Warren Jeffs, in his infamous mugshot.
The Queen Bitch of Broadcasting, and winner of the who's creepier contest, hands down! (photo by Vidiot)
Watching CNN's continuing coverage of the custody war underway in Texas over the kids rescued from the FLDS' Yearning for Zion ranch, it's a jump ball in my mind as to who's creepier: jailed FLDS "prophet" Warren Jeffs and his Little House on the Prarie-like womenfolk, or Nancy Grace. At least with the slate-faced, sometimes unibrowed FLDS femmes, their unease before cameras seems genuine, even if their tales of "heaven on earth" within the confines of the polygamist sect does not.
Dragon-lady Nancy, on the other hand, presents for the Television lens a heavily mascaraed mask of outrage and vengefulness that remains consistent whether the perp du jour is a suspect hubby, an abusive mom, or an entire cult. Grace revels in a sadistic Schadenfreude that takes great delight in the pain and embarrassment of suspects, long before they've been convicted by courts of law.
See, former prosecutor Grace has no judge to rule her out of order. She's jurist, jury and media executioner. However, she goes to great lengths in an attempt to humanize herself -- taking on-air calls that inquire about the health of her six-month-old twins, showing off pics of her spawn, and keeping a "baby blog" on her Web site. The only TV personality I know of with less of a likeability quotient is one of the lawyers Grace has on regularly, Susan Moss. If you've seen Grace's show before, you'll know Moss from the heavy-frames of her glasses, and the permanent, troll-like scowl on her face. I think Grace has her on because this female font of negativity makes Grace seem like Oprah by comparison.
Grace's take on the YFZ circus is that the women are as much to blame as the men, and that YFZ is little more than a criminal enterprise. This is the problem with seeing the world through a prosecutor's eyes: the whole world is evil until proven otherwise. I tend more toward historian Benjamin Bistline's opinion that there are more than enough victims to go around. Those women are little more than chattel within the FLDS culture. That's not to say people don't have a choice. The residents of a different compound -- the one at Jonestown, Guyana -- had a choice back in 1978. A lot of them took their children with them into the darkness. This cult mentality is partly a result of coercion by nefarious individuals, and partly a mental disease.
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My hope is that Texas' intervention into the YFZ compound, and its attempt to sort out the paternity of the 437 minors seized there, will result in the breakup of YFZ. Sure, some parts of it may re-form in places like Mexico or Canada. And some portion of those who've returned to YFZ may remain there of their own volition. But if Texas CPS keeps tabs on the latter, they may at least be prevented from resuming their child-marrying ways.
Despite the FLDS' best efforts, there's not been a tsunami of sympathy for the crying, pastel-clothed moms. Take a look at this FLDS Web site someone sent me, captivefldschildren.org. It purports to be a creation of "the FLDS people," and solicits donations "to help with the massive litigation costs" from the custody battles. There are photos and videos of weeping mothers, crying children, and beefy Texas lawmen, as well as kiddies running and playing in happier times. Unlike the media, the FLDS does not pixelate the faces of the kids. On the whole, the site is a pretty unconvincing ploy. Especially when you know that some of those little girls were, before being taken into protective custody, destined for marriages to much, much older men.
More macabre even than an episode of Grace's show is the line of long-faced prophets on FLDSTruth.org, which is linked to from the FLDS captive kid site. It starts with Joseph Smith and ends with Warren Jeffs, and features a timeline extending into the year 3000 and beyond. Reckon the FLDS plans to be around for a while. Let's hope the state of Texas puts a wrench in the cult's prognostications.