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In Defense of Margaret Atwood.How Revolutions Consume Themselves or: What Tyranny Looks Like.

A staple of time travel films is the idea that one could, armed with the knowledge of being from the future, go to the past and place bets on sporting events and make a fortune.

No need though as one could just consult any number of old books and predict with ease how events will unfold. In that sense, old texts are time machines.

In this case we’re thinking about the ancient Greeks and their ideas about fate. People, being not especially bright, disregard warning signs and being full of hubris (a pathological disregard for chance, and fate) take righteous action and then, pay a terrible price.

From there we have in mind the idea that free will is far more of an idea than a fact because frankly, human action is about as difficult to predict as Donald Trump saying something both moronic and ugly. You may not know what it is specifically but if you guessed that he was going to, generally, you’d be right 9 out of 10 times.

The same idea applies to movements. As in political/social movements. Humans are involved so first there will be denial and then righteous indignation and then a groundswell of support and then a flood of accusations against the power structure for its mendacity, corruption and violence both emotional and physical. Usually, or often as the case may be, the “authorities” get away with “it” – it being any number of things from mass murder, to coups, to torture to rape or both. After all no one from the Bush Cheney junta is going to ever see the inside of a courtroom let alone a cage and Henry Kissinger is going to outlive the cockroaches – mostly as a professional courtesy.

Which brings us to the post-Weinstein world.

Today’s Guardian has an Orwellian masterpiece that basically suggests Woody Allen is guilty because he’s been accused and women should not apologize for having worked with him because he should be apologizing for a crime he says he didn’t commit and for which there is no evidence.To be fair or more fair than the person who wrote the piece, they do point out that Allen denies the charges against him. Also to be fair they don’t mention that he was investigated by several state agencies, lawyers, and the media and no one could find evidence that he was guilty of anything more than being self-involved. What is also not mentioned in the article – or in almost any other for that matter – is that Mia Farrow’s brother is serving a lengthy sentence for child abuse.The idea that somehow that was not a factor in her thinking is laughably puerile and would be genuinely funny were the stakes not so high.

Make no mistake we are reaping the whirlwind of a failed predatory corrupt social system that is as subtle and generous as a steel cage death match.That there is a social flash point from which righteous rage has sprung can only be denied by thugs and fools. That it is in danger of injecting a debilitating toxin into one of the bastions of a free society can also only be denied by thugs and fools.

Which, in turn, brings us to the attacks on Margaret Atwood.

Coming to the defense of the idea that human rights are valuable and that in particular the idea that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that all revolutions eat their young and thus one must be vigilant and on guard against the extremism of revolutionary furor, Atwood finds herself accused (and thus automatically guilty) of breaking faith and being a “bad feminist.”

We won’t presume to write on her behalf as she’s more than capable of doing that herself but we will say that things are looking grim and that the fever of Trumpism has been spread to others. The dangerously loose language, the innuendo, the smug and toxically dangerous insistence that people (mostly women) must be believed because they must be believed (and why would they lie – Harvey Weinstein-Harvey Weinstein-Harvey Weinstein-Harvey Weinstein) is nothing more or less than the same dreary wrote behavior of every other social movement or revolution. Exactly as Attwood says, whether it’s France in 1789 or Russia in the 1920s or China or Argentina or America – from the Red Scare to Trump bellowing about “Mexican rapists” and “Muslim terrorists “and the “good people on both sides” including the neo-nazis bellowing that they will not be replaced by Jews.

It’s a classic case of history repeating itself and you can find that idea in a lot of places and books and plays.

Or, Ancient Greece.

It’s so boringly terrifyingly predictable one almost doesn’t know what to do. Except to do what writers are supposed to do: Write. The truth.

We are certain of two things. First that we don’t know what Woody Allen did or didn’t do. But we’re certain that his detractors don’t know either (and we are making a distinction between his detractors and his accusers).

We don’t know what Dustin Hoffman did.

We don’t know about James Franco.

We don’t know about Aziz Ansari.

We don’t know about whoever is next to be accused.

We don’t know a lot but we do know that if you eliminate due process and you don’t reform the legal system (which means eliminating almost all of capitalism) then we’re on the fast track to (a deeper) tyranny which will, like a corrupt nesting doll, be built on the toxic ruins of the current tyranny itself wobbling on the shoulders of the tyranny that came before it and so on.

Everyone is entitled to due process (the utterly feckless Eric Holder notwithstanding*) and demanding that accusations take the place of evidence is nothing more or less than hysteria disguised as proof and that is the chief ingredient for tyranny.

The media, with its shoddy “reporting” and its commitment to clickbait, the army of PR hacks with their commitment to status and having a job (such as it is) the public with its commitment to the heroin of gossip, and the utterly corrupt politicians and lawyers are all to blame. It is a circular firing squad as revolutions are always circular firing squads and corrupt societies are as well.

And how will we know when the tragedy is done? The same way we know a Shakespeare tragedy is done – the stage is littered with corpses.

 

 

*Speaking in defense of his bosses’ claim that he had secret evidence with which he could justify the execution of a US citizen, Holder said (we paraphrase): “Due process does not necessarily mean the evidence will be reviewed by judges.”

Calling that Orwellian, or Kafkaesque does not do justice to its perfidy or the intellectual mendacity required to utter such a corrupt statement. It is the stuff, the boilerplate, of fascism. Arbitrary, furtive, violent, bureaucratically banal, paranoid and ripe for exploitation by sadistic lunatics, it is how catastrophes are justified. It goes from, we had to destroy the village in order to save it, to: we had to set the Bill of Rights on fire in order to save it.

There is a through line from the puddle of shit Obama inherited to Holder’s puddle of barf to the current climate of systematic failure. These disasters do not arrive from another dimension nor are they the result of spontaneous social combustion. They stew for decades if not centuries and are heated to a steady boil by entrenched corruption.

But precisely because that is true it is crucial that certain norms must not only be maintained but protected. One of those is due process which has been put in a chokehold by the political establishment and now that crime has filtered down to a frenzied social media mob that has in the one hand the right to demand justice and in the other, a set of torches.

And keep in mind that it is also essential to understand the trap in which fools, believing in their exceptionalism, always find themselves. Barack Obama could not be a better example of hubris if he had fallen out of Sophocles’ olive jar. Brash, talented, charismatic, bright, he completely ignored every warning sign that said, the system is rigged and enter at your peril. Instead, after a scant, gossamer 18 months in the senate, he listened to and believed the sweet political nothings that Ted Kennedy whispered in his ear, and marched into history and the trap set for him by fate. Thus, he inherited the disasters of his predecessors and had to choose between the truth or being complicit. If he told the truth and demanded the truth be told about torture and its corollaries, and about the economic meltdown, the entire system would have collapsed and we would be talking about the Obama Revolution. Instead, he chose to be complicit and implicate himself in the crimes of the system while then perpetrating still more crimes as the chains of history constricted around him. It is, without a doubt, a Greek tragedy. And Greek tragedies are timeless.

And, these stories never end well.

See the Atwood and related pieces below:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/am-i-a-bad-feminist/article37591823/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/15/why-should-women-apologise-for-working-with-woody-allen

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/catherine-deneuve-apologizes-to-sex-abuse-victims-over-metoo-criticism/article37601889/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/08/metoo-due-process-televictions

Update: 1/16/17

Alec Baldwin (sic!) talks sense:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jan/16/alec-baldwin-criticizes-stars-renouncing-woody-allen-unfair-and-sad

Update: 1/17/17

Dylan Farrow is due to make a television appearance in which she will insist that Woody Allen molested her and ask, why unlike Harvey Weinstein, Allen has not been disappeared?

“Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen recently secured a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Amazon,” she wrote.”

The answer of course is because in this country accusing someone of being a witch, or committing a crime is not sufficient reason to find them guilty. The answer is, of course, that Allen was investigated and there was either insufficient evidence or no evidence and as a result he was not arrested and put on trial. The answer is, of course, because in this country, due process is a sacred secular right that must be protected in order to help keep us from slipping into some dystopian Handmaid’s Tale of hysteria and tyranny.

It is an imperfect system prone to fits of catastrophic failure and susceptible to abuse at the hands of the wealthy and often because it is a system administered by the incompetent drones of the corrupt hive.

But the fact that the system often fails, is not a reason to throw the thin line of legal protections onto the bonfire of hysteria and descend into a state of tribalism in which the loudest voice becomes judge jury and executioner.

See the article here:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jan/17/dylan-farrow-to-appear-on-tv-over-woody-allen-allegations

Update: 3/17/18

The circular firing squad reforms:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/mar/17/hollywood-condemns-terry-gilliam-for-metoo-comments-mob-rule-weinstein

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