Well kiddies, because I know you’re all dying to find out what happens next, I’ve decided to venture back in to be belly of the beast and power the rest of my way through chapter 5. I think I’m going to mix things up a bit since these long chapters of mind-numbing exposition aren’t lending themselves well to reaction comments as I read. Instead, I’ll write some overall impressions after I finish the chapter.
Turns out I gave up on the chapter just before it got interesting.
For one, now we know why Farris had Rhonda notice that Single Person Lisa wasn’t as attractive as Ginny (who I can’t really call “Handsy Ginny” anymore since she’s basically become a persona non grata in the story). It’s so that it’s plausible that Single Person Lisa is rapidly falling head over heels for Stephen, I mean Vince, who is way more handsome than any guy who has ever paid her attention. Did Michael Farris spend the better part of the ‘90s watching teen romcoms or something, because I swear that this hot-guy-chasing-movie-ugly-chick-for-nefarious-purposes trope is straight out of the sort of movie Freddie Prinze Jr. would have starred in.
You know what, I’m just going to illustrate the rest of this post with GIFs from Freddie Prinze Jr. movies, because I can.
By the way, wasn’t Bugle Boy an awfully dated fashion reference by the late ‘90s? Because Farris specifically notes that Stephen, I mean, Vince is wearing a sport coat and white Bugle Boy shirt. Just another anachronism, like him apparently being unaware that cappuccinos were a thing outside of Seattle by the time his book was written.
Anyway, Vince as Stephen is trying to infiltrate the college students so he can radicalize them to get them on tape doing the sort of shenanigans that make judges more willing to issue injunctions against protesters. His cover story is that he’s the night manager at a pizza place, which totally sounds like the kind of cover story I might have had the Hardy Boys come up with in the aforementioned middle school fan fiction.
This whole sequence of Vince trying to radicalize the college students is giving me some serious déjà vu because it’s a pretty good description of how the movement actually was radicalized. People coming in, quoting Proverbs 24:11 (rescue those being led away to death, hold back those staggering towards slaughter), saying that if you really believe it’s murder you need to act like it and law abiding picketing and sidewalk counseling isn’t acting like it, all that happened. It wasn’t plants who radicalized the movement though, it was true believers.
Many of those true believers, including the ones who began advocating for use of force, were homeschooling parents. You know, Michael Farris’ core constituency. Shelly Shannon? Homeschool mom. Eric Robert Rudolph? Homeschool kid. Paul de Parrie of Life Advocate Magazine, the activist publication that repeatedly argued for use of force and justifiable homicide? Homeschool dad. The anti-abortion movement wasn’t radicalized by charming hottie strangers preying on young single women (a sexist trope in and of itself), no, it was by the good Christian pastors, the good Christian homeschool moms and dads, the kids raised in good Christian homes who believed that if you’re going to be serious about calling abortion murder, then you need to act like it.
That Vince as Stephen is able to easily get several college guys to start loudly chanting, “let your baby live, let your baby live” over and over at a couple going into the clinic to the point that the boyfriend comes over and shoves one of them, and college pro-life guy has to be held back from throwing a punch, says more about how ripe they were for being pushed over the edge than anything.
Creepy Colonel Control Freak wasn’t happy about the clinic incident, and wasn’t happy about Vince the Plant dropping Proverbs 24:11 and Mark 3 on the rest of our Merry Band of Activists at a post-incident meeting, but Lisa and Suzie are intrigued, because of course they are. After all, it was the woman who was deceived in the garden, so we can’t possibly write any female character who isn’t a blithering idiot who believes anything a handsome man says, because those are the rules of fundamentalist Christian fiction.
Also, we’re supposed to believe that this is the first time they’ve ever heard those passages used in the context of anti-abortion activism, which apparently means that in addition to being the World’s Most Naïve Activists, they’ve also been living under a rock for the last decade. At this point I’m beating a dead horse, but we’re talking about a book published in 1997. Operation Rescue has been blasting Proverbs 24:11 from the rooftops for a decade at this point. When I say I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, it’s because I literally have the shirt with that verse on it with a drawing of wrists in handcuffs. This was a time period when kids, kids, were debating justifiable homicide and the use of force. But in Michael Farrisland, we’ve got to have an insidious plant introduce our protesters to the concept of direct action, because apparently we live in a world where the ‘80s and ‘90s never happened.
I think I just figured out the target audience for this book. It’s rank and file American Evangelicals who didn’t pay much attention to abortion activism until violence started getting splattered across their television screens. This is propaganda to convince those people that none of the terrorism happened, that pro-lifers were nothing but victims of a vicious smear campaign designed to make innocent, law abiding people look guilty.
The only other alternative I see is that Michael Farris is a religious right leader who never opened a newspaper, never spoke with any pro-life movement leaders, and somehow slept through an entire decade. And well, even though I don’t think Farris can write a compelling novel if his life depended on it, I don’t think he’s stupid.
So which is it Mike? Are you a bad author who didn’t bother to research your subject and wrote a book on a topic you knew nothing about, or are you writing propaganda so everyone forgets the bloody half-decade that just happened?
I haven’t even gone into the bits where he has Vince as Stephen alternately rubbing Single Person Lisa’s arm and ankle, things which would be normal to the rest of society, but that Farris’ audience of homeschool families is going to see as evidence that she’s allowing herself to be led astray like a brazen hussy. Which is probably why she lied for him when Vince the Plant told the Creepy Control Freak Colonel that he was never with the college students without her being around. See, make the little compromise by letting a man person touch your ankle or kiss you on the cheek, and next thing you know, you’re lying for him.
Oh yeah, and Vince is back to banging Rhonda, because he’s smooth and hot that way and she’s just a weak willed female person who believed him when he said he just wanted to talk and keep it strictly business, only then he told her that he really loved her and she was the only one he ever loved.
This chapter also has a whole subplot where Vince takes Rhonda to Los Angeles to meet with the money grubbing owners of the Women’s Center for Choice clinic chain and their lawyers to plan out the lawsuit against our Merry Band of Protesters.
Our super financially successful clinic chain is owned by these Jane Hayward and Karen Ballantine people, who we were told a while back were partners, but I’m still not entirely sure if we’re supposed to be reading that as business partners or Farris congratulating himself on subtly hinting that they’re romantic partners as well. I don’t know how his readers in 1997 would have taken it. Anyway, the only thing we really know about them other than that they’re money grubbers who are constantly on Rhonda’s case about no-shows is that Karen is 5’4”, 190, which we know is supposed to be obese because she didn’t just sit down, she dropped her frame into a chair. I guess this means that Farris is going with the “feminists are fat and ugly” stereotype.
Turns out that Mysterious Vince doctored the tape he took of the confrontation he goaded the college student protesters into, adding some chanting of “baby killer, baby killer, baby killer” and making it look like the protesters are blocking access to the driveway. He admits in front of the (super high priced) attorney that the tape is doctored, which, oh, I don’t know, is the kind of thing an attorney can get into major trouble for knowingly admitting into evidence. Because a name partner at a big prestige firm is willing to risk his professional career to pull a stunt like that.
Next chapter our Merry Band of Protesters gets served with injunctions and RICO lawsuits and I’m super excited because I know all about RICO in cases like this!