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Category 4 cynicism

In comments to the previous post, I'm reminded that there can also be a fourth, and much worse category explaining the promotion of falsehoods: "cynical manipulation."

Which reminds me of a really stupid brilliant scheme I came up with.

I speak fluent religious right with an authentic native accent. Using that fluency, I could set up the Christian Defense Fund — a nonprofit avowedly set up for the legal defense of the religious freedoms of persecuted American Christians.

I'd print up some CDF letterhead and toss up a Web site, using a logo and color-scheme transparently plagiarized from the Children's Defense Fund. When they sued over this infringement (I'd be as rude as possible until they had no choice but to sue) I would yell Persecution! and hit the Christian radio circuit, using this liberal antagonism to establish a reputation and collect some start-up capital for the group.

I'd use that initial money to hire top-notch designers, copy writers and direct mail people . I'm imagining an operating budget of roughly 5 percent for legal defense activities, 45 percent for fundraising and marketing, and 50 percent for executive compensation — meaning my personal salary.

The litigation would be modeled after the crankish, incoherent lawsuits filed by Birther Queen Orly Taitz — lots of noise, but zero chance of success. The salary would, through well-hidden back channels, be funneled into donations to the ACLU.

That scheme would work.

By "work," there, I mean it would be, in the short term, an easy, effective way of raising large sums of money. And I could maybe almost convince myself that it was justifiable in that most of the money I was taking from naive Christians by playing on their persecution fantasies would be going to the ACLU and, therefore, really would be helping to defend their religious liberty. That's more than can be said with confidence of any of the dozens of perhaps equally cynical groups that make up the cottage industry of American Christian legal defense funds noisily filing publicity-seeking lawsuits on behalf of town-hall creches or Protestant 10 Commandments monuments.

The problem with such a cynical undertaking is that in the long run it would corrode everything it touched. By fostering a fearful stupidity, it would ultimately undermine the kind of healthy, responsible, reality-based citizenship that is a necessary precondition for any society that hopes to preserve civil liberties. And by contributing to the notion that the majority is entitled to privileges not enjoyed by minorities, it would ultimately undermine the rights of all.

Plus, let's face it, once I became able to justify the kind of duplicity and brazen disingenuousness it would take to operate such a scheme, I'd quickly also become the sort of person who could find some rationale for keeping an ever-larger share of the profits for myself, and soon the checks to the ACLU would be little more than a token fraction.

Cynicism, in the not-so-very long run, is toxic. Which is why this brilliant scheme would soon prove to be a Really Bad Idea.

A Really Bad Idea but, sadly, not a very original one. The Breathless Stoner Dude and his colleagues at Good Fight Ministries don't seem to me to have embraced this level of conscious, explicit cynicism, but I have no doubt that RodeoBob is right and that there are others in the "Rock & Roll is Satan's Music" racket who fully appreciate that it's nonsense, but find it to be lucrative nonsense.

Mike Warnke, for example. He just happens to be the guy who got caught doing exactly that sort of cynical manipulation, but I'm sure there are many, many others.

This is America, after all, the land of P.T. Barnum and Ken Ham. And wherever two or more are gathered in credulous gullibility, a third will always show up to take their money.

The remarkable thing about America, though, is that for every Mike Warnke fleecing the foolish with his cynical con game there also seems to be a Breathless Stoner Dude who's running the exact same sleazy con without even fully realizing it.

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    Um, pritnear every religious right person I’ve ever encountered believes that all that matters is faith and that works don’t matter, the whole “it’s by faith, not by works, that you are justified” thing taken to an extreme
    This. It’s the argument the RTCs use all the time to claim that Catholics aren’t even Christian; they think we believe that you can work your way into heaven. Someone on LJ’s metaquotes linked to this site recently – http://christiananswers.net/q-sum/sum-r005a.html . Note that they cite Bible verses to back up their POV, but only cite the Catechism for ours – wouldn’t want anyone to know that the “faith without works is dead” bit is right there in James 2:20.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    This. It’s the argument the RTCs use all the time to claim that Catholics aren’t even Christian; they think we believe that you can work your way into heaven. Someone on LJ’s metaquotes linked to this site recently – http://christiananswers.net/q-sum/sum-r005a.html . Note that they cite Bible verses to back up their POV, but only cite the Catechism for ours – wouldn’t want anyone to know that the “faith without works is dead” bit is right there in James 2:20.

    If you really want to blow your mind, try reading some Luther: Luther’s response to “So, does that mean that we don’t have to do good works?” was “The fact that you are trying to weasel out of doing good works may be cause for you to be concerned that your faith isn’t quite so strong as you think it is. Try doing some good works and see if that makes your faith stronger.”

  • http://jamoche.livejournal.com jamoche

    Heh. If I hadn’t given up arguing with the “mentioning works at all means you aren’t Christian!” crowd a long time ago, I might point them at that. But it’s most likely they’d only decide that Luther wasn’t a RTC after all.


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