By Frank Arduini
How an obscure southern preacher became a hero to “Birthers,” a laughing stock to “Obots,” and the single worst Baptist prognosticator of the future since William Miller.
I do not know Carl Gallups. I have never met him. I am aware of him exclusively through the carefully crafted persona he presents on his Freedom Friday broadcasts and special reports via his PPSIMMONS website. For all I truly know, the real Carl Gallups is a perfectly nice guy who strives to be an exemplar of the traditional Christian virtues. But that Gallups never seems to show up for Freedom Friday. Instead we get a smug and insufferable caricature; mean spirited and spiteful; a southern fried hybrid of Phil Donahue and Marjoe Gortner. But it really does not matter which is the real Gallups. What matters is that he is so consistently, comprehensively and unapologetically wrong.
What can account for such exceptional and unfortunate reliability? After a review like this one, it bubbles up as a compelling question. It is axiomatic that even blind squirrels find nuts and even stopped clocks are right twice a day. How is it that Gallups should be the exception that proves those rules?
One common opinion that has been expressed by Obots and disgruntled Birthers alike is that Gallups and Zullo together have simply been engaged in a scam. It is a suggestion certainly worthy of consideration. “Send money” had been one of the most consistent components of their message since the earliest moments of their collaboration, and recently Mike Shoesmith has been compelled to explicitly deny that accusation. But even before the first Cold Case Posse press conference, Zullo was cashing in via an eBook published for sale on Amazon. His excuse for immediately getting his hands caught in that particular cookie jar was that the media had refused to cover the press conference, and so an alternative way to get the story out was required. This is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the eBook was actually already on sale before the first press conference had even taken place.
Cormac Herley, a computer security expert at Microsoft Research, wrote a paper in 2012 explaining why the Nigerian Email Scams are so pathetically obvious to the average person. Using an approach called “signal theory” he mathematically analyzed the con but with an important new insight. He decided to look at the con from the perspective of the scammers rather than that of the victims. He realized that it cost them next to nothing to spam the world. But to make real money, they needed to be able to efficiently tell the difference between the “true positives” (those who would get sucked in deeply enough to send a significant amount of money) and the “false positives” (targets who might seem like suckers at first, but who later got suspicious and bailed out early before they paid off). “False positives” were expensive. They wasted time and resources that could have been more profitably spent on the “true positives.”
In short, the Nigerian Email Scams are deliberately stupid specifically to filter out even those with only the tiniest bit of common sense, and to insure that those responding were already identified as complete idiots.
It is difficult to listen to a Gallups broadcast without suspecting that this is also his intent. Seriously… “universe shattering?” “Deeper and deeper, darker and darker?” “Tons of evidence is piling up,” but “I’m not at liberty to tell you” what it is? Scores of “VIPs are on board,” powerful people with “unlimited financial resources” and “standing” to “move this forward to congressional investigations” or” criminal prosecutions,” but I can’t tell you who any of them are?
What rational person could listen to months of such elaborate and melodramatic gibberish and not run for the door? The argument that this has been nothing more than an elaborate grift designed to separate the most credulous and vulnerable of birthers from their retirement checks is not without merit.
If it is not all merely an elaborate grift, other possibilities certainly present themselves. There can be no doubt that birthism is, at its core, an expression of fundamentally racist impulse. This is not to say that all birthers are racists, or more specifically that either Gallups or Zullo are racist. Certainly, there has been next to nothing in their statements, writing or actions that betray an obviously racist motivation. But they embrace enthusiastically the contention that Obama is somehow “other.” That he is not a “real” American. That he is undeserving of the respect and deference generally offered all 42 previous American Presidents. It is not the wild exaggerations of his mainstream, center-right policies as “communist” or “Marxist” that are the most concerning. It is the conviction that he is himself unacceptably “different” that gives cause to consider the consuming disapproval as a mere euphemism for less socially acceptable opinions.
Finally, there is always the possibility that Gallups and Zullo are actually true believers; that they actually do believe that Barack Obama is not a natural born US citizen, and therefore ineligible for the position he has held now for more than 5 years. Such a circumstance would not reflect well on their intelligence, but then again neither of them has ever demonstrated any but the most ordinary of intellectual gifts. Zullo is demonstrably one of the worst investigators in the history of the profession. And without the technological help of the Internet, Gallups would still be just an obscure southern pastor of only the 2nd Largest SBC congregation in the Podunk town of Milton, Florida.
But true believers are simply impervious to evidence, to reason, to rational considerations of possibility or reality. They cannot be wrong. It s not among their conceptual options.
On October 22nd, 1844 tens of thousands of people gathered on hill tops and looked to the sky. They were waiting for the arrival of Jesus Christ.
These were the “Millerites,” the followers of the teachings of Baptist lay-preacher William Miller who in 1831, first shared publicly his belief that the world was roughly a decade away from the Second Coming. After a series of several missed predictions based on arcane calculations using clues from the Book of Daniel, anticipation had finally soared among the 100 thousand believers that finally, this was it; October 22nd, 1844. Many sold, discarded or gave away all their earthly possessions. Most garbed themselves entirely in white robes, wanting the appropriate dress for their entry into the Kingdom of God. When the day ended without event, it became known as “The Great Disappointment,” and commenced a period of confusion, schism and ultimately vast sectarian realignment among American Christians.
Efforts to explain the prediction’s failure were diverse and legion. Some claimed it had failed because of bad math. Some that it had failed because they used the wrong calendar. Others blamed their collective faith, or rationalized that Christ had actually come after all but was in hiding during the “tarrying time.” Almost none of those who had stood on the mountain tops with their faces raised that day ventured to suggest a simpler, more fundamental reason for the prediction’s failure.
It was never going to happen, period. They were just wrong. But William Miller still went to his grave five years later convinced that Christ’s second coming was just about to happen. Any day now.
That was December 20, 1849. More than one hundred and sixty years ago. It still hasn’t happened.
April 18th, 2014 was almost three weeks after the most recent of Gallups’ failed deadlines for releasing the results of the Posse investigation. On Freedom Friday nothing had changed. “More information” was still coming in. The release still “will happen.” It’s “amazing the stuff they’re uncovering.”
And the investigation, was going “swimmingly”
[RC: This is the final article in a series of guest articles on Carl Gallups by Frank Arduini. Here is Part X. My sincere gratitude goes to Frank for allowing me to publish this entire series. It is in draft from. An complete footnoted version will be coming soon to SCRIBD. I will also link it here when Frank completes it.]