The second “C Word” you’ve probably seen recently is CONSPIRACY. I found it amusing to receive a “Cease and Desist” letter from the attorney representing Sound Doctrine/WinePress Publishing naming me as a civil conspirator and others as co-conspirators. In fact, Chip MacGregor, well-known literary agent in Christian publishing, was also named because he re-posted someone else’s post that included my story on his FaceBook page. He had some interesting things to say about that in his blog post of March 5 entitled Conspirators R Us.
My “co-conspirator” Cindy Scinto turned me onto an interesting publication from Harvard University Law School which is part of their Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper Series. The article is entitled “Conspiracy Theories” and was written by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule. I found it very compelling that some of the issues I brought up in earlier posts about the way Sound Doctrine operates were common settings for the birthing and proliferation of conspiracy theories. Hmmmmm……
I’ve pulled out the most interesting quotes and bolded what I felt really connected to this group.
“On the other hand, individuals in societies with systematically malfunctioning or skewed institutions of knowledge – say, individuals who live in an authoritarian regime lacking a free press – may have good reason to distrust all or most of the official denials they hear. For these individuals, conspiracy theories will more often be warranted, whether or not true. Likewise, individuals embedded in isolated groups or small, self-enclosed networks who are exposed only to skewed information will more often hold conspiracy theories that are justified, relative to their limited informational environment…When isolated groups operate within a society that is both wider and more open, their theories may be unjustified from the standpoint of the wider society but justified from the standpoint of the group if it maintains its isolation.” (Page 9)
Authoritarian regime lacking free press – CHECK.
The information control in Sound Doctrine/WinePress Publishing is so tight, most people in the organization are kept completely in the dark and only top leadership is aware of issues that are troublesome.
Isolated group exposed only to skewed information – CHECK.
Cult members are encouraged to avoid any negative reports or doubt provoking information. The leadership shares limited information, out of context, in such a way as to prove they are right and the naysayer is wrong.
“Group polarization occurs for reasons that parallel the mechanisms that produce cascades. Informational influences play a large role. In any group with some initial inclination, the views of most people in the group will inevitably be skewed in the direction of that inclination. As a result of hearing the various arguments, social interactions will lead people toward a more extreme point in line with what group members initially believed. Reputational factors matter as well. People usually want to be perceived favorably by other group members. Once they hear what others believe, some will adjust their positions at least slightly in the direction of the dominant position. For purposes of understanding the spread of conspiracy theories, it is especially important to note that group polarization is particularly likely, and particularly pronounced, when people have a shared sense of identity and are connected by bonds of solidarity.” (Page 14)
Group polarization – CHECK.
In the Christian community it is definitely SD against everyone else, which is most evident from their latest post stating that if you’re not called a cult you’re not really a Christian, (see http://www.sdoctrine.org/eau-de-cult/).
Bonds of solidarity – CHECK.
Sound Doctrine members are loyal to one another and the Williams family and believe they are standing firm for the gospel. Though none go with me, still I will follow….
“7. Selection effects. A crippled epistemology can arise not only from informational and reputational dynamics within a given group, but also from self-selection of members into and out of groups with extreme views. Once polarization occurs or cascades arise, and the group’s median view begins to move in a certain direction, doubters and halfway believers will tend to depart while intense believers remain. The overall size of the group may shrink, but the group may also pick up new believers who are even more committed, and in any event the remaining members will, by self-selection, display more fanaticism. Group members may engage in a kind of double-think, segregating themselves, in a physical or informational sense, in order to protect their beliefs from challenge by outsiders. Even if the rank and file cannot coherently do this, group leaders may enforce segregation in order to insulate the rank and file from information or arguments that would undermine the leaders’ hold on the group.” (Page 13-14)
Segregating self to protect beliefs – CHECK.
Sound Doctrine members completely segregate themselves from other Christians. While volunteering in the cult’s Christian bookstore and trying to be a light to outsiders, there was always a huge wall between “us” and “them”. You would never allow someone not in Sound Doctrine to pray for you or minister to you in any way. After all, we had the truth and no one else did, that is, unless they joined our group. Even at WinePress, the lines were drawn to keep everything on a business level so that employees could not end up in a “compromising” situation with an author.
Leaders insulate rank and file from anything that would undermine leaders’ hold – CHECK.
The group-think is that you don’t want to be “defiled” by reading something written by anyone who is an “enemy of the cross.” After all, you’ve been reminded over and over of the scripture about being destroyed if you so much as listen to a false witness. And of course, anyone who does not agree with Tim Williams’ doctrine is automatically a false witness.