At age 19 in 1962 Howard Bloom discovered the depth of Islamic antisemitism after reading a series of Holocaust denial pamphlets printed by the Arab League:
“There was music in the cafés at night
And revolution in the air”
- Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue”
Finally, a movie has arrived that treats the story of the New Left honestly and in a realistic, mature manner. That film is not Robert Redford’s dreadful The Company You Keep, a paean to the Weather Underground, but the movie by the French director Olivier Assayas, Something in the Air. It takes place in various European locales in the summer of 1971, when the hopes of the European revolutionaries were shattered after the failure of 1968 to lead to revolution. Assayas’ film covers an assorted group of European New Leftists and some American tourist counterparts as they attempt to both get on with their lives and, for some, to keep alive their crushed hopes in a period of ideological and political retreat.
Assayas, who made the quintessential and powerful biographical movie Carlos about Carlos the Jackal, the Left’s most well-known ’70s and 80’s terrorist, now turns his attention in particular to the plight of the young graduating high school student Gilles, played by Clement Metayer, and his new girlfriend, Christine, played by Lola Creton. Each takes different paths. Gilles is guilt ridden over his desire to become an artist and study painting instead of serving the revolution, while Christine, plagued with guilt over her bourgeois existence, opts instead to live with an older man in a revolutionary collective and to devote herself to the task of organizing the proletariat in France and Italy. (All she does, we learn, is shop, cook and clean for the male comrades, as well as provide sex.)
The power of Assayas’ movie is that it takes place in real time, instead of flashbacks and narrative based in the present, as aging radicals try to come to terms with their past. We see these young people facing the options in front of them, each deciding which way to turn, as they experience the pulls to go one way and the warning signs that they had better think twice before acting on their impulses.
[There are updates at the end of this post.]
Well, look, when the left-wing media lands a punch, you got to take it, fair and square. Turns out one of the few open conservative activists in Hollywood has been hiding a past life as a Holocaust denier. He once recanted, but it was fake. He’s still mealy-mouthed on the subject. This is from the Guardian, a socialist newspaper in the UK:
To those who knew him, or thought they knew him, he was a cerebral, fun-loving gadfly who hosted boozy gatherings for Hollywood’s political conservatives. David Stein brought right-wing congressmen, celebrities, writers and entertainment industry figures together for shindigs, closed to outsiders, where they could scorn liberals and proclaim their true beliefs.
Over the past five years Stein’s organisation, Republican Party Animals, drew hundreds to regular events in and around Los Angeles, making him a darling of conservative blogs and talkshows. That he made respected documentaries on the Holocaust added intellectual cachet and Jewish support to Stein’s cocktail of politics, irreverence and rock and roll.
There was just one problem. Stein was not who he claimed. His real name can be revealed for the first time publicly – a close circle of confidants only found out the truth recently – as David Cole. And under that name he was once a reviled Holocaust revisionist who questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers. He changed identities in January 1998.
Yuck-o. And bad for the cause of freedom too, because you know full well the media will try to tar us all with it. That’s how it works. Oliver Stone makes a documentary rationalizing a Soviet Union that slaughtered gazillions in the name of oppression; Sean Penn kisses the backsides of tyrants like Castro and Chavez — hey, no problem. They still work and win praise — and certainly no one tries to pin their foolishness on run-of-the-mill Hollywood Democrats, nor should they. But one creepoid on the right, and we’ll soon start to hear, “Well, that’s what they’re all like, deep down.” See if we don’t.
PJ Lifestyle Editor’s Note:
This is Part 11, the conclusion, of Volume 1 of Robert Spencer’s Jazz and Islam series. Yes — Volume 1 does imply the intent for Robert to return to this subject again in the future so we can someday produce a Volume 2. As the Islamic War Against Freedom has intensified and arisen again into the foreground of public consciousness, Robert and I have decided on a new cultural angle through which he will seek to illuminate each week’s dark, confusing stories of jihad terrorism. I won’t reveal the secret yet of just what Robert’s new focus will be. But perhaps this astounding article today revealing the troubled story of a lost young man who poisoned his mind with deadly ideas will provide a hint of what’s to come…
– David Swindle
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who along with his brother Dzhokhar murdered three people and wounded nearly 200 more with twin bombs at the Boston Marathon, was a musician. John Curran, Tamerlan’s boxing coach, recalled: “He also played the piano very well.” The Lowell Sun reported that “Tsarnaev also studied music at a school in Russia and played piano and violin.”
As late as 2010, according to Gene McCarthy of the Somerville Boxing Club in Massachusetts, Tsarnaev was still playing:
“I brought him to the registration” for a boxing tournament, “and while he was waiting in line, he saw a piano and was playing classical music like it was Symphony Hall.”
However, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that “in the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.”
Reuters reported at 11:54 AM EST on the ideology inspiring the terrorists who murdered and butchered Americans in Boston on Monday:
His “World view” is listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” is “career and money”.
He has posted links to videos of fighters in the Syrian civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles like “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts”.
He also has links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for secession after two wars in the 1990s.
The page also reveals a sense of humor, around his identity as a member of a minority from southern Russia’s restive Caucasus, which includes Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and other predominately Muslim regions that have seen two decades of unrest since the fall of the Soviet Union.
“I don’t have a single American friend,” one caption quotes him as saying. “I don’t understand them.” [emphasis added]
I will state my position about what has happened this way:
Al Qaeda’s Attack on America on September 11, 2001 = the beginning of World War 1
Two NON-ARAB, WHITE, WHOLLY AMERICANIZED Homegrown Millennial Jihadists Take America Hostage And Launch a New Template for How to Wage A DIY, Low Budget-Download-The-Instructions-Off-The-Internet Terror War = the beginning of World War II.
We are now entering a new phase of the Islamic war to replace liberal societies with Sharia law. This is World War IV, a multi-decade conflict that will be for our generation what the war against Nazism and Fascism was for our grandparents. Except it will probably be worse.
As such, I would like to primarily address those who have not yet given up progressivism, moral relativism, and the Democratic party — the three idols I grew up worshiping for the first two decades of my life. (I realize now that the reason I abandoned progressivism is simply that I didn’t go to graduate school whereas most of my friends did. My brainwashing gradually wore off after I got out into the real world and had to try and survive.)
This is not an oppressive, Corporate Imperial war waged against harmless Muslims. It is a war that Islam has declared against Enlightenment-based societies. The problem is not the Koran or Islam. The problem is radical (as in going to the root of the idea) Islam or Islamism, or Orthodox Islam, or the traditional Islam of history that requires the marriage of mosque and state accompanied by full implementation of chop-your-hands-off-style Sharia. Muslims who reject Koranic literalism and affirm Enlightenment philosophy are A-OK. (See Robert Spencer’s article this morning to see the great Jazz music some of them have made. And note Roger L. Simon today — Islam is not a race.) Muslims who embrace America instead of demanding American submission can enjoy the riches of Liberty just as every immigrant who has come to this land throughout the centuries to worship their God and work hard.
We need to stand with genuine Muslim liberals against both the terrorists and stealth (non-violent) jihadists rebelling against the Modern world.
That requires identifying those in the political and media classes who sabotage these efforts. Here are 10 examples of those whose ideas undermine the safety of Americans and the twin projects to nurture political liberalism in the Muslim mind and Enlightenment values in the Islamic soul.
1. Progressive Filmmaker Michael Moore:
“They know nothing.” It’s very important for Moore to try and undermine the credentials of anyone who can affirm that Sharia is a real threat. In Moore’s world Global Warming is more dangerous and cigarettes and car accidents cause more deaths per year than Islamists. Corporations have killed plenty more people than this “one teenager.”
“I guessed correctly. the bombings were not carried out by women.”
There will be more Jihad Janes, Mike…
Today I am inaugurating a new tradition. From now on whenever there is a Malcolm X-related anniversary I am going to do a blog post dedicated to telling the truth about who he really was and what cruel values he actually dedicated his life to promoting. Malcolm X was not a “black pride advocate” or a “civil rights leader” as the postmodern Marxist grad student teaching your undergraduate will claim. He was a career criminal, pathological liar, racist, black nationalist, and antisemite. He’s not just a hip Martin Luther King Jr but with guns the way Spike Lee’s films try and mythologize him. He was an evil man who lived a life of racial hatred, the polar opposite of the Christian love and color blind unity preached and lived by King.
Here’s an excerpt from an article I published here at PJ Lifestyle in November, The 15 Best Books for Understanding Barack Obama’s Mysterious Political Theology, regarding books to read to discover the reality of Malcolm Little, the man behind the Myth of Malcolm X:
5. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
6. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
7. Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
8. Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss
Why do so many Democrats insist on giving Islam the benefit of the doubt? Even amongst many Republicans, the establishment narrative, set by George W. Bush, endures: Islam is “a religion of peace,” Al Qaeda is a fringe group of misinterpreters, Allah is the same god worshiped by Jews and Christians, and the Koran is just the Bible in Arabic, teaching universal love and compassion.
I bought this Big Lie about Islam for years. And looking back I wonder how much of it had to do with how my progressivism led to an unquestioning embrace of the mythology of Malcolm. In high school I loved The Autobiography of Malcolm X and watched Spike Lee’s film adaptation multiple times. Recall the ending: Malcolm doesn’t fully reject racism and become complete as a human being until he escapes the Nation of Islam, takes his hajj to Mecca, and renames himself El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Once outside of the evil, racist America Malcolm can see that within Islam whites could gain their humanity and become his brothers. Islam really could bring peace. Just look at Malcolm.
But multiple authors have debunked The Autobiography as fictional. (See my friend David Forsmark’s review of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention and Bruce Perry’s Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America.)
Once one learns the truth about who Malcolm X really was, what the Nation of Islam preached then (and still does today), and the contents of the orthodox Islam Malcolm believed at death, then the only moral response is shame. And that’s what I feel today as I reflect back on the fact that for years a poster of an antisemitic conspiracy theorist hung tacked to my walls like a religious icon.
But Barack Obama never felt that embarrassing epiphany of realizing he’d based his life on a lie. According to Dreams from my Father, Obama discovered The Autobiography as a teenager. He then used the myth of Malcolm during his community organizer days as a symbol:
“Power! X Register to Vote Here”
“It’s a POWER thing! X Vote Tues Nov. 3″
That’s what the symbol of Malcolm X means and Obama knew how to use it: the misunderstood, oppressed proletariat can take power away from the corrupt conspiracy at the top that’s enslaved everyone. It’s a message that appeals to both the impoverished in the ghettos, and the spoiled, angsty, idealistic, upper-middle class high schooler growing up in white suburbia. And it too was a Big Lie. Power doesn’t come through voting in politicians who will give you healthcare and other free stuff.
Cults: The Mind Enslaved, Part V
Since November 6, 2012, I’ve joined many friends who just don’t watch the news anymore. It seems the country is doing just fine without my frenzied attention to politics and that even in my absence, Drudge reached the billion-hit mark, though I could have sworn I made up half his tally!
Becoming a “news-hermit” was inspired by Roger L. Simon referencing Andrew Breitbart: “Politics is downstream from the culture.” Contributions to healing America need to be cultural: authentic spirituality and more caring dedication to family.
After two months of the Internet Media Diet, I doubled the marinara splashes on my copy of Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook, whose recipes and philosophy are a prescription for what America really needs. I also managed to scribble the first 90,000 words of an old-fashioned romance novel, my intended stake-in-the-heart to pop-culture’s obsession with contrived love-triangles, the sex appeal of paranormal lovers in varying states of post-burial-decay, and the loss of faith in unique, everlasting devotion.
Yesterday, I was jolted from this peaceful stint as “Vampire-Book-Slayer” by a very disturbing email. All levity aside, the Ghost of Sophie Scholl shook me from slumber and I questioned whether one can always, in good conscience, abandon the social realm.
The Catholic Herald UK reports that Bishop Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), the largest group of “Traditional Catholics,” hosted a conference in Canada on December 12, 2012. The paper observed:
The head of the traditionalist Society of St Pius X has called Jewish people “enemies of the Church”, saying Jewish leaders’ support of the Second Vatican Council “shows that Vatican II is their thing, not the Church’s”.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, the society’s superior general, said those most opposed to Rome granting canonical recognition to the SSPX have been “the enemies of the Church: the Jews, the Masons, the modernists”.
He said these people, “who are outside of the Church, who over centuries have been enemies of the Church”, urged the Vatican to compel the SSPX to accept Vatican II
On Wednesday, a woman packaged in plastic wrap and fake blood held a PETA demonstration outside Dreamland Bar-B-Que in downtown Montgomery, Ala. Because, you know, nothing says “meat is murder” like a mostly naked chick.
Time to break out the Southern hospitality!
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
I lost the argument with my wife. Should we encourage our children’s faith in Santa Claus? I was concerned that doing so might later undermine both our credibility as parents and our children’s belief in God.
It may not be a conversation that most couples have. Then again, must couples don’t include a former Jehovah’s Witness who was raised without holidays. As a child, I absorbed the cold hard truth dispensed from my parents. There was no Santa Claus. Other children’s parents cruelly lied to them. The privilege of knowing the truth served as consolation for receiving no presents.
Though I’ve long since rejected Jehovah’s Witness beliefs, my parents’ reasoning regarding the Santa fantasy lingered. Is there value in believing in something which is not true?
That question deserves careful consideration, and serves as a check against adult beliefs. In our postmodern, politically correct society, we commonly hear ecumenical equivocations like, “There are many paths to God.” While sharing my Christian faith, friends have more than once told me, “That’s your truth.” That rebuke stops short of saying my faith is false, claiming only that it is no more or less true than any other. But if that proves somehow valid, if one person’s faith in a flying spaghetti monster is no more or less true than my faith in Jesus Christ, what value is there in holding to either?
“Exactly!” an atheist might say. “Faith in Jesus is no better than faith in either Santa Claus or the flights of a pasta god.”
In Leonard Peikoff’s The Ominous Parallels, the ardent atheist and intellectual heir to objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand defines faith as the opposite of reason:
“Faith” designates blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof.
Were this our working definition, I could agree that faith in anything is useless. However, this narrow view of faith does not encompass how the word is used in our culture. When a husband expresses faith in his wife, is he necessarily doing so in the absence of evidence? Or is his faith a bet made on the basis of past experience and intimate knowledge of her characteristics? Either scenario is possible, and surely men and women have been known to invest faith blindly. However, as a friend to a married person, we would not encourage blind faith in the same manner we would that informed by evidence.
Dear Apple Public Relations,
I hope this note finds you well. My name is Jeanette and I would like to take one minute of your time to tell a story about the way Mr. Jobs changed my life and why my first contact with Apple this morning was so sad.
When I was 13, my family became affiliated with a religious organization that we later came to realize was a cult. I spent ten years in two convents, first in France and then in the US. When I left the convent, I taught in a small school, spent some time in college and started a family. Eight years ago, my husband, five children and I began the long and arduous process of leaving the cult and trying to construct new lives. Imagine being a 13 year-old in a 30 year-old body with all the responsibilities of a wife and mother and so little knowledge of who I really was and how to live in the world.
I finished college at night and, after 12 years, walked across the stage and proudly accepted my diploma. Profoundly passionate about public speaking and helping people to overcome the fear of addressing large audiences, I want to start a small business teaching the ideas and techniques that helped me to rebuild my identity after the destruction of nearly three decades in a cult.
I was scared to try to present my workshops until I found Steven Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address. It changed my life because it inspired me to get serious about launching a communications service that specifically targets fear of public speaking.
This morning I found a You Tube of Mr. Jobs telling the story of when, at the age of twelve, he called Mr. Hewlett of HP and asked for spare parts to build an electrical device. Mr. Hewlett gave Steve the parts and a job in his factory during the summer. Would Apple be here today were it not for those acts of vision, creativity and belief in the dreams of a little boy? Steve told us all to pick up the phone, dare to fail, reach out for help because, if we have the courage and the determination, good people will always offer to help.
So I did it! I called Apple to talk with Mr. Schiller, director of Marketing, about fear of speaking and employee training. This is the number one fear in America and seventy-five percent of those polled by the World Health Organization listed this as the greatest terror in their lives.
What if Apple used innovative approaches to help their own employees overcome this fear and unlock the power of identity as Mr. Jobs inspired me to do in a very real way? The phone rang and Mr. Schiller’s administrative assistant answered. It was a special moment for me. My little voice reached across a thousand miles to my beloved former home of California, to the very temple of entrepreneurial essence. I knew that the Ghost of Mr. Jobs must walk those halls, perpetuating the belief that when a company helps new talent, amazing world-changing things can happen. Okay, so I’m an incurable romantic, but that’s what created Apple in the first place, wasn’t it?
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
The Nation of Islam’s historic role as a bridge between American blacks and Islam ended in 1975 when W. Deen Mohammed followed his father, Elijah Muhammad as leader of the Nation and immediately disavowed his father’s folk religion, bringing his followers to normative Islam, the Islam of the Middle East. From then on, despite the theatrics of Louis Farrakhan, the Nation has been in a long downward trajectory. Now comes evidence, thanks to Eliza Gray writing about “Thetans and Bowties” in The New Republic, of a jaw-dropping turn by Farrakhan, 79, to Scientology; as her subtitle puts it, “America’s two weirdest sects join forces.”
The connection goes back seven years:
the story of how Farrakhan came to embrace it concerns a Nation minister in Los Angeles named Tony Muhammad. In 2005, Muhammad was beaten by the LAPD at a prayer vigil he’d helped organize for a young man killed in a drive-by shooting. The incident plunged him into an agitated, depressed state. A concerned friend introduced him to Scientology, which he credits with saving his life. When Farrakhan later met with Muhammad, he was amazed by the transformation and, as Muhammad tells it in an audio clip posted on YouTube, exclaimed: “Whatever you’re on—I want some of it.”
Five years later, things moved into high gear:
The first large-scale introduction of Scientology to Nation members took place in August 2010, when hundreds of believers from around the country traveled to Rosemont, Illinois, near the Nation’s headquarters, for a seminar in Dianetics, a foundational belief system of Scientology. There, they were guided through auditing sessions—a kind of hybrid between hypnosis and confession—in which a Scientologist purges painful experiences from his subconscious in the presence of an “auditor.” At the end of the seminar, Farrakhan told the group he wanted everyone in attendance to become a certified auditor.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Recently CBS chief foreign correspondent and 60 Minutes host Lara Logan uttered the most profound and significant words heard from a reporter in recent memory. Addressing the Chicago Better Government Association, she reminded wayward professional journalism of its forgotten essence.
Presenting her research on the actual state of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Logan said:
So why did that story matter and why did we chose to do that particular story? If al-Qaeda was truly what drew us to Afghanistan after 9-11, we felt it was a fair and legitimate question to be asking of American leaders what the state of al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. And you would have heard leaders, you would have heard bandied around the number fifty… only fifty al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan. The impression we are given is that they’re one drone strike away from obliteration. And that’s just simply not true. They know it is not true. What we had to do was set about investigating what was the truth and we had to be very careful about that because there is a distinction between investigating something to find out what the real situation is and trying to prove something that you believe is true. Those are two very different things and the second is a very dangerous thing. It is the enemy of great journalism. It is a trap that is very easy to fall into.
Giving a breathtaking demonstration of the self-effacement required by journalism as she had just re-defined it, Lara looked straight at the thousand guests present and the millions she knew would see the recording. Without flinching or considering the cost, she answered the eternal question:
Quid est veritas? What is the truth?
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Why did we all root for Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion, cheering as one when the Death Star burst into a ball of flame? Why do we unanimously detest Panem’s Capitol, sharing a surge of joy when District 11 erupts after Rue’s senseless murder in The Hunger Games? What accounts for our universal loathing of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Jane Austen’s most refined dictator who, insisting Mr. Darcy marry her insipid daughter, rivals the Emperor and President Snow in her own Georgian way?
Would it really have been so awful had the Empire ruled the Galaxy? Nobody appeared to be starving. It’s true the citizens of Panem were hungry, but at least they were safe from “war, terrible war.” The demise of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet’s proud and prejudiced love would have cost them their status as the most beloved couple ever to live and breathe papyrus and yet, Darcy and Anne de Bourgh would have been rich — lacking neither the company of polite society nor polished silver.
A deep anguish probably stirred within your heart at these proposals. This malaise would turn to raw anger if we replaced these light-hearted examples of tyranny with darker ones, the true shadows of history whose malice brought real and lasting ruin and misery. Unanimous indignation meets the suggestion that since basic necessities of life were often provided by Stalin, Hitler, or Mao, totalitarianism is a viable living condition. Why?
We instinctively know, as human beings, we need more than food, shelter, and the absence of violence to be happy. This consuming hunger for joy is so important that Aristotle, the Definer himself, designates happiness as the final end for which we are created. To insist people, whether flesh and blood or birthed by quill, content themselves with crusts of bread or caviar instead of true human happiness violates our deepest sense of what it means to be human.
So what necessary ingredient of bliss was missing in the Emperor’s Galaxy, in Hunger Games‘ haunted Panem, and in Austen’s corset string-strangled English countryside? The essential right to self-determination. Nothing is more human than this internal principle of self-direction; the ability to freely select for ourselves from among the near-infinity of goals and the means to attain personally defined success. Without this, we are not human, but animals. This freedom is the condition for our joy and this is why, confronted with all forms of invasive denial of freedom, we rebel.
In Cults: The Mind Enslaved Parts I and II, we considered the normal and cultic human intellectual processes. It seemed that nothing could be worse than surrendering a mind to the shared Gnostic Brain of a cult. Understanding now the primary importance of human freedom for happiness, we consider how cults damage this even more fundamental faculty, the free will.
[I'm not sure a film like The Master actually has spoilers, but if so: spoiler alert.]
Near the beginning of The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson’s much-acclaimed new film about an L. Ron Hubbard-style cult leader, alcoholic WWII vet Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix, takes an ink blot test and sees penises and vaginas in every image. By the end of the film, director Anderson is doing pretty much the same thing.
The brilliantly acted and well-made film, though watchable through its more than two hour running time, has left even its admirers baffled. Reviewer after reviewer heaped the film with praise while admitting they did not really know what it was all about.
Personally, I thought it was about less than meets the eye. In following Quell’s fascination with cult leader Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anderson has presented us with a dated, not to mention worn out, vision of humankind. The film struck me as a final helping of late modernism, with a dollop of reductionist Freud on top. Thanks, but we’ve had enough.
As I read it, the film seems to say that reality is so harsh that people will drink anything from rocket fuel to paint thinner — and will likewise follow even the most completely implausible savior — in order to avoid “taking life straight.” Only by freeing oneself from such drugs and illusions can one set sail masterless on the trackless sea of meaningless existence and thus achieve the ultimate goal of human spiritual development: getting laid. Quell’s journey takes him through several sexual stages: from a masturbatory encounter with a sand-castle dream girl; to a sexless, subservient relationship with a “Dad” who seems to him to hold the key to sexual power; to a final acceptance of the loss of his real dream girl (now hilariously named Doris Day); and a courageous break with Dad that frees him at last to put his penis in the vaginas of real, live women he meets in bars. Um, huzzah.
If you’re thinking, “Master of what?” the answer is “Master of filmed images,” and that virtuoso is Paul Thomas Anderson, the writer and director of Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Punch-Drunk Love who is justly acclaimed as one of the most singular and fascinating talents of his generation. Only moments into The Master, Anderson is already spellbinding as he presents strange moments from the life of Freddie Quell (a first-rate Joaquin Phoenix), a mentally disturbed sailor who is goofing around on an unidentified Pacific island in World War II when the war ends. Quell has a strange sexual obsession he shows when he, bizarrely, cuddles up next to a sand sculpture of a nude woman, and throughout this long, engrossing but at times repetitive, static, and frustrating film Anderson will refer back to this odd episode without ever furnishing much of a clue as to what it means.
Quell is a drunk and a n’er do well who has seen combat, though what horrors he experienced also remain a mystery to us. After the war, he gets a job as a photographer in a department store (in a scene Anderson, typically, turns into an amazing fantasy set piece scored to dreamy music of the period) but loses that gig in a moment of unexplained rage, then is forced to work as a farm hand until he is literally chased out of the fields when his secret moonshine (made with paint thinner) causes the death of a fellow worker.
Wandering by a docked boat where a group of swells are having a party, he climbs aboard and wakes up with a hangover, a new life, and a new guiding light: charismatic Lancaster Dodd (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman), better known to his family and followers as the Master. The sci-fi-inflected self-help gospel he preaches is simply known as the Cause, and as Freddie is allowed to stay aboard for a voyage from San Francisco to New York, he is gradually attracted to and subsumed by this cult. In perhaps the most arresting scene of several intensely dramatic ones in the film, the Master interrogates Freddie about his past with a series of rapid personal questions until the younger man starts to break down and slip into a hypnotic state in which he confronts his crushing secret: He left a sweet girl named Doris back in Massachusetts and all he wants is to get back to her. If he can ever deserve her.
After Freddie becomes a fully paid-up member of the Scientology-like “Cause” and functions as virtually another son to the Master (who is obviously modeled on the sci-fi novelist and founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard), he takes to proselytizing on the streets and slugging anyone who dares question the faith. At a fancy party in New York, the Master’s hypnosis party trick and disquisition on the importance of recalling details from past lives earns derision, and the Cause packs up and moves to Philadelphia. It won’t be the movement’s final move.
“Mom, how come that guy’s poster says God hates me?”
I unbuckle the toddlers for Mass while my oldest children jump from the van and stare at the neon-colored signs. Once a month the Westboro Baptist’s hate campaign targets our parish and I spend the last minutes of the Sunday-scramble assuring our toddlers that God loves them while my husband distracts the pre-teens from a woman wearing a shredded, filthy U.S. flag.
After Mass the signs are gone and the kids talk doughnuts, but it’s hard to forget the other children, those who spent their morning happily singing about our death. Unlike my son and the people of Topeka who find Westboro followers incomprehensible, I don’t need to ask, “Why do they do that?” I know. As a former member of a cultic organization, I inhabited the same Gnostic universe and remember exactly what it felt like to stand in opposition to society, thinking my group alone held the key to salvation, that we had the blueprint for Utopia and the mandate to transform the world. Different messages are scrawled on the signs, but all cult members share the same mental mechanism, a way of thinking that holds them in a true prison.
In part 1 of this series, “Cults: The Mind Enslaved,” I defined the essence of cult membership as a replacement of normal thought processes with blind adherence to an irrational doctrine revealed through controlling leaders. Most cult analysis begins with a taxonomic classification based on exterior characteristics. Warning signs and red flags circumscribe the domain of manipulative organization. This approach is limited because invasive groups can be deemed safe if they appear normal or lack the stereotypical, pop-culture features usually associated with cults.
Organizations such as Scientology, Jim Jones’s People’s Temple, or fundamentalist Mormonism have rigid behavioral structures that render individuation practically impossible. Many true cults lack such a physical control over members. In more fluid cults, members might pick and choose which aspects of dogma or behavior they will actually implement, giving them a sense of complete freedom. To accurately evaluate the cultic nature of a group, we must see if the organization facilitates the development of the Gnostic mental process in members who actually implement the ideology.
“The Mind Enslaved” summarized that human beings gain knowledge through sensory information from which we derive general principles upon which we base meaning and behavior. We also learn from adults and peers who share their acquired wisdom. The cultic mind bypasses reliance upon the senses and logical analysis. Instead, members accept the worldview — theology or philosophy — and code of normative behavior presented by cult leaders, even when all these fly in the face of evidence and reason.
As seems to be a growing trend with the rise of Netflix and DVR, these days my wife and I watch few shows as they’re broadcast. We prefer to A) watch at our own pace as per our schedule, and B) avoid wasting any more of our lives watching dumb commercials for products we don’t want.
So for the past couple years we’ve plowed through whole seasons of shows like Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, the new Battlestar Galactica, The Wire – many others can probably rattle off the usual list. Last week we finally finished The Sopranos.
Seem strange that we waited so long to watch it? A show so acclaimed and legendary? Perhaps the show most responsible for bringing in this hard-edged revival of TV drama? That was intentional.
I’d tried watching The Sopranos several times over the past decade and could never get into it. I probably attempted the first episode three times over the years. It was only now — as we’ve finished some of the other “top shelf” HBO and Showtime offerings — that I decided to grit my teeth and give the Soprano family another shot. Maybe if I waded a few episodes in then I’d find aspects of the show to enjoy and we’d be off for another 6-season TV epic. And how nice would it be to finally be up to date and to understand what the big deal was about the show in the first place?
I should have paid attention to my initial gut instinct.
*** SPOILER WARNING FOR NEXT PAGE **** If you haven’t seen the last episode of The Sopranos yet and intend to then click here to jump to page 3 of this article, avoiding the spoilers of the last episode and my explanation for why we should have just skipped The Sopranos altogether.
Lady Gaga went all out to shock at the Phillip Treacy show at London Fashion Week when she arrived at the event dressed in a burqa covered in raccoon tails. She later swapped the outfit for a floral headress. Check out the photos.
The once anti-fur star has once again shocked with her fondness for animal skins, having previously been seen wearing fur while on tour in Bulgaria. During her visit to London Fashion Week over the weekend, Lady Gaga was spotted wearing a cream-coloured burqa with raccoon tails, a pink sheet and a floral headdress.
When she was previously spotted wearing fur, Animal rights group PETA compared her a ‘mindless Kim Kardashian’ before Gaga later attempted to defend her choice to dress in animal skin.
“You see a carcass, I see a museum pièce de résistance,” she wrote in an official statement on her choice to wear fur.
There have been Lady Gaga burka wearing scandals before of course, but nevertheless the sight of the 26 year-old wearing yet another one at the London Fashion Week has had the media talking once again. The Born This Way star can often flash the flesh as much as cover up, but it was latter she opted for this time out as she wore a burka-style outfit adorned with racoon tails, having modelled at the PHILIP TREACY Fashion Week Show.
Gaga – being Gaga – decided to up the controversy levels one step further though, and accessorised the look with a bright pink and yellow bag, with diamantes that spelt out the word c***. Oh Gaga. It was one of a few odd outfits worn by the pop star during the course of the day: earlier on, The Sun had spotted her wearing black leggings and a white jacket topped off with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Jason Beghe is an actor, a Brooklyn tough-guy known for his starring role in the gritty G.I. Jane. In 2008, after fifteen years as a Scientology poster boy, Beghe left the cult and released an interview (embedded below) chronicling his descent into and exodus from L. Ron Hubbard’s bizarre universe.
Beghe’s recruitment, life as a celebrity spokesman, and ultimate rejection of the cult are riveting, particularly for someone like myself who spent nearly thirty years in a cultic religious organization. I was stunned because, even though the doctrines and practices of our respective organizations are so different, I identified perfectly with the mental processes Beghe described. I also believed in a completely irrational worldview and ignored blatant contradictions.
Experts believe people join and remain in cults for similar motives regardless of variations in cult lifestyles and teaching. Harder to find in scholarly research is an explanation of how or why people in wildly differing cults exhibit such similar mental and emotional symptoms.
A potential answer is found in “Confessions of a Coward,” a brilliant article by PJ Media columnist David P. Goldman. Published by First Things, the piece reveals that the scathing political and economic commentaries by “Spengler” actually flowed from Goldman’s eloquent pen. Confiding the story of his return to the practice of Judaism, Goldman admits that from 1976-1986 a compulsion to escape his Jewish identity and find post-1960s structure left him vulnerable to the overtures of the cult leader Lyndon LaRouche.
The Vietnam War, the crisis in race relations, and the cracks in the economic structure of the 1970s persuaded us that we had to do something and that indifference was morally inexcusable. And that is where LaRouche had us. His intellectual method resembled the old tale about stone soup: Having announced that he had the inside track on the hidden knowledge that underlay Western civilization (one of his essays was titled The Secrets Known Only to the Inner Elites,) he attracted a small parade of intellectual orphans, whom he then put to elaborating the details.
The first time I read Goldman’s description of LaRouches’s “soup,” my blood froze:
LaRouche claimed to trace a tradition of secret knowledge across the ages…in LaRouche’s Manichean view of the world, a conspiracy had suppressed the truth in the service of evil oligarchs…the Rockefellers, and the Trilateral Commission all figured variously in this grand conspiracy against LaRouche’s supposed intellectual antecedents. Jewish banking families kept popping up in LaRouche’s accounts of the evil forces.
The worldview promoted by the organization in which I spent my youth mirrors LaRouche’s, but it was not the content that gripped me. What truly leaped off the screen of Goldman’s Confessions was a clue about how cults produce this profound psychological effect that can grab even the brightest of minds into a “cult syndrome.” Goldman exposes what happens when when the “Gnostic Mind” meets reality:
You might think—you should think—that this (LaRouche’s Antisemitism) would have sent us running for the exits. But, Godless and faithless, we were all possessed by a fear of being Jewish, and LaRouche offered us a rock to hide under. In a Carto-influenced article LaRouche later tried to suppress, he put the number of Jewish dead at around 1.5 million. I knew about all this, and I looked the other way. LaRouche took my quantitative study and combined it with the paranoid musings of other researchers into a book, Dope, Inc., that had unmistakable anti-Semitic overtones. I knew about this, too, and again I looked the other way.
It shouldn’t matter that I, an author with the audacity to select such a title, am black. The arguments presented should stand or fall on their objective merit. Nevertheless, I declare my racial identity at the outset to defuse any prejudice readers may bring regarding the motivation behind this piece. Indeed, it is in part because I am black that the following must be said.
All things considered, blacks and the civil rights culture surrounding them are the most open and prolific purveyors of racism in America. This is an ironic travesty which spits upon the graves of history’s abolitionists and offends all who are committed to a dream of equality under the law and goodwill among men.
Surely, such a claim is provocative. Unfortunately, it is also demonstrable.
In a recent interview with National Public Radio host Michel Martin, the Oscar-winning black actor Morgan Freeman made the odd declaration that President Barack Obama is not America’s first black president. NPR reports:
“First thing that always pops into my head regarding our president is that all of the people who are setting up this barrier for him … they just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white — very white American, Kansas, middle of America,” Freeman said. “There was no argument about who he is or what he is. America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. He’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president.”
This is a new take on Obama’s racial identity from Freeman, who has previously cited Obama’s blackness as the chief motivation behind political opposition from both Republicans in Congress and the Tea Party movement. From an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan:
… Morgan asked the actor, “Has Obama helped the process of eradicating racism or has it, in a strange way, made it worse?”
“Made it worse. Made it worse,” Freeman replied. “The tea partiers who are controlling the Republican party … their stated policy, publicly stated, is to do whatever it takes to see to it that Obama only serves one term. What underlines that? Screw the country. We’re going to do whatever we can to get this black man out of here.”
Apparently, Obama is black enough to trigger baseless charges of racism, but not black enough to qualify as the first black president. If that makes your brain hurt, you might be rational.
Freeman’s comments are not anomalies. He channels long-held, broadly accepted ideas regarding what it means to be black, the relevance of race, and the claim of blacks upon the rest of society. These ideas are horrifically racist, yet uniquely tolerated.
The tolerance of racist ideas openly expressed by blacks and the larger civil rights establishment is informed by sloppy thinking regarding both race and the role of government in society. True reconciliation requires confronting these ideas with reason. Here are eight ways in which blacks are perpetuating racism, and the one true way to effectively thwart it.
Here’s the first teaser trailer for The Master starring Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a period piece set after World War II:
Tom Cruise’s fellow Scientology members would like to master “The Master.”
A source familiar with Paul Thomas Anderson ’s film about the founder of a Scientology-like religious movement tells us officials of the controversial church group “hit the roof” when they learned — presumably through Cruise — that the movie contains a scene which suggests the belief system was little more than a product of the leader’s fertile imagination.
In May, Anderson, who is friends with Cruise and directed him in “Magnolia,” the 1999 film that earned Cruise a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination — reportedly screened his film for the “Rock of Ages” star.
“The Master” is said to be loosely based on the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the founder of a 1950s religious movement called The Cause.
Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers. Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood get better with each viewing. And the second teaser showcases pieces from a performance likely to earn Hoffman another Academy Award nomination: