Sunday, February 22, 2015

SAYING YES TO NIHILISM

   The nature of falsity in our present time is somewhat due to our manufactured struggle against a mechanical enemy who in large part despises us because of our artificiality.
  In the introduction to his 1964 book One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse wrote:
Does not the threat of an atomic catastrophe which could wipe out the human race also serve to protect the very forces which perpetuate this danger? We submit to the peaceful production of the means of destruction, to the perfection of waste, to being educated for a defense which deforms the defenders and that which they defend.

     Do we really need a revolution when people can buy and sell bottles that are reasonably described by the word "plastic"? Is a system even worth the trouble of overthrowing when it produces such nonexistent realities as Enron?  Will the hegemony of spiritual technology lead us to the precipice of sending virtual armies off to thwart the android counter-revolutionists while the real ones return fire with actual weaponry as we beat our fists in the air and cry "Foul!"? 
   The prospects would surely be amusing were it not that social criticism since at least the nineteenth century has encouraged us to think in terms that might be labeled as "enlightened pragmatism." That qualifies as a long-term intellectual investment, one which adherents, admirers and psychic embezzlers of the Frankfurt School would be reluctant to abandon. 
   From my personal point of view, get an academic hottie to marry you. If that is inconvenient, you might consider that the negationist components of conflict theory have remarkable staying power as well as practical applications. A considerable amount of conflict theory's nihilist flare-ups come from Europe, where what at one moment appears to be communist in nature suddenly spits into the wind and reveals itself as fascist. The belief that contemporary society and the culture it manufactures is inherently false (read: bourgeois) is something of a meeting point between the two otherwise distant points on the infinite ideological continuum. The argument in favor of arbitrarily rejecting not only the products of that culture but the industries that make it is an attractive one. Like many attractive arguments, it contains some truth, some distortions, and some purposeful lies. And even the distortions and lies make nice use of metaphor, imagery and other elements of poetry, which may be the reason we can read someone such as T. S. Eliot and be mesmerized by the majesty of his constructions and yet hate his reactionary guts. (In fact, the whole right wing of the imagistic poets of the early twentieth century--including a few poets I quite like, such as Eliot, Stevens, and even that traitorous snail Ezra Pound--indulged in the ultimate blend of conspicuous consumption with bourgeois subterfuge as they based the artistic success of their writings on the degree of difficulty in decoding what they were too hammered to say in a more lucid manner.) 
   Sometimes we say yes to nihilism. Often this is more in the sense of influence than in direct action. Direct action has some a priori requirements that most people simply cannot withstand for long periods of time. For instance, we may enjoy listening to whatever the contemporary equivalent of the Velvet Underground is, but walking around with the kind of automatic rejection of the endless culture blasts is hard work, especially since there's always that nasty chance that we might inadvertently miss out on something good. Besides, knee jerk negation sounds uncomfortably like Archie Bunker. 
   "Nothing is true--all is permitted," wrote Betty Bouthoul in The Master of the Assassins in 1936. Or it was written by Alexander Dumas in 1844 in The Count of Monte Cristo. Or Vladimir Bartol said it in Alamut in 1938 (while sarcastically dedicating the book to Mussolini). Or maybe it was in 1960 when William Burroughs said it in Minutes to Go. It may even have been sung by Jim Carroll on the album Catholic Boy in 1980. It is a current, if you will, that runs through a video game from 1994 called Assassin's Creed. "Nothing is true; everything is permitted." Those six words can reveal a twitching nerve impulse that reacts like neon to anything from the rapture of liberation to a punch in the jaw from a violent hedonist. 
   I hope the importance of the passage from Marcuse at the beginning of this has not gotten soft. I will try my own interpretation again: The nature of falsity in our present time is at least in part due to our manufactured struggle against a mechanical enemy who despises us because of our artificiality. A brief lesson in recent history may clarify. In 1979 we handed the Soviet Union what United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski categorized to President Jimmy Carter as "their Vietnam," meaning the U.S. could support the Afghan rebels in their war of liberation from the Soviet Union and thereby drain the USSR of their political, economic and spiritual ability to survive. In the process of doing this (successfully, it should be noted), we empowered the formation of the Taliban. When the Soviets were defeated, the negation of what had been the reigning culture was rejected by the ideologically stunted yet technologically savvy members of the Taliban government, known between 1996 and 2001 as The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These "students" (which is what "Taliban" means) drew support for their unacknowledged country from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, the Mujahideen, and a small group of militant financiers nowadays known as Al-Qaeda. In keeping with the multinational tenor of our times, none of these political organizations can be said to have ruled a specific country, a fact very much in keeping with their organizational structure, which is said by Khalid al-Hammadi to be "Centralization of decision with decentralization of execution." Today's living is akin to the one described as "dream like" by William Faulkner in Absalom! Absalom! where he writes "You run without moving from a terror in which you cannot believe, toward a safety in which you have no faith." 
   A streak of nihilism runs through what I guess we had all better be prepared to start calling militant Islamic extremism. (And who really cares if ISIS or some other group of barbaristic warmongers represents true Islam? The concept of religion--regardless of its actual, final and cosmic verisimilitude--is de facto an interpretation of and by human beings, just like the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. Any religion's terrestrial validity depends on who you are at a given moment and because some other people will always experience the same concepts differently from the way you or I do, and because metaphysical validation can only occur beyond our current plain of consciousness, i.e, after we are dead, it may behoove us one and all to avoid saying that this or that group does not represent true Islam, true Judaism, true Hinduism, true Christianity or true Scientology. Just because the behavior of some adherents makes us sick, that does not mean those adherents lack their own truth, which of course brings us right back to "Nothing is true; everything is permitted.") Militant Islam extremism never existed in a vacuum. It has always been reinforced by the more sophisticated yet no less barbaric attitudes and actions of Englishmen, Americans, and Europeans, to name but a few. Relations between Sunni and Shia Muslims in what is now called Iraq may have been historically unstable, but in the years immediately prior to the U.S.-led coalition invasion in 2003, Sunni and Shia coexisted peacefully in that country. 
   As you may have heard, such is no longer the case.
   We in the West have thus created enemies--united them, to some extent--who despise us in no small part for having operated in such a way as to have made their existence (as far as they themselves are concerned) necessary. 
   One consequence of being the masters of a system that creates falsities ranging from streaming music by a professional plagiarist such as Kid Rock to grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, from the compulsive use of electronica to the delighted acceptance of being entertained into a stupor by things we do not even care to understand, is that our society does ram billions of tons of bourgeois bullshit down our collective throats. The decision we may have to make is whether we really are what we eat. Saying yes to negation--with some skill, meaning without accidentally giving over power to the National Front or to the Democratic or Republican Party--can even free a person up to the point where he or she might seek a type of enlightenment void of pragmatism. Do you play your musical instrument because you want to be a millionaire or because you enjoy playing it? Do you paint your masterpiece because you want to be the new Picasso or because you have something worthwhile to communicate? Do you plant your spring garden because you want to have the biggest spread of marigolds on the block or because you love the smell of the blooms? Do you brush your dog because you want to be the next Patty Hearst at the Westminster Kennel Club or because the dog's fur feels good when you rest the side of your head against it? Do you want to be a soldier because it gives you the opportunity to vent your anti-social proclivities while wearing the legitimacy of a uniform or because the Nazis are actually kicking down your neighbor's front door? 
   It serves the interests of people who hold real power in this world for artificiality to blend with reality. I doubt the existence of any conspiratorial collusion in this. At the same time, a conspiracy--a breathing together--may be necessary to shatter it. 



Monday, February 16, 2015

OUR TURN TO CRY

   What with the predictable emphasis on the role of the producer as auteur over the works of presumably anonymous female singers, it may surprise you to read my opinion that the esteemed Quincy Jones (who produced among the best tracks for Michael Jackson, Anita Baker, Peggy Lee, New Order) contributed very little to what is great about Lesley Gore's recordings. The gift of all Gore’s recorded output—which most greatest hits collections amply capture, but the best probably being The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore from 1965—is bestowed by the singer’s remarkable manner of conveying the solemnity of each occasion, juxtaposed against a wild sense of liberation through pain. For instance, in “It’s My Party,” her boyfriend disappears behind the clubhouse to play hide the snake with another aspiring debutante, and when they return, their faces aglow from the self-satisfaction of mutual conquest, Gore states with the most flat-out exhausted sense of awareness ever conceived: “Oh what a birthday surprise/Judy’s wearing his ring.” She delivers the first of those lines with all the stupefied emotion a kid would bring to a recitation of the multiplication tables. It is only when she comes to the subject of Judy, her lifelong nemesis, that the spunk returns to her vocal.
   But “It’s My Party” was only the first in a four-part series of the trials and tribulations of sweet Lesley. 
   To Johnny’s credit, it didn’t take him long to recognize his error in transgressing with the town’s highest class tramp, so he came back to Les and now it was “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” On the rebound herself, Judy finds another guy the same night, but Lesley vows this new romance will fade because that Judy, “She’s a Fool.” All this awareness led to a raised consciousness for young Ms. Gore who, though she took Johnny back after his allocution, warns him, “You Don’t Own Me,” the earliest case of proto-feminism in rock music and a musical attitude which made the relatively innocent tough-guy posturing of Joan Jett all the more believable. When, toward the song’s end, Lesley shouts, “I’m young and I love to be young/I’m free and I love to be free,” she declares a liberation that no armed conflict could ever approximate.
   She died today from lung cancer at the age of sixty-eight. 
   Do you realize that her biggest commercial successes happened while she was still in high school? She went on to become a Sarah Lawrence alumnus as well as an actor, appearing in a couple episodes of the TV show "Batman," in an of itself enough of an accomplishment for any teenager. Color me green. 
   She continued to record through the mid-1970s and co-wrote a hit song with her brother that made the soundtrack of Fame
   Were you surprised to learn today--if today was when you learned it--that Lesley Gore was a lesbian and that she had been in the same relationship for thirty-three years? How much (if anything) did that fact of her life have to do with the authenticity, the lack of pretense, in her vocal deliveries? Did she understand the immeasurable value that "You Don't Own Me" brought to anyone who was willing to meet the song even halfway? Did she know that we would still be thinking about it years later, or having friendly discussions about whose cover of the song came in second, Dusty's or Joan's? Did she know that we didn't care that the song was written by two men? Or that a whole new generation of people would "discover" it from The First Wives Club?
   As a child I used to engage in what turns out to be a common fantasy: I would on occasion imagine what the world would be like if I had not been born. Being a child, I found the idea challenging because the egocentrism inherent in kidhood makes a world without Self feel improbable. What would my parents be doing? What would my friends be thinking? How would my little neighborhood look? What songs would be on the radio?
   A great singer from Lesley's period of greatest artistic success established a relationship with the listener in the sense that it became instantly impossible to imagine a world in which her songs had never existed. Very few singers from that period (1962 through 1965) can say that. The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" did it. The Shangri-Las' "Remember Walking in the Sand" did it. Both of those groups were somewhat erroneously perceived as creations of the studio, in the case of the Ronettes the credit typically going to Phil Spector and with the Shangri-Las to Shadow Morton. And the efforts of those respective producers cannot be dismissed. But what they did in the final analysis--and this is also true of Quincy Jones regarding Lesley Gore--is they had very good ears and intuited a way of reproducing the essence of what these women wanted to communicate. Some people in the business had a spark. These women were human blowtorches with enough vocal firepower to level Philadelphia. In short, it was not so much that Phil Spector "discovered" the Ronettes or that Shadow Morton "recorded" the Shangri-Las or that Quincy Jones "worked the dials" with Lesley Gore. What mattered more was that these young women discovered them.
   So tonight our contemporary versions of the radio (Spotify, YouTube, whatever) will play and replay Lesley's body of work. We will be moved. We may mourn that which we possibly had forgotten we knew. But we will not likely see a reflection of her gift again in our lifetimes. For that alone--and being alone is ultimately at the core of all her best recordings--it is our turn to cry.
Quincy Jones, Lesley Gore, and unidentified friend

Saturday, February 14, 2015

CAN THE FALCON HEAR THE FALCONER?

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   One thing our human species could learn from football is the concept of the two-minute warning. Now in the sense of football itself, the warning feels like nonsense because the players and coaches certainly realize that in a game with the degree of precision that the sport maintains, every second remains precious, especially if your side holds possession. Nevertheless, the warning carries some value to those in attendance, as if the rules committee wanted to send the announcement: People, this is the part of the game that really matters. If the team that is down by four is going to surge, this is when it needs to happen. If the team that leads by four wants to get to the playoffs, they'd better rush and not fly the ball. 
  Considering the epidemic of crises humanity faces today, it behooves us to announce our own two-minute warning.
   And we are down by more than four. 
   What is it that worries people these days? First, we should look at which people we are talking about. Whenever an American news outlet discusses fear, they invariably mean American fear. You never turn on NPR or CNN or Fox or Pacifica and find the announcer saying that the Japanese are afraid of Korean sushi. What you hear is that something or other is threatening the United States. Most of the time the reports come across with such frenzied breathlessness that no one much gets around to asking critical questions about the accuracy of the perceptions. So for instance, if twenty-five percent of all Americans feared an outbreak of measles because they believed the disease was going to kill millions of people, one of the things a responsible media would do would be to ascertain if those fears were in any way justified. As anyone who has ever watched CNN, Fox or MSNBC can tell you, what happens instead is that CNN brings out two people purporting to represent widely divergent views on the matter, although--as with championship wrestling--both people sit together in the green room telling one another jokes. MSNBC reports that the cause of the fear is because the Koch Brothers have been funding the Tea Party. Fox tells us that things are even worse than we suspect because the vaccine actually will cause a man to develop a uterus. 
   But no one ever gets around to analyzing the validity of the fears. And after a while we as viewers and listeners and readers get so beaten down by the constant drum beat of impending doom that our frame of reason narrows and we find that we have become just as limited in our thinking as the cable news advertisers hope we will be. 
   On January 12, 2015, The Pew Research Center asked 1,500 Americans what was freaking them out. It may be helpful to recall that this was around the time of the Paris attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Which fear came in on top?
  This is significant because one of the weapons which large corporations fully expect the United States government to employ against the populace is the fear of an outside and unforeseen attack. In the contemporary malaise, "outside" means that the potential perpetrators either reside or have connections to the Middle East and are probably believed to be Islamic. "Unforeseen"--which is the scarier of the two descriptors--implies that regardless of what those in possession of real power may know in advance, the masses themselves will not see the attack coming until it is too late. All the better reason, the argument goes, to worry constantly. I guess the bad guys can't hurt you as long as your paranoia is on overload. I used to think having a flag decal on my front window was all it took to keep the devil away, but it appears the new price of freedom is eternal servitude.
   As with the recent shootings in Denmark, the violence in France caught our attention here in America because we like to believe that we are the only country with a significant Caucasian population that gets attacked. So when some group of Islamic fundamentalists goes on a rampage in another country with lots of white folks, we sit up and take notice. ISIL can enslave and murder thousands of Syrians and Iraqis and we shake our heads and sigh. But just let them whack a few American journalists or humanitarians and watch our collective blood boil. 
   What else frightens the people of the United States these days? The same Pew survey showed the following list of what they like to call "priorities."
   These surveys are viewed by American corporations as vitally important and should be considered as such by all of us, although not precisely for the same reasons. The people who direct the supply of economic resources in the world--Council on Foreign Relations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, U.S. Federal Reserve, along with the corporate interests these groups both serve and employ--utilize what Pew calls "priorities" and what might more accurately be called "collective insecurities" to their own best interests. These insecurities are also a fair measure of what we can expect in the future. The surveys may even be thought of as a performance appraisal for how well the blend of financial, political and military interests are sculpting public perceptions.
   To get some perspective on the allegation I am making that corporate interests (which I often generalize as American business interests, although the reach of multinationals has done much to blur the relevance of national borders) encourage their allies in government to manufacture fear, it may be helpful to consider the early days of globalization, something which I would place at roughly 1976, even shortly before the ascension of the policy makers in the administration of Jimmy Carter. 
   Nowadays one has to be careful about using two particular words together in a sentence because using them can allow other people to shout you down as some kind of wild-eyed conspiracy buff because the political right in America has laid claim to the words I'm going to use to (ironically) scare a few folks about some sort of Zionist-controlled New World Order with a thousand points of lights that prove we never went to the South Pole much less to the moon. Those two words--I won't keep you waiting--are the Trilateral Commission. 
   After World War II and especially after the Korean War, Western democracies such as the rebuilt countries of Japan and Germany, along with the new superpower known as the United States, saw that their populations were teeming with people who insisted on stretching the rights they believed to be inherent in a pluralist democracy. The military buildup in the United States created what was throughout the 1950s and 1960s the closest thing to a middle class our country has ever seen. With the freedom that money whispers about, many people behaved in ways that make those who believe themselves to be in control extremely nervous. This was the case not just in the United States with an entire culture of young and middle-aged people questioning the value of being wage slaves. There were riots and alternative communities throughout Western Europe in the late 1960s. Japan saw their share of students questioning authority as well. 
   In what might be thought of as totalitarian systems such as the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China, student uprisings or workers strikes were routinely crushed because they were said to be counter-revolutionary or Trotsky-ist. Because of the clamp on media dissent in those systems, public perception was easier to control so the Politburo needn't worry much about the masses (although by the early 1980s, after years of getting their asses kicked in Afghanistan, the Soviets became very worried about a Polish labor leader named Lech Walesa, a guy who had a lot more to do with the fall of the Soviet Empire than did Reagan, but that's another story for another time). But in the United States, rolling out the tanks usually makes for very worrisome press. Even when the purposes for deployment of the National Guard are what we like to call progressive, as when they are there to ensure that African-American students can attend integrated school systems, just the presence of uniformed soldiers on our city streets with M-16s at the ready makes people in America very uncomfortable. But that was how our leaders dealt with dissent in this country during the administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. Whether it was racists standing in the schoolhouse door or students demanding our withdrawal from Southeast Asia, when the government feared that democracy was being used by the people rather than on the people, the government routinely sent in the guns and tanks.
   It was the genius of the Carter and Reagan administrations that the people around both these disturbingly similar Presidents were able to foment a less overtly violent and far more insidious method of neutralizing the power of people who believe themselves to be free. The Trilateral Commission--which in its early days had some familiar members such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Cyrus Vance, James Earl Carter--enlisted the aid of Samuel P Huntington to put forth the idea that what democracy most needs is moderation
   One thing to bear in mind about these people is that they were then and today would be even more so thought of as neo-liberals, that is, elite intellectuals who sought the measured and patient advance of humanity through the presumably benevolent auspices of imperialism in the guise of capitalist hegemony. You might ask yourself, what then is the difference between a neo-liberal and a neo-conservative? That's a good question. I suspect the answer may lie in the lighting or the make-up. That's all I've ever been able to notice.
   So the Trilateral Commission recommended to what was then West Germany, The United States and Japan that their governments needed to do a much better job of indoctrinating their young people so that those future decision-making citizens would do a better job of frustrating their own neuroses by becoming obsessed with consuming rather than with worrying about women's rights, voting rights, civil rights, the overreach of police and government, invasions of foreign lands, that kind of thing.
   There was never a need for some kind of "high cabal" to direct the course of what happened. All that was necessary was to get out of the way and allow it to happen. 
   With a series of simultaneous mergers of industry and government along with a steady relaxation of regulations on the former, the so-called problems of democracy were soon managed. What that means is that our human insecurities are managed. They are managed by external and often very abstract concepts--abstract unless they affect you personally. So while in 1944, largely due to our initially reluctant involvement in World War II, the U.S. unemployment rate was 1.2%. The highest it has been since WWII was in 1982, when it reached 9.2%. When unemployment is too high, corporations worry about the political instability of progressive movements (or for that matter fascist movements). When it is too low, they worry about having to pay competitive wages. The ideal range for big businesses appears to be between six and seven percent unemployment. That allows for enough people who have jobs to buy things they don't need to balance out the economic impact of millions of people not having the money to buy things they do need. In other words, economic insecurities are built into the contemporary capitalist system to force people into accepting the negative consequences of global warming, Wal-Mart, privatization of schools and penitentiaries, and an unending emphasis on wars and rumors of wars. 
   Writing in the New York Times in October 2012, Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney wrote about the stagnation of American wages from 1970 to the present. They attribute this flattening to changes in technology, the role of international trade, and the decline of unions. What they do not mention is that all three of these precipitant causes are connected to something that Samuel P. Huntington and his colleagues at the Trilateral Commission called globalization. The introduction of the personal computer into the American home, the massive restructuring of business models and outsourcing of employment, and immigration policies designed to undercut the power of labor unions have all worked quite effectively in stagnating wages for the last forty-five years while also feeding our unending desire to hate the rest of the world. It is much more convenient and requires less critical thinking (thank God, since our universities haven't the interest in teaching such revolutionary notions) to blame some undocumented Latin America emigre to this country for our problems than to go after the real and invisible administrators of our economic hardships. Better to blame some Indonesian peasant sewing laces into our running shoes than to go after Phil Knight personally. Better to slam down the phone on the technical support woman we have reached in Bangalore or Manila than to ask the CEOs of the wireless corporations why Americans aren't being offered those jobs. 
   Perhaps what should frighten us more than the convoluted concept of terrorism or the vague abstraction of economics or the unnecessary divisiveness of whether one views oneself as a liberal or conservative--what we should consider obsessing about is instead the means to which our primordial insecurities are being manipulated to anesthetize our impulses to think critically about how it is that we arrived at this point in time and what if any patterns of our future behavior can be predicted. Concern over the diminished quality of life for future generations needs to be replaced with consideration of the real possibility that we will not have future generations. Our avarice and stupidity--which is perceived by much the rest of the world in simultaneous hues of horror and amusement--may not be the result of some grand corporatist conspiracy. But if it were caused by such a thing, the results would be identical.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

VOLUNTARY CONSENT?

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   It begins with measles vaccines and the next thing I know there's a riot going on.
   Here are some of the organizations who support the idea that children should receive vaccinations: Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, Institute of Medicine, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, UNICEF, US Department of Health and Human Services, World Health Organization, Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and American Academy of Family Physicians. 
     Yet some people put more faith in that noted immunologist Jenny McCarthy (as well as her charitable organization's famous financial backer Mr. Hefner and her ex-husband actor Jim Carrey) than they do in those self-important hacks at the Centers for Disease Control. After all, I think it was another Doctor of Medicine, actress Marilu Henner, who convinced the bread-eating world that gluten was somehow supposed to be bad for us and to do the sign of the cross any time a dairy product came wafting through the room. But celebrities have an absolute right to confuse the public about physical health issues, what with many of them having messed up the minds of their followers to the extent that some people actually go to bed at night convinced that Alicia Silverstone possesses some modicum of talent. And speaking of Alicia, her 2014 book (The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning) won the annual Philropost Award for the Book with a Title Longer Than the Text Itself and also included some words about how unsafe childhood vaccination is. 
   Of course, if the only famous people who came out in favor of child abuse were the stupid ones, even the oxycodone-gobbling fans of Lester Maddox would have to admit the whole thing was a hoax. But Bill Maher--of whom I am proud to say I have never had much in the way of high regard--is considered even by his detractors to be what you might call a smart fellow, said in 2009, "I would never get a swine flu vaccine or any vaccine. I don’t trust the government, especially with my health." 
   Although no one recently has come out in support of Charlie Sheen's intelligence, the well-known advocate of the support group Talent Squanderers Soon to Become Anonymous has joined with noted child psychologist Britney Spears in cautioning parents to not have their children vaccinated. 
   Other silly fools include Kristin Cavallari ("The Hills"), Mayim Bialik ("Big Bang Theory"), and Rob Schneider (any idiot movie on which Adam Sandler has not called dibs).
   I have no doubt that the anti-vaccination crowd could find lots of mentally unbalanced people who support vaccinations. Hell, they could probably find celebrities who are in favor of childhood autism. So in a sense I am setting up the straw man argument: Look at all the idjets who got their thinkin wrong; therefore, the idee must ipso fatso be wrong too
   That isn't quite what I'm saying. I am saying that before you make a decision about your children, you might consult someone with a bit more science in her background than the former star of. . . of. . . What was McCarthy the star of? I can never remember.
   Here then is what I trust will be some useful information to ponder while your kid fidgets and screams in the doctor's waiting room.
  • All 50 states require vaccinations for children entering public schools even though no mandatory federal vaccination laws exist. All 50 states issue medical exemptions, 48 states (excluding Mississippi and West Virginia) permit religious exemptions, and 19 states allow an exemption for philosophical reasons.
  • The CDC estimated that 732,000 American children were saved from death and 322 million cases of childhood illnesses were prevented between 1994 and 2014 due to vaccination.
  • According to the CDC, all vaccines carry a risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in about one per million children. The CDC reports that pneumonia can be caused by the chickenpox vaccine, and a "small possibility" exists that the flu vaccine could be associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a disorder in which the person’s immune system attacks parts of the peripheral nervous system, in about one or two per million people vaccinated.
  • Children are exposed to more aluminum in breast milk and infant formula than they are exposed to in vaccines. Aluminum is one of the ingredients in some vaccines that scares the bejeezus out of the autism crowd because in higher doses, the stuff can cause all sorts of nasty neurological disorders. Also on the Beware List are thimerosal, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, cetyltrimethylammonium, as well as chicken and yeast proteins.
  • Jenny and Britney and Sparky and Betsy are not the originators of the vaccine mythology. Some people place the origin with Andrew Wakefield, who published a study in the Lancet in 1998 claiming to find a link between the MMR vaccine (which contains no thimerosal) and autism. Wakefield has since been charged with research improprieties and conflicts of interest, and the original results could not be confirmed. He still believes himself above reproach.
  •  I would date the source of misinformation and misdirection to 1982 with the formation of a group called the National Vaccine Information Center. These folks insist on "voluntary informed consent."  
   That voluntary consent matter is the real cog. The person for whom the parent is exercising his or her right to take action is by definition a small child. Some parents doubtless believe in all sincerity that they are best serving their children's interests by declining to have their kids immunized. One of the consequences of the massive governmental deregulation begun in the United States during the Carter Administration and shortly thereafter perfected by Reagan was an embracing of anti-intellectualism perhaps best illustrated by the calculated quip that "The solution to the problems of big government is less government." Even though I personally reject the existence of what political scientists call "pluralist democracy" in America, I still prefer the illusion of voting for people who are empowered to make us safe over the reality that a mass of largely economically brutalized victims are in any position to make decisions for their kids when they cannot even be given reasonable access to birth control because it might piss off the insurance companies. 
   When driving a car, I am required to wear a seatbelt. If I ride a motorcycle out of Arizona into California, I have to wear a helmet. Car seats for children are mandatory most places. When the local animal crematorium dumps their refuse into the water supply, Environmental Services lets me know to not drink the tap water. I consider some of these things to be a bit inconvenient. Yet no one cares what I think about them--and rightly so--because public safety is the real issue and not the creeping mass of muddled nonsense that slithers along the crevices of my shrinking brain. 
    Do we love what we misbelieve to be freedom so much in this country that in order to prove to ourselves that we are exercising it we will risk the health of our own kids and those with whom they come into contact? 


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

THE NEW SCARLET

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   When you live in a true totalitarian system, you believe yourself to be free. 
  Anyone who generalizes about feeling adrift in oblivion when confronting the malaise colloquially referred to as "These Days" risks furthering his anomie by emblazoning on her own chest the scarlet brand of our time: Anachronism. Anyone brave or foolish enough to critique what a reasonable person might construe as a societal soullessness with any reference to more enlightened times threatens to turn the microscope onto his own frailties and foibles, not least of which being an obsession with old times rivaling those grandfatherly types who spend each weekend locked in a cellar with VHS tapes of John Wayne movies. 
   Even when people in their twenties and thirties deign to discuss without mockery actualities which had their beginnings before the advent of the latest edition of some mobile Steve Jobs planned obsolescence device, they yield to a tendency to get it wrong. A good example of this is the idea that televised awards programs are anything but a sham. As I write this, the Grammys just happened and the Oscars are coming up. To read and hear all the uneducated blathering about "I never heard of Beck, either, damn straight, Kanye," inspires me to recall the fact that in that self-serving musical industry travesty of misused talent's history, not one damned time have the crustacean-bladdered imbeciles who make the decisions ever once made the proper call. The voting body has consistently been a good ten years behind the times in terms of who and what it recognizes and so dancing the reluctant dance of compromise about how out of line Mr. Kardashian was, to put it gently, misses the point. 
   All award presentations that celebrate whatever singular or collective components of the entertainment industry are inherently corrupt--not because the fix is in but because the fix is what the whole thing is about. Millions of dollars have already been spent lobbying for the coveted awards soon to be issued by the motion picture industry. "We spent ten million to get votes on the best picture because it pays off." Yeah, I'm sure it does, just as I'm sure the award has next to nothing to do with what constitutes a great movie. And because our current wide-eyed obsession with technology has rendered what would otherwise be the greatest minds of the present consumptive generation into electronica-eating pod people, young folks (as I like to call them) have little if any sense of historical perspective from which to critically evaluate the grand from the bathetic. 
   To some extent young people have historically been disadvantaged when it comes to thinking about what you might want to call art. What ten-year-old from any period in America had the larger framework within which to judge whether, say, Rosemary's Baby was superior to, oh, Night of the Living Dead? When we are teenagers and pre-teens, we tend to slurp up whatever pablum the TV and movie producers puke up and then smile because we've never tasted anything quite like that before. However insubstantial the event may leave us, if we've never experienced anything that truly does have value, we're in no position to assess the possibility that insubstantial is a bad thing. If the images are shiny, the dialogue racy, the plot mechanically twisty and the acting a recitation of a thousand other pale imitations of something organic, as kids we are often delighted that someone would simply go to the trouble to entertain us for ninety minutes. Good or bad often does not enter into it.
   So Spike Lee can turn his shoulder to the interviewer on MSNBC as he did this afternoon and pretend to be above the fray about the whole matter of Selma being snubbed by the Oscars, saying something to the effect that African-American filmmakers only get industry recognition once every ten years. He's correct about that, of course, but since when does being right have anything to do with art? What I would have loved to have heard him say instead was, "It's just a fucking industry-sponsored award, okay? Doesn't mean a damned thing. What matters is that the people sitting in the audience feel that whip come down. They need to know what it felt like being told you ain't gonna vote this year, bitch. We raped your women, we beat your men, we built our country with leather straps cutting into your skin and your children didn't even get to watch because we separated your family while they were too young to walk. Who gives a shit whether some old fucks in the Academy think this is the right political time to celebrate the artistic achievement of a particular movie? Did the movie change you in some fundamental way, or was Adam Sandler in it?"
   But Spike Lee will never say that because his feet are not made of clay, or at least my feet are made of baser clay than his. Or, more likely, because as loathe as he is to admit that he likes being on television, he would prefer to think he might someday get invited back the next time Hollywood chooses to eat its own.
    Let me see if I can put this another way. A few weeks ago I had the supreme pleasure of having lunch with a great lady, the owner of one of the most mesmerizing minds it's ever been my pleasure to see in action, one hell of a good friend of mine from my lamentable college days, and at some point during our catching up on recent events discussion, she smiled at me and observed that I had always sort of lived in a way that made things harder on myself than necessary. 
   I was flattered, not only because it felt good that this person I have long admired had been willing to think about me in that way, but also because I hadn't really thought about it before and she was correct. Now I will admit that my own severely limited successes in this life do not speak well for marching to your own drum. But in my particular case, that is due to (a) not being artistically on a par with many of those who have been more successful, and (b) all too often not having applied myself sufficiently to those few things at which I am on occasion not too bad. 
   The good news is that there have always been some people working who have artistic acumen and who routinely do apply themselves as if every hour was to be their last. The bad news is that at this moment, writing or speaking about these people puts the writer or speaker in a precarious spot. Make something great nowadays and sure as you should never bring a knife to a gunfight, you will get labeled an anachronism. Oh, people won't say it that way because most of the people listening wouldn't know that word. But what will happen is that they will speak of your historical antecedents, your influences, your tendency to indulge in homage. Those things were all said of Billy Bragg, Rage Against the Machine, Prince, and (yeppers) Beck. Liz Phair, P.J. Harvey, Tracy Chapman, Aimee Mann suffered the same backhanded praise. And that is weird because in her heyday nobody ever spoke of the gospel influence of Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke as anything but good. That Messers Lennon and McCartney took American rhythm and blues and reinvented a style of pop music from it has always been understood as a positive thing. Today that stretching of artistic muscle would be labeled old school or condescended out the back door. 
   Leonard Bernstein, I believe it was, said that popular music is popular because people like it. That may have been true. It no longer is. Popular music, like movies and TV shows and McDonald's toadburgers, is popular because consultants, PR flacks, media hitmen and promotions industry stooges spend corporation dollars to keep people exposed to as much stupid stuff as possible. When you live in a true totalitarian system, you believe yourself to be free. 
   The next time you sign onto Spotify, you might ask yourself why the "new music" labels pop up first. 


Saturday, February 7, 2015

SUSPECTS AND SUSPICIONS

   From an article appearing in the Los Angeles Times, dated November 24, 1969--more than three months after the Tate-LaBianca murders and one week before the arrest of the primary suspects:



   Unsolved murder is not a stranger to the Los Angeles area.   Since the beginning of the year there have been 13 brutal slayings, most of which have been called “senseless” or “thrill murders” by police. They are not what could be called ordinary murders – those committed for revenge, punishment or in fits of anger.
    Authorities refuse to speculate on whether there is any connection between the 13 killings. The only apparent relation is that the murders were brutal – one of which was termed “overkills” by the county coroner – and they remain unsolved.
   The murders range from the Benedict Canyon massacre of actress Sharon Tate and four other persons to the beating death of an unidentified young woman.
   The latest occurred during the weekend. The mutillated bodies of a nude 19-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy were discovered Saturday. The victims were identified as Dorren Gaul, Albany, N.Y., and James A. Sharp, Crestwood, Mo. The faces of Miss Gaul and Sharp had been so badly mutilated police at first believed they were wounded at point-blank range with a shotgun. The victims had been beaten to death.
   The string of slayings began Jan. 1, when the body of Marina Elizabeth Habe, daughter of screenwriter Hans Habe and actress Eloise Hardt, was found in heavy brush off a mountain road in the Santa Monica Mountains. Police said she apparently had been abducted from the driveway of her mother’s home in West Hollywood. She had been stabbed to death.
   On May 22, the body of Rose Tashman, 19, a former college student, was found in an isolated area in the Hollywood Hills. She had been raped and strangled. Police believe she had been abducted, from the Hollywood Freeway after she stopped her car at an off-ramp because of a flat tire.
    The body of another young girl, Virginia Lynn Smith, 13, was found June 23 in a creek bed in a deserted canyon near her home in Claremont. She had been raped and strangled. Her nude body was found by two hikers. The vivacious brunette with blue eyes had been vice president of her class at school.
   The mass murder of actress Sharon Tate and four other persons followed on the night of Aug. 8 or the morning of Aug. 9. The Hollywood names involved brought international publicity. Miss Tate, coffee fortune heiress Abigail Folger, men’s hair stylist Jay Sebring, Polish emigree Voityck Frokowsky and 18-year-old Steven Parent had been shot or stabbed to death. There were footprints in pools of blood about the house rented by Miss Tate and the word “Pig” as scrawled in blood on a door. The only main clue police have revealed is that amber-rimmed eyeglasses, believed to be those of the killer, were found at the scene.
  The following night, on Aug. 10, the knife-slashed bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Leno A. LaBianca were found in their home in Los Angeles. The grisly scene was similar in some respects to that at the Benedict canyon home. Police theorized the slayings were the work of a “copy cat” killer.
   On Nov. 16, the body of an unidentified woman, about 25, was found in a brush-covered ravine in the Hollywood Hills. Police said the woman had been slashed with a knife over most of her body.
   The motives in all of the murders remain unclear and authorities admit that the longer time lapses the harder it may be to solve the crimes.

   Thus began what has been ever since a tremendous amount of speculation and wonder about the possible involvement of members of the Manson Family and several unsolved homicides (some of which you can read about in Tapes From TexasThe Problem of Motive, and The Cases That Just Won't Go Away). 
   Marina Elizabeth Habe was home for the Christmas holidays. She was a freshman at the University of Hawaii and was visiting her mother Eloise Hardt in West Los Angeles. Her father was screenwriter and novelist Hans Habe. Her parents were divorced. On the afternoon of Monday, December 30, 1968, Marina, age 17, left her mother's home to go out with a family friend, John Hornburg, 22. After going out to hear some music with two other couples, the pair visited Hornburg's parents. Marina left there at 3:15AM. Hornburg would later tell the sheriff's office that the trip from his parents to Marina's house would take less than twenty minutes. At approximately 3:30AM, Marina's mother awakened to the sound of a loud muffler in her driveway. She looked out her window and saw her daughter's red sports car in the drive with a black sedan parked beside it. A man standing beside her daughter's car then shouted "Let's go!" and as the black car backed out of the driveway, the man got in and the car sped away. Ms. Hardt admitted that she did not see her daughter inside the car, but that did not mean that she was not inside and out of sight.
    The sheriff's department began searching for the teenager, but it was Frank Turner of Sherman Oaks, or more precisely his Great Dane, who discovered Marina Habe's body on Wednesday, January 1, 1969. The sheriff's office reported that Turner had been out walking his dog when the animal picked up a scent and led Turner to come upon the girl hidden in some brush in a semi-rural area seven miles from where she had been abducted. The cause of death was multiple stab wounds. 
   Before Marina was found, a Mrs. Klute was driving along where Mulholland Drive crests through the Santa Monica Mountains, roughly 100 yards from Bowmont Drive. The purse, which the motorist turned over to Venice Division investigators, contained Ms. Habe's credit cards and other identification. 
   According to the autopsy report, Marina's body was found in a supine position, and with the exception of one shoe lying nearby, her body was fully clothed. Her throat had been slashed and she had received numerous knife wounds to the chest. The report also states that the victim had suffered multiple contusions to the face and throat and had been garrotted. No alcohol or barbiturates were found in her blood.  
   The sheriff's report, issued February 7, 1969, added nothing new to the investigation.
   Eleven months later, very near where the body of Marina Habe had been found, an eleven-year-old boy came upon the remains of a woman who to this day is referred to only as Jane Doe 59. Police say the unidentified woman was stabbed 157 times. According to a retired Los Angeles homicide officer, the young woman was in her early twenties, 112 pounds, five-feet nine-inches tall, with brown hair, green eyes, and sixteen fillings in her teeth. The medical examiner found no evidence of smog in her lungs, the implication being that she may have been new to the Los Angeles area, although he also reported that her lungs showed evidence of coal dust. 
   Some researchers have suggested that Jane Doe 59 could be Suzanne Scott, one of the "witches of Mendocino" who was arrested with Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner in the summer of 1968. These writers claim that Scott was never seen after Jane Doe was discovered. However, there is no proof of this and one of the best Manson sleuths around is confident that Suzanne Scott, aka Stephanie Rowe, is alive and doing fine. Ruby Pearl, who helped George Spahn take care of his ranch during the period when the Manson Family stayed there, said she believed she had seen the girl at the ranch and that her name might have been Sherry. For a time police thought she might have been Ella Jo Bailey (Sinder) who, as with Atkins and Brunner, had been arrested in June 1968. But Bailey turned out to be alive and fine, having left the Family after learning about the killing of musician Gary Hinman. 
The most widely circulated photo of Marina Habe.


Police photo of Jane Doe 59 and her jewelry

     What is the real connection--if any--between these brutal and unsolved murders and any of the Manson Family? Jane Doe 59 was killed less than two weeks after the death of John Philip Haught, aka Zero, whose death Venice police listed as a suicide despite compelling evidence to the contrary. And as mentioned, Ruby Pearl believed she had seen 59 at the ranch. The connection--if that's what it is--between this Jane Doe and Marina Habe includes: both female victims, both young, both stabbed repeatedly, both discovered in almost the same spot (coincidentally also less than six miles from the Tate house), and both were not in the Los Angeles area long before being murdered. 
   Nothing. Not one damned thing after all these years has materialized to get any closer to who murdered these women. That fact, of course, neither proves nor disproves the involvement of Manson's zombies. Manson himself would have been in custody in Independence at the time of Jane Doe 59's killing. However, Bruce Davis and the girls who had been present in the house in Venice where Zero was shot were not in custody. 
   The most compelling link is that--contrary to some uninformed speculation--there simply were not that many people in southern California at that time who behaved as the Mansonites did. Not many people were trying to start a race war, or enlist the aid of outlaw bikers, or casually slaughter other people to such a possessed degree.
   The patterns--while hardly conclusive--remain as disturbing as they are intriguing. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

TAPES FROM TEXAS

   When it comes to possible unsolved Manson murders, we may find, as Shakespeare's Hamlet observed, that "One may smile, and smile, and be a villain." The uses to which much speculation has been put has often been aimed at dissuading California Board of Prison Terms (parole boards) and of course selling the fragrant putrification of online articles asserting the truth and nothing but. 
   A few writers, however, have established their own credibility, and chief among them is a man named Tom O'Neill. People who have drilled down in the search for information about so-called possible Manson-related unsolved murders will likely be familiar with O'Neill because it is this man who is primarily responsible for the awareness and procurement of what we these days refer to as the "Tex Watson tapes." 
   Shortly after being taken into custody in Texas for his considerable role in the Tate-LaBianca murders, Charles "Tex" Watson sought the services of an attorney named Bill Boyd. The attorney--who helped delay his client's trial by fighting extradition to California--requested that Watson talk about his involvement on tape. Watson agreed and attorney Boyd made twenty hours of recordings. Reporter Tom O'Neill interviewed Boyd in 2008. During that interview, Bill told Tom that the tapes contained admissions by Tex that he had indeed participated in the deaths of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Abigail Folger, Steven Parent, Leno LaBianca and Rosemary LaBianca. The kicker to Boyd's story was that Watson had also discussed other murders committed by the Manson Family, murders which, Boyd said, had never been officially connected to the Family. 
   O'Neill said he wanted to listen to Boyd's tapes. Afraid that he would in fact be violating his former client's attorney confidentiality privileges, Boyd said he would prefer not to play them for O'Neill. A year later, Boyd died of a heart attack and his law firm went into bankruptcy. Because O'Neill had done his homework, he realized that the "attorney-client privilege" argument had been cancelled out as far back as 1976 when Watson himself had granted permission for the co-author of his autobiography to listen to portions of the tapes to help with the writing of that book. O'Neill made this argument to Linda Payne, the bankruptcy trustee. Because of the value to justice, Payne agreed to release the tapes to LAPD. Watson filed an injunction to prevent their release. The Los Angeles Police listened to O'Neill's taped conversation with Boyd as part of the basis for their own search warrant to seize the tapes. 
   Here is an excerpt from that search warrant:
   Finally, on April 11, 2013, LAPD took possession of the tapes. 
   From O'Neill's version of events, he apparently got jerked around considerably when he quite reasonably tried to get LAPD to talk about what was on the tapes. Suffice it to say, nearly two years have passed and no new charges have been filed. No new information about the contents of the tapes has been released by LAPD to the media. There could be many reasons for this. However, for our purposes, the search warrant itself is the key piece of evidence, in the sense that the police listed three possible victims in the warrant, three people whose murders they believed those tapes would elucidate and clarify. (Back in June 2012, I was already being overly optimistic about the public release of these tapes, as you can read in Unread Chapter Seven).
   One of the murder victims was an unnamed outlaw motorcyclist. The other two victims, however, were named, the source of the information, LAPD said, being O'Neill's taped conversation with Bill Boyd. The two names were Karl Stubbs and Fillippo Tennerelli. We will discuss Tennerelli at a later date.
    To say that not much has been known about the murder of Karl Stubbs is to understate the matter considerably. For that matter, not much information has been released about the victim himself, and what is known is murky to the extent that people cannot even agree on the proper spelling of his first name or his age at the time of death. 
   A newspaper article at the time told one brief version, giving Stubbs' age as 82 (he was eighty) but correctly reporting that he had been living in Olancha, California and had died from an attack occurring November 12, 1968. The article states that authorities were searching for four young individuals seen leaving the area an hour after the attack. The four were driving a white car with Indiana plates. Before he died, Stubbs told deputies that the four assailants had entered his house on the pretense of wanting a class of water. They ransacked his home, stealing approximately forty dollars. They also laughed while kicking him repeatedly in the head. 
   So said the newspaper article. Shortly after the arrests of the Tate-LaBianca killers in December 1969, a quicky paperback was rushed to press. The book, called 5 to Die, was written by Jerry LeBlanc and Ivor Davis. While hardly a masterpiece of modern true crime narratives, the book does make reference to Stubbs. According to LeBlanc and Davis, prior to her arrest for the Tate-LaBianca murders, Patricia Krenwinkel was held for suspicion of murder by Lancaster, California sheriff deputies. According to that book, Carl (note the spelling) was a pleasant senior citizen who lived by himself not far from a local gas station. The woman who ran the station (whose name was probably Clara Castner) was in the habit of bringing Stubbs his daily mail. On November 12, 1968, she found his front door closed, which she thought unusual. Rather than a white car with Indiana plates, this woman claimed to see a blue station wagon with Michigan plates outside Stubbs' house. After she knocked on the door, Stubbs opened a few inches, just to say that he had family in from Chicago. His friend did not believe that story and says she looked behind Stubbs and saw two men and women, hippie types, whom she did not recognize. She left but returned an hour later with her husband. They found the old man lying halfway out his front door, bleeding from the head. A few days later Karl Stubbs died while in the hospital. 
   A little more than a year later, the TV news was filled with images of those under arrest for the Tate-LaBianca killings. Clara Castner was watching one telecast and claimed she recognized Tex Watson as one of the men she had seen that day in Stubbs' house.
   Again, according to LeBlanc, the Lancaster, California sheriff would not disclose the name of the possible victim for whom they suspected Patricia Krenwinkel. Evidently their case was not strong because they released her into the custody of her father. 
   So who did kill Karl Stubbs? And what--if anything--do the Watson tapes have to say about this? Scuttlebutt from LAPD is that the tapes minimize the involvement of the Manson girls in Tate-LaBianca and put most of the blame on Watson. If this is really true and if the tapes do not reveal any new information about other killings, then why not release them to the public, if only in the interest of justice? We may all be forgiven for not wanting to take the police department's word for what the tapes reveal. It seems that LAPD should speak up. 
Stubbs' house is visible in the far center of this photograph.
   For those interested in earlier articles in this series, please see The Problem of Motive and The Cases That Just Won't Go Away

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE PROBLEM OF MOTIVE

  For the rationale behind this and the next few entries, I commend the reader to The Cases That Just Won't Go Away, wherein we took a look at the unhappy demise of Clyda Dulaney and Nancy Warren, two "possibles" in the fatalities brought on by the Charles Manson crusades. Over the next few evenings, we will explore the circumstances involving the untimely departures of others who may have had the misfortune of connecting with the typhoid of charismatics. 
   In the years since the arrests, convictions, sentencings, appeals, retrials and parole hearings of the participants in the Hinman-Tate-LaBianca-Shea killings, the question of motive has been in some ways the most troubling. At least sixth theories have attempted to explain the events. In his definitive book on the crimes, Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor of the Tate-LaBianca murderers, put forth the working theory that the primary motive for seven of the murders was an attempt to ignite a race war between blacks and whites, one which Manson presumably foresaw the black man winning. Unable to handle the reins of power, the blacks would turn to Manson's Family--eventually numbered 144,000--for guidance. Charlie Manson, the theory went, would then be the ruler of the world, master of a master race. Even assuming the validity of that theory, Bugliosi had to concede that--at least as far as the murders at 10050 Cielo Drive were concerned--at least one secondary motive was at play. Record producer Terry Melcher had been the previous tenant and Manson was angry that Melcher had expressed no interest in recording his music. Melcher had also been friends with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and Manson had had a falling out with the group. Manson had written a song called "Cease to Exist." The Beach Boys reworked the song and released it as a B-side. Manson received no writer's credit. So the secondary theory goes that Manson wanted to scare Melcher and Wilson for snubbing him. 
   The third theory holds that Manson wanted to get money to bail out Family members Sandra Good and Mary Brunner from jail where they were being held on charges of presenting a stolen credit card. A fourth theory argues that Manson wanted to convince police that Bobby Beausoleil--who had been arrested days earlier for killing musician Gary Hinman--was innocent and so Charlie ordered his followers to commit a copycat crime to mislead the police into thinking they had the wrong guy locked up. 
   The fifth theory, which tries to invalidate the other four, is that either victims Jay Sebring or Voytek Frykowski had burned some dealers in a drug transaction, or were planning on getting revenge against someone who had burned them, and Manson was either somehow involved in the transaction or had been hired by someone else to handle it. 
   The sixth theory--an extension of the fifth--maintains that one of the dealers, in retribution for the burn, got buggered by one of the victims a few nights earlier while Warren Beatty, Peter Sellers, Cass Elliot and other local celebrities watched and filmed the brutality. 
   Problems exist with each of these explanations. With the drug burn theory, for instance, we can explain the murders at the Tate house, but what does any of that have to do with Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the very next evening? And if helter skelter was not the overriding motive, then why did one of the killers write (misspelling it) "healter skelter" on the refrigerator door in the LaBianca kitchen? But if the black-white revolution was the primary inspiration, then why did the murders more or less stop after the second night? 
   The problem of motive is exacerbated when we look into other "possible" Manson-related murders. The biggest problem lies in finding a single cause that explains them all. Having studied the matter for some years, I believe that no solitary explanation holds water, other than that some members of the Family had a predisposition toward inflicting and receiving violence upon themselves and others, a personality disorder or character flaw that preceded their contact with Manson. 
   This brings us to the night of November 21, 1969, more than three months after the Tate-LaBianca murders. Los Angeles Police Lieutenant Earl Deemer, who had been one of the members of the force investigating the August murders, was handling the case of Doreen Gaul and James Sharp. (Before we go on, a note of caution: Reference will be made in the next several sentences to a religious organization popular in the United States and Great Britain, an organization with what might be charitably called a lack of hesitation to litigate when they feel they are being written or spoken of in a less than flattering way. Because this writer has no interest in being litigated against, he will be choosing his words with great care so as to not make any statements which can be misconstrued as to the sincerity in the mission of the leaders, adherents and practitioners of this belief system. In that same spirit, it should be heeded that many people have written that Charles Manson studied this religion while in prison, that he may have "audited" the program for as much as 150 hours, and that sometime following his release from custody in 1967, he went to a Los Angeles branch of this church to inquire what he should do after having attained a certain level of enlightenment. Dissatisfied with the answer he received, he presumably had no further contact with the group, and although Paul Krassner believes that he may have begun hanging out with the church's celebrity membership, this writer can in no way substantiate that claim. The purpose of the remainder of this article is, therefore, to search for the motives of the killer or killers of Gaul and Sharp rather than to cast aspersions onto any religious organization.) Gaul and Sharp were Scientologists. Nineteen-year-old Doreen Gaul had recently moved to Los Angeles from Albany, New York, to gain further insight into the church's teachings. James Sharp, fifteen, was tasked with handling an auditing session with Gaul. Both teenagers lived in the Alvarado-Westlake district of Los Angeles. According to Gaul's father, shortly before his daughter's body was discovered, she telephoned him asking for a one-way airline ticket home, claiming that the church was "a lot of crap." 
   According to what Lt. Deemer later told the press, both Gaul and Sharp had been killed elsewhere and dumped in an alley. Each had been stabbed between fifty and sixty times. Both victims had their right eyes slashed out. Motorcycle tracks appeared on both bodies. Gaul had been stripped and raped. 
   Though at the time of these homicides Charles Manson had not been charged with the Tate-LaBianca murders, he was unavailable for direct participation due to being in jail in Independence, California, where he was being held on arson charges. However, many Family members were on the loose, including one who would subsequently be tried and convicted for his participation in the deaths of Gary Hinman and Spahn Ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea. Bruce Davis, according to Deemer, was an ex-Scientologist, kicked out of the church for his drug use. 
   That Davis may have been a former member of the church and that Manson had studied the religion in prison does not mean that the organization condones this type of aberrant behavior, even though they did decline to provide LAPD with a membership roster when Deemer requested one. Nevertheless, in an April 24, 1973 report by the Department of Corrections Special Services Unit, investigators stated that Davis had known and probably dated Gaul and either was involved in her murder or knew who was. Davis has denied this. 
   Even this connection sounds tenuous except for one other item that Lt. Deemer has offered up. Two weeks before the bodies of Gaul and Sharp were discovered, a young man in a house in Venice, California was found dead from a bullet shot to the head. His name was John Philip Haught, also known as Christopher Jesus, also known as Zero. His body was found lying on a bed in the house. The people in the house at the time claimed he had been playing Russian Roulette, an explanation the police initially accepted despite the gun being fully loaded and without any fingerprints. Five people in the Venice house were all either members or associates of the Family, one of those being Bruce Davis. Deemer says that in addition to the five Family members, either Doreen Gaul or James Sharp was also present. How Deemer came by this information, I do not know. The theory of the motive, therefore, is that Gaul or Sharp witnessed the murder of Zero, or appeared suspicious of it, and were killed to keep them quiet. 
    One potential problem with this theory--and the problem is a big one--is that police claim they found a note in Doreen Gaul's apartment, one which threatened her life and which was signed "The Zodiac Killer." As with so many other murders believed connected to the Manson group, even the problem has a problem. The real Zodiac Killer, who had been terrorizing California for years, had never signed any of his other letters in such a manner. And even though more than a few people have speculated that Bruce Davis and Zodiac may have been one and the same, I know of no reputable researchers who believe this to be a certainty. 
   The other big problem is the motorcycle tracks on the bodies of Gaul and Sharp. The previous summer, Manson had been courting the members of a motorcycle club known as the Straight Satans. But most of those guys had rejected Charlie's attempts to get them to act as his bodyguards or to aid him in "terrorizing society." Nevertheless, it remains possible that, if Davis was involved, he may not have acted alone and might have enlisted either the help of one or more MCs in the area. A club called the Gypsy Jokers often comes up in this connection, although I get the impression this is strictly conjecture.
   Last year, the California Board of Prison Terms agreed to a parole for Bruce Davis. He has been in prison for nearly forty-five years. California Governor Jerry Brown, after reviewing the case and being made aware of Davis' possible involvement in the deaths of Zero, Gaul and Sharp, refused to sign the orders for Davis to be released. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

THE CASES THAT JUST WON'T GO AWAY

  Cold case sleuths researching unsolved Charles Manson murders are as plentiful as scandals about the New England Patriots. Most of these writers come across as having a sincere desire to ferret out what happened to the people on the list of "possible Manson-related deaths," as researchers often label the subject matter. That label itself distresses many people because the implication is that a strong connection exists between the people convicted of murdering the nine Hinman-Tate-LaBianca-Shea victims and as many as eighteen other people whose homicides either remain unsolved or are suspected of being unsolved. What these murders share--aside from being unsolved--is considerable: most occurred in California, all occurred between 1968 and 1972, conventional motives for the crimes are not readily apparent, and each of them has some connection to one or more members of what has come to be known as the Manson Family. While providing a solution, or even a specific well-informed speculation, is not necessarily the same thing as solving these cases, and while alternate theories having nothing to do with Manson and his associates have their own plausibilities, it is at a minimum interesting to consider that the scope of the disease of mass murder during this period of time and in the state of California was so rampant that reasonable people should be willing to at least consider the possibility of the involvement of the former residents of the Spahn and Barker Ranches.
   My own feelings on the matter are that the relatives of  the "possibles" deserve some sense of conclusion to the murders of their loved ones and that for the most part law enforcement is no nearer to closing out these cases than they were more than forty-five years ago.
   After reading the newspaper accounts of these homicides and taking a look at the police reports and FBI files, after studying websites and blogs, one cannot help but be frustrated by the endless repetition of information. Likewise, the absence of what might be called hard evidence is not exactly in abundance. LAPD hoped that by acquiring tapes made of conversations between Charles Tex Watson and his deceased attorney Bill Boyd from 1969 might reveal clues to some of these "possibles," but even though LAPD has had the tapes for more than a year now, they have steadfastly refused to provide copies or even transcripts to the public.
    Nothing written here will solve these crimes. But maybe somebody somewhere knows something they have not admitted. Maybe someone has information he or she does not realize is relevant. Or maybe the solutions already exist and simply have not been understood as such.
   Here is the story of the first murders suspected of being connected to the Mansonites.
   Seven-year-old Johnny Ussery awakened in his mother's trailer home around 7:30 on the morning of October 13, 1968. Johnny lived with his mother not far from his great-grandmother in Anderson Valley, six miles south of Ukiah, California. When his mom, Clyda Jean Dulaney, did not answer his shouts, he entered her bedroom. She wasn't there, but he saw that her bed had not been slept in. That bothered him a little, as did the fact that he saw her purse had been opened and dumped out onto the bed spread. Panicked, he turned around and ran out the front door of the trailer. He admitted he was scared even before he stepped outside. His mother was eight months pregnant and she and her husband Don had not been getting along. It had been raining the night before and Johnny could still feel the dampness inside his clothes.
    She was lying face down in the mud. She didn't move as her son ran over to where she lay. Bending down, Johnny saw that his twenty-four-year-old mother had been strangled. A leather cord cut into her neck and was tied behind her head.
   Screaming, Johnny ran to his great-grandmother's trailer. She was home, but in no condition to help anyone. As with her own granddaughter, Nancy Warren, aged sixty-four, was dead of strangulation. The weapon of choice was likewise a long leather boot lace. 
   Less than a year later, Charles Manson would tie the hands of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca with leather thongs prior to turning them over to their killers. 
   Police discovered that someone had rifled through a cash box belonging to Warren, but that a jar containing $300 in cash had not been touched. 
  Police also reported that they had spoken with several possible witnesses to the escape of the killers. Nearby residents said they had seen a 1956 white Plymouth station wagon leaving Warren's antique store. The vehicle held the driver and two other men. A waitress who served the men claimed she heard one say to the other two, "We will get away with this the same as we did in Oregon."
   Even with the murder weapon being similar to that used in the LaBianca killings, the connection to Manson et al would be tenuous were it not for the fact that in June 22, 1968, Navarro police in Anderson Valley arrested nine people (charging only seven) on drug charges ranging from providing LSD to a minor to simple possession of marijuana. Five of those charged were Robert Michael Boone, Peter Jason Kornbluth, Suzanne Scott, Ella Beth Snider, and Catherine Patricia Smith. At least one of those arrested was booked under an alias. Sadie Glutz' real name was Susan Atkins. In 1970 she would be tried and convicted of the seven Tate-LaBianca killings. The seventh person charged gave her true name: Mary Theresa Brunner, first female member of the Manson Family. 
   Manson had sent what the locals called the "witches of Mendocino" to the Navarro area to seek out new recruits. Apparently the women thought that giving a seventeen-year-old some acid would free his mind. His mother did not agree and it was her complaint that brought the law down on the "witches." 
    Although the Sheriff and his investigator interviewed thirty-five people about these murders, only two main suspects ever emerge. One was California Highway Patrol Officer Don Dulaney, Clyda's husband. No forensic evidence ever supported him as a suspect; however, the possibility exists that Dulaney could have hired someone else to do the killings. The second suspects were the Manson Family. 
   In an interview in 2012, a mature Johnny Ussery told the story of how his father had been doing time in Vacaville prison. He's walking along with some other prisoners and the group comes upon a man sweeping the floor. The man was Charles Manson. Mr. Ussery had, of course, heard the rumors, so he said, "Hey, who did those killings up in Ukiah?" Manson looked up from his sweeping and snapped, "You'll never know, will ya?"
Clyda Dulaney

Sunday, February 1, 2015

FREUDIAN THEORY AND THE PATTERN OF FASCIST PROPAGANDA

Freudian Theory 
and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda

Theodor Adorno

Excerpted from The Culture Industry

   During the past decade, the nature and content of the speeches and pamphlets of American fascist agitators have been subjected to intensive research by social scientists. Some of these studies, undertaken along the lines of content analysis, have finally led to a comprehensive presentation in the book, Prophets of Deceit, by L. Lowenthal and N. Guterman. The overall picture obtained is characterized by two main features. First, with the exception of some bizarre and completely negative recommendations: to put aliens into concentration camps or to expatriate Zionists, fascist propaganda material in this country is little concerned with concrete and tangible political issues. The overwhelming majority of all agitators’ statements are directed ad hominen. They are obviously based on psychological calculations rather than on the intention to gain followers through the rational statement of rational aims. The term ‘rabble-rouser’, though objectionable because of its inherent contempt of the masses as such, is adequate in so far as it expresses the atmosphere of irrational emotional aggressiveness purposely promoted by our would-be Hitlers. If it is an impudence to call people ‘rabble’, it is precisely the aim of the agitator to transform the very same people into ‘rabble’, that is, crowds bent on violent action without any sensible political aim, and to create the atmosphere of the pogrom. The universal purpose of these agitators is to instigate methodically what, since Gustave Le Bon’s famous book, Psychologie des Foules (1895), is commonly known as ‘the psychology of the masses’. Second, the agitators’ approach is truly systematical and follows a rigidly set pattern of clear-cut ‘devices’. This does not merely pertain to the ultimate unity of the political purpose: the abolition of democracy through mass support against the democratic principle, but even more so to the intrinsic nature of the content and presentation of propaganda itself. The similarity of the utterances of various agitators, from much publicized figures such as Coughlin and Gerald Smith to provincial small-time hate-mongers, is so great that it suffices in principle to analyse the statements of one of them in order to know them all. Moreover, the speeches themselves are so monotonous that one meets with endless repetitions as soon as one is acquainted with the very limited number of stock devices. As a matter of fact, constant reiteration and scarcity of ideas are indispensable ingredients of the entire technique. 

   While the mechanical rigidity of the pattern is obvious and itself the expression of certain psychological aspects of fascist mentality, one cannot help feeling that propaganda material of the fascist brand forms a structural unit with a total common conception, be it conscious or unconscious, which determines every word that is said. This structural unit seems to refer to the implicit political conception as well as to the psychological essence. So far, only the detached and in a way isolated nature of each device has been given scientific attention; the psychoanalytic connotations of the devices have been stressed and elaborated. 

   Now that the elements have been cleared up sufficiently, the time has come to focus attention on the psychological system as such – and it may not be entirely accidental that the term summons the association of paranoia – which comprises and begets these elements. This seems to be the more appropriate since otherwise the psychoanalytical interpretation of the individual devices will remain somewhat haphazard and arbitrary. A kind of theoretical frame of reference will have to be evolved. Inasmuch as the individual devices call almost irresistibly for psychoanalytic interpretation, it is but logical to postulate that this frame of reference should consist of the application of a more comprehensive, basic psychoanalytic theory to the agitators’ overall approach.

  Such a frame of reference has been provided by Freud himself in his book Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, published in English as early as 1922, and long before the danger of German fascism appeared to be acute. It is not an overstatement if we say that Freud, though he was hardly interested in the political phase of the problem, clearly foresaw the rise and nature of fascist mass movements in purely psychological categories. If it is true that the analyst’s unconscious perceives the unconscious of the patient, one may also presume that his theoretical intuitions are capable of anticipating tendencies still latent on a rational level but manifesting themselves on a deeper one. It may not have been perchance that after the First World War Freud turned his attention to narcissism and ego problems in the specific sense. The mechanisms and instinctual conflicts involved evidently play an increasingly important role in the present epoch, whereas, according to the testimony of practising analysts, the ‘classical’ neuroses such as conversion hysteria, which served as models for the method, now occur less frequently than at the time of Freud’s own development when Charcot dealt with hysteria clinically and Ibsen made it the subject matter of some of his plays. According to Freud, the problem of mass psychology is closely related to the new type of psychological affliction so characteristic of the era which for socio-economic reasons witnesses the decline of the individual and his subsequent weakness. While Freud did not concern himself with the social changes, it may be said that he developed within the monadological confines of the individual the traces of its profound crisis and willingness to yield unquestioningly to powerful outside, collective agencies. Without ever devoting himself to the study of contemporary social developments, Freud has pointed to historical trends through the development of his own work, the choice of his subject matters, and the evolution of guiding concepts.

  The method of Freud’s book constitutes a dynamic interpretation of Le Bon’s description of the mass mind and a critique of a few dogmatic concepts – magic words, as it were – which are employed by Le Bon and other pre-analytic psychologists as though they were keys for some startling phenomena. Foremost among these concepts is that of suggestion which, incidentally, still plays a large role as a stop-gap in popular thinking about the spell exercised by Hitler and his like over the masses. Freud does not challenge the accuracy of Le Bon’s well-known characterizations of masses as being largely de-individualized, irrational, easily influenced, prone to violent action and altogether of a regressive nature. What distinguishes him from Le Bon is rather the absence of the traditional contempt for the masses which is the thema probandum of most of the older psychologists. Instead of inferring from the usual descriptive findings that the masses are inferior per se and likely to remain so, he asks in the spirit of true enlightenment: what makes the masses into masses? He rejects the easy hypothesis of a social or herd instinct, which for him denotes the problem and not its solution. In addition to the purely psychological reasons he gives for this rejection, one might say that he is on safe ground also from the sociological point of view. The straightforward comparison of modern mass formations with biological phenomena can hardly be regarded as valid since the members of contemporary masses are at least prima facie individuals, the children of a liberal, competitive and individualistic society, and conditioned to maintain themselves as independent, selfsustaining units; they are continuously admonished to be ‘rugged’ and warned against surrender. Even if one were to assume that archaic, preindividual instincts survive, one could not simply point to this inheritance but would have to explain why modern men revert to patterns of behaviour which flagrantly contradict their own rational level and the present stage of enlightened technological civilization. This is precisely what Freud wants to do. He tries to find out which psychological forces result in the transformation of individuals into a mass. ‘If the individuals in the group are combined into a unity, there must surely be something to unite them, and this bond might be precisely the thing that is characteristic of a group.’ This quest, however, is tantamount to an exposition of the fundamental issue of fascist manipulation. For the fascist demagogue, who has to win the support of millions of people for aims largely incompatible with their own rational self-interest, can do so only by artificially creating the bond Freud is looking for. If the demagogues’ approach is at all realistic – and their popular success leaves no doubt that it is – it might be hypothesized that the bond in question is the very same the demagogue tries to produce synthetically; in fact, that it is the unifying principle behind his various devices.

In accordance with general psychoanalytic theory, Freud believes that the bond which integrates individuals into a mass, is of a libidinal nature. Earlier psychologists have occasionally hit upon this aspect of mass psychology. ‘In McDougall’s opinion, men’s emotions are stirred in a group to a pitch that they seldom or never attain under other conditions; and it is a pleasurable experience for those who are concerned to surrender themselves so unreservedly to their passions and thus to become merged in the group and to lose the sense of the limits of their individuality.’ Freud goes beyond such observations by explaining the coherence of masses altogether in terms of the pleasure principle, that is to say, the actual or vicarious gratifications individuals obtain from surrendering to a mass. Hitler, by the way, was well aware of the libidinal source of mass formation through surrender when he attributed specifically female, passive features to the participants of his meetings, and thus also hinted at the role of unconscious homosexuality in mass psychology. The most important consequence of Freud’s introduction of libido into group psychology is that the traits generally ascribed to masses lose the deceptively primordial and irreducible character reflected by the arbitrary construct of specific mass or herd instincts. The latter are effects rather than causes. What is peculiar to the masses is, according to Freud, not so much a new quality as the manifestation of old ones usually hidden. ‘From our point of view we need not attribute so much importance to the appearance of new characteristics. For us it would be enough to say that in a group the individual is brought under conditions which allow him to throw off the repressions of his unconscious instincts.’ This does not only dispense with auxiliary hypotheses ad hoc but also does justice to the simple fact that those who become submerged in masses are not primitive men but display primitive attitudes contradictory to their normal rational behaviour. Yet, even the most trivial descriptions leave no doubt about the affinity of certain peculiarities of masses to archaic traits. Particular mention should be made here of the potential short-cut from violent emotions to violent actions stressed by all authors on mass psychology, a phenomenon which in Freud’s writings on primitive cultures leads to the assumption that the murder of the father of the primary horde is not imaginary but corresponds to prehistoric reality. In terms of dynamic theory, the revival of such traits has to be understood as the result of a conflict. It may also help to explain some of the manifestations of fascist mentality which could hardly be grasped without the assumption of an antagonism between varied psychological forces. One has to think here above all of the psychological category of destructiveness with which Freud dealt in his Civilization and its Discontents. As a rebellion against civilization, fascism is not simply the reoccurrence of the archaic but its reproduction in and by civilization itself. It is hardly adequate to define the forces of fascist rebellion simply as powerful id energies which throw off the pressure of the existing social order. Rather, this rebellion borrows its energies partly from other psychological agencies which are pressed into the service of the unconscious.

Since the libidinal bond between members of masses is obviously not of an uninhibited sexual nature, the problem arises as to which psychological mechanisms transform primary sexual energy into feelings which hold masses together. Freud copes with the problem by analysing the phenomena covered by the terms suggestion and suggestibility. He recognises suggestion as the ‘shelter’ or ‘screen’ concealing ‘love relationships’. It is essential that the ‘love relationship’ behind suggestion remains unconscious.9 Freud dwells on the fact that in organized groups such as the Army or the Church there is either no mention of love whatsoever between the members, or it is expressed only in a sublimated and indirect way, through the mediation of some religious image in the love of whom the members unite and whose allembracing love they are supposed to imitate in their attitude towards each other. It seems significant that in today’s society with its artificially integrated fascist masses, reference to love is almost completely excluded.10 Hitler shunned the traditional role of the loving father and replaced it entirely by the negative one of threatening authority. The concept of love was relegated to the abstract notion of Germany and seldom mentioned without the epithet of ‘fanatical’ through which even this love obtained a ring of hostility and aggressiveness against those not encompassed by it. It is one of the basic tenets of fascist leadership to keep primary libidinal energy on an unconscious level so as to divert its manifestations in a way suitable to political ends. The less an objective idea such as religious salvation plays a role in mass formation, and the more mass manipulation becomes the sole aim, the more thoroughly uninhibited love has to be repressed and moulded into obedience. There is too little in the content of fascist ideology that could be loved. The libidinal pattern of fascism and the entire technique of fascist demagogues are authoritarian. This is where the techniques of the demagogue and the hypnotist coincide with the psychological mechanism by which individuals are made to undergo the regressions which reduce them to mere members of a group. By the measures that he takes, the hypnotist awakens in the subject a portion of his archaic inheritance which had also made him compliant towards his parents and which had experienced an individual reanimation in his relation to his father: what is thus awakened is the idea of a paramount and dangerous personality, towards whom only a passive-masochistic attitude is possible, to whom one’s will has to be surrendered, while to be alone with him, ‘to look him in the face’, appears a hazardous enterprise. It is only in some such way as this that we can picture the relation of the individual member of the primal horde to the primal father . . . The uncanny and coercive characteristics of group formations, which are shown in their suggestion phenomena, may therefore with justice be traced back to the fact of their origin from the primal horde. The leader of the group is still the dreaded primal father; the group still wishes to be governed by unrestricted force; it has an extreme passion for authority; in Le Bon’s phrase, it has a thirst for obedience. The primal father is the group ideal, which governs the ego in the place of the ego ideal. Hypnosis has a good claim to being described as a group of two; there remains as a definition for suggestion – a conviction which is not based upon perception and reasoning but upon an erotic tie.11

This actually defines the nature and content of fascist propaganda. It is psychological because of its irrational authoritarian aims which cannot be attained by means of rational convictions but only through the skilful awakening of ‘a portion of the subject’s archaic inheritance’. Fascist agitation is centred in the idea of the leader, no matter whether he actually leads or is only the mandatory of group interests, because only the psychological image of the leader is apt to reanimate the idea of the all-powerful and threatening primal father. This is the ultimate root of the otherwise enigmatic personalization of fascist propaganda, its incessant plugging of names and supposedly great men, instead of discussing objective causes. The formation of the imagery of an omnipotent and unbridled father figure, by far transcending the individual father and therewith apt to be enlarged into a ‘group ego’, is the only way to promulgate the ‘passive-masochistic attitude . . . to whom one’s will has to be surrendered’, an attitude required of the fascist follower the more his political behaviour becomes irreconcilable with his own rational interests as a private person as well as those of the group or class to which he actually belongs.12 The follower’s reawakened irrationality is, therefore, quite rational from the leader’s viewpoint: it necessarily has to be ‘a conviction which is not based upon perception and reasoning but upon an erotic tie’.

The mechanism which transforms libido into the bond between leader and followers, and between the followers themselves, is that of identification. A great part of Freud’s book is devoted to its analysis.13 It is impossible to discuss here the very subtle theoretical differentiation, particularly the one between identification and introjection. It should be noted, however, that the late Ernst Simmel, to whom we owe valuable contributions to the psychology of fascism, took up Freud’s concept of the ambivalent nature of identification as a derivative of the oral phase of the organization of the libido,14 and expanded it into an analytic theory of anti-Semitism.

We content ourselves with a few observations on the relevancy of the doctrine of identification to fascist propaganda and fascist mentality. It has been observed by several authors and by Erik Homburger Erikson in particular, that the specifically fascist leader type does not seem to be a father figure such as for instance the king of former times. The inconsistency of this observation with Freud’s theory of the leader as the primal father, however, is only superficial. His discussion of identification may well help us to understand, in terms of subjective dynamics, certain changes which are actually due to objective historical conditions. Identification is ‘the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person, “playing” a part in the early history of the Oedipus complex’.15 It may well be that this pre-oedipal component of identification helps to bring about the separation of the leader image as that of an all-powerful primal father, from the actual father image. Since the child’s identification with his father as an answer to the Oedipus complex is only a secondary phenomenon, infantile regression may go beyond this father image and through an ‘anaclitic’ process reach a more archaic one. Moreover, the primitively narcissistic aspect of identification as an act of devouring, of making the beloved object part of oneself, may provide us with a clue to the fact that the modern leader image sometimes seems to be the enlargement of the subject’s own personality, a collective projection of himself, rather than the image of the father whose role during the later phases of the subject’s infancy may well have decreased in present day society.16 All these facets call for further clarification The essential role of narcissism in regard to the identifications which are at play in the formation of fascist groups, is recognised in Freud’s theory of idealization. ‘We see that the object is being treated in the same way as our own ego, so that when we are in love a considerable amount of narcissistic libido overflows on the object. It is even obvious, in many forms of love choice, that the object serves as a substitute for some unattained ego ideal of our own. We love it on account of the perfections which we have striven to reach for our own ego, and which we should now like to procure in this roundabout way as a means of satisfying our narcissism.’17 It is precisely this idealization of himself which the fascist leader tries to promote in his followers, and which is helped by the Führer ideology. The people he has to reckon with generally undergo the characteristic modern conflict between a strongly developed rational, self-preserving ego agency18 and the continuous failure to satisfy their own ego demands. This conflict results in strong narcissistic impulses which can be absorbed and satisfied only through idealization as the partial transfer of the narcissistic libido to the object. This, again, falls in line with the semblance of the leader image to an enlargement of the subject: by making the leader his ideal he loves himself, as it were, but gets rid of the stains of frustration and discontent which mar his picture of his own empirical self. This pattern of identification through idealization, the caricature of true conscious solidarity, is, however, a collective one. It is effective in vast numbers of people with similar characterological dispositions and libidinal leanings. The fascist community of the people corresponds exactly to Freud’s definition of a group as being ‘a number of individuals who have substituted one and the same object for their ego ideal and have consequently identified themselves with one another in their ego’.19 The leader image, in turn, borrows as it were its primal father-like omnipotence from collective strength.

Freud’s psychological construction of the leader imagery is corroborated by its striking coincidence with the fascist leader type, at least as far as its public build-up is concerned. His descriptions fit the picture of Hitler no less than idealizations into which the American demagogues try to style themselves. In order to allow narcissistic identification, the leader has to appear himself as absolutely narcissistic, and it is from this insight that Freud derives the portrait of the ‘primal father of the horde’ which might as well be Hitler’s.

One of the most conspicuous features of the agitator’s speeches, namely the absence of a positive programme and of anything they might ‘give’, as well as the paradoxical prevalence of threat and denial, is thus being accounted for; the leader can be loved only if he himself does not love. Yet Freud is aware of another aspect of the leader image which apparently contradicts the first one. While appearing as a superman, the leader must at the same time work the miracle of appearing as an average person, just as Hitler posed as a composite of King Kong and the suburban barber. This too, Freud explains through his theory of narcissism.

Even the fascist leader’s startling symptoms of inferiority, his resemblance to ham actors and asocial psychopaths, is thus anticipated in Freud’s theory. For the sake of those parts of the follower’s narcissistic libido which have not been thrown into the leader image but remain attached to the follower’s own ego, the superman must still resemble the follower and appear as his ‘enlargement’. Accordingly, one of the basic devices of personalized fascist propaganda is the concept of the ‘great little man’, a person who suggests both omnipotence and the idea that he is just one of the folks, a plain, red-blooded American, untainted by material or spiritual wealth. Psychological ambivalence helps to work a social miracle. The leader image gratifies the follower’s twofold wish to submit to authority and to be the authority himself. This fits into a world in which irrational control is exercised though it has lost its inner conviction through universal enlightenment. The people who obey the dictators also sense the latter are superfluous. They reconcile this contradiction through the assumption that they are themselves the ruthless oppressor.