Watergate and the White House: Case Study Resources

Is America in a new kind of Watergate situation of corroded systems of government power, where checks and balances are being pushed to the limit — and perhaps beyond?

I recently completed a preliminary survey of primary sources from the Watergate era, and other resources that analyze and interpret those times in their historical context. The article below is excerpted from the chapter I wrote based on those studies. Check out some of these materials, and discern and decide for yourself whether comparisons between Watergate and contemporary American politics are justified, and if so, in what aspects and to what degree. ~ brad/futuristguy

Introducing the Wider Watergate Scandals

“Breaking and entering. Wiretapping. Destruction of government documents. Forgery of State Department documents and letters. Secret slush funds. Plans to audit tax returns for political retaliation. Conspiracy to obstruct justice. All of this by the ‘law and order’ administration of Richard Nixon. Sounds bad when you put it like that, huh?” ~ Political commentator and TV show host Rachel Maddow, in Watergate 40th anniversary documentary, “All the President’s Men Revisited.”

For the Field Guide chapter I wrote on discernment and decision-making, I picked the Watergate scandals as the overarching situation for case studies. These could be used to highlight many topics about toxic leaders and their sick systems. I focused on investigations conducted by teams, compositing evidences and discernments, and addressing system corruption.

Initial news of the Watergate scandal broke the summer before my senior year in high school. And then, for the next two years, Watergate-related news became almost daily fare – it seemed inescapable! Maybe that’s because details came out in dribs and drabs, and took many months before they could be glued together into a larger picture. Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Three

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Three: Positive Trends in Survivor Blog Communities

NOTE: This series was originally designed to be three posts, with this one being on positive trends and continuing challenges in survivor blog communities. However, I am splitting this into two posts so they are shorter, and the series will conclude with a few continuing challenges.

Introduction

Most of these trends are relatively brief. I’m seeing what I interpret as enough points of evidence to sense that something important is going on, even if the trend is still emerging from the fog and the direction it’s heading is uncertain.

The challenges, on the other hand, seem clear enough from a longer stream of online incidents. It also seems like they will always be with us in survivor blogging. Recent events that I mentioned in the Introduction to Part One have brought a few particular challenges to the forefront.

So, here are what I see as positive trends, for your consideration. Because a number of the cases I’ve drawn from involve behind-the-scenes activities, I won’t be mentioning specific details for them, or for the continuing challenges in Part Four. Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Two – Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Two: Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs

Introduction

Over the years, I’ve seen blogs that post supposedly “negative” articles about the Church critiqued as being self-authorized, self-centered, and self-congratulating watchdog operations. According to opponents, blogs dealing with abuse are just out to cause a ruckus and tear down the Church as the Bride of Christ.

One of the key problems for critics, though, is this: How many churches, denominations, and ministry networks authorize and protect whistle-blowers who warn leaders and members alike against internal malignancy and toxicity? What ongoing processes do you have to ensure those in roles of influence haven’t gone off the rails and are inflicting damage to Christ’s disciples by their own shepherding overlordship?

If prophetic voices must work from the outside because all internal checks have failed, so be it. Jesus Christ spoke up and acted in defense of those who were weak and harmed by others – and against those who misused their position and power to the detriment of others. How is He a role model to us in ways we should confront corrosion and corruption within the Church?

Part One in this series on Survivor Blogging Trends 2017 summarized five years of previous articles on trends. Part Two looks at two issues I’m seeing as coming into the foreground.

  • First, how critics of survivor bloggers seem to conflate them with discernment blogs when they’re not, and some thoughts on sources of conflict they have with survivor blogs.
  • Second, things known probably just by those who host survivor blogs and write for them, about the reflection and restraint that goes on behind the scenes.

Continue reading

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part One – Past Articles (2012-2016) on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part One: Past Articles (2012-2016)

on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities

Introduction

I have been blogging since 2003, and in 2007 I began addressing surviving spiritual abuse – mostly from the perspective of investigative research writing on malignant leadership and toxic systems. I’ve written a dozen or so case studies on spiritually abusive situations, scattered across the spectrum of theologies and organizational forms. So I’m not a newbie to blogging or survivor blogging, or to many issues of conflict that arise.

One of the most recent relates to a so-called “crisis of authority” (especially for women who post their views online) and “beware of broken wolves.”

Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere? (The age of the Internet has birthed a crisis of authority, especially for women.) by Tish Harrison Warren, via Christianity Today. See also her response to critics, posted on her blog: New CT Piece on Authority in the Church and Social Media: A Response to Critics.

Beware of Broken Wolves, by Joe Carter, via The Gospel Coalition.

The fast and furious interchanges sparked by these posts brought up some reflections on survivor blogging. So, I decided it was time to add these to my occasional series that I started in 2012 on trends in spiritual abuse survivor communities. Here’s the plan:

  • Part 1: Past Articles on Trends in Spiritual Abuse Survivor Communities (2012-2016)
  • Part 2: Survivor Blogs Aren’t the Same as Discernment Blogs
  • Part 3: Positive Trends and Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

Final thoughts in introducing this year’s trends: I hope I am known as a reasonable researcher on abusive systems, and also as a relatively fair-minded critic of our own survivor communities. I’m sure not everything I write goes down well in both of those circles, but I see my role as calling people to consider the larger picture of the organizational cultures we create and ways we misuse power in them. The squishy business of identifying and tracking trends, and giving reasoned speculation to where their trajectories may lead, is part of that role. Before I launch into what I think I see unfolding in 2017, here is the series of articles on trends that I’ve posted in the past five years, to bring you up to date. Continue reading

Training Series: Next-to-Last Draft of Field Guide #1 is Done!

Yesterday I completed the last workbook segment that goes into Field Guide #1 of 4 on systemic abuse, recovery, advocacy, activism, and setting up organizations geared to intervene in/prevent abuse of power. Some beta-readers have been giving me valuable feedback, and there is more clean-up work to do until this next-to-final draft is ready for next steps.

I’ll be giving my brain a break while I catch up on other projects that need completion. But, milestone moments are also a good time to back away from details for a bit, take a look at the big picture again, and give thanks for the process. So, here’s an overview of the providential production of this Do Good Plus Do No Harm curriculum series. Continue reading

The Benedict Option: Sam Rocha’s Critical Review and Robert Webber’s Secular Saint

There’s been quite the discussion about Rod Dreher’s recently released book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. It seems to me there’s a lot of hype surrounding its content and applications. It reminds me of what we saw in the “emerging ministry movement” of 20 years ago, with leaders looking for The Next Big Idea that would supposedly change the playing field for relevant ministry. However, such answers often ended up being lists of glib tips and methods and models that supposedly worked anywhere — a nice bypass for the painstaking local work of cultural exegesis and careful contextualization.

I’m not a fan of hypeful answers to complex questions. I prefer figuring out the broader context as a better way to give a more reflective response instead of universal principles that easily slip into quick-fix programs. And, since I have been writing about many things post-modern, post-Christian, and post-Christendom for 20-plus years, I thought it might be helpful to post several resources and thoughts to contribute to the discussion. Continue reading

Training Series Progress Update: Halfway Done with Final Draft of Chapters in Field Guide #1

This morning I finished the final draft of Chapter 8. Who Plays What Roles in a Fully Developed System That Benefits the Few and Takes Advantage of the Many? This is in Futuristguy’s Field Guide #1, which deals with systems and systemic abuse. This marks the halfway point in finalizing the chapters in that volume. After eight more chapters, I have the workbook sections, and then it will be ready for first-readers and then publishing!

Here’s a summary of this chapter, which ties together material on the Pyramid of Abuse. For me, this is a biggee, as far as a milestone. It took a few years to develop this Pyramid of Abuse, describe the roles, and refine the system. Later chapters in the training series will have similar kinds of Pyramids of Advocacy and Activism.

pyramid-of-abuse-2017-b

Pyramid of Abuse (c) 2014-2017 Brad Sargent.

The very top of the hierarchical “Pyramid of Abuse” consists of an autocrat (dictator), oligarchy (group of elites) or plutarchy (group of rich people). These PERPETRATORS run the system, openly and/or secretly.

The next layer down involves people who enforce the will of the one(s) at the top. These PERPETUATORS also typically benefit directly from the system by reaping power, prestige, and prosperity.

The next layer down involves functionaries who keep things running, pressure others into conformity through both positive and negative conditioning, and “just follow orders.” These PROCURATORS are often trying to work their way up in the Pyramid.

Those at the bottom are the masses who are milked as the sources of numbers, funds, and applause to keep the organization going. These PAWNS stay in the system for different reasons: They may know but ignore signs of toxicity, adore the leaders and what they say they stand for, or may be ignorant of warning signs.

LOYAL OPPOSITION seek to change the system from the inside; they can be in any layer of the Pyramid, but tend to be in the lower levels.

As a system, the Pyramid of Abuse also includes outsiders who perform parallel functions. COMMENDERS are supporters who lend their personal reputation and organization’s resources to prop up someone else’s system. In return, they become part of an interlocking directory that keeps multiple such Pyramids afloat in an ocean of victims. RESISTERS against a Pyramid often are survivors of victimization in it or by it. Or, they may just otherwise grasp the devastating human impact of an inhumane system and be committed to bringing justice to the situation. They become relational advocates to support other survivors and/or social activists to hold the insiders accountable for the damage they do.

Copyright and image license notes.

Pyramid of Abuse © 2014-2017 Brad Sargent. (Earlier versions called “Pyramid of Responsibility.”)

All “Gold Guy” images are © Scott Maxwell from Fotolia .com and licensed to Brad Sargent.

PERPETRATORS. Dictators: “Pointing in Hovering Futuristic Chair,” #12413672.

PERPETUATORS. Enforcers: “boxing dummy,” #1368447. Commenders: “superhero dollar,” #713804. Benefitters: “V.I.P. Access,” #5984057.

PROCURATORS. Silencers: “Alien Secret,” #9310273. Prompters: “Alien Thumbs Up,” #9310400. Diverters: “Basketball Big Hand Defense,” #6589772. Drill Instructors: “Gold Guy Thumbs Up,” #20266769. Negators: “Gold Guy Yelling And Pointing Directions,” #15452348. Validators: “Smiling Two Thumbs Up,” #9868732.

PAWNS. Avoiders: “hear see speak no,” #201421. Applauders: “award worship,” #202010. Pawns: “Puzzled Gold Guy,” #16713464. Loyal Opposition: “trapped in gear,” #810428.

 

Continue reading