Forbes gives us a glimpse of the dark internal mechanisms of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s evangelical empire in Dirk Smillie’s new book Falwell Inc.: Inside a Religious, Political, Educational and Business Empire. Smillie describes how the direct-mail tactics of For-Profits were applied to Falwell’s Non-Profit by brilliantly turning pleas for donations into “short stories” with a hero, a villain, obstacles to overcome, and an urgent call to rescuers. Gays and lesbians today are all too familiar with the charge of “recruiting,” a charge that Falwell uses here to drum up funds:
“Dear Friend: Homosexuals are on the march in this country. Homosexuals do not reproduce, they recruit, and many of them are after my children and your children….This is one major reason why we must keep “The Old Time Gospel Hour” alive…So don’t delay. Let me hear from you immediately. I will be anxiously awaiting your reply.”
Recipients who respond with a generous check can feel as though they’re coming to the rescue of the victim (“My children and your children”) being pursued by a seemingly unstoppable ruthless enemy (“recruiting homosexuals on the march”) that is on the verge of ultimate victory (“don’t delay. Let me hear from you immediately”).
The tactics engaged by Falwell’s direct-mail architect Jerry Huntsinger were thorough and exact. No aspect of the mailer was left to chance:
Huntsinger was also a master at fine tuning the mechanics: the color of the envelope, the position of the address window, which paragraphs to indent, which sentences to underline. He knew how to lure a reader’s eye just to where he wanted.
Hat Tip: Right Wing Watch