"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey, is copyrighted, and may not be republished without consent

Songs of Experience in A Quiet Place

Estimated Reading Time: 17 minutes 52 seconds 

"GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT GIVE YOU AWAY/ THE WORDS YOU CANNOT SAY/ YOUR BIG MOUTH IN THE WAY" - The Little Things That Give You Away off of Songs of Experience by U2

THE SYNCHRONICITY STORM

For the last few weeks a recurring theme has kept rearing its head in my reading and movie watching. As this thematic synchronicity storm gathered strength I realized I could ignore the topic no longer.The recurring theme in question is the stultifying tribalism and accompanying intolerance for opinions different from our own that is rampant in our culture.

The subject first came up when I went to see A Quiet Place and discovered the underlying metaphor at the heart of the film, that in our current cultural climate anyone with a traditionalist opinion that may differ from liberal establishment orthodoxy needs to keep quiet and keep their head down or they will be "devoured" by the PC mobs and elitist watchdogs online and in the media. 

The day after seeing A Quiet Place I read two pieces touching upon the same subject, the first by Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times and the second by Andrew Sullivan of New York magazine.

Goldberg's piece from May 11th, titled "How the Online Left Fuels the Right" and Sullivan's from the same day titled "Kanye West and the Question of Freedom", both discuss the problem of tribalism across the political spectrum but also the issue of liberal intolerance of differing viewpoints, which echoed the foundational metaphor I found so intriguing about A Quiet Place.

Then a day later on May 12th, I read an op-ed in the New York Times by Gerard Alexander titled, "Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think". In the piece Alexander, like Goldberg and Sullivan before him, mentions the Kanye West-Trump conversion story where Kanye's divergence from racial political dogma has caused a furor resulting in his sanity being questioned by liberals and African-Americans, to highlight liberal intolerance of diverse opinions.  

"BLESSED ARE THE ARROGANT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF THEIR OWN COMPANY" Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

These three articles, written by a Democrat (Goldberg), a liberal conservative (Sullivan) and a Republican (Alexander) all touch upon an issue that I have recognized for quite some time and tried to warn against, namely that establishment liberalism is quick becoming a suffocatingly vacuous and emotionalist echo chamber of political correctness and victim idolatry where serious thinking goes to die. (This is not to say that Republican conservatism is chock full of vibrant philosophy, it isn't, it is at best a mausoleum, at worst a rancid carnival of Reagan-era capitalism).

The argument that Goldberg, Alexander and Sullivan make is that liberal intolerance of diverse opinion and use of shame instead of debate is a direct cause of Trump's electoral victory, and may lead to his re-election. I made this same argument right after the 2016 election (link, link) (and right before the election- link), where I said that liberal arguments had grown flaccid because Democrats had replaced debate with moral condemnation, shaming and exiling of anyone who disagreed with them. As I have written many times, liberals no longer engage in debate, they simply cry racism, misogyny or some other emotionally fueled charge rather than actually thinking through a topic, forming an argument, engaging in debate/discussion and thus attempting to convince others of the rightness of their viewpoint. This sort of lazy, entitled, and emotionally driven form of anti-intellectual politics is currently at epidemic levels across America. 

The emotionalism at the heart of this tribalism and demand for intellectual conformity is a potent force and I have seen its devastating effects up close and personal in the liberal circles of my own life.

Andrew Sullivan eloquently wrote of the powerful emotion driving tribal politics and its consequences, "That’s an intense emotion, and it’s that intensity, it seems to me, that is corroding the norms of liberal democracy. It has been made far, far worse by this president, a figure whose election was both a symptom and a cause of this collective emotional unraveling, where the frontal cortex is so flooded by tribal signals that compromise feels like treason, opponents feel like enemies, and demagogues feel like saviors. Instead of a willingness to disagree and tolerate, there is an impulse to loathe and expel. And this is especially true with people we associate with our own side. Friendly dissidents are no longer interesting or quirky; as the stakes appear to rise, they come to seem dangerous, even contagious. And before we even know it, we live in an atmosphere closer and closer to that of The Crucible, where politics merges into a new kind of religious warfare, dissent becomes heresy, and the response to a blasphemer among us is a righteous, metaphorical burning at the stake."

"LOVE HURTS, NOW YOU'RE THE GIRL WHOSE LEFT WITH NO WORDS/ YOUR HEARTS A BALLOON BUT THEN IT BURSTS/ IT DOESN'T TAKE A CANNON JUST A PIN/ YOUR SKIN'S NO COVERING…" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

MARY FROM DELAWARE

I was, synchronistically enough, reminded of this "impulse to loathe and expel" when a friend jokingly sent me a recent article written by a woman who used to be friends with my wife. This woman, let's call her Delaware Mary, is a vociferous Clinton supporter and a self-described feminist, and when my wife posted a link to an article I had written right after the 2016 election titled, "2016 Election Post-Mortem", Mary, who had been friends with my wife for over twenty years, responded just as Sullivan describes as from that point on she refused to talk or communicate with my wife in any way, instead choosing to unfriend and expel my wife entirely from her life. 

Mary's reaction to my wife simply linking to my article (which I encourage you to read to judge for yourself the level of my crime) seemed bizarre to me, but it was a sign of the times as in the midst of the collective nervous breakdown among liberals in the wake of Trump's victory and Hillary's defeat, Mary had company in her shunning ways. Two other female friends of my wife and I, let's call them Lola and Lana, both of whom are also self-described feminists and Clinton supporters, took the same action and expelled me and my wife entirely from their lives as well after I wrote my post-election analysis. It seems Mary, Lola and Lana were like the creatures in A Quiet Place, and when they heard me speak up they not only eliminated me, but also anyone close to me…namely my wife. 

"YOU MUST BE AN ACROBAT/ TO TALK LIKE THIS AND ACT LIKE THAT" - Acrobat off of the album Achtung Baby by U2

There are a few noteworthy things about this episode worth pointing out…the first is that it was confirmed by multiple third parties that the reason these women banished my wife and I was solely because of my writing and my post-election piece in particular. 

Second is that my wife is the least political (and least confrontational) person I know and rarely if ever talks politics with her friends or on Facebook. It is also important to emphasize that my wife didn't post the text of my article, just a link to it. In addition, my wife doesn't necessarily believe the same things that I do, she just made the egregious error of posting a link to my article saying "my husband wrote this". 

And to put this further into context, these three feminist Clinton supporters have exiled my wife not because I am a MAGA hat wearing Trump guy, I certainly am not, but because I challenged their Clinton neo-liberalism from a position further to their left. I am one of the "friendly dissidents" Andrew Sullivan wrote about in the quote above who was deemed a heretic and banished…along with my entirely innocent wife.  

One final bit of context is that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana were adamant during the election that Hillary Clinton should not be held to account for the things her husband did while in office. These women claimed it was "sexist" and "misogynistic" to tar Hillary for the misdeeds of Bill. And yet…they were very comfortable holding my wife accountable for my apparent sin…how progressively feminist of them. 

The fact that these three women couldn't just passively ignore my writing, which would have been very easy to do since I rarely if ever had direct contact with them (and also because to avoid my writing they could simply NOT CLICK ON A LINK), but had to actively punish my wife for it, speaks volumes about where we are as a culture and does not bode well for where we are headed as a nation.

The hypocritical behavior on the part of Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana also speaks volumes and does not bode well for the future of feminism and is also a testament to their lack of personal character and integrity.

"BLESSED ARE THE BULLIES, FOR ONE DAY THEY'LL HAVE TO STAND UP TO THEMSELVES" - American Soul off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"HAVING A SCAPEGOAT MEANS NOT KNOWING THAT WE HAVE ONE" - RENE GIRARD

"UNINTELLIGENT PEOPLE ALWAYS LOOK FOR A SCAPEGOAT" - ERNEST BEVIN

When Mary, Lola and Lana made the conscious decision to exorcise my wife and I from their lives they were exercising the ancient psychological tool of scapegoating. As author/philosopher Rene Girard tells us, scapegoating is when negative feelings and emotions, such as anger, failure, frustration or guilt are projected onto an innocent person/object, and then that person is punished, which provides psychological release and catharsis for the scapegoater.

In this particular case, my wife was entirely innocent and did nothing wrong to Mary, Lola and Lana, but they projected onto her all of their negative feelings that arose as a result of Hillary's ignominious defeat, feelings such as impotence, helplessness, embarrassment, humiliation, frustration, anger and rage, and then punished my wife by exiling her. In a desperate search for catharsis in order to alleviate themselves of these painful and negative emotions, they needed to punish my wife and not just me, because exiling me would not make me suffer, but it would definitely hurt my wife, which in turn would punish me.

The suffering my wife experienced at the hands of their punishment is what was needed for Mary, Lola and Lana to cathartically release their own toxically negative feelings. Making my wife (and me) the villain upon which they could project their negative emotions, also allowed Mary, Lola and Lana to be the "hero" and gain powerful positive feelings like moral superiority, piousness and self-righteousness. 

Of course, as these women no doubt found out, the catharsis felt after exiling my wife and releasing their negative feelings over Hillary's election loss and the gaining of positive feelings, was only temporary, as the root cause of the negative feelings still existed, so they would, like addicts, have to find other scapegoats in order to sustain the temporary euphoria of releasing negative emotions and gaining positive ones. 

Delaware Mary in particular has become quite the expert at finding scapegoats and at proving both Sullivan's and my own point about the personal toxicity of tribalism repeatedly throughout the election and post-election period, as she has banished from her life not just my wife, but a cornucopia of other women, including her own mother, best friend and other friends.  

"BLESSED ARE THE LIARS FOR THE TRUTH CAN BE AWKWARD" - American Soul off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"A COW'S HEAVEN IS A FLOWER'S IDEA OF HELL" - OLIVER GASPIRTZ

 Delaware Mary's scapegoats were probably singled out due to their failure to rigorously comply with her self-serving belief system, which more resembles a faith-based religion (with her as deity at the center) than a fact-based political philosophy, which is ironic since Delaware Mary is a nouveau-athiest who claims to despise religion. 

An example of Mary's vapid, vacuous and insipid thinking can be found in the article she wrote. In the piece, Mary wrote of women...

"When we speak our truths—the truth—we are rarely believed. We are gaslit by progressive men who tell us they care about women and people of color and the LGTBQ community but then dismiss fighting for our rights and our lives as identity politics."

This quote from Mary's piece is a perfect encapsulation of all that is wrong with establishment liberal orthodoxy and the neo-feminism of our day. Mary is entirely incapable of grasping that her subjective truth is not the Truth. She is also incapable of understanding that since her "truth" is subjective, it must therefore be measured against other people's subjective truths in order to come to a better understanding of the actual Truth. 

Her use of the term "gaslight", which means "to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity", is pretty insightful as well (and also a desperate way for a middle-aged woman to try and seem "hip" to the "young people"). According to Mary's assertion, to even question her (or any other woman's or minority's) subjective experience can only be interpreted as a form of psychological assault meant to mentally harm her rather than an attempt to discover the Truth or the objective reality of a situation. In Delaware Mary's eyes, the only experience/truth that matters is hers…or barring that, then the subjective experience of any other member of a victim group she exalts such as women, LGBTQ people, or other minorities, and their subjective experience must be left unquestioned and accepted as fact too. 

Does Mary realize that conflating her subjective truth with fact is exactly what Donald Trump does on a daily basis that drives her batshit crazy? Does Mary ever even remotely consider that her subjective truth is not indeed a fact, that it is, just like everyone else's, distorted with all sorts of psychological, personal and historical filters? And that maybe her desperate yearning for victimhood and her rage toward other individuals (like the countless people she has banished) is a function of scapegoating through psychological projection and substitution? And could Mary ever grasp that some people she considers heretics to the Delaware Mary dogma may desire the same ultimate outcome that she does, but they believe different strategies and tactics will make attaining that goal much more likely? I doubt it, since in our culture the self, and therefore subjective experience, always trumps objective reality…hence we get a plethora of people, like Delaware Mary and her cohorts, who encourage people to speak their truth and not to seek THE Truth

INTERMISSION

Since this is a long article, here is a short video intermission which perfectly sums up Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana's approach to life. Enjoy.

VIDEO LINK

 

"WHEN ALL YOU'VE LEFT IS LEAVING/ AND ALL YOU'VE GOT IS GRIEVING/ AND ALL YOU KNOW IS NEEDING" - 13 (There is a Light) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

THE VICTIM PYRAMID OF TRUTH

The problem with Mary's thinking is pretty obvious, namely that even among women and minority groups in the inverted 'victim pyramid' of truth through which Mary sees the world, subjective experience differs greatly. So is Mary "gaslighting" people of color when she disagrees with Black women like Nina Turner, a Bernie Sanders supporter, or Candace Owens, a Trump supporter? Why are Ms. Turner's and Ms. Owen's subjective experience any less valid than Delaware Mary's? 

And when Delaware Mary divides people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity, in other words by their identity, or more accurately - by how SHE identifies them, and then ranks them according to how victimized she perceives them to be, she creates a situation that can only devolve into a circular firing squad. Evidence of this is seen in an article in The Guardian by Ruby Hamad titled "How White Women Use Strategic Tears to Silence Women of Colour", where Ms. Hamad bemoans how progressive White women use tears to avoid being held accountable. Does Ms. Hamad's subjective truth of White women being instinctively manipulative overrule Mary's subjective truth that she is "woke" (as an aside... is there anything more cringe-worthy than a middle aged white woman describing themselves as "woke")?

What about men of color…where on Delaware Mary's holy scale of minority subjective experience impeccability is their truth? Is Bill Cosby an awful rapist as per his female victims experience or does his African-American subjective truth that he is the victim of a lynching trump their claims? What about some less Manichean and more complex cases? Where does Mary's loyalty lie…is it with women? People of color? LGBTQ people? Because Mary has made it clear it certainly isn't with the Truth only with her subjective truth.

BECCA AND REBA'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

Michael Harriot accurately described White women like Mary and Lola in his 2017 article in The Root titled, "The 5 Types of 'Becky'". Harriot writes of White women he calls varying forms of the derogatory name Becky. Mary and Lola fall into two of the Becky categories, the first is the Becca category, which Harriot describes thus…"Becca wants to help…as long as it is convenient and comfortable. Even though Becca isn't racist, her idea of Black people is of a downtrodden underclass that just needs a little help from benevolent white people. Becca is pure of heart and holds no animosity towards anyone. She is willing to "do the work…" but not really."

Delaware Mary and Lola are a Becca combined with a Reba, which Harriot describes thus…"Reba is "woke"…Reba believes in a women's right to choose and wore a pink pussy hat to the Women's March….Reba cares about winning. She believes that white women deserve the gold medal in the oppression Olympics, and if there is a chance she isn't on the podium, Reba thinks you're not being fair. Reba talks about white privilege, but Reba doesn't understand that she is white privilege." 

"FREEDOM, THE SLAVES ARE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO LEAD THEM/ THE MASTER'S LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO NEED HIM/ THE PROMISED LAND IS THERE FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST/ AND LINCOLN'S GHOST SAID/ GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY" -Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Delaware Mary's fanaticism for identity politics is part of why she was so desperate to scapegoat and exile my wife and I. For women like Mary, Lola and Lana, identity politics isn't just about race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, it is actually about THEIR identity, meaning their ego/Self. 

According to iconic psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, C.G. Jung, there are countless types of archetypes that are available to us, from the Warrior to the Trickster to the Lover to the Actor and on and on. Jung's archetypes are all gender neutral so, for example, both men and women can be the Mother archetype or the Father archetype. The problem with Mary, Lola and Lana is that they are stuck in the archetypal cycle of Victim (Child) and Mother, with the Victim/Child archetype being the one who needs caring and the Mother archetype being the one who does the caring.

Delaware Mary is so bloated with self-loathing she must justify it by embracing the Victim archetype, pawning her failures off on an "other" or "group of others" because it eases her psychological anguish to feel she has no agency and is a defenseless Victim. And then she projects Victimhood onto others she deems acceptable, like other women, people of color and other minorities, so that she can try to balance her psyche and alleviate her feelings of weakness, by infantilizing those she appoints as "Victims" (minorities)…thus ensuring that they stay disempowered Victims/Children in need of care and she takes on the archetype of Mother to care for them. This Mother role in this scenario is actually driven by an unconscious White supremacy and a desire to keep minorities in perpetual Victim/Child mode, thus stunting their growth so that Mother can remain empowered. 

Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana hated my post-election article and the ideas in it so much because it challenged their worldview, and to them, because their identity politics is their sole identity (Victim/Child-Mother archetypal cycle), a challenge to their worldview is a direct threat to their ego/Self, their psyche and thus to their entire existence. This is why Mary considers anyone questioning her subjective truth as "gaslight" assaulting her, it is because the entirety of her being is her ego, which is defined by her Victim/Mother identity. Without her identity politics belief system, Mary ceases to exist, as do Lola and Lana. If the world is not as they think it is, then their identities disintegrate and take the rest of their psyche with it. 

The existential threat of loss of identity and psychic annihilation is real and powerful, and can motivate people to do much worse things than just banish a friend of twenty years with whom you have suffered the slings and arrows of life including weddings, births, deaths and all the rest. Holding onto our identity/ego/Self is perceived by the psyche to be a matter of life and death, and it often forces us to react from our lizard brain rather than from the more rational parts of our mind.

"FIGHT BACK, DON'T TAKE IT LYING DOWN YOU'VE GOT TO BITE BACK/ THE FACE OF LIBERTY'S STARTING TO CRACK/ SHE HAD A PLAN UP UNTIL SHE GOT A SMACK IN THE MOUTH/ THEN IT ALL WENT SOUTH" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Another thing that I found striking regarding Delaware Mary and Co. banishing my wife and I was that none of these proud, self-described feminist, highly-edcuated women had the courage to challenge the things I wrote. None of these women have ever reached out to me at all regarding the entire situation, finding it easier to just "ghost" (as the kids say) my wife and I instead of engaging in a debate or discussion or even registering their dislike of my opinion. I can understand not wanting to engage with me in person, I have been told I am an intimidating presence, but to not at least reach out from the safety of email or the comment section seems to me an act of cowardice, and shunning my wife shows a stunning lack of intellectual integrity.  

I am someone who does not have all the answers, hell, I don't even know most of the questions, so I consider myself open to persuasion. Maybe I am delusional, that could certainly be the case, but I try to be open to criticisms of my thinking and writing. For instance, I have received very insightful and thoughtful emails from readers who have vehemently disagreed with me and I have even gone so far as to post some of these emails in their entirety on my blog. For example, when I wrote a piece on "Whitewashing", a reader, Tiny Dancer, emailed me with her counter argument, and I posted an article containing that entire email. To me, this is how serious people and adults behave, and I wish these women had had the courage to reach out to me and at least tell me what pissed them off so much in that article so I could reexamine my opinion. 

Maybe these women thought I was not worth their time, and that my wife was for some reason tainted by her association with me, a case of the "contagion" Andrew Sullivan insightfully wrote about. But as Michelle Goldberg wrote in her New York Times piece, "Some might argue that respectfully debating ideas seen as racist or sexist legitimates them. There’s something to this, but refusing to debate carries a price as well — it conveys a message of weakness, a lack of faith in one’s own ideas. Ultimately, the side that’s frantically trying to shore up taboos is the side that’s losing. If there’s an Intellectual Dark Web, we should let the sun shine in."

Goldberg is correct in her strategic and tactical assessment. Delaware Mary and company feel entitled to not have their beliefs challenged, and so they frantically scapegoat all heretics and banish contrarians so that they never have to actually form an argument and strengthen it, but get to bask in the illusion of the unimpeachability of their subjective truth. This is an arrogant, fool-hardy and strategically inept approach to life and to politics as gorging yourself on a steady diet of mainstream neo-liberal identity theology will only lead to an intellectual constipation. It will also eventually leave you at the mercy of your opponents, who have hardened and honed their arguments in the fire of debate, and to the brutal and cruel force of objective reality. 

By sealing their echo chamber ever tighter through the banishing of alternative and diverse opinions and anyone associated with them, Delaware Mary and Co. are creating a distorted version of reality where they encourage themselves and others to lose touch with objective reality in favor of a fever dream of subjective truth and moral superiority.

As Gerard Alexander writes in his Times piece, "Within just a few years, many liberals went from starting to talk about microaggressions to suggesting that it is racist even to question whether microaggressions are that important. “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women."

In Delaware Mary and Co.'s confirmation bias feedback loop where objective truth is scorned and subjective truth celebrated, the only way to maintain the illusion is to vigorously police the speech and actions of others. This is why it was imperative that I be exiled along with my Facebook linking accomplice wife, as we represented a potential shattering of the illusion within which these women exist. This controlling impulse is authoritarian in nature, and ironically enough, is exactly what Trump and other tyrants do to dissidents and heretics as well. 

As Alexander wrote in his Times essay, "Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering." 

THE JOY OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

I wrote an article a few years back titled, "Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle". In that widely read piece, I wrote of the psychological term cognitive dissonance, which means "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously", in relation to the behavior of conservatives when the lies of Chris Kyle were brought to their attention. A brief glimpse at the comment section of that piece, which I wholly encourage you to go read in its entirety, proved my point more than anything I actually wrote in the article.

Liberals suffer from cognitive dissonance too (as do all humans to varying degrees) and it has been epidemic in the last few years, Delaware Mary and Co. are living proof of that. When Mary, Lola and Lana were confronted with arguments and facts (like my being correct in predicting the election and the reasons why Trump would win) that were in opposition to their strongly held beliefs (their trust in conventional wisdom and institutions like the media, their perceived intellectual superiority and that Hillary would win) and suffered the ensuing psychological conflict, they did what most people suffering from cognitive dissonance do, they ignored the new information (and its carrier- me) and they removed it from their consciousness in order to maintain the sanctity of their previous held (faith-based) belief. 

A great example of liberals like Delaware Mary and company suffering from cognitive dissonance and behaving exactly the same as the conservatives they so loathe (and vice versa), came in recent months when MSNBC host Joy Reid was caught lying about some blog posts she had written a decade ago that some felt were homophobic. Instead of just owning up to the posts and apologizing as she had done in a similar situation a year ago, this time Reid doubled down and claimed to have been "hacked", and that the writing was not hers. Computer forensic experts investigated and found that she was full of it and that there was no hacking…but this did not stop Reid or her supporters one little bit. In a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, Reid claimed she "didn't recognize herself as having written those things", and many liberals supported her and even wrote and tweeted things like "I don't care if she is lying…I SUPPORT JOY". The same exact type of thing was written by conservatives in the wake of my Chris Kyle piece, as many declared, "I don't care if he lied!" This is our political culture…whether it be liberal or conservative...Truth need not apply. 

"STATUES FALL/ DEMOCRACY IS FLAT ON ITS BACK, JACK/ WE HAD IT ALL, BUT WHAT WE HAD IS NOT COMING BACK, ZAC/ A BIG MOUTH, SAYS THE PEOPLE THEY DON'T WANT TO BE FREE FOR FREE/ THE BLACKOUT, IS THIS AN EXTINCTION EVENT WE SEE?" -The Blackout off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

A COMPLEX SIMPLICITY

Why is that? Why in the world do people just blindly support and put their faith in people like Chris Kyle or Joy Reid or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? And also why do people spend so much time and energy banishing dissenting opinions instead of using that time and energy to see what is in front of one's nose, which as Orwell teaches us, requires a constant struggle? The answer is a deep-seeded existential fear.

Delaware Mary and company are representative of our political culture in that they are consumed with fear. Fear is the driving and motivating force for their lives…and yet they are not even aware of it. What these people fear is not what they think they fear…some "other" (like me) out to destroy them and all that they hold dear. No, Delaware Mary and company's existential fear is not the "other", it is complexity, and the antidote to their fear of complexity is the simplicity for which they so desperately yearn. 

Simplicity is required because it maintains and enforces the status quo in people's psyche and also in the outer world. For individuals like Delaware Mary and friends, if they replace their simple black and white worldview where they have a scapegoated "other" upon which to project all negative attributes, and a sanctified Victim group (of which they are members), and replace that cosmology with a more nuanced and complex understanding of their world where their feelings are a useless guide to navigating the maze of modern life, then once again their Self/ego is threatened with obliteration. This is the existential threat to their identity/ego/Self that must be avoided by any means necessary.

As Adam Curtis revealed in his brilliant documentary Hyper-Normalization, the same is true of our macro political culture, as our society is so complex that it is an unwieldy, uncontrollable beast, and thus the appearance of simplicity must always be maintained by the ruling class to keep the masses placid and compliant. Thus we get slogans and marketing campaigns to boil everything down to the most simplistic nugget…Make America Great Again, all Trump voters are racist, they hate us for our freedoms, freedom isn't free, Hillary lost because of racism!/misogyny! Saddam/Ghadaffi/Putin/Bin Laden/Kim Jong-Il is a pure evil madman etc. 

The establishment believes the facade of a simplistic Manichean status quo with its accompanying political order (where they are on top) must be maintained at all costs because the complexity that lies just underneath the surface of our civilization is a chaotic, barbaric and psychologically apocalyptic force that if unleashed could destroy their power structures.  

On a micro scale, Delaware Mary must not let the complexity of the world seep into her mind, she must not permit contrarian views to fester, because if she stops to actually think, instead of feel, about her subjective truth versus objective reality, and about the massive complexity hidden just beneath the surface or her own life, psyche and motivations, her ego/Self, which she has wrapped in the cloak of her identity in general and her Victim identity in particular, will be obliterated and she will cease to exist. That is terribly frightening for her, as it would be for anyone, and that is the fuel that propels the rocket of her spate of scapegoating and blindly vindictive behavior. 

"WALK THROUGH THE ROOM LIKE A BIRTHDAY CAKE/ WHEN I AM ALL LIT UP, CAN'T MAKE A MISTAKE/ AND THERE'S A LEVEL OF SHALLOW THAT YOU JUST CAN'T FAKE/ BUT YOU KNOW THAT I KNOW" - The Showman (Little More Better) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

What needs to happen to Delaware Mary and company is what needs to happen to the wider culture as well, namely that they must, in a controlled and stable setting, ask themselves the question, "what if everything I know is wrong?" This question scares the hell out of people like Mary, and scares the establishment class even more, but it is vital if we want to survive as a functioning, relatively healthy human beings and as a civilization. 

Americans have been given lots of opportunities to ask this question of ourselves in recent years as they and the ruling establishment have been spectacularly wrong on so many things, such as the Iraq war, the financial collapse and Trump's election. Sadly, the ruling elite have repeatedly and effectively placated the masses in the face of these massive failures by conjuring a tantalizingly simple illusion which they use to distract from an ever more unruly and complex world. 

The same is true for Delaware Mary, who if she had the courage to actually do some introspection and self-reflection, might stop to notice that she perpetually kisses up and kicks down, and that she repeatedly only casts aside "friends" she cannot use to advance her career, which might lead her to realize that the life she leads which depresses her so, is a result of her own doing, and not because of the failings of others, or structural barriers restraining her. 

What is so disheartening about this entire situation is that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana think they are fighting for change and against the status quo, but they aren't, they are desperately and unconsciously struggling to maintain the status quo. Their feminism is a feminism which is built upon the Victim archetype and the foundational belief of female weakness and unworthiness. Ironically, the Victim archetype feminism these women adhere to not only requires but forces a Mother archetype to step forward to "care for" the Victim, and what steps into the Mother archetype are patriarchal males who want to protect the "weaker sex". In other words, Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana and their neo-feminist cohorts are unconsciously propping up the patriarchy they claim to so abhor. This along with their hypocritical behavior and vicious envy of other women speaks to Delaware Mary and friends as being fraudulent feminists. 

Their identity and racial politics too are built upon the Mother/Victim archetypal relationship, and carries with it their own unconscious belief in the inferiority of those groups of people for whom they claim to be fighting. This shows that Mary, Lola and Lana are symbolic of many mainstream liberals in that they claim to be #woke but are completely sound asleep #unconscious.

"IT IS WHAT IT IS BUT IT'S NOT WHAT IT SEEMS/ THIS SCREWED UP STUFF IS THE STUFF OF DREAMS/ I GOT JUST ENOUGH LOW SELF ESTEEM/ TO GET ME WHERE I WANT TO GO" - The Showman (Little More Better) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

This begs the question...Why does any of this matter? Well the reason I was compelled to write on this subject in the first place is because it seems to represent the ever growing divide in American politics, where subjective truth rules the day and all politics is personal, that further exacerbates the issues that many people care about.

I also think it matters as a warning about the infection gaining power and spreading throughout politics in general and liberal politics in particular. Delaware Mary is symbolic of this disease of identity and is a case study for the perils of embracing her type. For example, Delaware Mary has tried to resurrect her moribund writing career by rebranding and marketing herself as an activist writer for neo-feminist causes. As has been my experience, and the experience of the many women she has callously mistreated, Delaware Mary is a proven charlatan and fraud as a feminist, and by trying to make herself the voice or face of that movement, will guarantee that it ends in epic failure. Delaware Mary's noxiously malignant narcissism and intellectual vacuity is toxic to everyone and everything she touches.

If you care about any issue, it would wise to be on the look out for people like Delaware Mary. The signs of a Delaware Mary are that they are pied pipers without an original thought in their head, who only speak to their own side and only tell their audience what they want to hear, never what they need to hear.

Delaware Mary's are only interested in basking in the glory of their own voice. Their infatuation with the sound of their own voice is also why they never have a remotely original thought or idea, all they do is simply regurgitate mainstream neo-liberal pablum and think because they are the ones saying it, that it's now clever.

The Delaware Marys of the world are a danger to the people who are serious about finding actual solutions to difficult problems because they will exploit any and all issues to further their career, inflate their own ego and sense of self-worth, and then shit out their shadow emotions on all those they deem disposable because they no longer feed the narcissistic beast residing where their conscience used to be. 

"I'VE BEEN CRYING OUT/ HOW BAD CAN A GOOD TIME BE?/ SHOOTING OFF MY MOUTH/ THAT'S ANOTHER GREAT THING ABOUT ME" - You're the Best Thing About Me off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Maybe I am wrong about all of this, it wouldn't be the first time. Just like Lola and Lana, I am certainly not perfect either, as I sure as hell have my own blind spots, confirmation and unconscious biases and suffer from my own cognitive dissonance. And the objective reality may be that I am just an incorrigible asshole and my wife is a vicious bitch and we have been rightfully punished by Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana. Maybe their anger towards me is righteous and their vengeance upon my wife deserved. Or maybe not. It is impossible to tell since for a year and a half none of these women have had the testicular fortitude to actually engage in a discussion about it. Maybe if they had summoned the gumption to do so they could have pointed out the errors in my thinking, and converted me to their faith/cosmology.

Which brings us back to A Quiet Place and why the film resonated with me so much. The film dramatizes the struggle of our current age, which includes the battle over whether to allow people to speak freely even when they say something ugly or which offends you, and the authoritarian impulse to stifle that freedom of speech. While I and others have not been devoured by monsters or thrown in a gulag or concentration camp for reeducation…yet, we have been singled out, punished and ostracized for daring voice opinions that challenge conventional thinking and establishment orthodoxy. This belief that you have the right NOT to be offended combined with the compulsive need to surround yourself with only people that agree with you is ultimately a dangerous impulse that will only lead to further polarization that will fuel an ever hotter political conflagration between groups of extremists on both sides who refuse to see the humanity in the other.

I personally struggle to understand that sort of thinking, as I intentionally seek out writers who think differently than I do. My daily reading is an eclectic list that spans the political and philosophical spectrum. I actually enjoy reading writers with whom I disagree because it challenges me to think harder about what I actually do believe, and come up with a cogent defense of my opinions and a coherent counter-argument to those things with which I disagree. This seems to me to be a logical approach to life and learning and expanding one's knowledge base. 

For instance, just in this article alone I quote from Andrew Sullivan, Michelle Goldberg and Alexander, three people I vehemently disagree with from time to time. If I judged these writers only by what I perceive to be their errors, then I would stop reading them entirely and be disadvantaged because that would mean I'd stop learning from them as well. The same is true of Rene Girard and documentarian Adam Curtis whom I also reference, both are undeniably brilliant but not perfect. Should I cast all of their work away because I found some of it lacking or were offended by parts of it? That is foolishness and totally self-defeating. 

"I LIKE THE SOUND OF MY OWN VOICE/ I DIDN'T GIVE ANYONE ELSE A CHOICE" - All Because of You off of the album How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb by U2

"I THOUGHT I HEARD THE CAPTAIN'S VOICE/ IT'S HARD TO LISTEN WHILE YOU PREACH" -Every Breaking Wave off of the Album Songs of Innocence by U2

The tactic of shaming those who dare to challenge our opinions, rather than debating them, or exorcising diversity of opinion instead of embracing it, will end in tragedy for those who fall under the spell of the echo chamber. Those that choose to be seduced by the warm song of the echo chamber will become like some perverse, masturbatorial version of Homer's Sirens, for they will be grounded upon the rocks by the hypnotically mesmerizing sound of their own voice. 

I think America is in the midst of a psychotic break and that liberals as a group have suffered a severe nervous breakdown after Trump won the election, and that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana were swept up in that collective insanity. Obviously they won't ever read this because my writing/thinking is heresy to their neo-liberal dogma and for them to read it would result in eternal damnation, but I do hope that one day the collective insanity that has descended upon the American body politic subsides, and that people can actually engage in discussion once again. That said…I am not optimistic.

"DINOSAUR, WONDERS WHY IT STILL WALKS THE EARTH/ YEAH/ A METEOR, PROMISES IT'S NOT GONNA HURT, YEAH" - The Blackout off of the Album Songs of Experience by U2

"SOMETIMES/ THE END IS NOT COMING/ IT'S NOT COMING/ THE END IS HERE/ SOMETIMES" The Little Things That Give You Away off of Songs of Experience by U2

I think that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana are symptoms of the disease of American culture. These women are poster children for the decadent, selfish, narcissistic, emotionalist, impulsive, vindictive and vacuous nation we have become. Unbeknownst to them, we are in the midst of a dramatic transition/transformation period in American and world history. Massive upheavals and changes are fast approaching…financial collapse, wars, civil wars, the fall of empires and a toppling of the world order. These women are symbolic of the collective in that, just like their willful blindness regarding Trump in the 2016 election, they prefer to keep their heads up their asses where they can enjoy the warm and dark embrace of the familiar no matter how much it stinks, rather than the cold hard reality of the world outside. Like smug dinosaurs before the meteor, they continue to bask in the arrogance of their ignorance, not knowing, and not wanting to know, the perilous fate that is hurtling towards them (and the rest of us) at breakneck speed.

"YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED A BOY/ YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ I'M THE KIND OF TROUBLE THAT YOU ENJOY/ YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ THE BEST THINGS ARE EASY TO DESTROY" - You're the Best Thing About Me off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

As for me, at the end of the day, all I can do and want to do is keep on trying to seek the Truth. I won't always succeed, and if history is any guide, I will fail considerably more than I succeed. But the attempt is an important one, especially in the kingdom of madness that is America. The best I can do now is to heed the advice of my good friend Bono, who told me the other night to go forth into this mad world with "Open eyes…open arms…open heart…and OPEN MIND". I wish Mary, Lola and Lana would take this sage advice as well, because then we might be able to mitigate the disaster that awaits us all by being the change we all desperately want to see in this insane world.

VIDEO LINK

 

©2018

Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle Part Two : The Reaction

"To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction." - Sir Isaac Newton

**Estimated Reading Time: 22 Minutes**

On August 3, 2014, in the wake of the defamation verdict in favor of Jesse Ventura against the late Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" author, Chris Kyle, I wrote an article titled "Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle". Since the release of the film American Sniper on Dec. 25, 2014, and its incredible success, my article has received a significant spike in readers and has gotten some attention from news outlets as well. Due to this, I thought it might be of interest to share some of the reactions to the piece and my further thoughts on it.

First, I want to thank all of the people who read the article. I am well aware that it is considered "long" by many, and "too long" by some, so thank you for putting in the time and effort to read it. And thank you very much to all of those who took the additional time to comment, especially those who diligently and effectively defended me against critical attacks by other commenters. I would even like to thank those who were not fans of the piece (or me) for taking an interest and sharing your perspectives in the comment section. I also would like to thank all the folks who emailed me with encouraging words of support. It meant a great deal and I truly appreciate it. And, while I am at it, I'd also like to thank those people who took the time to write to me and vent, rage and spew vitriol upon me.  Even though your thoughts carry the intellectual heft of a bumper sticker, I am glad to have been of service to you, and consider your anger to be a sign of you being just another satisfied customer.

As I mentioned, the article has been well received by some, and not so well received by others. The comments section in and of itself is a pretty fascinating petri dish of people's thinking, or 'not-thinking' as the case may be. As I said to close the original piece, this is a topic that gets emotions running pretty high, and sure enough there have been a lot of emotional responses to it, both in the comments section and by email. I strongly encourage you to go and read the comments section in it's entirety to get a taste of what I am talking about. As commenter John Cramer wrote, 

I love how the comments section is a complete mirror to your post Michael. It points out clearly the point you were trying to make about humans, beliefs, cognitive dissonance, Manichean philosophy, and truth. Your piece is amazing, thought provoking and informative; but it reaches a next level meta spectacular when you read the comments sections. Well done sir!

Well said, John, "next level meta spectacular" indeed. The comments section in many ways proves the exact point I was trying to make in the piece.

 The Media Reaction or: How in the Land of the Blind, The One-Eyed Man is King

The mainstream media has, for the most part, been right on schedule with it's uselessness on this subject. Here is a clip from the NBC Nightly News (ironically enough hosted by fantasist Brian Williams) about the film American Sniper. It is just the worst, most insidious kind of unthinking propaganda. A puff-piece through and through. Notice how they never even mention the defamation suit or the verdict against Chris Kyle, which are pretty important facts.

No offense to Mrs. Kyle, but to say Chris Kyle never sought attention when he wrote a book about himself in which he declares himself to be the "Most Lethal Sniper In US Military History" and then sold it to a movie studio, is a bit tough to swallow. It is even harder to swallow when you call that humility. What that really is...is false humility.

Speaking of propaganda, Fox News personality Sean Hannity recently dedicated an entire episode of his show "Hannity" to the topic of the film, he titled it "American Sniper: Patriotism Under Fire", not to be confused with the version on his website titled, "American Sniper: Patriotism Under Attack". I shit you not. The tv show was an hour long infomercial for a film which had already made over $200 million in just a few weeks in wide release (it is now past $300 million). Thank God Sean Hannity is there to defend 'patriotism' when it is under such brutal attack by evil hordes of green-eyed dead presidents. If my memory serves me, I believe Hannity has already been awarded a much deserved American Flag lapel pin for his bravery in action during the hellacious "War on Christmas", I am sure his heroic efforts in defense of 'patriotism' during this 'money attack' will be similarly rewarded.

There is one notable exception though to the endless mainstream media blindness. I am not on Twitter, but someone emailed me this tweet from CNN host Michael Smerconish from January 23, 2015. 

"I've seen and enjoyed American Sniper and now I've read this (A link to my article http://mpmacting.com/blog/2014/7/19/truth-justice-and-the-curious-case-of-chris-kyle) - I recommend people do both."

The day after Smerconish tweeted my article, he went on his tv show, and without any mention of my piece, used it to absolutely obliterate Chris Kyle's co-writer on the book "American Sniper", Jim DeFelice. Please watch this video (the relevant section is the first 6 Minutes and 15 seconds)

Notice how DeFelice is expecting this to be another patty-cake interview and puff piece, but Smerconish has something else in mind. Smerconish did what every single journalist out there should have been doing from day one of this story. While Smerconish may not have credited my article on air, he obviously used it to bludgeon DeFelice, and I tip my cap to him for doing an outstanding job in this interview. Just as Smerconish used my article as a blueprint to eviscerate DeFelice, other tv "journalists" should use Smerconish's interview as a blueprint to bring the truth about the Ventura court case and Chris Kyle, to the American public. Smerconish was respectful but firm, thoughtful yet persistent. I was not aware of Smerconish prior to seeing this, but having watched that interview, I now know he is a powerful interviewer and potential forceful voice for truth, and I hope he continues to be loyal to Truth above all else.

Common False Beliefs About the Ventura Court Case

Some people who commented or emailed were uninformed about the very basics of the Ventura lawsuit, but that didn't stop them from thinking they were very well informed. The National Review Online had a great rundown of things which I linked to in the original piece, and strongly encouraged you to read it, and I do so again here.  LINK . Here are some other things that people were adamant were true but simply aren't.

  1. Ventura waited until Kyle was dead before ever filing the lawsuit and did so against Kyle's widow or, Ventura refiled the lawsuit against Taya Kyle (Chris Kyle's widow) after Chris Kyle was killed. WRONG. Kyle was killed well after the lawsuit was filed and when he died his estate automatically became the defendant in the case. Taya Kyle is the executor of the Chris Kyle estate.

  2. Ventura was the first to out himself as being the person named 'scruff-face' in the book "American Sniper". WRONG. Chris Kyle named Ventura as 'Scruff-face' on the Opie and Anthony Sirius radio show and the O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel.

  3. There is video of Chris Kyle punching Ventura. WRONG. Ummm…no…obviously there isn't any video.

  4. The defamation verdict did not decide whether or not Ventura was punched, only if his reputation was harmed by the story. WRONG. If Kyle actually hit Ventura, then telling the story is not defamation (or slander or libel). The truth is a defense against defamation/slander/libel charges. So, yes, the jury decided they didn't believe Chris Kyle about the fight he claimed occurred. The damages awarded Ventura are not entirely a result of the punching story being false, but are also due to the statements attributed to Ventura by Kyle that were also deemed to be false.

  5. Kyle never got a chance to defend himself. WRONG. Kyle videotaped a deposition a year before he was killed. According to reports, this deposition was very damaging to his case since Kyle had a hard time keep his story straight. Star tribune story link.

  6. Ventura just wanted a pay day. WRONG. Ventura was very clear early on that he just wanted the story retracted. Chris Kyle and the publishers offered to pay Ventura to drop the suit, but Ventura refused, demanding an apology instead. Kyle declined and the case proceeded. Ventura then had to pay his attorney fees, which are substantial, out of his own pocket.

Carjacking Story 

The carjacking story is one that has gotten a lot of attention for obvious reasons. It is a story that is pretty easy to check on considering law enforcement was allegedly called and there were two dead bodies and the paper trail you would expect to find when those two things are involved. Some have commented that the story is just hearsay and that there is no proof that Chris ever said it. Well, Michael Mooney at D Magazine 'confirmed' that Chris told him that story, of course some have interpreted Mooney's "confirming" the story to mean that it is "confirmed" to be true. It isn't, it is only "confirmed" that Chris Kyle was telling this carjacking story. Marcus Lutrell, another highly decorated and famous Navy SEAL, put the carjacking story in one of his books and said it came from Chris Kyle. So if you think Chris Kyle never claimed to have killed two carjackers, then you think Navy SEAL Marcus Lutrell is a liar. Some people's heads may explode if the only choice they have is to decide which one of those two Navy SEALs is lying.

The New York Times and WMD

There were many commenters who were critical of my questioning Chris Kyle's claim to have discovered WMDs in Iraq. Many linked to a New York Times article that came out on October 14, 2014 (nearly three months after I wrote the original piece). As was almost always the case, other commenters quickly and ardently pushed back against these claims of vindication by those that believe the Kyle story regarding his discovery of barrels of wmd's and the Bush rationalization for going to war with Iraq. Commenter James Aragon (an Iraq war veteran) wrote in reply to another commenter who asked if I would be editing my article based on the NY Times story,

The most relevant point in the NYT piece is here:

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

Key in on the 'remnants of long-abandoned programs.' These incidents were (not) hidden to hide an active WMD program, but to shelter the lack of intelligence we had on these sites.

Another commenter, Eric A. Smith, got even more specific in his counter argument with someone who used the NY Times piece to claim that WMDs were found.

...although there were a few spent rounds and canisters which had been aged beyond usefulness, these weren't stocks the Iraqis were holding back. They had been forgotten.

Do you want to know why the Bush clan - and especially Rumsfeld - were so certain that Hussein must have had some WMD stocks left over?

Because they gave them to him. And Rumsfeld personally brokered the deal. What's more, I've got the proof. Read it here: http://aliberaldose.blogspot.jp/2006/02/how-we-came-to-own-iraq-repost.html

The UN inspectors did a damned thorough job of destroying anything that could have been of use to him though. The Bush clan knew without a shadow of a doubt that not only was Hussein not even the tiniest threat to the US, he couldn't even threaten the countries neighboring Iraq. How do I know? Powell told me. So did Rice. They told you too, but I bet you weren't paying attention. But here, they'll tell you again, so you can have no doubt whatsoever that Bush Jr. and his bumbling gang of psychotics invaded Iraq KNOWING 100% THAT HUSSEIN COULDN'T ATTACK ANYONE, INCLUDING AND SPECIFICALLY US:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=84411374&x-yt-ts=1421828030&v=hN-HTjy-w

You were duped man. Played for a sucker. Cheney and Rumsfeld have been doing it since the Nixon era, when they started the Cold War:
http://www.margieburns.com/2011/09/re-post-rumsfeld-and-cheney-pressured-cia-to-mislead-congress-in-the-1970s-too/

This whole debate feels so 2002-2003. What struck me about the use of this New York Times article as proof of Kyle's claims was that it seems as though the people linking to it have not actually read all of it. The New York Times article actually further undermines the very specific claim by Chris Kyle that "At another location, we found barrels of chemical material that was intended for use as biochemical weapons." The Times piece never once mentions any "barrels of chemical material" being found. It does mention that degrading and degraded munitions from the Iran-Iraq war from the 1980's were found though, which is a very significant difference from what Kyle describes. These now-degraded weapons were procured by Iraq in the 1980's while they were a client state of the U.S. and a proxy for America in the war against Iran. The Bush administration kept the discovery of these degraded weapons a secret not because, as Chris Kyle speculated about his alleged barrel find, it would embarrass the French and Germans, but rather because it would embarrass not only the United States, but the people who were serving in high levels of the government in the U.S. at the time Iraq procured the weapons in the 1980's and also at the time the U.S. invaded in 2003.

Another commenter stated that Iraq had used gas on its own people, the Kurds, and offered this as proof that they had chemical weapons in 2003. While it is true that a genocidal attack on the Kurds by Iraq with chemical weapons did occur, it happened on March 16, 1988, again, while Iraq was a client state of the United States of America. The weapons were dropped from U.S. made helicopters, using U.S. intelligence information gathered by U.S. intelligence and military assets.

There was a joke going around in the debate leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion that went something like this, "How do we know that Saddam has chemical weapons? Because we kept the receipts when we sold them to him." That joke only has a chance to be funny if you're not a Kurd or someone who had to go fight in that awful war. 

The United Nations Inspectors, The Iraq Survey Group and finally the Bush administration itself, have all declared that there was no active weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq post-1991. Here is a solid rundown that dismantles the  'wmd dead-enders' and their claims of vindication for Bush and company. LINK .

"You Didn't Prove He Lied"

I got some comments and a few emails from people who made the argument that I "didn't prove that Kyle had lied". Along the same lines I got some comments/emails saying that "I wasn't there so I couldn't know what happened" and should "keep my opinion to myself". Or that I wasn't a Navy SEAL so I should just "Shut.The.Fuck.Up." A commenter, J.R. MacDonald, took this line of thinking head on when another commenter claimed I "failed to prove Chris Kyle's stories were lies" and then said I was a "coward who hides behind his keyboard", Mr. MacDonald answered this charge better than I could ever hope to, so I quote him at length here:

"Failed to prove his stories are lies." Therein lies the problem. Your approach is flawed...You cannot prove a negative. If a complete lack of evidence exists to support a particular claim, logically, one can conclude that the claim is false.

For example. Right now, prove to me that reindeer can't fly. When you come back and cite the complete lack of evidence for flying reindeer, I can easily point out that you just didn't look hard enough, do your research, etc. You can't prove to me that there aren't reindeer flying right now and we just haven't observed them. This is what you've done with Chris Kyle's stories. The proof then, must come from the positive claim. If you want to prove that reindeer fly, it's very simple: Just show me one reindeer flying. The end. There's the proof. But, since there have been zero documented cases of a dang flying reindeer, we can conclude, logically, that reindeer do not fly.

Now... it would be easy to prove Chris Kyle's stories as true. There'd be paper trails, there'd be witnesses, there'd be SOMETHING. But there isn't. There would have been some story somewhere talking about two dead carjackers. There might even be a video of it. But there isn't. Therefore, just like the flying reindeer, we can conclude that they never happened. Ever.

Whether you like it or not, Kyle lied about a number of things, embellished a number of things, but he also DID do a bunch of incredible things. I was in Ramadi in 2006 at the same time as Kyle. The possibility exists that one of the American lives he unquestionably saved was either mine or that of one of my Marines. His service record could have easily spoken for itself, and it's always been my opinion that he should have hired a biographer and let someone else tell his story. The exaggerations could have been filtered out, the lies could have been filtered out, and we'd have been left with just Chris Kyle as best to remember him. He had no need to embellish a single solitary detail. He could have just told the stories exactly as they were and they'd still be incredible. Hell, simply being a SEAL at all with no combat added in is a tremendous accomplishment.

Also, if the author of this blog is a "disgrace" to America, what exactly does that make you? Your basic premise here is, "if you disagree me with me, you're a coward." Is this what being a "good" American is? Is no one allowed to do their own research and come to their own conclusions? Why should Chris Kyle be allowed to make up whatever story he wants and that just be "ok?" Is THAT being a good American? I'm a veteran too... do I get to make up all kinds of stories as well, or is that honor reserved for only certain veterans?

"Confirmed", "Official" and "Officially Confirmed"

The word "confirmed" has been kicked around a lot in regards to this story, and there has been and remains a great deal of confusion in the media over the claim by Chris Kyle that he had 160 confirmed kills in the Iraq war, and what the term "confirmed" actually means. As I stated in the original piece, "confirmed kills" means "kills witnessed by another person besides the shooter". As Chris Kyle himself explains in his book, a "confirmed kill" means you see the person die, not that he is assumed to have died from his wounds at a later time. The confusion starts when media outlets say that the Navy has "confirmed" Kyle's 160 kills. This is untrue as far as I have been able to gather. "Confirmed" is being confused here with "official". A "confirmed kill" is a very specific thing (as stated above), the Navy officially confirming the number of kills Chris Kyle has is another. From what I have been able to ascertain, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of Defense do not keep official "confirmed kill" numbers for individual servicemen. The Navy and Pentagon have not "officially confirmed" Chris Kyle's "confirmed kill" number. I am not saying that his "confirmed kill" number is a lie, I have absolutely no insight into that subject. But as far as I have been able to determine, the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense have never commented on Chris Kyle's alleged "confirmed kill" statistic one way or the other. 

Brian Williams, Dead-Enders and the Art of the Bullshit Detector

Brian Williams, the aforementioned anchorman on NBC nightly news, has recently been suspended for six months without pay for telling tall tales about his experience while reporting in Iraq. Personally I think Mr. Williams should be permanently unemployed from this point forward, but as we all know, telling the truth is not exactly a major requirement in order to be a news anchor. Besides the 'Iraq helicopter missile attack' story he told, Williams also told another story that has come under scrutiny, where he claimed he saw a bloated, dead body float by his French Quarter hotel room in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. People have challenged this story because apparently, there was no flooding in the French Quarter during Hurricane Katrina. Maybe, just maybe, we have a 'magic bullet' here which ties together both Williams and Kyle's fabulist Katrina stories. Maybe Williams saw one of the people Chris Kyle sniped from atop the Superdome float by his hotel room. Maybe? That sure would one hell of a story so…IT MUST BE TRUE!! This whole thing begs the question, why is Hurricane Katrina such a flame for moth-like fantasists? I guess it is, pardon the pun, a perfect storm of chaos, lawlessness and public attention that makes it such an easy target for bullshit.

In all seriousness regarding Williams, he is a symptom of a much larger disease. The story he told about his helicopter coming under attack, and the Katrina story, were a way for him to feed his audience the narrative that they demanded. Brian Williams was simply doing what he thought his job was…telling the people what they want to hear. Williams told people a tale, glorifying himself in the process, that people believed because they wanted to believe it. This is the same thing Chris Kyle did in his book and elsewhere. It is the same thing Clint Eastwood has done with the film American Sniper. All three of those men have made a pretty penny telling these tales, and while they are most certainly the ones to blame, we have some culpability as well. Whenever we hear a story that confirms our bias, that is when we must be more vigilant than ever. If a story feels too good to be true, it most likely is. Some on the right have blindly embraced the Chris Kyle story just like some on the left once blindly embraced the Rolling Stone UVA and the Duke Lacrosse rape stories. As I said in the original piece, cognitive dissonance is blind to political party or ideology.

That doesn't mean these types of stories are always false, just that we cannot take for granted that they are true, no matter how tempting that may be. As a personal example, just the other night I watched the Academy Award nominated documentary Virunga, on Netflix. This film is about the struggle to protect the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world, who happen to live in Congo, while a civil war rages around them and valuable oil and natural gas percolate under their feet. I really enjoyed the film a great deal. It touched upon a number of issues that I am deeply interested in, such as government/corporate corruption, colonialism, environmentalism and things of that nature . The thing about the film though, is that it left me feeling a bit…odd. What made my bullshit detector start to go off was that it all just seemed too perfect. The film was so aligned with what I believe about the world that when it ended I couldn't help but wonder if it was on the up and up. Was this all true or were parts of it manufactured? Was most of it manufactured? So instead of me embracing this film that confirmed my biases, I was wary of it, and wondered if it was deceptive. That may not be the most enjoyable way to experience the world, but I think in the long run, it is a much wiser and healthier way to approach information that is being presented to you.

I will say this about Virunga, I certainly hope it is true, but my hoping it is true doesn't make it so. Just like many people who desperately cling to the Bush administration pre-war WMD program claims, even after the administration itself has abandoned those claims, and some people cling to the tales Chris Kyle, aka "The Legend", told as being true, even though it is obvious to most observers that these tales, and "The Legend" itself, is much more complicated than we've been led to believe. These 'dead-enders', to borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, who hang onto these stories do so because of the frightening prospect that in order to embrace the truth one must release the previously held belief that conflicts with that truth. Letting go of anything, be it a belief, a grudge or a favorite t-shirt, is difficult for people to do because it brings with it the possibility that we will lose our identity. Our ego will have nothing to grasp onto and we will be obliterated or thrown into the dark abyss if the familiar belief is released. This is why I hope Virunga is true and also why I fear it is not. The fear is not just that I would be wrong about my beliefs, but that I wouldn't know who I really was if I had to abandon my perceptions of the world. But for me, the greater fear is to be lost in one's own illusions and self deceptions. I can understand when people or institutions lie to me, they are trying to manipulate me for their own benefit, but what I cannot tolerate is when I lie to myself. To lie to oneself is the act of a fool or a coward, or in some cases...both.

The Manichean, Projections and Scapegoating

When my original article was first posted it got a lot of readers linking to it from a variety of websites of which I had never heard. Many of these websites were gun enthusiast websites. My initial reaction was …"uh-oh". I was not raised in the gun culture, it is totally foreign to me. Gun enthusiasts are 'the other' for me. That is not to say that I am against gun rights, quite the opposite actually, as I am a staunch defender of gun rights (and all of the rights declared in the constitution). My basic approach to life is that just because I don't do something doesn't mean I should keep someone else from doing it. For instance, I do not drink alcohol or caffeine, do drugs, smoke cigarettes or have gay sex, but, call me crazy, I don't believe those things should be outlawed just because they aren't my thing. I feel the same way about gun rights. Back to the point, the important thing is that gun enthusiasts and that culture are alien to me. So it is easy for me to label that group of people and assume a bunch of things about them without any first hand experience. Much of the media is more than happy to help in that regard, so gun enthusiasts were 'gun nuts' in my mind, and the fact that they were reading my article was something very unsettling to me because I assumed they hated it and me for writing it. My reaction was that things were going to get bad and quick. Then I actually went and surreptitiously read the discussions about my article on those websites and I am ashamed to say that I was really surprised to see that not only were these people not 'unhinged', as they are so frequently labelled, but rather they were extraordinarily thoughtful. That is not to say they all agreed with the article, just that they were having a calm discussion based on reason, logic and rational thought, which is not something you come across very often in our culture in general and on the internet in particular. I was really glad to have had the opportunity to get a quick glimpse of some 'gun people' as they really are and not as they are portrayed to me in the media and I won't soon forget it or the lessons I learned from it.

My intellectual laziness in regards to gun enthusiasts was a reminder that it is never wise to assume things about a large group of people (or one single person for that matter). For example, it is common to make assumptions about people who serve in the military as well, lumping them all in the same category. This can be done in both a positive and negative fashion. For instance, some commenters were angry with me for daring to question Chris Kyle because to them veterans are beyond reproach due to the belief that they "fought for my freedoms". According to these commenters, anyone who served is a "hero". The problem with that though is, like any large institution, there are both good and bad people who serve in the military. A perfect example of this is that Eddie Ray Routh, the man accused of killing Chris Kyle, is a former Marine. So who decides who the good and bad veterans are? Does Eddie Ray Routh deserve the same kid gloves people tell me I am supposed to use with Chris Kyle? Or should we just judge people on the content of their character and not on whatever career choices they have made or service they have performed?

Another example of this is that some of the most vociferous and diligent defenders of me in the comments sections, people like the humorously named but incredibly astute, knowledgable and insightful "Huck Mucus", were often veterans themselves (to be clear, they claimed to be veterans but this is the internet and I have no way of knowing if that is true or not). In response to a commenter that chastised me for not "thanking Chris Kyle" and other military members for fighting for my freedoms so that I could "sit on my ass" and write my article, Huck Mucus wrote,

I never met a vet who wanted to be thanked. If I did it would certainly raise an eyebrow; kind of like those guys who write books and toot their own horn. For me, if the U.S. honors any deal it cut with me (pay, VA, etc.) then that is all that is sought. Again, for me personally, I want this guy to sit on his ass behind a desk chipping away at your cognitive dissonance. I thank him for that. He doesn't have to thank me for my service. Just my opinion.

I most certainly do thank Huck Mucus for his well stated opinions, and everyone else as well. I also hope this brings to an end any discussions where "my ass" is on the list of acceptable topics. But seriously, what the comments section does show is that the service men and women of this country are a very diverse group with a multitude of opinions on a wide array of topics including Chris Kyle. This is an obvious statement which is all to easy to forget. So often we project all sorts of simple feelings and beliefs onto groups of people, be they veterans or otherwise, which just don't conform to the more complex reality.

In psychology, projection is defined as "when humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others." Scapegoating is "the process in which the mechanisms of projection or displacement are utilized in focusing feelings of aggression, hostility, frustration, etc. upon another individual or group: the amount of blame being unwarranted."

Those who disagreed with my article often  projected upon me all sorts of attributes that, when they didn't mystify me, made me laugh. For instance I got a series of emails saying I was a  "Libtard" who "loved Hillary Clinton", and "hated the truth", and that I would "never be taken seriously as a writer" (oh no!! Not THAT!!) because I had written an article about "Chris Kyle and not Benghazi", which is sort of like calling Clint Eastwood a racist because American Sniper is not about Muhammed Ali. That logic boggles the mind.

A large part of the projections thrown upon me are a result of the Manichean philosophy. When you have a clear black and white perspective on the world, if someone disagrees with you on one subject, then you can fill in the blanks of all the things you don't know about them with all sorts of other attributes and beliefs that you find repellent. Because the perceived opponent has proven themselves 'wrong' /'bad' /'evil' with their original contrary belief, they must be the 'the other' and holder of all beliefs the Manichean finds repulsive. Hence, my being a "libtard-Hillary-Clinton-loving-Benghazi-denier".

This is also a form of scapegoating, where all the negative aspects of a self described 'good' individual, group or community are projected upon an 'evil' select group or individual. These negative aspects are projected in order to consolidate all of the blame and hate into one person/group and then to finally purge that 'evil' person/group in order to relieve the individual/group/community of those negative ('evil') feelings or beliefs. Of course, the problem is that many, if not all, of those 'evil' projections that are thrown onto the scapegoat are creations of the scapegoating 'good' individual/group/community, and not the scapegoated 'evil' individual/group. That is how projection works, we throw our own worst aspects onto another and do not take responsibility for them ourselves. So while the scapegoating and purging will have the momentary effect of avoidance, eventually those negative 'evil' aspects will be front and center once again because they have not been released through genuine reflection and a true catharsis on the part of the scapegoater, so another scapegoat must be found to relieve the psychological pressure and continue the cycle. 

This projection/scapegoating is what I did with gun enthusiasts, this is what some readers did to me, it is what Chris Kyle did to Muslims/Iraqis and it is what some readers have done to Chris Kyle. Projecting/scapegoating is a very human, unconscious impulse, but the key to overcoming that impulse is to become conscious of it. Sadly, we usually want to take short cuts to thinking so we do not want to put in the effort to become aware, self aware, or informed enough to be conscious of what we are doing and why.

Death Threats?, The Temptation of Embellishment!! and What the Hell Do You Know?

Interestingly enough, I have had a number of people ask me if I have received death threats as a result of the original article. I will say this about that…I certainly got a good number of aggressive emails and comments (the worst of which I did not let pass moderation due to inappropriateness of language) and a lot of vitriol spewed at me. I am sure that some other people might even consider those emails and comments 'threatening', but if I am being honest I have to say that the correspondence I received never reached the level of threats. For me to consider something 'threatening', I would have had to feel threatened, and I never for a moment felt truly threatened. Sure, some of the emails I got were very aggressive, but at the end of the day, it is just people writing nasty things, so who gives a rat's ass? I'm a big boy, people calling me names isn't something that is going to strike fear in my heart. Maybe I am just delusional or oblivious, but I was not alarmed at all. In the final analysis, really positive emails outnumbered negative ones by three to one at least, so I never spent much time dwelling on the school yard taunts thrown at me. 

But here is the thing….I was talking to a good friend about all of this the other day and he asked me if I had received any death threats and in that moment I quickly realized how really tempting it is to embellish the story. It is a much better story to say I did receive death threats. It is considerably more interesting, more dramatic and more impactful (and self aggrandizing) if I say I was threatened for writing an article some deem challenging or disrespectful to a 'hero' (this also would be me embracing the "Truth-teller archetype", in contrast to Chris Kyle embracing the "Hero archetype" which I will expand on later in this piece). In fact, I am pretty sure I could have made a big deal about some of the emails I got and claimed I actually did receive death threats, or what I perceived as death threats, and that would have brought me some attention. The reason? Because that is what some people want to hear. There is a segment of the population that if they heard I was receiving death threats, it would confirm what they already believe, that their ideological opponents are violent and unhinged. See, this is how the game works in our culture today, regardless of political affiliation. I tell people how scared I am and how crazy the 'pro-Kyle' people are, then I become a cause celebre and get my fifteen minutes of fame (and maybe make some money in the process). This is Victimhood and Media Manipulation 101. Then I could get myself out there as an important person because I am someone people want to shut up…well…someone the right people want to shut up. This stuff happens all the time (see Mr. Hannity's "Patriotism Under Attack" as just one example). This is what Chris Kyle did with the Ventura story and all the others, he gave his target audience what they wanted to hear, regardless if it was the Truth.

This brings up another complaint that people had of the original piece, namely that I was the person who wrote it. People would say, "who the hell are you?" "You're not a journalist! You're a nobody!!" Or "you are an acting coach what could you possibly know about anything?" This is a common approach to undermine the merits of an argument by attacking the authority or credibility of the person making the argument as opposed to looking at the merits of the argument itself. I do understand the criticism though, and believe me, I wouldn't have written the piece if someone who is paid to do these things would have done it. That is one of the things I was writing about, namely that the information I cited in my article was in the public sphere, and not just on some outer fringe of the internet, but in the Washington Post and The New Yorker magazine, and yet not a single media figure brought these issues up when the defamation verdict came out. People in the media were either being intentionally obtuse or were just plain ignorant. That is what frustrated me so much and that was the impetus for me to write the original piece. 

That said, due to my profession there are some things I know a great deal about, one of which is the eternal quest for fame and the machinery that makes it happen. I am surrounded by both all day long. Hollywood is one of the three great bullshit capitals of America, with Wall Street and Washington, D.C. the other two. Out here, embellishing, massaging or just completely making stories up in order to create and control impressions and perceptions is business as usual. You see and hear it happening incessantly. An age old example would be the well-worn story of the beautiful young woman who is "discovered" while waiting in line at a grocery store. This story is nonsense meant to generate interest in a particular ingenue, to give a fantasy for other young women to root for this ingenue because they too could be "discovered at the grocery store", to give the impression for men that this beauty is really attainable because she is just the "girl-next-door", and to create a way for shady guys to inappropriately approach beautiful young girls in public under the guise of "discovering" them.

Same thing with the many stories about actors going to great lengths to physically morph into a character. For instance, did Bradley Cooper really gain forty pounds to play Chris Kyle? Or is it more likely he gained twenty pounds, which, by the way, is one hell of an achievement for a forty year old man and I am sure he gave a Herculean effort to do it, but twenty pounds doesn't sound all that Herculean to the average Joe, whereas forty pounds sounds incredibly remarkable, almost otherworldly. Hollywood will always go with the incredibly remarkable otherworldly story, every…single...time.

One other thing I know about as an acting coach is how to create a believable narrative and a sympathetic character. This is why my spidey sense started going off when I read the "American Sniper" book. It is filled little stories, that are really just throw away little tales, but they are so sculpted as to manipulate the reader to believe that Chris Kyle is everything they want him to be (not to mention they are 'unverifiable' to borrow a phrase from the Washington Post). I work with actors and scripts all day long searching for these minuscule little triggers that are so essential to creating a massive unconscious effect in the reader/viewer. It is a credit to Kyle's co-authors how subtly their work has been done. The "babykiller" sign story and the "discovering barrels of WMD" are two stories that stood out to me because of how quickly and quietly they are dropped into the narrative. The book expertly creates a character that is humble and sincere, even in his faults, all the while he is actually bragging (he is writing a book about himself!!) and bullshitting you (Scruff-face/Ventura etc.). You know what they say, once you can fake sincerity, then you've really got it made. In that sense, "American Sniper" is an absolute masterpiece and I genuinely credit Kyle and his co-authors for the craft displayed in making it.

Musings on "The Legend" as The Hero Archetype Runs Amok

The reason some react so strongly to my article is that the topic touches a nerve deep within the personal and collective psyche. The Hero Archetype is not only something that Chris Kyle needed to believe in, it is something we all need to believe in, as evidenced by the enormous success of the film American Sniper, which is as full blown an homage to the Hero Archetype as it gets. We all project these archetypal images onto the voids of our psyches and our realities. So when our heroes are challenged, that means the Hero Archetype, an entity in and of itself, is challenged as well. The archetype resides deep within our unconscious, both personal and collective, and it will instinctively defend itself, and for our own psychic self defense we will jump to it's defense as well. 

It is my belief that Chris Kyle was under the spell of this Hero Archetype. Chris Kyle's psyche was split in two, there was Chris Kyle the man, the father, son, husband, brother, and then there was "The Legend". Maybe that happened as a defense mechanism for him to be able to survive both physically and mentally in a war zone, and then to be able to maintain a sense of emotional and mental equilibrium upon his return home. This is completely understandable. And when other people projected upon him the collective Hero Archetype, this empowered "The Legend" side of things, and then there was no way for 'Chris' to escape this alter-ego, so he unconsciously, or consciously, embraced it. As I said in the original piece, 'Chris' knew the things he said were not true, but the Hero Archetype, "The Legend", overwhelmed that mindset and what became important wasn't what was true, but what could be true. In reading Chris' tales, I get the sense that those images, of him hitting Ventura, of the carjackers, the looters, etc. are creations of the Hero Archetype "The Legend" which had him under its power. In the final analysis, Chris Kyle is totally responsible for the tales he told, but the people and media who fawned over "The Legend" also have a share in the blame for the fantastic tales as well. Living a life where people project tremendous amounts of archetypal energy onto you must be a terribly exhausting existence. There are many examples where it has destroyed people, think of Marylin Monroe and all of the archetypal sexual energy directed at her and how it eventually annihilated her. At some point, being "The Legend" was no longer a choice, but rather the cross 'Chris' had to bear, albeit an at times very prosperous one.

To me, this hypothesis is the only way to make much sense of what has become the most interesting question of all…why? Why would a guy with such an apparent stellar resume as a warrior (two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars), feel the need to make up stories in order to sound tougher or more heroic? I can understand why Brian Williams would make up stories, his claim to fame is reading a teleprompter every night for twenty two minutes while maintaining impeccable hair. But Chris Kyle is allegedly the most lethal sniper in US military history, isn't that an impressive enough calling card for that line of work that you don't need to pad it with bullshit? Apparently not. Obviously, the preceding thoughts are just my opinion on why he lied about the things he lied about, and since I never met Chris Kyle, take them for what they are worth.

Final Thoughts

As usual, a commenter had some great insights into what all of this means. Andie Howe wrote...

Thank you for this great article. I can't imagine it will make any difference. Those who believe Chris Kyle will continue to believe Chris Kyle and will vilify you for having written it; and the rest of us will continue to think his devotees are deluded….

I think Andie Howe is probably accurate in that statement. I will say this though, from all of the insightful emails and great comments I received it is pretty obvious to me that there are many fellow travelers out there, much more than I previously thought, who actually 'get it'. And I don't mean agree with me on the Chris Kyle issue. What I mean is they 'get' what I was really saying and the problem I was trying to describe. I think it is a result of my deficiencies as a writer that I was unable to more clearly communicate what exactly I was trying to say. But I am grateful for those that were able to find the true meaning hidden beneath the morass of the Chris Kyle story. For at the end of the day, thanks to the Clint Eastwood film American Sniper, Truth has gone out the window, and the Chris Kyle story and the debate swirling around it have devolved into nothing more than a political football being vacuously tossed around with each side reflexively opposing the other and mindlessly clinging to their beliefs. The story itself will dissipate just like all the others, and something more pressing, and ultimately just as foolish, will take it's place. And this seemingly endless cycle of nonsense and bullshit will keep the media, our politics, our culture and ourselves chasing after our tails (and tales) until we simply collapse from exhaustion or boredom, whichever comes first. It was Shakespeare's MacBeth who said it best...

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

and then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

Such is life…and so it goes.

© 2015

 

CLICK HERE FOR A REVIEW OF THE CLINT EASTWOOD DIRECTED FILM AMERICAN SNIPER .