Showing posts with label current events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label current events. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Peace, PR Statements, and Connor Boyack Attacks


Connor Boyack is a computer programmer and frequent political commenter in the state of Utah. I’ve previously critiqued his fallacious and unsound positions. In this article Boyack incorrectly attacks the church's PR statement based on the bias produced by his political leaning. This causes him, among other things, to sound an uncertain trumpet, seemingly sets himself as the church spokesmen, and violate Godwin’s Law.  (All quotes from Boyack's article)

“The events of 9/11 served as a catalyst for the neocolonial interventionist power brokers in government to advance their agenda.”

Radical libertarians have had many years to perfect their anti-Bush screeds, I’m fairly educated but I have little idea what this gobbledy gook means. I'm a big fan of using plain English with as few specialized terms and jargon as possible. This helps you stay clear and concise while being accessible not non specialists.  Jargon like this actually obscures more than it clarifies.  To borrow a phrase from scriptures about the importance of clarity, “if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?" First Corinthians 14:18-9  Ironically, the subject of Boyack’s attacks is the church PR statement and editorial in the church paper that clarified a talk from Elder Nelson.  I tend to think that God’s church has a right to clarify its statements, especially in a time of 24 hour news cycles and internet echo chambers that didn’t exist in Christ’s day. 

“The Church was quick to respond—perhaps anticipating a PR nightmare like the one that happened just five months later to the Dixie Chicks.”

Here Boyack mind reads.  As I stated above, most likely the church didn’t want false or misleading information to be spread about the church. Given that the church just recently invited a PR nightmare by excommunicating Kate Kelly and possible John Dehlin and Rock Waterman; and they faced massive protests, vandalism, and even anthrax scares at the temples over the marriage proposition in California, I don’t think the church is worried about a little blowback.  Instead, I think Boyack is projecting his interpretation onto the church to advance his political agenda at the expense of appointed church spokesmen.  

“I can’t help but feel that this was a missed opportunity to boldly stand on some of the most important doctrine we have.  Did Jesus back down when challenged? Charged with blasphemy—a “crime” for which capital punishment was mandated—the high priest demanded of him, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus’ response: “I am.” There was no mincing words here, nor walking back of Christ’s claims.”

Here Boyack is claiming to interpret what Jesus would do…for Christ’s chosen mouth pieces on this Earth.  While every member should be an active thinker that tries to faithfully apply the Spirit in their lives, I find this interpretation by Boyack rather unseemly, and an attempt to place himself ahead of the prophets and appointed church personnel that issued the clarifying statements.  As I stated above, I trust the appointed church spokesmen to sound the trumpet more than radical libertarians that claim that honor for themselves.  While many might complain that PR statements are not “official” doctrine, I happen to think that church newspapers and church issues are fairly authoritative, and that I don’t get to pick and choose which ideas I like (let alone insert what I would say instead) based on my political leanings as though I’m at a buffet.

“Of course, this was merely a successful implementation of a long-known strategy perhaps summed up best by Hermann Goering, one of the highest ranking Nazis who survived the war and who was well versed in propaganda. The people ‘can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders,’ he remarked. ‘That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.’”

No radical libertarian screed is complete with the violation of Godwin's Law.  To show how shallow this comparison is I want to briefly compare the leadership of Bush and Obama.  Sometimes a good leader has to drag the country along with them. They have to use their bully pulpit (a phrase first inspired by Teddy Roosevelt and his dynamic use of the presidency to accomplish his agenda), to change public opinion.  Bush did so. He presented evidence (though maligned by critics it was a fair assessment agreed upon by Clinton and British officials).  And he got authorization for the use of force from Congress. Obama on the other hand, leads from behind.  He makes tough sounding statements about red lines or bringing people to justice, even as dictators ignore those lines or those escaping justice live out in the open.  So instead of comparing Bush’s case for war to Nazi propaganda, you could simply call it leadership from a man that tried to convince the country of what he knew was just and necessary.  Of course many people have different interpretations and assessments of Bush's actions, but to immediately jump to Nazi propaganda is fallacious and insulting.

 “I suppose what I’m saying is that rather than shying away from the substance of what Elder Nelson said, it would have been great if the PR department doubled down, positioning Christ’s church as the leading voice of peace amid a cacophony of conspiring warmongers.”

This is heart of Boyack’s message. He may think he is sounding like a great peace advocate.  Yet I believe this reveals his duplicity. In fact, as I was reading my previous post on the matter, I think my analysis completely applies here. As I stated in September of 2012:

“A short time ago I wrote about the duplicity [in a different article than above] of the antiwar critic. I argued that when the prophet agrees with their political views the critics mistakenly attach too much weight to that statement. Then they use those words as a cudgel with which to beat their opponents. When a prophet does not agree with them, they use various qualifiers to negate their words. These include things such as speaking as a man, speaking under the cultural influence of the day, or simply giving their non-binding opinion. While this sounds disrespectful towards a prophet, the last reason is actually the correct one as outlined by the church. So critics proof text their favorite quotes which agree with their political leanings, and then apply an inappropriate amount of weight to them. They take their cherry picked arguments and beat their opponents over the head with them. And they cast aside their words when they don't."
 
I think we see that here. Boyack latched onto Nelson’s words because they fit his political agenda. Then he castigates approved means of church communications which places Nelson’s talk within the context of Mormon doctrine, both of which support just wars.  This is supremely ironic, because Nelson talked about renouncing war and proclaiming peace. In order to advance his agenda, Boayck lobbed grenades towards everything from the Deseret News to this author, by indirectly calling them Nazis, cowardly, and un Christ like (not to mention his use of Gadianton Robbers to describe his opponents elsewhere.)  I think if we were to start applying Elder Nelson's talk, we could start with our political discourse. I would add, we could also place more trust in the words of our leaders, even when it disagrees with our deeply held political beliefs.  And it doesn't take a PR statement to understand and apply those ideas.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Disarming Kimball's War Talk

The recent issue of the Ensign reprints Kimball's famous, or infamous, talk called the False Gods We Worship . I added the infamous because this talk has usually been the sledge hammer with which anti war opponents use to beat their opponents.  I'm left in the awkward, and somewhat annoying position of explaining how I can be a faithful member of the church and yet "go against" the prophet's council. But challenges to my ideas help me clarify them. So I've discussed the proper role of a prophets words and their non binding nature here and here.  I also used the same principles to critique The Butcher's Apostle, J. Reuben Clark. 

So needless to say I wasn't surprised when modern church leaders edited out his comments about war.  You can find more possible reasons at the blog,  Faith Promoting Rumor.  I don't know if this means that modern church leaders are more pro war or not, or if they necessarily disagree with Kimball, or if they just edited for space or because of their desire to highlight the other part of his message.  But I am extremely glad they have reduced the ammunition of anti war critics who inappropriately use the words of prophets to bolster their arguments.    

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On the Apology

So it seems there was a particularly vituperative post on the Town Hall website. Criminologist Mike Adams responded to a letter from a Mormon who objected to his description of Mormons as unchristian.  He did so with a rather insincere apology.  There are several great responses already here and here but  I wanted to address a couple points that he made that were particularly egregious.

After implying that a one time reading of The Book of Mormon makes him an expert he says:

I am also sorry that while archaeological discovery supports the claims of the Bible it clearly does not support the claims of the Book of Mormon. Battles that were supposed to have occurred in specific locations in North America simply never took place. The archaeological evidence just isn't there.

I'm amazed at how many errors he can commit in so few sentences.  It is tough to believe his claim that archeology supports the Bible. There is no evidence to support the account found in Exodus for example, and there is as much evidence for King David of the Bible as there is for Nahom in The Book of Mormon.  He may be assuming that evidence of cities located in the Bible such as Babylon and Jerusalem constitute support.  But the existence of cities hardly proves the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (Nor for that matter does pottery shards or remnants of battles, so this is an oddly secular part of his argument.)

But his statement about battles is even worse.   There are no specific locations mentioned for these battles and the closest to a specific location is the Hill Cumorah.  But the one named in New York is not necessarily the location of the battle. (I always remind critics how I served in both Rome and Paris...Texas, I visited my doctor that lived in Glasgow...Virginia, and I enjoy travelling to Athens...Georgia. I also applied for a teaching position in Moscow...Idaho.  It is pretty easy for one term to be used for two locations, especially when Smith got the plates from that hill.)    In fact, most scholars and scholarship put the location of Book of Mormon lands in Mesoamerica.  Of course Mike Adams would know this if he read The Book of Mormon more than once over half a dozen years ago; and if he bothered to research any of the relevant secondary scholarship.

 As with other issues, this obscurity about the locations of battles puts The Book of Mormon in good historical company.  Even some of the most studied battles in the world such as Hastings or Teutoburg Forest still have uncertain locations.  In fact, it is only recently that the lost army was found.

Thus in this short paragraph, Adams shows that he has little grasp of Mormon studies, basic archaeological issues, and the intersection of faith and evidence. This is indicative of the rest of his apology; these are complicated issues but his insincere and bitter response forfeit whatever benefit of the doubt I would give him. And that is sorry. I highly recommend that he study these issues more in depth and he can start with a copy of my upcoming book.    

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Time of War, A Time of Peace

I found a great write up of a recent conference held by the LDS Society of National Security Practitioners.  I'm a bit frustrated I missed it.  This is something about which I've discussed in the past and I contributed a chapter to the recent volume on war and peace. I've been rather busy trying to gain entrance to the War Studies Program at Kings College London and securing funding for that, so it is likely I would have been too busy to prepare something anyway.  (Though from the summaries it looks like many people simply repeated their presentations from the Claremont conference.)   I suppose I can always try again in ten years.   :) 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cloak and Dagger Research: The Greg Smith "Hit Piece"

I just concluded a long, intriguing, and sad read here.  This is the infamous "hit piece" written by Greg Smith about the podcast of Mormon Stories.  Shortly after this piece was pulled from publication the director the Maxwell Institute fired Daniel Peterson and others as editors of the Mormon Studies Review.  This was considered the end of FARMS, and I linked to it previously. 

I thought the article itself was good, especially the part about the Micheal Coe interview. This is mostly because I listened to that podcast, had the same impressions as Smith, and I may have inspired his parenthetical thought about how Coe didn't know about chiasmus and Dehlin had to google it in the middle of the interview. (See page 28 of Smith's article and compare to comment 46 from me.) I don't understand the hyperbolic reaction to it, and didn't see it as a "hit piece" filled with ad hominem attacks; though it was certainly critical of Dehlin.

The second article discussed the timeline and facts surrounding the suppression of his piece, and the rather intense politics associated with the direction of the review and their termination.  Ironically enough, it made me rather sad.  I research and write about The Book of Mormon because I love it.  It pains me to think my research might have entered me into some sort of gladiator pit match with other Mormons in academia.  So Smith's article described the kind of fighting that comes from the cutthroat world of academic politics, and recalled the vicious cloak and dagger  stories from The Book of Mormon.  It also made me kind of grateful I'm not yet important enough to have to avoid getting shanked by academic politics. In short, being invisible sometimes feels better than being stabbed. I'm relatively anonymous enough to go about my work and I feel blessed to have avoided a great deal of controversy in my career so far. I'm thankful for the opportunity to share my research, and to have your readership.      

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Duplicitous Anti War Critic

A short time ago I wrote about the duplicticty of the anti war critic. I argued that when the prophet agrees with their political views the critics mistakenly attach too much weight to that statement. Then they use those words as a cudgel with which to beat their opponents. When a prophet does not agree with them, they use various qualifiers to negate their words. These include things such as speaking as a man, speaking under the cultural influence of the day, or simply giving their non binding opinion. While this sounds disrespectful towards a prophet, the last reason is actually the correct one as outlined by the church. So critics proof text their favorite quotes which agree with their political leanings, and then apply an inappropriate amount of weight to them. They take their cherry picked arguments and beat their opponents over the head with them. And they cast aside their words when they don't.

With this summary you should be able to gather why I disagree with large parts of this interview here. Boyack sponsored a billboard called war like people. This is a classic example of cherry picking non binding quotes to support a political agenda.

But in the interview Boyack also makes it clear in answering question 9, and in comment 7, that he uses prophet's words that support his viewpoints, and ignores those that don't. This is a classic example of the duplicity of the anti war critic. (I would add that he ignores the upstream sources for doctrine in the scriptures and especially The Book of Mormon.) Church doctrine resides in the scriptures, and official proclamations. Statements outside of that are well considered opinions and not binding on the church, especially political opponents.

I don't begrudge Boyack a book or two. Even Snooki wrote a book so its not the end of civilization. But Boyack wants the freedom to ignore church council based on "circumstantial" statements, but then sees the need to cherry pick quotes in his warlike site, and in his foreign policy views and books, so he can then castigate those with whome he disagrees.

While Boyack is simply the most current example, this happens all the time. So I will summarize my feelings on the matter below:

1. I feel it is inappropriate to prooftext a prophet's words to support your political position. Anti mormons use Brigham Young quotes to say all sorts of things that don't represent Mormon doctrine. Yet anti war quotes get a different treatment from some people. Randi Bott used words from past prophets and was soundly censored by the church. President Kimball said:"Please avoid, even by implication, involving the Church in political issues. It is so easy, if we are not careful, to project our personal preferences as the position of the Church on an issue.”

2. It is even more inappropriate to question the spirituality of those that disagree with your prooftexted position. (I call people wrong all the time, but I've never called anybody names or personally attacked them. Although Geoff B. at the Millennial Star is sure tempting me.)

3. The problem is compounded because the church has clearly specified where doctrine comes from; it is not from a smattering of talks from past pacifist prophets.

4. The prophets have, at the very least, contradictory positions on warfare. So what ends up occurring is something I call "prophet bashing", where people take their various prooftexted positions and proceed to beat each other the head with them. (I borrow the term from "bible bashing" that occurs so frequently on a mission.) So you have people who take the GAs that agree with them, like Clark from the 30s and 40s, while explaining away those that don't, such as Hinckley from 2003, and vice versa. I feel this is not a behavior that loving Latter Day Saints should use against their brothers and sisters in the gospel. Again, it is extremely inappropriate to declare a position buttressed by your reading of non doctrinal texts to browbeat and label your opponents as unrighteous.

5. Since the standard works proclaim doctrine and isolated talks do not, I focus on the former. It is a major reason why I have a website devoted to the study of the warfare in The Book of Mormon.

Thanks for reading. Some of you may wonder why I spend so much time rebutting radical libertarians. Most of whom you have probably never heard from and it might seem like I have an ax to grind against them. As a historian I understand how difficult it is to combat mistaken historical ideas that become popular knowledge. The Church is especially prone to this because of the respect and reverence we have for the prophet's words. So it is extremely easy for loud people active around the web to assert what the prophets have supposedly said to support their positions.

It is one thing to cherry pick prophets to support your political position, but their analysis of history is even more wrong.(See here and here for two examples.) And then, instead of simply being doubly wrong, they viciously attack the historical knowledge and spirituality of people who might disagree with them. So I'm insulted in every possible way by these people on a regular basis and feel obligated to set the record straight. Since military history is my wheelhouse, it is also like shooting fish in a barrel.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Die With Your Boots On

Like many across America I've been saddened by the recent news in Colorado. In particular I've been touched by the many people that died protecting their loved ones. But something bugged me about it as well. I don't take away any respect for those brave people who died protecting those closest to them. I don't think there is anything more that a women can ask than to be willingly protected without hesitation in a moment of crisis with their man's life.  But I am angry that they were turned into such passive helpless victims, who didn't have to die.

  The first tragedy is that evil like this exists and mental health professionals or law enforcement officials were not able to catch him before he went this far. (Breaking news as I write this post suggests that a University of Colorado psychiatrist received a notebook detailing the plans but it got lost in the mail room. How tragic!) But there is something more than that. It finally struck me when I listened to a song by Iron Maiden called: Die with your boots on. Dying while trying to protect your girlfriend or child is honorable. I can't help but think how many of them would have rather died while protecting their loved ones by facing their attacker with a gun of their own.

We don't know what could have happened because citizens were denied their second amendment rights. The theater was a "safe zone" which forbid guns. That simply made the theater goers easier targets for their shooter. Armed and trained citizens acting in the moment of attack, are much more likely to save lives than armed and trained citizens arriving minutes later. There could have been a gun owner within five feet of the attacker, or fifty feet away. That gun owner could have had a clear shot, or never had one. For example, one witness described how he ducked down and actually felt the spent rounds land on him as the attacker shot other people. So this person, literally, had a point blank shot at the attacker as he was distracted...if he was armed.

Some people argue that this man was too armored, and had too big of an advantage for one defensive shooter to have an effect. But every concealed permit I know of requires training. A trained person could hit the head, and even an untrained shooter could hit if they were close enough to feel the spent shells fall on them. Barring that there is a chance of hitting an unprotected limb. If the defender did hit armor, bullets bouncing off of it would draw the attention of the shooter. Depending on the calibre of the weapon, it would also knock him down, or even bruise a rib. The ensuing firefight, even if one sided between a handgun and an armored man with an assault rifle, would draw his attention and allow others to escape.

Plus, there is a psychology advantage in disrupting the attacker. Most mass shooters are cowards who enjoy the power and pleasure brought by shooting helpless, surprised people and hearing their screams. They have a preplanned scenario of helpless victims running from him as he shoots fish in a barrel. A disruption of that mental narrative by fighting back, especially with another gun, would have shaken the gunmen. Since most of these crazy gunmen are not trained marksmen, while people with their concealed permits are, combined with their defying the preplanned scenario in the attackers' head, would have given the defender a good chance of striking the attacker first. And saved lives. Keep in mind that there were several military personal in the audience, so there is an even greater chance that their marksmanship would have been superior to the attackers. And they would have been trained in how to operate in tear gassed environments.

I have personal experience with the theory that calls for a counterattack against a mass shooter. My stepfather was personally involved in a mass shooting. Unlike the the Fort Hood shooting, only one person died. A group of unarmed special forces, including my step father, charged the attacker immediately after he started firing. They chased him down through the forest in a one sided firefight and captured him. They saved at least a dozen lives, and I have grown up without my step father because of it. But I am proud of my step father for dying with his boots on. Even unarmed, they subdued the attacker and saved lives.

The lesson we should learn, is that citizens are far safer when they are allowed to exercise their second amendment rights. They don't have to act like special forces. But they already showed their willingness to act with bravery and heroism, they could have been much more effective in those efforts if they were armed. There were many heroes in this tragedy who could have gone on to lead full and productive lives. But instead they were reduced to being human shields for their loved ones. They could have had a much better chance of subduing the attacker and saving the lives of their loved ones, but also their own lives, and prevented the deaths of other victims, if they were allowed to arm themselves. In short, these heroes were denied a chance to die with their boots on.

Here is the video: