Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Conspiracy Theories gone way too far

I'd rather not have to say anything about this, but since I've occasionally recommended Scott Johnson's talks at Sermon Audio I really do have to note when he goes too far. I've written him about this too.

In recent talks he's repeated the false information that healings had occurred at Obama events. This is a story that was made up by a satirical website, Lark News. I had written him about it earlier and I have to suppose others did too, but he continues to pass along the false information.

Now on his latest topic he speaks very sarcastically of the government's financing of the switch to digital TV, wondering about their supposed eagerness to impose this new technology on us to the extent that they'd finance it. It doesn't seem to occur to him that not everything is a conspiracy and there may be perfectly reasonable explanations for some things. In this case why assume anything more suspicious than that the technology is now available to improve television enormously but since it is going to require a complete switch from the old technology to the new the public needs to be aggressively prepared for it. And since it's going to make all the older TVs obsolete the government has an obligation to help people pay for the switch.

There may very well be conspiracies afoot in the world that we need to know about, but unfortunately there is such a thing as conspiracy thinking that always sees conspiracies where there is really no justification for it. It is a violation of the virtue of charity to keep implying evil motives in people with as little justification as your own ability to imagine that a new technology could be misused. A quote from this same teaching has it that
. . .any television manufactured after 1995 already has a built in feature to send abroadcast signal from your living room of live images of what’s happening in your home.

A bit alarming, no? Does it occur to him to ask whether this is perhaps a POTENTIAL feature that a person could choose to activate or not, the way you can choose to use a webcam or Skype to broadcast yourself as people now do? Does it occur to him that there are civil liberties hounds who would be up in arms at the use of such a technology against the will of the people?

We can't find out the truth about any of this if the person presenting it has a locked-in conspiracy mental set. This attitude compromises everything he says. If he wants to be helpful he's going to have to realize that even if his material is "documented" it doesn't prove that the interpretation of it all is correct. There is no doubt a potential for a lot of technologies to be misused, but technology in itself is morally neutral.

In earlier teachings Dr. Johnson also appears to be much too credulous toward the many-times-debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as well as the "Merovingian" blood lines conspiracy notion. I haven't the knowledge to criticize these things carefully myself but Dr. Johnson SHOULD require himself to have that knowledge before he speaks and should not so irresponsibly pass on such material that has been criticized carefully by others.

You need to be a LOT more careful, Dr. Johnson.