Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Newsweek's freedom to mock Mormons

I know that we have very low expectations for Newsweek Magazine. In fact, it's always a surprise when I see that it is still publishing. But I agree with Jim Geraghty that its cover this week photoshopping Mitt Romney's head onto the body of a dancing student from a poster from Broadway's Trey Parker and Matt Stone's musical The Book of Mormon. The cover story is entitled "The Mormon Moment: How the Outsider Faith Creates Winners. Inside the article they headline their story with hist sophomoric beginnin:, "Mormons Rock! They've conquered Broadway, talk radio, the U.S. Senate - and they may win the White House. Why Mitt Romney and 6 million Mormons have the secret to success." "Mormons Rock!"?? Really? Is that the way to indicate the magazine is taking a serious approach to discussing what they say is the fourth largest religion in the United States today?

The article itself is generally respectful, but it contains a lot of golly, gee whiz sort of commentary by noting how many Mormons hold positions of prominence in our culture and society. Can you imagine such an article being written today about Jews, for example, with the tone of "did you know that so-and-so was Mormon?" It would be regarded as religious bigotry. And a bigger jump would be to imagine Newsweek putting the face of a prominent Muslim on the body of a cartoonish Muslim character from South Park. It just wouldn't happen. And there wouldn't be a hit musical on Broadway about Muslims with catchy little songs. The faith would be treated with respect. But for Mormons, Newsweek doesn't see any problem with such a cover. it must have seen as a twofer for Newsweek's art department. They can make Mitt Romney look goofy while putting up a jokey depiction of Mormonism from the Broadway show instead of the usual staid photo of a Mormon temple.
No other religion would be treated with so little respect. Newsweek demonstrates once again why it has earned such a well-deserved oblivion.

David Paul Kuhn has a long column examining poll results to determine if a MOrmon could become president. I believe that it is not Mormonism which is the biggest threat to Mitt Romney's candidacy; it is the policy positions that he has chosen. He has a tremendous burden that he's dragging around through the nomination contest - Romneycare. In a party united in opposition to Obamacare, it seems unrealistic to think that they would nominate a guy who championed a very similar program in his own state. And coming to Iowa to praise ethanol subsidies is not going to win him any friends outside of Iowa. Many people just feel that Romney has been too plastic in his positions, scrapping previous positions that were necessary in liberal Massachusetts but are not winners in a Republican primary. Ironically, if he'd been governor of another state - perhaps his father's Michigan, he wouldn't have so many of these slipperiness questions. At least his prominence in this election may have accomplished getting Americans more ready to accept a Mormon president, just a different one than Mitt Romney.