Ballad of James and the wiener dog
October 8, 2005 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Dobson vs. the miniature Dachshund : the musical ( subtitle : "The Will To Whip" ) OK, it's not really a musical. But it should be : in a slice 'o life piece of high camp from "Focus on the Family" head and author of numerous books on parenting, including "Dare to Discipline" and "The New Dare To Discipline", Dr. James Dobson recounts an epic battle, belt in hand, to dislodge his 12 lb Dachshund from atop a fuzzy toilet seat cover. Dobson also advocates the disciplinary beating of chidren, but not those younger than 15 months. The Dachshund has sinced passed away, ending "a fifteen-year-love affair between man and dog".
posted by troutfishing (81 comments total)
"I fought him up one wall and down the other, with both of us scratching and clawing and growling and swinging the belt." - Dr. James Dobson

I ran across this collection of gems purportedly from Dobson's "The New Dare to Discipline", and thought I'd provide it for everyone's edification.

"p.34 Dobson claims “Nothing brings a parent and child closer together than for the mother or father to win decisively after being defiantly challenged.”

what is defiance? well...

Dobson’s wife whipped their 15 month old daughter for going onto the patio in the rain. Dobson says to show “parental warmth after such discipline” and to have a “Loving conclusion to the disciplinary encounter.” (p. 38, Dobson)

On p.65 Dobson recommends starting whipping at age 15-18 months, and “there is no magical time at the end of childhood when spanking becomes ineffective.”

68. If child disobeys in public, remove him “to a place where there is privacy” to hit them, in order to avoid “critical onlookers” who might intervene.

68. Spank children if their bedwetting is an “act of defiance.”

70. If a child cries more than a few minutes after being spanked, hit them more.

71. If spanking a child doesn’t produce “obedience,” parent needs to “outlast him and win, even if it takes a few rounds.” Parents must always punish “acts of defiance.”

72. Spanking should not be “too gentle.”

74. Dobson recommends a child should respond to a hitting playmate by hitting back.

08. Dobson says “With most children, tantrums are a form of challenging behavior that can be eliminated by one or more appropriate spankings.”

115. Don’t pick up crying infants right away, to minimize “reinforcement of their tears.”

Posted by: Cathy in Seattle, Nobel Prize Nominated Blogger at July 21, 2005 05:30 PM"

( source : )
posted by troutfishing at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2005

Well, that's nauseating.
posted by S.C. at 10:37 AM on October 8, 2005

I was curious about the cite from page 70 :

"70. If a child cries more than a few minutes after being spanked, hit them more." - what is a parent supposed to do if, after going through the "hit them more" part, the child responds by crying even harder.

I guess Dobson's response would be "hit them again, even harder" ?

Dunno. Maybe it's just me, but this seems like an unusual approach to raising children.
posted by troutfishing at 10:37 AM on October 8, 2005

I'm sorry I've nauseated you. However, if more people become nauseated maybe Dobson's book sales will go down.
posted by troutfishing at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2005

I don't have a problem with 115., the rest bug me though.

In case you have a huge problem with 115, keep in mind that I don't intend to ever have children.
posted by drezdn at 10:44 AM on October 8, 2005

the interesting part is, he raped the dog. but that doesn't appear in the book -- thay always leave the juicy parts out
posted by matteo at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2005

How did Dobson become the new Ann Coulter? Why couldn't we just ignore him and let him melt away.
posted by mathowie at 10:58 AM on October 8, 2005

Uh... 115 is right. Always rushing to a crying baby is a good way to teach a baby to cry more.
However, that was the worst possible way to get a dog to do what you want. Someone needs to beat the shit out of Dobson for disagreeing, in order to teach him his place.
posted by klangklangston at 11:02 AM on October 8, 2005

I don't have a problem with 115.

115 shows a complete lack of knowledge about normal age/stage behaviours (incidentally: one of the major risk factors for child abuse). Someone who actually understood anything about what babies need to accomplish during this stage of life (i.e. trust) would never advocate leaving an infant to cry. The only means of communication infants have is crying, ignoring a crying baby has the opposite effect to the one you want, it teaches despair and mistrust. Babies are not little tyrants seeking control, they are helpless and should be cared for with that in mind.

I can't comment on the rest of this since this Dobson person is clearly so ignorant he should be pitied, and also seems to verge on the sociopathic. I cannot believe that anyone would read this shit and think it was good advice, unless they were looking for an excuse to abuse their children (and pets).
posted by biscotti at 11:07 AM on October 8, 2005

Always rushing to a crying baby is a good way to teach a baby to cry more.

Nonsense. Always rushing to a crying baby is a good way to teach a baby to cry LESS, because they learn that someone will come when they need them. Yes, babies will eventually give up if you don't come when they cry, but it's not because you've somehow thwarted their evil plot to control you, it's because they despair of ever being attended to (see the pages and pages of documentation about the babies in Romanian orphanages for more information about this).
posted by biscotti at 11:10 AM on October 8, 2005

My baby-raising days are long distant past, but in my experience rushing to a crying baby is a good way to keep them from getting so worked up that you can't easily calm them back down. As in all things child related, YMMV.

And Dobson shouldn't be let anywhere near kids. What an ass.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:11 AM on October 8, 2005

Reading this sort of is rather difficult and makes me kind of sick. My father was an abusive authoritarian like this "man", and in my mind they are basically on the same moral plane as people who rape their own children.

Dobson is a sadist, and he engages in BDSM relationships. But they are with his own, powerless, children, and they are non-consensual.

My heart goes out to his poor kids. And the little dog.
posted by cytherea at 11:15 AM on October 8, 2005

because they learn that someone will come when they need them

and how do they express their need? by crying. so, ...

posted by matteo at 11:20 AM on October 8, 2005

Meh. Just more oral Diarrhea from the Human Buttplug.
posted by HyperBlue at 11:21 AM on October 8, 2005

Rushing to a crying baby is also the first step to communication and language development. Crying and getting a response clues the kid into the purposes of language and communication. Without responding to your child's communication like that, you will teach your child that communication doesn't matter or do any good, and your child may quit bothering and thus be language delayed.

I have let my kids cry a bit at the end of the day when I know they are tired and need sleep. Usually in about 5 minutes, they quit and go off to sleep. But during the day, I responded to all their cries. To build trust and communication.

Makes me wonder if this guy has ever taken any sort of child development class, or if he just bases his tactics on his own sick need to control those vulnerable members of his family.
posted by Bueller at 11:25 AM on October 8, 2005

Wow, that guy is more fucked up than I thought. Thanks, trout.
posted by homunculus at 11:27 AM on October 8, 2005

drezdn - therein lies all the difference. I'm not fond of crying babies either, but I've noticed that seems to change dramatically if the baby is the crying baby happens to be genetically related.

mathowie - I wish. The problem is that he's one of the prime movers in the campaign to whip up hatred against gays in America. ( Not to mention "liberals" )

To quote US News & World Report :

"COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - To millions of conservative Christians, James Dobson and his Focus on the Family ministry have emerged as a life preserver in an American culture, fending off assaults from popular culture and liberals.

“He’s trustworthy, he’s intelligent, he’s well-respected,” said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals representing more than 43,000 congregations. “If people would do what Jim Dobson suggests they would live a better life.”......

"These are heady times for Dobson, who turned 69 last month and still puts in 12-hour days at the ministry he founded in 1977. The child psychologist reaches an estimated 220 million people in 160 countries through his radio broadcasts and his organization responds to about 10,000 telephone calls, letters and e-mails each day requesting books, recordings and advice on everything from marital strife to eating disorders. The group says its average listener is a mother of two in her 20s to 40s.

Organization officials like to say that 95 percent of what they do is about ministry and outreach. But it is the policy work — which accounts for the rest of the $150 million annual budget — that is drawing so much attention.

Focus on the Family launched a public policy arm a year ago: Some say its emergence and last November’s decision by voters in 11 states to outlaw gay marriage was no fluke.

“One would be foolish to minimize his (Dobson’s) impact,” Haggard said."

So, Dobson has a lot of $ and a big organization. More to the point though :

"In his April letter to donors, Dobson fired a fusillade of inflammatory rhetoric.

"Barring a miracle," wrote Dobson, "the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization itself.... For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family"

Dobson denounced "arrogant, unaccountable and unelected judges" for upholding the rights of gay people, singling out moderate Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy as "one of the most dangerous men in America."

Dobson noted that he and more than 50 "pro-family leaders" had met in Washington, D.C., some seven times to lobby Congress on the issue. (Dobson was referring to the so-called "Arlington Group," a coalition of Religious Right and allied leaders who are pushing for a marriage amendment.)

The religious conservatives have a close but imperfect relationship with the White House. President George W. Bush, after months of lobbying by Religious Right leaders, finally endorsed the marriage amendment on Feb. 24.

On May 17, the day same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts, Bush reaffirmed that stance.

"The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges," said Bush, in a statement. "I called on the Congress to pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The need for that amendment is still urgent, and I repeat that call today."

Well, there you have it - Dobson is the point man in America's "culture wars" ( which people such as Doson are busy inciting ) and he has publcly accuses "gays" of conspiring to destroy:
"The family" and even Western Civilization itself ( !~ )

I have a relative who - per Dobson's advice - used to beat his kids. The "discipline" changed them, but not for the better.


Plus, Dobson thinks it's OK whip wiener dogs.
posted by troutfishing at 11:30 AM on October 8, 2005

"Infants are fully capable of learning to manipulate their parents..." (Dobson)

Those infinks are ruthless! Don't trust 'em!
posted by jaronson at 11:33 AM on October 8, 2005

I think Mrs. Eschaton and I consider Dr. Sears to be a pretty good resource regarding child-rearing. Here is some info specifically on babies and crying
posted by Buck Eschaton at 11:35 AM on October 8, 2005

Meh. Just more oral Diarrhea from the Human Buttplug.

More like the Baby Jesus Butt Plug.
posted by homunculus at 11:38 AM on October 8, 2005

Sometimes you need to pick up a crying child. Sometimes you need to let the child cry. Children cry for many reasons, including rage, hunger, pain, boredom, discomfort, and illness. Part of what you do as a parent is try to figure out which one it is, and do what works best and is best for the child. This is hard work, and the task changes continually as the child grows and changes.

It strikes me that the dachshund growled at the man because he knew what kind of vicious bastard he was dealing with, and was making a pathetic and doomed stand.
posted by Peach at 11:38 AM on October 8, 2005

Trout, I appreciate your perspective but I think you're taking some of this out of context. Most of it, actually. Did you read the whole book or just jot down inflammatory quotes whenever you found them?

I don't like Dobson's political activism in the last 15 years. However, I was raised by parents who read Dare to Discipline and the Strong Willed Child. I think the methods used really helped. I was never "belted," and I can't remember getting spanked more than 10 times or so. It makes me sick that some people use Dobson's advice as justification for abusing their children, but from my own personal experience and my group of friends growing up, the disciplinary techniques were effective.

Feel free to continue pulling out quotes or sections you think are awful. But bare in mind there's plenty of people out there, such as myself, who believe corporal punishment is entirely appropriate in the right setting. (An aside: I don't think, if I have kids, that I will be able to ever spank them, as I have a temper problem, and Dobson is very clear that discipline should never be done in anger, example with his dog nonwithstanding.)

But don't let me stop your flames, as Dobson baiting has been quite trendy for the past two years.
posted by Happydaz at 11:40 AM on October 8, 2005

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Beating isn't nurturing. And there's no better way to guarantee that your kids will grow up to hate you.
posted by postmodernmillie at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2005

For those of you who might appreciate a different perspective to child-rearing, I strongly recommend Learning All the Time by John Holt. It has more of an educational slant, but the underlying theme is about treating kids with more respect than our society presently gives them.
posted by jaronson at 11:47 AM on October 8, 2005

" I have a temper problem..."

Caused by...?
posted by jaronson at 11:51 AM on October 8, 2005

Yeah, you really have to watch out for those Dachshunds, they're vicious.
posted by quin at 11:58 AM on October 8, 2005

A family pet that bares his teeth at his master was never properly trained in the first place. Whatever your take on positive/negative reinforcement training methods, Dobson's technique is so far off it's ridiculous.

I don't care how "strong willed" the little fella supposedly is, anyone who doesn't understand how to rear a creature as simple as a dog should not be regarded as an authority on child rearing.
posted by freq at 12:00 PM on October 8, 2005

troutfishing: I'm sorry I've nauseated you.

You didn't nauseate me, man. "Doctor" Dobson did does. My parents are regular Focus on the Family contributors: talk about teaching your (commie liberal pinko) kids despair.
posted by S.C. at 12:00 PM on October 8, 2005

Here's the really odd thing about all of this :

Dobson has been writing books for decades - his position on the utility of beating children isn't new. The bit Dobson wrote about beating his miniature Dachshund comes from "The Strong Willed Child", and the bits, above, that I cite are from "The New Dare to Discipline".

Basically, Dobson is a deeply religious, angry, violent super-empowered crank.

He used to be a pediatrician. Once upon a time. Then, he left the field and developed weird ideas of his own - but which he has never actually researched in a rigorous way :

"One of the first writing projects I tackled after leaving academia was The Strong-Willed Child. As the title indicates, it focused on the basic temperaments of boys and girls, and what influences them. Of particular interest to me is a characteristic I call “the strength of the will.” Some kids seem to be born with an easygoing, compliant nature that makes them a joy to raise. Others seem to be defiant upon exiting the womb and determined to run the world. "

There you have it. According to Dobson there are two types of kids : the easy, good ones and the strong-willed ones out to make trouble. In essence, Dobson seems to suggest, or imply, that those types of kids need to be beaten into submission.

That's Dobson' core "insight", it seems to me, and he's promoted it with amazing zeal - through books, radio shows,TV, the Net......

Self identified Christians like my relative buy Dobson's books and become convinced that Dobson's message somehow is congruent with Christianity. And they commence beating their kids. And maybe their pets too. It's a shame.

That guy is responsible for an awful lot of suffering.


Happydaz - Dobson is providing all of the material. As I mentioned, I have personal experience with the implementation of Dobson's advice. But, my relative in question gradually weaned himself of that aspect of Dobson's advice and reduced the physical punishment each subsequent child received until - by the fourth child - the physical punishment had ended. And you know what ? - the less physical punishment they received, the happier the kids seemed to be.

" from my own personal experience and my group of friends growing up, the disciplinary techniques were effective." - Meaning that you are living and breathing ? That was your experience growing up, and you adjusted to it. But it doesn't sound as if your parents relied very much on physical punishment. I probably got as much growing up, or maybe more ( in liberal family ) .

As far as "Dobson baiting" , well - Isn't Dobson baiting himself ?

That quote of his - above - is contextualized enough. It's from a "Focus on the Family" page. Follow the link. What do you think about Dobson's "two types of kids" theory - Does that seem like science to you ? And what are the implications for the way parents who read Dobson might view their children ? Isn't Dobson's "insight" simply a "good kid" / "bad kids" typology ?

Regardless, even, of the level of physical punishment parents following Dobson's advice might mete out, consider the psychological effects of being labelled - by one's parents - as a "troublemaker" . That sounds like a bit of a self-fufulling prophecy to me.
posted by troutfishing at 12:07 PM on October 8, 2005

This is basically just bondage wrapped in Christian jargon.

The idea that nothing bonds a parent and child more than a good beating is probably very true. It's the same bond that exists between a Dom and Sub.

If you want the relationship between yourself and your children to be like that between a bondage dom and his/her sub, then beating is probably great. Or if you want to raise fucked up little robots -- easy to lead and manipulate. Who need to be led and manipulated, for that matter.

Then again, that's what a lot of what passes for "conservative" thought these days is really all about: Making damn sure that everyone from the less desirable classes is always looking for the nanny's approval every time they want to do something. Or at least, always waiting for the nanny's slap when they go ahead and do it anyway.

It never ceases to amaze me, how few people really have the courage to raise children who can make their decisions and think for themselves. Of course, that would mean that the kids were accountable for their actions. Which is not really what these so-called conservatives want.
posted by lodurr at 12:07 PM on October 8, 2005

Jaronson: Caused by a variety of environmental and genetic factors. Mostly, my father and paternal and maternal grandfathers all have terrific tempers. We get hot very angry and cool down very quickly. I don't see how this relates to corporal punishment as my father never spanked me when he was angry, but please, feel free to extrapolate.
posted by Happydaz at 12:09 PM on October 8, 2005

Here's another perspective. I recall reading this story a few yars back -- not sure in what book. It's from memory, so indulge me.

An old Lakota man was charged with raising his grandson. The BIA people came and convinced him to send the boy to the BIA boarding school; since he wanted the boy to get on well in the world, he did.

Some months later, he went to visit. The boy's hair had been cut, his clothes thrown away, and he spoke only English. He told the old man that they beat him whenever he spoke Lakota. The old man told the boy to go wait in the wagon, they were leaving.

Before they left, he went and talked to the headmaster. He said, "I sent my grondson here so you could teach him to be a man, but all you've taught him is how to be afraid. How can anyone become a man, if all he's ever taught is how to be afraid?"
posted by lodurr at 12:13 PM on October 8, 2005

s.c. - I feel for ya. Ouch. You could try telling your parents you were going to get a dog and then sending the excerpted Dobson story to them to ask - in a quite neutral way - if they thought that the advice on dog discipline might be effective in your dog-training regimen. But don't disclose that the story was by Dobson - maybe they've forgotten it, and then my ploy would work better : if they are appalled, you could then say "But, but....I thought you liked Dr. Dobson's advice !"

Sometimes, the darnest things completely escape our notice until someone calls our attention to them. You never know : they might just be appalled and change their views on Dobson just a teenie tiny bit.
posted by troutfishing at 12:14 PM on October 8, 2005

Dobson thinks it's OK whip wiener dogs.


By their fruits you shall know them, and there's precious little of the patient-lovingkindness fruit of the Spirit in beating a dachshund with a belt for the crime of lying down. Seems more in line with the hatred, discord, or fits of rage that come from somewhere else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:24 PM on October 8, 2005

That episode with the dachshund? Must have happened over two decades ago as I remember reading that bit when preggers with my oldest.

Y'all are taking him out of context. I raised three children of which two were compliant and the youngest a strong willed one. The thing is that kids are most secure when they know momma and daddy are boss. Yup, they got their share of spankings (NOT beatings ) and are all doing very well. They will tell you themselves that the spankings were a good idea...they were for such things like doing dangerous things (like try to dart out in the road) and for willfull defiance. I didn't spank for childhood foolishness or for a first offense if they didn't know it was a nono.

I always got compliments for having well behaved kids. They weren't robots or perfect, but they didn't make other adults cringe either.

I didn't worship at the shrine of Dobson-or any other book author-but I agree fully that children need to learn to be civilized and the occasional spanking won't hurt them. It is over and done with quickly, hugs take place, then off to play. Nagging them to death, whining, sticking them in a corner to steam or pout....naah, not much good.

Now if one spanks in anger, that does cause emotional trauma and messes with a kid's psyche.
posted by konolia at 12:37 PM on October 8, 2005

lodurr - Dobson is purported to have written, probably in "The Strong Willed Child", about how his mother used to beat him with a girdle that had all sorts of metal hooks and buckles on it. It sounds like an s & m thing, but Dobson's 70 years old - it probably was simply an old-school girdle, one of the sort designed to squish the female torso into an hourglass figure.

Anyway, Dobson is supposed to have written that the girdle-whippings made him feel more loved.

The very idea made me feel really sad for Dobson, mean old fart that he is. It sounds like he had a horrible time growing up.


One more thing : apparently, several thousand children die from corporal punishment in the US each year.

Beyond that though - I hadn't thought of this, but of course - there's a link between being spanked as a kid and developing a spanking fetish.


"You have drawn a line in the dirt, and the child has deliberately flopped his bony little toe across it. Who is going to win? Who has the most courage? Who is in charge here? If you do not conclusively answer these questions for your strong-willed children, they will precipitate other battles designed to ask them again and again.” - "New Dare to Discipline", page 21.

That turn of phrase really grabbed me - "flopped his bony little toe" . It seems so grotesque, or vulgar.
posted by troutfishing at 12:38 PM on October 8, 2005

Y'all are taking him out of context.

What's the proper context for beating a dachshund with a belt? Under what possible set of circumstances would it be okay to go to a closet, take out a belt, and beat the shit out of your dachshund with it?

And why would I be comforted to know that he might, possibly, have stopped beating small dogs with his belt sometime in the mid-80's? Should I be happy that he doesn't beat up inoffensive little dogs anymore (unless he does), and instead only publishes fond memoirs of knocking them silly?

Anyone who would (or even could) beat a dachshund (or a pug) has a cruel, savage heart.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:06 PM on October 8, 2005

konolia - It occurs to me that Dobson's attitudes may have become more extreme with age. The Dachshund-whipping incident was indeed a long time ago, but the quote I posted of Dobson's - accusing "gays" of a vast conspiracy to destroy the family - is only a few months old.

Here in Massachusetts, gay marriage has been legal for over a year and nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Not a darned thing. Mass. has had the lowest divorce rate in the nation for several years running, and - after a year and a few months of legalized gay marriage, the Mass. divorce rate is still dropping. In fact, the divorce rate has dropped a bit faster. I checked out the data.

I did a lot of research into sociographic data over the summer, and one of the more curious findings was this : there seems to an inverse correlation between anti-gay attitudes, as defined by percentages of state populations which voted yes on the "Marriage = 1 man and 1 woman" amendments passed in 11 US state, and hard-core societal pathology - murder, violent crime, rape, divorce ( I threw that one in because it tends to be hard on the kids ) , rates of venereal disease, teen pregnancy, and so on.

This could be expressed in the converse as well : acceptance of homosexuality correlates with overall societal health.

One other point about Dobson's oeuvre - there's a widespread claim, on the part of Dobson, many on the Christian right, and even some on the "Christian left" such as Jim Wallis ( though Wallis says he's not actually a part of the Christian left ) that American culture and morals have been falling apart for the last 50 years.

Well, it's not true. There's close to no data whatsoever to support that claim. What is true is that rates of murder, violent crime, divorce, teen pregnancy, and a number of other societal ills all peaked around '92 and have been steadily declining ever since : everywhere in the US and fairly evenly.

The culprit - also - has been definitively identified : leaded gasoline. It's been recently discovered that infants in utero are far more sensitive to Lead then was previously thought possible. The damage seems to to center mainly in the development of the frontal cortical areas and the results of the damage don't show up, generally, until late adolescence to early adulthood : problems with distractibility and impulse control, reduced planning, and so on.

In short, Dobson was onto a real, wide ranging trend when he first started writing his books. But, the trend reversed as leaded gas was phased out.

A recent study - released a few months ago - found that in the early 1980's an astonishing 80% of US children had elevated levels of Lead in their bloodstreams. In 2004, only 2% did.

The problem with Dobson's approach is simple : he is passing his advice off as science. It is not science, nor is there any evidence for his political and cultural claims.

In short, Dobson is - quite plainly speaking - a fraud.
posted by troutfishing at 1:10 PM on October 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

Congratulations, trout. You have actually turned this place into a left-wing LGF.

Every time I come back to the blue, I regret it.
posted by gd779 at 1:12 PM on October 8, 2005

Please elaborate.

I can provide widely cited, peer reviewed scientific research, and also substantiating data for everything I've just said. The data sets I used were from the US census, the FBI, and so on - US Federal government data.

Calling Dobson a fraud is my opinion.

So what can you do ? Complain ?
posted by troutfishing at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2005

troutfishing: That sort of bait-and-switch tactic, as it were, might be a convincing statement to people who operate on human logic, like you and I do. Ma and Pa C. aren't so much with the rationality.

What is true is that rates of murder, violent crime, divorce, teen pregnancy, and a number of other societal ills all peaked around '92 and have been steadily declining ever since : everywhere in the US and fairly evenly. ¶ The culprit - also - has been definitively identified : leaded gasoline.

Fascinating. Do you have any links to more information?
posted by S.C. at 1:24 PM on October 8, 2005

MetaFilter -- Y'all are taking him out of contex

I too am interested in how can you possibly take out of context a grown man beating the shit out of a ten pound dog who's just enjoying a bit of warmth from the electric heater. I really am curious.

now, had the dog just eaten a pile of cash, there can be context for Dobson's appallingly violent reaction. but the story, simple as plain, is savage. he's a sick man, konolia.

Every time I come back to the blue, I regret it.

me too, I regret it when you come back
posted by matteo at 1:28 PM on October 8, 2005

I had two kids with colic, they cried constantly, because they were in pain. I walked the floor, I sang, I cuddled, I rocked, I hallucinated because I never got any REM sleep. I never beat them for crying.

Is there ever any real, good excuse for beating a child in pain, below the age of reason, or an animal who is incapable of reasoning? I don't think so.

In an old family curse, "May he rot in Hell with his back broke."
posted by unrepentanthippie at 1:37 PM on October 8, 2005

s.c. - I do.

( 180 kb pdf )

The research has been fairly widely cited in relevant fields but otherwise has been little noticed. The implications however - in social, political, and cultural terms - are nothing short of astonishing.

Hi Matteo ! Check out this pdf - it's the magic that explains the US "culture wars" and vitiates the religiously based explanatory frames of the US religious right.

It might deliver a pizza too, or fetch ones' bedroom slippers. It's a handy little piece of research.
posted by troutfishing at 1:58 PM on October 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

s.c. - also, I think that Nevin study pegs the most significant trends, but there are more trends that sync up with that curve.

I'm not sure why this study is still obscure - it may just be too far of a mental stretch for many people. It sure does explain a lot, though, and in a very simple and elegant way - just the way good science is supposed to work.
posted by troutfishing at 2:02 PM on October 8, 2005

That study made me a damn fine cup of coffee. Thank you kindly.
posted by S.C. at 2:13 PM on October 8, 2005

Trout - I guess in reading this whole post, I must say you've done a pretty good job of research. I disagree with your overall take on Dobson but I can see how you got there. At some point, arguing corporal punishment turns into death penalty or abortion arguments - there's just no way to reconcile two vastly different viewpoints ; we're going to have to agree to disagree.

I think hearing his radio broadcasts growing up plus the weekly "Dobson answers your questions" bit I managed to find at my local church gave me a very different perspective of where he was coming from. I think if you start out with the premise that his intention is to raise a healthy, well-adjusted child who respects others, you read his book with a very different take than if you think he's a masochist trying to get others to agree with his faulty worldviews.

(By the way, yes, the dog story makes me cringe, especially as he lost his temper at the animal but continued the fight.)
posted by Happydaz at 2:33 PM on October 8, 2005

why didn't he just pick the dog up? ... moron
posted by pyramid termite at 2:36 PM on October 8, 2005

..The Authoritarian Personality addressed itself to the question of whether the United States might harbor significant numbers of people with a "potentially fascistic" disposition. It did so with methods that claimed to represent the cutting edge in social science -- and that's where the book got in trouble with scholars of its day. But in today's political climate, it might be time to revisit its thesis.

Before anyone was talking about the radical right in America -- the John Birch Society, the most notorious of the new conservative groups to develop in the postwar period, wasn't founded until 1958 -- The Authoritarian Personality seemed to anticipate the fervent crusades against communism and the attacks on Chief Justice Earl Warren, the United Nations, and even fluoridation that would characterize postwar politics in the United States. The fact that the radical right has transformed itself from a marginal movement to an influential sector of the contemporary Republican Party makes the book's choice of subject matter all the more prescient.

Finally, the book was filled with data, including its famous "F scale." Based on how respondents answered a series of questions, the F scale identified nine key dimensions of a protofascist personality: conventionality, submissiveness, aggression, subjectivity, superstitiousness, toughness, cynicism, the tendency to project unconscious emotional responses onto the world, and heightened concerns about sex.

For example, subjects were asked how much they disagreed or agreed with such statements as:

"Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn." (Submissiveness.)

"Homosexuality is a particularly rotten form of delinquency and ought to be severely punished." (Aggression and sex.)

"No insult to our honor should ever go unpunished." (Toughness and aggression.)

"No matter how they act on the surface, men are interested in women for only one reason." (Sex and cynicism.)

...Perhaps the authors of The Authoritarian Personality were on to something when they made questions about sexuality in general, and homosexuality in particular, so central to diagnosing authoritarianism.

In the June 19, 2005, issue of The New York Times Magazine, the journalist Russell Shorto interviewed activists against gay marriage and concluded that they were motivated not by a defense of traditional marriage, but by hatred of homosexuality itself. "Their passion," Shorto wrote, "comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: It seeks to spread itself." It is not difficult to conclude where those people would have stood on the F scale...

'The Authoritarian Personality' Revisited
posted by y2karl at 2:37 PM on October 8, 2005

As to the dog story, even I thought that was a bit over the top-but to tell the truth I hate dachshunds. Not that I would beat one.

Now, a chuhuahua on the other hand....;-)
posted by konolia at 2:37 PM on October 8, 2005

When I came home from the hospital with my newborn daughter, the most cherished and loved gift I ever received, I had a conversation with my minister's wife. She asked if little Gwen was sleeping through the night. I was astonished. I said "No, she is 3 days old. I feed her two or three times a night." And she gave me a very superior smile and told me to ignore my daughter's cries.

She explained that the from very first night her babies were put in their own beds, in their own bedrooms, down the hall with the doors shut and allowed to cry. They would finally cry themselves to sleep. And so she got each of her newborns to stick to HER schedule.

From that day on I was never able to think of her in any other way except as a cold-hearted monster.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:58 PM on October 8, 2005

Dobson also advocates the disciplinary beating of chidren, but not those younger than 15 months

Oh, and beating children who are 1 1/4 years old? Babies who have only just started walking and maybe know a few words? Babies who weigh little more than that Dauchshound and have tiny fragile bones that would snap like twigs? This is a perversion of fatherly love and Christianity made astronomically worse because he has people who listen to him. In a just society he would be made a pariah
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:11 PM on October 8, 2005

Oh for the chance to match wills with Dobson, and I'm damn strong willed. I'd happily kick his little weiner dog beating hate filled ass. This is enough to motivate me to go over the line but it's OK, Jesus will forgive me.
posted by nofundy at 4:39 PM on October 8, 2005


"They will tell you themselves that the spankings were a good idea..."

My father stopped spanking me when I began to seriously attempt to assault him when he would attempt to spank me. I was about eight. His use of spanking, certainly never abusive and absolutely in line with his understanding of what was important and acceptable in childrearing of the time, about 30 years ago, was without question a terrible error which I beleive cemented my entirely angry and oppostinal relations with those in authority or power over me.

I can't speak for your kids, but if were ever to embrace the idea that the spankings my parents administered to me were a good idea, it would have been the result of having the ideas I hold currently beaten out of me. As it is, my fractured and unhappy relationship with authority was clearly beaten in.
posted by mwhybark at 5:48 PM on October 8, 2005

Well, nothing new about Dobson here, you have made me a good deal more curious about other possible factors that could have culminated in 1992 though.

Do you think that maybe the tendency to respond to this sort of thing with diagnoses or emotional cudgels is bad? I mean the second I read the line in Happydaz's original post about admitting he has a temper, I knew exactly what was going to show up within 3 posts. I'd be surprised if I was the only one who had this response.

Is treating somebody you are trying to discuss something amicably with this way good? Maybe it just creeps me out because it is more valid to criticize on that level, but it still *sounds* like ad hominem to me. Instead of saying that somebody's point is bad, or saying that their point is bad because they are bad, we say that because of some condition they are incapable of participating in the discussion as an equal. I mean can we discuss why Dobson's positions are evil without speculating as to what kind of horrible situations would give rise to such a person or what goes on in his mind?

I think it results in a situation where we preach only to the choir. I think the guy's a joke, but there are a lot of people who do not, and I cannot decide whether we end up having less children (genuinely) abused if we deride him and his followers as an hack and idiots, respectively, or by if we do more damage to our own capacities/credibility by sitting down and talking. Is it necessary for our ability to communicate that somebody take up Xeno's challenge and find an appropriate context for whipping small dogs, (which isn't half as bad as whipping a child really), before there's any way to convince anybody of anything?

(I realize I came off as REALLY pretentious in that last paragraph, and that a lot of people here do take either/both roads, I just don't know. sorry. And if you like to pick apart the reasons people take positions, my parents never laid a hand on me, I think they read Elanor Roosevelt for child rearing tips, although I don't know what she has to say. Probably one or two insane things somewhere).
posted by SomeOneElse at 6:32 PM on October 8, 2005

lodurr: The idea that nothing bonds a parent and child more than a good beating is probably very true. It's the same bond that exists between a Dom and Sub.

There's a lot less love apparent here than in most D/S relationships I've been party to, not to mention the difference between a bond forged of a consensual beating from which both parties derive pleasure, and the beating into submission of a 'troublesome' child or dog. They're a world apart. I doubt any dom(me) gets off on the kind of neurotic need for control this man seems to display - it's far too different a situation for the comparison to be worth much, I think.

Now, if the dachshund had a safe word...

Not to draw my own experiences as a child into it too much, since we're all the products of one child-rearing method or another and apparently tend to consider that we've turned out fine because of or despite it, but I can't help remembering the kids I knew who were on the receiving end of lots of physical punishment, and how angry it made them in private. Sure, they could be the perfect little angels their parents obviously wanted to mould in public, to avoid further beatings, but away from authority it was another story entirely. I remember a pair of brothers in particular who showed all kinds of worryingly destructive behaviour the moment their (spank-happy) parents weren't looking.
posted by terpsichoria at 6:36 PM on October 8, 2005

That's just so effing disturbing. I'm sorry I read it this time of night.

Some people should not have children.
And I sure as hell don't mean gay people.

[And as an animal lover, I'd like to lock Dobson up in a pet carrier cage. Arsehat.]
posted by NorthernLite at 8:06 PM on October 8, 2005

Clearly, you people who have a problem with this have forgotten the part in the Bible where Jesus beats the shit out of a maltese.

Congratulations, trout. You have actually turned this place into a left-wing LGF.

Damn liberals. Always interfering with a good Christian's god-given right to take a belt to a toddler.

SomeOneElse: I generally agree with your premise, but I don't think it applies in this case. Since Happydaz's entire argument rests on "well, _I_ turned out okay," his actual okay-ness is relevant, and not an ad hominem. The issue of Dobson's mental health is relevant as well, as he is committing acts, with absolutely no trace of remorse, that are questionably criminal and undoubtedly morally problematic.

A Freudian would feel compelled to add that Happydaz's inclusion of the anger issue detail in his short paragraph suggests that he himself links his anger issues with his upbringing. Make of that what you will.

If you have to use hitting (with a belt, no less) to assert your authority over a child, or a dog for that matter, you have no business being a parent. You want to swat a four year old? I don't love it, but I don't think it's a huge moral failing. Beating a baby or a small dog? Disgusting. And using weapons (as a belt most certainly is in this case) means that you have officially crossed the line into pathological.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:35 PM on October 8, 2005

Dobson sounds like he's one of those guys that has so many anger and control issues, not to mention repressed sexual problems, he probably makes trips up to Denver to get a dominatrix to strap him vigorously and then give it to him with a strap-on.
posted by Ber at 9:01 PM on October 8, 2005

Cranky: My point of including my own temper problem is to explain why I could not personally implement Dobson's methods for my own theoretical children. Nothing more.

My argument doesn't rest on me turning out OK for Dobson to be valid, that is simply a part of it. The other part of my argument is that Dobson is taken out of context in lots of circumstances. I have a different perspective from being brought up in it than you do by reading stuff on the Internet. As I've said before, the dog thing is just weird, but as for the rest, w/e.
posted by Happydaz at 1:07 AM on October 9, 2005

A dog baring his teeth at his owner really is a serious matter. If you let a dog get away with that, worse behavior is likely to follow, and if the behavior is directed at someone outside the household, there may be very serious consequences. When my dog tests the family power dynamics that way, I flop her on her back and tell her "no." If she does something serious (if she nips at someone, or if she chews an electrical cord) I flop her on her back, put my teeth on her neck, and growl. Nothing I do causes her physical pain, but it does tell her, in no uncertain terms, that her behavior will not be toleratated and that I am the boss. This kind of discipline seems to be working-- she was a complete basket case when we got her two years ago. Now she's almost got it together.

I love how Dobson seems to feel that you can't show your kid (or your 12 pound weiner dog) that you're in charge without beating them with a belt. What a dickless bastard. There are a thousand ways of communicating to a dog, or to a kid, that there are rules and boundaries, and that they must be respected.

If Dobson had any kids at home, or were poor Siggie still under his care, I would report him to the authorities. (I would have to, actually-- I am a mandatory child abuse reporter.)

mwhybark-- I don't have children, but what you describe reminds me of what our dog's obedience trainer said to expect with dogs, when you use pain to train them. He told us that it's a short-term way of gaining compliance, but that in the end you get an agressive, angry dog who's always looking for his chance to get you back.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:26 AM on October 9, 2005

I live with six dachshunds, they can be very difficult to train, as they were raised to be brave and stubborn (while digging out cornered badgers and killing them). While rolling a dog onto it's back doesn't always work (dachshunds will play and fight upside down) giving a dog a "timeout" in a closet or portable kennel usually works, without escalating the level of physical aggression, as dogs are social animals and don't like to be left alone. Your dog may bite if it is a strong willed dog and disagrees with the correction, these initial "training bites" will hurt some, but the dog won't try to damage you, just show you who's boss.
I imagine Dobson's dog was beyond a mild bite at the time he took a belt to it, based on previous responses by Dobson....or that Dobson was afraid of a small dog (with admittedly a disproportionately large mouth and teeth and strong jaws)
posted by Runcible Spoon at 4:00 AM on October 9, 2005

Ugh. Those old-school methods of dog "training" are based on complete misinterpretations of wild canid behaviour (dogs don't flip each other over, for one thing, the subordinate dog flips ITSELF over), and are a great way to get yourself seriously hurt. Humans cannot and do not read or display dog body language well enough to try to speak it, especially at this level of severity. You'd do yourself and your pets a huge favour if you'd read up on more modern thinking about dog behaviour and training methods. Even those who used to advocate this kind of thing (although I know of no reputable trainer who's ever thought biting a dog and growling at it was in any way a good idea, sorry, but that's just ridiculous), like the Monks of New Skete, now specifically recommend against it.
posted by biscotti at 6:42 AM on October 9, 2005

Now if one spanks in anger, that does cause emotional trauma and messes with a kid's psyche.

Right, while rationalised, methodical use of violence doesn't! The difference is all in how well thought-out it is, isn't it?

Actually, between the two, I find it more understandable when a parent who isn't a total piece of scum has the occasional fit of rage and lashes out without even realising what they're doing - in no way justifiable but at least it's not premeditated (and I'm thinking of older kids, teenagers, not small children; having fits of rage with small children is already on a much deeper level of sociophathy). It's obviously still wrong and traumatic and sad and pathetic but at least it's an uncontrolled emotional reaction, and as such, again provided the parent isn't a worthless waste of oxygen, it may at least come with the realisation it was a disturbing, unstable reaction and a sense of guilt and the determination not to do it again. But when you have to rationalise physical violence as a civilised and civilising form of discipline for your children and even cite books in support for your behaviour, when you are fully conscious of what you're doing and purposefully do it in cold blood and even plan ahead for it, and then even boast about it and its supposed benefits, then, there's just no words for it. Thank god there is actually a thing as child protection laws, at least, on paper.

The fact some people actually think the rationalisation makes it better is more proof it's all about the parent's ego and how much "in control" it makes them feel. I guess playing masters and servants is what parenting is all about.

But I'm probably taking all this out of context. Including the charming comparison between children and dogs.
posted by funambulist at 8:28 AM on October 9, 2005

There's a lot less love apparent here than in most D/S relationships I've been party to, not to mention the difference between a bond forged of a consensual beating from which both parties derive pleasure, and the beating into submission of a 'troublesome' child or dog. They're a world apart.

Yeh, I knew someone would come forward to talk about actual dom/sub relations, so I should have clarified: I understand that people in BDSM are doing this kind of thing (in principle) of their own volition, and that's central to the ostensive ethos of BDSM.

My point in drawing the comparison is that Dobsonesque disciplinarianism is basically directly mappable to the rhetoric and tropes of bondage -- to all the stuff that people like Dobson would say were bad about bondage. As you point out, and as I should have found a way to make clearer, it's lacking the one thing that Dobsons might possibly find redeeming in BDSM: Free choice, and the acceptance of responsibility.

Dobson, in short, is purely interested in dominance. He is not interested in a reciprocal relationship. He's interested in a sociopathic dominance over others. But instead of becomng a serial killer, he's found a more socially acceptable (nay, extremely socially rewarding) means of expressing his dark desires....
posted by lodurr at 9:04 AM on October 9, 2005

I cannot decide whether we end up having less children (genuinely) abused if we deride him and his followers as an hack and idiots, respectively, or by if we do more damage to our own capacities/credibility by sitting down and talking.

My own unpopular suggestion is that we take him down a back alley, and he doesn't return. The world needs far fewer people like him.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:43 AM on October 9, 2005

Now if one spanks in anger, that does cause emotional trauma and messes with a kid's psyche.

Right, while rationalised, methodical use of violence doesn't! The difference is all in how well thought-out it is, isn't it?

I had both kinds of punishment as a child. My mother had a fierce temper and slapped or whipped us in the heat of the moment. My father never showed his temper, but would take us into the bathroom, talk to us for 5 or 10 minutes, and then beat the shit out of us. Guess which parent we were most afraid of? Guess which parent I have not spoken to since 1985?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:46 AM on October 9, 2005

Wow, what an interesting discussion - all the more so because people were polite.

Now I guess I'm obligated to look in into the effects of permissive liberal parenting ( "mustn't thwart the child's will - it'll stunt his/her creativity" ) but before I get into that, I ran across this zinger yesterday and thought it was pretty funny :

"Does Dobson know that if he continues to hit his dog that the dog will become violent and bite him someday?

I have done extensive research on the subject of child discipline and have gotten the following results. My compilation of information is as follows:

My Own Research on the Affects of Spanking Children
By Elaine Njerve-Zack

Dobson's books are EXCELLENT for "how to" advice to lead to adult spanking fetishes......"

This is a good short read although it's not exactly empirically tight.
posted by troutfishing at 9:57 AM on October 9, 2005

Also - here's an extensive list of actual research into the effects of spanking and corporal punishment on children, courtesy of "" - a major anti-spanking site.

A number of studies show a link to brain damage.
posted by troutfishing at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2005

biscotti-- thanks for your input, it's interesting to know that the better minds of dogland are turning away from that style of training. I did read quite a bit about training methods when we first got her two years ago, but I will confess that I haven't kept up as well as maybe I should have.

We do use other methods as well. Most of our dog's training is reward-driven, actually, but we do need an immediate corrective for especially bad behavior, too, and ours is not a dog for whom time outs have any effect. (She is a cross of two different herding breeds, and came from a home where there was dog hoarding, neglect, and physical abuse-- the upshot being that she really likes to be by herself, as long as she knows that my husband and I are in the house somewhere.)

I may not be speaking perfect, unaccented Dog when I flip her, but that's not really the point, is it? The point is to communicate, without hurting the dog, that (a) the behavior is bad, that (b) it will not be tolerated. In this case, I am confident that she knows what I mean. The incidence of behaviors that get her flipped is diminishing-- it's close to nil at this point, actually. And quite frankly, I don't know if I ever would have been willing to rely on reward-driven training to get her to stop trying to herd or nip strangers. We have a few (blessed) friends who've been willing to risk their ankles to help us with that one, but we don't have nearly enough of them for a consistent training program. Out on the sidewalk, where the problem used to be especially bad, it would have been impossible. I needed (and sometimes still need) a fast, dramatic way of telling her that what she's doing is absolutely not okay.

Sorry if this is more than you asked for. My dog has come a very long way in the last two years. The idea that we've been merrily fucking up because our reading is out of date-- well, it's stingy, really-- stingier than anything on the internet probably ought to be.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:40 PM on October 9, 2005

In other news, I took a cat for a two-hour walk today. He learned to heel pretty well. No treats and no punishments were necessary.

It is an exceptional cat.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:27 PM on October 9, 2005

An XSO and I used to have a cat that would do that. He didn't actually heel, but he never went very far away, ahead or behind. Our working theory was that he thought he was walking us.
posted by lodurr at 7:41 PM on October 9, 2005

My wiener dog would like to take a bite out of that old bastard's ass. And I'd let her, too. What a noxious waste of space!
posted by at 7:53 PM on October 9, 2005

palmcorder_yajna: my point is not that positive reinforcement is the only way to train a dog (although it's my own preference), it definitely is not. It is entirely possible to train a dog with corrections and be fair and reasonable to the dog. My point is that flipping a dog is counter-productive, unfair, unreasonable and extremely outdated (not to mention a great way to get seriously injured and it's just confusing and frightening for the dog). You can definitely use corrections and be fair about it (if you're correcting for a behaviour you have already trained), but the correction should not be flipping (verbal corrections, leash corrections, etc. are all reasonable and fair, assuming the dog has been trained to behave properly first, flipping is not). I'm sorry you think it's "stingy", but seriously, there are NO reputable, knowledgeable and educated trainers (regardless of whether they're positive trainers or not) which recommend this method (at least not as an everyday training correction), they all recommend against it, and for good reason - it's confusing, frightening, unfair and unreasonable, and it's not what dogs do to each other (which is, after all, the supposed principle behind it, which, as I said, is based on inaccurate interpretations of wild dog behaviour - I call it "outdated" for a good reason, nobody who's read anything based on more modern research espouses this method). Anyway, way off topic.
posted by biscotti at 6:22 AM on October 10, 2005

I wonder if Dobson could be trained.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:37 AM on October 10, 2005

You know what they say about old dogs. Humans are probably worse.
posted by troutfishing at 2:33 PM on October 10, 2005

I had a sister about 20 years older who, along with her husband, believed in beating her children, who were all just marginally younger than I. With whatever was convenient... belts, canes, cutting boards... there was even a "bad paddle" that was a longish kind of bread cutting board that hung in the kitchen. While in her "care" at around the age of 10, I witnessed her mercilessly beat my oldest neice (then 9 years old) with a belt in the corner of the "playroom" which was really a closet of a den that served more as a cage. (They were never allowed out of their fenced in yard until they went to high school). When I told my parents about it, they didn't believe me. Why should they, where would she get that kind of parenting skill? I was never struck, nor spanked, nor even slapped by these same parents. My 2nd oldest niece lived in such extreme fear and submission, she would wet her pants right up until she was a teenager. Around that time, as my nieces began maturing as teens, the results of their upbringing became clear by their rebellious, angry, hostile, and openly self destructive paths. The 2 older girls both became hard core drug abusers. The oldest found her way out after a teen pregnancy through religious affiliations that bordered on cult practices. The middle one... did hard time for embezzlement to support her drug habit and that of her drug lovers. She's since come clean and has been for some 15 years, but it was a long haul getting straight and functional. She lost, in the process, custody of two beautiful sons, but has very successfully and singlehandedly supported and raised a daughter, now about 14 years old. The youngest, she married her way out early, divorced, lived with several men off and on, and finally settled for abstract poverty by moving back to the reservation, where she rarely ventures out of into the world of her "family". Beatings might work in the short term to accomplish whatever sick results are on the menu of control, but they sure do have their evil fallouts over the long haul. None of these girls have anything to do with their "mother", and haven't for years. Gee. Wonder why...?
posted by shiska at 8:02 PM on October 15, 2005

I hope your sister is fully aware that it her choices about child-rearing are directly responsible for the outcomes she sees.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:27 PM on October 15, 2005

One could hope. One could, but I don't. Denial is a wonderful thing. A powerful support mechanism that is sometimes the very most basic survival mechanism of the truly insane. Don't you know...? Those were BAD CHILDREN.

Like... Dobson's dog was a BAD DOG.

Same thing, different species... it's the mindset that should scare the bejeebus out of all good people endowed with cerebral gray matter that resembles a brain.

Wonder what it's like to be the white house doggie?

Ooops. Who said that?
posted by shiska at 7:39 PM on October 16, 2005

posted by five fresh fish at 10:32 AM on October 17, 2005

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