Sorry to take a couple of days off. In times like these, two days AFI (Away From Internet) means missing out on a month's worth of news.
A word about the cancellation of Roseanne's show
: I was never a Roseanne fan, and never sat through a full episode of the original run of that series. Yet, being a contrarian, I'm now tempted to say a few words in...well, I was about to say "in her defense," but let's not take things that
Nevertheless, I sympathize with her. Unlike many other liberals, I can understand what happened to her.
As readers know, I stupidly spent part of the 1980s and much of the 1990s immersed in the world of High Paranoia. The online company Roseanne keeps is familiar to me. That is: I may not know the current dramatis personae
, but I certainly know the mind-set. I know what being in that milieu can do
to a person.
Although I was never on the right, I did gain a taste for the extremes. If a text was not outlandish, it wasn't intriguing. One can start out as someone interested in the JFK assassination and soon find oneself collecting literature produced by the kind of right-wing fearmongers who detested JFK while he was alive.
Here's the most important thing you have to know about conspiracy buffs: They continually bait each other, continually test each other, continually force each other to adopt ever more extreme positions. They disdain anyone who maintains a reasonably high standard of proof. When you demand better evidence, you harsh their buzz. Evidence is for losers -- for the mundanes. Or, to employ current terminology, the normies.
One buff says: JFK was killed because he was about to reveal the truth about Roswell -- and if you disagree, then obviously THEY got to you too.
Buff 2 responds: JFK was killed because he was about to expose the Rothschild conspiracy -- and if you disagree, then obviously THEY got to you too.
And so on and on, as all parties spin into an ever-increasing delirium. The conspiracy-buff culture is the place where formerly-normal people try to out-insane each other. It's more than a social milieu -- it's a machine designed to create psychopathology. And I say this as someone who still does not accept, and never will accept, the conclusions of the Warren Commission.
I always had a puckish interest in the most unhinged writings to come out of the JFK assassination subculture. Mark Lane and Sylvia Meagher were for newbies and squares; I sought more unusual fare. Not many people would travel a hundred miles just to photocopy Revilo P. Oliver's article "Marxmanship in Dallas." Not many people would seek out a bonkers volume like Treason for my Daily Bread
, written by someone calling himself Mikhail Lebedev. (If memory serves, this book claims that Martin Bormann ordered the Dallas hit.) Not many people spent as much time as I did collecting obscure variants of the dreaded Torbitt Document.
You probably don't recognize the names of those works. You don't need to; they were all garbage. My point is this: I hobnobbed with folks who not only read such documents but considered themselves connoisseurs. In that pre-internet world, Weird Literature was considered collectable, like fine wines. My personal stash contained some true rarities -- documents perfumed with pathology. I would hold them up to my nostrils, get a good whiff of The Crazy, and think: "Ah! Exquisite!"
I sought out these scriptures not because I thought that they would get me closer to THE TRUTH but because they transported readers to the edge of the edge. In my mind's eye, those texts bore an invisible legend: "Welcome to the extremes. Enter at the risk of your reason."
Mere possession of these artifacts seemed dangerous and exciting. One of my correspondents, in those pre-internet days, literally stamped the word "PSYCHOTOXIN" on the front page of such documents. Yes, he created an actual rubber stamp.
even have produced some psychotoxic material myself, back in the day.
Why? Because addiction to outlandish conspiracy theories is like involvement in the BDSM subculture, where developing a taste for a little spanky-spanky can give rise to the sort of practices that require sutures -- and may even get one fired from an important job (such as, oh, say, New York prosecutor).
Here's a better (albeit more predictable) metaphor: It's like drugs. For some people, grass really does
lead to H.
So, yeah: I feel sorry for Roseanne Barr, even though I know that many people will hate me for speaking about her as though she is a fellow human being. I sympathize with her in the same sense that I can sympathize with any other addict. She got hooked. So did I. A long time ago, she fell in with people who kept urging her to inject ever-stronger forbidden substances into her arm.
(In my case, I decided that I just could no longer tolerate being around the people who inhabit that world. They seemed to keep everyone around them perpetually angry, and I came to hate being angry. All I really wanted was a girlfriend and a dog.)
Roseanne probably is not a genuine racist
in her heart of hearts. So why did she use the term "Planet of the Apes" to describe a person of color?
For the same reason a certain now-deceased small-press publisher
went through a phase when he would sign his name with a swastika. The guy was Jewish. He was not
, in my opinion, a self-hating Jew or a Nazi sympathizer. He was simply addicted to shock -- to the transgressive.
When you enter the world of right-wing conspiracism, when you rationalize nonsense like Pizzagate, when you convince yourself that Q-anon's ravings have some relationship to reality, you find yourself constantly searching for a stronger high. You're always playing a game of "Can you top this?" Person A says something hateful, forcing Person B to offer 2XHateful, which forces Person A to come up with 3XHateful. And so on.
Then your show gets canceled, and all sorts of people who depended on you are now out of work
Has Roseanne hit rock bottom? No. She won't admit that she has a problem. Some people learn to love the endorphin rush they get from the transgressive. Some addicts die with a needle in the arm.