People email me more now that I’m in exile than they did before, and I always had a healthy correspondence from readers. (Aside from people telling me to kill myself, most people I heard from were always at the brink of despair, whether about politics or about the state of the media business. Media has so, so many orphans.) Anyway here’s a couple questions, lightly or significantly edited, that I’ll answer and leave up for a day or two before deleting in self-hatred.
Are you writing a racist book (this is like a dozen emails hemming and hawing rather than coming out and asking this)
Do you really think it’s constructive to call everyone who disagrees with you a cop?
This is a reference to an essay I wrote once called “Planet of Cops.” You don’t like it, so let’s simplify:
The cops, the principal, and the boss are the cops, the principal, and the boss all the time.
That’s the basic idea, that power is power always and that it’s exceedingly unwise to presume that power stops being power when you want to access it. So take student protesters. When they go begging to the campus administration to solve their problems, they are forgetting that power is always power. It happens that the peculiar financial dynamics of elite universities means that administrators will often side with students. But that should only make students more suspicious and less likely to supplicate before the administrators; they are most certainly not doing what students want out of an authentic endorsement of the principles the students fight for. When Screaming Woke Twitter asks Twitter, the huge evil Silicon Valley corporation, to censor someone, they are forgetting that the corporate monster is always the corporate monster. Sure, they might give you what you think you want in the short term. But you’re writing a check, and they will cash it.
It should go without saying: running to someone else’s boss to get them fired means that you’re validating and endorsing the power of bosses. You don’t get to pick and choose. You believe in the boss having arbitrary power over people or you don’t. That’s it.
(By the way I’m a unionized public sector employee on a long term contract so to the people who still come after my job… good luck.)
What did you think of the Zizek-Peterson debate
I mean, it was fine, I guess. Neither participant seemed to be that into it. Zizek is fine, in the sense that I have no problems with his pop political persona. That’s the only way I can access him. I am not able to really engage with his academic side because he’s Lacanian and I do not “have” Lacan. I read The Ethics of Psychoanalysis in grad school along with the same other three articles everybody in the humanities reads. I did not understand it. My instinct is to reject it all, because Lacan was Freudian and Freud was pretty definitively making stuff up. But! There are people who use Freud as a lens, rather than as a guru, to very useful analytical ends, and thus there must be people who use Lacan to very useful analytical ends. So Zizek might be great. I just can’t decide if he is, because I don’t have Lacan.
Peterson, you know, he’s just not very bright. I find the movement to make Peterson into this symbol of incipient fascism to be so dopey, strategically. Because he’s obviously not that, and when you call this unthreatening Canadian professor a sign of a new Reich, people just tune out what you’ve said. I think this is really and clearly and truly a case of where you exaggerate an opponent’s power and it only serves their interests. You know what Peterson is? He’s lazy. Deeply lazy. Like, he was never in a position to debate Marxism because he was probably googling “who was Engels” in the cab on the way to the venue. The man equates Marxism and postmodernism, calls them the same. But postmodernism, at bottom, is resistance to all grand narratives. And Marxism is the grandest narrative of all. This is not a guy worthy of your hatred. Let him sell his whitebread Marie Kondo to his sadboy fans. Let him work his grift, let him have it. What’s the upside to acting like he’s Adolf Eichmann? What’s it doing for you, exactly?
Are you coming back?
Shortest answers, no, never. Short answer, I have a book coming out. But longer answer, no. Don’t worry internet: my book isn’t a comeback tour, it’s an exit plan.
I am not “coming back” as in returning to social media, to freelance writing (though, haters, I get asked often), or to regular blogging or other forms of regular internet engagement. Not ever. Because giving up on those things is a necessary demonstration that I understand the things that I have done, that I recognize them as inexcusable, that I take them seriously. There has to be some way that I demonstrate to people that I know how badly I behaved, and this is one way. If I show up one day and say “Hey guys! Guess who’s cured?” it would be an insult to the severity of my crash. And, as you probably already guessed, I’m an immensely healthier and happier person when I stay offline. So it’s win-win.
When I discuss things with people who knew me online, from time to time, they naturally only know what the internet knows. My internet behaviors, as terrible as they were, were not the only problem, though they were reason enough to seek help and to beg forgiveness. It is difficult for me to talk about my condition. I guess just understand this: my manias do not come packaged with elation or euphoria. I’m sorry to say. I do not feel invincible and I do not feel all powerful. I only feel paranoid. That’s it. It crowds out everything. It becomes my personality. Someone once asked me if I get suicidal when I am deep into it, but if anything I have the opposite problem: I become so intensely focused on my short-term physical survival that nothing else matters, that I do and say terrible things. I am convinced that personal intimacy means vulnerability, and I express this belief in ways that range from annoying (constantly texting and demanding to know, right now, if the person truly loves me) to dangerous (stalking, harassment, and threats). By the end, my thoughts had become florid. Two days before I went to RUMC I called my bank and accused them of conspiring against me with the police. And then I did much worse.
Since my brother took me to the hospital, there have been changes. I take five psychiatric drugs every day, and some days six. Currently 1200mg lithium carbonate ER, 10mg olanzapine, 300mg bupropion, 20mg fluoxetine, 20mg dextroamphetamine, and sometimes .5mg alprazolam. (This does not count the Metformin, for the medication-induced weight gain and subsequent pre-diabetes; the occasional Cialis, because the sexual side effects of the medication are real; the just-in-case bottle of Ambien I keep under the bed; CBD oil under my tongue at 7:00 AM and 2:00 PM; (legal!) phenibut on the weekends to relax; and nightly melatonin gummies that, if I’m being entirely honest, are more about eating gummies than they are about sleep, because the olanzapine hunger is the realest thing I’ve ever experienced.) I took time off work while I got back basic control. I saw my psychiatrist once a week for the first month, once every two weeks for the following year, and once a month since. I had meetings with a social worker. I have done cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalytic therapy. I went to AA meetings, off and on, for a year, though my heart was never in it. I have attended a mental health support group, been to meditation classes, and done yoga.
None of this, of course, would placate anyone individually, and the internet least of all. Twitter does not forgive. But that’s maybe the best part of all this, the silver lining: I didn’t do it for anyone else. When you find rock bottom, something in you dies, and part of that thing is the incessant voice of other people. You have no idea how beautiful it really was, after that first shot of Geodon, those first few weeks. Today I work to find that equanimity again, but if I’m being honest I find it only in the great nothing that I call Big Flat, the absence of personhood you can suffer from – or enjoy – under the influence of these drugs. And to be honest I don’t care if it’s chemically induced.
We lack, at least in the West, a way to say “I am sorry, but I am not asking forgiveness.” An apology can be an aggressive thing. I know; I’ve made many of them, in my life. Too many. Who am I to thrust someone into the position of feeling compelled to offer forgiveness, or not to? It’s an inherently unfair thing to do. I don’t expect anyone to forgive me, least of all the people who I most directly harmed. I know that for many people, the only rational attitude is to reject me forever.
All that I want to say to those people, to those few people who I knew in real life and whose trust I broke again and again, is this: I know. You were right about everything. Every decision you made was rational. My accusations and threats were, in a literal sense, delusional. And you were right to tell me to leave you alone forever and, indeed, you were right to threaten to call the cops. Because even my rules have limits. You were right. I have no defense. You were right.
But I can’t say that stuff. Because all you can do, the only gift you can give and the last penance you can make, is to stay away. And so I’m staying away. And I am so sorry.