NRA: You know who else was an evil, homicidal tyrant?

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 116-120

Buck Williams is studying — carefully reading through the notes and sermons from Bruce Barnes’ computer:

Late in the afternoon, Chicago time, Buck broke from the fascinating reading of Bruce Barnes’s writing and finally got through to Chaim Rosenzweig.

That word “finally” there confirms what we already suspected about Buck’s “reading” — that it just means he had Bruce’s papers in front of him while he dialed and redialed his phone.

Buck has been trying to reach Chaim in the hopes that he can help Buck find the born-again Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah. Chaim Rosenzweig is a high-level assistant to the Antichrist and Ben-Judah is the Antichrist’s Public Enemy No. 1, so it’s a bit strange to seek Chaim’s help with this. But since Chaim and Tsion are the only Jews Buck knows, he figures they must also know each other. And since that’s how these books work, they do.

“Cameron! I have finally talked live with our mutual friend. Let us not mention his name on the phone.”

Just in case anyone is listening in, it’s best to avoid drawing their suspicion by mentioning that you don’t want to draw their suspicion.

“It was a strange message, Cameron. He simply said that you would know whom to talk with about his whereabouts.”

“That I would know?”

“That’s what he said, Cameron. That you would know.”

Buck seems puzzled by this, but readers will be reminded that I was wrong above to say Buck only knows two Jews — he actually knows four, with the other two being Moses and Elijah. Yes, the actual patriarch Moses and the actual prophet Elijah from the Hebrew scriptures. Buck and Tsion met them in the last book at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where they have returned to act as evangelical Christian street preachers. This is Tim LaHaye’s idea of the “Two Witnesses” from the book of Revelation.

The evangelistic technique of these two witnesses doesn’t seem very promising. Mostly they’re just chanting “Jesus is Lord,” which is a succinct statement of what Christians believe, but not a particularly persuasive approach to winning converts. There’s also the problem that anyone who comes forward during their altar call tends to get burned to cinders by giant flames shooting out of their mouths.

The Two Witnesses have been out there for more than a year now and it seems that Buck and Tsion were the only two people who have been allowed to approach to speak to them. They confirmed to Buck and Tsion that they are, indeed, Moses and Elijah, returned to the Earth. That seems like a newsworthy bit of information, but Buck never reports it through his news organization. It also seems like a compelling piece of information that might serve as a persuasive attention-getter for Tsion’s own evangelistic ministry, but he seems to be keeping it a secret too.

All told, the Two Witnesses could use a refresher course in my Four Essential Rules for Street Preaching:

1. Speak clearly in a loud voice.

2. If you’ve returned from beyond the grave, lead with that.

3. Don’t kill everyone who tries to talk to you.

4. Give a clear, concise presentation of Christian belief.

They’ve got the first and the fourth one down, but still need practice on the other two.

Anyway, readers here on page 117 quickly realize that Buck will need to talk to Moses and Elijah to reconnect with his friend Tsion. Buck himself will figure that out in about another 30 pages.

We return to Rayford Steele. When last we saw him, we were slogging through an elaborate multi-page set-up in which it was arranged to have Nicolae Carpathia’s top-secret meeting with his 10 global princes on the airplane, where Rayford (and therefore readers) would be able to listen in.

But then Rayford got off the plane.

Fortunately, instead of a top-secret meeting, Nicolae will be making another global broadcast, and Rayford and readers will still be able to listen in by watching it on television in the Baghdad airport terminal. So it all works out. We don’t actually hear what Nicolae says in his broadcast anyway, just Rayford’s distracted impression of the gist of it:

It was clear Carpathia had completely effected his will and spin onto the news directors at every venue. While the stories carried the horrifying pictures of war, bloodshed, injury, and death, each also spoke glowingly of the swift and decisive action of the potentate in responding to the crisis and crushing the rebellion.

Rayford stops watching before Nicolae begins to speak:

Rayford shook his head and went to a desk in the corner, where he found stationery from a Middle Eastern airline and began composing a letter to Earl Halliday’s wife.

The Antichrist’s Global Community has consolidated all governments, all banks, all religions, all currencies and all languages. But the airlines apparently all continue as independent, private sector businesses.

Logic told Rayford he should not feel responsible. … Rayford didn’t even know yet how Earl had been killed. Perhaps everyone on his flight to Glenview had perished. All he knew was that the deed had been done, and Earl Halliday was no more.

If you’re thinking I skipped the scene where Earl died, that’s because the authors did too. There was a scene in which Earl feared Nicolae wanted him dead, and there was a scene in which Fortunato said they would need a replacement for Earl after he gets dealt with, but this is the closest we get to a scene confirming that any of that ever really happened.

As he sat trying to compose a letter with words that could never be right, he felt a huge, dark cloud of depression begin to settle on him. He missed his wife. He missed his daughter. He grieved over his pastor. He mourned the loss of friends and acquaintances, new and old.

Like, for instance, his old acquaintance Irene. Or whatsisname, the kid.

Rayford knew he was not responsible for what Nicolae Carpathia meted out against his enemies. The terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered by this evil man would not stop if Rayford merely quit his job. Hundreds of pilots could fly this plane. He himself had learned it in half an hour. He didn’t need the job, didn’t want the job, didn’t ask for the job.

And yet here he is, doing the job. For the Antichrist.

Twice now in two pages Rayford has reminded himself that he is not “responsible” for the evil deeds he is facilitating by collaborating with the Antichrist. He’s working his way through many of the classic rationalizations: If he didn’t do it, someone else would; he’s only doing his job/following orders.

These rationalizations are familiar, so let’s step back and deal with that familiarity.

How does Godwin’s Law* apply to a story about the Antichrist?

In Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” mythos, the Antichrist will be a global dictator and tyrant and the epitome of evil. The Antichrist, LaHaye insists, will be the cruelest and most evil leader the world has ever known.

So I’m afraid we’re going to have to Godwin this thread, because, by definition, the Antichrist must be worse than Hitler.

That’s a difficult, in some ways offensive, idea to grasp in trying to read these books. We’ve already got an idea in our heads of what superlative evil looks like, and these books’ claim that the Antichrist will be even more evil than that can seem like disrespect to the gravity of the real, historical evils this Antichrist is supposed to surpass, and to seem like disrespect to the real, actual people who really suffered under such evil regimes.

It takes a bit of mental wrangling, then, to keep in mind that Nicolae Carpathia is supposed to be worse than Hitler, that the Global Community is supposed to be worse than the Third Reich.

But what does that mean for our hero, Rayford Steele, who is a personal assistant to the Antichrist and a high-ranking officer in his regime? The authors have stressed that Rayford has “Clearance level 2-A” — the highest level of security clearance, reserved for the highest ranking servants of the Antichrist who work personally and intimately with this worse-than-Hitler tyrant.

I suspect that the authors would cry foul if they heard us make the comparison this invites and demands, but how can we not ask? What makes Rayford Steele any different from a Nazi collaborator?

I think Jerry Jenkins is trying to address just that question here with all of Rayford’s soul-searching. The problem is that Rayford’s own justifications sound like he’s cribbing from Burt Lancaster in Judgment at Nuremberg.

And then Rayford’s justifications get even worse:

He didn’t need the job, didn’t want the job, didn’t ask for the job. Somehow, he knew God had placed him there.

That’s right, it’s God’s will that Rayford collaborate with Nazis.

On one level, this is just another appalling example of Piperism — the shallow, Panglossian theology that holds that everything that happens must be God’s will because if it wasn’t God’s will then it wouldn’t have happened. But even John Piper isn’t quite as enthusiastic as the authors are here in attributing evil directly to God.

Look again at that phrase above, “The terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered by this evil man.” The Antichrist himself can say, along with his collaborator Rayford, that “Somehow, he knew God had placed him there.”

The “terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered” by the Antichrist is always exceeded in these books by the even more terrible and darker judgment on the earth rendered by God. The authors constantly give what sounds like a perverse rendition of the people’s song in 1 Samuel: “Nicolae has slain his thousands, but Jesus his tens of thousands.”

Somehow, he knew God had placed him there. For what? Was this surprising bugging of the intercom system by Earl Halliday a gift directly from God that allowed Rayford to somehow protect a few from the wrath of Carpathia?

Already he believed it had saved his daughter and son-in-law from certain death in the Chicago bombings, and now, as he looked at television reports from America’s West Coast, he wished there had been something he could have done to have warned people in San Francisco and Los Angeles of their impending doom.

As we’ve already discussed, repeatedly, there was plenty he could have done to warn people. He chose not to.

He chose, instead, to send his wife back to Chicago to check on his daughter, and in order to ensure her safety he did nothing to warn anyone in San Francisco or to attempt to interfere in the slaughter that he, as Nicolae’s pilot, was helping to ensure.

Rayford Steele is charged with being a collaborator complicit in all the evil of the Antichrist’s wicked regime. Here is Jerry Jenkins’ three-part defense of Rayford:

If he didn’t do it, someone else would.

And he’s only doing his job.

And he has to protect his own family, first, before sticking his neck out for anyone else.

The prosecution rests.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* For those not familiar with all Internet traditions, Wikipedia has a good summary of “Godwin’s Law.” The key points are the law itself:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

And the customary corollary:

There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

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Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 83: 'Today's Gospel reading'
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  • aunursa

    The Two Witnesses have been out there for more than a year now and it seems that Buck and Tsion were the only two people who have been allowed to approach to speak to them.

    IIRC Buck and Tsion were the only two who didn’t try to kill them.  Several religious Jews tried to kill them. Because in L&J’s world, Israeli Jews have this habit of responding to evangelism by trying to murder the evangelists.

  • walden

    Ah yes, “Renfield” Steele. 
    He’s doing what he has to do….for the count (er, potentate).
    But he feels bad about it.

    How are those rats tasting?

  • Tofu_Killer

    So this always bothered me about the Trib Force moles; what is Clearance 1-A reserved for, and who gets it? I thought maybe Hattie, but she turns out to have bupkiss for pull with the Big Bad Nico, and they kind of make it clear that Fortunato has the same clearance as Rayford and Buck…so is Clearance 1-A on hold for Turbo Jesus?

    Anyway, the clearance 2-A seems to be good enough for the witnesses at the wall.

    The weird access that the Tribbies have to teh witnesses just confirmed for me that L&J really believe that God set up this whole Post Rapture period of Tribulation to save the four or five members of the Tribulation Force that they think get it right. Kind of a really nasty version of the Good Shepherd, where the shepherd uses a machete to cut his way through the rest of his flock to rescue his one special lost lamb that got locked in the Land Rover on a really hot day and all the windows are rolled up.

  • Flying Squid with Goggles

     

    So this always bothered me about the Trib Force moles; what is Clearance
    1-A reserved for, and who gets it? I thought maybe Hattie, but she
    turns out to have bupkiss for pull with the Big Bad Nico, and they kind
    of make it clear that Fortunato has the same clearance as Rayford and
    Buck…so is Clearance 1-A on hold for Turbo Jesus?

    Aha! I think I’ve got it. These clearances don’t work the way everyone supposes security clearances work.

    Instead, everyone – Tom, Dick, Harry, Jane, June, and Jennifer – is Clearance 1-A. They all know the whole scoop – they’re in for a horrible time and there is no hope because even if they survive the wrath of the evil tyrant, good will still kill them in the end. So they don’t care anymore and do silly things like continue to man car dealerships in the middle of a nuclear war (there were lots of volunteers to return Buck’s rental car to the nuked O’Hare because it seemed like a good excuse to die of radiation poisoning and escape the suffering.)

    The members of the Tribbies, on the other hand, are Clearance 2-A, they know less than the general populace, probably due to NickyAnalogue’s mind whammy, or possibly TurboJesus, or both working in concert. Due to this lack of knowledge, it is possible for them to fool themselves into thinking they aren’t enabling the Anti-Christ’s genocide, and therefore they keep helping him despite arguing in their own minds that they’re not. That’s why Steele, Cam-Cam, Fortunato and the other idiots ensuring the deaths of millions are all Clearance 2-A…

    OK, so it totally doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but I thought it was an entertaining notion anyway.

  • Rae

    Hmmm… maybe A is the highest, and then B, and then C, and then they decided to make the top one AA (sort of like how the smallest women’s size is 00) and then decided to call it 2-A because they didn’t want people thinking that everyone at that level was in Al-Anon? 

    But really, it’s not that hard to do a cursory internet search – standard UN security clearances run from 1-5, US DoD and Canada both use the Confidential/Secret/Top Secret/SCI system (although different US agencies have different letters for each level), and the UK has a five-level security clearance system much like the UN’s but with their own names for the levels.

  • fraser

    First?
    Question: Didn’t Rayford say in last week’s section that he was the only pilot who could fly that plane?

  • Chris

    And the L&J corollary:  As the reader gets farther down the page, the probability the main characters do something despicable approaches one.

  • GeniusLemur

    “If he didn’t do it, someone else would.”
    Yeah, but what if no one else would? Wouldn’t it be great if everybody in the room just sat down and refused to obey his orders? His pilot, his communications expert, his soldiers… just refused his orders? Trapped him alone, on some isolated airfield? Brought down the antichrist with their raw conviction and courage? Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t that be very Christian?

  • Ima Pseudonym

     What if God held an apocalypse and nobody came?

  • http://profiles.google.com/vlowe7294 Vaughn Lowe

    ” Hundreds of pilots could fly this plane. He himself had learned it in half an hour. ”

    Hold it, hold it.  Back up.  Didn’t we just hear last week that only Ray the Amazing Super Pilot could fly GC1?  Wasn’t there a whole conversation about how he couldn’t take a nap because Nicky had to get to Babylon?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Ha ha, only fools and heretics rely on the blasphemous lies found on previous pages. True Christians of discernment know that only what is written here, on the current page, really counts… and only for the present. Once you turn the page, all bets are off.

  • Will Hennessy

     Leo says that because even the Antichrist’s right-hand man has to cower before Rayford’s ego. Rayford is only allowed to admit someone else might do the job when doing the job he continually asserts “only he can do” personally inconveniences him.

    And Nicky’s supposed to be the bad guy…

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    L&J partly make out Supreme Commander Leon to be the bad guy because…

    He insists on being called by his title. (O.o)

    And of course Brave Ray-Ray passive-aggressively insists on:

    1. Not calling him “Supreme Commander”, and
    2. In turn, always being called Captain Steele, even if only implied by authorial fiat.

    If ever there were a special hell for such utterly thoughtless douchebags, Rayford would be first in line.

  • Tricksterson

    As I’ve said, each individual sentence in these books inhabits it’s own reality.

  • fraser

    Great assessment, Fred. It’s a classic example of “Well, I feel really, really, really tormented about being bad, so that proves I’m a good person.” (At a lower level of unethical behavior, consider the song ‘Lips of an Angel’ in which the singer expects us to feel his great pain because he’s cheating with someone hot and can’t help himself. Yeah, right).
    LOVE the street-preaching rules. But I thought they didn’t breathe fire, they just killed people with heart attacks? Or have they broadened their repertoire?
    ” “Cameron! I have finally talked live with our mutual friend. Let us not mention his name on the phone.” ” Coupled with the Hitler reference it makes me think of one or two pre-Pearl Harbor WW II spy films in which the spies would pointedly emphasize that they’re not identifying themselves with any one nation so it’s not like the film is taking a political stance or anything.

  • fraser

    And even at the time LH&J were writing this, the idea that only someone as eeeeevil as Nicky Maunaloa would actually spin war news to make himself look like a strong leader was laughably outdated.

  • aunursa

    Logic told Rayford he should not feel responsible. … Rayford didn’t even know yet how Earl had been killed. Perhaps everyone on his flight to Glenview had perished. All he knew was that the deed had been done, and Earl Halliday was no more.

    This will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following this blog for any length of time: Rayford never finds out how Earl was killed.  Rayford never even attempts to find out.  After Rayford finishes the letter, Earl Halliday and his widow are hardly even mentioned.  Oh, except for a brief mention near the end this book and in Book #4 — both times referring to the bugging system that was installed so that Rayford the readers could listen in to the Antichrist’s discussions.

    In fact, Rayford has no actual evidence that Halliday is in fact dead other than the fact that Carpathia referred to Hernandez and him as “our late friends.”  Perhaps they were able to fake their own deaths and escape to a better-written apocalyptic series.

  • GeniusLemur

    It’s absurd to expect Rayford to remember the Earl/Bruce/Irene. When people are dead, you can’t call them on the phone. So what good are they?

  • GeniusLemur

    And the same goes for Jenkins, too.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     In fact, Rayford has no actual evidence that Halliday is in fact dead
    other than the fact that Carpathia referred to Hernandez and him as “our
    late friends.”  Perhaps they were able to fake their own deaths and
    escape to a better-written apocalyptic series.

    Earl Halliday slowly opened his eyes, allowing his pupils, unready for such a sudden glare, to slowly contract.  The light wasn’t from one of Nicolae’s torturer’s sun lamp.  He was outside.  The light was actually the real Sun.  He shielded his eyes and looked around, taking in what he could.

    He was lying in a field that appeared to be on the edge of a small town or possibly just a residential development in a city somewhere.  The homes were nondescript, middle class, mostly red brick and muted shades of aluminum siding.

    The bright light dimmed slowly, then seemed to go out completely.  He looked up an saw that thick, black clouds were rolling across the sky.  No, those weren’t clouds.  It was something else.  Soot, maybe.  Ash.

    He realized the ground was shaking.  He’d gotten so used to Nicholae’s tanks rumbling around outside the basement cell where he’d been kept that he’d forgotten that the ground wasn’t supposed to do that.  An earthquake, maybe?

    He turned away from the houses and saw now that there was a road on the other side of the field.  The sky was almost pitch black on the other side of the narrow, asphalt strip.  Something at the core of the black cloud, down near where he supposed the horizon would be, glowed an ominous, evil red.  Sparks shot up from the glowing area like embers from a bonfire.

    “Volcano,” he said to himself, his voice cracked and reedy from his months spent parched and alone in Nicolae”s dungeon.  “How did I get dumped in front of an erupting volcano?”

    A battered camper roared up the highway.  Earl raised his arm to try to signal the driver when the camper’s front left tire suddenly exploded.  The vehicle veered drunkenly across the road, then careened across the shoulder and into the drainage ditch that ran alongside.  It flipped end-over-end.  Once.  Twice.  Then it landed on its front bumper and balanced, nose down, for just a moment before flopping back onto its wheels with a deafening screech of protesting metal.

    Everything went silent.

    Earl slowly gathered his legs and arms beneath his body and painfully began to try to lever himself up from the ground, determined to find out if anyone had survived the crash, determined to find out where he was.  After an eternity of effort he was up on swaying, jellied legs.  He looked around for something, anything, to steady himself, but saw nothing, not even a twig.  He took a careful step, then another, then another, resolutely shuffling towards the camper.

    Then he stopped.  There was movement in the camper.  A thin, dark-haired, stranger crawled out of the passenger door, then turned and helped a child out onto the field.  He looked familiar, somehow.

    The man from the camper looked across the the field at Earl.  “Hey, buddy, what are you doing here?” he yelled out.  “You’ve got to get out of here!”

    “Wh-?” Earl started to ask a question, whether it was, “Who are you,” “Where is this,” or, “Where should I go,” wasn’t even apparent to him.  It didn’t matter.  His voice gave out with that single, partial syllable.

    The man finished dragging the child out of the camper, then helped another one out.  Earl could now see there was a small boy and a small girl.  He grabbed their hands and the trio started running towards the houses.

    “You’ve got to get out of here, buddy,” the man yelled again.  “The world is ending right now!”

    “Wh-” Earl started to speak again.  Then he realized where he’d seen the strangely familiar man before.  It was John Cusack.

    Cusack and the children had now run past him.  He yelled back at Earl, “Get out of here, buddy, the world is ending.  The Mayans were right about 2012!”

    “Oh, shit,” Earl croaked out.  “I can’t take this.”

    He let his knees give out underneath him and collapsed to the ground.  There was no reason to fight anymore.  But at least someone above had smiled down upon him.  If he was going to get stuck in the middle of an apocalypse a nice field was a better place to be than a dank basement any day of the week.

  • aunursa
    He didn’t need the job, didn’t want the job, didn’t ask for the job. Somehow, he knew God had placed him there.

    That’s right, it’s God’s will that Rayford collaborate with Nazis.

    Actually that makes perfect sense when we realize that God is Jerry Jenkins.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Also, it’s important to notice that all of Nicolae’s evil is God’s will too. In the books’ cosmology, the apocalypse is foretold in the Book of Revelation and explicitly rubber-stamped by the Almighty Himself. If Rayford is absolved of his crimes for that reason, then Nicolae and his other followers should be too. 

    (Why does Ray get a pass but not Leon, or Suhail Akbar, or Guy Blod? Heck, I would think that many of Carpathia’s other henchmen would be better candidates for salvation since they didn’t even know that he was the Antichrist.)

  • Carstonio

    I could see the storytelling value in defining Rayford this way if it was a precursor to him developing a conscience, where he wakes up to the reality of the evil he’s helping to perpetuate. Of course, this presumes a different team of writers.

    Having Nicolae out-Hitler Hitler seems like a contest, at least a storytelling one. John Byrne had General Zod wipe out all life on a pocket-universe version of Earth. What would Nicolae do, torture puppies for fun?

  • patter

     And ones who could, y’know, actually write.   Like Geds, for example.

  • flat

    Let’s talk about another dictator for once: Joseph Stalin was such a one man killing bureaucrat that there is a margin of error of ten million about all those people who were killed.

    If Nicky matterhorn is going to do better he needs atleast a higher margin of error about all the people he has killed.

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-4-worst-famous-relatives-people-managed-to-live-down/
    ps be glad that you never got personally involved with anyone on this list.

  • Splitting Image

    That Cracked list is really strange. For a list of the “worst famous relatives” you could possibly have, they came up with Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and … Scott Peterson? Did O.J. Simpson not have any relatives who could put him on the list?

    Not to trivialize a murder case, but in the Banquet Hall of Ultimate Evil in the darkest circle of Hell, Osama is eating at the little kiddies’ table, and Josef and Adolf are laughing at him. Scott Peterson is an odd choice to make up a foursome with those guys.

  • flat

    Yeah you are right.

    But I only took the part about stalin, personally I hope to never have a such a high margin of error aboaut all the people I might have killed.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It seems sort of banal to measure evil purely in terms of body count. Sure, Joe Stalin has the highest body count, but he was for the most part killing his own people in relative secrecy. Hitler was with deliberation and malice aforethought trying to commit genocide. And Osama Bin Laden was trying to spread terror and provoke a response that would hurt the US’s standing in the world.

    If it’s just body count, then how about Chairman Mao? Or that guy who didn’t wash his damned hands and as a result spread the first case of influenza that managed to jump the species gap to humans?

  • Makabit

    Or that guy who didn’t wash his damned hands and as a result spread the first case of influenza that managed to jump the species gap to humans?

    Did he do it on purpose?

  • Splitting Image

    > It seems sort of banal to measure evil purely in terms of body count.

    Oh, I agree. But if someone told me to make a list of exactly four people who were the most evil of all time, I would probably pick four of the worst mass murderers. 
    Including Peterson just made me wonder why they stopped at four, since there are a lot of killers like him. Charles Manson has still has family out there, for example. Henri Landru had children as well.

    It’s not that any of the people on the list aren’t evil in their own ways, it’s that having just those four together seemed odd to me.

  • KevinC

     Another thing: how hard is it to live down being a “Peterson?”  If your last name is “Hilter” or “Stalin” or “Mengele” or “Khan*” then, yeah. 

    *In the U.S. at least, you’d probably have more trouble living down the one from Star Trek than the one from history, i.e., “KHAAAAAAAAAN!”

  • arcseconds

    It seems sort of banal to measure evil purely in terms of body count.
    Sure, Joe Stalin has the highest body count, but he was for the most
    part killing his own people in relative secrecy. Hitler was with
    deliberation and malice aforethought trying to commit genocide.

    About the wisest comment I’ve ever heard on the matter described the ‘who was evilist betwixt Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler’ topic as ‘purile’.

    He did go on to  make the comment though that one big difference is that Stalin did things the old-fashioned way — he had people shot.   The Nazis, though, modernised mass execution.  No-one actually killed any Jews (or Roma, or Slavs…).   They just arranged for transport, ushered them into rooms, put a certain canister in a certain drawer, etc.   Every action is in itself innocuous.

    In many ways that’s a lot more chilling.

  • Tricksterson

    One comparison I heard goes that Stalin was worse than Hitler, not because he killed more people (although he did) or was crazier than Hitler (although he might have been) but because there is still a large group of people, not all of them with one foot in the grave who think he and the Soviet Union in general was the best thing that ever happened to Russia.

  • arcseconds

     That makes Stalin potentially worse in historic effect, maybe.  On the other hand, those people would doubtless be looking back to some other strongman if it wasn’t Stalin.  Kruschev or Peter the Great, maybe.

    Another thing, maybe from the same guy, I’m not sure, I heard was that Stalin was far more dangerous to have dinner with than Hitler.  There was simply no telling what might result in you being shipped off to a gulag.

  • hf

    There’s a website about this. By the most credible numbers, Hitler killed more people than Stalin – if we include those who died in WWII (or even just the Soviet deaths, I believe). And I’m inclined to do so. Because invading the USSR made no sense at all unless he wanted to exterminate the Slavic people, or at least to keep the promise he made along those lines. (See: sincerity, problems with.)

    Even after invading, he could have gotten some of the country’s vast population on his side with an “I’m not Stalin” PR campaign. He did not. Instead he pursued a course of action that ensured his eventual defeat at the cost of huge numbers of Soviet deaths.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    He killed an American. Also why OBL made the list but not, say, Reagan’s buddy in the DRC.

  • Random_Lurker

    Godwin’s Corollary operates on the assumption that a discussion of Hitler’s Nazis is not directly related to the subject.  Since the subject here is evil totalitarian governments, I think it’s a pretty relevant comparison.

  • Eamon Knight

    The movie “Downfall” is bracketed by modern interview footage with a now-elderly Traudl Junge (one of Hitler’s secretaries in the bunker). She admits to having been horribly, culpably, naive about what her boss was doing — one can *almost* pity, though not excuse, her as a fool. Rayford has no such excuse. But then, unlike Junge, the one who put him in the situation of Personal Help To Evil Bastard — ie. the “superior” whose orders he is really following — is God. Such is the morally bankrupt logic of PMD eschatology.

  • aunursa

    From Wikipedia:

    The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics or racial superiority, nor, more debatably, to a discussion of other totalitarian regimes or ideologies, if that was the explicit topic of conversation, since a Nazi comparison in those circumstances may be appropriate…

  • Anton_Mates

    But since Chaim and Tsion are the only Jews Buck knows, he figures they must also know each other. And since that’s how these books work, they do.

    In fairness, they’re not just both Jewish; they’re both well-known academics working for the government in a country of 7-8 million people.  They’re not guaranteed to know each other–physiophysicobiogeneticochemical scientist-engineers and rabbinical scholars don’t necessarily go to the same conferences–but it’s certainly worth checking.

    aunursa,

    Several Orthodox Jews tried to kill them. Because in L&J’s world,
    religious Jews have this habit of responding to evangelism by trying to murder the evangelists.

    Did the Jews try to kill them?  I thought they just rolled around on the ground and howled about the white devils had offended their great juju or something.  I don’t remember if the trip-and-fall guys were ever revealed as belonging to any particular religion, but the first guy to actually get incinerated was a militant Muslim, as was obvious by his ratty beard and gold jewelry.

  • Adamlangfelder

    Rayford Steele: guilty as charged

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    The Two Witnesses have been out there for more than a year now and it seems that Buck and Tsion were the only two people who have been allowed to approach to speak to them.

    If they have been there for a year, and are impervious to all harm, and the Anti-Christ wants them forcibly shut up, you would think that he would have taken steps to, say, build a wall around the area in which they are preaching and throw a canopy over the top.  

    The goal not being so much to stop them from preaching (because he obviously cannot) but to stop others from listening.  Maybe they try to break out in the attempt to wall them in, and do so effortlessly.  Well, so what?  Nicky has an entire world’s resources worth to play with, not like a few bricks and mortar are going to hurt the budget, and he is the Anti-Christ, what does he care if a few construction workers get killed in the attempt?  How can we accept that this man can build an entire functional city in the middle of an uninhabited stretch of desert and yet not find a way to cap these bozos in?  

  • Ken

     build a wall around the area in which they are preaching and throw a canopy over the top.

    I’d pour cement into the enclosure, but I’ve read the Evil Overlord list.

  • http://inquisitiveravn.livejournal.com/ Inquisitive Raven

    They tried that with Jack Harkness, It didn’t exactly work.

  • Guest

    Why should Nicolae bother to silence them? As either evangelists or as resistance, the Witnesses seem consummately ineffective.

  • GeniusLemur

     Which makes them a good match for every RTC force in these books.

  • aunursa

    “One has an Uzi automatic weapon and the other a bayonet-type knife that appears to have come from an Israeli-issue military rifle.”

    Left Behind, p 330

    It doesn’t explicitly state that he is Jewish.  And I believe you are correct that there is an incident in which a Muslim is incinerated.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon
    “One has an Uzi automatic weapon and the other a bayonet-type knife that appears to have come from an Israeli-issue military rifle.”

    Left Behind, p 330

    It doesn’t explicitly state that he is Jewish.  And I believe you are correct that there is an incident in which a Muslim is incinerated.

    They are also in Israel.  If their weapons were acquired locally, odds are it would be from Israeli military stockpiles.  I am sure that the Israeli military keeps those under strict nominal control, but it would not be too hard in the confusion to find ways of circumventing it.  Weapons get lost, people can be bribed, etc.  That would probably be the easier option than to get weapons smuggled in from elsewhere.  Considering the historical instability in the region, Israel probably keeps the kind of weapons people can bring into the country under close supervision, for obvious reasons.

  • Lorehead

    They are also in Israel. If their weapons were acquired locally, odds are it would be from Israeli military stockpiles.

    Also, keep in mind that Israel has nearly-universal military service, so there are plenty of people who aren’t Jewish, yet who might have access to those weapons legally.  Is there anything to suggest whether they’re Jewish, Christian, Druze, or even Muslim?

  • aunursa

    Book #1 refers to those who surrounded the Witnesses as “zealots” and states that the attackers are from among the “zealots.” And shortly we’ll see Chaim tell Buck that “the religious zealots in this country hate a person who believes that Jesus is Messiah.”  The people who murder Tsion’s wife and step-children are referred to as “religious zealots.”  It’s not stated, but strongly implied, that they are Orthodox Jews.

    In Book #2, an attacker shouts “in an Eastern dialect Buck did not understand” that he “is on a mission from Allah.”  Thus it’s implied that he is a Muslim.

  • Lorehead

    Yes, it does sound as if LeHaye and Jenkins chose the word zealot consciously.

  • Tricksterson

    Possibly but it’s just as possible that Jenkins is unaware of the difference between a dialect and a language.  Never discount the possibility of L&J being staggeringly ignorant.

  • Lorehead

    So, are there any instances of them calling English a dialect?  German?  Greek?  Hebrew?  People who don’t know what the word dialect means to a linguist use it disparagingly.

  • aunursa

    In his labored English, the rabbi said [to Buck], “In your dialect, my first name sounds like the city, Zion. You may call me that.”
    Book #2

    “I grew almost physically ill,” he added, with his charming Hebrew-accented dialect…”
    Book #3

    “The first page of your folders,” she began, in a precise and articulate tone with a hint of her native Romanian dialect…
    Book #8

    Her husband shouted back in Chinese. David knew there were many dialects, but he didn’t understand even one… David recorded the conversation in the unlikely event he could download voice-activated software that would not recognize the language and the dialect, but would also convert it to English or Hebrew, his two languages.
    Book #8

  • Lorehead

    Thank you.  That does answer my question, so my suspicions were wrong and I should acknowledge that.

    To be honest, the first comes across to me as an attempt at comical broken English itself: oh, the rabbi with the foreign accent says Buck’s speaking dialect!  The second is using dialect to mean a foreign accent.  The third can be read as technically correct in the sense that linguists use the term, but it also seems to be saying, “She has a noticeable foreign accent,” rather than, “Even when speaking English, her pronunciation reflects the particular variety of Romanian that she speaks, as distinct from how other Romanians speak.”  The fourth excerpt seems to be missing a word (“that would not [only] recognize …”) but definitely uses the words language and dialect correctly.  So Jenkins does know what they mean.

  • aunursa

    The fourth excerpt seems to be missing a word (“that would not [only] recognize …”)

    It was missing (my mistake.)  I fixed it while you were composing your reply.

  • Lorehead

    Thank you.  That does answer my question, so my suspicions were wrong and I should acknowledge that.

    To be honest, the first comes across to me as an attempt at comical broken English itself: oh, the rabbi with the foreign accent says Buck’s speaking dialect!  The second is using dialect to mean a foreign accent.  The third can be read as technically correct in the sense that linguists use the term, but it also seems to be saying, “She has a noticeable foreign accent,” rather than, “Even when speaking English, her pronunciation reflects the particular variety of Romanian that she speaks, as distinct from how other Romanians speak.”  The fourth excerpt seems to be missing a word (“that would not [only] recognize …”) but definitely uses the words language and dialect correctly.  So Jenkins does know what they mean.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    The part with David Hayseed (hate!) is especially interesting: he is often referred to as an Israeli Jew, but I don’t think he’s Israeli, because it is revealed that he is actually not one of the 140,000 witnesses.  He is, I think, Polish. 

    Yet in both of the recorded book versions, he speaks with a Midwestern American accent, despite never having set foot in North America in his life.  The dramatic version gives him an accent, but…I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be.

    On another point, why should Tsion ben-Jewishguy’s English be “labored”?  Isn’t he supposed to be master of a dozen languages or something?

  • aunursa

    Yes, David Hayseed is Polish, age 22 when he first appears in Book #4

    According to L&J’s theology, each of the 144,000 witnesses will be of Jewish background, not necessarily Israeli.

  • Launcifer

    In Book #2, an attacker shouts “in an Eastern dialect Buck did not understand” that he “is on a mission from Allah.” * Thus it’s implied that he is a Muslim.

    I suppose it’s too much to hope for the possibility that it was dark and he was wearing sunglasses, isn’t it?

  • aunursa

    “Ayeee!” A young man wearing boots, khaki slacks, and a white T-shirt came screaming through the crowd… He wore a gold necklace, and his black hair and beard were unkempt. His dark eyes were ablaze as he rattled off a few rounds into the air…

    From Tribulation Force

  • P J Evans

    An Italian?

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    From Desecration:

    “You know, despite being ethnically Jewish, I am not purely an Israeli either, though I have distant roots here.”

    Seeing as how David makes this statement approximately 2 minutes before being gunned down, it seems like LaJenkins’ attempt to explain why Hayseed can be killed.

  • aunursa

    The reason that Hayseed could be killed was that Petra had not yet been established as a place of refuge.  Tsion is Israeli, but he wasn’t protected on account of being an Israeli believer in Jesus, as demonstrated by the TF’s concern with his safety throughout the early part of the series.

    The 144,000 would be Jews, 12,000 from each of the original twelve tribes, but they would be gathered from all over the world, a restoration of the dispersion of Jews throughout history.

    from Tribulation Force

    And in Book #4, Tsion shares his assumption that the bulk of the 144,000 witnesses must come from Israel — but not all of them.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Because Tsion Ben-Judah’s character sheet was lifted from the “Funny Foreigner” 80s sit-com archetype sourcebook. We should be thankful he never insists on making COusin Larry do the Dance of Joy

  • GeniusLemur

    I bet Jenkins patted himself on the back for all the extra work he did there. I mean, not every Tom, Dick, and Harry knows that the “automatic weapon” you’d find in Israel is an Uzi. That takes research

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    If ever there was an unself-conscious portrayal of the banality of indifference…

    Rayford pretty much nails it.

  • everstar

    I’ve always been mildly irritated with Godwin’s Law because it implies that all references to Hitler and/or Naziism are hyperbolic and unworthy of entertaining.  While I think this is true in nearly every case, there are those few cases where I feel it’s important not to ignore possible historical parallels.

    By the way, Fred, shouldn’t Rule #2 be Rule #1 by its own logic?  It’s a bit like the court scene in Alice in Wonderland:

    ‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.

    ‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Any specific examples of “possible historical parallels”? Because the problem with people arguing for “exceptions” to Godwin is that they’re usually doing so out of personal political beliefs rather than legitimate historical information. It’s splitting semantic hairs and misses the point – we don’t make Nazi comparisons because it minimizes a true historical horror.

    Put simply, Adolf Hitler is not a rhetorical weapon for use in Internet debates. Don’t forget that; it’s important.

  • everstar

     How does one determine the difference between a personal political belief versus legitimate historical information?  Because I thought the parallels between the misinformation in the run-up to the Iraq War and the policy of telling people they were under attack to increase patriotism were quite interesting, but I can certainly see why you could knock this down as me just projecting my own political bias.  However, I still think it’s a point worth asking of our policies: are we actually in danger, or are we being led to think we’re in danger?

    I have no wish to minimize any of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich.  Nonetheless, I think declaring it off limits for comparison now and forever is foolish.  I concur bringing up Hitler is like swatting a fly with a tactical nuke in nearly every case.  But I also think exploring ideas is sometimes more important than being tactful.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    As we’ve already discussed, repeatedly, there was plenty he could have done to warn people. He chose not to.

    In fairness to Rayford, the other options may simply never have occurred to him.  Hindsight is 20/20 after all, and we the readers have the luxury of thinking about the situation without the stress an immediate concerns that Rayford has at that moment.  Certain kinds of excitement limits how many steps a person can think ahead, limits their decision making and concerns in the heat of the moment.  Rayford might not have been intending to be a colossal jackass, he was just a human grasping at the few straws he could think of in an overwhelming situation.  

    This section here, thinking about it retrospect, could have Rayford reflect on what he might have done, what he could have done, but did not because it did not occur to him.  Have him realize that there were much better choices that he could have made, more people that he could have saved, and felt shame that he did not do more.  You know, the kind of thing that clues the reader in that he is not an evil man, just a fallible man doing his best in a horrific situation, showing his regrets and intentions and letting us the audience sympathize with him, understanding what he did even if we wanted him to do more.  

    Unfortunately, this would require much better writers.  

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     Not even that.  The character of the apathetic bystander, who is evil solely because they stood by and did nothing could be a fascinating addition to the story, if the authors weren’t so determined to make Rayford the HERO.  Stephen King could knock this guy out of the park.  Think Harold Lauder, but not as ambitious. 

  • aunursa

    Stephen King could knock this guy out of the park.

    This was discussed a couple of weeks ago…

    Writing Advice from Stephen King & Jerry Jenkins

    KING: I got to know [Jerry] through the Left Behind series, which has a lot in common with The Stand—both are stories about the end of the world, with Christian overtones (mine has more four-letter words). While I’m not a big believer in the Biblical apocalypse and end-times, I was raised in a Christian home, went to church a lot, attended MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship—lots of Bible drills, which every writer could use, Christian or not), and so I knew the story. The Left Behinds were like meeting an old friend in modern dress…. Jerry writes sturdy prose and plots well. He’s also warm and compassionate. Understands families inside and out. There’s a lot there to like.

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

     Oh, yeah but the difference is that King would make Rayford likable, but you would know for sure that he is no hero. 

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    King would make Rayford likable, but you would know for sure that he is no hero.

    Lloyd Henried, the nicest man ever to serve as the right hand of the devil

  • Dash1

     After which Tabitha was released unharmed.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GUFZNDXKK6JQGEIGV7VGXFUDKE c2t2

    Now that’s just confusing. King should be the most qualified person in the world to recognize how bad Jenkins’ writing is. Yet he’s praising it without weasel words or dodging (ie: “Successful author beloved by his fans,” “A plot of biblical proportions told from a unique perspective.”)

    I see four possibilities:

    1. All us slacktivites are wrong, and these are somehow good books written by good people.

    2. King was BSing and has never read more than a synopsis.

    3. He was being sarcastic, which got lost in translation.

    4. He was deliberately telling blatant lies to further his evil plot… resurrecting an Eldrich Abomination?

    Okay, I’m stumped. Anyone else?

  • reynard61

    “I see four possibilities(…)”

    A fifth possibility is that King has a blind spot for a fellow “writer”‘s work and, willfully or not, simply refuses to see and/or critique just how abysmal Jenkins’ writing actually is. (Kind of like how some [insert high-paying profession here]s will refuse to critique a colleague because they feel that they have to protect each other in order to “protect” the profession, but end up doing neither.)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GUFZNDXKK6JQGEIGV7VGXFUDKE c2t2

    I dunno. You don’t get King-level good at writing without being able to identify not-even-hack levels of terrible. And writing is horribly competitive, there’s no real guild or union to pressure authors into solidarity.

  • fraser

     However I’ve heard multiple accounts of writers giving their friends glowing blurbs for book jackets, or giving them because the publisher will be really, really appreciative.

  • Turcano

     He did give Stephanie Meyer the stick she deserved, so I don’t think so.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Has he ever met Meyer face-to-face, though?  I think that can actually make a lot of difference between feeling free to be brutally honest and working to find something positive to say.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    A fifth possibility is that King has a blind spot for a fellow “writer”‘s work and, willfully or not, simply refuses to see and/or critique just how abysmal Jenkins’ writing actually is. (Kind of like how some [insert high-paying profession here]s will refuse to critique a colleague because they feel that they have to protect each other in order to “protect” the profession, but end up doing neither.)

    I find that unlikely, considering he did not pull any punches when talking about Stephenie Meyer’s work on Twilight (respectfully identifying why Meyer and similar authors can sell well despite not being very good writers.)  

    [EDIT]: Damn, Turcano beat me to it by four minutes! :p

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    King: (thinking) “Well, I’ve pretty much been guilted into doing this thing with Jenkins, and it’ll be awkward as hell to be open about how much that guy’s writing sucks, right to his face. Not to mention the hate mail. Jesus, just what I need, his entire captive audience freaking out and offering me their ‘Christian love.’ Better play nice.”

    Yeah, yeah, I know, fat chance. Even though I’m not actually a Stephen King reader, I can at least dream about him just being perceptive and pragmatic, on behalf of all my friends who do love his stuff.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GUFZNDXKK6JQGEIGV7VGXFUDKE c2t2

    I maintain that King could have easily used not-quite compliments and qualified praise in any situation that called for politeness. It’s not like the man doesn’t know how to manipulate language; it would be a piece of cake for him.

  • tatortotcassie

    Given that King and Jenkins were being interviewed simultaneously, I think it’s likely King erred on the side of tact.  (Some of his other comments about Jenkins’s writing in the interview can be taken as lightly snide, depending on how you read them.)

  • Trixie_Belden

    IIRC, when this same interview was discussed a few weeks ago, the general consensus is that King was being collegially tactful.  “[S]turdy prose” and “plots well”, are positive things that one could say, when one is being pressed for a reply and  knows that weasel words such as the type you suggested above would be a little to obvious.  It may be that King and Jenkins have met or very well could meet face-to-face one day.   

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    The article says they met through a fundraiser for a voice actor who had (professionally) read both their works who’d gotten into a severe accident. “Collegially tactful” really is probably what’s happening, or perhaps the personal element of their involvement colors King’s evaluation – whether how he actually reads Jenkins’s writing, or how he claims to read it.

    Jenkins also mentions hearing from a lot of his fans that they also read King, so it could be a matter of King trying to placate and preserve that segment of his audience. (Not too dissimilar from my joking comment that King said it to avoid “Christian love.”)

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    The reader was Frank Muller…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Muller

    …and he read the entire LB series, doing a really great job (and probably 30+ different accents). 

    I imagine, as you do, that the personal element plays a strong role–in this case, their affection for their mutual friend.

    http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/writing-advice-from-stephen-king-and-jerry-jenkins

  • fraser

     It’s possible he does like Jenkins and therefore wants to say nice things about him. Or that like (obviously) lots of other people, he really does enjoy the books. Reading some of his nonfiction about writing, I’ve never particularly felt that King’s taste was that good.

  • Becca_Smash

    About the King/Jenkins quote — it just sounds to me like they hit it off when they met. Every writer and artist I know has friends in the same field who they want to do well, some of whom are at a lower skill level. Pretty much none of them would badmouth a friend (or even a friendly acquaintance) on the record — sometimes it’s not wanting to ruin the friendship or create drama (which will definitely happen if you tear apart a friend’s work to a reporter), sometimes it’s getting their opinion of the work mixed up with their opinion of the person, and sometimes it’s that they’ve heard the person speak about their work, which can give a different perspective and smooth over problems in the execution. I worked at a comic store for 5 years and ran a ton of signings, and almost everybody in the industry — retail, editors, creators — does this. Myself included.
    Also, I don’t know if I’d consider “sturdy prose” and “plots well” a rousing endorsement  — those sound like pretty weak praise to me. Same with “there’s a lot to like” — that’s the kind of thing you say when there’s also a lot you don’t like. And the rest of the quote could just as easily be talking about Jenkins himself, instead of his writing.

    As for his quote about Stephanie Meyer, well…Twilight is the world’s easiest target. There is almost no risk to anyone who wants to tear it down — as long as they aren’t a friend of Meyer’s or anything.

  • KevinC

     

    As for his quote about Stephanie Meyer, well…Twilight is the world’s
    easiest target. There is almost no risk to anyone who wants to tear it
    down — as long as they aren’t a friend of Meyer’s or anything.

    And why is it the easiest target in the world (as contrasted with other awful writing like the LB Series)?  Because it’s written by a woman for girls and women.  Ohai, Male Privilege!  Reminds me of this marvelous essay about the sexism inherent in the “Mary Sue” concept.  A quote:

    So, there’s this girl. She’s tragically orphaned
    and richer than anyone on the planet. Every guy she meets falls in love
    with her, but in between torrid romances she rejects them all because
    she dedicated to what is Pure and Good. She has genius level intellect,
    Olympic-athelete level athletic ability and incredible good looks. She
    is consumed by terrible angst, but this only makes guys want her more.
    She has no superhuman abilities, yet she is more competent than her
    superhuman friends and defeats superhumans with ease. She has unshakably
    loyal friends and allies, despite the fact she treats them pretty
    badly.  They fear and respect her, and defer to her orders. Everyone is
    obsessed with her, even her enemies are attracted to her. She can plan
    ahead for anything and she’s generally right with any conclusion she
    makes. People who defy her are inevitably wrong.

    God, what a Mary Sue.
    I just described Batman.

  • PatBannon

    Mm, I would say that the main offense of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu is not unimpeachable perfection, it is unimpeachable perfection unsupported by the plot and events. Batman is hero-worshipped even by other heroes because he has an insane laundry list of accomplishments that he accomplished on-panel and without violating his character concept*, but your average Mary Sue/Gary Stu has all the reputation but none of the actual accomplishments.

    Buck Williams is much closer to a Mary Sue than Batman, because Batman, for all his pomp, actually does things to deserve his reputation.

    Also, from a lifelong Batman fan, Batman gets proven wrong, gets completely side-tracked, and gets his ass thoroughly handled to him a hell of a lot more than that essay makes it out to be. It’s easy to tar a character when you selectively highlight his history.

    *…uh…much. It comes of having dozens and dozens of different writers over time.

  • PatBannon

    …gets his ass thoroughly handed to him. Sigh.

  • Tricksterson

    The first version still works if one is into slash fiction.

  • PatBannon

    (Now I think of this. Wish I could edit.)

    In fact, I think that author is sort of smushing Batman and Superman into one character. Batman is not primarily a Showy Invincible Hero like Superman, who deflects everything with ease before effortlessly defeating his target, he’s much more often portrayed as a Heroic Bloodshed type hero, who takes a ridiculous pounding but manages to scrape through to the end on sheer grit.

  • Tricksterson

    To be fair 9and I am much more a Batman fan than a Superman fan) Supes has come down substantially off his pedastal since the Silver Age.  Back then he literally moved planets and shrugged off nukes.

  • CC

    Mary Sue may now be an inherently sexist concept, but it’s one that was originally identified and defined by women who noticed a common trend in their writing community. 

    The fact that “Mary Sue” has been picked up and used as a cudgel against mostly female writers is sexist. But as someone who wrote a Mary Sue character before I ever heard the term, and has since read literally hundreds of stories featuring Mary Sue type characters, I believe there’s a valid critique in the original Mary Sue story and definition.

    Some young writers believe that a character has to be The Best at everything they touch before the audience will care about them. I hope it’s obvious why that’s actually a damaged and damaging idea in the first place. I’ve talked with several other women who’ve written typical Mary Sue characters, and most of us have problems with stifling perfectionism. I believe we made our early Mary Sue characters inhumanly perfect because on some level we believed only inhumanly perfect women would be loved.

    The original Mary Sue concept also notes that the Mary Sue usually becomes romantically involved with a male canon character. It’s not enough to be perfect: she also has to be a man’s love interest, girlfriend, or wife in order to matter. And she has to be perfect in order to attract these men.

    Another frequent feature of Mary Sue stories is that other women (from the original canon, or invented for this purpose) are disparaged in order to highlight what a paragon the Mary Sue is. Which is obviously worthy of criticism.

    So the criticism of Mary Sues didn’t originally, and doesn’t always, come from a sexist place.

    And I think most of us here see some value in the parallel concept of the Gary Stu, to explain the otherwise boggling creations of Rayford Steele and Buck Williams.

    For my money, the really defining quality of a Mary Sue/Gary Stu isn’t the character’s amethyst eyes or perfect list of achievements, it’s that the narrative itself treats the character as perfect, justifying all his qualities and all his actions as right and good and correct. 

    It’s what happens when a writer is so anxious to make sure the audience loves the character, and so certain that only perfect people deserve love, that the writer will distort the entire story just to make sure the character is never seen as being in the wrong. Wonder Woman and Superman can be loaded up with endless, titanic powers and virtues, but if the characters make mistakes that the story acknowledges as such and doesn’t rush to justify, the characters aren’t a Mary Sue/Gary Stu.

    But if any mistakes a character makes are quickly justified and the character’s admittance of them is swiftly made into a larger virtue than the original error– like, say, Rayford’s infidelity– or if the character can, for example, let an entire city fall to the bombs of the Antichrist, and the narrative tries to depict this as guiltless and even heroic… that’s a Gary Stu. The term and concept describe several screwed-up ideas about virtue and perfectionism, and I think it’s worth talking about.

  • aunursa

    The original Mary Sue concept also notes that the Mary Sue usually becomes romantically involved with a male canon character. It’s not enough to be perfect: she also has to be a man’s love interest, girlfriend, or wife in order to matter.

    That reminds me of so many action movies, in which, early on, the protagonist just happens to meet an attractive (and available) person of the opposite sex.  In my mind, the character’s first words are: “Nice to meet you.  I’m your romantic partner for this film.”

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    While the stories carried the horrifying pictures of war, bloodshed, injury, and death, each also spoke glowingly of the swift and decisive action of the potentate in responding to the crisis and crushing the rebellion.

    Wow! What a brave, subversive act, to show horrible pictures of bloodshed, injury, and even death to undercut the propagandist messages about “responding to crisis”. That’s one rebellious news director, so openly defying the Antichrist while pretending to work for him. 

    What? What’s that? Oh, Buck’s reading some dead guy’s notes while trying to call someone, and none of it is work related? Hmm… must be Verna Zee hard at work.

  • ReverendRef

    There’s also the problem that anyone who comes forward during their
    altar call tends to get burned to cinders by giant flames shooting out
    of their mouths.

    I wonder if this is why I can’t find anyone to swing the thurible at church?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    For what people with moral sense and good writing skills do with a character who is in a position like Rayford’s, see Deep Space 9’s “Duet”. 

    When is Rayford going to break down crying about the screams he could do nothing to stop? Not ever, I’m guessing.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh man, that episode. :O One of my favorites, easily.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I just watched that episode last week. I’d forgotten how it ended.  :-

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    For what people with moral sense and good writing skills do with a character who is in a position like Rayford’s, see Deep Space 9’s “Duet”. 

    When is Rayford going to break down crying about the screams he could do nothing to stop? Not ever, I’m guessing.

    I absolutely loved that episode.  Hell, I wanted to be that character.  It is a wonderful redemption story, mixed with a good mystery.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You couldn’t pay or give me enough to change places with Aamin Marritza. :O

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You couldn’t pay or give me enough to change places with Aamin Marritza. :O

    My mother always did say I have a martyr complex.  It felt like the fantasy of someone who feels an immense amount of cultural guilt, but unlike James Cameron’s Avatar, the one carrying the guilt knows that they cannot go on to be a hero, not after everything else.  Understandably, I felt drawn to the character, wanted to be the character.  

    Besides, just from an actor’s standpoint, who would not love to ham it up like an evil overlord, and bring your audience to sympathetic tears in the same scene?  

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Logic told Rayford he should not feel responsible. … Rayford didn’t even know yet how Earl had been killed. 

    At first, I was all set to mock this, but after further consideration, Rayford’s logic is correct. Ray shouldn’t feel responsible for Earl’s death. He should feel bad about some other things, but not Earl’s death.

    Earl knew that Nicolae Carpathia was a bad, bad person. Otherwise, why rig the intercom for cockpit spying? Rayford know this, because Earl told Rayford about the bugging.

    Earl knew that Rayford is an evangelical Christian, born-again post-Rapture, because of the workplace complaint filed against him. Rayford knows this too, obviously. 

    Earl told Rayford about the bugging, because Earl knew Nicolae was evil, and Rayford was a Christian, and Earl thought Rayford could and would put that eves-dropping knowledge to good use. Rayford has no intention of using what he learns by eves-dropping to help society at large, or really anyone outside of his small primate circle. Rayford shouldn’t feel guilty because Earl died, he should feel guilty that because of Rayford’s continued and determining inaction, Earl died in vain.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    This is what happens when people see everything as hierarchical. You get to a certain point (and that point comes very quickly), and as soon as you say worse than, better than, you’re trivializing something or someone. 

  • everstar

    I think pretending the Third Reich was an aberration and something that couldn’t happen again is far, far more trivializing than talking about it, even clumsily.

  • veejayem

    OK, if we’re going down the Gowin’s Law road … it’s hard for most of us (I hope!) to imagine but some of the men who staffed the concentration camps believed that yes, what they were doing was beyond vile. But it was necessary, and someday the world would understand the terrible sacrifice they had made.

    Nice company you keep, Rayford.

  • GeniusLemur

    Hitler’s official position was  that he didn’t want to destroy the Jews, but they were such a terrible threat to Germany that it was necessary.
    (“If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the bolshevization of the earth and this the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!” January 30, 1941 speech to the Reichstag)

  • Makabit

    OK, if we’re going down the Godwin’s Law road … it’s hard for most of us (I hope!) to imagine but some of the men who staffed the concentration camps believed that yes, what they were doing was beyond vile. But it was necessary, and someday the world would understand the terrible sacrifice they had made.

    And portraits of that kind of mind and reality can and have been made. But Rayford isn’t a true believer in Nicolae’s empire. Rayford is, theoretically, a true believer in GOD’S empire.

    This is more like a story in which Sophie Scholl takes a job as Hitler’s right-hand girl, and the reader is assured right up to the very end that she’s far more important than Eisenhower in terms of the war effort. These are the Partisans Who Don’t Do Anything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    [I]t’s hard for most of us… to imagine but some of the men who
    staffed the concentration camps believed that yes, what they were doing
    was beyond vile. But it was necessary, and someday the world would
    understand the terrible sacrifice they had made.

    OK, I’ve finally caught up with the comments, and I’m amazed that no one has mentioned The Operative yet. Perfect example of that kind of thinking.

  • Will Hennessy

    For almost two years, I worked for a casino run by the local Native American tribe (incidentally, the local high school mascot was the ‘Redskins’ until the right group put the right amount of pressure in the right place and the thing rightfully changed). While the casino was thought of by management (and pressed on the employees in training) as being ‘for entertainment purposes only,’ the place was certainly not advertised as such. I worked as a valet, parking cars that smelled to high heaven of, at best, plastic outgassing (“new car smell”–makes me gag), or worse, body odor and fast food rotting under the seats.

    While I was not an active participant in it, I watched a lot of people go in there and destroy their lives (meth use, wife-beating, a guy who paid a hooker with blank checks and was taken for $10K, etc.). The analogy I always used for the situation I was in was that I felt like Saul (or Paul), holding the Pharisees’ coats as they went off to stone Stephen. Eventually I couldn’t stand working an eight-hour shift there, almost wholly on ethical grounds.

    I could have gotten a different job, even with the economy. I could have quit. But I stuck it out, all the while feeling terrible for even passively participating in the destruction of lives.

    Thankfully I was laid off and have not returned to the place since then. But, and this is the point, I did not change MY situation.

    All that to say: Rayford. No one is twisting your nuts to be there. You have a choice. If you do not quit, that makes you a participant.

    We the jury find Steele guilty of collaboration.

    (Note: this is not intended as a tirade against gambling, which taken in moderation and with the right attitude is, I do not think, immoral. I am merely establishing my own thoughts on Rayford’s situation. Obviously.)

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    It’s obvious what makes Rayford different from Nazi collaborators: none of them ever made Hitler look silly by, I dunno, handing him a dribble glass or a piece of gum that turned his lips purple.

  • Dogfacedboy

    Logic told Rayford he should not feel responsible. … Rayford didn’t even know yet how Earl had been killed.

    This is the same Earl that Rayford coaxed into flying Global Community One back to NYC as a decoy during the insurrection in which NYC was targeted for attack, sparing his friend any insight that he might likely be killed?  No, Rayford has no reason to feel guilty about anything.

  • Jurgan

    “Hundreds of pilots could fly this plane. He himself had learned it in half an hour.”

    Wait, wait, time out.  Didn’t we spend a few hundred chapters insisting Rayford was the only one super-special enough to fly this super-special plane?

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 228 pages

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Just in case anyone is listening in, it’s best to avoid drawing their suspicion by mentioning that you don’t want to draw their suspicion.

    Unsurprisingly, this only gets worse as the series progresses, to the point where people begin phone conversations with David Hayseed, their mole inside the palace, with “Is this a secure connection?” and “David, are you absolutely, positively sure that no one is listening in?”

  • aunursa

    All text and dialogue are from Book #7 The Indwelling The Secure Line

    Ming: I need an interrogation room.
    GC Peacekeeper: Commander, last door on the left.
    Ming: Private, no viewing, no bugs.
    GC Peacekeeper: That’s the secure one, ma’am.

    Hannelore: Jacov?
    Buck: No, Hannelore, this is Greg North.
    Hannelore: Buck! What happened? Where–
    Buck: Hannelore! Your phone is not secure!
    Hannelore: I don’t care anymore, Buck! If we die, we die! Where is Jacov? What happened to Chaim?

    Fortunato: Patch me through to Director Hassid at the palace, secure line.

    She didn’t recognize the number, but her comrades had assured her the phone was secure. She would not jeopardize them if she answered, even if her number had fallen into the wrong hands.  Leah opened the phone and tucked her head behind the back of the seat in front of her. She spoke softly but direct. “This is Donna Clendenon.”

    Hattie: Buck is it really you?
    Buck: Hattie! Where are you?Hattie: Colorado.
    Buck: You’re on a secure phone?

    Leah: I told him I’d love if he could talk directly to Buck and he said he’d be happy to, but I didn’t feel right about giving out Buck’s number.
    Rayford: That was wise.  Let Buck decide that. His phone is secure, but this pastor’s is likely bugged if they just had a GC cleaning.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I know, right?

    Also, it would have been awesome to see Fortunato ask to speak to Hayseed on the unsecure line.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    With that kind of reminder about the security of the lines, one wonders why nobody ever pegged Hayseed as the mole.

  • aunursa

    There’s actually a very good reason why, despite their best efforts, nobody at the GC could figure out who the mole was.

    Austin Powers in Goldmember

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Sadly, as stupid as Hayseed is, almost everyone else in the palace is even stupider.

  • Some Guy Who Hates Pants

    David Hayseed? I was like Hayseed is that a play on Hasid so I went off to wiki and looked up characters from Left Behind and it looks like I was right, they really named a Jewish character Hassid. Why am I shocked, guess I haven’t been paying attention.

  • tatortotcassie

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if in the end it was Rayford who ended up being the true Anti-Christ and Nickie is just one of the false prophets?

  • Some Guy Who Hates Pants

    Father Ted did a better job explaining why Father Fintan Stack was worse than Hitler* than Ellenjay did explaining why Nicky is.

    *(Ted labels him “worse than Hitler”, because “you wouldn’t find Hitler playing jungle music at three in the morning”). from wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jack_City_(Father_Ted)

  • ReverendRef

    He chose, instead, to send his wife back to Chicago to check on his
    daughter, and in order to ensure her safety he did nothing to warn
    anyone in San Francisco or to attempt to interfere in the slaughter that
    he, as Nicolae’s pilot, was helping to ensure.

    Since the whole of Fred’s post acknowledges Godwin right up front . . . I read this passage and the only thing I thought of was, “Thank God it was Schindler in charge of that factory and not Rayray.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Rayford Schindler would have built Hitler an invincible army of giant robots but would still consider himself a reliable anti-Nazi because he carved an insulting nickname into the barrel of each death-bots laser cannon.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Rayford Graystone would have happily given Andreas Phaulkon all the robots he wanted, but consoled himself that he was really in the right because he spent one night reading up on Tauron society.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    To be fair, Moses & Elijah are not actually trying to convert anyone.  They’ve been sent by God to defend the warp whistle with all neccessary force. 

  • Some Guy Who Hates Pants

    Already he believed it had saved his daughter and son-in-law from certain death in the Chicago bombings

    His SAVED daughter and son-in-law who would go to paradise versus all the unsaved people he could have warned and possibly saved from eternal punishment.

    Why why why do the tribbles fear death so much when they have such proof that they are right and will go to heaven? Why would do they want to stay on the world that their God gave to Satan to rule, a world that is going to go through all of these judgements and punishments?

  • Some Guy Who Hates Pants

    Didn’t Chaim introduce Buck to Tsion?

  • aunursa

    Didn’t Chaim introduce Buck to Tsion?

    Yes.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Nicolae can’t be Hitleresque.  The world population took a massive hit in the Rapture.  All of the kids are gone, that’s bad, all of the RTCs are gone, that’s probably relatively minor, all of the people whose lives depended on RTCs (like say depending on the fact that the driver of the car in front of them wouldn’t suddenly be vaporized or that the flight crew wouldn’t disappear) are gone.  There were suicides in the wake of that.

    The population is at less than four billion and falling fast as the greatest crimewave in history has struck every part of the world not shown on the page (nice how you can talk about the crimewave without ever actually having to deal with the consequences) and a nuclear World War III just broke out.

    If Nioclae wants to run this world with its dropping population he cannot be the Hilter or Stalin of his day because the world was set up to be run by more people than currently exist.  Now, granted, he could take everyone who worked in child related stuff (not infant related as they’ll be needed nine months post Rapture) and assign things to the stuff those who died in the Rapture, post-Rapture suicides, World War, and whatever else were supposed to be doing, but the fact is that he has a world whose systems are all built around the belief that there will be more people than he actually has at hand.

    If he starts going off on campaigns of concentration camps or what have you to kill of those he considers undesirable then he’ll have even fewer people, and more than that he’ll need to tie up a portion of the not-to-be killed people to run the person killing efforts.

    He cannot go around killing large numbers of people.  If he wants to be a despotic ruler he needs to have a population to rule and without a massive restructuring of the way the world works (which I suppose could have been done with the one world currency, one world religion, and the grief counselling that somehow allowed everyone to go to work the day after every child on earth was vaporized, which is to say off screen) Nicolae has taken over an understaffed planet.

    He may destroy this city or that city to make an example, but for the most part he has every interest in trying to preserve the lives of everyone who surived, the replacement generation won’t be ready until well after the big battle with God that Lucifer probably mentioned to him, at least in passing.

    He can’t run a sustained death machine the way the standard yardsticks of evil did, because he should want to maintain as large a portion of the population as he can.  He’s going up against God in 5.5 years, and the survivors of earth’s population are the only ones he has to draw his army from.  (Unless he plans to use an army of people 6 years three months and younger.)  Until then he has a world to rule, and that world needs people to run it.  He can’t go around exhausting the already depleted population.

    A million here or there maybe, but nothing like the concentration camps raised from a regional to a global scale.  Nothing like Stalin raised to global dictator.

    The Rapture put a bigger dent in the world population than the Black Death put in Europe’s, granted most of those lost to it weren’t in the workforce.  But as people age out of the workforce there’s no younger people aging into it, and anyone whose efficiency was diminished by, “My kids were vaporized,” isn’t contributing as much as they were before.

    Nicolae needs people. 

  • aunursa

    But as people age out of the workforce there’s no younger people aging into it, and anyone whose efficiency was diminished by, “My kids were vaporized,” isn’t contributing as much as they were before.

    Kids age 10 and under were Raptured.  Presumably there would still be lots of teenagers who could toil as slaves in the underground sugar caves.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Kids age 10 and under were Raptured.  Presumably there would still be lots of potential teenage slaves to toil in the underground sugar caves.

    I for one, welcome our new pacifistic overlords.  

  • Launcifer

    Nicolae needs people

    Damnit, now I’m imagining that Nicolae is C.E.O of the Soylent Corporation*. Actually, that’s quite possibly yet another outcome that would make more sense in context than anything in the flipping books.

    ___

    * And now I’m also wondering whether it’s Rayford or Buck who’s played by Chuck.

  • Ken

    “Cameron! I have finally talked live with our mutual friend. Let us not mention his name on the phone.”

    I’m imagining Chaim’s end of the line, where he’s got Cam on speakerphone, and Nicolae, Leon, Hattie, and the rest of the gang are listening in and trying to keep from laughing.

    (And yes, I’ve seen Cabin Fever.)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    So I’m afraid we’re going to have to Godwin this thread, because, by definition, the Antichrist must be worse than Hitler.

    Actually, we HAVE seen dictators who are most probably “worse than Hitler”.  Josef Stalin immediately comes to mind, with over twice the body count.  Mao Zedong (bigger body count than Stalin) and his historic preincarnation Chin Shi Huang-Di.  The Kim Dynasty of North Korea.

  • christopher_y

    Actually, we HAVE seen dictators who are most probably “worse than Hitler”.

    Stalin and Mao have bigger body counts than Hitler principally because they started with a bigger base population; most of the deaths under their rule can arguably be ascribed to carelessness, which doesn’t make it any better. Pol Pot probably only (!) killed three or four million, but he was ruling a tiny country. I’d put him up there with the worst. Stephen Jay Gould pointed out that there were probably thousands of people throughout history who were as bad as Hitler or Stalin, but we don’t remember them because they didn’t have the technology available to the twentieth century monsters, so they couldn’t do as much harm, try as they might.

  • Carstonio

    Also, the body count metric assumes that evil is quantitative only. I would consider qualitative metrics as well.

  • christopher_y

    Agreed. I think that’s what I was trying to say.

  • http://twitter.com/uPermAbrasion Micro Perm Abrasion

    I threw away a copy of the first Left Behind book in 2009, and described it this way, in the course of describing how I had handled dispensing of other items when cleaning up my home:

    “My dad’s copy of ‘Left Behind?’  Trash.

    That last one makes me chuckle.  He loaned it to me when I was living with him.  I knew I disagreed vehemently with its theology but I had this idea that its enormous popularity meant that the story was actually compelling in some way.  I guess I was expecting Dan Brown-type bad writing.  What I got in the first 20 pages that I read or so, was such illiterate and comically awful story-telling–not to mention the writing–that I could read no more.  It made me desperately sad for the state of my father’s intellectual life.  He’s read all 12 or whatever books in this series and thinks, apparently, that they’re really f—ing great.  This gives me great cognitive dissonance.

    Anyway, I don’t want to give it back to him, because I don’t want to tell him I never read it because it’s a f—ing piece of trash.  So I just threw it away.”

    That was years before discovering the Slacktivist, the Prophet Fred Clark, and everything else.

  • Worthless Beast

    I haven’t read all of the Left Behind marked posts, but three books in and having kept from Hitler thus far… Congratulations.  And, no, the discussion doesn’t end.  Just as “sometimes fear is the appropriate response,” sometimes “Hitler” is, too.

    When I think about it, while people often forget that Hitler was human and had banal “human” things in his life, Carpathia doesn’t even reach that.  He was never particularly scary to me… Carpathia has bombings and guillotines, right?  I only read maybe six books into the series back in the day, but I don’t remember “his people” setting up massive death camps with things like scientific experients done  on people or making leather out of human skin.   There was an Antichrist in a Chick Tract I read once – making a short comic that I thought quite silly (New Age Hippies as minions of the Antichrist?) scarier than what I remember of these books.  

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    When you add it all up, God and TurboJesus manage to easily best Nicolae in death counts just because that’s the way the End Times prophecy cookie crumbles.

  • Worthless Beast

    Urg for lack of editing and lack of paying attention: 

    The Chick Tract I read actually had people from the evil side torturing Christians on screen with electric probes, making that silly tract scarier to me than what I remmeber reading in Left Behind becuase all I rememer Carpathia doing is a lot of speeches and “a million is a statistic” type bombings that even the “heroes” didn’t personalize or seem to feel very much for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

    It should be obvious why Ellenjay would consider Carpathia vastly worse than Hitler. Hitler killed millions, but they were mainly Jews, homosexuals, socialists, Gypsies and Eastern Europeans. Ellenjay has and will kill millions of WASP Americans. Granted, there are few RTCs among his victims, but his WASP toll is much higher than Hitler’s and those are really the only ones that matter to the authors.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I imagine this would go double for Carpathia vs Stalin: After all, most of the people Stalin killed were subjects of the Evil Soviet Empire. They were “his”, and surely that means that it was his right to dispose of them as he wished, just like how TurboJesus has the perfect right to set unbelievers on fire.

    (There’s a question. Is it more evil to kill X of your own people or X of someone else’s?)

  • Water_Bear

    Well, historically, killing millions of foreigners is usually part of a big conquest which leaves behind a gorgeous empire which future people want to claim as their enlightened ancestors. Killing millions of your own citizens doesn’t often do that, although Shi Huangdi and Peter the Great are pretty compelling exceptions.

    Not sure if either one is more or less evil, but they leave very different sorts of impressions.

  • Ken

     (There’s a question. Is it more evil to kill X of your own people or X of someone else’s?)

    Is this one of those tricks where it turns out that the most evil act is actually to debate the question?

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Heh, this most recent Sinfest strip reminds me of the Tribbies.  

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    The mention of our Manic Street Preachers reminds me of the way I’d write a scene with holy prophets confronting an assassin, if I wasn’t confident in my ability to write brilliant theological arguments for them:

    Have the prophets start out with a sort of introductory resume in which they explain who they are and why that’s important, and then say, “But now we have been returned to our homeland to deliver to you a great message…”

    At this point they are cut off by the arrival of the would-be assassin.  This allows the prophets to say some impressive-sounding stuff, but lets the author off the hook for writing conversion-inducing dialogue, because just when they’re getting warmed up, they’re interrupted.  (And anyone who was thinking, “Oh no, here comes a sermon” goes, “Yay, an action scene instead!”)

    Prophet 1 holds up one hand, palm forward, and the bullets freeze in mid-air and then clatter to the ground, as though Prophet 1 were a kinder Magneto.

    Would-be Assassin rushes forward anyway, with the apparent intent of smashing the prophets with his machine gun butt.  Unhurriedly, Prophet 2 grasps the gun with his fingertips, and it freezes in place.

    As WBA is struggling with it, Prophet 2 leans forward and says something to him.  WBA’s eyes widen in astonishment.  There’s a brief exchange which no one, even those standing right there, can hear, but it ends with the would-be assassin breaking into sobs as Prophet 2 gently embraces him.

    (This Miracle of Privacy, of course, serves two purposes:  it implies a deity who cares enough to avoid airing deeply personal secrets in front of a crowd, and again it lets the author avoid writing dialogue for this instant conversion.)

    When we next return to our prophets, the man who had tried to kill them is now in the forefront of the crowd of listeners, and instead of an expression of desperate hatred, he now wears a beatific smile.

  • Ken

     Much better.  The “witness” of L&J’s prophets reminds me more of the priests near the end of Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay.  They are arguing with Dorfl, a golem (he’s the one who Speaks Like This, and he’s baked clay):

    “But the gods plainly do exist,” said a priest.

    “It Is Not Evident.”

    A bolt of lightning lanced through the clouds and hit Dorfl’s helmet. There was a sheet of flame and then a trickling noise. Dorfl’s molten armor formed puddles around his white-hot feet.

    “I Don’t Call That Much Of An Argument,” said Dorfl calmly, from somewhere in the clouds of smoke.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not convincing, either. The priest could have magic.

  • Ken

    Yes, and on the Discworld they do.  But the Discworld gods do exist, and (although they’re usually found in Dunmanifestin, their abode atop the peak at the center of the world) they do sometimes wander around and chuck bricks through atheists’ windows.  Also, since they’re the sort of gods that exist only because of human belief, it’s good to get out sometimes and awe the public.

    (I think I once mentioned on this blog that Pratchett says more about the nature of faith in a few short Discworld scenes that L&J do in their entire series.)

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    The mention of our Manic Street Preachers reminds me of the way I’d
    write a scene with holy prophets confronting an assassin

    Man.  Now I’m going to associate my favorite band with these awful books.

  • Kadh2000

    When I read Rayford’s internal crisis, all I could think about was Matthew 25: 41-46.

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I
    was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
    did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after
    me.’
    44 “They
    also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a
    stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


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