A newly published Trumpet article by one of our favorite PCG editorial tools (Brad MacDonald), entitled Welcome to the Fourth Reich, demonstrates better than most this sub-cult’s long-fermenting tryst with “worldly” ideologues and their convenient pronouncements. It is not necessary, surely, to point out that this relationship looks better on PCG’s resume than it would on that of her “lovers” (the biblical phraseology seems appropriate here, so please, bear with me–as creepy and sexist as it sounds). It is, in fact, a love affair that is wholly one-way. FOX “News”, for example, has never given PCG any lovin’ to speak of (though PCG has been “nailed” with some “fair and balanced” coverage on a local FOX affiliate station–once), nor have any of the other talking heads she refers to in her propaganda pieces.
Unrequited though her love may be, PCG does not appear in any sense jilted by the fact her lovers have nothing good to say about her. She still continues to mine their statements from afar, reading between the lines for hints of unconscious approval. And these hints she then weaves into grandiose claims of “worldly” confirmation of the Armstrongist world-view, which are subsequently fed to the little flock of credulous sheep she keeps around for fleecing purposes.
It all works so well, since these sheep never take it upon themselves to take a critical look at what it all means. They don’t ask the difficult questions and are therefore easily persuaded that a “worldly” authority’s seeming approval of cult dogma should count as irrefutable confirmation of everything they’ve been spoon-fed by Gerald and Co. But the kind of analysis that is foreign to sheep is precisely what we at AD are here for. So, we want to ask the following questions: (1) What is behind PCG’s reliance on “worldly” sources?, (2) Are they using those sources appropriately?, and (3) Are those sources reliable to begin with?
We will be referring specifically to young MacDonald’s column linked to above, but the principles revealed will be generally applicable across the vanishingly narrow spectrum of rhetorical diversity employed by PCG–this particular tactic, in fact, seems to be their principal means of expressing themselves (at least in their “flagship” magazine, The Trumpet).
What Is Behind PCG’s Reliance on “Worldly” Sources?
You might not be surprised to learn that all the sources PCG speaks of in glowing terms are, without exception, considered to be conservative in their outlook. This is certainly true of Mail Online, the online tabloid (yes, that’s right–a tabloid) that published the story our dear Bradley got such a hard-on for. Even such illustrious arbiters of truth as Conservapedia have to admit that Daily Mail (the paper version of Mail Online) has a conservative slant (although they point out it is “liberal (by American standards)”, LOL).
I noticed long ago a disturbing trend in PCG, that of a precipitous slide into lock-step conservatism. I wasn’t the only one to have noticed it, either. My good friend at the time, Mark Jenkins, a headquarters employee and writer for their publications, once told me that Flurry was, without any doubt, a staunch conservative. That is to say, Gerald Flurry is and always has been motivated by political ideology.
Flurry often described FOX’s Bill O’Reilly as the best newsman in the business, spoke disparagingly of Democrats at every opportunity and progressively became (and transformed the PCG propaganda machine into) a mere parrot of the right-wing pundits he enjoyed watching on television. They even used the same terminology. For example, the phrase “San Fransisco values” was a central theme in one of his more politicized sermons.
The last straw for me was a sermon in which Flurry spent the entire allotted time (and more, I’m sure)–on the Sabbath–railing against a recent Democratic victory, announcing at last that God was angry that Nanci Pelosi got so many votes! Yes, this is ostensibly the same God who supposedly doesn’t want us to vote–for the very reason that He puts people in office Himself! “Who was God angry at,” I mused rhetorically in my furious notes, “Himself?” Well, this god couldn’t have been half as angry as I was that day. I almost walked out, but I wanted to get more material for the letter I had then decided to write. That letter questioning Gerald on his obvious politicization of “God’s message” would within two weeks result in my suspension. I haven’t been back since.
It is this all-too-human politicization of Armstrongism in PCG that is, in large part, the explanation for their reliance on “worldly” conservative sources. PCG has a bias, and it is more political than biblical. But where did it come from? Armstrong? Not exactly. Let me explain.
Under Armstrong, WCG took an approach to the Armstrongist worldview that was politically neutral. That is not to say that it was not a largely conservative worldview (partly derived as it was from the Fundamentalism Flurry has whole-heartedly embraced), but, rather, that it synthesized its views on politically cogent matters from within the belief system itself–instead of from without. This Armstrongism, the Armstrongism to which I remained loyal most of my life, was not sycophantic with regard to the conservative politicos of Armstrong’s day. Far from courting the political Right (from afar) as Flurry has done, Armstrong was an equal-opportunity critic of both liberal and conservative philosophy.
But whereas WCG steered the course of Armstrongism straight into abstract oblivion (having to be rescued finally by the liberalizing forces of the new regime), PCG drifted off into ideological impurity of its own by looking to the political Right of the U.S. for guidance on what Armstrongism should be. This led to PCG taking up positions Armstrong would never sanction, identical as they were to those of the far Right (opposing the separation of Church and State, advocating public prayer in schools, giving credence to the claim that the Founding Fathers were Christians and that the U.S. was intended to be a Christian nation, showing explicit support for U.S. military operations and institutions, etc.), and ultimately ignoring issues Armstrong considered to be of the utmost importance (e.g., environment, sustainable agriculture and ecology–subjects which must have raised red flags in the hyper-politicized mind of Flurry, denoting aspects of Armstrongism that would be deemed “liberal” by “worldly” conservatives–the latter of which is exactly what he is).
So, Flurry and his cult have merged with the politically conservative Fundamentalist masses to such a dramatic extent that they are hardly distinguishable from “The World” they were enjoined to come out of. And it is all because, as Jenkins confided in me a couple days after the September 11 attacks, Flurry is a conservative. For him, conservative doctrine comes before religious philosophy. And it is for this reason that neither he nor any of his zombie-like followers ever balk at their leadership’s practice of relying so heavily on and, indeed, following the tack of “worldly” sources on their trek out of “the world.” They are in lock-step agreement with those sources, politically. And this political ideology supersedes the merely religious idea of coming out of the world.
Are They Using Those Sources Appropriately?
Of course, as has been pointed out, this is a one-way relationship we’re talking about. The religious Fundamentalists PCG shares their political and (often enough) eschatological views with would be hard-pressed to accept them as brethren, but would instead consider them Judaizers, what with their ultra-conservative heresies like Sabbath-keeping, etc. And those political pundits? You can be sure PCG would be a wacky cult to their lights–perhaps even a threat to national security (you can’t beat Right-wing nuts for paranoia).
So, just because Flurry agrees with and yearns for the acceptance of the subset of “The World” that is white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant and politically conservative, it doesn’t mean that the latter have the same attitude towards him (or would if they had ever heard of him or his little flock). Even the most backward Fundamentalist preacher in “The World” typically has more theological “training” than Flurry could ever hope to approximate in all his years of self-guided biblical tinkering. At the same time, the most astute of Fundamentalist theologians and apologists could, with this atheist’s tacit approval, look down upon foolish Gerald (and Armstrongism in general) with the disdain of a master craftsman surveying the woodworking attempts of the village idiot (though both master’s and idiot’s works burn the same in the fire of critical inquiry).
And, of course, the real albatross around Flurry’s neck in this regard is this “cult status” he so wishes he could (and overtly tries to) jettison. The ironic fact is that the only people who are generous to cults are certain misguided liberal scholars who take a positively naive (and for cult survivors, insulting) approach in their championing of religious tolerance (by which they mean we should refrain from strongly criticizing the views and practices of such institutions as PCG, or from referring to them by politically incorrect pejoratives like “cult”–these reality-challenged, academic wankers might change their tune if they had terminally ill grandkids being raised in a “faith-healing”–oh, what’s the PC term–“high demand group.” Pardon me if I don’t pray they never have to face that dilemma). Certainly no one Flurry depends upon for political grist, including Bill O’Reilly, would take Flurry’s religion seriously, or for that matter, “tolerate” it.
But that does not stop PCG from pretending the reverse is true, or from attempting to sell that pretense to their readers.
The term “quote-mining” doesn’t do justice to the operations over at The Trumpet. First of all, they employ a small contingent whose sole purpose it is to trawl the headlines for anything that could be used to support cult dogma. Once they’ve found some piece of (often questionable) journalism that fits the bill, they go to work on it, taking statements out of context, ignoring originally intended nuances and generally bastardizing the comments of the author and abusing them into something they can use. They treat these sources the same way they treat their members, as raw material they can pervert to do their bidding.
This column by Brad MacDonald is a case in point. The whole modus operandi here is to manufacture the appearance of respectability for what is essentially a New World Order conspiracy theory. This is done by recruiting this article by a “respected British journalist” (more on this later), who happened to have chosen a completely inappropriate (but sensational) turn of phrase for a dramatic hook. Welcome to the Fourth Reich! Well, that’s titillating, for sure–but it’s not exactly accurate, is it? The phrase “Fourth Reich” conjures up images of Nazis, concentration camps and the Holocaust. But notice two facts: (1) none of these horrors are brought up in the article, the subject of which is economic sovereignty, and (2) despite the actual subject of the article in question, Brad MacDonald invites you to be terrified of the very things it is not about: Nazis, concentration camps and the Tribulation.
So, we have Heffer making a calculated decision to engage in sensationalism and MacDonald taking the bait and running away with it, right off the deep end! Do you really want to take that leap with him? If you do, you need to ask yourself just what it would take to get from Germany as relative economic powerhouse in a financially troubled system to Europe as Nazi war machine–the Beast Power with Great Harlot astride and drunk on the blood of the saints (presumably it would at least take some Nazis–where the fuck are they?)! That’s a mighty big leap down the rabbit hole. A logician would call it a non-sequitur: it doesn’t fucking follow. But, yes, Bradley, he did use the phrase “Fourth Reich” and aren’t you clever for noticing it? Will someone please pat this boy on the head?
Are Those Sources Reliable to Begin With?
Usually not. It could be argued that this question should be answered on a case-by-case basis, since PCG is more than willing to distort anything they come across. But remember that they are in the business of citing biased sources, since that is conducive to their propagandist agenda. Favorable citation in the Trumpet is a damn good predictor of a source that wears its conservative bias on its sleeve. Just check it out for yourself. Next time you see something favorably quoted in a Trumpet article, click the link and identify the bias (though, if you’d like to skip a step, just identify the pro-nonsense bias in the Trumpet article itself).
It should go without saying that a heavily biased source is hardly reliable. But what about other aspects of reliability? Quality of content and author’s credentials are important considerations. Generally speaking, an expert in a given field is more reliable than some armchair philosopher promulgating incredible and unproven ideas. Similarly, a source that is known for its sub-par content should be taken with a grain of salt, if at all.
How does MacDonald’s source, The Daily Mail, rate?
We’ve already discovered its bias, and we have also pointed out that it is considered a tabloid. Everyone knows that tabloids are infamous for putting a premium on sensationalism at the expense of accuracy and journalistic integrity. This is why the title of the article was “Welcome to the Fourth Reich” instead of something more apropos, like “German Economic Strength a Threat to National Sovereignty?” It is also why the content of the article was entirely yellow journalism instead of something more measured and objective–like this BBC article on the same subject.
And, far from a ringing endorsement of its reportage, the fact that Mail Online is, as MacDonald noted, “the second-most popular online newspaper in the world” has mainly to do with (1) its fervent focus on search engine optimization and (2) its status as a racy tabloid. Its front pages are incessantly plastered with gossip stories about celebrities–who they’re dating, what cell phone they use, how many gerbils they can fit up their anus. That kind of thing. Notice what one Guardian commentator (rojillo) wrote concerning the Daily Mail’s recent good news:
I think if those of us who go on the Daily Mail site to titter at the frightened little curtain-twitchers who believe their stories, stopped doing it, we could bring this statistic down to where it should be. I pledge not to go back on – honest..
No wonder it’s so popular! But that doesn’t mean it’s reliable–any more than Oprah Winfrey or the Pope are reliable sources for objective information about the world. Anyway, the popularity doesn’t necessarily translate to its back pages, which are apparently reserved for opinion pieces like the one Brad quotes from. He might as well have been appealing to the geopolitical authority of The National Enquirer. Inquiring minds want to know: Does Brad MacDonald think you are an easy mark? All it takes is the barest of research to catch him stretching the truth so thin you can’t see it.
And how about this author, Simon Heffer? I would venture to say that MacDonald knows less about him than the authors of this entry on him. He probably didn’t know that Heffer is an atheist. Unfortunately, though, merely not believing in gods does not make one intelligent or knowledgeable (it often works the other way), and Heffer is, apparently, neither. And that fact has implications for his reliability as a source of truth and understanding.
Remember what we’ve already discussed about armchair philosophers? Heffer is the definitive armchair philosopher, bloviating ineffectually on subjects he knows nothing about–and, as such, he is not quite as “respected” as MacDonald would have you believe. Oh, sure, he’s a loud and obnoxious conservative, but his record on the facts leaves much to be desired (a common correlation, as it happens). The most glaring example of his penchant for getting things wrong was the run-in he had with professional linguists in 2010 after publishing a book on English grammar. Apparently he thought that because he went to “grammar school” as a child, and turned out to be a pedantic prick as an adult, he was qualified to preach the doctrines of “proper English”. No linguistics training required. Funnily enough, though, his book was a huge embarrassment for him (or at least it could have been if he was smart), met as it was with mostly negative reviews–including one that called it “staggeringly erroneous.”
This over-confident, under-educated and unqualified buffoon is not the kind of person you want to rely on for penetrating analysis of world events. But he and the tabloid that printed his Chicken Little editorial were good enough for the likes of the Trumpet, and you shouldn’t have to wonder what that implies–the Trumpet itself is as reliable as its sources.
After all, Trumpet staff could choose less dodgy sources if they wanted to–but they don’t want to. That would open the door to readers accessing truth unalloyed with political bias and fallacious propaganda–which would not be conducive to the effort to twist worldly punditry into a passing image of Armstrongism.