Bottom Feder

Kathryn Joyce has provoked a tirade from right-wing polemicist Don Feder for her Nation piece on conservative “demographic winter” alarm-sounding:

According to Kathryn Joyce, sneer-and-smear artist for The Nation, those who are concerned about the worldwide decline in birthrates are — to put it mildly — racist, neo-Nazis, who have a hidden agenda and (under the guise of demographic winter) are engaged in our age-old quest to control women’s bodies.

…Joyce believes — with the faith of one immune to facts and logic — that those sounding the alarm about plummeting fertility rates care only about the inability of white Europeans to replace themselves. We’re trying to whip up xenophobia against the continent’s rising Muslim tide. Thus, demographic winter is the invention of a vast Christian conspiracy to get Europeans to start making babies again.

Feder goes on to prove Joyce’s wrongheadedness by, erm… engaging in “sneer-and-smear” rhetoric, ignoring large factual chunks of Joyce’s essay, and giving us a conspiracy theory about Planned Parenthood:

Speaking of Nazis, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, their prophetess, considered non-Aryans “a great biological menace to the future of civilization.”

Ever wonder why blacks, who comprise 12 percent of the population, account for 32 percent of all abortions? (For Hispanics, the figures are 13 percent and 20 percent.) Might it have something to do with all of the abortion clinics conveniently located in inner-city neighborhoods?

The quote comes from Sanger’s The Pivot of Civilization (1922), in which the terms “Aryan” and “non-Aryan” do not appear – that comes from a gloss added on various conservative websites, from whence Feder doubtless plundered his reference. The “great biological menace” is actually named as “the hordes of irresponsibility and imbecility”. As a social Darwinist, Sanger was fearful that “the most responsible and most intelligent members of society are the less fertile; that the feeble-minded are the more fertile”. Incidentally, the idea that abortion clinics are involved in a conspiracy to exterminate African-Americans at the behest of Sanger’s master-plan was recently raised on WND, again by shameless quote-mining. Whatever one’s views of Sanger’s theories and legacy, it would be nice to see sources treated with due attention, especially in the age of Google Books.

Feder’s complaint –  if one navigates the rambling diatribe – seems to be (a) that Joyce cannot refute the fact that in certain countries the population really is decreasing; (b) that she suggests the fear over depopulation in the West in some cases has racial overtones and (c) that she explores the religious and ideological underpinnings of those who are worried about this, which amounts to a “conspiracy theory”.

Point (a) wasn’t the subject of Joyce’s article, so is hardly relevant, while (b) is backed up with evidence, such as this:

Elizabeth Krause, an anthropologist and author of A Crisis of Births: Population Politics and Family-Making in Italy, tracked that country’s population efforts over the past decade and found politicians demanding more babies “to keep away the armadas of immigrants from the southern shores of the Mediterranean” and priests calling for a “Christian dike against the Muslim invasion of Italy.” The racial preferences behind Berlusconi’s “baby bonus” came into embarrassing relief when immigrant parents were accidentally sent checks for their offspring and then asked to return the money: the Italian government hadn’t meant to promote those births.

On point (c), Feder whines in bold

Joyce has religion on the brain (As a child, perhaps she was bitten by a Gospel singer.)…The documentary’s experts are overwhelmingly academics — demographers, sociologists and a Nobel laureate in economics — from institutions like the University of Chicago and University of Virginia. Most of the scholars don’t think of themselves as particularly religious.

Yes, but again, what’s that got to do with the point of Joyce’s article, which is about the various personalities and organisations raising the alarm over “demographic winter”? And it’s not as if she ignores the point anyway – she notes the role of centre-left Democrat Phillip Longman, and she tells us that another writer is a “compelling conservative historian who uses secular arguments to craft a social science rationale for the necessity of large patriarchal families”. Of course the article dwells on the religion element: it’s central to the story, and Joyce – who has a background in religion journalism – is particularly attuned to it. Why does Feder object to it being talked about? Could it be that because he’s a one-dimensional party hack he can’t understand an outsider looking at a movement and being both critical and seriously engaged?

Feder is particularly angered at Joyce’s discussion of the World Congress of Families, with which he is associated, and its activities in Poland. Joyce notes how one speaker,

lecturing against contraception, told the largely Polish audience that birth control was a continuation of an old evil, child sacrifice–a fraught evocation in post-Holocaust Poland, where anti-Semitic slurs against the nearly destroyed Jewish population, including the old blood libel charging Jews with ritual child murder, are far from forgotten. The inference isn’t much of a stretch in a country where the government blames shadowy “webs of influence” for Poland’s lagging economy; where sociologists describe a widespread conceptualized anti-Semitism that casts gays, feminists and secularists as symbolic “Jews” in a country with few actual Jews left; and where Jews are blamed for Communism and abortion, both of which are widely reviled.

I’ve covered anti-Semitism in Poland on this blog a number of times (and on the WCF in particular here). However, Feder – having accused Joyce of being “immune to facts” – has a riposte:

On my two visits to Poland, I saw no signs of anti-Semitism.

I blogged on Feder back in 2004, when his absurd “Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation” was first announced by ASSIST Ministries. Whether by mistake or not, it was originally named as “Jews Against Christian Anti-Defamation”, so I had a bit of fun with the title. I also noted Feder’s profile, which he has since taken down. Here’s a reminder:

I’m to the right of Sharon on Zionism, to the right of Pat Buchanan on immigration and Americanism, to the right of Mother Angelica on abortion, to the right of Chuck Heston on Second-Amendment rights, and generally make the legendary Atilla look like a limousine liberal.

You also make Cal Thomas look like a half-honest and careful journalist by comparison.

2 Responses

  1. […] about Phillips in the past. It seems she rubs all the right people up the wrong way; last year she provoked none other than Don Feder into a […]

  2. […] previously blogged on the WCF back in 2008, after an article on the subject by Kathryn Joyce brought a wrathful rebuke from Feder; before […]

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