Thursday 12 April 2012

Mike Wallace and the Rader Interview

The passing of veteran television journalist Mike Wallace, age 93, was noted around the world this past week.  For some of us his most significant interview, however, was not with one of the many notable and eminent people he encountered over a long career, but with a certain church accountant named Stan Rader on Easter Sunday 1979.

It was the time of "the receivership crisis" in the Worldwide Church of God, then one of America's highest profile new religious movements.  Herbert Armstrong's heir, son Garner Ted, had been cast out, rumours were flying about financial scandal, and church treasurer Stanley Rader had suddenly catapulted into the number two position in the corporation.  It was also then that the State of California moved in with a court appointed receiver to protect the assets of the church and conduct a full examination of the books.

I don't believe 60 Minutes screened in New Zealand at the time, but it didn't matter.  Copies of the broadcast - usually cheap audio cassettes - were quickly winging their way, via various sources, to every part of the planet where members were struggling to come to grips with the crisis that had seen Armstrong himself flee out of state to Tucson, and reestablish his church as a 'corporate sole.'  It was at this moment of madness that the octogenarian apostle declared a doctrine of Petrine Primacy - much to the shock of everyone concerned - to justify his unchallengeable authority.

Mike Wallace's interview with Rader was quite the performance.  Rader's performance.  His most memorable line: telling Wallace "you're on my list!"  And then he kicked him out.

No surprise that thousands of the brethren themselves walked out of the church.  No small matter with disfellowshipments falling like confetti, families split apart and the church reacting as only an authoritarian structure of that kind can, with even greater demands for control over people's lives.  Loyal brethren were bused in to Pasadena to do the unthinkable, wave placards, occupy buildings on the church's campus and generally hang tight with the official line.

Armstrong, Rader & Arthur Rubinstein
(It still amuses me, at this far distance out, that some of those who acted as Armstrongism's 'enforcers' during this 'cultural revolution' were later, with hardly a blink, to become the vanguard of the evangelical putsch after Armstrong's death.)

What goes around comes around, and it wasn't long before the announcement that "Mr. Rader" had stepped down from his responsibilities in the church.  Who held the bloodied knife?  I gather, despite being ordained to the church's highest ministerial office - under 'the apostle' of course - Rader never darkened the doors of the church again.  Apparently he was attending a Messianic congregation at the time of his death.  I hope it brought him some comfort and a sense of forgiveness.  He was not the caricature of evil he was sometimes made out to be, though he certainly appeared self-serving and a born manipulator.

Mike Wallace had many, many more important interviews than this one.  But for those who suffered under the heel of Armstrongism at the time, and those in the painful process of tearing themselves free, this was the one they will always remember.

Rest in Peace Mike.

[The Painful Truth site still, bless 'em, has the audio of that 60 Minutes program available - all 18 minutes - for those who want to take the time trip.]


  1. seasons in the sun, enjoyed it all, moved on.

  2. Those were the days my friends, we thought would never end, we thought we'd last forever and a day, we lived the life we choosed and thought we'd never lose, those were the days.

    And now the days have passed.

    Mike Wallace and the entire 60 Minutes team were respected and feared -- sometimes more than almost any other intervention which might intrude.

    One of the keynotes (of many) was the courage Mike Wallace had to "enter into the lion's den" to get the story without fear, even when some of the CBS executives got nervous. In many ways, Mike Wallace helped transform America, and at times, the whole world.

    If ever there were a moment that Mike Wallace could stand before a stadium of cheering fans with his arms upraised and declare, "I Won!" it would be the Rader interview. Those of us watching remember it well and we remember the panicked reaction.

    I had not yet personally consciously experienced the "Assertive Incompetence" of Government, Corporations, Academia and Religion to understand the ethic of the end justifies the means and don't get caught, but in retrospect it all comes together in the Mike Wallace interview to expose the innate corruption and games playing of high living sociopaths. It was truly an eye opener and, in some ways, paved the way for the demise of Armstrongism as it continues to splinter well beyond the 700 spit-offs representing the half-life decay of a decadant venue of distorted perception along the path of insanity.

    Mike Wallace did us all a service.

    But the world has changed.

    Today, no one notices 60 Minutes any more. There's so much corruption and the triumph of image over substance that it hardly makes the news unless it's really big. Certainly, the exposition of religious corruption hardly raises off the peg of the hyperbole meter. After all, Scientology took over the very organization that was helping people out of it. Eyebrows no longer even twitch at such things. In fact, these days, criminals post on Facebook and a lot of people cheer that the criminal is getting away with it.

    In fact, the Mike Wallace Interview with Stanley Raider was an event back then.

    But can anyone today remember what Andy Rooney said in the very same hour at the end of 60 Minutes?

  3. I can't remember what Andy Rooney said, but I hope you'll tell us. At the time the original interview was aired, I'm sure I must have been sitting there in shock over what just happened. You see, I was a newbie in the church at that time, having been baptized in 1978, and I was a true believer.

    I sat down in the living room with my Catholic parents that day sure that Stan Rader would make us proud. My parents no doubt PRAYED I'd see the light and get back out of this cult, but I was sure Stan would convince them otherwise. I was in for a disappointment. Mike Wallace chewed Stan up and spit him out in little pieces. IIRC The interview ended with Stan tell Mike "I'll get you for this", after which my Father said "THAT'S a man of God?".

    Well, like I said I was a true believer back then, so this did not open my eyes. I figured Stan Rader didn't have God's spirit. And sure enough, it wasn't long before he was out of the church!

    Yes, those were the days my friends. And in many ways they were very good ways. But BOY were we mistaken.

  4. Back in the 80's, I happened to be embroiled in another and different controversy where "60 Minutes" became involved and Mike Wallace did the interviews. I found him to be egotistical, condescending, arrogant, cynical, and narcissistic. The editing was incredibly biased and made the situation look almost criminal! (Did I say "almost"?) And, he was on MY side!

    After that, I told everyone never to believe anything they saw on "60 Minutes", and quit watching it myself. This strategy (done by CBS) eventually became commonly known, and they were no longer able to do expose-type investigative reports.

    And btw, I met Stanley Rader only once, but found him to be a perfect gentleman.

  5. Some people live in different worlds than others, I suppose... I lived in the Worldwide world of Armstrongism and some other people...I don't know what world they're living in...

  6. Sorry, Skeptic, I can't remember.

    A great loss, since Andy Rooney always seemed so sensible to me.

    I do remember his opus on great inventions and got myself a citrus pealer as a result. Good thing, since they don't seem to be sold any longer.

    A really smart man -- a brilliant curmudgeon -- upon whom I strive to emulate as a guide for my own commentary.

  7. I still have a copy of Stanley Rader's book Against the Gates of Hell, which devotes a chapter to the Mike Wallace interview.

    Indeed, Rader calls the presentation "thoroughly distorted", saying "his thesis was thoroughly demolished" in material left on the edit bay floor.

    "He is neither bright nor fast enough in his thinking to match wits with persons trained to pick up nuances and spot in a moment of time every flaw in a presentation," Rader wrote.

    Rader's partial transcript of the interview admitted Herbert Armstrong "distrusts.... motives" of the news media. Which was why HWA wouldn't give interviews. But there's also this....

    WALLACE: Are you suggesting that Herbert Armstrong is a head of state?

    RADER: Exactly.

    WALLACE: And you're his secretary of state?

    RADER: You've got it. By God, you've got it, Mike. That's the whole key.... This is a state and we are representatives of God and I am Mr. Armstrong's secretary of state.

    I'd never read this chapter before writing this comment. After reading it, WCG should be very thankful CBS didn't air that part.

    I wonder if Rader and Wallace ever came off each other's lists?!?

  8. And in Wallace's book he had some short space devoted this Rader encounter recounting how Rader dared him to "Air" the "illegally obtained" phone recording. Then Wallace said "but we did use it". CBS did not fall for Rader's bluff as he expected.