Monday, June 28, 2010

The Armageddon Factor

Ever since Marci McDonald's The Armageddon Factor was published earlier this year, a number of hateful book reviews have come out against it, mostly from the right and the Christian right. (Quel surpris!) The most egregious example was probably this one in The National Post. I wanted to understand what all the fuss was about (but I didn't really want to buy the book and read the whole thing).

Yesterday afternoon, I dropped into Indigo at the Eaton Centre (after Saturday's G20 violence, the World's Biggest Bookstore was closed). I sat down and read the passages that Frum cited...


6) The questioning of judicial nominees is the first step on the slippery slope to stoning adulterers!

That's not what McDonald said. I like the way Frum twists her words to make this inflammatory assertion. McDonald did point out that Harper and his colleagues were outraged by the power of the judiciary to make laws (something that many of us on this rant line acknowledge -- including myself). She outlined how Harper tried to alter this situation (and rightly so, as even I would concede). She then presented facts regarding others close to the centre of power who supported Harper's initiative, including Vellicott and Bloedow. As background, she delved further into the political views of Rushdoony, and pointed out that his views had fallen into disrepute. But she did say that contemporary conservatives had taken to reviving some of his themes. David Frum's hysterical admonition that we might ever support stoning of adulterers is so typical of right-wingers' tactics to discredit and tear down people whose views threaten their own. His wood-duck-burning-witches sarcasm is further absurdity in support of his vile contempt for McDonald.

“So unflinching has Harper’s backing of Israel been that some have questioned ... to what extent is this country’s role in the Middle East being influenced by ... the idea that the end of the world is at hand?” (p. 312)

McDonald was raising some questions that we should all consider. Is Frum suggesting that we should not ask such questions? Why not?

No matter how you read the above quoted paragraph (and I read it three times...carefully), you cannot interpret it as an assertion, which Frum obviously does.

Another fine phrase that is as loaded as dice in an underground gambling parlor: "sinister chain of causation." I didn't see a causal argument here. McDonald presented her observations (which you may or may not choose to accept). She left it up to us to put these observations in context.

Christians are not Marci McDonald’s most detested target.

Very nice! Makes it sound like she's a raging anti-Semite. I did not at all get the sense that McDonald had it out for Israel. "Most detested target"??? I suppose to anyone who is really, really sensitive about Israel, if you criticize that country in any way, you are anti-Semitic.

It especially enrages McDonald that “opponents of [the Harper government’s] pro-Israel policy are routinely branded as anti-Semites”

I love David Frum's use of the word "enrages" -- no, this word isn't loaded at all, is it? "Endorses." "Disdainfully dismisses." He makes it sound like McDonald is a raving lunatic. I read the cited passages and her tone is well-measured and reasonable. "The government pays too much attention to anti-Jewish hate crimes"?? I didn't get the sense that McDonald was terribly critical. She was just laying out observations from her experience.

Is it possible that McDonald has a particular point of view in this book? Yes. You can't really write a political book without injecting something of your own view into it. The political tome has not been written yet that is totally neutral -- and such a book would be quite dull, at any rate ;-)

After all, the point of her book *is* that Christian nationalism is taking root. I would expect her to make a forceful argument.

However, I did not get the sense that Marci McDonald was completely off-base in her attempt to present a thought-provoking dissertation. If her goal was to make us ask the right questions, to make us consider the possible, then I think she succeeded.

Is it possible that the Christian right is making a power play? Yes. In fact, I would be shocked if they weren't. We should consider the possibility that fundamentalist elements of faith are asserting themselves in Canadian politics. Seems to me, until McDonald wrote this book, no one even realized the likelihood. Certainly, I didn't.

It is apparent to me, if to no one else, that book reviews are much like movie reviews. They are subject to personal interpretation. That David Frum has his own particular interpretation is no surprise. What's really surprising is that his interpretation is firmly rooted in conservative ideology ;-)

Truth is always filtered through one's experiences. That's why there is no absolute truth. David Frum's review of the book is ample evidence of this. But why the hell am I surprised?! Since when have right-wing publications been unbiased???

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