A final editorial


Over 12 months ago I remember discussing with a friend the prospect of dropping the Ambassador Watch website. It wasn't the first time I'd mooted the idea. The site was even then a growing burden for one person to manage, and I was beginning to resent the hours it took each week to keep current. Each week involved twenty hours minimum: monitoring and checking sources, reading and replying to email, preparing items and editing the mailbag. That's over a thousand hours a year. At least, I was asked, keep it archived, it's valuable stuff. I nodded, but also knew that was unlikely. Much too tempting to go back and change a little here, add a little there, and then straight back on the merry-go-round.

I've given more than five years to keeping the wheels oiled on a website that I believed had something valuable to say. Five years is a considerable length of time, and I've never accepted a cent in support, even when it was (rarely) offered.

Why bother? Because the soap opera is still running. Not the classic "Armstrong Empire" series of the past, but a myriad of spin-offs. Because the COG story is intertwined with my own story from early teenage years. Because it mattered.

AW filled a gap that appeared when John Trechak's Ambassador Report finished. John was a remarkable person from what little I know of him, and AR was a lifeline to many of us as we escaped the WCG in decades past. Those were the days before Internet technology revolutionized communication. Considering how effective AR was in newsletter format, what could John have accomplished if he been able to harness the power of the Web?

AW was neither the only website, nor the first, to present a critical view of WCG and its clones. I'd like to think it was unique, though, in the perspective it took. I was a former member with no current COG affiliation, and a liberal/skeptical approach. I managed to get chided by the born-again Atheists for not going the whole way, and by those in the Evangelical camp who were sure I'd abandoned all faith. Getting blasted from both sides was never comfortable, but at least kept me balanced...

And AW was there to remind whoever wanted to be reminded: the idol has feet of clay. Never, never let it run your life for you. Never, never, abdicate your personal responsibility. That was a lesson I'd learned at personal cost. It wasn't primarily about sharing the latest gossip (though that was how many seemed to see it). It wasn't even primarily about providing one of the most effective forums for intelligent discussion of COG matters through the mailbag. It was there to shine a beam of light on those feet of clay: to utilize humor to put the whole thing in perspective. Arguing proof texts is never as effective (nor as devastating) as simply performing the role of the small child in The Emperor's New Clothes.

As 2005 wound to a close I was again wondering whether to continue, and looking forward to a long Summer break from work. As December arrived I realized that AW was going to be demanding a significant slab of that time, and I needed to put it on ice for at least a month. I also decided that February would be the last active month for the site.

When the "last straw" in mid-December came I probably overreacted. Rather than waiting till the end of February, I decided to finish it now. However, I've had no regrets since. It was the right time for the move.