An Open Letter to My Former College Professor re: Julian Assange

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Good morning, Professor. During my last visit, you requested the link to my website, which I’ve included in this message. I appreciate your interest, but I confess I am much more deeply disappointed by your declining to respond to the email I sent you and your colleagues in April. I was surprised, and more than a little sad, that you did not even remember it, nor did you recall the golden rope that I left in your mailbox. To refresh your memory, you presented the golden rope to me at the honors convocation, staged a few days before my college graduation. The rope symbolized the program award, presented to the graduate who best represents the enthusiasm, integrity, and values sought within the field of study; in this case, the English program.

When you told me in the spring of 2015 that you and your colleagues unanimously selected me to receive this honor, I thought very carefully about whether to accept it. I knew my love of literature was unsurpassed, and I knew I had worked very hard on every commentary and essay I wrote for each of you, not to mention the many hours I spent discussing the philosophy of education with Professor P—, but I could not justify my academic cowardice. Not once in my two years under your tutelage was I courageous enough to voice my dread, dread for what I saw happening around me. I was too scared to tell Professor W— that her students were learning nothing in her class, I was too pusillanimous to tell P— that his approach to African literature was downright intolerant, and I was too intimidated to tell you how shameful it was, your reduction of Shakespeare to third-wave feminist theory.

In every classroom, I watched in horror as my classmates, oblivious twenty-somethings who were scarcely capable of looking up from their cell phones, mortgaged their futures to attend politicized lectures fraudulently presented as literary education. They never received a grounding in classical literature—they couldn’t, not when you and your colleagues freely admitted you had not received such a grounding, either—and they were not trained in formal political theory, learning only of the corporate liberalism championed by you and your colleagues. Their education was useless, which raised the question: why were they paying $12,000 a year to receive it? I can’t comment on any of the other disciplines at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, but the English department was a betrayal of all that academia is supposed to be.

Alas, I couldn’t express any of this to you, concerned as I was that I would be punished with lower grades. I don’t wish to speak ill of P—, who is now dead and therefore unable to defend himself, but he marked me down on several occasions, simply for criticizing the novels he assigned to the class; accordingly, I had every reason to suspect that the consequences for challenging him, or you, would be much more serious. The closest I came to institutional defiance was in writing a letter to the dean, pleading with him not to hire Seth Abramson, whose literary ignorance and intellectual laziness were unmistakable: his teaching demonstration, required as part of his job interview, was an embarrassing failure, and my subsequent discussion with him confirmed my fear that he would degrade the university even further. We should note that Abramson was applying for the position formerly held by Professor Brown, the only English professor at UNH-M with serious experience in classical literature.

The dean never responded to that letter. Neither did you, except to scowl at me when I said I was doubtful a worthy successor to Brown would come along. On the extraordinary occasions that I’ve dared to disagree with you, you have always responded swiftly, with contempt, as if to inform me that my opinion is welcome only if it mirrors yours. No doubt, that is why I wrote about sexism in sixteenth-century England for my capstone essay, even though I knew the arguments I crafted were incredibly weak, and the evidence presented to support them even weaker: I knew that, on the off-chance you recognized these flaws, you would happily overlook them, eager as you were to accept anything that bolsters your preferred ideology of bourgeois feminism. In knowledge of my guilt, how could I possibly accept the program award?

I did accept it, though, and I felt filthy about it. I felt like a prostitute, for I had submitted to your anti-scholastic tyranny simply to receive a pat on the head and a golden rope. This guilt weighed on me after my graduation ceremony, and in the two years following. During that time, I came to see that my moral and intellectual failings far exceeded my gutless subservience at UNH-M, and I was so disgusted with myself for so many reasons that I finally decided to kill myself. My crude obeisance to you and the institution was not my primary motivation, but it was certainly a factor, in part because the diploma framed on my desk makes me nauseous every time I see it.

It’s been more than two years since I tried to kill myself, and more than four years since I graduated from college, but I continued to visit P— quite frequently until about six months before he died. Our conversations had become increasingly heated and strained through the years, in part because I refused to halt my pointed criticism of Seth Abramson and his quixotic quest for celebrity status. As you are already aware, Abramson has become a C-list public pseudointellectual, penning fiction and conspiracy theories presented as rigorous investigative journalism. He produces agitprop for a confused liberal audience, and not unlike Debbie Wasserman Schultz, he has assiduously refused to apologize, now that his hoax has been exposed.

In Abramson’s case, the hoax was Proof of Collusion, his massive collection of gossip that sought to demonstrate Trump’s treasonous coordination with the Russian government. His claptrap was conclusively debunked by Robert Mueller in March, but much like Schultz, and even much like Trump, he defends his lie in the face of fatal contrary proof. In fact, less than a month after Mueller delivered what should have been a career-ending blow, Abramson sat down with Bill Maher and doubled down on his dishonesty. At the end of their disorienting exchange, Maher mocked Julian Assange, who had been arrested in London just a few days before, and suggested that Abramson could take over where Assange had “gone bad”.

I will never forget that smug smirk on Abramson’s face, nor will I forgive him for daring to accept such undeserved praise. Julian Assange is a martyr for intellectual freedom and political volition. He has been imprisoned, in one form or another, for more than a decade, and he has been subjected to psychological torture that none of us can ever imagine. Seth Abramson is a publicity whore, a prostitute to the Democratic Party, a pseudointellectual, a narcissist, a fraud, a liar, and a carnival barker who pigs out at the expense of people with far more integrity than he could ever possess. It is blasphemous to compare him to a beautiful spirit like Julian Assange, and it is with the greatest self-restraint that I do not describe the repulsive moral crime that Abramson has committed. I am speaking, of course, of his insistence that Assange conspired with the Russian government, an act of slander that has been used, time and time again, to justify Assange’s torture.

Assange’s blood is on Abramson’s hands, and this ought to be enough for the university to tear up Abramson’s contract. I understood this in April, which is why, shortly thereafter, I returned the golden rope and disavowed the program award: I will not accept honors from a university whose values are incompatible with mine. I no longer mention the program award on my website, and I have never said with pride that I attended the institution. I informed you of all of this in an email that I wrote in the spring, an email that I addressed to the dean but sent to you, Walsh, and even Abramson, an email to which I have yet to receive a response.

To be clear, I do not expect you to join me in criticizing one of your colleagues. However, I cannot understand why you did not reach out to me when I said I was ashamed to have been a student of the university. What does your silence say about your supposed respect for my academic work? Is my subsequent disavowal of no concern to you? Am I right to suspect that you never really valued or respected my work at all, and that you praised me only because I wrote what you wished to read, because I was doing as I was told? Did you appreciate my obedience, rather than me? And does this prove that my opinion really was welcome only when it mirrored yours?

During my last visit, and I do believe it will be my last, you clamed you did not receive the email I just mentioned, but at the end of the visit, you admitted that you did, and that you found the golden rope, although you couldn’t remember what you had done with it. It must not have been important enough for you to commit it to memory, likewise with my email. I do not want to be a boor and force people to do what they don’t want to do, so I won’t demand any kind of response to or acknowledgment of this message, either. All I will do is say that I intend to burn my diploma later this week, to finally divest myself of all corrosive bonds to the University of New Hampshire-Manchester. To quote a graphic novel that Abramson is teaching in his current class: “I no longer wish to look at dead things.”

Your former student,

Dack Rouleau

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In Critique of Influence

“I thought this person was my friend, but I have learned that he is not. He has hurt me and betrayed me. He has lied to me, mistreated me, and failed to deliver on his promises to me. In conclusion, he is a terrible influence upon me. I shall sever ties with him and cut him from my life. That solves that!”

Does it, though? Does the removal of this man from your immediate sphere obviate his influence upon you, as well? The people in the world I will never meet outnumber by billions those whom I will, yet a momentary glance at these pages suggests that the former wield a much more powerful influence upon me. Familiarity and influence are not synonymous, much less interchangeable, and any contrary assertion mistakes the influence for the person—an embarrassing error. How could it be that the influence and the person are one and the same? Influence is an effect, an external effect unto someone who is not the source of this influence. To say that I am my influence is to say that I am the influence and the influenced simultaneously! The serpent devouring its own tail, even as the tail devours the serpent!

This is a primitive error, the error of government: “We will remove the murderer from society. So ends the influence of his crime of killing!” Such reactionaryism misunderstands not only the nature of the relationship between influence and actor, but the nature of the influence itself. Unwarranted emphasis is placed on incidental symptoms of the influence, while the ethereal influence is ignored, if not unknown. Superficiality is both motivation and distortion, and just as government promotes a superficial approach to all things in life, so are those who seek an authoritarian governance over their own lives guided by a relentless obsession with surface.

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Traitors of Journalism: Hillary Clinton, Minister of Misinformation

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“In short, there are a hundred ways in which you can listen to your conscience. But that you take this or that judgment for the voice of conscience—in other words, that you feel something to be right—may be due to the fact that you have never thought much about yourself and simply have accepted blindly that what you had been told ever since your childhood was right; or it may be due to the fact that what you call your duty has up to this point brought you sustenance and honors—and you consider it “right” because it appears to you as your own ‘condition of existence’ (and that you have a right to existence seems irrefutable to you).”

–Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882

A process whereby, or an entity wherein, something is transmitted is a medium. Certainly, writing is the medium through which I transmit or communicate my thoughts. When you have more than one medium, or more than one version of a medium, then you have media, a word that, in its plural form, is seldom spoken in the United States. When the innumerable media are amalgamated, when they bind to one another and consolidate unto a solidified mass, then the term becomes singular—the media, as it is helpfully labelled—and we are referring not to a medium, but to a monolith. By its nature, a monolith is oppressive and threatening, hence why we invariably rebel against it. The media is no exception: whether we are right-wing conservatives condemning fake news or liberal progressives castigating propaganda, we perpetually war against the monolith; we tirelessly fight to overthrow the media.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/18/politics/hillary-clinton-tulsi-gabbard/index.html

Our mistake is to attempt to destroy one piece of the media at a time, as if the removal of a single brick could collapse an entire castle. When we read Dan Merica’s article, deceitfully presented as if it were a work of objective journalism, we immediately expend our collective salvo on a furious discrediting of his clumsy butchery—and easily so, as Merica lives up to his incidentally clownish, jingoistic name. In a piece for CNN, Merica reports on Hillary Clinton’s accusation—really, more of a juvenile taunt—that Tulsi Gabbard is coordinating with “the Russians” to discourage us from voting for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in November 2020. He acknowledges that “Clinton did not provide proof about how Russia is ‘grooming’ Gabbard”, but a few minutes later, he quotes Clinton’s spokesman, who says: “If the Russian propaganda machine, both their state media and their bot and troll operations, is backing a candidate aligned with their interests, that is just a reality, it is not speculation.”

Quickly, we submit countless quintessential questions. Why does Merica obtain quotes from Clinton’s spokesman on two separate occasions, yet he does not reach out to Gabbard for comment even once? How does the occasional praise of punditry, delivered through media like RT, who have no affiliation with Gabbard’s presidential campaign, amount to “grooming”, a term that implies a direct partnership between Gabbard and Putin? Furthermore, why did Merica, in the same paragraph in which he noted Clinton failed to present any evidence, immediately describe “allegations that Russian news and propaganda sites often report on Gabbard’s campaign and that moments in Gabbard’s campaign have been reportedly amplified by trolls and bots on Twitter”? Why did he voluntarily and generously justify Clinton’s baseless claim? Why did he emphasize the Russians’ suspicious habit of reporting on Gabbard’s campaign while refusing to make mention of the Americans’ curious habit of ignoring her campaign?

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The Masochistic Democratic Debates, Parts V and VI

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Is white rum a microaggression? What if the victim is too sloshed to be wounded? Does it become . . . a supermicroaggression?

Part V

Cullen Tiernan spoke much too gently when he compared the fifth round of the Democratic Party’s presidential debates to The Godfather: Part III. It is true that both of these frivolous spectacles ran for three unforgivably protracted hours, and it is true that neither had any clear raison d’être, but whereas every self-preserving person has already forgotten the “third” debate, the third installment of the Godfather series has achieved a perverse cultural persistence: it invariably resurfaces in any conversation pertaining to the series, though usually only as an easy punchline. Not everyone is clever, but almost anyone can craft an amusing joke at the expense of The Godfather: Part III; yet, conversely, it is nigh impossible to say anything funny about the third debate, not because it can’t or shouldn’t be ridiculed, but because it has been universally forgotten, no one is in on the joke!

I watched that debate, but my memory is fuzzier than the final inch of tape on a VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back. I thought about revisiting that debate and watching the highlights—as much of the highlights as I could tolerate, I mean—but even I am unprepared to subject myself to such a mastery of masochism four months before the New Hampshire primary. I can offer you only the notes that I hurriedly took on my phone before Captain Morgan flushed me away. For some reason, it became more coherent as I went along, as I plunged deeper and deeper into my liquor cabinet. I necessarily conclude that inebriation is required if one is to understand the political process in the United States, which more closely resembles a mating ritual than any past ethnographer allowed himself to see.

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Why did I need to remind myself that it was Beto O’Rourke who promised to disarm the citizens—sorry, to take away their AR-15s? It must have seemed reasonable at the time to suspect the media would overwrite that statement, conceal it amidst coverage of something less ominous. Thereafter, Cory Booker made another embarrassing attempt at political philosophizing, lauding the inherent benevolence of the State, even amidst overwhelming evidence to the contrary—an interesting topic for a treatise, no doubt, but not for a single installment of this series. Hmm, let’s see: Joe Biden is asking every nation on earth to join America in threatening China with an unfathomable fusillade of firepower to compel China to . . . to do what, exactly? Of course, so reckless a statement remains unfinished: we must make time for the BBC, who asks which candidate had the sharpest one-liner.

Ah, I don’t want to write any more about this. Out with the old, in with the new!

Part VI

If the “third” debate was a shameless ceremony of political strappado, then the fourth was billed—in alternative media, at least—as the deliverance of the wounded body unto lubricity, to a gentle caressing of the cerebral faculties culminating in orgiastic release. Anyone who believed that must have been suffering from political malnourishment, starved by the absence, by the denial, of Tulsi Gabbard from the third debate. Hunger can lead to psychosis, and anyone who expects deliverance of any form in the form of a political forum aired on corporate television obviously needed to eat, yet a political discussion is an act of digestion. Here, the desperate placed the cart before the horse, as if they were reading the closing chapter first.

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Nietzsche and the Social Justice Warriors

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Today is the 175th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich Nietzsche, my spiritual mentor and—or, perhaps, because he was—the finest writer who ever lived. Yet, this is a date that few will observe, for the serious reader of Nietzsche is nigh as rare today as he (or she!) was in Nietzsche’s lifetime. Much to our discredit and our disadvantage, as there may be no stronger tonic, no superior antidote, to our pervasive social toxins than the joyous polemics and ironical ethnography of history’s only truly apolitical intellectual. We sink our nails and fangs into our neighbor’s throat in search of the solution to our political questions, questions which Nietzsche swiftly dismissed as the symptoms of “a diet of beer and newspapers”. I couldn’t even write that without feeling guilty for partaking in, and contributing to, our ubiquitous and incurable political obsession, especially because I have done so only with the best intentions. Even this essay, wherein we yoke Nietzsche into the political maelstrom, risks a betrayal of his anti-political stance!

Would we commit this betrayal on the man’s birthday, no less? Would we reduce ourselves to the miserable state of Ayn Rand, whose only unforgivable mistake was her persistent attempt to apply Nietzschean thought politically? Not so fast: Nietzsche’s hostility to politics must not be mistaken for political silence. It is not that he had nothing to say about politics, or that he would never argue against a political perspective, but that he would never argue for a political position or ideology. In other words, one can refer to Nietzsche’s writings when disproving a political claim, but one is forbidden to use his writing in defense of the opposite, or in defense of anything strictly political.

In fact, when reading Nietzsche, it is nigh impossible not to reflect on our modern state of political dysfunction. Consider this entry, titled “On the critique of saints”, which appears in his book, The Gay Science:

“To have a virtue, must one really wish to have it in its most brutal form—as the Christian saints wished—and needed—it? They could endure life only by thinking that the sight of their virtue would engender self-contempt in anyone who saw them. But a virtue with this effect I call brutal.”

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Traitors of Journalism: Lisa Lerer, Character Assassin & Eraser of History

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On Thursday, I published a reproof of Pieter Friedrich, a religious fundamentalist who, in a series of subreptitious tweets, accused me of conspiring with Tulsi Gabbard to videotape a fake campaign rally wherein an actress would ask a question about Gabbard’s financial ties to the RSS. I prefaced my essay with an expression of distaste for the business—needed, but distasteful—of exposing the fatuity of my fellow journalists, the vast majority of whom are paid to proliferate and reinforce the propaganda of the American Empire: we must disassemble their multilayered mendacity, but it is so much more rewarding to produce our own independent content. Alas, forty-eight hours after the fall of Mr. Friedrich, another fabulist emerges from the smoggy bog to deepen the pollution of the corporate media: Lisa Lerer, a writer for The New York Times and a woman embalmed within her inextricable connections, and morally bankrupt loyalty, to the Democratic Party establishment.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/12/us/politics/tulsi-gabbard.html

Early Saturday morning, the Times published Lerer’s essay: “What, Exactly, is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?” Titled less as a question than as a declaration, Lerer’s piece is the latest in a voluminous store of letters in which writers express their dyspeptic concern that Gabbard is fostering disunity in the Democratic Party. The charge, articulated as clumsily by Lerer as it was by Aaron Rupar and Molly Jong-Fast, is that Gabbard has profaned the moral sanctity of the Democratic Party by questioning the integrity of the Party’s presidential primary process. Most conspicuously and controversially, she has condemned the polling system—its criteria as well as its execution—whereby candidates are invited to or excluded from televised debates. Her criticism ought to be utterly uncontroversial, rooted as it is in demonstrable fact, but the party establishment takes umbrage with her sacrilegious skepticism, and it has sent its rottweilers in the corporate media to overwrite her message.

However, Gabbard’s most recent challenge pertains not to the polling system, but to the delegate system in the state primaries and caucuses. For all of the inexorable attention paid to polling in the media, there is suspiciously slight “official interest” in the delegate tallies, likely because a serious examination of such would reveal the sickly undemocratic principles of our so-called democracy. The delegate system, a term that is more than incidentally authoritarian, achieved popular interest in the summer of 2016, when Bernie Sanders netted far fewer delegates at the Democratic National Convention than his performances in the primaries and caucuses would suggest. This nonplussing inversion, further complicated by WikiLeaks’s invaluable revelations that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was conspiring against Sanders from the start of his presidential campaign, led to calls for intraparty reform.

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Traitors of Journalism: Pieter Friedrich, Conspiracy Theorist/Freewheeling Slanderer

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Overcrowding at Tulsi Gabbard’s event in Londonderry, New Hampshire on 10/01/2019. Conspiracy theorist Pieter Friedrich questions the authenticity of a video I released (which can be viewed here) in which a woman challenged Tulsi Gabbard’s alleged support of the Modi administration in India. He also wants to know why no other recording of the event exists. Note the person filming in the picture above.

I really don’t enjoy expending my time and energy on fruitless measures of journalistic warfare, not when it is far more satisfying to argue in the affirmative, but in the last nine days, I have been beset a desperate mob of unprincipled critics, some of whom seem to misrepresent me knowingly, with malice. We have already vanquished Lucid Primate, a man who failed to live up even to his own unflattering name when he scolded me for exposing his idol, Bernie Sanders, hours before he accused me of plotting to assassinate Sanders; but in the midst of that controversy, it was easy to overlook the outlandish accusations made by Pieter Friedrich, a self-proclaimed expert on “South Asian affairs” who, for the last year, has written extensively, though not at all convincingly, about his favorite political fantasy. According to this man, Tulsi Gabbard is a devoted agent of the RSS, and as President of the United States, she will empower that military group at the fatal expense of Indian Muslims.

Anyone who has followed the Gabbard campaign—or anyone who has read my own work, for that matter—is sufficiently conversant with the assiduous claim, as baseless today as it was in January, that Gabbard labors to empower bloodthirsty warmongers all over the globe, that there is no sight she finds more delectably sadistic than the vision of persecuted millions perishing at the bad end of an imperialist weapon. It’s an awfully creative and audacious accusation to be made of the one presidential candidate in the Democratic Party who has spoken in unambiguous, credible contempt of the military-industrial complex, but ours is the time of tragic irony, and on this day, it is not at all improper to accuse a critic of imperialism of untoward aggression.

The corporate media rewards this inverted and insane commentary, and as Ana Kasparian profits by voicing it to the lowest common denominator, Pieter Friedrich gussies up the same propaganda for the bourgeois pseudointellectuals. If this were Russiagate, then Kasparian would play the part of Rachel Maddow, Friedrich that of Seth Abramson. Friedrich wrote a preposterously prolix piece on the imaginary connections between Gabbard and the RSS, a scroll that, by his own boastful and incessant reminders, runs for more than 18,000 words; by contrast, my longest piece published here, on a website named for wordiness, ran for less than 7,000. And yet, in all of that language, Friedrich fails to forge even the most tenuous link—although we shouldn’t pick on him, not when Abramson wasted four hundred and fifty pages without finding a single proof of collusion.

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