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UM Media Adds "Clintonesque Spin" To Report Of Complaints Against Bishop (Editorial)

From: Michael L. Gonzalez GonzoML@concentric.net
To: Warrener, John jwarrene@surfsouth.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2000 10:04 PM
Subject: Sprague defends himself

Sprague defends himself

The following is in reference to the article at http://www.gbgm-umc.org/nillconf/UMRjul00.htm#7281   I assume this will be printed in this week's UMReporter, Northern Illinois Conference edition. _________________

Taking a page directly from Bill Clinton's playbook on "how to respond when conservatives accuse you," C. Joseph Sprague has armed his media mouthpiece, Linda Rhodes (a journalist paid by Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) funds, who's invoices are approved for payment in Sprague's office) with information necessary to both refute the complaints/charges against him, and also to paint his accuser(s) with broad brushes of negative connotation.

In this writing, analogies are made to Bill Clinton and his White House administration. These analogies are made for one reason: The American public has just experienced the most effective manipulation of public opinion in this country's history, predominantly exemplified during the impeachment period. It's irrelevant whether this feat was accomplished by a democrat or republican administration--the fact is, it happened.

This writing is not intended to tie C. Joseph Sprague or his "administration" to the Clinton White House, but rather this writing will demonstrate that the techniques used by the White House are being employed by an elected bishop of the United Methodist Church.

The amateurish media spin being applied by Linda Rhodes, through the NIC edition of the UMReporter (for which she has control and responsibility) is based on a two-prong approach: 1) McCarthyism's "demonization by association," and 2) claim confidentiality while simultaneously and purposely "fighting the battle" through the press (which is fully in Sprague's control).

In an effort to demonize his accuser(s), Sprague (through Rhodes) has prejudiced the UMC member/reader by showing the sole accuser, John Juergensmeyer, as tied to the Des Plaines Campground. It's no secret that Sprague (through Rhodes) demonized the Campground last year, through similar repeated devious and biased reporting in the UMReporter. Obviously, there's a strategy here. I can imagine the Sprague Spin Machine strategizing, "Well, last year we successfully convinced the average UMC member/reader that the Campground was run by a bunch of homophobic fundamentalist Christians, so let's keep the good times rolling by saying that this same group is on a vendetta now against Sprague." Well, how convenient!

So there's one strategy for manipulating the public through the media, but as we've learned from the Bill Clinton saga, one strategy is not enough. For several years, we've watch the White House use varying strategies, all simultaneously.

Here's another strategy reminiscent from the White House, now adopted by the Sprague Spin Machine: Have the elected executive take the victim route by saying that there's a huge bogeyman after the executive. In order to subliminally trap the unsuspecting public into feeling sorry for the accused executive, invent an opposing force that appears huge, awesome, and powerful. Sprague was quoted by the United Methodist News Service (and repeated by mouthpiece Rhodes--so obviously this IS Sprague's strategy) as diminishing the significance of the actual accuser, John Juergensmeyer, and creating a fictitious accuser known now as the "vast conservative conspiracy." Perhaps Sprague also sees this as a potential exit strategy in case he opts to resign in the face of the charges/complaints: The last thing Sprague would want is to have to back down from "one lowly lay person" (David vs. Goliath), thus Sprague would prefer to see himself defeated by a "vast conservative conspiracy." Right?

Just in case this "vast conservative conspiracy" needs some faces (in order to demonize some individuals locally), Sprague (through mouthpiece Rhodes) brings into the mix, Dan Lauffer, UMC clergyman who stood up to defend the faith last year (having been left with nothing but a decades-premature retirement for his efforts). Bringing up Dan Lauffer--wow, what an about-face. Last year Sprague was so insistent and so careful to make sure that Lauffer's charges against him would be held confidential, and now, Sprague (through mouthpiece Rhodes) brings these past CONFIDENTIAL charges to the forefront.

And who is this guy, Michael Gonzalez? Why does his name appear in this article? This guy must be a part of this "vast conservative conspiracy," but who is he? Why bring him up? I wonder just what the Sprague Spin Machine has in store for this guy. How will HE be demonized? Stay tuned to see how Sprague (through mouthpiece Rhodes) tries to tear down more UMC members, who will never look like good Christians in the UMReporter.

Moving on now to the second prong of the approach to fight this out in the media by the Sprague Spin Machine, which is also straight out of the Bill Clinton playbook. Remember in early 1998 when Bill Clinton had his Cabinet members walk before the press in lockstep to defend him against the Monica charges? One by one each Cabinet secretary walked to the microphone and uttered mis-truths, lies, and mis-leading statements in defense of the elected executive.

Rhodes' article quotes some Sprague "cabinet members." Let's see just how many more such persons that Sprague (through mouthpiece Rhodes) can parade to the microphone. Be sure to keep score as to the defenders' own personal interest in defending Sprague: Clergy held hostage by Sprague through appointive process, paid by NIC, NIC bureaucracy, egos fed by NIC, position weakened or lost if Sprague leaves, homosexual advocates, etc.. Where are the rank and file members of the NIC? Will ordinary members speak in his defense? Stay tuned . . . .

PS: Notice that Sprague says that he won't respond publicly to the charges, and then he (through mouthpiece Rhodes) responds in this article. Take for example this statement in response to the first charge, as written in the article by Rhodes: "Eyewitnesses of the protest say that Sprague was sitting in his assigned seat on the stage . . . " Where did this information come from? How did Rhodes gather this information? Isn't she a reporter, who only reports? Who were these eyewitnesses? Rev. Emery Percell is quoted, but how did Rhodes track him down for this quote? You know the answer as well as me: Sprague told Rhodes this information for her "investigation." Don't tell me that Rhodes is not Sprague's mouthpiece.

Here's another Clintonesque maneuver: "Bishop Sprague was not ordered arrested," said the Rev. Emery Percell, who was on the stage having just completed a presentation. "Bishop Sprague and Bishop Morrison were not part of the demonstration. They decided that their witness needed to be made with the people who were going to be arrested, and they stepped out to go with them." During last June's annual conference session, Sprague told those attending a discussion with him that he accompanied the protesters to jail "as a pastoral act."

Well gee, was Sprague supporting the homosexual advocates or not? If he's in a crowd of homosexual advocates he says he took part in "civil disobedience" but when he's being accused of exactly that, he says it was simply "a pastoral act." How "Bill Clinton" can you get?

Also, don't miss this "Janet Reno style of loyalty" in the Sprague "cabinet:" "Whatever incompetency in administrative ability that I have as Conference Secretary that would keep me from adequately responding to what for me was, frankly, a situation I've never faced before--trying to get a journal printed by a company that was going out of business--shouldn't be laid at Bishop Sprague's door," Swinson said.

And preparing the way for other "Janet Reno types:" Considering the other complaints, Swinson said: "It seems to me that it would hardly be fair to put Bishop Sprague out front and blame him for things that all of us in the Annual Conference who come and debate and vote and decide are at least in part responsible for."

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