By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Ma Teresa's joined the mob
Unhappy with her full-time job.
--Primitive Radio Gods
Two weeks ago, this column examined the mass hysteria surrounding the death of Princess Diana. I suggested that her death was no more relevant or tragic than anyone else's. The response to that column was like nothing I had ever experienced before in my 10 years as a journalist.
In that time, like any journalist who does his job, I've upset a lot of people. I've had people argue with my reporting. I've had people strongly disagree with the opinions I've expressed in columns.
That wasn't what happened this time. I got more than 100 phone calls and dozens of e-mails. They're still coming in. But this time, there was no rational disagreement. Callers didn't find fault with my argument and want to point out that I was mistaken.
They just wanted to scream at me or call me names. Rather than explain why they didn't like what I'd written, they preferred to tell me that I was an asshole, a prick, jerk, pig, and to suggest that I had improper relations with my mother.
Not one of them was able to tell me why he was so enraged by my comments about a person he'd never met.
It wasn't just me the callers picked on, either. One guy whose letter in support of my column was published in New Times contacted me to let me know that someone had gotten his phone number and called him up to bitch him out.
The whole thing was like a chapter of George Orwell's 1984. It reminded me of the daily "Two-Minute Hate" sessions described in the book, in which the citizens were forced to scream abuse at a TV screen showing the face of the enemy leader. They were given no reason for hating him other than that he was "the enemy."
None of the people who responded angrily to my column seemed to have any capacity for analysis. None seemed able to consider what was making him angry, let alone consider what I had actually written.
A couple of people who wrote to me asked, sarcastically, "Who are you going to pick on next--Mother Teresa?".
Well, actually . . .
The mindless mourning for Diana has the same source as the adulation that Mother Teresa received during her life, and that has now risen to the level of worship following her death. It's a perfect example of collective self-delusion, of our need to believe in saints no matter what the evidence we have would suggest.
Mother Teresa was a monster, as close to pure evil as any media figure could be. She was a heartless, self-serving thief, a friend of the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, and a friend of Charles Keating.
She had no compassion for the poor. She said that tending the poor was God's work, and so we should do it, but if we cared for them, then we were "just social workers." She denied the people in her care medication for their pain, saying that God wanted them to suffer and their pain would bring them closer to Him.
She said that people with AIDS deserved it as punishment for sexual misbehavior. (To this elderly virgin, sexual misbehavior meant any sex that wasn't within marriage and wasn't aimed at producing a child.)
She said she would have supported the Spanish Inquisition. When Keating was on trial, she wrote to Judge Lance Ito and pleaded on Keating's behalf. She didn't mention in her letter that Keating had given her more than $1 million of the money he had stolen. Deputy district attorney Paul Turley wrote to her and told her that the money wasn't Keating's, and asked her to return it. She never responded.
The list could go on. But I don't want to waste space by documenting more of her crimes. The information is available to anyone interested enough to go and look it up. There's Christopher Hitchens' excellent book, The Missionary Position, and the documentary film Hell's Angel. There are Web sites dedicated to exposing her.
On one level, Mother Teresa was honest. In her public statements, she never pretended to be anything other than a monomaniacal, right-wing zealot. The myth of her saintliness wasn't started by her.
It was started in 1969 by a documentary film called Something Beautiful for God. The film was the work of Malcolm Muggeridge, the late English writer and God-botherer. He went to Calcutta to make a movie eulogizing his guru. He wanted to film some scenes in Mother Teresa's home for the dying, which was so dimly lighted that the camera operator, Ken Macmillan, didn't think it would be possible. But Macmillan decided to try it with some new film from Kodak that he'd never used before.
The film came out very clearly. Muggeridge immediately declared this was divine light. "I am personally persuaded that Ken recorded the first authentic photographic miracle," he said.
This was news to Macmillan, whose response had been, "Three cheers for Kodak!" Next thing he knew, he was being called up by the press to ask him about the miracle.