long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

"Mike Parker" responds to Bill Reel

"Mike Parker" has asked me to remove, or at least modify, the observations I made last week after watching a youtube video produced by Bill Reel about his "Peter Pan" pseudonym. It's a reasonable request that I'm honoring here, complete with his input that he asked me to address.

In one sense, I agree with Mike's claim that Bill's video is opportunistic and makes a mountain out of a molehill. Had Mike and his friends simply made one small (albeit childish) mistake within a larger context of honorable, above-board, cordial and scholarly discussion of issues, I would have ignored Bill's video. Bill himself probably wouldn't have bothered making the video in the first place.

But that is not the context in which Mike and his friends acted. 

Instead, the activities Bill displays in his video are part of a long pattern of this brand of apologetics, egged on and promoted by Dan Peterson and others who should (and at some level surely do) know better. I assume Bill, as a former participant in these apologetic games, knows this all too well and thus made the decision to call out the behavior. 

Because I hope Latter-day Saints generally, and those associated with the Interpreter specifically, will spurn the tactics and antics of the apologists documented in Bill's video, I found it important to call attention to this persisting problem. Nothing in Mike's response alters that decision. To the contrary, as you'll see, Mike's response demonstrates more of the same counterproductive brand of argument and accusation that is the rotten core of current LDS apologetics.

But fairness requires that his voice be heard, so here it is.

Background. The video explained the saga of "Peter Pan," including the fraudulent, racist persona that a group of "Interpreters" (shorthand for people affiliated with the Interpreter) created as a subterfuge to hide the actual identity of the infamous "Peter Pan." 

Here's the link: https://www.bookofmormoncentralamerica.com/2023/04/clown-world-m2c-citation-cartel-and.html

I had been aware of this "Peter Pan" but I didn't know the full extent of the chicanery these clowns fine young scholars had concocted. And no less than Dan Peterson not only promoted the Peter Pan persona, but he perpetrated the fraud right in the pages of the Interpreter.

I still find it incredible, even for the Interpreter.

Before the video was released, I had received emails and text messages claiming that the identity of "Peter Pan" had been exposed, and it was Mike Parker. Over the years, several people have emailed me about their suspicions of the "real" identity of Peter Pan. I usually reply that I don't care because (i) the pseudonym is apt since, like the blogger(s), Peter Pan is a boy who never grows up and (ii) I don't read the blog anyway because the one time I did, it was so ridiculous I didn't think any sentient reader would take it seriously. 

Plus, I didn't think then, and still don't think now, that "Peter Pan" was only one person, although Mike Parker is now taking the fall for the charade. 

During my podcast with Kerry Shirts, by which time the Mike Parker connection was widely known, someone asked if I would have lunch with Mike Parker and be friends. I said I would. I remembered that "Peter Pan" had once emailed me years earlier, so I emailed "Peter Pan" and suggested we have lunch when I was in Utah. "Peter Pan" declined.

After I posted my observations about the Bill Reel video, an individual emailed me from the "Peter Pan" account, claimed he was "Mike Parker," and asked that I remove my blog post about Bill's video. A series of emails ensued.

At this point, I don't know who is emailing me as "Mike Parker." As I mentioned, when I suggested we have lunch when I was in Utah, he refused. I suggested a phone call or zoom conference, but he refused. All I have to go by is an email address for "Peter Pan" and a series of emails by someone claiming to be "Mike Parker."

I have good reason to question the identity of this individual(s). A couple of years ago, I received similarly aggressive and antagonistic emails from an individual who was using an obvious pseudonym (but not "Peter Pan"). We exchanged several messages as I explained my positions on various issues. I also explained that my responses would be the same regardless of who the person was. Eventually the individual identified himself as a well-known General Authority who has spoken in General Conference. He even gave me a link to his talk. I verified his identity through a mutual acquaintance. Fortunately, he is now emeritus so no one sustains him, but this is some of the history I've had with LDS pseudonyms.

At any rate, the "Mike Parker" who has been emailing me wants me to remove my blog post. I told him I'd be happy to correct any errors I made. Instead of working together on this, he posted another aggressively antagonistic criticism on his blog and expected me to read it. When I explained I don't read his blog, he emailed me his post directly.

Because I agree that the real Mike Parker in Bill Reel's video deserves to have his side considered, I'll assume for purposes of this discussion that the "Mike Parker" who has been emailing me is the same Mike Parker featured in the video. But if the real Mike Parker someday surfaces and claims he had been impersonated by whomever wrote the "Peter Pan" emails, I won't be surprised. 

I'm posting the "Mike Parker" material here with a few comments for context. Readers can judge for themselves. 

It's long and tedious, but if I don't address every point, my critics accuse me of "ignoring" their criticisms, so here goes.



Comments from "Mike Parker," aka "Peter Pan."

Bill Reel’s podcast

On , ex-Mormon podcaster Bill Reel hosted a 2 hour and 46 minute (!) YouTube livestream with the intent to (from the video’s description) “expose the shocking story of how a group of 5 white LDS apologists fabricated and perpetuated a fictional black apologist, Richard Nygren, to provide cover for one of their own. Through detailed investigation and interviews with key players, we reveal the disturbing truth behind this deceitful act and its coverup as well as the impact it has on those involved and on the Mormon apologetic community.”

The truth behind Reel’s breathless hyperbole is not nearly as interesting or dramatic as he tried to make it, and none of the supposed “key players” responded to his requests for information (unless Reel was referring to Jonathan Neville, in which case I’m not surprised). 

[My context: despite this innuendo, I don't know Bill Reel and I've never communicated with him nor have I given him any information. After the video was produced, but before it was released and before I saw it, I did an interview with Mormon Book Reviews about what little I knew and how I hoped that, whatever came out from the video, I hoped it would lead to more legitimate LDS scholarship and fewer childish games such as the Peter Pan saga. After watching Bill's video, and despite being appalled at what these Interpreters were doing, I still hope for such an outcome.]

In addition to denying Reel’s spin that I or anyone else “perpetuated a fictional black apologist,” I also categorically state that neither I nor anyone else mentioned in Reel’s video made any fake Richard Nygren profiles on YouTube or any other social media platform, website, or online chat.

[Anyone can watch the video and see Mike Parker and his friend discussing the fictional black apologist they named Richard Nygren. Apparently Mike is focusing on the word "perpetuated," but again, anyone can watch the video and see that Mike not only did not renounce or even object to the creation of Richard Nygren, but he responded as Peter Pan to comments directed at Nygren without clarifying that Nygren was fictional and was not the true person behind Peter Pan. Readers can decide whether that constitutes perpetuating. 

It's not clear how Mike can speak categorically on behalf of the other Interpreters mentioned in the video. Their participation in this fraud gives them plenty of incentive to hide their behavior, even from Mike, and Mike's participation gives him plenty of reason to protect his friends. Regardless, it was their invention of Richard Nygren that gave an opportunity for anyone to create a fake profile in that name.]

That didn’t stop Reel from “grinning ear to ear” when he found a story he could spin to attack and defame a few Latter-day Saints. And his lackeys naturally ate up everything he said, making equally reprehensible comments in the live chat, including some loathsome attempts to dox me by posting my home address.

[This reads as if written (or edited) by an Interpreter committee, complete with their typical sarcasm, pejorative adjectives and nouns, and the tactic of blaming Bill for the story they themselves concocted. That said, I agree with Mike that doxing is inexcusable.]  

Because of Bill Reel’s video, I’ve received harassing messages from disturbed individuals accusing me of being a racist. Some of these messages have contained what could be considered threats. I won’t post those messages here, as they may be evidence if one of these people decides to follow through on their statements.

[I agree with Mike that such messages are inexcusable, but it wasn't Bill who created or perpetuated the racist persona of Nygren. It was Mike and his fellow Interpreters who did that, and now they seek to shift the blame to Bill for what they did. Still, Mike has a valid point that it was Bill who produced and released the video, and in that sense he may have instigated some of the harassment. Ironically, he is following Dan Peterson's example by promoting Peter Pan in the public arena. Bill should and could have made the point that such harassment is wrong. I have no reason to think he would encourage or condone such harassment.]

Normally, I would just ignore Reel’s video—“don’t feed the trolls,” and so forth. These deranged lunatics are obsessed with destroying people who believe in the restored gospel, and they experience no twinge of conscience when they distort the truth.

[More Interpreter committee rhetoric doesn't clarify the issues. I don't know Bill Reel and even if I did, I couldn't read his mind the way Mike does. But I agree with Mike on this: if Bill does seek to "destroy people who believe in the restored gospel" then I deplore that agenda and any related conduct. But I don't see that in his video. Instead, I see Mike Parker and his friends creating and promoting a fraudulent, racist persona to protect the true identity of "Peter Pan," whether that identity is Mike individually or his Interpreter friends as a group.

Of course, the obvious irony here is that "Peter Pan" has for years published a blog that seeks to "destroy" me as a person who believes in the restored gospel but not in the narratives promoted by Mike and his Interpreter friends. It reveals more about Mike and his friends than about Bill Reel when he writes "they experience no twinge of conscience when they distort the truth."]  

But then Jonathan Neville jumped on Bill Reel’s bandwagon.

[See what I mean about Mike's obsession with trying to destroy me?]

Jonathan Neville promotes Bill Reel’s video

Jonathan Neville—who refuses to read anything I’ve written or to watch my interview with Robert Boylan—was apparently more than happy to watch Bill Reel’s podcast, because he posted about it on his blog.

[Mike knows that I refuse to read his stupid blog, but contrary to his assertion here, he also knows I'm happy to read anything he wants to send me directly or in an appropriate forum. He also knows I've posted a series of separate articles on this very blog responding in detail to what he has written, but he doesn't tell his readers that.

I saw Mike's interview with Boylan on Bill's video. Life is short and I don't have time or interest to watching the same video more than once.]

In his blog post, Neville asserted:
Prominent members of the citation cartel concocted, promoted and perpetuated a fake blogger persona named ‘Peter Pan’ to attack me on an ad hominem blog that ridicules my family name.
Just about every word of that sentence is false.

  • There were no “prominent members” of anything involved with the creation and maintaining of this blog; it was solely my idea, and I alone am responsible for it.

[Here, Mike expects people to take his word for it, despite using a pseudonym for years and despite the active participation of his Interpreter friends in perpetuating his deceit right in the pages of the Interpreter. The participants Bill identified include both the founder of, and one of the most prolific contributors to, the Interpreter.]

  • By “promoted,” Neville is referring to Daniel Peterson sharing links to this blog on his own site from time to time. He did this not because he’s been involved in the creation or operation of this blog, but because Jonathan Neville has attacked him and other scholars with weird claims that they’re part of some conspiracy to promulgate “M2C” within the Church.

[Mike's scare quotes seek to minimize the reality that Dan has repeatedly praised and posted links to the Peter Pan blog, thereby actively participating in its dissemination. Without Dan's promotion, no one outside Mike's friends would know or care about his blog. We have only Mike's word that he is the sole author. Mike and other members of the M2C citation cartel speak in terms of "conspiracy." I have described it as groupthink, silos, peer-approval, etc. I didn't invent the term "citation cartel," which has been used to describe the incestuous nature of academic journals. The record speaks for itself, as I have documented many times. Dan's promotion of Peter Pan is more evidence of the M2C-promoting activities of the citation cartel.]

  • If Neville wants to call writing a blog under a pseudonym using “a fake blogger persona,” then I’m afraid to tell him that many blogs are pseudonymous, many famous authors have written under pseudonyms, and even many early American Founders wrote pseudonymously. (I certainly don’t consider this blog to be on the level of Thomas Paine’s anonymously published Common Sense, of course.) As I’ve stated before, I used a pseudonym to protect myself from unstable people—a decision that has now proven itself to be prophetic, as I’ll explain in a moment.

[As I've said, I preferred the "Peter Pan" persona because it was the perfect choice for a juvenile blog that never grows up. I've pointed out on my own blogs that I'd prefer discussions on the merits instead of focused on personalities because so many people (as we're seeing with Mike) take personal offense when their ideas and actions are challenged. I just find it ironic (and amusing) that for years, Mike has focused on me by name while hiding behind his pseudonym. I just ignore ad hominem arguments and blogs. I figure if Mike had something worthwhile to say, he'd contact me directly and we'd have a dialog (as I did recently on this very blog).

  • To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never “attacked” Jonathan Neville on this blog. I’ve at times been sarcastic or snarky, but I’ve always tried to focus on his claims and assertions, not on his person. If anyone can give me examples of where I’ve “attacked” him, please let me know in the comments below; if there are legitimate examples, I’ll gladly remove them and apologize.

[Mike's word thinking leaves us wondering what he considers an "attack," but just a few paragraphs above he falsely alleged that I was a source for Bill Reel and that I've jumped on Bill's "bandwagon." I don't know how many other things he has said because I don't read his blog, but others have sent me excerpts that most people would consider attacks.]

[More of Mike's word thinking.]

  • This is the first time that Neville has alleged that the name Neville-Neville Land “ridicules [his] family name.” It’s strange that he’s waited this long to make an issue about it; this blog has existed for over four years, and only now he’s bringing this up? It seems to me that he’s desperately seeking some opportunity to criticize me.

[More of Mike's mind-reading. I've told him I ignore his blog. I think most rational people reading the excerpts I've seen would ignore it as well. It was primarily Dan Peterson's promotion that made Mike's blog an issue. And, frankly, I still don't care. That Mike thinks the name of his blog is appropriate, reasonable, and productive tells me he's not a serious contributor. Another reason why Peter Pan is an apt pseudonym.]

Amid his many other claims, Neville also asserted in his blog post:
For years, these guys have been falsely accusing Heartlanders of racist motives when it is they themselves who used a phony and racist persona to mislead their own readers and followers (and donors, in the case of Dan Peterson).
This is a rather audacious claim, considering that Rian Nelson on the FIRM Foundation’s blog has made repeated antisemitic statements, statements that Neville himself has shrugged off by writing, “Lots of people think crazy things, and normally that doesn’t matter because we recognize that none of us is perfect.”

[First, I don't agree that Rian's posts, at least the few I've seen, are racist in any sense of the term. But let's say, arguendo, that his posts can be interpreted as antisemitic. After all, Mike and his friends participate under the rubric of The Interpreter, so I suppose we're supposed to defer to their superior wisdom. 

As we see in Bill Reel's video and in their other writings, Mike's friends have long labeled Heartlanders as racists, not because of antisemitism, but because they claim Heartlanders are right-wing nationalists. Not that long ago, another Interpreter went on a podcast to make that claim after doing a newspaper interview making the same claim. So yes, the Interpreters have accused Heartlanders of racism. In fact, as we see on the video, the very reason why they created the false, racist Nygren was because they accuse Heartlanders of racism.]

Neither Jonathan Neville nor Bill Reel cared when the FIRM Foundation was posting vile, racist antisemitism on a regular basis. 

[More mind reading from Mike. I can't figure out why Mike thinks I read all this stuff. I'm busy with other things. I don't have time to read the FIRM Foundation site or much of anything else. I mainly read things people send to me. I only learned about Rian's post after someone sent it to me when Dan publicized it. And I'm not aware of any such things being posted "on a regular basis." The one post Dan publicized, I'm told, was a response on Facebook that Rian removed shortly after posting it. I've talked with Rian about this and I'm satisfied he had no racist intent, as anyone who reads his explanation can see.]

Only after Daniel Peterson blogged about it did Neville address it, with a response that equates to, "Yeah, that’s not great, but it’s just Rian being Rian.” But now that they think they’ve got me dead to rights, suddenly the mere mention of a fictitious Black man has them screaming “EMERGENCY! RACISM! DANGER! Actual incendiary antisemitism is something they’re happy to overlook and excuse, but merely mentioning a nonexistent Black man as part of a joke is apparently beyond the pale. Hypocrisy much?

[More of Mike's false equivalency. He compares a brief Facebook response by Rian (which hardly qualifies as racist anyway), with the invention, promotion and perpetuation of an unambiguously racist false identity for Mike's own pseudonym! And Mike's friend created it specifically as part of his false allegation that Heartlanders are racist, as I discussed in my blog post.]

One could reasonably accuse Reel and Neville of being nothing more than deplorable opportunists.

[Another example of Mike not attacking me, apparently ... To reiterate: for years, people have speculated about the identity of Peter Pan. Once Mike Parker's digital fingerprints surfaced, that would and should have been the end of the speculation. Case closed. But in the interim, even according to Mike, Mike's friend created a false, racist "true" identity of Nygren for Mike's pseudonym and Mike not only did not object, Mike not only did not promptly disclose his true identity, but he went along with the Nygren fraud until someone found his digital fingerprints. I had nothing to do with any of this, but once I saw the video, I owed it to my own readers and everyone who has asked me about "Peter Pan" to share the information. Do I wish Mike had not participated in the Nygren fiasco? Definitely. But that was his choice.] 

And, as I’ve already stated, I’ve never used a “racist persona” in any way on any platform. Claims that I or anyone I know has done so are absolutely false.

[This is misdirection and wordplay. I don't remember Bill's video claiming that Mike "used" a racist persona. The video shows Mike knowing about the persona, not objecting to it, not unwinding it, and actually responding on behalf of it. So far, in this explanation, Mike hasn't refuted those charges from the video.]

My personal request to Jonathan Neville

After I saw Neville’s blog post, I sent him the following email on . I asked him to not share this message online out of respect for my family’s privacy, but unfortunately I’m now forced to post it publicly to provide context for Neville’s response. (I’ve made a few slight changes to my email to remove some sensitive, personal information about my family. The message and intent of the email has not been altered. You can read a screenshot of my email, with redactions.)

[To be clear, I did not share his email, but I did have an expectation of privacy going both ways, given his request to me not to share his.]
Brother Neville,

I notice that you have blogged approvingly about Bill Reel’s video about me.

Setting Reel’s egregiously false spin on these events aside for the moment, his video invades my privacy by discussing in general terms where I live and work. (He lives in the same part of Southern Utah that I do.) Several comments in his YouTube video have tried to dox me by providing my home address and links to information about me on my employer’s website.

I have already received several harassing messages from people who have seen the video. These I can deal with, but they have troubled my family members. They have been terrified by what sound like threats and worried about disturbed individuals showing up at our home uninvited.

I’ve already reported Reel’s YouTube video as harassing me, but it seems unlikely that they’ll do anything about it.

I’m asking you, as a fellow Latter-day Saint and on behalf of my family, to please remove your blog posts linking to Reel’s video. The less advertisement his salacious trash can get, the better.

Kind regards,

Mike Parker

Jonathan Neville’s response and attempt to blackmail me

Neville so far responded to my email three times. The first reply came on the afternoon of 
Mike said one reason why he used the Peter Pan pseudonym was to protect his family, but that sounds like paranoia. Furthermore, according to excerpts people have sent me, while employing his "pun" Mike has accused me publicly of all kinds of things that could also expose me and my family to "unbalanced individuals." That's the nature of social media, unfortunately, and everyone who enters the arena knows it. I'm not saying this is a quid pro quo situation. I am saying that I'm confident no one who reads my blog would think of harassing Mike in any way, and I deplore and repudiate anyone who would do so.] 
Mike chose his words carefully because the video never says Mike personally made the joke or disseminated it. By not disputing the video (which he couldn't, given the evidence) Mike concedes that he did not object to the creation of Richard Nygren, he didn't defuse the situation by coming clean with his true identity, and he perpetuated the false racial persona by responding on behalf of Nygren and allowing Dan Peterson's Interpreter to publish the fraud by listing Mike Parker and Peter Pan as separate contributors to Interpreter articles (which Book of Mormon Central dutifully republished).]


1 comment:

  1. When I blog, and seeing your blogging here has convinced me I need to start a new one of my own, and I share valid information and if someone was to ask me to take it down, if it was truthful, I would not be self - censoring as you were. Perhaps you are the better for it, but the antics displayed deserves to be blogged about until they change their tactics. The videos of themselves on Bill Reel's program is the most damning evidence. It is from their own mouths. To be asked by one of them to take down observations based on evidence would not happen if it was me. I would tell them put up your own information don't ask me to censor mine. That is so Mormon church leadership tactics to HIDE information that it raises the hackles on me. It is this kind of one sided thinking, censorship, and hiding that I am absolutely opposed to when it comes to Church History. This is a very fine analysis and discussion, and I will be jumping into it as I can. Thanks for all the efforts to keep things on the level and upside for all to see the total picture.