3A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows" 

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.

Assassination of the Ashes
February 23, 2007

If we are to understand the workings of undo influence - the methods by which totalitarians, censors and manipulators alter perceptions, we must look at the not-so-subtle character of character assassination.  The process of silencing one’s critics has long been a method of ducking responsibility for ones actions.  If you can steal a man’s cookie jar and when he complains in court - claim he is an unstable chocaholic - you will get away scott free.  What used to be a subtle ruse to corrupt the testimony of witnesses, has been so exposed in TV and movies and online dramatics - that we know most of the tricks.  The process of character assassination is now a staple of everyone from White House spinners, to damage controllers to corporate raiders, lawyers, philanderers and company operatives.  If you want to spin the public’s opinion against an opponent, don’t just go negative… Assassinate the spokesman. 

Unfortunately for the practitioners of these less than artful crafts, they are now tired, over-used, easily recognized and… stodgy.  In the old days, before global blogging and chat rooms and text messaged dialogs, one could reliably assassinate a character in a handful of newspapers.  Then came television and with a handful of networks to manipulate, an opponent could be destroyed with a single mass media hit job.  But the hits took on the same appearance over and over again, and soon we started to recognize their earmarks.   Today’s character assassinations utilize the two big Kahunas of attack:  substance abuse and child abuse.  They were (in days past) deemed the two guarantors of character destruction.  The quickest path to death of character is to successfully accuse one of being a substance abuser.  Got a problem with a critic?  Announce to the world that the critic is a secret drunk, drug addict, glutton, shoe fetishist etc.  Got a critic who doesn’t drink, smoke or use drugs? (…our sympathies).  Tell the world they hunger for the flesh of children.  It is the absolute top of the heap, silver bullet, knock ‘em dead in their tracks - never-fail fix for troublemakers. 

Between substance abuse and child molestation there is a bonus assassination category.  It is called mental illness.  Or mental instability.  If one can show one’s critic in a state of mental incoherence - triumph is within grasp!  There is no better testimony to a character’s state of disrepair than to show them mumbling, muttering, forgetful, drooling, swiping at unseen skeeters or… digging through a trash barrel.  Ah, the poetic beauty of the jape!  Just a whisper of the intolerable word, “pedophile” and even the great will tumble into a heap of simpering, equivocated humiliation.  At least, that is what the whisper once could do.  Today though, the tables have turned.  After a hundred years of modern character assassinations, the media itself has found the tactics useful.  For example in the most recent film version of “Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street” set in contemporary New York - a man, ostensibly the real Santa Clause, is set upon by character hit men.  Their first attack is grimly revealing - a provocateur bully approaches Mr. Clause on the street and taunts him.  “You like having little boys and girls sit on your lap, don’t you?  Gives you a chance to cop a feel… maybe breathe on their sweet innocent flesh now, don’t it?”  Even this most benevolent of father figures is shamefully attacked this way.  And when Mr. Clause, infuriated by the perversion of the attack, whirls and raises his cane - the enemy has triumphed.  For the moment. 

The movie is a resounding success.  Not just because of its venerable story - but because it dares to use the once hidden stealth tactics of the character assassin as the villain in its plot.  Once such methods become the dastardly device of  Hollywood screenplays - they have lost their ability to lord it over the monkeys.  They are the outed, limp tactics of faded cloak-wearers.  Accusing the real Santa Clause of pedophilia??  Have the assassins been nipping on the crack pipe too many years now?? 

There are of course real villains in the world.  There are real dangerous drug addicts and child molesters and they are to be dealt with on just, and lawful terms.  But we must be vigilant to observe who is being accused of what, by whom and for what possible motive.  Vigilance against our real enemies is manifest in our careful watch for intolerance of phony ones.  Our greatest protection is the prompt, outspoken questioning of suspect accusation.   Only vigilance against vigilantism can halt a slide toward totalitarian behavior.  The Grinch is trained to steal Christmas - and we must be ready to deter him.