After actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death, The Daily Beast ran an opinion piece by James Poulos, “Everything is Politics to the Right, Even Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death.” One need not point out the irony that the article itself, written from a presumably Leftist perspective, politicizes Hoffman’s death. In this instance, we are too busy being asked to contemplate the dearth of morality on the Right, a movement so committed to their politics that not even death can rest in peace. Poulos essentially took offense at Ben Shapiro’s critique of “‘the broken leftist culture that dominates Hollywood,’ allegedly ‘enabling’ the suicides of its great talents.'” He then spun that offense into a critique of the inhumanity among the stereotypical Christian Right (note: Shapiro is an Orthodox Jew).
Originally dismissed by my editor and friend, David Swindle, as a puff piece written by a “contrarian narcissist” looking to make a buck off of the latest political controversy on the web, I was half tempted to ignore the story myself. But, certain elements within Poulos’s writing smacked of more than self-congratulatory prose.
Firstly, I noticed that the author blames conservatives for what has been a Leftist problem for decades – specifically that, to a Marxist especially, “everything is political.” (The wording I first heard from a critical studies professor, but an avowed Communist later backed him up.) Secondly, I noticed how the author attempted to defend a religious point of view by claiming that conservatives have none – specifically that they have no mercy. It’s a rather abusive point of view given the history of Marxism, specifically the way socialist governments relate to their constituents. Yet, it works to elevate progressive liberalism/Marxism to a holy state of reverence.
The bottom line is that critiques like this are published consistently. They seem fairly innocuous to most people because they address cultural issues as opposed to pressing political ones. But, I couldn’t help but wonder if they play an integral part in the broader disinformation campaign actively at work within our culture. So, I reached out to Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa for his take on the story.
Poulos’ story smacks of disinformation. Remember? There is a major condition for a disinformation to succeed: to be built around a “kernel of truth” that would lend credibility. Shapiro’s 130-word post about Hoffman’s death provided that kernel of truth. The rest of Poulos’ story is, in my view, a diversion. Hoffman’s horrible death risked stirring up ugly debates about liberals’ legalization of drugs in the US, and Poulos did his best to change the subject. In the process, he demonized Shapiro’s conservatism.
Poulos story looks to me like a version of Hillary’s “It takes a Village.” That was another diversion. In 1996 she was defending her involvement in Whitewater & Travelgate, and she changed the subject. Hillary also killed two birds with one stone — remember Obama’s “if you’ve got a business, you did not build that”?
Hillary’s diversion worked–in spite of all her problems, she became a US senator.
The Coen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski (ironically also a film co-starring Philip Seymour Hoffman) tells the story of The Dude, a guy who gets pulled into a multi-layered plot involving a trophy wife, nihilists, pornographers, feminists and a rich guy named The Big Lebowski. The Big Lebowski convinces the Dude that his trophy wife has been kidnapped. It is only after unraveling umpteen subplots of disinformation (and not letting his thinking get so “uptight”) that The Dude learns the kernel of truth: The Big Lebowski was among those taking financial advantage of the fact that the trophy wife had simply skipped town.
Sound familiar? For cinema fans, it should bring to mind The Maltese Falcon – yet another movie whose MacGuffin distracted the audience from the kernel of truth that fed the plot. In the case of Poulos’s attack on the Conservative Right, he is playing his own version of The Big Lebowski, attempting to twist the story in order to get rich quick off Shapiro’s kernel of truth.
And that, as Walter Sobchak would say, is “very un-Dude.”
Conquering Disinformation 101: Don’t let your thinking get so uptight. Instead, learn to recognize the kernel of truth floating in the sea of disinformation so that you may quickly and easily unravel fact from fiction. As Anne Shirley was fond of saying, “The truth will set you free.”