Sunday, May 27, 2018

incubating thoughts on Jessica Johnson's book, a musing on the (Dan) Savage age of Mark Driscoll in Seattle

reading Johnson's book has been reminding me of a LOT of stuff, stuff that I feel I'll probably have to write about along the way of writing a review of the book and I'm debating about how best to do that.  This is a blog so I don't have to write a review as if it were a master's thesis.  I also don't have to write it as if it's for a print publication.  On the other hand, there's a density to the material that if I do a series of posts interacting with ideas in the book on a chapter by chapter basis the TL:DR dynamic of the internet wherein so many people can't be bothered to read long-form and keep track of things across tens of thousands of words has people thinking "blah blah blah" when they would benefit from reading.

And for Christian readers or would-be readers the case is starker in the sense that the odds that any Christian publications will even read Johnson's book seem remote.

But I think the book is worth reading and absolutely worth writing about.

I do feel that there are things in the book that could have been expanded upon, rather, there were things that weren't in the book that I think could be the basis for future research or discussion.  Chief among these is an observation I've made about how Mark's controversy in saying what he said in the wake of the Ted Haggard scandal was quickly transformed by progressive and liberal media into a claim that Mark said stuff about Gayle Haggard letting herself go.  What's most astonishing about that super-myth on the internet was that Mark never said in seriousness or in jest that Gayle Haggard ever let herself go.

Dan Savage made that joke.  The joke was imputed as seriousness to Mark Driscoll and it became one of the most pernicious online myths I've seen have any connection to the history of Mars Hill.  Mark Driscoll may be a misogynist but the irony is that one of the ore prevalent myths about Mark as misogynist came from words that were not published by him but by Dan Savage.  Dan Savage has a littlebit of history of slamming the looks of women in relationship to other people that we'll have to revisit at some point.  It's taken years of considering Seatle history to start realizing that Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage are methodologically almost like conjoined twins.  These are two guys who are vehemently ex-Catholic who did not lie in urban centers as they'd define them (Savage once said Spokane was a good place to be from, FAR from, while Driscoll highlighted that he was born in North Dakota but his dad wisely moved the whole Driscoll brood as far away from the drunken Driscoll clan there as possible when Mark Driscoll was very young)..  They are even two ex-Catholic firebrands who defined their public personas over the last twenty years by a vitriolic and earthy style.  Dan Savage and Mark Driscoll can both be seen as ex-Catholic guys who get off on telling other people how and how often they should get off.  Savage has a blue state variation, perhaps, and Driscoll a red state variation, but their methodology is not necessarily all that different. 

Could 1996 to 2016 could be broadly described as the Dan Savage/Mark Driscoll era of Seattle?

Even on the issue of how much the higher up person makes relative to the toiling trench troops there have been some criticisms that Savage made honorariums while Stranger staff toiled with lower paying work.


Clement is the fourth “name” writer to leave the newspaper/bog in recent months.  A fifth departure, on the news side, is believed imminent.

The Stranger has experienced staff unrest of late,  much of it due to perceived senior management interference in coverage of the $15-an-hour minimum wage.  The news-heavy Slog website gives The Stranger clout and drives attention.  But print advertisers pay the bills.

Talented writers move on.  Holden has felt a heavy dose of  “I can make it in that town” vibes toward New York for a long time.

At the same time, however, The Stranger is notorious for paying low wages to highly talented writers . . . even as editorial director Savage rings up the honoraria on the college lecture circuit.

Wow, that really does sound like Mars Hill! Immensely talented and energetic people creating quality work for low pay while their top dog boss swims in money ... you know it seems that Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage had more in common as leaders, perhaps, than either of these guys would ever want to admit. 

A preliminary concern about Johnson's use of jargon is that she uses the term "neoliberal" frequently enough that if you don't already have some idea what that means it will be baffling.  It's taken me years to arrive at some kind of practical definition of what "neoliberal" and "neoliberalism" means and if I had to try to describe what that is it would be reliant upon an observation that there's a push for an entrepreneurial over a programmatic approach to things.  As the composer and blogger John Halle has put it, there's a mistake in thinking that neoliberalism is only a kind of neoconservative or Reaganite ideology, there are Clintonian variations on the theme.  To put it another way, if Mark Driscoll's empire was emblematic of neoliberal tendencies something similar could be said about Dan Savage, that they might be construed as two sides of the same coin if neoliberalism is the coinage for describing what their respective brands are. 

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