod.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Well, we rule the world, that’s why. :P

thebrokenrattle on January 14, 2014 at 12:55 PM

This is the third or fourth article on Hot Air about one stupid column. So the lady is nutty and wrote a wacky column. This happens.

As for the birth control mandate, I’ve always thought that the mandate would get overturned by the Supreme Court. There might even be some consensus among a few liberals on the Court that the Obama administration went overboard with this one and that the exemption is too narrow. I do think that the USCCB and a few others have gone into siege mentality about this one when they didn’t need to do so. I believe that the overreaction played into Obama’s hands with the War on Womenz. Of course, the bishops care less about the 2012 elections and more about their own careers.

Illinidiva on January 14, 2014 at 1:02 PM

True but it does seem odd that only Jews and Catholics seem to get the nod.

Happy Nomad on January 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM

It’s because of abortion and other hot-button cultural issues. Protestantism is rather wishy-washy and in a lot of cases pretty liberal — and I say this as a Protestant.

Punchenko on January 14, 2014 at 1:09 PM

ignorant and bigoted rants

Amazing what liberals try to pass off as ‘diversity of thought’.

Perhaps they’ll start to publish weekly excerpts from Mein Kampf.

GarandFan on January 14, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Without an urgent state interest, the government can’t impose on religious expression not just by religious organizations but by anybody, especially when other solutions exist — such as expansion of Title X funding, or the approval of birth control as over-the-counter medicine rather than by prescription.

I am curious, how would a ruling, either way, effect single payer?

Vince on January 14, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Leftists/progressives/fascists/communists/socialists all hate the Catholic church for its part in bringing down glorious communist Utopia known as USSR. It is also why Leftists/progressives/fascists/communists/socialists hate Reagan so.

jukin3 on January 14, 2014 at 1:24 PM

It’s because of abortion and other hot-button cultural issues. Protestantism is rather wishy-washy and in a lot of cases pretty liberal — and I say this as a Protestant.

Punchenko on January 14, 2014 at 1:09 PM

Jews are to the left of most Protestant churches on topics like abortion and gay marriage. Even “conservative” (middle of the road) Jewish congregations support abortion and gay marriage.

There are the two extremes going on here. The left hates the Jews because of Israel and what they perceive as “colonialism.” They hate Evangelicals and Catholics because of social issues. On the right, Jews and Catholics represent the “Other” in a mainly Protestant nation.

Illinidiva on January 14, 2014 at 1:27 PM

The rant would have been just as unhinged if Sotomayor had been a Baptist or Presbyterian. The writer would have been happy to have any excuse to scream about theocracy and claim that religion is oppressing the progressive ideal.

There Goes the Neighborhood on January 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Actually, it would have been quite a bit more unhinged, since there is no Baptist or Presbyterian “pope” to whom they could called to account. I think you’re right in the second sentence, but they would have made up entirely different things on which to rant.

GWB on January 14, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Stiehm’s piece doesn’t represent a return to Know-Nothingism; it’s just an old-fashioned expression of leftist bigotry. Stiehm has a narrative–the standard politically correct narrative–and just can’t fathom how other people can reject that narrative without sinister motives. That’s why she doesn’t address any of the specific issues in regards to the controversy; and contra US News, her piece isn’t "fair commentary," because it’s not commentary at all. It’s just "War on Women" rhetoric, only aimed specifically at Catholicism.

Baerwulf on January 14, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Nothing will happen…..no outrage is generated by this post….no pressure on The Evildoers is accrued or felt…..

williamg on January 14, 2014 at 2:02 PM

My personal favorite from above, as Schadenfreude quoted:

6. What are the statutory exemptions from the requirement to obtain minimum essential coverage?

Incarceration. You are in a jail, prison, or similar penal institution or correctional facility after the disposition of charges against you.

Not lawfully present. You are not a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or an alien lawfully present in the U.S.

So if you break the law, you get health care for free, and hospitals, doctors, etc. can be compelled to treat you regardless of whether you can pay or not.

If you obey the law, you have to pay for your own health care, PLUS you get charged for the health care of those who break the law.

This is the way the mentality of the Obama Party and Barack Obama works. Obama is a criminal and believes criminals should get a free ride at everyone else’s expense.

northdallasthirty on January 14, 2014 at 3:02 PM

A very small sect of Christianity that believes that total control of every nation (under the banner of Christianity) must be in place before Christ’s return.

Whenever I see know-nothingism arise, dominionists boogeymen aren’t far behind.

nobar on January 14, 2014 at 12:45 PM

I’m guessing it’s presumably a very, very small sect (and likely to remain so) since nowhere in the New Testament can I recall any such precondition of Christ’s Return.

Along those lines, there are a few (very) fundamentalist Protestant churches that teach that the Catholic Church is the ‘Whore of Babylon’ mentioned in the Book of Revelations, that the Pope is a secret Freemason (?), and that most Catholics are unwitting tools of the Antichrist.

Yes, I know, but we’re talking about a very tiny minority of a very small offshoot of American Protestantism. I think concerned Catholics should realize that no, they aren’t being persecuted any more than any other Christian denomination in this country since all Christians are suspect in the eyes of this Administration, and yes, one can be a Protestant and still respect the Roman Catholic Church, although for the life of me I don’t understand why your Church doesn’t excommunicate the daylights of those vehement pro-abortion advocates who claim to be Catholic.

troyriser_gopftw on January 14, 2014 at 3:49 PM

Wasn’t it spelled Know Knothing?

Mahna Mahna on January 14, 2014 at 4:38 PM

I guess that is why we call it, USless Views and World Distort.

OBQuiet on January 14, 2014 at 11:33 PM