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May 9, 2012


Delta Pulls Ads From ‘Daily Show’ Over ‘Vagina Manger’

Being a Christian in modern America means having to learn to live with the most infantile, imbecilic, offensive attacks on your faith and its followers, so in general I try to counsel people who are upset by stunts like this to just let them go, walk way, recite the beatitudes quietly to yourself. Being perpetually outraged at slurs on one’s faith is, after all, a market that’s been cornered by the Muslims, and lord knows we don’t want to make them upset by muscling in on their turf.

But the Catholic League’s Bill Donahue has a nose for sniffing out those line-crossings which are most likely to strike a nerve in the public, and he often uses them to great effect. His latest involves Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and a bit called the “vagina manger” (stupid, possibly NSFW image at this link). I think what’s going to be most interesting about this episode is not necessarily how long Delta Airlines stays away from The Daily Show, or whether Kellogg’s follows Delta’s lead and pulls its ads, but how many of the people who just a few weeks ago insisted Rush Limbaugh should be jailed for calling a woman a slut, will now insist that Stewart is being “silenced.”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue declared an early victory in his campaign against the Daily Show for a joke about a “vagina manger,” after Delta Airlines pulled its advertising from the program.

Donohue also pledged in a press release to continue his campaign. His next target: Kellogg’s, whose executives can expect to receive photographs of the obscene stunt.


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18 comments

It’s a ridiculous image, in poor taste, but I don’t see how it’s an attack on Christianity and its followers.  It’s an attack directed at Fox News and the GOP, but it was clearly not directed at religious belief; he was mocking the inconsistency of groups using the term “War on Christmas” while at the same time claiming there was no “War on Women.”

[1] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-9-2012 at 11:36 AM · [top]

Hi victorianbarbarian,

I’m sure you don’t see how the image of a Christian religious statue coming out of a vagina is an “attack on Christianity” - but that says more about your ability to understand mockery than anything else..

It’s also telling that you seem not to have noticed that there are actual organizations dedicated to eradicating all public expressions of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth that have scored real legal victories

While there is no such evidence in support of the feminist socialist fabrication called the “war on women”.

So, really, there is no such thing as an “inconsistency of groups using the term “War on Christmas” while at the same time claiming there was no “War on Women.”

Since in fact one is real and the other is a demagogic joke.

[2] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-9-2012 at 11:56 AM · [top]

Normally I am of sharp wit and get these attacks on Christianity. I will admit this one just leaves me stumped. I cannot (thankfully) get the intended euphemism. However, I wonder what the response would be if instead of a manger there was a Koran?

[3] Posted by Festivus on 5-9-2012 at 12:53 PM · [top]

By thew way, if you want to know where there is a war on women (and children) do ministry in public housing project. The constituents of democrats are stuck in an unending system that restricts women to receiving assistance as long as you remain unmarried, produce out-of-wedlock children, and make just enough earnings that prevent you from being able to afford an escape.

[4] Posted by Festivus on 5-9-2012 at 01:02 PM · [top]

In this particular instance I don’t beleive that this was an attack on Christianity or Christians per se; certainly that image could be so used, but I just don’t think that was the intent here.  I didn’t say “I don’t see how it could be”; I said “I don’t see how it is.”

If you will carefully read what I wrote, you’ll see that I didn’t express an opinion on whether either “War” was real or not.  So your statement “you seem not to have noticed that there are actual organizations dedicated to eradicating all public expressions of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth that have scored real legal victories” is based on insufficient evidence.  I did not address that issue.

A reasonable case can be made for using the term “war” for either phenomenon, and a reasonable case can also be made that the term is hyperbolic for either one of them.  I believe this because I have encountered reasonable arguments for each of these four alternatives. 

Whether you or I believe that there is actually an “inconsistency of groups using the term[s]” or not, I still believe, after viewing that particular segment on The Daily Show, their intent was to satirize what they perceived as inconsistency, not to mock Christianity per se.  Because something is offensive doesn’t mean everyone who finds it offensive was the intended target.

[5] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-9-2012 at 01:14 PM · [top]

Hi victorianbarbarian,

I am glad that you see how such an image “could be” used to mock Christianity. That’s a step.

About the “war” you originally wrote:

“he was mocking the inconsistency of groups using the term “War on Christmas” while at the same time claiming there was no “War on Women.”

Your use of the definite article “the” in the phrase, “he was mocking ‘the’ inconsistency…” indicated in your first post that you believe there is a real inconsistency to be mocked.

Then you went on to describe “‘the’ inconsistency” being mocked: Christians who see a “war on Christmas” and claim not to see “war on women”

Since the actual words you used, namely the definite article, indicated that you believe there is a true inconsistency between the two, I decided to demonstrate the absurdity of the assertion.

In your comment #5 you write, “their intent was to satirize what they perceived as inconsistency”

The words “what they perceived as inconsistency” indicate that, in fact, the inconsistency is a “perceived” one but not necessarily a real one.

Would that you had been so clear in your original comment. The lack of careful reading that is not the culprit here.

Moreover, this sentence…

“A reasonable case can be made for using the term “war” for either phenomenon, and a reasonable case can also be made that the term is hyperbolic for either one of them.”

tells me that I was right to question your original comment.

[6] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-9-2012 at 01:43 PM · [top]

Put a Koran there to show the inconsistency of the political birthing process in the Middle East or the Arab Spring plight of the Palestinians or whatever and see how it is received, or better, a picture of Mohammed, victorianbarbarian.  Would your interpretation be the same?

[7] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 5-9-2012 at 03:02 PM · [top]

Aarrgh.  (1) There is a person in the world that can look at a statue of Mary, virgin, and not connect the image with Christianity?  And not get that the context is in some way insulting to that image?  I’m lost.

(2) But I’m even more lost about the whole thing.  A manger is a trough or large box into which farmers put feed for their animals.  There are stories around the birth of Jesus that include a trough. 

What does that have to do with Jon Stewart or the image on the screen?  I see the vagina.  I don’t see a trough.  I see a representation of the birth of Jesus.  I don’t see a war on women, or even any reference to the Republican party.

Is a woman’s vagina supposed to be a box that feeds animals?  Is the biological mother of Jesus supposed to be fodder?  Are Republican women supposed to be able to expel religious porcelain from their bodies?

Either the people who made this whole thing up was severely drugged, or . . . what?

[8] Posted by JuliaMarks on 5-9-2012 at 06:20 PM · [top]

Seriously, what the Sam Hill makes anyone think that’s funny?  Have we really sunk so low that we’re this totally void of common sense in terms of acceptable content?

I’m not one much for calling on boycotts, but does a company want to be associated with anyone so stupid?  What’s next is the right question.  If they’re willing to do this, what type of blasphemous nonsense will follow?

[9] Posted by Bill2 on 5-9-2012 at 10:25 PM · [top]

#8 - To your first point:  When I see a nativity scene, my first thought is “Christmas decoration,” not “religous object.”  Jesus is the reason for the season, as the saying goes, but manger scenes are so ubiquitous that I don’t think of them as particularly representing Christianity but instead the Christian holiday that the non-Christian world has embraced.  A manger scene is just a picture to me (or a set of sculptures).  Those physical objects have about as much to do with the Nativity as the cross around Madonna’s neck (the cabalistic pop has-been, not the real Madonna) has to do with the Instrument of Our Lord’s Death.  I understand that other Christians may feel differently about those objects.

As to your second point, I think that trying to assign symbolism to elements of the image doesn’t shed much light, because they weren’t being deeply symbolic.  They made an absurd juxtaposition of images in the middle of a satirical argument.  It only works at all in the middle of the context of the comedic bit/sketch, and clearly doesn’t even work very well there, given the number of people who are more offended than amused.

[10] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-10-2012 at 07:11 AM · [top]

Hi Matt -

Your use of the definite article “the” in the phrase, “he was mocking ‘the’ inconsistency…” indicated in your first post that you believe there is a real inconsistency to be mocked.

By using “he” as the subject of the phrase, I felt that I indicated that “he” believed there was a real inconsistency to be mocked.  Sorry you were misled. 

Moreover, this sentence…

“A reasonable case can be made for using the term “war” for either phenomenon, and a reasonable case can also be made that the term is hyperbolic for either one of them.”

tells me that I was right to question your original comment.

Just because a case is reasonable doesn’t mean that I believe it or that it is necessarily true.  There are unreasonable arguments that can be rejected out of hand, and reasonable arguments that, upon reflection, can be rejected or accepted as true.

In my original post, I was attempting to comment only on the topic at hand (Stewart’s use of an offensive image), not interject my opinion about the side issue of which “wars” are or are not real wars.  My opinions on that subject are irrelevant to the original topic.

[11] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-10-2012 at 07:31 AM · [top]

In terms of religiosity, there is no difference between a Christmas decoration and a nativity scene.  Meaningless, secular expressions of joy of the season are things like inflatable Santa Clauses or life-size representations of the Grinch. 

No matter how you see the world, the nativity scene is displayed at Christmastime so that people can show respect to its general concept, and as, perhaps, a teaching aid for children.

As to your assertion about the lack of symbolism of putting a nativity scene in the crotch of a naked woman,  there really is nothing I can write.

[12] Posted by JuliaMarks on 5-10-2012 at 09:13 AM · [top]

#12, I believe that objects derived from religious origins can sometimes lose their impact and degenerate from meaningful symbol to mere decoration.  Not Michelangelo’s Pieta, of course, but what about cheap and crude reproductions churned out for the tourist trade.  The original retains its meaning, the souvenirs not so much.  This descent or degeneration is in the eye of the beholder, probably.  So the generic, crude plastic manger scene is closer to the inflatable Santa or Grinch, in my opinion, than to the creche in my church, or Rembrandt’s The Adoration of the Shepherds

I should have said in my previous post “they weren’t trying to be deeply symbolic.”  I believe that.  One can reasonably assert that this image is full of all sorts of symbolism, but I don’t think such analyis of the symbolism sheds much light on what I think really happened:  crude visual “humor,” aspiring to satire, falling flat, and giving offense.

[13] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-10-2012 at 10:02 AM · [top]

#7 - If they had been permitted to use a Koran or picture of Mohammed, we’d probably be reading about non-Muslims being killed in the riots.  (Comedy Central wouldn’t have permitted that; that network has already shown—with Southpark—that they’re afraid to let those symbols be used, while allowing, for example, much more offensive use of pictures of Jesus.)  So it’s not a good hypothetical.

To answer your question:  if The Daily Show had used a crucifix or a picture of Pope Benedict, or something else less generic and decorative than a plastic-looking dimestore manger scene, my interpretation would not have been the same.  Same for a Koran or picture of Mohammed—the target of the offense would have obviously been the followers of that faith.

[14] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-10-2012 at 10:15 AM · [top]

“if The Daily Show had used a crucifix or a picture of Pope Benedict, or something else less generic and decorative than a plastic-looking dimestore manger scene, my interpretation would not have been the same.  Same for a Koran or picture of Mohammed—the target of the offense would have obviously been the followers of that faith.”

Because people who believe in the nativity obviously do not have any faith.

You also seem to be dodging the issue #7 brings up by saying that because Muslims would react differently, the two cases could not be analogous. Are you saying if Christians rioted then what the Stewart did would be an attack on Christianity? Are your two paragraphs in #14 at odds with each other? Do you care?

[15] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 5-10-2012 at 11:56 AM · [top]

Unlike beauty, which exists only in its perception, meaning is imbued, either consciously or unconsciously. 

The meaning of the nativity scene is not just to portray a nice little family tableau, everyone say, ah, and move on.  The birth of Jesus is vastly significant. 

He was not only born homeless, he was in flight for his very life.  Even before his birth, evil had decided it wanted him dead.

That’s the nativity scene.  Birth in the midst of death, the hope of God in the midst of human hopelessness and fear.

That’s what it means—and much, much more—each and every time a nativity scene is presented to view.  It always has meaning.  It always acknowledges the love and mercy of God for us, no matter the material it is made of, no matter the venue it is presented in.

Along with my rosary (not my everyday rosary), when I go out I carry with me a nativity scene.  It’s encased in half of a walnut shell.  Want to mock and minimize that and the significance it has for me?

[16] Posted by JuliaMarks on 5-10-2012 at 12:30 PM · [top]

#15—To address your last statement first, where you seem to be casting me in the role of mocking the nativity scene (I hope that I am misreading your words, although there is an implied “you” in them):  Nothing in what I have said here mocks the Nativity, Christianity, your faith personally, or anyone who feels the way you have described about physical symbols of faith, nor is it intended to.

I would not argue with anything you say about the meaning of the Nativity.  I do not believe that every physical representation of the Nativity always automatically has, for everyone, the significance you find in such representations.  I would never make fun of your belief about the significance of these objects, I just do not share it.  Of course I would not make fun of your rosary with the tiny nativity scene; someone to the time to craft it.  I wouldn’t make fun of a generic, plastic nativity scene that someone had in their home or on their desk at work, either. 

But not everyone contemplates the vast significance of the birth of Jesus every time they see a Nativity scene, partly because manger scenes are so ubiquitous.  I don’t think that the people who created the stupid image that is the subject of this posting were trying to make fun of the Nativity or its significance.  (They may have been blind to it.)  They were using an absurd image to make a point about something else they thought was absurd.  The rest of the segment on the show, preceding and following the display of the image, makes this pretty clear to me.

[17] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-11-2012 at 07:20 AM · [top]

#15 - In the first part of your comment, I don’t see how you get “Because people who believe in the nativity obviously do not have any faith” from anything in my comment.

I wasn’t dodging the question, but pointing out (1) if they had used Muslim objects/symbols, the reaction would have been different (physical violence instead of a call to boycott) and (2) the question was a hypothetical that wouldn’t have happened, because Comedy Central has already demonstrated that they’ll allow offensive humor toward Christians but not Muslims.

I answered the question after reframing it.  I thought Stewart had used a Christian image that had become genericized, for much of the populace, into a decorative one, and therefore I didn’t believe it was intented specifically to offend or mock Christians per se.  If he had used a picture of the Pope, or a crucifix, I don’t think the same reasoning (genericized image=mere decoration) would apply.  It would be clear that he was specifically targeting Christians.  Remember, even some of the Supreme Court justices in the cases about display of manger scenes have said they are not always viewed as more than “holiday” symbols.

Given the widespread knowledge about the violent reactions of some Muslims to the use of images of Mohammed, I don’t think it’s likely Stewart would have used such an image “generically.”

[18] Posted by victorianbarbarian on 5-11-2012 at 07:37 AM · [top]

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