The exposés of Good Fight Ministries seem like a useful example because they are a-political and nonpartisan. They're crazy in a way that is neither Democratic nor Republican and so we can use them as a source of light without quite so much heat.
What we find in those exposés are a host of untrue statements. The videos on Good Fight Theater — all narrated by Breathless Stoner Dude — present a barrage of falsehoods and bogus claims. Some of those claims seem to stem from a kind of innocent stupidity, others seem like something else.
We can categorize Good Fight Ministries' craziness into several broad categories.
1. Mostly innocent.
The GooFi folks seem to accept every marketing claim or posture at face value. A band trying to drum up free publicity by posing as "Satanists" using ridiculous imagery lifted from old Vincent Price movies will be assumed, by GooFi, to be revealing the truth about itself. GooFi and the BSD won't hesitate to accept that members of some heavy metal band participate in a Black Mass, but it would never occur to them that the same band might be lying to sell records.
I think this traces back to the illiteralism of GooFi's biblical fundamentalist hermeneutic which teaches, among other things, that all narrators are reliable and trustworthy. That doesn't serve one well if one is listening to a song such as, for example, "Sympathy for the Devil." (One can only guess what these folks would make of a novel like Lolita.)
The illiterate credulity of this interpretive framework also means that, as a rule, irony eludes them. Based on the way GooFi interprets the lyrics of the songs they discuss in their video exposés, we can guess that they would also conclude that Elvis Costello is genuinely just about glad we didn't do that thing, that John Waite emphatically ain't missing you at all, and that the members of 10cc, most certainly, are not in love.
Much of what we find in the GooFi videos, then, seems to have started with people who don't know how to tell what a song means trying to tell us what songs mean. If they hadn't gone any further, we might regard such misinterpretations and misconstruals as innocent mistakes. But of course they do go much further, straining and eventually demolishing any such innocent explanation.
More generally, their misapprehensions all go in the same direction, reflecting their predisposition or desire to find supposed evidence of Satan's hand at work in other people. The choice to view others in this way relies on a presumption or prejudice about oneself and about others that cannot be traced back to a place of real innocence.
It's possible for any of us to misapprehend something and to maintain that initial misreading for years if we never again encounter or engage the subject of our mistake. But the more exposure and experience we have with the subject of that mistake, the harder it becomes to maintain the original misconception without our actively doing just that — maintaining it.
Maintaining such misconceptions in the face of uncooperative reality requires us to start filtering what we are willing to look at, to see or to acknowledge. We have to start pretending not to see all of the counter-evidence confronting us at every turn. We have to start valuing and protecting the misconception above reality itself, altering what we say about that reality to ourselves and to others. To be that deeply engaged in maintaining the misconception doesn't strike me as naively innocent behavior.
"This American Life" did an episode on innocent misconceptions that included a segment on words we initially pronounce wrong in our heads until we finally hear them spoken out loud. Quite a few people admitted to being led amiss by the word misled, initially taking it for the past tense of the verb "to misle." And once your brain latches on to that pronunciation, that's how you'll think of it — MYZE uld. The TAL segment did a good job illustrating the embarrassing epiphany of those who, eventually — sometimes after many years — heard someone else say miss-led and suddenly realized, Ohhhh. Of course. Oops.
Such epiphanies are more difficult if you're more invested in your initial mistake — emotionally, philosophically, even spiritually invested in it. If your whole concept of who you are and how the world works is tied up in pronouncing the word MYZE-uld then you can't just abandon doing so after hearing it properly said. You wouldn't be eager to correct your error, but instead would fight to defend it. Soon you'd be shunning dictionaries and public radio and anyone else who might employ the threatening proper use of the term. The sheer number of things you'd have to avoid would require some explanation, so you'd cling to the notion of a vast conspiracy of evil mislers out there trying to misle you away from the true path. You'd need to construct a massive and increasingly implausible cognitive structure to buttress your initial mistake, and the bigger that structure grew, the harder it would be for you to pretend it isn't there.
The maintenance of that structure takes conscious effort. That consciousness and that effort both contradict the claim that this is any longer just an "innocent mistake." Such conscious effort makes what might have started as mostly innocent mistakes suspect. And further conscious effort can push them into the next category …
3. Mostly malicious.
Much of what we find in GooFi's exposés seems to be deliberate, intentional misrepresentation. Some of this stuff they've simply invented and it's difficult to imagine how such fabrications could be accidental or inadvertent. The BSD says many things he has to know cannot be true, and he twists many things to suggest that they mean what they cannot mean.
The rationalization for this, I'm guessing, is that a little white lie is justified if you're doing battle with Satan. This ends-justifies-the-means approach only works in this case if you don't allow yourself to think about it very long. Give it more than a moment's thought and you'll have to concede that you can't falsely accuse someone of being in league with Satan just because, if they were in league with Satan, then it'd be OK to say false things about them. It comes down to a variation of this:
"He tortures bunny rabbits."
"You know that's not true."
"Maybe not, but what's a little dishonesty compared to torturing bunny rabbits?"
And that's never terribly convincing.
But so anyway, I wanted to look at more of the specifics of GooFi's U2 video, and also at their delightfully weird Robert Johnson video (they treat the Crossroads legend as objective history, not as folklore) and instead wound up taking a detour into far less amusing abstractions. Sorry about that. We'll have to get back to some of those videos tomorrow.