Saturday, November 05, 2016

Jacque Ellul's Propaganda, looks to be over at

Now, obviously for longtime readers, we've discussed Jacques Ellul's book Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes here at Wenatchee The Hatchet a lot this year. 

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 1965 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

You may wish to forgive the mid-century conceptual limitations of language with the "Men's" part, as applicable.  The book is repetitive and dry in a few spots but ... given that this is an election year it may be worth it to trawl through the book.

As the history of what was once Mars Hill goes, and the history of Mark Driscoll's quest to become a public figure, Ellul's writing on propaganda and propagandists is commendable because the propagandist is not just the politician and the political/media class seeking to sway you to support a set of causes that have already been decided upon by the political and financial classes that run things; a propagandist can also be said to be what today's megachurch pastor functionally is.

So if you're a former member of Mars Hill and haven't read this book by Ellul already, it's ... strongly recommended by Wenatchee The Hatchet.


It also featured a few observations about the populist agitator in the American political tradition who has no coherent set of implementable policies as such but knows how to appeal to anxieties about the loss of a way of life, not that that necessarily has anything to do with what's been transpiring on November 8 ... .

some links for the weekend on pop stars and the ones journalists opt to like or dislike and why Phil Collins and Taylor Swift can manage to not both embody the abundance of white privilege

Kathleen Massara, over at The New Republic, discusses a memoir from Phil Collins and it occasions a moment to discuss how Phil Collins was the apotheosis of unexamined white male privilege for his time.

Now ... it's possible the same case could be made about Bruce Springstein or Don Henley or Jackson Browne or ... even Bob Dylan, really. John Lennon could even be presented as an exhibit in casual sexism as manifest in his song lyrics, even if the easiest example from old white pop stars might be Mick Jagger.

But ... why Phil Collins? 

Singer songwriters making songs about break ups seems as old as the hills and whether we're talking about Phil Collins or Taylor Swift wouldn't seem to make a huge difference except that, apparently, it makes all the difference in the world that today's pop stars writing confessional songs about break ups that don't necessarily tell us a lot of genuinely personal information so that we can transpose ourselves on to the implied narrative in a gnomic text are women rather then men and that the wealthy entertainers aren't identifiable as members of what some writers call the patriarchy.  Even if Swift, as Scott Timberg has complained at his blog or at Salon ...

is functionally a fifth generation member of a family of plutocrat bankers she gets to be exempted from being considered part of the American ruling class on other grounds.  For Timberg the problem with Swift isn't her songs it's that the marketing presented her as just another wide-eyed girl surveying the world around her when her whole career was, so far as Timberg was concerned, predicated on mind-bendingly large amounts of white upper-crust privilege.

If Taylor Swift can be regarded as a kind of empowered woman singer songwriter it might have to be because the politics of gender are permitted to trump the politics of money and class.  Not everyone on the left thinks that it is worth it to lionize a Taylor Swift or a BeyoncĂ© as emblems of girl power when they make so much more money than the average woman and embody the newest variations of unattainable and impractical ideals of traditional feminine beauty but that's perhaps another topic for another time. 

In light of the Ferrante news cycle it's also possible that someone else with more devotion to the cause could explore how men and women writing about feeling trapped and betrayed by the social attachments we're told are what define us as most truly human get read.  There have been times when it seems that straight white writers male and female sounding off on the dread conformity and soul-sucking power of the ordinary responsibilities of family life paint a portrait of marriage so stultifying a person could wonder why anyone on earth would want that.  Is progress in cinema going to be measured by the gay cinematic equivalent of Kramer vs Kramer?

Sure, Phil Collins has been divorced a few times but so has Roger Waters.  Then again Roger Waters may have had the sense to not write a memoir. 

Collins can come in for a socio-economic assessment of the extra-musical meaning of the music by way of its fan base, though. Massara puts it this way:

Collins’s was the music of overwhelming success for the generation of the overwhelmingly successful, before the 1987 financial crash swept it all away. His music reflected the precarity and responsibilities of the everyman during this time, although his songs are rarely political.

Which "could" be said about Taylor Swift if we wanted to say it, since overwhelming success would seem to be accurate about her career up until at least recently. 

It's possible that Phil Collins' public career was one in which he was, to use a ridiculous line, a character who was not necessarily playing a character.  Some of the long-standing pop stars of the last half century had characters.  When you listen to a Bob Dylan song or a Johnny Cash song these singers have characters and the songs fit into the character the men are playing.  So it was in character for the persona of Johnny Cash to do a Trent Reznor cover, one that's more memorable than the original.  It's in character for Bob Dylan songs to have a break-up number with a woman upon whom he pours more contempt than even Phil Collins might but that's within the parameters of the character.

Bob Dylan may get flak for not being considered a suitable recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature and there's a whole range of discussions that could be had about that.  It isn't out of character for the character of Bob Dylan to simultaneously receive a plaudit and to be dismissive of its social value.

in other news ... Rolling Stone got sued for libel on the basis of their 2014 "A Rape on Campus" story.

The journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely was found responsible for libel with actual malice.

Having done this blog for ten years and having done a  bit of what some call watchblogging it would be hard to overstate the importance of constantly checking and vetting sources. 

Friday, November 04, 2016

on the tenth anniversary of the time when Mark Driscoll didn't talk about Gayle Haggard letting herself go and how desperately progressives have, since then, pretended he said so

Ten years ago Ted Haggard had a scandal, about which Mark Driscoll had nearly nothing to say.  In fact Driscoll only mentioned the scandal just barely long enough to launch into a soap box stump speech about one of his pet topics of the time, sex.    At no point in the entire thing did Driscoll ever come close to indicating that a certain Haggard "let herself go".

Evangelical Leader Quits Amid Allegations of Gay Sex and Drug Use

The news has been abuzz with controversy surrounding the allegations that Ted Haggard had a three-year homosexual relationship with a male prostitute that included drug use. Haggard is pastor of a 14,000-member church in Colorado, president of the National Association of Evangelicals that has some 30 million members, friend of men like George Bush, and outspoken opponent of homosexuality and gay marriage.

The news broke in a television interview with the homosexual prostitute.

November 7, 2006 - Update
In the interest of not perpetuating unnecessary negative information, we have elected to remove two videos previously linked here. For more information from the Haggard's please see the links here.

A follow-up article by the Associated Press said that Haggard purchased methamphetamines from the gay prostitute but claims he never used them. He also admitted to getting a massage from the gay prostitute but denies any sexual activity between the two.

Of course the media is having a field day with the scandal, particularly since Haggard’s home state of Colorado is on the brink of a highly charged political vote regarding homosexual rights. It will likely take weeks to untangle the truth in all of this very devastating news. In the meantime, let us pray that his wife and five children will be loved and supported through this incredibly difficult time. The horror they must be experiencing is likely unbearable.

As every pastor knows, we are always at risk from the sin in us and the sinful temptations around us. Pastoring in one of America’s least churched cities to a large number of single, young people has been an eye-opening experience for me. I started the church ten years ago when I was twenty-five years of age. Thankfully, I was married to a beautiful woman. I met my lovely wife Grace when we were seventeen, married her at twenty-one, and by God’s grace have been faithful to her in every way since the day we met. I have, however, seen some very overt opportunities for sin. On one occasion I actually had a young woman put a note into my shirt pocket while I was serving communion with my wife, asking me to have dinner, a massage, and sex with her. On another occasion a young woman emailed me a photo of herself topless and wanted to know if I liked her body. Thankfully, that email was intercepted by an assistant and never got to me.

My suspicion is that as our culture becomes more sexually rebellious, things will only get worse. Therefore, as a means of encouragement, I would like to share some practical suggestions for fellow Christian leaders, especially young men:
  • The only way to stay away from sin is to stay close to Jesus. Colossians says that we are prone to making a lot of rules but that if we don’t deal with the issues in our heart, we are fooling ourselves; holiness cannot be obtained by the sheer force of white-knuckled will power. More than anyone, a Christian leader needs time with Jesus in repentance, for their own soul and not just to make them a better leader or teacher. Death comes to every Christian leader who goes to Jesus and Scripture for purely functional and not relational purposes.

  • Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.
  • Every pastor needs a pastor. Too often the pastor is seen as a sort of little God and his wife as some glorified First Lady. Every pastor needs a pastor with whom he can regularly have accountability and the confession of sin. Every pastor’s wife also needs a godly woman chosen for her maturity and trustworthiness.

  • No church should tolerate sexual sin among its leaders. Christians cannot be guilty of playing plank-speck with non-Christians on matters of pornography and homosexuality and be guilty of going soft on sin in their own leadership. As Paul says, nothing can be done out of partiality or favoritism.
  • Pastors should have their office at the church and their study at home. There is no reason a pastor should be sitting alone at the church at odd hours (e.g., early morning and late evening) to study when anyone can drop in for any reason and have access to him. Instead, a pastor should come into the office for scheduled meetings and work from home on tasks such as emails, planning, studying, sermon preparation, etc. I spend the vast majority of my time working from home. Some years ago when I did not, I found that lonely people, some of them hurting single moms wanting a strong man to speak into their life, would show up to hang out and catch time with me. It was shortly thereafter that I brought my books home and purchased a laptop and cell phone so that I was not tied to the church office.
  • Pastors have the right to protect their own home. This means that if someone keeps dropping by unannounced and is unwelcome, or a flirtatious woman shows up to a Bible study at the pastor’s home, the pastor and his family have the right to request that they never return. The pastor’s home simply cannot be viewed as yet another piece of church property that is accessible to anyone who desires it. Rather, the pastor’s home must be a safe place for the pastor and his family without the wrong people rudely calling and dropping by.

  • Churches should consider returning to heterosexual male assistants who are like Timothy and Titus to serve alongside pastors. Too often the pastor’s assistant is a woman who, if not sexually involved, becomes too emotionally involved with the pastor as a sort of emotional and practical second wife. I have been blessed with a trustworthy heterosexual male assistant who can travel with me, meet with me, etc., without the fear of any temptations or even false allegations since we have beautiful wives and eight children between us.

  • Pastors need to protect their email and have it screened for accountability. For me, this means that no email but an email from one of our pastors comes directly to me. This also means that I leave my email account open at home and my wife regularly checks it to get schedule information, etc., because I have nothing to hide. I also do not have a secondary email account from which to build a secret identity.

  • Pastors need to carefully protect their cell phone number. If that private number gets out, too many of the wrong people have access to the pastor. Not only should the cell phone number of a pastor be given out to only a few people, he should also consider eliminating his voicemail and simply have calls forwarded to his assistant. In this way people will not become too informal with the pastor and if the pastor knows someone is trouble (e.g., a flirtatious woman), he can see that on his caller ID and simply refuse to answer the call or have to deal with a voicemail.

  • Pastors must speak freely and frankly with their wives about their temptations. Without this there really can be no walking in the light and sin always grows in darkness.

  • Pastors must not travel alone; the anonymity and fatigue of the road is too great a temptation for many men. A pastor should take his wife, an older child, an assistant, or fellow leader with him. If this cannot be afforded then travel should not be undertaken.

  • Any pastor who is drifting toward serious sexual sin should have the courage, love for God, devotion to his family, and respect for his church to simply fall on his sword and resign before he goes down in flames. He must get the professional help he needs without fear of losing his position as a pastor. It is much better to be an honest Christian than a wicked pastor.

  • Lastly, the big issue is a love and fear of God. Only a man really knows his heart and whether or not he loves and fears God above all else. Without this a man will fail to live for God’s glory, and it is only a matter of time.
In conclusion, I say none of this as moralism. Indeed, this is a deeply rooted gospel issue. How can we proclaim that our God is a faithful Trinitarian community if we are not faithful to our marriage covenant and family? How can we say that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us if we have no holiness in our life? How can we proclaim that we are new creations in Christ if we continually return to lap up the vomit of our old way of life? How can we preach that sin is to be repented of if we fail to model that ongoing repentance? How can we say that God is our highest treasure and greatest joy when we trade Him for sin that defiles our hands and defames His name?
I do not know the guilt or innocence of Haggard. But I do know that this is a sobering reminder to take heed of, lest we fall.

But that this has been easily established doesn't matter.  It didn't matter when Dan Savage made a joke that some progressives apparently took to mean that, somehow, Mark Driscoll really said something or other about Gayle Haggard letting herself go. One Lindy West, who has for the last roughly ten years been in a position to know Driscoll didn't actually say Gayle Haggard let herself go, nevertheless ... wrote in 2013 that:

The Time Mark Driscoll Said that Ted Haggard Had Meth-Sex with a Male Prostitute Because His Ugly Wife Probably Didn't Blow Him Enough
Via The Stranger:
"A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband's sin, but she may not be helping him either."

Except that, no, Driscoll didn't.  Using a scandal involving the Haggards as a pretext to pontificate about sex and how an unspecified but presumably large number of other pastors' wives having "let themselves go" did so in Mark Driscoll's estimation is super creepy ... but at no point did he talk about Gayle Haggard in this way.  But what do observable facts matter to Lindy West when a point could be made about somebody she dislikes?  Progressives managed to go through much of the last ten years, when they felt like addressing the topic of Driscoll, laboring under the illusion that Mark Driscoll said Gayle Haggard "let herself go" or, as Lindy West decided to say further "his ugly wife probably didn't blow him enough". 

That sort of lazy, reflexive and obstinately misinformed polemic was part of what cemented a Driscollian brand in the Puget Sound.  Without the publication that was managed by another formerly nominal Catholic self-selected public figure who insisted on controversy and on telling other people how to think and live their lives (i.e. Dan Savage), Mark Driscoll couldn't have been quite the local celebrity he was.  Polemicists like Mark Driscoll and Dan Savage circa 2006 can be considered conjoined twins, each grandstanding moralizing media figure needs the other; a not entirely dissimilar point of comparison would be the dependent parasitic relationship Frank Schaeffer's celebrity will always have to his father. 

At the time Driscoll made his Haggard post I was bewildered by what on earth could possess him to talk about wives letting themselves go as if it mattered on whit.  Wasn't this the guy who kept telling single guys "Your WIFE is your standard of beauty."  Okay ... so if that's true then whatever changes happen in her life "my" standard of beauty would get adjusted.  Got it.  So whence this idea that a wife could "let herself go"?  It's not like Driscoll himself didn't plump up at various stages in his ministerial career. 

We're not in a position where we can talk about Mark Driscoll's ministry in the Seattle area in the past tense because of Dan Savage's joke that Lindy West and others took to be actual reportage. 

For some reason not too many people zeroed in on the weirdest part, where Mark Driscoll wrote "Most pastors I know ... ."  Assuming this wasn't simple exaggeration for the sake of rhetorical effect (though that's most probable), Driscoll's ramble invites us to take for granted that most pastors he knew circa 2006 he proceeded, at some point, to interrogate on the level of satisfaction and/or frequency with which they engaged in sexual intercourse.  This was the same Mark Driscoll who would later, in 2008, lament that certain demonic busy-body women had to know everything about what everybody was doing in church settings.

Mark Driscoll would eventually explicate the weirdness in Real Marriage, a little, by explaining how many young women expressed frustration to him about being sexually ravenous when they felt they needed to wait for marriage while Driscoll would resentfully go home to his "fearful and frigid wife".  We've discussed that at length here, obviously.  The point of mentioning that again is not to make the Driscolls (who, we can be relatively certain don't read this blog if ever they did before) feel awkward.  The point is to highlight (again) that what Mark Driscoll actually said was weird enough without progressives retroactively imagining he said or did something they will never be able to prove based on any evidence at all.

The reason this matters is not necessarily "just" because it's the tenth anniversary of Mark Driscoll having opted to sound off ill-advisedly about Haggard.

Remember that Rolling Stone story from a while back?  The one about an alleged rape at a university campus?

Not that this blog is really all "that" widely read but if there "are" progressives reading, bear this in mind, contempt for Driscoll was so essential to the development and presentation of his persona that the worst possible thing was to run on the assumption that he ever actually said anything about Gayle Haggard.  When that sort of stuff happens it becomes what Jacques Ellul described as "counterpropaganda", where what you meant to be propaganda (all propaganda, Ellul noted, tends to actually be obsessed with being as factually, technically accurate as it can be) boomerangs and makes "you" look stupid rather than the intended subject.

That was kind of what happened with how progressives handled Driscoll's ill-advised sound-off on things Haggard.  Even if people could entertain reasonable doubts as to what extent Mark Driscoll was a defender of women (which ones, for instance, and under what circumstances?) running on unverified assumptions were apt to harden the resolve of Mark Driscoll's advocates to say that he was misrepresented and/or misquoted as though he said something he never said.

In this, one of the more notorious "he said what?" cases, the progressives were demonstrably, ostentatiously wrong. 

Nobody should wonder that much why this year's election cycle is the travesty of mutual contempt that it has been (though it's hard to imagine why anyone should be surprised at this point). 

Years ago Christopher Hitchens made a remark to the effect that he didn't expect religious zealots to stop being religious zealots but he held it as a fault in the religious moderates that they did so little to address the negative actions of the zealots.  That's stuck with me.  It seems like more than just a fair point.  I began to slowly resolve that if it were in my power and ability to be a religious moderate who did something to address the problems of a zealous control freak that I would try to actually do something, whatever was legally and journalistically possible to do ... if the occasion came up.

So there was that ...

It may be there's not too much more to write about in the history of all this stuff (may it be so!).  Or perhaps other people can tackle those things but today being an anniversary ... and that anniversary coming after what would have been the 20th anniversary of Mars Hill if there still were a Mars Hill ... it seemed a night to consider the failures of the press and public both left and right.  We can't learn from our past mistakes if we never concede even the possibility that we made any.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

five haiku

there are only two
kinds of humor in the world:
laughing with, and at

the jokes that we tell
reveal the variety and
depth of our vices

pity the joker
who finally wants to be
heard seriously

no one is more fake
than the person obsessed with

the males who most want
to reproduce seem to be
the ones who shouldn't.