Duggar Family Battles Social Media At Speaking Engagements

Duggar family members Jessa, Michelle, and Jim Bob have been facing off with social media as they approach speaking engagements starting on Saturday. The parents in the now defunct reality TV show, 19 Kids and Counting, are scheduled to speak about the Duggar family experiences “of standing for the Gospel on the front lines of social media” at an event in Big Sandy, Texas, for an organization affiliated with the disgraced sexual molester Bill Gothard. Jessa Duggar is scheduled for another appearance for the Southern Women’s Show in Birmingham, Alabama.

Speaking engagements used to be a main source of income for Duggar family members, with Michelle and Jim Bob raking in as much as $25,000 per event. They would often appear with their 19 children playing violins and singing hymns before giving a short speech about parenting skills. Afterwards, the entire Duggar family would autograph their books, which were always available for purchase.

Duggar family onstage
Duggar family onstage at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary event on October 24, 2013 [Photo from SBTS]

Duggar family kids autographing books
Duggar family kids autographing books at Focus on the Family event in 2011 [Photo from Focus on the Family]
Even the youngest of the Duggar children signed as many as 1,000 autographs after an event appearance. This was a show business family in more ways than one. They were hired by churches, family-centered groups, and political campaigns, where they attracted large audiences.

Those days are long gone. The lucrative speaking engagements came to a screeching halt on May 19 when revelations of police reports regarding their eldest son’s sexual molestations of his sisters were published by In Touch magazine. The TLC network pulled 19 Kids and Counting from the airways, churches and other groups cancelled the family’s appearances, and the only future events still scheduled were those for Jessa Duggar’s contract to appear at several Southern Women’s Shows and events for the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and its affiliate, Advanced Training Institute (ATI), both founded by Bill Gothard.

As reporters dug deeper into the past of the Duggar family, more revelations of abuse were discovered, and these were allegedly perpetrated by the parents. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s parenting skills were also criticized because of the way they dealt with the sexual molestation of their daughters and their abusing son, Josh Duggar.

On August 26, In Touch magazine published another bombshell report. This article was about Josh Duggar’s adultery with a prostitute while his wife, Anna, was pregnant. Within the week, Josh admitted to adultery, addiction to pornography, and complete hypocrisy. At this point, the Duggar family became untouchables as far as mainstream America was concerned, and no politician wanted to be photographed anywhere near them. They received an avalanche of criticism and scorn with every post they made to their social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook.

Even so, the Duggars continue to be the poster family for Bill Gothard’s organizations and are well connected within them. One of the family’s best friends, Gil Bates, is on the Board of Directors for IBLP. Anna Duggar’s sister, Priscilla, is an employee of ATI and Priscilla is married to David Waller, who is ATI’s administrative director. Also, the Duggars are personal friends of Bill Gothard himself.

The upcoming appearance by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar in Big Sandy, Texas, is under the auspices of the International Alert Academy, another Bill Gothard organization.

The Alert Academy (Air, Land, Emergency Resource Team) bills itself as a program for boys who were raised with the ATI homeschooling program. It looks like a cross between paramilitary training (complete with boot camp) and a reform school.

Teenagers at Bill Gothard's Alert Academy in Big Sandy, Texas
Teenagers at Bill Gothard’s Alert Academy in Big Sandy, Texas [Photo from YouTube]
Several of the Duggar boys have been through the Alert program, and their schooling appeared in footage on the 19 Kids and Counting series.

Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar are slated to speak about the attacks against them on social media. They have a like-minded audience at that event and are unlikely to encounter detractors. According to the Duggar Family Blog, the exact day of their appearance at the week-long event will not be announced until Saturday.

“Bob and Michelle Duggar will speak at the International Alert Academy Family Camp in Big Sandy, Texas. Camp runs from 10:30 am on Saturday, October 10th, to 11 am on Saturday, October 17th. (Guests do not have to stay for the entire week, but the schedule of speakers is not available prior to the start of camp.)”

Jessa Duggar with husband Ben Seewald at Southern Women's Show
Jessa Duggar with husband Ben Seewald at Southern Women’s Show

Jessa Duggar Seewald is scheduled to appear on Saturday at the Southern Women’s Show in Birmingham, Alabama. The time of her appearance was not even posted until someone asked a question on the event’s Facebook page. (She will be onstage at 2 pm.)

After her appearance at the show in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 29, the Southern Women’s Show received a mega backlash criticizing Jessa’s booking. The organization’s Facebook page was filled with comments about Jessa being a bad role model, her lack of education, her lack of career, and the fact that her husband was on stage with her. Protesters contacted the show’s sponsors and expressed their outrage.

When Jessa spoke at the event in Orlando, Florida, on September 26, her appearance was pulled from the Southern Women’s Show Facebook page and not even mentioned. Even with her detractors on social media, Jessa Duggar is an avid poster of Instagram selfies and seems to be unable to resist the urge to post pictures of herself standing in front of the bathroom mirror.

At 37 weeks into a pregnancy, most women will not travel cross country in an airplane. Jessa, however, is not only flying to Birmingham for this engagement, but she is also scheduled to appear at one final show in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 17.

Odds are, the Duggar family will be much-discussed this weekend on social media. Scroll down to give your opinion and comments below.

[Intro photos from YouTube]

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