GooFi videos

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.

2. Suspect.

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.

  • hapax

    Catching up:
    MadGastronomer, thank’ee kindly for that lucid explanation. I don’t think you told me anything that was new, exactly, but I don’t recall ever seeing it laid out so comprehensively and concisely. I suspect you’ve done this before ;-)
    Lori: forgive me for offering internet advice, but I’ve had to give up running because of physical problems, too. If you have handy access, might I suggest slow-motion running in a swimming pool? The calorie burn isn’t nearly as effective, but the focus on slow, precise movements are a great meditation aid, and the stress on knees and feet much less.
    @lonespark: I assure you, most university professors — even full professors — don’t make as much as people think they do, outside of medical schools and football programs.

  • lonespark

    Right. The professors at my school didn’t make that much. It was a very respected school, but a state school in a low-population, poor state. Fortunately for them, the cost of living was very low.

  • Lori

    forgive me for offering internet advice, but I’ve had to give up running because of physical problems, too. If you have handy access, might I suggest slow-motion running in a swimming pool? The calorie burn isn’t nearly as effective, but the focus on slow, precise movements are a great meditation aid, and the stress on knees and feet much less.

    Sadly, no access to a pool that isn’t filled with undergrads. Can’t deal with that.
    My problem is that I overdid it and aggravated an old injury, which was itself caused by overdoing it. I’ve also gained some weight which is an issue. I’ve been doing my old PT exercises to strengthen the muscles on either side of my knee and trying to stop stress eating. If I’m diligent I’ll be able to run again soon.

  • MadGastronomer

    Well, MG, that’s why I said consider going, not just go. But I think the whole personal-vs.-general confusion is making it a really stupid exercise.

    Of course you did. Sorry, I hadn’t been to bed yet when last I posted. It makes much more sense when I actually read all the words.

    The other thing is I’ve never before had a conversation with an atheist who was maintaining across the board that belief in things that aren’t objectively true is bad. It just seems like that’s contending that the way the human mind works is bad. Usually the converstion revolves around reasons why religious beliefs are specifically bad while other kinds of normative beliefs are neutral and have good and bad examples, which I still don’t agree with but seems to at least acknowledge the huge amount of subjective things we all hang our hats on to be the people we are.

    Have you had the conversation where they start insisting that all fables, folktales AND myths are bad, because they’re LIES? I love that one! Then I get to point out that, in fact, humans are the only animal we know of that makes up stories in this way, so it’s actually a defining feature of what makes us human. I first got to have that one when I decided to check out my local UU church years ago in Florida, and juuuust happened to turn up on a day when a RTA from the fellowship was speaking instead of their pastor. His speech was particularly easy to poke holes in, so when time was given for the fellowship to ask questions, up I stood. Funny, I got an awful lot of people coming up afterwards asking me to please come back sometime — more than I usually get when visiting a new church.
    I believe that barney comes from Cockney rhyming slang, wherein barney=Barney Rubble=trouble. Don’t you people watch Guy Ritchie movies? Or even the newer Ocean’s Eleven?

    MadGastronomer, thank’ee kindly for that lucid explanation. I don’t think you told me anything that was new, exactly, but I don’t recall ever seeing it laid out so comprehensively and concisely. I suspect you’ve done this before ;-)

    Once or twice. And, I must admit, that version was a bit briefer than I am often prone to giving. I didn’t even get into how Schrodinger’s Cat (well, really the Copenhagen Interpretation, but more people have heard of the cat) demonstrates that humans can alter reality non-physically. And you’re welcome. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

  • lonespark

    Sadly, no access to a pool that isn’t filled with undergrads.
    That’s fun in my imagination.

  • lonespark

    Ahahaha, MG, I remember that story.
    And I know I have told my own UU RTA story, about the book group with atheist parents who wanted us to know that SANTA CLAUS IS A LIE! And when they found out about him they felt so betrayed! At least I got a Toastmasters speech out of that.

  • Lori

    Sadly, no access to a pool that isn’t filled with undergrads.
    That’s fun in my imagination.

    No, the sad thing is that it’s not actually fun IRL.

  • Ruby

    Catching up with everything…
    Jason: I do many of those things. They still seem like a pretty inconsequential drop in the bucket kind of like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. I do them but I only feel like I am marginally helping the situation if I am helping at all.
    Well, not to be too trite with a feel-good message, but enough drops and the bucket is full. Generally, problems such as you outlined must be solved by many people working together.
    You seem to think that I am against learning things because I am religion. Why do you think just because I am religious I don’t care to learn more about science and how the world works?
    I was responding to the specific statement that nature seems too complicated to exist without a creator. That was a very specific proposition, made by you, and I was not impugning your general appetite for knowledge.
    Science has not yet “proved” God doesn’t exist. When that day comes, I will say “ok, Ruby, you were right and I was wrong.”
    You want to prove a negative? The position that God exists is the affirmative one. As such, it is incumbent upon believers to show that the statement is true, not on nonbelievers to disprove it. By this token, should I assume that science has “disproven” the thousands of other gods man has ever worshipped?
    I think I am done with this conversation because we can go back and forth forever without it doing either of us any good. However statements you’ve made earlier in this discussion regarding the purpose of prayer, whether trying to be more Christlikes sets one up to be a constant failure and several other things that do show that you don’t have a fundamental understanding of how faith words or its purpose. I stand by the fact that you don’t understand based on what you have said so far.
    No, it shows that I have a fundamental disagreement with you. That is not a misunderstanding of faith.

  • Ruby

    L. David Wheeler: For instance, Ruby’s basic point is that, to her — and please correct me if I mischaracterize you, Ruby — she finds that while religion may have positive effects on/outcomes in people’s lives, it also has negative effects/outcomes; and that by and large the negative outweighs the positive. And she’s illustrated several examples — and, since you’ve offered your own experiences as an argument, she’s illustrated them from your own descriptions. That’s fair. I disagree with Ruby — though conceding that *for some people* the negatives *do* outweigh the positives, but that I can’t say how much of that is due to the beliefs and how much is due to personality, environment, etc., nor how these factors can indeed be isolated. I disagree with her — and I am, as I’ve stated before, a Christian who considers my faith as important to me as you, Jason, no doubt do to you — but I’m not offended. I’m not angered. I’m not frustrated.
    Nope, you didn’t mischaracterize my points at all, thankies!

  • penny

    What do I get for going to work all day? 4 Pages of comments and you all already answering Lori’s question to me and having a whole other debate I’m staying out of.
    Lori: do you know the exact percentages for social workers quitting? It’s like 50% of teachers leaving in the first 5 years now, so I’m curious if it’s similar.
    Also, re no “Social Workers for America”: GOOD. I am vehemently NOT a fan of TFA. There’s a lot of reasons, but basically it boils down to “let’s fix urban schools by putting in under-trained naive volunteers who only have to stay for 2 years, aren’t we such nice people?” No. I think regular, fully-trained teachers aren’t getting enough support in their first couple of years, why would I want that?
    Caravelle: The “my generation is like this” bit of the article annoyed me. I’m about the same age as her (I’m going into my fifth year of teaching) and that’s certainly not how I see myself. Overall, though, I get the impression that she and I move in completely different circles. Most people I know don’t disparage my choice of profession like that. They might think I’m crazy and they could never do it, but they don’t assume that I should’ve been a doctor or lawyer just because I’m smart and well-educated.
    Leum: Yeah, the micromanagement is a serious issue. There’s all this research on what good education is like, and then there’s what you’re expected to do to get them to pass a test of questionable value. My husband keeps telling me to teach private school, it’ll be better there, but I just can’t. Decent public schools is such an important thing to me, I can’t abandon ship. Luckily, my kids test scores keep improving, so admins leave me be for the most part. (High school is also less micromanaged than elementary school, generally.)
    Re pay — ummm, around here, everyone who teaches in my district is on the same pay scale, elementary or high school. I think elementary principals get less than high school, though. Anyway, I always figured the pay thing was about half status (as someone pointed out, partly due to it being a trad. feminine job) and half practicality. We lost people in our building due to budget cuts as it is this year. (And then enrollment went up more than they expected! whee, large inclusion classes! I love my job! )

  • Lori

    @penny: Social work retention is not as bad as it is for teachers. Most figures that I’ve seen say that about 20-30% of social workers leave after 5 years or less.
    How is the retention rate for teachers who stay longer than 5 years? I know that for social work the rate continues to be pretty bad. So, the problem isn’t merely a reflection of people who aren’t really suited to the profession (like me) or didn’t understand what they were getting into.
    When I mentioned TFA it wasn’t meant as an endorsement. I was just using it because it indicates that people think of teaching as being important or noble and worth promoting and that they’re aware that the teacher shortage is a serious problem. No one seems to feel that way about social work.
    None of which is intended to set up a misery-off between teachers and social workers.

  • MadGastronomer

    The position that God exists is the affirmative one. As such, it is incumbent upon believers to show that the statement is true, not on nonbelievers to disprove it. By this token, should I assume that science has “disproven” the thousands of other gods man has ever worshipped?

    Since he’s not trying to convince you that his God does exist, why does he need to prove it? He’s satisfied of the existence of his God, that’s enough for him. Why do some atheists keep telling us we have to prove the existence of gods, when we’re not trying to convince them of it?

  • Tonio

    Why do some atheists keep telling us we have to prove the existence of gods, when we’re not trying to convince them of it?
    I’m not an atheist but I’ll answer…because such beliefs are about everyone, not just the believer. From my standpoint, that belief is a belief about MY origins. Unless the gods in question are not creators.
    Then why do you keep ignoring the concept definition? Why treat one as a hypothesis but not the other?
    Because concepts wouldn’t exist if humans didn’t exist – they are mental artifacts. If gods exist as living beings with sentience, then they would have an existence apart from the human mind.
    Except that if you could “run into” a god, then you’d be able to demonstrate his or her concrete, objective existence, and we’ve already established that you can’t.
    That wouldn’t be precisely true if “running into” a god costs me my life or my soul. That’s the dilemma of RTC versus Real True Islam – one asserts hell for not believing in Jesus’ divinity and the other asserts hell for believing in it. There’s no way to test either claim during one’s life.
    I cannot help but get the impression that at least part of the reason you keep insisting on discussing the object definition is that you couldn’t keep arguing about it if you accepted, even provisionally, the subjective definition.
    That’s not the reason at all. The reason is that I cannot discount any possibility, including the possibility that believers have knowledge that I don’t have. Even treating others’ beliefs as beliefs implies that these don’t qualify as knowledge, and I have no basis for saying that these aren’t knowledge. I’ve run into many believers who seem so confident and certain about their gods that their beliefs seem indistinguishable from knowledge.
    Put another way, I cannot say that gods are a subjective matter because I don’t have the knowledge to make such a statement. Even saying that gods are a normative concept is a positive assertion.

  • penny

    @Lori: I don’t know about the long-term rates for teachers — doesn’t get publicized like the 5 year figure does.
    I figured you weren’t trying to one-up. I think maybe the reason people are more aware/do more about the teacher shortage issue has to do with exposure: everybody’s been to school and had plenty of teachers, so it’s an issue people are familiar with. Although many people deal with social workers, certainly not everyone, so people are more likely to be blind to the issues. Schools get all the publicity, too, of course.
    I do think the system drives off people who could be good teachers in a different situation, and actively encourages mediocrity in current teachers who could be better. Did you see a lot of systemic issues being what drove people off from social work?

  • Ruby

    MadGastronomer: Since he’s not trying to convince you that his God does exist, why does he need to prove it? He’s satisfied of the existence of his God, that’s enough for him. Why do some atheists keep telling us we have to prove the existence of gods, when we’re not trying to convince them of it?
    I didn’t ask that Jason “prove” anything until he said that in order to be convinced, science would have to “prove” God doesn’t exist. The burden of proof is on the affirmative position, and science is not required to prove a negative.

  • Jason

    I’ve decided that I no longer give a crap about this particular conversation. See you in the other thread.

  • http://ksej.livejournal.com Nick Kiddle

    //Well, not to be too trite with a feel-good message, but enough drops and the bucket is full. Generally, problems such as you outlined must be solved by many people working together.//
    It seems from where I’m sitting that you have your beliefs that help you cope with feeling powerless, and Jason has his. I just don’t get why you think his beliefs are harmful.


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