Monday, January 5, 2015

Shattering Dan Brown

A while back, I was on a radio show where the topic was "shattering the narrative." It was political in nature, but it basically took stories that "everyone" knows to be true, and then rips them to shreds.

I hate narratives. Odd, I know, for an author of fiction, but I hate narrative in everyday life. There's a difference between "tell me a story" -- be it fiction or not -- and "this MUST BE TRUE because it sounds right." It's like Dan Brown. His works are fill with such historical inaccuracies and patent lies that the historian inside me has a banner moment ... a Bruce Banner moment.

But Brown's work ticks off all the right boxes -- devout Catholics are evil. Religion hates science. Religion is backwards and stupid and The Truth Will Defeat Religion. And somehow, the truth looks like a twisted version of Wiccan that even my ex the Wiccan wanted to kill Dan Brown for.

Let's ignore that Da Vinci worked for the church an awful lot. Let's ignore that most scientific advancements were backed by churches. Let's ignore that nuns were the first CEOs of large corporations. Let's ignore that the Catholic church couldn't have excommunicated Newton for his theory of gravity, because Newton was British and Anglican, not Catholic. In fact, let's ignore every last minute of recorded history, because hey, Dan Brown fits the narrative.


Here's a funny fact for you: Tom Clancy murdered Dan Brown before Brown was popular. Don't believe me? In Tom Clancy's book Rainbow 6, his heroes went up against a ban of eco-terrorists who wanted to wipe out all human life on Earth in order to save the planet, and the adorable widdle animals, etc. By the end of the book, well, things end badly for them.

In Dan Brown's latest schlock fest, Inferno, SPOILERS, the "good ending" is to wipe out one third of the planet. Because that's what's best for everyone. Because of overpopulation and the environment, don't you know?

If one looks at my pet issue, Pope Pius XII, you see much the same thing. Pius XII has been known as "Hitler's Pope" ever since the book of the same name came out in the late 90s. The story was simple: Pope Pius XII, the Pope of World War II, either did nothing to save Jews from the Holocaust / inspired the Holocaust / was responsible for the Holocaust. The version depends on how deeply psychotic you wish to go. The depressing part about it is that there is so much of a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, I made three books out of it.

But this ... all of this ... is what ideology does, and what makes it different from a philosophy.

A good philosophy takes data, and will mold around the data, incorporating it into the philosophical system. It's like Thomas Aquinas, where philosophers like Peter Kreeft and the late Ralph McInerny used current science and effortlessly plugged it into natural law.

Ideology will take the facts, then warp, twist, and shape them so that they fit the ideology. It's like the New York Times: All the News that fits the tint. Truth doesn't matter, just the story. And it doesn't matter who it hurts.

But narratives are allowed to exist because the people who spout them are accepted by a certain class of people, who have largely existed within their own echo chambers.

It's a sad day when I can find more truth in a John Ringo science fiction novel about cannibalistic alien mongol hordes than I can in a news article some days.


  1. "It is easier to rally a a band of Visgoths, Arabs or Ivyleaguers with a streamlined creed that fits neatly on a banner.In politics as well, coherent philosophy frequently looses out in the short run to ideology–that is, a half-baked idea holding a fully loaded pistol." –John Zmirak

  2. Extaordinarily well said. I find brown's books entertaining as much for their preponderance of lies as for their barely hidden hatred of all things Catholic.

    Catholic hatred is ages old, but I never saw it until I was in my teens, because for the most part I always hung with other Catholics. We were so involved in the church that those were our circle of friends.

    Our neighbors changed to Jehovas Witness when I was maybe twelve. They used our neighborhood as training for their door to door proselytizers for years. I can't tell you how many times I was informed I was hell-bound. Later, my aunt and uncle, missionaries behind the iron curtain, would send me Chick tracts.

    It literally never occurred to me to think of this as anything other than idiocy. I always wonder about those who could claim to be Catholic and then convert to- well, whatever. I'm a Catholic. I'm under minor excommunication for divorcing and remarrying outside the church, but I could as much not be a Catholic as I could begin being a cow.



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