(A guest post by former Army Sergeant Dustin Chalker)
For those who are unfamiliar with Air Force Major Jonathan Dowty (“JD”), he is a fundamentalist bully and cyber stalker who harasses and provokes Active Duty soldiers and veterans using his blog, God and Country. Over the past several years Dowty has revealed himself to be a cowardly POGUE (Person On Ground with Unused Equipment) with an unhealthy psychological obsession with Mikey Weinstein, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), Army Sergeant Justin Griffith, and other service members including myself. This creep has written dozens – if not hundreds – of articles about us, stalked MRFF members and clients on Facebook, and continues to publicly attack Active Duty service members to the detriment of good order and discipline. As a former soldier, I was once a target of Dowty’s cyber stalking and libel.
Dowty is not a bad writer. His verbal ability is no doubt his greatest strength. But verbal ability does not compensate for poor reasoning skills. Dowty uses his ability to turn a phrase to conceal blatant logical fallacies that permeate his entire blog. The result is a series of counterfactual and misleading articles written with a superficial veneer of intelligence. Unfortunately, this is probably adequate to fool the average reader, making Dowty the most effective kind of demagogue.
Today, I will set out to unravel a few of Dowty’s tricks and lay bare his deceit.
Polarization: Dowty relies heavily upon a polarizing narrative: a black and white, in-group vs. out-group distortion highly suggestive of mental illness. The in-group is Christians (who are American and patriotic and good). The out-group consists of MRFF, atheists, Muslims, and some Jews (who want to destroy religious freedom and oppress Christianity). Dowty’s false narrative ignores the fact that over90% of MRFF’s clients are Christians and MRFF has the support of large Christian congregations. Dowty ignores the fact that his out-group consists almost entirely of patriotic American veterans who value religious liberty. Outside of Dowty’s twisted mind, his in-group and out-group share a common interest in mutual respect and reciprocal non-interference. Conflict only exists when one group polarizes itself and attempts to assert dominance, which brings me to the next point:
Slippery terms: What is freedom? To some, it is the right to do as you wish without interference from outside forces, within the limits necessary to ensure you don’t infringe on another’s freedom. To others, it is the right to do as you wish and dominate others so that they do what you wish as well. These two radically opposed definitions mark the difference between tolerance and oppression. Most people will agree with the first: that we can all believe what we want and practice our various beliefs without infringing on others. Dowty’s brand of Dominionism, however, asserts that Christians have a right to dominate and force others to participate in their practices and adhere to their rules. If you resist assimilation, you are violating their god-given right to dominate you. Because MRFF supports religious freedom and tolerance and opposes religious domination, Dowty claims that MRFF opposes religious “freedom” –using his twisted Dominionist definition. Speaking of definitions:
Equivocation: A frequent theme in Dowty’s obsessive attacks against military atheists is that a contradiction exists between our demand for religious freedom while simultaneously denying that atheism is a religion. This is a simple matter of equivocation: Dowty is taking advantage of the fact that words have more than one meaning, and he uses them interchangeably to create the illusion of contradiction where none exists. Religion has more than one meaning. If you mean: a belief system featuring faith in the supernatural, then no – atheism is not a religion. But within the context of the American legal system, religious protections apply to any philosophical worldview regardless of its supernatural elements or lack thereof. Dowty would have you believe we’re saying “We’re not a religion, but demand equal religious liberty” when our true position is best expressed as “We’re not a religion, but demand equal philosophical liberty.” The word “religion” in legal contexts has a broader definition that does include us, while the word “religion” in a philosophical context is narrow and does not include us. Dowty knows this, but equivocates in order to fool his readers into thinking we’re contradicting ourselves.
Scare quotes: Dowty loves to throw scare quotes around words to imply that a given term is inaccurate and make himself feel intellectually superior. Narcissistic displays of “cleverness” aside, this adds nothing of value to the discussion.
Self-referencing circular reasoning: Dowty LOVES to link to his own articles in his new writing. No big deal, right? Normally. But Dowty’s particular brand of crazy can even make a hyperlink fallacious. Whenever Dowty can’t prove a point, or wants to throw in an extra insult, he simply throws in a link to an old article with a snide comment that “It has been proven that…” or “Some have questioned…” or “As has already been shown…”
Fallacies: Rather than rewrite something that has already been written so well, I’d like to refer you to Trish Roberts-Miller’s list of common fallacies used by demagogues. If someone told me this list was written specifically about Dowty, I would believe them.
Jonathan Dowty’s libelous attacks on active duty service members should be more than enough to justify action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. However, due to his Christian privilege it is unlikely that he’ll ever be held accountable for attacking subordinates. Any atheist officer insulting and attacking Christian soldiers would’ve been properly reprimanded, but because of the twisted definition of “religious freedom” Major Jonathan Dowty gets a free pass to abuse his rank and position to attack those who can’t fight back.
Even more important than UCMJ action is the fact that Major Jonathan Dowty needs to be evaluated by mental health professionals. His pathological obsession with his targets, polarized worldview, black-and-white thinking, twisted terminology, desire to assert dominance over other groups, and manipulative use of language all suggest the possibility of mental illness. As we’ve seen in the past, the consequences of ignoring the signs of mental illness can be quite severe, especially when such illness is linked to extreme religious beliefs, such as those of Major Nidal Hassan. I hope that the leadership of the Air Force has the courage and wisdom to take action when all signs indicate that action is warranted.