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 to 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.


Steve Densley said...

Connor would do well to reexamine one of his basic assumptions: that the Church PR Department does not actually speak for the Church. For a discussion of this incorrect assumption, see here: http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_prophets/Church_Public_affairs_does_not_represent_the_Church

Morgan Deane said...

Good point Steve. I haven't read the FAIR article on it, but I've read similar items from other places. Great link.

Michael W. Towns, Sr. said...

Morgan, I enjoy your site. I pretty much agree with your criticisms of Connor Boyack.

I purchased your book and am enjoying it so far. Please keep fighting the good fight!

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I especially appreciate your buying my book. I think I have a quality product, but I'm a historian and not a marketer, so my sales have been frustrating so far.

Unknown said...

Steve, having seen the inner workings of church PR, things are not as clean as the FAIR article claims. If Boyack is correct, and there is a conflict between Elder Nelson's talk and PR, it is not clear to me which trumps either from a doctrinal or a practical standpoint. If he is wrong, the FAIR article assumes a sanitized PR process in a world of not conflicts. And Morgan, there is war in your tone, word choice and delivery. Perhaps a little more Pahoran-like correspondence and less Moroni-like correspondence would help.