A Word about My Twitter Account
(in 1200 words or so)
Phil Johnson

17 October 2017

deleted my Twitter account last week to fulfill a rash promise.*
I had hoped keeping that promise would end (or at least curtail) the ridiculous, relentless campaign of slanderous accusations and ill-tempered vitriol Brannon Howse and some of his broadcast partners have been publishing against Grace to You and various members of our staff (including John MacArthur) since early June.

Instead, my Twitter silence evidently emboldened Howse and his newest broadcast partner (a character who calls himself Jeff the Gatekeeper) to step up the invective. They took the occasion to imply that my exodus from Twitter was tantamount to admitting I lied. In their world (despite the exaggeration and inexactitude that permeates nearly all their accusations) adversaries are not permitted to be merely mistaken or forgetful. Every inaccuracy must be treated as a deliberate falsehood, proof of the person's fundamental dishonesty. Every disagreement is an excuse to hurl anathemas. So that's what they did in my case. They pretended that when I deleted my Twitter account, it vindicated all their bizarre allegations against me.

As soon as I was off Twitter, "Jeff the Gatekeeper" boasted to his Twitter audience he had thus proved Brannon was telling the truth when he accused me of making a sustained and savage Twitter attack on the entire Howse family.

Meanwhile Jeff or someone else on the Worldview Weekend team quietly removed from the accusatory blogpost the false charge they had made (the point I was contesting in the first place)—namely, that I had "publicly claim[ed] numerous times" something supposedly hurtful to Mrs. Howse. They replaced their own misstatement with a lot of conspiracy-theorist-style speculations and innuendo meant to smear my reputation and that of the ministry I work for.

(I think Jeff or someone else there realized that they too had remembered the facts of my Twitter history wrongly. But instead of acknowledging their own error, they quietly erased it from the record and stepped up their efforts to portray me as a liar.)

That same day Howse himself started publishing ambiguous threats about Tennessee lawsuits and his plan to demand sworn depositions, while falsely claiming he had evidence in his possession to prove that Grace to You employees were colluding to harass and embarrass him with fake Twitter accounts.

None of the individuals he named in those accusations has ever operated any anonymous Twitter accounts. Nor has anyone at Grace to You ever used a fake account to be critical of another ministry. If we have a criticism to make, we'll take personal responsibility for what we say. Anyone who follows our ministry knows the truth of that. For the record: Everything I have ever posted on Twitter has been done in my own name. The account I closed last week is the only Twitter account I have ever used. And (for the person who asked) yes, I'm willing to swear an oath to that effect. (See also Fred Butler's response here.)

Nevertheless, within two days of my departure from Twitter, "dee" of The Wartburg Watch website wrote a long article parroting Brannon's allegations about the fake Twitter accounts while attributing things to me that I never said and accusing me of things that I never did. I have never said, for example, that "Brannon does not attend church"—and that would be clear to anyone who actually took time to examine what was said.

But by deleting my Twitter feed I inadvertently made it difficult if not impossible to examine what I actually said. "dee" was dependent on the false and exaggerated claims fed to her by Howse and "Jeff the Gatekeeper." They no doubt knew she wouldn't bother talking to me or asking for proof. After all, unsubstantiated defamatory allegations are standard fare at Wartburg (and other forums like it), where hearsay is commonly treated as gospel.

In a similar way, exaggerations, conspiracy theories, and censoriousness are Brannon Howse's stock in trade. Anyone can review the Worldview Weekend website to verify that. He also does routinely subordinate the gospel to his trademark style of sensationalism and scare-mongering.

Anyway, given the wave of worsening allegations and veiled legal threats from Brannon and company, there's no way I can allow the history of what I did and didn't say to disappear from the public record. Twitter saves a deleted account for 30 days; after that the record of one's Tweets and followers is erased forever. So I am reinstating my Twitter account.

It's true that Scripture blesses the person "who swears to his own hurt and does not change" (Psalm 15:4), and I was willing to do that. But the Bible also makes it clear that when someone makes a rash vow that (if kept) might hurt others, it is wickedly stupid, not heroic, to honor such a promise (1 Samuel 14:24-45). Since Howse has chosen to use my silence as an excuse to accuse and condemn other decent people falsely, it would be wrong for me to make it easy for him to do that.

I was hoping to recover an hour or so daily by not needing to read or post on Twitter, and I haven't given up that goal. So I don't intend to be active on Twitter in the immediate future. But I will not feed the false perception that I deleted my account to erase or obscure something I was ashamed of. Let the record of what I have written stand.

And since Howse claimed I was hounding and harassing him on Twitter, I invite anyone interested in making a judgment about the validity of that claim to compare the Twitter feed of his broadcast partner "Jeff the Gatekeeper" with my Twitter feed since June 12. (That's when I made my first comment on the matter.) People can decide for themselves who was harassing whom and who was trying to keep the controversy alive.

Finally, since Mr. Howse and his broadcast partners apparently believe it benefits them somehow to prolong an already-tiresome controversy on Twitter (having milked it for five months already), I refuse to help them do that. I won't be using my Twitter account to respond to them—ever. If they continue to post false accusations and it becomes necessary for me to respond, I'll respond through other means.

*Last week the blog at Worldview Weekend's website included a long, accusatory post where (among other things) their writer asserted that I had speculated "numerous times" about why Mrs. Howse's maiden name is used on the ministry's tax form. This was supposed to be supporting evidence for the claim that I had carried out a campaign of harassment against the Howse family.

It was a false and purposely misleading allegation, and I pointed that out. I also stated that I had never once made any comment like that, and that if such a Tweet existed, I would make an apology and delete my Twitter account. It turns out I had actually made that assertion once, but thought better of it (because it involved a judgment of Howse's motives), so I deleted it immediately. I had totally forgotten it. Because it was deleted, it didn't show up when I searched my own Twitter feed to see if I ever had made such a comment.

But someone had recorded a screenshot 4 minutes after I posted it. When that evidence was produced, I did post an apology, and I deleted my Twitter account that same day.

But Howse's cheering section were purposely and deceptively led to believe that I had admitted to a bald-faced lie. So let me clarify: What I "admitted" was that I forgot having written and posted a Tweet speculating about the reason Brannon used his wife's maiden name on the ministry's public tax forms. It is still a fact that Mr. and Mrs. Howse are the only two board members reported on the ministry's 990, and it is also a fact that Mrs. Howse is listed by her maiden name. Why she is listed that way is not mine to say, so I do sincerely apologize for having posted speculation about that—even for four minutes. But it does not justify the totally false claim that I was harassing Mrs. Howse or anyone else in the Howse family.

My only point was that Brannon Howse does not seem to be genuinely accountable to anyone.

I stand by that point.

P.S. Here is a sample of the kind of things Mr. Howse is posting lately:

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