• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Marci McDonald’s "The Armaggedon Factor": The Unravelling Begins

Marci McDonald, who has won many prizes and held many prestigious positions in Canadian journalism, has just released a very bad book on what she posits is an increasingly menacing Religious Right in Canada.

Let’s start with the title: The Armaggedon Factor. Notice, as if you couldn’t, the hysterical title conveying the usual stock-in-trade of contemporary journalism: FEAR! FEAR…and how it can kill your family! More news at 11! (HT: The Colbert Report)

It doesn’t get better. I’m wading through its confused prose, bad arguments, lack of specificity and evidence, and preposterous paranoia and intend to write more soon.

(Two quick examples, though, lest I be accused of a drive-by shooting:

#1: “[Ralph] Reed’s Christian Coalition controlled both Houses of Congress” in the 1990s. No serious scholar of American politics would make such an assertion and Ms. McDonald adduces not a single shred of proof nor even an authoritative source for such a preposterous notion. Her notes indicate that her main sources for such generalizations are the widely discredited screeds by Goldberg, Hedges, and Phillips–yellow journalism of the same alarmist school.

#2: Ms. McDonald asserts the plausible thesis that post-Quiet Revolution Quebec is the most secular society in Canada, but her “proof” of it is bizarre: “its birth and marriage rates are the lowest and its abortion rates the highest in the country.” Such a characterization sounds, ironically enough, as if it is a charge levelled by fundamentalist Charles McVety himself: secularity is best defined–not by lack of church attendance, the usual sociological metric, nor by a lack of public influence or privilege enjoyed by churches and their clergy, the usual historical reference point–but by being against marriage and for abortion. “Aha!” one can hear McVety chortle with glee: “Just like I’ve always said!”)

As I say, I’ll mount a more systematic case soon. In the meanwhile, however, some bloggers have already noticed that Ms. McDonald is getting basic facts wrong . . . or misinterpreting what facts she has. (It’s like shooting fish in a barrel: Time magazine’s famous cover didn’t assert that “God Is Dead” but asked, “Is God Dead?” and it came out in 1966, not in the 1980s, as Ms. McDonald avers. Big deal, you say? Well, when the easy-to-check facts are wrong, how do you believe the ones that aren’t?)

Paul Wells writes here; Mark Petersen writes here.

THE NEXT POST IN THIS SERIES IS HERE.