I shared with you in yesterday’s post that I watched Kill the Messenger, the story of the journalist Gary Webb who uncovered the CIA’s collusion with drug cartels in Central America. They brought crack cocaine into the US in exchange for them using some of the massive profits to fund Reagan’s Contras. When the story first broke in Webb’s famous “Dark Alliance” series, he became a journalistic hero. But when pressures from above were applied to the newspapers, they started to cave under the intimidation and spin of the government. Webb was eventually discredited, unable to find work, and was finally found dead with two bullets to the head. It was ruled suicide.
At one point in the film, Webb is warned about what’s going to happen to him. Someone inside the government warns him that they are going “controversialize” him. That is, they are going to dig up all the dirt they can find on him and publicize it. They are going to make the story about him rather than the story. Eventually, people would forget about the scandal and only remember him and what he did. Sure enough, as predicted, this is exactly what happens. He lost everything.
To this day, the official news corp still discredits Webb. They claim his research and writing was full of holes, inaccurate, misleading, and even intentionally false. His story has been dismissed by all those in authority. In this article, Marc Levin suggests that even though there were some mistakes in Webb’s reporting, it was because the story was shrouded in secrecy and Webb was doing his best to get to the root of what was happening. Levin says, “Once again the paper has decided to focus on discrediting a fellow journalist instead of deepening the analysis of the story he highlighted.” That is, rather than continue to dismiss Webb and his work, they should look deeper into what Webb was uncovering. Of course there are going to be some mistakes because of the nature of the story. But something was going on that needed to be uncovered and told.
I was so impacted by the film because it reminds me of what’s going on right now, yes, right now, in the Tony Jones and Julie McMahon story. We don’t know the whole truth. But we do know we are onto something important and we are trying to talk about it. It’s about the abuse of power. Of course it is shrouded in secrecy because it wants to continue undeterred.
Nadia Boltz-Weber posted an over the top glowing review of Jones’ new book, Did God Kill Jesus?: Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution. I mean, glowing:
“I am so grateful for this important book. I will honestly be referring people to Did God Kill Jesus? for decades to come. It’s that important. If I had this book in seminary, several of my classes would have made a lot more sense.”
But what’s more important is the comment section. At this point there are over 550 comments. At first, the comments are asking Bolz-Weber why she would promote a book by someone who is an alleged abuser. But at some point the tide turns, and the comment section gets flooded with strange names with private accounts with no apparent internet history who reveal nothing about who they really are. Some are explicitly fans of Jones. But most are questioning the integrity, reliability, and morality of Julie.
Julie is being controversialized.
Even though the real story is about Julie being thrown under the bus, gaslighted, bullied, abused, and shamed by a popular Christian leader and his friends, the story is becoming about her. Even though the story is about the abuse of power, it’s becoming about the personal life and character of Julie.
These people would like the story to be about that she lives in a upper-class neighborhood, has a fleet of SUVs, has a bottomless pit of wealth from her family’s connection to oil, has nannies and is a member of exclusive clubs, is a liar, a bad mother, vengeful, hateful, and… back to the very original accusation… batshit crazy. These are just some of the accusations… implicit and explicit.
The story is now about Julie’s character. Not about the abuse of power.
In fact, not content to discredit Julie, they are implicitly threatening to look into the lives of those who have provided a place for her to share her experiences, including me. They are openly asking people for information.
It’s almost like Nadia Bolz-Weber’s post has become an anti-post to my post that started all this, Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What Came First, the Thug or the Theology. My post and the comments are about a story of the abuse of power. Bolz-Weber’s post and the comments are about Julie.
Some might argue: “Well, your post made Tony look bad. Bolz-Weber’s post makes Julie look bad. All’s fair in love and war!”
But I would disagree. My post became about a safe space for a person to share her experiences of abuse, shame, and silencing from not one man, but from many people. Bolz-Weber’s post is a smear campaign to discredit Julie and dismiss her story. As if sinners can’t be abused.
Again, it’s not about a messy divorce. It’s about questionable activities surrounding the divorce that were intentionally covered up to protect ministries. That’s the story.
Here’s another quote from the film Kill the Messenger:
“You get attracted by the power. Then you get addicted to the power. Then you get devoured by the power.”
This is true. It applies to those in power. They are consumed by it. But it also applies to its victims. They are being devoured by the power. Chewed up and spit out.
And, like the cartoon above suggests, they are even being blamed for their own suffering. Bolz-Weber’s post’s comment section is victim-blaming par excellence.
Join The Lasting Supper. We are great listeners.