The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Get Your Facts Right

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks regarding the Supreme Court at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa., September 20, 2020. (Mark Makela/Reuters)

On the menu today: Another reminder that “People of Praise” and “People of Hope” are not the same group, and proof that “People of Hope” did not inspire Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; wondering what Joe Biden is doing with his time these days; and two Senate committees release their investigation of Hunter Biden.

No, the ‘People of Hope’ Group Did Not Inspire The Handmaid’s Tale

One more time for the slow learners in the media: People of Praise and People of Hope are two different Christian religious groups.

Amy Coney Barrett is reportedly a member of People of Praise, but she has never confirmed this or discussed it publicly. Reuters calls her a “purported” member.

Whether or not President Trump chooses Barrett to be his nominee to the Supreme Court, you’re probably going to hear a lot of conflating of the two groups, and a lot of claims that the “People of Hope” inspired The Handmaid’s Tale. A sharp-eyed reader reminded me that the evidence for that claim does not make chronological sense.

Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker, in a profile of author Margaret Atwood entitled “Prophet of Dystopia,” wrote that her chillingly frozen dreams of oppression were inspired by mid-1980s news articles:

“Clip-clippety-clip, out of the newspaper I clipped things,” she said, as we looked through the cuttings. There were stories of abortion and contraception being outlawed in Romania, and reports from Canada lamenting its falling birth rate, and articles from the U.S. about Republican attempts to withhold federal funding from clinics that provided abortion services. There were reports about the threat to privacy posed by debit cards, which were a novelty at the time, and accounts of U.S. congressional hearings devoted to the regulation of toxic industrial emissions, in the wake of the deadly gas leak in Bhopal, India. An Associated Press item reported on a Catholic congregation in New Jersey being taken over by a fundamentalist sect in which wives were called “handmaidens”—a word that Atwood had underlined.

The AP item is this one:

Residents of Quiet Town Say Separatist Cult Taking Over Local Church

FRANK BAJAK October 30, 1985

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) _ Disciples of an 1,100-member religious sect are practicing ″subtle brain-washing,″ moving into this quiet suburb in droves and gaining control of the local Roman Catholic church and school, alarmed parishioners say.

People of Hope subordinates its women, discourages social contact with non- members, arranges marriages and moves teen-age disciples to ″households″ for indoctrination, charges Janice Ross, founder of Concerned Citizens of Berkeley Heights.

But the Rev. Pierce Byrne, pastor of Little Flower Church, members of the Catholic-based sect and Catholic officials say the People of Hope, which has 1,100 followers throughout the state, is recognized by the church.

″It’s a group within a group,″ said Michael Hurley, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark. ″It’s a legitimate Catholic charismatic community.″

″They are sort of like fundamentalists or pentecostalists and their treatment of women is very Islamic,″ Mrs. Ross said Tuesday. ″From what ex- members tell us, it’s a form of subtle brain-washing.″

About 200 residents opposed to People of Hope demonstrated Sunday outside the church. The controversy prompted Bishop Dominic Marconi, vicar of Union County, to organize a special church committee to look into the dispute.

″It’s unbelievable how sheepish these people are,″ said Jack Riley, another parish member with children at Little Flower School. ″The wives of the coordinators are called ‘handmaidens’”

Notice the date of the article: October 30, 1985.

In a 2012 interview, Atwood described the process of writing The Handmaid’s Tale.

From 12 September 1984 to June 1985 all is blank in my journal — there is nothing at all set down, not even a puffball — though by my page-count entries it seems I was writing at white-hot speed. On 10 June there is a cryptic entry: “Finished editing Handmaid’s Tale last week.” The page proofs had been read by 19 August. The book appeared in Canada in the fall of 1985 to baffled and sometimes anxious reviews – could it happen here? – but there is no journal commentary on these by me.

If the page proofs were completed by August and the book’s official publication date is listed as August 1985, how did an AP article from October 1985 influence the book’s story?

Tom Deignan of the Newark Star-Ledger made this observation in 2017:

The Jersey conflict that caught Atwood’s attention didn’t hit the Associated Press wires (and newspapers all across the U.S. and Canada) until October 1985.

By then Atwood’s book had already been published.

It was reviewed twice in The New York Times, in late 1985 and early 1986, on its way to becoming a bestseller.

Apparently, no one noticed Deignan’s point — or no one cares. Critics of Barrett have a narrative they like, and they’re not going to give it up just because it isn’t accurate.

This is entirely aside from the problem with the argument that the People of Praise allegedly oppresses, subjugates, and disempowers the women in its ranks so much that Barrett has been forced to . . . er . . . become a federal judge.

What Is Joe Biden Doing All Day?

Eight times in 22 days, the Biden campaign has “called a lid” — meaning no more public events for the candidate — before noon. That is an insanely light schedule for a man running for president in September. Yes, there is a coronavirus pandemic going on, and the Biden camp has to keep their man at a safe distance from people. But his team found ways to do events on 14 days this month. Any time he wants, he can hold a press conference on his driveway, with everyone six feet apart. Yes, Biden is the polling frontrunner and may not need to do as many events. I’ll even give Biden a break on not doing events on weekends, concluding Americans aren’t paying as much attention those days. But a presidential candidate’s decision to more or less take one day off every three days ought to be generating a lot of hard questions about his health and stamina.

Perhaps Biden is preparing for the debates and practicing behind closed doors, which is probably time well spent. If Biden goes out and aces those debates, he’s probably locked down the election win. If Biden goes out and botches them and comes across as confused or doddering… then enough Americans in enough states just might not have faith in him.

Edward-Isaac Dovere writes in The Atlantic: “Almost every Democratic operative I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks remains petrified that Biden is going to bungle the debates in a way that costs him the election — perhaps by looking old or confused, confirming the worst paranoia and conspiracy theories about him being unfit for the job. They see the debates as Biden’s best chance to blow an election that, based on the current polls, seems like his to lose.”

One last thought: If Joe Biden wins the election, and after he is inaugurated the public is informed Biden has some serious health issue that was hidden from the public, the public anger is going to be off-the-charts. (Don’t say it’s unthinkable; Paul Tsongas wasn’t that long ago.) Many voters would feel, with good reason, that Democrats had pursued a strategy of bait-and-switch. If Kamala Harris assumed the office in those circumstances, she would begin the presidency with an enormous amount of hostility and distrust.

Hey, Remember Hunter Biden?

Senators Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released their report on potential conflicts of interest in the Obama administration relating to Hunter Biden and Burisma.

Everyone will probably go bonkers about the conclusion, “Hunter Biden paid nonresident women who were nationals of Russia or other Eastern European countries and who appear to be linked to an Eastern European prostitution or human trafficking ring.”

But I think the more consequential aspect of the report is that so many people in the State Department and Obama administration knew that having Hunter Biden on the board of Burisma while Joe Biden was handling the administration’s Ukraine policy was a glaring and obvious conflict of interest and yet could do nothing about it:

In early 2015 former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, George Kent raised concerns to officials in Vice President Joe Biden’s office about the perception of a conflict of interest with respect to Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board.  Kent’s concerns went unaddressed and in September 2016, he emphasized in an email to his colleagues, “Furthermore, the presence of Hunter Biden on the Burisma board was very awkward for all U.S. officials pushing an anticorruption agenda in Ukraine.”

Hunter Biden’s position undermined U.S. policy, everyone could see that it was undermining U.S. policy, and yet he remained because no one was willing to confront Joe Biden about his wayward son.

ADDENDUM: The show must go on! Please join us for an historic event: National Review Institute’s William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner “Gala at Home” on October 5 honoring James L. Buckley and Virginia James. Guests will be invited to put on their tuxedos and ballgowns, grab a glass of champagne, and join us for a virtual experience. The program will include opportunities to connect with NR writers and dinner guests and tune in to a mix of live remarks and videos from our honorees and dinner co-chairs. Your ticket or sponsorship will be fully tax-deductible and go to support NRI’s educational and outreach programs that advance the NR mission during this critical time in our nation’s history. Don’t wait. RSVP today.

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