Tuesday, March 10, 2015

All You Zombies: A Lesson on Hate Speech, Identity and Blogging


I think this post may be of interest to both my RPG game friends and my political/religious friends, so I'm cross-posting it on both of my blogs Save Versus All Wands and Mahound's Paradise.

In the classic Robert Heinlein time-travel story, All You Zombies, a man discovers that he was actually born as a woman and that all the important people he knows--including his own mother and father--are in fact past (or perhaps future) versions of himself. It's a sort of existentialist time-travel nightmare. And it ends with the narrator uttering these classic lines:
I know where I came from—but where did all you zombies come from?
I felt a headache coming on, but a headache powder is one thing I do not take. I did once—and you all went away. 
So I crawled into bed and whistled out the light. 
You aren’t really there at all. There isn’t anybody but me—Jane—here alone in the dark. 
I miss you dreadfully!
I was reminded of this during the recent mini- (extremely mini) blogging controversy referenced by me in two recent Mahound's Paradise posts. Let me review:

In the first post, Dinah Silverstein Wants to Suppress Your Hate Speech, I cited another blog post, America Desperately Needs A Hate Speech Law, written by a "Dinah Silverstein" and published on The Times of Israel website (the link is real but the post was subsequently removed). It was an extreme anti-hate speech essay, and in good anti-anti-hate speech blogger fashion, I spent a thousand or so words ridiculing it (and then reprinting it in its entirety). Not to justify myself too much but my humble and still not very well-read blog followed in the footsteps of a number of far more well-read blogs such as Five Feet of Fury and The Other McCain that also criticized the piece. I imagined I did the most thorough job (I have far more time, since they write more posts than I do). Keep reading to see where that got me.

In the second post, Breaking: That Times of Israel Hate Speech Blog Post is a Fake, I reported that one source had discovered that on her The Times of Israel bio blurb "Dinah Silverstein" had presented as her own photograph the photograph of another blogger and activist, Nancy Goldstein. So, logically, she was Nancy Goldstein or she was someone else who had stolen her picture. I guessed it was the latter.

In addition, "Dinah Silverstein", despite describing herself as a human rights campaigner and activist, had no Google trail whatsoever. 

Soon, I updated the entry to take into account reports from another source--cargosquid on a blog post from Miguel on Gun Free Zone--that most if not all of the text from "Dinah Silverstein" was either paraphrased or lifted word-for-word from two posts here and here, written two months ago, by yet another blogger, "Tanya Cohen."

Important Digression: On Mahound's Paradise, many of my posts have chronicled mainly left-wing and Muslim anti-Semitism. But there's also a huge amount of right-wing anti-Semitism out there (obviously). Since Dinah Silverstein, Nancy Goldstein and Tanya Cohen, whether real or not, all appear to be Jewish, there are many links appearing on the first few pages of any Google search on the controversy that make negative reference to the "Jewess" Silverstein (or Goldstein or Cohen). See, as unfortunately just one example, here.

But back to the main topic. So “Dinah Silverstein” lifted her words from “Tanya Cohen”. But if you look into it–the best place to start is That Crazy Story About Making ‘Hate Speech’ A Crime? Yeah, That’s Satire on Techdirt–it’s almost certain that “Tanya Cohen” is also not real. She posted two and only two blog posts two months ago–both of them just as over the top as the one by “Dinah Silverstein”. Yeah, she wrote a brief clip for Daily Kos, but it was also at about the same time. She has a Twitter feed but it starts, you guessed it, at exactly that time and consists of nothing but three relatively content free tweets and numerous re-tweets over the space of two months. Nowhere is there a photograph or an identifiable biography and there is no Google trail going back any farther.

So, it would be too much much of a coincidence to believe one fake person lifted stuff from another fake person. It’s obvious that “Dinah Silverstein” and “Tanya Cohen” are the same person. The only questions (for those not asleep by now) are: who is that person and what is their motivation? Possibilities:
  1. He or she is a pro-free speech satirist (Techdirt’s opinion). 
  2. He or she is a silly person with silly opinions (perhaps a teenager or whatever), who is dumb enough to have dumb opinions but smart enough to get blog post placement in semi-well read niches but who for some reason wants to remain anonymous and steal other people’s photographs.
  3. He or she is a troll (perhaps completely apolitical) who simply wants to stir up trouble, mess with people or just see what they can get away with. 
Frankly, I think one of the lessons here is that there are bloggers, such as Kathy Shaidle (the author behind Five Feet of Fury), Michael Walsh at PJ Media and, well, me, who sometimes get caught railing against fake straw men (or fake straw women as the case may be). A sobering lesson for us all, whatever side we are on.

I'm now inclined to 3. But at this point it almost do
esn't matter. I've written a few parodies myself and linked to a few others. I thought of all of them as "Onionish"--close enough to be funny, but outrageous enough to be obviously fake--but it's always amazed me how there were always people who believed them. Weirdly (to me) those people would often appear to keep digging their own holes, so to speak. Rather than good-naturedly laughing at themselves for being taken in, they tried to justify their own credulousness by saying that the whole world was crazy and thus they shouldn't be blamed for believing another crazy thing, etc. Or in at least two cases, they started attacking me for lying and spreading false information, etc.

So, I'm going to do some of the above and not do some of the above (you may, of course, judge me or not based on that):
  1. The whole anti-hate speech thing is silly and sinister, regardless of the "reality" of the referenced posts (I know, that's a whopper of a justification, but still).
  2. The world is crazy (ditto).
  3. I'm laughing at myself (see, I can do that).
  4. I'm not going to attack anyone, partly because I don't know who to attack.
  5. I have too much blogging time on my hands.
  6. But so do other people, as much as I love them (see, that's another part of my justification.)
  7. I'm going to report this "story" as it develops, regardless of who it makes look silly, even if it's me (see, that's another part of my justification.)
I've been blogging for a while, both about RPG gaming and, more recently, on politics and religion. I can't say I'm a newbie, exactly. But I don't tweet, and the whole issue of trolling and anonymous posting with all of its implications is still new to me. I'm fascinated by this story (and that's independent of my own personal views on "hate speech" or whatever). Who is "Dinah Silverstein/Tanya Cohen"? What is their motivation? Judging from the Google traffic, not that many other people are as interested, or they've seen it all before or whatever. That's okay, and it's probably the most healthy attitude. If no other information is forthcoming, this will probably be my last post on the matter. But we'll see what else turns up...

Dinah Silverstein isn't real.
Tanya Cohen isn't real.
Nancy Goldstein is real but she isn't talking.
I miss you all dreadfully.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Patrick McGoohan and The Prisoner, Part 2, McGoohan "Had Extreme Catholic Views on Sexuality"

Patrick McGoohan in Danger Man

Also see Part 1 here.

The quote is from director David Cronenberg who directed McGoohan on the set of his classic horror film Scanners in 1981. More from Cronenberg at the end of this post. But first, let me take a few steps back...

A number of sources have dubbed McGoohan a "devout Catholic". In my experience that label is often misused by the secular media, often meaning almost the opposite of what it purports to mean--that so and so is a self-identified "Catholic" who is not devout (he or she has actually been divorced seven times or whatever). However, McGoohan was an attractive and charismatic actor who hit his stride in the 1960's and settled in Los Angeles but who was married to the same person for almost sixty years until his death. If that's not a tell, nothing is. Perhaps equally significant, he made potentially career ruining decisions about acting roles based on his Catholic beliefs. I'm not sure I know of another actor as prominent or even nearly as prominent where the same applies. Here is a relevant excerpt from an article on him in The Daily Express, published two years after his death, in turn based on Rubert Booth's biography:
A Prisoner of his Demons 
IN 1960 Patrick McGoohan was offered the role of James Bond in Dr No. 
He turned it down flat. The role went to Sean Connery, it made him an overnight star and spawned the world’s most famous movie franchise but McGoohan – who cemented his reputation playing the Bond-like character of John Drake in Sixties TV series Danger Man – never regretted his decision. 
While most men viewed Bond as an aspirational figure and most actors would have given their eye teeth for such a part McGoohan found the character contemptible and simplistic. It wasn’t just Bond’s cheapening of life with a Walther PPK which bothered him: he despised Bond’s attitude to women. He felt the same way about The Saint, a part he was offered ahead of Roger Moore and which he turned down for similar reasons. 
“I thought there was too much emphasis on sex and violence,” McGoohan said in the mid-Sixties of the Bond script. 
“It has an insidious and powerful influence on children. Would you like your son to grow up like James Bond? Since I hold these views strongly as an individual and parent I didn’t see how I could contribute to the very things to which I objected.” 
And it wasn’t just sour grapes at having turned down a role which could have given his family financial security for life. McGoohan may have had a profound work ethic and been widely admired for his abilities as an actor but his attitude towards the depiction of sex on screen was decidedly odd. 
He insisted that he would only take the part of secret agent John Drake if all salacious elements were removed and if the character was allowed to survive on his wits and fists rather than carry a gun. 
“I remember Pat being absolutely furious about one of the four pilot scripts,” recalls Ian Stuart Black, the writer of Danger Man, in a fascinating new biography of the mercurial actor who was born in New York in 1928 to Irish parents. 
“He was absolutely furious because I had him lying on a bed with a girl in order to open a safe which was behind the bed, nothing more. Pat was white faced with anger because of this apparently dishonest sexual implication.” 
But this reaction was typical says biographer Rupert Booth. “There are many similar stories of McGoohan’s heated objections to performing anything that could even remotely be considered sexual on screen,” he says. 
His attitudes may have been good news for his family but they brought him into conflict with his co-workers. 
“I was just amazed that a professional actor would not do what a professional actor should do, which is to do the story,” recalls Anthony Skene, another Danger Man writer, who witnessed McGoohan refusing to kiss a co-star. 
“You don’t let your personal foolishness get in the way but he certainly did.” 
McGoohan dismissed the criticisms. 
“Call me prissy Pat,” he once told an interviewer. “I see TV as the third parent. Every week a different girl? Served up piping hot for tea? With the children and grannies watching?” 
McGoohan’s unfashionable ideals could largely be explained by his unusual relationship with adored wife Joan – unusual by the standards of how an actor living and working in the Sixties was supposed to behave, that is. 
McGoohan was a fierce romantic and his devotion to Joan was legendary. During their 57-year marriage he wrote her love notes every day and it is believed he was always faithful. 
As a happily married man and a Catholic he made it clear he did not want his three daughters to see him engaged in a romantic liaison with another woman, even in a performance. 
“I have two guiding lights before me every second of my working day,” he once declared. “The first is my daughters. The second my religion.” 
His determination meant that Danger Man was produced to his satisfaction despite resistance from the highest levels to his “no guns, no girls” policy. 
“A high-powered sales and publicity executive arrived from New York to meet me for lunch in the studio restaurant. They wanted the guns and the girls reinstated. Without them they were convinced the series would be a resounding commercial flop.” 
McGoohan somehow persuaded the executive to let the series continue without them. “He went off and sold the completed series – minus sex and brutality – to 61 countries and they made a fortune, he later explained. 
Danger Man became a worldwide hit catapulting McGoohan to stardom...
Those linking to the Daily Express article will find that the piece goes on to describe McGoohan's drinking, his "dictatorial behavior" and a number of seemingly manic episodes of violence on the set of The Prisoner. Oh, heck, let's run those as well:
...However his dependency on alcohol was growing and in 1964 he was arrested for drink-driving. 
He spent six days in prison and was banned from driving for one year. 
HE WAS finding the conflict between his two lives increasingly difficult: the retiring family man and the workaholic actor. And the pressure was about to increase. The second series of Danger Man would make him the most highly paid television actor in the UK on £2,000 a week. 
“When an actor has a leading part in a thing like this it is all the more necessary for him to be more disciplined,” he said but behind the scenes he was struggling. 
“The Jekyll and Hyde persona that would characterise much of his time spent fi lming on his next and perhaps best-loved project, The Prisoner, were already in evidence, often linked to an over-indulgence in alcohol,” says Rupert Booth. 
Actor Gertan Klauber, who was in an episode of The Prisoner, revealed that McGoohan could take fight scenes far too far. After a lunch that “had gone on a little too long” the two actors rehearsed their scene. 
“Unfortunately I was struck several times,” says Klauber. “After the second take I said to McGoohan, ‘Please do not hit me because otherwise the whole thing will go into fisticuffs… there’s just a certain amount of pain you can take.’ And in fact it did develop in take three and four into a fighting match.” 
Booth turned up several examples of the actor being a very bad drunk. “While his conduct was mostly faultless in the outside world, with the notable exception of the drinkdriving conviction, it does seem that whilst working in the protective atmosphere of the set he was more liable to let his rock-solid self-control slip,” says Booth. 
As time went on his behaviour on set became increasingly erratic. He couldn’t tolerate the compromises of the production process and began drinking more heavily. 
ACTRESS Annette Andre, who had a part in The Prisoner, says she hated every second she spent working with McGoohan. “And that was down to Patrick. It’s no secret that I just loathed Patrick from the moment I started. I tried to be nice and he… doesn’t work with actresses at all well.” 
McGoohan’s dictatorial behaviour as star and co-creator of the cult show indicated he had little respect for other people’s feelings. As filming went on his temper became more prone to fraying and his actions more unpredictable. He was also averaging no more than two hours’ sleep a night and there were suggestions he was suffering from bipolar disorder, then known as manic depression. 
“The suave and charming Dr Jekyll had metamorphosed fully into Mr Hyde with an overwhelming drive to make the show succeed at whatever cost,” says Booth. 
According to fellow actor Mark Eden, McGoohan – who died in 2009 aged 80 – was on the verge of mental collapse back then. “I think he was having a bit of a nervous breakdown to be honest. He was terribly uptight… he had a terrible row with the director on the set, screaming. And he sacked him.” 
Eden’s experience of McGoohan’s violence was terrifying. “There was a bit where he had to get on top of me and strangle me and I had to push him off… and he was really strangling me. I looked up and I could see these mad eyes looking down at me and I thought, ‘He’s gone, he’s gone…’ and his face was contorted with rage… and he’s a big man.” 
It took every ounce of his strength to push him off. Word of McGoohan’s ferocity on set spread and his career as it had been was over.
Well, obviously his career wasn't over (though it wouldn't be the conventional career of a leading man). It should also be noted that the final third of the Express article is a somewhat negative compression of Booth's material. Booth also cites other costars who had different impressions. Angela Browne who played Number 86 in "A Change of Mind", while remarking on McGoohan's "intensity" on the set of The Prisoner found the actor "smashing". Earlier, "actually I fell in love with him; I just adored him and he was so kind to me." (Booth used material from that interview here.)

Now here is the promised Cronenberg bit (from IMDb in 2011):
Movie and TV icon Patrick McGoohan had his Scanners co-star Jennifer O'Neill in tears on the set of the cult 1981 film by ripping into her for marrying three times. 
A fervent Catholic, The Prisoner star took exception to O'Neill's personal life and didn't hold back in letting her know. 
Director David Cronenberg recalls, "He had extreme Catholic views about sexuality, which came onto the set. 
"My leading lady... came to me incredibly distraught and said, 'Patrick said, 'Are you a whore? Are you a slut?' And he started to lay into her because she'd had, like, five husbands. 
"That was Patrick, and those were the things I had to deal with as a relatively young director. He was probably the most difficult actor I ever worked with, though he gave a fantastic performance." 
At the time, O'Neill had wed three times. She went on to marry another two men and has been wed to Mervin Louque since 1997.
One should be skeptical here, among other things because in my experience people hostile to Catholicism often, frankly, make up stuff like this (see two and three posts below). But assuming McGoohan said the words (or something like them) that O'Neill said he did, it would be hard to believe that there isn't some additional context to it, as if he would just walk up to his co-star and start insulting her. Then again, the actor did have a reputation for being difficult. Perhaps it was a Mel Gibson moment.

I hope readers--Prisoner fans, Catholics and non-Catholics will find the above material interesting. Some of it--the first part of that Express interview--should be inspiring to Catholics, while other parts will no doubt confirm the anti-Catholic view that many Catholics (or many male Catholics anyway) are belligerent alcoholic misogynists.

Don't blame me, man, I just report things.

In Part 3, I'll return to The Prisoner. Is it libertarian allegory, Catholic allegory, or just a brilliant television show? Or could it be all three?