Today, I was tasked with a seemingly simple assignment: gauge reactions of steadfast Duggar fans over the recent revelations regarding Josh’s Ashley Madison account and self-professed addictions to sex and porn.
The ensuing article was to be straightforward — a sampling of statements collected from social media by those who have supported the Duggar family throughout the maelstrom of the past year. It was going to be a collection of direct quotes from people still in the Duggars’ corner.
Only, to source these reactions, I turned to comment threads and, well, that’s a rabbit hole that’s hard to crawl back out of. During my research, I discovered an interesting trend. In response to disturbing news about the Duggars, fans lash out — at the writers and reporters delivering said news.
So, before we explore some of these responses and address a few of the lingering questions about the latest Josh Duggar report, I’d like to make things a bit easier on those of you who will inevitably choose to troll me after reading this article.
My name is Julie Sprankles, and I live in Charleston, South Carolina. I believe racism is vile and part of a belief system peddled by backward-thinkers — I fully supported the removal of the Confederate flag from our State House.
I am an advocate of marriage equality and celebrated the momentous legislation that made it possible for some of the people I love most in my life to be able to honor the sanctity of marriage by joining in it themselves.
No, I am not endorsing Hillary Clinton for our next president (although I can almost guarantee her name will come up in the corresponding comment thread). I’m leaning toward Bernie Sanders, but I’m also quite fond of Ben Carson.
Gun control? In favor of. Abortion? Opposed to partial-birth.
I am married to a veteran and former firefighter, and we have two small children who we sometimes let watch a tad too much TV and eke out an extra half-hour of play past bedtime. I curse too much. Sometimes, I gossip. I try to be a good person, but I know I am imperfect and that’s OK.
Hopefully, that will clear up any assumptions you may have about me — or, depending on your druthers, it will fuel your vitriol. Do with it what you will.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to address some of the remarks that stuck out to me whilst reading Duggar fan feedback. First, it should be duly noted that not all Duggar fans still support the family in light of the recent allegations. “I have lost all faith in this family,” said one. “Anna please get out and save yourself and your kids. Josh is the devil.”
Said another: “I am a Christian and appalled at Josh’s actions. And the fact he’s been ridiculing others for their mistakes all while knowingly being a child molester and adulterer is repugnant.”
But there were more still who staunchly support Josh Duggar and the rest of the family, regardless of any allegations and/or corroborations. Here are 10 pieces of feedback from that demographic I’d like to address.
1. “Since when do grown men go to prison for adultery?! While I don’t condone this behavior at all, people cheat on their spouses every day and I haven’t seen anyone go to prison for it.”
Prison wasn’t brought up in the context of Josh’s alleged adultery. Rather, it was brought up in reference to the fact that he molested his younger siblings and at least one family friend. That is, in fact, a criminal act. Yes, there is a statute of limitations, which is unfortunate. Which brings us to our next point…
2. “Uh, how is he a pedophile if this happened when he was underage himself? Perhaps you should look up the definition of pedophile.”
OK, great suggestion! The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a pedophile as: “(noun) a person who has a sexual interest in children.” Therefore, strictly by definition, Josh is a pedophile. According to the police report, we know he molested several siblings and a family friend more than once in 2002 and 2003. That would make him 14 and 15. The youngest victim at the time was reportedly 5. Which, again, brings us to our next point…
3. “You need to look up the word ‘incest’ before you write such trash as in this article, and their views on all the ‘sin’ are not theirs, but according to the Bible.”
Merriam-Webster defines incest as “sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry.” And, lest anyone should argue that Josh did not have intercourse with his sisters, Merriam-Webster defines intercourse as “physical sexual contact between individuals that involves the genitalia of at least one person.” Also, for good measure…
4. “I’m still confused how it is molestation if he himself was a minor?? If it was unwanted then it would be rape, but I think calling it molestation is unjust.”
According to Merriam-Webster, to molest is “to make annoying sexual advances to; especially: to force physical and usually sexual contact on.” Surely we can all agree that fondling and inappropriately touching young girls while they are sleeping falls beneath that umbrella.
5. “Of course, he was wrong with his latest error. But it would have not happened if when that Woman [sic] who opened sealed records was brought to justice. That is a criminal offence [sic] and he was a minor at the time. Someone please help Joah [sic] and let him talk and hug him and in this way he can heal.”
Contrary to the classic “if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it” logic, if someone commits pedophilia or adultery and is never caught, the act does, in fact, still happen. And, regardless of how many people eventually find out, it is always damaging to the victims and, in this case, the spouse. See also: As much as we would like them to, hugs do not have magical healing powers.
6. “Maybe you are such a prude, that you were a perfect little angel in college and NEVER did anything possibly ‘risque,’ hmmm?”
I actually went to college with the writer this comment was lobbed at, and I can say with certainty that her college years did not include pedophilia, adultery or a porn addiction. She was a band geek at a private Christian university who was in homecoming and the English honors society. Writers are people, too. P.S.: That’s the diciest usage of the term risqué I’ve ever seen.
7. “Was there any evidence of him actually cheating? Just being registered on the site does not mean he hooked up with anyone.”
Josh’s statement following the Ashley Madison hack indicates that he “became unfaithful” to his wife.
8. “When are you going to write your article on how truly saddened you are over the way that Hillary Clinton has continued to respond to her husband’s cheating?”
If I had a dollar for every time I came across a comment bringing up Hillary and Bill, I’d be a rich woman. The issue here is that Hillary and Bill are not under discussion. Trying to excuse Josh’s actions by bringing up Bill’s indiscretions is classic deflecting behavior.
9. “He may need counseling in relation to his immoral behavior, but he’s not mentally ill. He’s no different than anyone else who has made poor choices and hoped not to get caught.”
Well, that’s not entirely true. Yes, we are all imperfect and we all make poor choices — but not everyone’s poor choices involve pedophilia, incest, adultery and pornography. I’m not saying that to pass judgment; I am simply pointing out a truth.
10. “‘I am truly saddened’ that media liberals, with a lot of time on their hands, want to pry into the private lives of people and tell them what they should or should not be doing.”
There is indeed much to be said for the individual right to privacy. Having said that, Josh has made a very handsome career out of pontificating to others about moral superiority and what they should or should not be doing. That puts the whole “it’s not your business” argument on shaky ground.