Monthly Archives: June 2014

Bruce Fein Interviewed by Ian Masters: A Transcript, With Interruptions

(Once again, something is written here that is far too long. What follows is missing one last insert that – how can one avoid being melodramatic? – contains the most astonishing material. It will only arrive by July 2nd – this post will no doubt have to be broken in two, as there is just so much additional material. This second, last, part will arrive only by July 4th at the earliest, due to additional accompanying research.)

What follows is the result of one of many idle moments while researching a very long piece, when one delves into banalities in an attempt to escape your work and expend as little energy as possible. I looked, as I often do, at the search terms by which people get to this site. There was the ever present question, “whatever happened to helena kallionotes?” (the post which mentions and praises her, “Nicholas Roeg’s Eureka”, provides no answer), the perennial “morgue female corpse” and its dutiful companion, “beautiful dead woman morgue” (both of which end up not at the inevitable fate of us all, but at “Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story Part Three”, which features a distorted picture of the mortal beloved), “andy kaufman wrestling orgies” (“Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers: The Future of Advertising”, those whores), the intriguing “women masturbate in the dark and scary places” most likely leads to “Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan: Traumanovelle” and the practical minded but melancholy “how to know if hymen has been broken” no doubt ends up there as well.

It was the search for “mahtaub lolavar” which incited all that happened next, as I immediately wondered what had prompted interest in this fascinating, marginal character I’d once written about. Her path had crossed with that figure of shadowy and over-rated menace, political operative and troublemaker Roger Stone. This post in the ten part series, “Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless is Going Straight to Hell Part Six”, described the brief period when Stone was part of the lobby shop Ikon Public Affairs. Her name then wasn’t quite Mahtaub Lolavar, but Mattie Fein, and her consulting firm, Triumph Communications, were brought in for work on two contracts. And then she was dropped. And then she sued them: Lolavar v. de Santibañes, a lawsuit eventually dismissed on grounds of jurisdiction. The Santibañes at the heart of the suit was Fernando de Santibañes, the Secretary of Intelligence of Argentina, who was the man at the center of the second contract. Lolavar alleged that Ikon had asked that she obtain from SIDE, the Argentine intelligence agency, a list of journalists known to have taken bribes and then disseminate the information, all in order to counteract a bribery scandal involving the country’s president, Fernando de la Rua, and Santibañes. She was also supposed to make payments in order to obtain information from Israeli intelligence, which she would then alter to appear as coming from SIDE, information which would be used in some of Rua’s fights with his political rival, Dr. Carlos Menem – again, allegedly1. She would go on to start the Institute for Persian Studies, which was a think tank designed to shape the government of Iran following internal regime change. This institute was founded by Mattie Fein, but when she was interviewed by Spencer Ackerman about the project, “New Iran Regime-Change Think Tank Opens in DC”, she was now Mahtaub Hojjati. The think tank would fold, and in 2010, Mahtaub Hojjati would go on to run, and lose, against Jane Harman in California’s 36th congressional district – though she was now running under the name Mattie Fein. The race would produce this memorable ad, where she accused Harman of being the boyfriend of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though she refrained from saying Harman had cooties:

Mattie Fein would end her appearance on this site with the kind of exit that is my weakness, the enigmatic baroque. Her ex-husband was Bruce Fein, a lawyer who would achieve his greatest prominence working on Rand Paul’s lawsuit against the NSA – though a large chunk of this was unwanted. It came about after his wife accused Ken Cuccinelli, another lawyer in the suit, of stealing her husband’s material. “I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein,” Mattie Fein would tell Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank. “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit,” she’d add. And: that Rand Paul “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.” Cuccinelli was the former attorney general and hardline pro-lifer who’d just lost the governor’s race in Virginia. Cuccinelli isn’t a member of the D.C. bar, and has never even argued a case in its District Court. Milbank would cite uncanny similarities between the Fein and Cuccinelli drafts of the complaint, ones that couldn’t be explained away by coincidence, only willed migration from one text to the other. Ken Cuccinelli, Mattie Fein wrote, is “dumb as a box of rocks.”2

Mattie Fein was a mysterious figure, and Bruce Fein was as well. “GOP lawyer drafts Obama impeachment” by Ben Smith, about Fein’s efforts to impeach the president over the war in Libya, described him as “a prominent libertarian constitutional lawyer and civil libertarian”, a “small-government conservative”, and someone whose “work doesn’t represent the Republican Party line.” All this gave a distorted, if not utterly wrong, picture of Fein, and it was left to the fringes to correct it: “Libertarian Bum Fights (paywall)” by Mark Ames, depicted someone who often had no problem with violations of civil liberties or the big government war state. This profile helpfully pointed the reader in the direction of several past editorials by Fein. When Time magazine reporter Marc Cooper and “Meet the Press” host balked at the possibility of revealing sources to justice officials in relation to the Valerie Plame leak, Fein had no sympathy. “The free press defense to the subpoenas advanced by Messrs. Cooper and Russert was that confidential sources are indispensable to investigative journalism,” he wrote in “Losing sight of free press aims”. “But the assertion is dubious, and in any event should bow in a narrow category of cases where the sources themselves are government officials implicated in national security crimes.” In “AIDS in the workplace; The Administration’s impeccable logic”, he argued against workplace protections which would protect those suffering from AIDS and HIV from being dismissed because of their illness. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, he treated the revulsion as a hysterical reaction to a small and isolated instance of maltreatment. From “Abuse Hype”: “Wartime medals celebrate killing and capturing the enemy, not spotless records of compliance with the Geneva Convention or requests from the International Committee of the Red Cross,” he writes. “These contextual facts should make the microscopic number of detainee abuses a source of satisfaction with a stimulus for improvement, not a provocation for self-righteous sermonizing.” It was “Terrorism’s murky origins” in June 21, 2004 which gave his blunt force attitude towards the war on terror: “At present, little is known of the circumstances which give birth to terrorists,” he wrote. “Until this dearth of knowledge is overcome, the best way to handcuff terrorism is by killing, capturing and punishing terrorists period, with no commas, semicolons or question marks.”

“Bum Fights” would list a number of disreputable clients of Fein, including Sudan and the tobacco lobby. His firm, the Lichfield Group, once listed its work with the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security, and boasted of its high level connections with the CIA on its website. After transforming himself into a Ron Paul libertarian who worked as a consultant on his campaign in 2008 and 2012, these sections of his site would be scrubbed3. Bruce Fein was a former executive editor of “The World Intelligence Review”, an intelligence publication whose purpose was to boast the image of the CIA. In “Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Nine”, I touched on the fact that political consultant Roger Stone appeared to be playing a double role, outwardly a born again libertarian, inwardly perhaps trying to use the libertarian party in 2012 to effect a vote split and thereby pull off a win for Mitt Romney, a strange episode to which “Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Eight” is devoted. At the time, I thought I saw some of this same duality in Bruce Fein:

That he often appears to have no connection to any position, except his own practical interest, makes one wonder if perhaps Stone might not have been playing a true role as a consultant for the Gary Johnson campaign, but rather, attempting to achieve the very opposite, a split vote to bring about a victory for Mitt Romney. There is the equal question of Bruce Fein, who took a very hard right position with regards to war and foreign intervention, a commaless approach to capturing and killing terrorists, before suddenly changing position and demanding that Dick Cheney be brought to trial. He works as a consultant for Ron Paul, a lawyer for Lon Snowdon, Edward’s father, and works on Rand Paul’s lawsuit against the NSA – though at two crucial points, there are outbursts that seemingly sabotage the proceedings. He expresses suspicion that Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange may be exploiting Snowden. He and his wife accuse Rand Paul of plagiarism. His wife, Mattie Fein (also known as Mattie Lolavar), has an equally strange history, heading up a think tank whose purpose was setting up a government in Iran after a regime change, and who was allegedly part of a political operation with Roger Stone’s consulting firm, IKON, which involved obtaining information from Israeli intelligence, while at the same time making sure never to attribute the information from this source. We might ask if Bruce Fein is also playing a dual role, a man who is a mole within the anti-surveillance community, attempting to cripple it from within. This question does not arise, I think, out of paranoia, but a secrecy as plentiful and ever present as oxygen, placing all characters under suspicion – is this person’s outward intent in fact obscuring the actual intent, an intent that is entirely its inverse?

“The obscurity surrounding Roger Stone is the vast force of secret money now ever present in elections,” I added. “The secrecy that surrounds Bruce Fein is that of the defense industry and the surveillance state.” These contexts rendered all characters within mysterious. So, this is what had taken place before I casually searched for “mahtaub lolavar”, wondering why someone was interested in her now, and one of the first results was Bruce Fein’s twitter feed (@BruceFeinEsq), where he brings her name up constantly, and always calls her a slut4:

The feed also features various maxims and lessons, with this one standing out a little incongruously amongst the various attacks on his wife5:

What exactly had incited all this was unknown. “What’s with all the slut shaming, Bruce?,” tweeted one of his followers. “Seems beneath you…has someone hijacked your Twitter account?”5 His account hadn’t been hijacked – these tweets went on and on, for several days. In a 2013 Washington Post profile, “In the Snowden case, Bruce Fein finds the apex of a long Washington legal career” by T.R. Goldman, Mattie Fein is referred to as his wife in name only. In another place, there was evidence that she was not even his wife in name only, that they had divorced years ago, and that he despised her then. From an October 5, 2010 post in a thread on a Ron Paul board, “Bruce Fein is awesome” ( link), the awesome Bruce Fein’s now extinct Facebook page is quoted: “Today, I am celebrating the anniversary of my divorce from Mattie Lolavar, which lifted an incubus and removed gangrene from my daily matrimonial torture and torment.” The plagiarism scandal now looked more like it was a business partnership gone awry than anything else, the squalor of petty squabbling. Maybe Bruce Fein was willing to eat shit and take a lower rung on the ladder while his ex-wife felt they should have a place higher up in the totem pole. “Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me,” Fein wrote after the scandal broke. “Her quotes were her own and did not represent my views. I was working on a legal team, and have been paid for my work.”6 Maybe Mattie Fein wanted to spoil her husband’s big moment. If there was one tweet which evoked the humiliations of marriage and divorce, and annihilated the nimbus of secret malevolent power it was this one. There was a comfortable familiarity to this – despite a well-known phrase that is often read without irony, unhappy marriages are often startlingly alike7:

It was during these searches that I came across a recent interview with Ian Masters for his excellent program, Background Briefing. What follows is taken from the episode “April 27 – Putin’s Hidden Fortune; The 20th Anniversary of the End of Apartheid – South Africa’s Freedom Day; The Rise of Rand Paul and Libertarian Activism on American Campuses”, a transcript of Fein’s segment dealing with libertarian activism, broken by my own occasional inconvenient interruptions:

Welcome back. I’m Ian Masters, and this is Background Briefing. And joining me in the studio is Bruce Fein, who’s a constitutional lawyer and formerly served as associate deputy attorney general under the Reagan Administration, general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, research director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Covert Arms Sales to Iran, and a member of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements. He has authored several volumes on the United States Supreme Court, the United States Constitution and International Law, and helped write the articles of impeachment for President Nixon and President Clinton. Bruce Fein is the author of Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle of Our Constitution and Democracy, and his latest book is American Empire: Before The Fall. He has been a senior policy advisor to the Ron Paul 2012 campaign and was up to recently the lawyer for Edward Snowden’s father, Lon. Welcome to Background Briefing, Bruce Fein.

Thank you for inviting me, Ian.

And let’s start with Edward Snowden. I know that you were the lawyer for his father, and the father was trying, in effect, save the son from himself. In the sense that, he wanted to work out some kind of deal to protect his son from the fact that he’s obviously something of an international pariah, and effectively wanted by the United States government, and living under the protection of Vladimir Putin, with whom he shared the stage the other day at a very staged event that Putin does every year, a phone-in show where the giddy announcer says “Vladimir! Vladimirovitch! We have a surprise guest for you!” And then it was Edward Snowden, and they had a very softball conversation-

I don’t think there’s anything surprising that happens under Vladimir Putin’s watch. It’s all scripted. I think, Ian, it may be an overstatement to say that Edward Snowden is an international pariah, I think he’s achieved kudos in many countries, certainly Germany and the European Union, he’s received nominations even as the Nobel Prize winner. So I think the attitude is quite mixed.

Oh it is. I didn’t mean to suggest- I didn’t mean to suggest that he’s a pariah in the sense that he’d done something wrong. He’s just a- He’s stateless in effect. He’s wanted by the U.S.

Yes. And I believe that’s really because only China and Russia are able with economic and military power, to resist the United States leverage that would come over every other country based on military-economic ties and even the ability to orchestrate overthrow of governments in Chili, as in Guatemala. As in Latin America, as in Iran in 1953, so…it’s a tough decision, because obviously China and Russia are testaments to the kinds of surveillance that Ed Snowden deplores in his public statements.

So…what happened with your attempts, or the father’s attempts, to make some kind of a deal to get Edward Snowden out of Russia and back to the United States-

Well, there weren’t so much a deal, we did make overtures, Ian, to the Department of Justice, to try to insure if there was any return that the trial would be fair and not compromised by a frenzy of press statements by the Department, and other leaders in the Congress and the Executive branch, who have already convicted him of treason, even though he’s not charged with treason, without any trial whatsoever. And moreover, there was worry that he would receive Bradley Manning, or Chelsea Manning pre-trial treatment, those gruesome [sic] if not verging on torture. And, in substance, end up having a kangaroo court, rather than a due-process court. Those were ignored by the Department of Justice, the most the Attorney General Eric Holder was willing to say, and this was to the ministry of justice in Russia, was that Mr. Snowden would not be tortured if he was returned, because we are a signatory to the torture convention. Not convincing anyway, because despite the signatory status of the torture convention, it seems quite clear our waterboarding of detainees connected, allegedly connected with terrorism, violated our own criminal prohibitions on torture as well as the convention itself. So, I think that the department probably does not want Ed Snowden to return. I think they believe it could embarrass the government after all. After the disclosures, President Obama himself has narrowed the scope of the NSA surveillance program, we’ve got activity in Congress, and really, all of this is attributable to Edward Snowden. If he didn’t have his revelation, this program would still be secret. And it would be embarrassing, in my judgement, for the Department to actually be forced to tell a jury, “You’re looking at a defendant who’s protecting your privacy more than we were.”

I’ll note that Fein now speaks of waterboarding as criminal, a violation of the Geneva Convention, when in 2004 he had given full throated support to the idea of going to the dark side. This is Fein in 2004, the opening paragraph of “Terrorism’s murky origins”:

At present, little is known of the circumstances which give birth to terrorists. The periodic reports issued by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (National Commission), for instance, are bereft of clues for diminishing terrorist recruits. Until this dearth of knowledge is overcome, the best way to handcuff terrorism is by killing, capturing and punishing terrorists period, with no commas, semicolons or question marks.

This might be contrasted with Fein’s statements on a radio show hosted by Rand Paul’s former aide, Jack Hunter, a man also known as the “Southern Avenger”8:

Let’s recount what happened in a New York courtroom, just about a week ago, this was Faisal Shahzad, he was a so-called New York Times Square auto bomber, who plants a bomb there and explodes, and he was saying “We’re at war. That’s why I’m entitled to do that. The United States is fighting in Iraq, and fighting in Afghanistan,” and the judge said, “What about the women and children?”, and he retorted, “Well, your drones don’t stop at our women and children, they kill them anyway, so why should we be playing by Queensberry rules when you are indiscriminate in killing us?” And he was not someone who got up and said, “I hate freedom!”- He was actually a U.S. citizen. It’s not the freedom in the United States, the fact that our women aren’t wearing burqas that caused them to undertake this act. It’s the same way we responded to the predations and some of the atrocities the British inflicted upon us, prior to the revolutionary war and during the war. We didn’t take that stand falling down and through sit-ins. We fought back with muskets. And we can’t expect just because they’re asian and have a different religion, they’re less human beings and going to feel that way.

It seems Bruce Fein had finally discovered the root causes of terrorism.

However, the most important point in Masters’ introduction is when he cites Fein’s credential as “research director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Covert Arms Sales to Iran”. This committee was tasked with investigating a major scandal of the Reagan administration, Iran-contra, one which may well have lead to impeachment. The administration had sold weapons to Iran, a country the president had referred to as “Murder Incorporated”, and used those funds to buy weapons for an anti-communist rebel group in Nicaragua, which congress had barred from further funding. One might assume, given the various portrayals of Fein as a passionate adherent to the constitution that he worked here against Reagan in his work on Iran-contra, where the constitution was arguably violated by keeping two arms deals secret and without approval from congress, a sale of weapons to the contras and a sale of weapons to Iran, then considered by many America’s secondmost enemy after the Soviet Union.

This would be a very serious misunderstanding. Fein worked as research director for the minority report, not the majority report. It was the latter, authored by the Democrats, which found the conduct of the Reagan behavior illegal and unconstitutional. It was the minority report which countenanced these actions – found it justified, legal, and constitutional. The minority report argued that this kind of outsize executive power was part of a tradition which began with Washington, where the executive’s foreign policy was to be given free rein from the encumbering and meddlesome legislative, and featured multiple historical precedents that are no doubt there as a result of the hard work of research consultant Bruce Fein.

Bruce Fein Interviewed by Ian Masters

Bruce Fein Interviewed by Ian Masters

I give noteworthy excerpts from the publicly available Iran Contra report, the Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, with links to the exact pages from which the excerpts are taken. These should help give a sense of the intellectual approach of the minority view.

Page 450:

The Constitution created the Presidency to be a separate branch of government whose occupant would have substantial discretionary power to act. He was not given the power of an 18th century monarch, but neither was he meant to be a creature of Congress. The country needs a President who can exercise the powers the Framers intended. As long as any President has those powers, there will be mistakes. It would be disastrous to respond to the possibility of error by further restraining and limiting the powers of the office. Then, instead of seeing occasional actions turn out to be wrong, we would be increasing the probability that future Presidents would be unable to act decisively, thus guaranteeing ourselves a perpetually paralyzed, reactive, and unclear foreign policy in which mistake by inaction would be the order of the day.

The supply of weapons to the Nicaraguan contras was not what was illegal, but the very laws by Congress prohibiting the President from doing so which violated the constitution. Pages 450 and 451:

The Constitution protects the power of the President, either acting himself or through agents of his choice, to engage in whatever diplomatic communications with other countries he may wish. It also protects the ability of the President and his agents to persuade U.S. citizens to engage voluntarily in otherwise legal activity to serve what they consider to be the national interest. That includes trying to persuade other countries to contribute their own funds for causes both countries support. To whatever extent the Boland Amendments tried to prohibit such activity, they were clearly unconstitutional.

The President can withhold notice from whatever covert actions he wants, page 452:

Similarly, the President has the constitutional and statutory authority to withhold notifying Congress of covert activities under very rare conditions. President Reagan’s decision to withhold notification was essentially equivalent to President Carter’s decisions in 1979-1980 to withhold notice for between 3 and 6 months in parallel Iran hostage operations. We do not agree with President Reagan’s decision to withhold notification for as long as he did. The decision was legal, however, and we think the Constitution mandates that it should remain so. If a President withholds notification for too long and then cannot adequately justify the decision to Congress, that President can expect to pay a stiff political price, as President Reagan has certainly found out.

Page 457, it is not the president’s actions that were unconstitutional, but those of Congress:

Judgments about the Iran-Contra Affair ultimately must rest upon one’s views about the proper roles of Congress and the President in foreign policy. There were many statements during the public hearings, for example, about the rule of law. But the fundamental law of the land is the Constitution. Unconstitutional statutes violate the rule of law every bit as much as do willful violations of constitutional statutes. It is essential, therefore, to frame any discussion of what happened with a proper analysis of the Constitutional allocation of legislative and executive power in foreign affairs.

One point stands out from the historical record: the Constitution’s Framers expected the President to be much more than a minister or clerk. The President was supposed to execute the laws, but that was only the beginning. He also was given important powers, independent of the legislature’s, and these substantively were focused on foreign policy.

Taken together, the three chapters [of the minority report on the constitutional powers of the president which justify his actions] will show that much of what President Reagan did in his actions toward Nicaragua and Iran were constitutionally protected exercises of inherent Presidential powers. However unwise some of those actions may have been, the rule of law cannot permit Congress to usurp judgments that constitutionally are not its to make. It is true that the Constitution also gives substantial foreign policy powers to Congress, including the power of the purse. But the power of the purse-which forms the core of the majority argument-is not and was never intended to be a license for Congress to usurp Presidential powers and functions.

That Congress should have any involvement or information on foreign policy matters is not something that can be traced back to the nation’s birth, but only a recent development. Pages 457 and 458:

The boundless view of Congressional power began to take hold in the 1970’s, in the wake of the Vietnam War. The 1972 Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s report recommending the War Powers Act, and the 1974 report of the Select Committee on Intelligence Activities (chaired by Senator Frank Church and known as the Church Committee), both tried to support an all but unlimited Congressional power by invoking the “Necessary and Proper” clause. That clause says Congress may “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing [legislative] Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” The argument of these two prominent committees was that by granting Congress the power to make rules for the other departments, the Constitution meant to enshrine legislative supremacy except for those few activities explicitly reserved for the other branches.

One must ignore 200 years of constitutional history to suggest that Congress has a vast reservoir of implied power whose only limits are the powers explicitlyreserved to the other branches. It seems clear, for example, that Congress could not legislate away the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review, even though judicial review is not mentioned explicitly in Article III. The same applies to the Presidency. The Necessary and Proper clause does not permit Congress to pass a law usurping Presidential power. A law negating Presidential power cannot be treated as if it were “necessary and proper for carrying” Presidential powers “into Execution.” To suggest otherwise would smack of Orwellian Doublespeak.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis, for example, wrote that the “doctrine of separation of powers was adopted by the Convention of 1787, not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power.” His statement has been accepted in some Congressional quarters as if it holds the force of conventional wisdom,* but it misses half of the historical truth.

The fallacy of Brandeis’ statement becomes apparent when one considers the defects of the U. S. Government before the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention, among other things, was taking the executive from being under the legislature’s thumb, not the legislature from being under the executive’s. After suffering through the Articles of Confederation (and various state constitutions) that had overcompensated for monarchy, the 1787 delegates wanted to empower a government, not enfeeble it. Brandeis was partly right to point out that the Framers did not want power to be used arbitrarily, and that checks and balances were among the means used to guard against arbitrariness. But the principles underlying separation had to do with increasing the Government’s power as much as with checking it.

Strong, unfettered executive power in foreign policy can be traced to the republic’s beginning, page 459 and 460:

The need for an effective foreign policy, it turned out, was one of the main reasons the country needs an “energetic government,” according to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Nos. 22 and 23. Madison madethe same point in No. 37: “Energy in Government is essential to that security against external and internal danger, and to that prompt and salutary execution of the laws, which enter into the very definition of good Government.” The relevance of these observations about the government‘s power is that the Framers saw energy as being primarily an executive branch characteristic.

Energy is the main theme of Federalist No. 70(“energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government.”) It is said to be important primarily when “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch” were needed. These features are “essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks.” “In the conduct of war … the energy of the executive is the bulwark of national security.”

But war was not the only aspect of foreign policy described as being more appropriate for the executive than legislative branch. “The actual conduct of foreign negotiations, . . . the arrangement of the army and navy, the direction of the operations of war; these and other matters of a like nature constitute what seems to be most properly understood by the administration of government.” On negotiations, Hamilton went further to say that the Executive is “the most fitagent” for “foreign negotiations.”

To involve Congress in such decisions would be less democratic, not more so, page 460:

So far, our discussion has concentrated on the first: the need for energy in the Executive. No government, democratic or otherwise, could long survive unless its Executive could respond to the uncertainties of international relations. But energy in the Executive seemed frightening to some people. To them, the Federalists made two responses. The first was that the Executive could not maintain a standing army, equip a navy, or engage in a large-scale use of force, without spending appropriated funds provided and controlled by the Congress.”

The second was that an independent, single Executive-in addition to being more energetic-would also be more responsible politically. It would be much easier to hold one person accountable than a committee. In other words, giving the President some independent, inherent power was not seen as being undemocratic. The President and Congress both were considered to be representatives of the people. The Congress produced a more fitting result when the primary need was to moderate internal factional demands through discussion and deliberation before producing general rules. But foreign policy is dominated by case-by-case decisions, not general rules, and the aim is not to moderate internal pressures through deliberation, but to respond to external ones quickly and decisively. For these kinds of situations, multiple bodies-like Congress-are inherently unable to accept blame or responsibility for mistakes. Thus, despite the majority’s contentions to the contrary, putting such decisions in the hands of the Congress wasconsidered to be less democratic than giving them tothe President, because there would be no way for thepeople to hold any one person accountable for a legislative decision.

The basis for which Congress can be ignored by the Executive in foreign policy matters can be found in the precedent of Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana, page 465:

One constitutional dispute early in the Jefferson Administration was over the Louisiana Purchase. What would the party whose adherents had insisted on a Senate role in negotiating the Jay Treaty say about the President’s power to negotiate the Purchase? Jefferson’s Secretary of State Albert Gallatin supported the Louisiana Purchase by saying that the purchase eventually would have to be ratified by treaty and that its negotiation therefore belonged to the President under the Constitution. Jefferson did not embrace Gallatin’s constitutional argument. Instead, the President decided to go through with the Purchase, without abandoning his view that the Constitution severely limited the President, by asserting an inherent, extraconstitutional prerogative power for the Executive that was more sweeping than anything Hamilton had ever put forward. Jefferson justified his decision this way:

A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself . . . absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.

One of the remarkable aspects of Jefferson’s assertion is the stark way in which it poses a fundamental constitutional issue. Chief Executives are given the responsibility for acting to respond to crises or emergencies. To the extent that the Constitution and laws are read narrowly, as Jefferson wished, the Chief Executive will on occasion feel duty bound to assert monarchical notions of prerogative that will permit him to exceed the law. Paradoxically, the broader Hamiltonian ideas about executive power-by being more attuned to the realistic dangers of foreign policy-seem more likely to produce an Executive who is able and willing to live within legal boundaries. Thus, the constitutional construction that on the surface looks more dangerous seems on reflection to be safer in the long run.

The conclusion arrived at by the research of Bruce Fein is obvious, and there in the closing of the minority report’s historical overview, page 469:

Presidents asserted their constitutional independence from Congress early. They engaged in secret diplomacy and intelligence activities, and refused to share the results with Congress if they saw fit. They unilaterally established U.S. military and diplomatic policy with respect to foreign belligerent states, in quarrels involving the United States, and in quarrels involving only third parties. They enforced this policy abroad, using force if necessary. They engaged U.S. troops abroad to serve American interests without congressional approval, and in a number of cases apparently against explicit directions from Congress. They also had agents engage in what would commonly be referred to as covert actions, again without Congressional approval. In short, Presidents exercised a broad range of foreign policy powers for which they neither sought nor received Congressional sanction through statute.

This history speaks volumes about the Constitution’s allocation of powers between the branches. It leaves little, if any, doubt that the President was expected to have the primary role of conducting the foreign policy of the United States. Congressional actions to limit the President in this area therefore should be reviewed with a considerable degree of skepticism. If they interfere with core presidential foreign policy functions, they should be struck down. Moreover, the lesson of our constitutional history is that doubtful cases should be decided in favor of the President.

I think it can be confirmed that this report was not some radical, unexpected twisting of Fein’s research because he wrote an editorial at the time of the scandal, “A Tight Plug on Intelligence Leaks”, which very much takes the position of the minority report: the problem is not executive overreach but too many people in Congress having access to information about covert foreign policy, which they then leak to the press. “A joint committee would sharply slash the number of legislators and staff members involved in overseeing intelligence agencies. The reduction would animate each overseer with a larger sense of responsibility and perhaps devotion to the tasks of preventing abuses of power while strengthening America’s intelligence capabilities.”

Having read this, one might look now back at the profile of Fein, “In the Snowden case, Bruce Fein finds the apex of a long Washington legal career”, which describes his approach: “Fein is an originalist, a believer in a well-established though decidedly minority interpretation of American legal thought that essentially says: Let’s keep our eye on the original values and intentions of our founding fathers.” It seems what constitutes the original values and intentions of the founding fathers somehow varies between the Reagan administration and the present time. The executive is now no longer the sole organ of foreign policy, and he does not have the privilege of conducting such policy without congressional approval, as we find in the articles of impeachment quoted in Ben Smith’s “GOP lawyer drafts Obama impeachment”: “Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States…has usurped the exclusive power of Congress to initiate war.”

The minority view of the Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair is not an unknown, unconnected island, but something that very much has influence on us now. A congressional assistant by the name of David Addington would also work on the report, and Addington would become Dick Cheney’s lieutenant in the White House, where he was heavily involved in what executive actions were legal and why. The attitude expressed in that White House, and in the report, is that the executive has a license to do almost anything without congressional interference. From “Cheney’s Cheney”, an interview with Jane Mayer by Blake Eskin on Addington and Cheney; Mayer’s The Dark Side is the definitive account of the formation of Bush White House policy on torture and detention:

How did David Addington get to know Vice-President Cheney, and how long have they worked together?

They met on Capitol Hill in the mid-eighties, when Cheney was a Republican congressman from Wyoming and Addington was a young staff lawyer working for the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees. So they have worked together for about two decades. Their partnership was cemented when they worked together on the Minority Report on the Iran-Contra affair. Both Addington and Cheney took the idiosyncratic position that it was Congress, not President Reagan, that was in the wrong. This view reflected the opinion, held by both men, that the executive branch should run foreign policy, to a great extent unimpeded by Congress. It’s a recurring theme-pushing the limits of executive power and sidestepping Congress-in their partnership. One example is their position that the President, as Commander-in-Chief in times of war, had the inherent authority to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress passed in an effort to make sure that Presidents don’t violate citizens’ right to privacy by spying on them without warrants.

We are given an even more direct sense of the impact from this quote out of “Mr. Cheney’s Minority Report”, an excellent piece connecting the ideas of the minority report with Bush White House policy, by Sean Wilentz:

Asked by a reporter in 2005 to explain his expansive views about presidential power, Mr. Cheney replied, “If you want reference to an obscure text, go look at the minority views that were filed with the Iran-contra committee.”

“Nobody has ever read them,” he said, but they “are very good in laying out a robust view of the president’s prerogatives with respect to the conduct of especially foreign policy and national security matters.”

We have the unusual, and completely unnoted, phenomena of Bruce Fein apparently arguing against not only principles he once agreed with, but ones for which he laid the foundation.

This interruption came in the middle of a conversation between Masters and Fein over Edward Snowden.

So, what’s his fate, then? I know that you were dealing with Wikileaks, right, and-

Well, Julian Assange, and then there was also Anatoly Kucharino, who was Edward’s lawyer appointed by Vladimir Putin. I think Vladimir Putin will decide, unilaterally, what happens to Ed Snowden. The rule of law is a joke in Russia. And, if it’s convenient, internationally, for Mr. Putin to permit past the one year of his asylum, it’ll happen, and if he wants to do a trade, it’ll be a trade. And in that sense, I believe Edward Snowden’s situation there is precarious. I think Vladimir Putin wouldn’t have any reluctance at all, if the United States is willing to do a deal, over Crimea, or Russian influence over eastern Ukraine, he’d swap him in half of a second. There’s no intellectual, philosophical sympathy between Mr. Putin and Mr. Snowden.

So. This is a, I guess, in many ways, on a personal level, it must have been hard for the father then to-

I think it was not just the father, Ian. I think the whole family was undergoing great stress and mortification, and what the United States officials were saying about Mr. Snowden. There was very great difficulty about having any communication whatsoever. I still think that it’s something that needs to sort itself out. Ed Snowden has stated, he would like at some time to return, but I don’t think right now, the conditions would be satisfactory for what he wants to accomplish.

But I’d love to get an interview with him. And it doesn’t seem like anybody who’s ever going to challenge anything will ever get an interview with him. He’s pretty much- you know, they allow softball interviews, but I don’t know if there’s- Has anybody really had any real access to him?

I don’t know, and it probably wouldn’t be publicized anyway, Ian. I think, however, your judgement may be somewhat premature. He’s only thirty years old, time changes a lot of things. Sometimes it doesn’t change things. I wouldn’t rule out interviews in different circumstances, at an appropriate occasion. It may well be Rand Paul is elected president in 2016, there’s a different administration, and the environment changes, the tenor of communications and candor may be different.

So, let’s talk about Rand Paul and- He seems to be- Here he is a junior senator, freshman senator, getting more headlines than Ted Cruz, who’s basically a headline generating machine. So, what’s happening with this guy? You know the father…Rand, I take it, his name comes from Ayn Rand, right?

Your description of Rand Paul probably fits then Senator Barack Obama like a glove, in 2008. First term senator running for president. I think that Rand Paul clearly is someone who is willing to take risks, unlike others, go into environments and audiences that you wouldn’t expect, the NAACP, Berkley California. He doesn’t shy from, I don’t know what they’d call it, confrontation? The need to engage in conversation, and to share ideas. So I think there’s no doubt that he appeals to young audiences and crowds. I was speaking yesterday at USC to the Young Americans for Liberty. There were over one hundred and sixty there.

That’s a libertarian campus group?

That is correct. It’s not just a single campus group, it’s a nation-wide collection of students, probably the fastest growing in all of the United States. An enormous amount of what I would call, kinetic energy. And eagerness to support a candidate that will roll back the surveillance state, the warfare state, that encroaches on our liberty more and more every day.

Since this is where Fein reaches the crescendo in his idealistic call, one might mention here some of Fein’s past clients. Perhaps the only piece to devote extensive space to this is “Defending Dictators, Counseling Killers” by the excellent journalist Ken Silverstein, but it should be sufficient to provide some sense of a cruel and anti-democratic bunch:

After leaving government, Fein linked up with right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. He also cashed in on his government experience by lobbying for foreign clients. Though Fein was a strong critic of leftist governments, like Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, he had no qualms about taking money from peace-loving nations such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Fein hit the jackpot in 1991 when he signed on to represent Mozambique’s notorious guerrilla army, RENAMO, which was seeking to overthrow its country’s leftist government. When Fein came on board, RENAMO’s reputation has hit bottom. This was just a few years after the State Department had issued a report denouncing the guerrillas for the wholesale slaughter of civilians, using such methods as “shooting executions, knife/axe/bayonet killings, burning alive, beating to death, forced asphyxiation, forced starvation, forced drownings and random shootings.”

Even the Reagan and Bush administrations kept their distance from RENAMO, despite their anti-Communist rhetoric. So reviled was the group and its president, Afonso Dhlakama, that Reagan held several face-to-face meetings with Mozambiques’s president to demonstrate his support for his Marxist government!

Fein, however, eagerly signed up to flack for Dhlakama’s terror army. Like most foreign lobbyists, he bilked his client for huge sums of money while performing virtually no work. Fein’s chief endeavor was writing The Dhlakama Papers, a collection of the wise leader’s theoretical musings, and RENAMO’s constitution. The latter document is a loose plagiarism of the U.S. constitution with a few pet projects of Fein’s — the death penalty and privatization — thrown in for good measure.

This article, if anything, understates RENAMO’s malevolence. It began as the creation of the white regime of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), for the sole purpose of destabilizing the government of Mozambique, then went on to receive the support of another white apartheid regime, that of South Africa. RENAMO used several methods in their war: forced famines, mutilation, and recruitment of child soldiers. One of the best overviews of the civil war in Mozambique between RENAMO, the rebels, and FRELIMO, the ruling party, is Conspicuous Destruction: War, Famine and the Reform Process in Mozambique by Africa Watch (bulk of the research and writing by Karl Maier). What follows are excerpts on the use of mutilation by RENAMO to intimidate the population:

Reports of mutilations of civilians by RENAMO have been routine since the rebels began operating in Mozambique in the mid-1970s. Cases of guerrillas hacking off ears, noses, lips, and sexual organs have been common in the central and southern provinces. Evidence gathered by Africa Watch suggests that RENAMO was guilty of the majority of such mutilations, but that government forces too have been guilty of the practice.

Ken Flower, who as Director of the Rhodesian CIO played an important role in setting up the movement, said in an April 1987 interview that RENAMO fighters had used such tactics in an effort to intimidate the civilian population. “There were reports of atrocities, the intimidatory processes, especially the cutting off of ears and noses, and this did happen in the fairly early days. But I am referring here to 1975.”

However, mutilations of the dead and living have continued to occur at regular intervals up until the present.

In a 1987 interview, Fambinsani Chenje, then fifty-nine, told of attacks in 1986 by rebel gunmen on his village of Mushenge in southern Tete province.

The first time they came was in 1986. They were looking for food. It was a small group of about fifteen men. They took cattle, chickens and goats. A lot of villagers started fleeing to Tete [town] then because the war had come to Mushenge. But most of us stayed in the village. It was our home. Then, in June 1986, the Matsanga [RENAMO] came again in the early morning hours. It was still dark. This time they came right into the village. They called for everyone to come out of their houses. Then they killed ten people and mutilated ten others, including myself. Two soldiers cut off my ears with knives. They said we were working for FRELIMO. After they did that they left, without saying anything more. The next day, most of the villagers packed their things and walked to Tete [town].

RENAMO of Mozambique was one client of Bruce Fein’s, the state of Sudan was another.

Now, Fein has returned to lobbying and is working for a client that has the dubious distinction of making RENAMO look good: The Sudan. That country’s government is barred from receiving U.S. foreign aid because of its support for terrorism and because of its revolting human rights record. Amnesty International reports that the Sudanese government not only assassinates and tortures its “enemies,” but that paramilitary forces have kidnapped scores of children, who are believed to be held in domestic slavery by their abductors or taken to camps in remote rural areas, where they are trained for military service.

Another common practice of the Sudanese government is to flog “criminals.” According to Amnesty, many of the victims are women convicted of brewing alcohol and convicted by rubber stamp Public Order Courts.

Explaining away a record like that is a delicate task indeed, which is where Fein comes in. Having already billed his client $20,000 for “legal and historical research,” Fein has now begun lobbying — he plans to meet with Congress, the Executive Branch, newspaper editorial boards and think tanks — on the Sudan’s behalf for a monthly fee of $10,000.

Fein’s contract, on file at the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Unit, says he will offer the Sudan “advisory and advocacy services” with the goal of fostering “warming relations” with the U.S. He’ll also seek to have the country delisted as a supporter of terrorism and urge the U.S. government to lift all sanctions against the Sudan, including prohibitions on military aid.

Some of Fein’s latest work is for the Turkish Coalition of America, where he is a resident scholar, and for whom he writes opinion pieces denying the existence of an Armenian Genocide. These include “Tawdry genocide tale”, “Armenian crime amnesia?”, and “Lies, Damn Lies, and Armenian Deaths”. Some excerpts from this last one should provide a sense of the direction of his arguments:

When their quest for statehood shipwrecked on the Treaty of Lausanne and annexation by the Soviet Union in 1921, Armenians revised their soundtrack to endorse a contrived genocide thesis. It seeks a “pound of flesh” from the Republic of Turkey in the form of recognition, reparations, and boundary changes. To make their case more convincing, Armenians hiked the number of deaths. They also altered their story line from having died as belligerents against the Turks to having perished like unarmed helpless lambs.

Vahan Vardapet, an Armenian cleric, estimated a prewar Ottoman Armenian population of 1.26 million. At the Peace Conference, Armenian leader Nubar stated that 280,000 remained in the Empire and 700,000 had emigrated elsewhere. Accepting those Armenian figures, the number of dead would be 280,000. George Montgomery of the Armenia-American Society estimated a prewar Armenian population of 1.4-1.6 million, and a casualty figure of 500,000 or less. Armenian Van Cardashian, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1919, placed the number of Armenian dead at 750,000, i.e., a prewar population of 1.5 million and a post-war figure of 750,000.

From 280,000-750,000, Armenians initially raised their death count to 800,000 to test the credibility waters. It passed muster with uninformed politicians easily influenced by campaign contributions and voting clout. Armenians then jumped the number to 1.5 million, and then 1.8 million by Armenian historian Kevork Aslan. For the last decades, an Armenian majority seems to have settled on the 1.5 million death plateau–which still exceeds their contemporary estimates by 200 to 500 percent. They are now testing the waters at 2.5-3 million killed as their chances for a congressional genocide resolution recede. It speaks volumes that champions of the inflated death figures have no explanation for why Armenians on the scene would have erred. Think of the absurdity of discarding the current death count of Afghan civilians in the United States-Afghan war in favor of a number deduced in the year 2109!

Fein would not confine his denials to editorial pages, but would make the same claim in courtrooms whenever the issue came up, allegedly on the dime of the Turkish government. In Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…And Sometimes Doesn’t, a memoir of courtroom life by two attorneys, Mark Geragos and Pat Harris, Geragos cites Fein’s appearance in a courtroom as one of those moments where he nearly lost faith in the justice system. He also refers to Fein as “one of the most repulsive human beings I have ever had the mispleasure of meeting.” That I think the defendant, Mourad Topalian, may well have been guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted, is separate and apart from attempts to deny the Armenian genocide. I give full excerpt to this episode in the book, so there is no sense that I am attempting to distort or slant it in any way:

From the first day a young lawyer enters a courtroom until the day that lawyer’s retirement party is held, the one phrase the lawyer will hear at least one thousand times is “We may not have a perfect system, but it is still the best system in the world.” This concept is so ingrained in American lawyers that it is not even debated. The law is in many ways like a religion to attorneys, and the belief that we have the best system in the world is our chief article of faith. But like ministers who have had a crisis of faith, both of us have had seminal moments in which we have questioned whether our legal system is truly the best or even one of the best in the world.

Mark: I began to have serious doubts about the system on a snowy, wintry day in Cleveland, Ohio in 2001. We were representing a prominent member of the local community at his sentencing hearing in federal court. He had pled guilty to keeping a storage unit that contained decades-old explosives near his suburban home in Cleveland, where he had been vice president of Cuyahoga, Community College. The FBI believed that some of the explosives had been used in an attack by Armenian freedom fighters on the Turkish Mission in New York in the eighties, and that the remaining explosives were being stored for future use. The former college vice president was never implicated in any attacks, but the storage unit had his name on it, and it was asserted by the FBI that he had at least agreed to store th remaining explosives.

My client was a much admired figure in the Armenian community, a charismatic speaker and a forceful lobbyist who had spent time as the head of one of the prominent Armenian activist organizations. For his sentencing hearing, Armenian supporters from all over the country flew in to pack the courtroom, with an overflow group having to wait out in the hall. Virtually every person in that room had either been an eyewitness to the Armenian Genocide or had had a close relative who had perished at the hands of the Turks.

There was a palpable tension hanging in the air because the judge in the case was allowing a representative from the Turkish government to speak during the sentencing hearing, and the government had flown in its top lobbyist and spokesman, Bruce Fein. Fein is one of the most repulsive human beings I have ever had the mispleasure of meeting. Whenever the Turkish government wants to deny the Genocide, it sticks Fein out in front and lets him spew a bunch of denialist trash about how the Genocide was nothing more than a civil war provoked by the Armenians. I knew what was about to happen and pleaded with the judge to not let him speak. I tried to explain that this would be no different from having a Jewish person being sentenced and letting some nut job get up and deny the Holocaust ever happened. There is no way that would ever occur in today’s society. But therein lies the problem for Armenians – the Armenian Genocide has been largely ignored in this country because Turkey is supposedly an important ally. In recent years, even though forty-three states have recognized the Genocide and Congress twice passed an Armenian Genocide Resolution decades ago, the last several administrations have become tongue-tied every time the resolution is brought up. Despite almost every presidential candidate since Reagan saying he or she will recognize the Genocide, nothing happens once the president takes office.

Sure enough, Fein got up, and in front of a courtroom that included several Genocide survivors, he denied its existence. It was a hateful and mean-spirited speech, made even worse by the fact that the audience was filled with people who had never met their grandparents or aunts and uncles because of the Genocide Fein was now denying. There have been few instances in which I have been filled with such rage, and I came very close that day to doing something that would have lost me my bar card forever. I looked over at Pat [Pat Harris, Geragos’ fellow attorney and co-writer of Mistrial], who hadn’t even met an Armenian until he was in his thirties, and he was shaking with anger. You could hear sobbing from all across the room, but in a testament to the dignity of the Armenian people, Fein was allowed to spread this trash without interruption.

When it was over, I gathered with the Genocide survivors at the back of the courtroom and swore to them that I would do everything I could as a lawyer to make sure they were not forgotten. But as I walked out of that courthouse, I felt unsure that I even wanted to participate in a system that would allow something like this to happen. On this trip back to Los Angeles I seriously thought about whether I wanted to continue as a lawyer.

Fein’s denial of the Armenian genocide intersects with another plot that will be dealt with later on.

That Fein was an ardent supporter of Rand Paul is obvious. We see here an aura of xenophobia that seems drawn to this senator like a magnet. There is Fein denying the Armenian genocide. There is the senator’s father who once published a newsletter that explained how to kill black men and get away with it9. After Rand Paul’s first plagiarism scandal, where he appeared to lifted material multiple times and put it down under his own name, he was dropped from the Washington Times as a columnist, and brought into the fold of the Breitbart news site. This news site’s namesake appears to have lifted material about a Jewish cabal running America from an old Lyndon Larouche publication and placed it into his own book10. One of Rand Paul’s longtime staffers was Jack Hunter, who also worked as a radio host under the nom de guerre, “Southern Avenger”, who annually toasted the birthday of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and once declared that “a non-white majority America would simply cease to be America.”11 As noted, Fein would appear on Hunter’s radio show on July 10, 2010. This kind of inevitable nexus would be mocked by Jonathan Chait in “Libertarian Hero Cliven Bundy Shockingly Turns Out to Be Gigantic Racist”: “Why do all these people with strong antipathy toward the federal government turn out to be racists? Why do all these homosexuals keep sucking my cock?

So…what’s happening now on campuses? In the sixties and seventies, the activism was on the political left. How much do you detect? You were speaking at UCLA, USC, Yale-

Yale, Harvard, Charlottesville. There’s no doubt there’s a huge intensity, that I don’t see on the left, if you will, people coming out and supporting Barack Obama. I think in part it’s because the young people are able to see the encroachments given the electronic exposure they already provide every day. The encroachments on their lives, and their personal privacy. They do, clearly, recognize, that they’re living in a post-Orwellian phase of the United States of America. And youth does have that kinetic energy, it reminds me of some words by William Wordworth about the American and French revolution: “Blissed was, to be alive at that dawn / And to be young, very heaven”. And these youth need sortof guidance, they don’t know exactly how the political process works, but they certainly have the energy and the instinct that are sympathetic to Rand Paul’s objectives.

Well, there’s obviously some confluence between libertarian philosophy and the left, although the democratic party is pretty centrist. There really isn’t a left-wing party, perhaps peace and freedom, the greens, but they are barely one or two percent of the electorate. The confluence, of course, is there’s an agreement to smoke marijuana, there’s agreement over objection to foreign wars, there’s agreement over the surveillance state. But there is also a divergence, is there not.

I think there clearly is a divergence. If you want to talk about the government dependency, or the welfare dependency state, if you will, Obamacare, and government programs that seek to develop industrial policies, and put money into what many would believe be subsidizing endeavours people take with their own skill, foresight, and industry. There’s divergence on the debt, the size of the federal government, the size of the federal regulatory state. But I think those are less important, if you will, Ian, than the fundamental issues of liberty and the rule of law that are at stake with regard to the surveillance state, the warfare state. Most people don’t recognize and would be horrified if they reflected every day that at present, as we speak, the president of the United States claims authority to kill any American citizen, on his say-so alone, if he decrees they’re an imminent danger to the United States. It’s been done on four occasions, there may be a fifth in the cross-hairs. Just think about that. That’s vastly more power than was ever considered by King George the Third. His just general writs of assistance provoked the American Revolution, believing he could search our homes and businesses, without probable cause. Now, we have a president who basically claims and exercises the most awesome power in the history of mankind? The American people and Congress are rather complacent with that. And that oughta spur people to political action to try and re-gain the rule of law, and our protections under the Constitution, that basically have been eroded over the last many years, under Democrats and Republicans.

Right, you know, but you have some very powerful libertarians, I think the Koch brothers are fairly libertarian.

Yes they are.

Fein speaks here of a president who has suddenly appeared, who “claims and exercises the most awesome power in the history of mankind”, the ability to sign an order and kill at a distance, as if this is a surprising or new development. That American citizens have been assassinated before Al-Awlaki is a point often forgotten, but Ames forces us to remember it: “The first American-born citizen assassinated by a targeted drone attack was Kemal Derwish, blown up by a Predator in Yemen in 2002.”12 And: “The second American targeted for assassination that we know of was Ruben Shumpert of Seattle, killed by a US missile strike in Somalia in 2008.” Note that Kemal Derwish was killed in 2002; Fein’s editorial, “Terrorism’s murky origins” where he wrote “the best way to handcuff terrorism is by killing, capturing and punishing terrorists period, with no commas, semicolons or question marks”, came out in 2004.

Fein worked in the justice department of a president whose over-reaching executive power unhindered by congress he justified in his research for the Iran-contra report, a president who also issued an executive order allowing assassinations. Both “American Assassination History for Dummies” by Mark Ames and “Holder Dances the Assassination Tango” by Scott Horton, make this point explicit. Executive Order 13222, signed off by Reagan, which supposedly banned assassinations, actually did something entirely different:

[Attorney General Eric] Holder was referring specifically to Executive Order 13222, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, which says, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” But as with so much U.S. national-security legislation, this order turns out to be far less than meets the eye. Simplified, the present law of EO 13222 could be summarized this way: “No one shall be assassinated-unless the president authorizes it, in which case we will refrain from calling it an assassination.”

That assassination was part of Reagan era foreign policy, though it could not be referred to by name, is there in George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War:

Later, when Avrakotos [Gus Avrakotos, then acting chief of the South Asia Operations Group] took over the Afghan program, he dealt with this problem by introducing an Orwellian change in the language he directed his staff to adopt whenever describing weapons or operations in the Afghan program. “These aren’t terrorist devices or assassination techniques,” he would inform his staff. “Henceforth these are individual defensive devices.” Sniper rifles were finally shipped out to the mujahideen , but only after Gust renamed them: “long-range, night-vision devices with scopes.” Once, when the Islamabad station sent a cable describing a lethal tactic being introduced, Avrakotos shot back a return communiqué saying that the cable had been garbled and adding, “Please do not send anything more on this subject ever again.”

Another passage from Wilson’s War, on the training of the mujahideen in Pakistan:

Given what was already being done, it was a perverse twisting of reality. That fall, the mujahideen in the Pakistani training camps were not only receiving a flood of lethal weapons, they were also being trained to wage a war of urban terror, with instruction in car bombings, bicycle bombings, camel bombings, and assassination.

Just how vicious a campaign the CIA was sponsoring is suggested by the Pakistan brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, who directed the training with and distribution of CIA weapons at that time. In a matter-of-fact passage in his memoirs, he describes the range of assassination tactics and targets he was preparing the mujahideen to take on in Kabul. They ranged from your everyday “knife between the shoulder blades of a Soviet soldier shopping in the bazaar” to “the placing of a briefcase bomb in a senior official’s office.” Educational institutions were considered fair game, he explains, since they were staffed by “Communists indoctrinating their students with Marxist dogma.”

This executive order would itself be re-interpreted during the subsequent Bush administration, as reported at the time in a piece quoted in the invaluable “Dummies”. From “Administration Redefines Ban on Foreign Assassinations”:

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Bush administration, without changing an executive order banning assassinations of foreign leaders, has chosen to legally interpret ”assassination” as referring only to premeditated political murder, according to a published report.

A new legal ruling, drafted by the Office of the Army Judge Advocate General, would permit clandestine operations even if they threaten the lives of foreign figures, The Los Angeles Times reported in its Saturday editions.

Unidentified administration officials quoted by the Times said the ruling would significantly expand the scope of military operations the United States could legally launch against terrorists, drug lords or fugitives abroad, the newspaper reported.

The ruling means, for example, that the accidental death of Panamanian strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega during an extradition or future coup attempt in which U.S. forces played a direct role would not constitute assassination, the Times reported.

Noriega, who is under federal indictment in the United States on drug trafficking charges, quashed a coup attempt last week.

In 2001, “Dummies” tells us that House Bill “H.R.19 — Terrorist Elimination Act of 2001” was introduced. The purpose of this bill was to “nullify the effect of certain provisions of various Executive orders.” Which provisions? Well, among them, “Section 2.11 of Executive Order 12333.” What is this section 2.11 of Executive Order 12333? It’s right there in the text of the bill (national archives link): “2.11 Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Who introduced this bill? Bob Barr. And who is Bob Barr? Well, he was the subject of Spy magazine’s “D.C. Eunuchs: America’s Least Influential Politician?”, which listed a career of pandering, inconsequential, symbolic legislation. An endorsement of Siskel & Ebert’s positive review of WACO: The Rules of Engagement. A hard stand against air quality standards. May 1, 1997: “Mr. Speaker,” announced Barr, “I would like to have the following poem inserted into the Congressional Record…’What My Flag Means to Me’ was written by William Watkins, a fifth grader at Alto Park Elementary School in Rome, GA.” And not entirely inconsequential: Barr wrote and sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, he was a firebrand who beat down cancer victims who sued tobacco companies, and he fought hard against any attempts to legalize marijuana or even research its medical benefits13.

After losing his congressional seat, he perhaps achieved his highest profile by running for president in 2008 on the libertarian party ticket; this episode is described in two very good pieces, “Freedom Freaks” by Michael Idov and “The Third Man” by Raffi Khatchadourian. Barr would then leave the Libertarian party – but not before stiffing James Bovard, his presidential ghostwriter, out of a $47,000 fee14 – and turn back to the Republican party fold. The party was now closer to where he was, ideologically. “The party has moved, though I don’t take credit for it,” he says in David Weigel’s “The Third Coming of Bob Barr”. “It has to do to some extent with Ron Paul’s runs for the presidency, with Ted Cruz raising these issues. All of these things combined have brought the Republican Party back to its Reagan roots.” The Reagan roots, as we have seen, are those of near unrestricted executive power in foreign policy and support for assassinations. Who was endorsing Bob Barr in his congressional run? A certain lawyer who denied the Armenian genocide, who had Sudan as a client, who researched how Washington and Jefferson laid the basis for said unrestricted executive power. “If you are a conservative who supports limited government and the Constitution, then join me in supporting Bob Barr for Congress,” says Fein on Barr’s campaign website, “Constitutional Leader Bruce Fein Endorses Bob Barr for Congress”. “I welcome the endorsement of my good friend, Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar with whom I have been proud to work with for many years,” says Barr in thanks15.

This is the messy background of assassination policy, one which those supposedly against the war power state, such as Barr and Fein, have happily endorsed. Fein is more intertwined with the program than he might wish to admit, and he is more intertwined with the Koch Brothers than comes through in this interview.

Fein would focus several of his Washington Times editorials against the possibility of a Hawaiian native identity, something like that of the various indian nations of the United States: “A race-based drift?”, “New racism in new bottles”, “Race separation ratified”, “Resurgent racism”. Though Fein is often presented as an enlightened, dispassionate scholar, we see an old, primal ugliness in the opening of “Race based drift”: “The nation’s mindless celebration of multiculturalism and denigration of the American creed has reached a new plateau of destructiveness.” The pros and cons of Doe v. Kamehameha and bill S.344, the subjects of these editorials, I am unfamiliar with and will not debate here. What I found fascinating was Fein’s interest in this seemingly esoteric issue, an interest that perhaps can be explained by a detail in the credit for “New racism in new bottles” (none of the other editorials feature it): “Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein and Associates and the Lichfield Group and a consultant to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.” Fein would also write a legal analysis condemning the Alaska bill, S.344, which would be entered into the record by John Kyl (“Against Race-Based Government in Hawaii — (Senate – June 14, 2005)”, “Against Race-Based Government in Hawaii, Part II — (Senate – June 15, 2005)”, “Against Race-Based Government in Hawaii, Part III — (Senate – June 16, 2005)”), and that too would carry the imprimatur of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii – Grassroot singular, there is no s.

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would be an entity name unknown to many; it was a think tank that was part of something called the State Policy Network (SPN), there on their website, in the directory list of SPN members 16, and again, the SPN was an entity mostly unknown to the general public. It was all easily explained in Exposed: The State Policy Network by the Center for Media and Democracy, all this information reached by the invaluable SourceWatch, and their entries on the “State Policy Network” and the “Grassroot Institute of Hawaii”. The SPN received millions from corporate donors, including corporations such as Microsoft, Comcast, Time Warner, as well as Joseph Coors, and yes, the Koch brothers17. This money was then funneled into various state based think tanks, like the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which crafted position papers and attempted to affect legislation in ways favorable to its corporate donors – fighting against a minimum wage, ending collective bargaining, a “fair” tax system which always involves lower corporate taxes. One cannot help but think that Fein’s passion on this particular issue is motivated entirely by the interests of the SPN. For instance, in his editorial “A race based drift?”, he argues against “a race-based government for Native Hawaiians unconstrained by the restrictions of the U.S. Constitution” and that passage of the bill “would mark the beginning of the end of the United States, akin to the sack of Rome by Alaric the Great in 410 A.D.” Whether the bill warrants such a hysterical reaction, I offer no judgement, but I think we might contrast it with his attitude towards indian nations who are sovereign and apart from federal regulations on their banking. In “The Last Enclaves of Banking Freedom”, such sovereignty is praised and very much a good thing:

The sole enclaves of banking choice are Native American tribes endowed with sovereign powers pursuant to treaties or otherwise. They offer sovereign lending to the spiraling number of the unbanked or under-banked who have been priced out of services offered by traditional lenders because of heavy-handed and costly Obama regulation.

Like mercy, sovereign lending is twice-blessed. Borrowers’ needs for immediate funds are satisfied. And jobs and wealth are created for Native American tribes. Sovereign lending has the potential to create thousands of jobs, and generate millions in revenue annually for economically challenged Native Americans.

This was not a one-time caprice. The man who warned that Hawaiian sovereignty would mean the end of the United States, went back several times to the mat to preserve Indian sovereignty, exclusively from commerce regulation, in the HuffPo editorials, “Regulatory Impartiality for Native American Tribal Lenders” and “Misconceived New York Attack on Tribal Sovereignty”.

This piece began with the possibility that Fein was something mysterious, a double agent infiltrating the community of whistleblowers and dissidents, when he actually seems to be something much simpler: an opportunist. After 2004, The state war machine gravy train looks like it’s starting to run to ground. “Nobody has ever read them,” Dick Cheney said of the volumes that make up the Iran-contra minority report, but they “are very good in laying out a robust view of the president’s prerogatives with respect to the conduct of especially foreign policy and national security matters.” At some point after 2004, the man who gave the historical foundation for that view of the president’s prerogatives instead started writing stuff like “Impeach Cheney” for Slate. Stuff like “Shaky Steps” for the Washington Times: “President George W. Bush’s sophomoric plan for Iraqi democracy and freedom announced last Monday discredits his ability to lead the nation.” Was this abrupt one hundred and eighty degree shift ever mentioned or explained in his writings? Of course not. Why should genius have to answer to mortals like we.

The man who took on clients that starved and mutilated their opponents now chastises the Obama administration for its brutality. The man who thinks Hawaiian sovereignty will be the end of the Republic praises the virtues of the sovereignty of indian tribes. The man who provided the historical research for a report backing near independence for executive foreign policy from congressional oversight now seeks to impeach a president for the same practice. The man who bemoans the possibility of an american president ordering assassinations, heartily endorses a candidate who put forward a bill making such killings legal. And he is able to take such multiple and contradictory positions without repercussion or question for the simple reason that the D.C. press is as blind and self-impressed as a masturbating mole rat.

The conversation continues on the subject of the Koch brothers.

And they give a lot of money. And my sense is, that you’re attributing enormous amount of powers to the president, and to this imperial presidency, and this surveillance state, et cetera. All of which I think is true, but on the other side of the coin, in many ways it feels that the president is powerless. That Wall Street is more powerful than Washington, and that one of these great promises, of course, was net neutrality, and that is about to go out the window, because of the power of Comcast, and Time Warner, and these powerful lobbyists that are getting their way. So, I don’t think this country…it seems like the industrialists have as much, if not more power than the president.

Well, I think that’s an overstatement. The greatest power you have is to extinguish somebody else’s life…and choose between predator drones and moneyed interests, the predator drones will prevail. But I wanna make a larger observation: these interests prevail simply because there’s lack of courage, it exists not because the president doesn’t have the power, he clearly does have the power, the authority of the government to prevent the murders is there. The authority of the government to impose net neutrality, if you will, is there. It’s simply that president Obama, like most of the Republicans, have been bought off and compromised by the moneyed interests. You can go back to Sam Adams, which really expressed the heart and soul of the United States, and he was preaching similar if you will to those who wanted money and trade privileges with Britain more than independence. And he said, “If ye love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude more than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace, and may posterity forget that ye were ever out countrymen. And so I don’t believe it means there’s less actual authority in the office of the White House or in Congress. It’s simply that they’ve lost the moral and philosophical spirit to stand up and say, “No, we are not a country that bows to mammon. We believe in liberty and, no, you’re not going to get what you’re clamouring for. We want openness and fairness in competition, and you’re not going to manipulate the organs of government to enrich yourself.”

Fein here pins down the federal government as the chief cause of inequality, one that moves into supposedly free markets and plays favorites, thus entrenching our privileged hierarchy. This is the approach taken by all libertarians when dealing with the issue of pervasive inequality. After the publication of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” which gave a basis in data for the obvious fact that legislation favored by oligarchs has a possibility of passage that laws favored by a majority of citizens in a lower economic caste never have, Tim Worstall’s solution in “New shocking research proves that rich people control American politics” was to argue for less government for the wealthy to manipulate. This was the same answer offered by fellows libertarian James Poulos in reaction to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “Today’s Wonky Elite Is in Love With the Wrong French Intellectual”: “Since the power of the fleeting aristocracy of wealth depends on the much greater and more durable power of the state, the key to weakening the influence of the super-rich is not by handing the government their money but by…sharply limiting the scope of centralized government.” This received a reprimand from the book’s translator, Arthur Goldhammer, “Poulos Gets Piketty—and Tocqueville—Wrong”, that was striking in its dismissal of the Poulos’s lack of knowledge and intellectual discipline: “His column is such a mishmash of assertion and non-sequitur that it’s hard to fasten on an argument.”

So, Fein’s approach in his answer is not unique or notable given his political company. What is surprising, given Fein’s history, is this phrase about why this economic inequality has come about: “It’s simply that president Obama, like most of the Republicans, have been bought off and compromised by the moneyed interests.” This really does stand out in my mind because of a letter I came across, again thanks to Ames’ “Libertarian Bum Fights”, where Fein discusses strategy for dealing with S.1883: Tobacco Product Education and Health Protection Act of 1990. Oh, yes: in addition to Sudan and RENAMO, Bruce Fein worked for the tobacco companies. S.1883 would have researched the addictiveness of tobacco products, enforced the restriction on sales to minors, and forced companies to disclose health risks of tobacco products to consumers. In this letter, Fein writes about marshalling opposition to the bill, and attempts to deflect this legislation by having a bone thrown to two private companies, Turner Cable Network and Whittle Communications, which would get health warnings paid for by Philip Morris on their in-school educational broadcasts.

The cast of charactes in this letter: Cary Sherman is a lawyer with Arnold & Porter, longtime counsel for Philip Morris. The PM is the Philip Morris company. Thurmond is Strom Thurmond, the late and unlamented Senator from South Carolina. Hatch is Orrin Hatch, the Senator still serving from Utah. Kennedy is the late Edward Kennedy, sponsor of the bill. The letter can be found at the Legacy Tobacco Documents, “Re: S.1988” – the title is obviously wrong, and most likely the result of a scanning error, as the letter is entirely devoted to S.1883; it is transcribed here, with accompanying screenshots of the original letter should this database be lost:

To: Cary Sherman
From: Bruce Fein
Re: S. 1883

Last Tuesday, I met with Senator Thurmond’s legislative captain for S. 1883, Craig Metz. I communicated some major flaws PM perceived in the bill, with the Kennedy substitute amendment: convert government suasion of broadcasters and programmers to portray smoking as unflattering and ugsome; unequal free speech over the airwaves by forbidding promotion of smoking while subsidizing its denunciation; the specious effort to advertise the bill as a states’ rights measure when it denies states power to regulate the authority over advertising of its municipalities; the illegitimate purpose of balkanizing the advertising of cigarettes to squelch commercial speech in a national market; the unfair authorization of states to saddle tobacco producers with potential billions in tort liability for inadequate health warnings despite scrupulous compliance with warnings that Congress has found adequate; the anti-blue collar overtones of the bill because the royalty of Senator Kennedy’s ilk who engage in saturnalia on Cape Cod partake of other pleasure to gratify their sensual desires; and, the dangerous precedent S. 1883 would set for government gambits on other products that may be insalubrious like pork, sugar, or hot dogs.

Metz received all the arguments openly, but was guarded as to how Thurmond might vote. He stated the Senator desired a low profile, and, at present, was uncommitted. I deduced that Thurmond may be willing to trade his vote on S. 1883 for a Kennedy vote on a bill he champions. Tobacco farmers, however, are a significant electoral constituency in South Carolina. How Thurmond’s support for alcohol warning labels may affect his posture on S. 1883 is uncertain.

(Bob Cable sat in the meeting with Metz).

I met alone last Thursday with George Lewis, Senator Hatch’s chrieftan [sic] for S. 1883. Bob Cable was occupied on other matters.

I reiterated PM’s concerns regarding S. 1883 that I had previously elaborated to Craig Metz.

Lewis seemed more openly receptive to the arguments than Metz, and scornful of the bill. He stated that a consensus in the Labor and Human Resources Committee agreed S. 1883 needed major revamping, and that the Kennedy substitute was seriously flawed. He seemed to think only the proposals for enhanced anti-smoking campaigns directed at youth enjoyed widespread committee support. He further opined – and on this count he echoed Metz – that S. 1883 would never reach a floor vote this session because of the crowded Senate calendar. Lewis did not display enthusiasm for Hatch playing a so-called “broker” role to crown S. 1883 with at least incomplete success.

It seems to me that one option that PM might explore to demonstrate its strong devotion to shielding minors from smoking is participation in the Whittle Communications and Turner Cable Network public school daily news briefs (8-10 minutes) that now penetrate up to 8,000 school districts. Whittle and Turner deliver their programming by satellite to TVRO dishes on school sites. PM might consider sponsoring health warnings at some point in the news briefs as a public service announcement.

Fein tobacco letter p1 cropped Fein tobacco letter p2 cropped

Fein tobacco letter p3 cropped Fein tobacco letter p4 cropped

We return to the conversation, still on the subject of inequality.

But surely Bruce Fein, you detect, it’s in the political zeitgeist now, the issues of inequality are growing, growing inequality of wealth, it’s going to be clearly a campaign issue, the number one best seller if Thomas Piketty’s new book, I think it’s Capital in the 21st Century, that is about how the rich are getting richer, and the middle class is floundering, and the poorer are getting poorer. I just interviewed a scholar at Princeton the other day who’s done a study that indicates…he doesn’t use the word oligarchy, but the word oligarchy is out there, and that is what seems to me to be the big question. And our politics at the moment is the extent, have we become an oligarchy, or are we still a democracy? That seems to be the main question. One of the things that he discovered in his research, which was pretty thorough, going on several decades, is that the powerful special interests in this country…if they want a policy, they have a 50-50 chance of getting it enacted. The middle class have very little influence, and the poor have no influence ever at politics. But the wealthy elite, they do not refer to them in this study as oligarchs, but I think he calls them the wealthy elite…they have a 50-50 chance of getting their policies through, and conversely, if they don’t want something to happen, it’s only got an eighteen percent chance of succeeding. So, in effect, the wealthy have veto power over our government. That is a portrait of current issues. So, which is the more important, economic fairness, or-

Well, economic fairness, I think, won’t matter if we don’t have any liberty anymore. We can have bread and circuses, and be a little complacent, but we would destroy ourselves as a free people. Cicero described freedom as participation in power, and that’s what we’ve lost. All the power that is serious, has migrated to the executive, which frequently bows, if you will, to moneyed interests, but not exclusively. It doesn’t do that. But in my judgement, if we’re looking at two concerns: one, the manipulation of government to enrich the rich. As opposed to the use of government to run an empire, where it crushes liberty and freedom. And we have surveillance everywhere, and no due process, and we kill people, even our own citizens, based on the president’s say-so alone. We will crumble as an empire, and then all the economic issues will be out of the equation, because there’ll be no country to defend. And that, in my judgement, is where we will be in thirty years. We’ve got an eighteen trillion dollar debt that’s just not sustainable. And continuing to project ourselves everywhere under the sun, now we’re going to war with Japan over five uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, with China, I mean, this is just madness. And now, we go everywhere else in the world, where anybody who says they’re a terrorist, stands up and says they don’t like the United States. Now, I don’t want at all to downplay the issue of inequality, I think that’s exactly what James Madison feared when he said, “We do not want people to profit off speculating off public measures.” And that’s what’s happened here. They’ve manipulated and changed government, from an institution to seek justice, and seek equal opportunity, to one that creates special privileges for the rich to become even richer. The bailout of the banks is a characteristic example of that. And in some sense, it has the earmarks of the eve of the French revolution. Ultimately, there was a storming of the Bastille. But surely, the economic inequality of that time was equally acute.

Well, my sense though, is that one of the reasons why government has these powers is that there’s an enormous amount of alienation in this country, against government. You see people on the right, the militia movements and stuff, they invent all kinds of evils of the government, and they want to arm themselves against this government, there’s a face-off now going on, down in Nevada, over a rancher who, by the way-

But he’s not alienating- he’s pouting- he’s mooching off of government.


He’s a sponge. He wants to graze on government land and not pay for it.

I know, but your candidate, Rand Paul, supported him before-

Well, he renounced him.

Till this-

Racist scumbag.

-the only worse racist is this Donald Sterling, which is our shame here in Los Angeles. But the point I was wanting to make, Bruce, is that, I sense even more on the left than the right, but on both the far left and the far right, in this country, an enormous alienation, a belief that the government is just a remote, malignant force that they have no control over. That leads to all kinds of weird conspiracy theories about what the government is up to. I don’t see in this country, given that only fifty percent of the people vote, a real sense, that we, the people, own this damn government, and we should make this government work for us, and not work for itself. Where is that spirit going to come from?

No, and that’s what part of the task of leadership is, Ian. And we have, as I say, an acephalous political culture: there is no leadership. But that’s the purpose of being a political leader, to arouse and awaken the American people. We the people are sovereign, and that’s the highest office in the land, and you have a duty, not an option, but a duty to participate in government. A duty to have your eyes and ears alert to government abuses, a duty to participate in the dialogue, so your ideas can enrich the debate. And that’s unfortunately absent at present. Now, I don’t think the democracy is quite as decrepit as you’ve described. I think one example, which was quite refreshing, was the public outcry against another war in Syria. If it wasn’t for that public consensus, President Obama was ready to fire eight hundred cruise missiles into Syria, and we’d be engaged in another futile fool’s errand, making us complicit in further moral evils and stupidities. And so it showed, that the President and the Congress did wake up when the shouting was sufficiently loud. But we need to have that regularly and constant, and it has to be an unwritten rule of American life. That’s what you buy into when you’re an American citizen. And that’s gotta be preached around the dinner table, the breakfast table, the classroom, and social engagements, and otherwise. That’s what makes us Americans.

Well, Bruce Fein, I appreciate you joining us here today. And I thank you.

Thank you, Ian. It’s been delightful.

POSTSCRIPT (27/01/2015):

Bruce Fein would delete all tweets related to Mattie Lolavar, though their text stayed here in this site’s screenshots. He would get a weekly column at The Washington Times (link), where he would continue to rail against the national security state that he so recently supported, such as “American political leaders – not the CIA – were the post-9/11 culprits”, “Republican counterfeit conservatives seek presidency”, “Stop U.S. democracy promotion abroad”, and “It’s time to abolish the CIA”. But there was also “The superiority of Western culture”, which featured this section: “Western culture is superior to all others. It is the cornerstone of civilization. It is the only culture in the history of the world that makes votive offerings to reason and dissent in all their moods and tenses.” and “This should be taught in the United States and throughout the world.” There also was “Curing the sexual assault epidemic”, accompanied by photos of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. “The case of President William Jefferson Clinton speaks volumes about how far the male culture has to go…Think of the terrible message he is sending to male youths. There is no shame or penalty in using women to gratify your sexual appetites. Sexual assault is not far away.” There was also “Nancy Pelosi insults women”: “House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has insulted women far beyond the epithets or inanities of Rush Limbaugh or Todd Aiken. She played the gender card last week to exculpate her responsibility for the Democratic Party shellacking in the 2014 midterm elections.” Fein had tweeted, “Warning: Every person the filthy, sordid, mega-slut Ms. Mahtaub Lolavar touches turns to nauseating depravity.” Fein had no shortage of warnings about women, whether they be Mattie Fein or others.

Fein would also post “Hillary’s gender hallucinations” and “Handcuffing Queen Hillary”, and this was not surprising; “Clinton Opponents Hone New Barbs and Attacks as 2016 Campaign Nears” by Amy Chozick pointed out that “plans to introduce a website called that will largely focus on Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy positions and her views on executive power.” Fein had a problem with Hillary Clinton’s unrestrained use of executive power, the very position he’d defended in the Iran-contra report, and which served as the keystone for Dick Cheney’s own policies. Though Fein said the website grew from a pamphlet on Senator Rand Paul’s policy positions (he is an ardent defender of Paul, see “Rand Paul knocks out Marco Rubio like Ali over Foreman” or “Rand Paul’s pioneering war declaration”), Paul kept his distance: “A spokesman for Mr. Paul said the senator had met Mr. Fein but never talked with him about an anti-Hillary website.”

On January 24, 2015, Mattie Fein would argue for punishing civil suits against Edward Snowden and Julian Assange in an editorial for The Hill, “Cyber questions for Obama’s AG nominee” ( link):

Edward Snowden and perhaps co-conspirators in the conversion of 1.7 million classified government files for his use and that of his associates, or the media internationally, are also beyond the reach of the criminal law. Snowden remains in Russia and other infamous media figures associated with him, scattered around the globe. Wikileaks and Julian Assange have remained a menace to the United States over unauthorized disclosure of classified information also beyond the realm of a criminal prosecution. Ditto North Korea’s involvement with the Sony hacking incident.

With regard to Snowden, Assange, and the other international bad cyber actors, the United States could consider filing a civil suit against him for conversion of government information. Remedies could include money damages, return or destruction of the information, or an injunction against further publication of sharing of the documents. An injunction against international leakers and hackers would not run afoul of the Pentgon Papers precedent because there the parties to be enjoined, The New York Times and The Washington Post, had not converted or purloined the documents at issue. Additionally, the Pentagon Papers ruling did not foreclose a damage remedy against the newspapers for profiting from the exploitation of stolen property.

That suggests broadening civil actions against leakers, hackers, and co-conspirators to include all parties that knowingly and directly benefited financially from use of the government’s converted documents. These would include book authors or publishers, movie producers, or media outlets who relied in whole or in part on stolen intelligence materials.

There is precedent for the U.S. government to use civil lawsuits to protect classified information. Former CIA agent, Frank Snepp, published a book about CIA activities in South Vietnam, Decent Interval, without submission for prior pre-publication review. The CIA, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, won an injunction providing for the clearance of any future publications by Snepp. The Court held that the United States was entitled to the profits Snepp derived from the book.

Mattie Fein’s credit listed the company she currently headed: “Fein is president of M22 Strategies, a policy and research firm focused on security and cyber policy.” The address for M22 Strategies was a UPS drop box in Florida18.

Wikileaks would mention the editorial in a tweet, re-tweeted by Fein (tweetsave link):

The re-tweet in a cropped screenshot of Fein’s tweets:

Bruce Fein Transcript

There was also this unironic tweet by a former supporter of the Iraq war (tweetsave link):

Fein would offer this tweeted note on his past fracas with his ex-wife (tweetsave link):

POSTSCRIPT (30/01/2015):

This post began with a conspiracy dissolving into the mundane details of a broken marriage. It returns, for the moment, as something with the beguiling veneer of conspiracy.

As already posted, Wikileaks would tweet out a poisonous note in response to Mattie Fein’s editorial:

This would prompt the following response by Jesselyn Radack, a whistleblower and the attorney for another whistleblower, Edward Snowden19.

The following are the back and forth replies to the initial Wikileaks tweet; Justin Raimondo is a well-known conservative anti-war activist.

This post began off another post on the Feins which ended with a reference to Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, and the idea of finally seeing in death all the face down cards of life face up. This post-script reminds me of Philip K. Dick again, and my ridiculous wish about what actually happens at the end of A Scanner Darkly: that the mind of Bob Arctor is perfectly intact, that it’s all a subterfuge of his own to infiltrate the heart of the drug smuggling empire, to take down New Path. You think I’m falling apart? I’m just going deeper undercover. You think you’ve seen me clearly? I’m still a secret agent.

(On July 1st, the following changes were made: footnote #8, listing the interview of Bruce Fein by Jack Hunter was added; footnote #15, a supplemental screenshot of the SPN list featuring the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was added; an overall clarifying edit, without chaning any meaning, was made; spells were checked; the D.C. press were no longer referred to as a blind and lazy mole rat, but a blind masturbating mole rat. On July 2nd, some links for footnotes #11 through #14 were fixed; some additional material in the “war machine gravy train” paragraph was added, including the links to Fein’s pieces in the Washington Times and Slate. On July 3rd, a new footnote #11 was added – all footnotes following it were incremented by one – for the soure of the information on Jack Hunter’s past. On July 4, 2014, excerpts were added to footnote #2 from the Dana Milbank article, “E-mails back claim that Sen. Rand Paul ‘stole’ NSA lawsuit”, which providing additional support to the allegation that Rand Paul’s NSA lawsuit was very much plagiarized from Fein’s work.)


1 From Lolavar v. de Santibanes:

Pursuant to this second contract, Miss Lolavar went to Argentina in August 2000 to assist de Santibañes with preparations for his testimony in Argentine congressional hearings inquiring into allegations that he and the Argentine intelligence agency, known as SIDE, were responsible for bribing various Argentine senators in exchange for political support.

Morris and Stone assigned other tasks to Miss Lolavar while she was in Argentina. Among other acts, they instructed her to contact SIDE and obtain a list of journalists who accepted bribes from that organization in order to harm the credibility of those same journalists in reporting on a bribery scandal surrounding de Santibañes and President de la Rua, as well as requiring her to spread false information to the press concerning de la Rua’s political opponent, Dr. Carlos Menem.

A request that occasioned controversy between Miss Lolavar and the defendants was Morris and Stone’s request that she serve as an intermediary in an anonymous wire transfer of funds to an official in Israel. These funds were to be paid to secure intelligence files from the Israeli government to assist de la Rua’s political domestic disputes with Menem, and to imply a corrupt relationship between Menem and George W. Bush, who was then running against Albert Gore for the United States presidency. These files were to be altered by Miss Lolavar to appear to be SIDE documents.

When the defendants became concerned that this plot would be discovered and traced back to them, they ordered Miss Lolavar to orchestrate a press response to blame Vice President Gore for the dissemination of the documents, since it was known to them that the Gore campaign had been attempting to connect Menem with the Bush campaign.

When Miss Lolavar refused to cooperate with these demands, the defendants undertook a series of reprisals. First, they refused to pay her fees under the contract until she executed the wire transfers. Additionally, they made a number of false defamatory statements concerning her, including that she was anti-Semitic, that her efforts to disclose these transactions were the result of a political bribe by Menem’s Peronist Party, and that she forged the correspondence that was evidence of the defendants’ wrongdoing.

2 From “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit” by Dana Milbank, on the similarities between the two drafts:

But a Jan. 15 draft of the complaint written by Fein has long passages that are nearly identical to those in the complaint Cuccinelli filed Wednesday. Except for some cuts and minor wording changes, they are clearly the same documents.

For example, Fein’s version said, “When the MATP was disclosed by Edward Snowden, public opinion polls showed widespread opposition to the dragnet collection, storage, retention, and search of telephony metadata collected on every domestic or international phone call made or received by citizens or permanent resident aliens in the United States.”

Cuccinelli’s version said, “Since the MATP was publicly disclosed, public opinion polls showed widespread opposition to the dragnet collection, storage, retention, and search of telephone metadata collected on every domestic or international phone call made or received by citizens or permanent resident aliens in the United States.”

Fein wrote: “On information and belief, Defendants’ Mass Associational Tracking Program since its commencement in May 2006 has not stopped or been instrumental in stopping even one imminent international terrorist attack or has otherwise assisted Defendants in achieving any time-sensitive objective.”

Cuccinelli’s version: “Upon information and belief, since its commencement in May 2006, Defendants’ Mass Associational Tracking Program has not stopped or been instrumental in stopping even one imminent international terrorist attack or otherwise assisted Defendants in achieving any time-sensitive objective.”

A follow-up article by Milbank (reached via “‘My marginalization was thoroughly unfair’” by Steve Benen), “E-mails back claim that Sen. Rand Paul ‘stole’ NSA lawsuit”, gives further support that Bruce Fein initiated the allegations that the NSA suit was plagiarised from his initial draft, with the first complaint being sent from Bruce Fein’s email address, not his ex-wife’s:

Here is the first email Fein wrote, which he sent to Doug Stafford, Paul’s top political advisor.

On Feb 12, 2014, at 1:56 PM, “Bruce Fein” b***** wrote:

Dear Doug,

The protocols for preparing and filing the class action complaint today were hugely suboptimal.

My name was not on the complaint despite the fact that it was predominantly my work product over several weeks and two hundred hours of research, meetings, and drafting. Ken never showed me the final complaint before submission. My name could not be on the complaint under DC Bar Rules because I could not prepare a timely engagement letter. I was never informed until yesterday by Ken of the details of the collaborative arrangement between FreedomWorks and Rand for litigating and paying for the lawsuit. I promptly revised the engagement letter when the information was received, and it has been forwarded via Ken to Rand and FreedomWorks.

I did not learn of the date for filing except by inadvertence from Ken a few days ago.

I was not included in any briefing of Rand about the complaint before filing and press conference today despite the fact that I know vastly more about the Fourth Amendment issue and the history of NSA surveillance than anyone else on the team.

My outstanding invoice for work indispensable to the lawsuit should be paid no later than Friday, February 14, an expectation which is completely justified in light of all the circumstances. Please alert me if the work description on the invoice needs alteration.

Thanks for your attention to these matters.

Bruce Fein

Cuccinelli’s limited experience in the venue, from Milbank’s “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit”:

But when Paul filed his suit at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Wednesday morning, Fein’s name had been replaced with that of Ken Cuccinelli, the failed Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia who until last month had been the state’s attorney general. Cuccinelli has never argued a case in that courthouse, and he isn’t even a member of the D.C. bar (he also filed a motion Wednesday seeking an exception to allow him to argue this case in D.C.). But he is, like Paul, a tea party darling.

Mattie Fein on Cuccinelli, from Milbank’s “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit”:

Fein, who has not been paid in full for his legal work by Paul’s political action committee, was furious that he had been omitted from the filing he wrote. “I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein,” Mattie Fein, his ex-wife and spokeswoman, told me Wednesday. “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit,” she said, adding that Paul, who “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.”

Again from Milbank’s “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit”, how dumb is Ken Cuccinelli?:

When Mattie Fein responded in an e-mail to Cuccinelli calling him “dumb as a box of rocks,” Cuccinelli wrote another e-mail to Bruce Fein saying, “I think this relationship is untenable.”

3 From “Libertarian Bum Fights” by Mark Ames:

Fein runs a Washington DC lobbying outfit called The Lichfield Group. His lobby group’s website is currently “under construction,” but before it was deleted, Fein used to boast about his excellent connections to the same government agencies that he, as a Ron Paul libertarian, opposes. A scrubbed “Expertise” page on the Lichfield Group’s website boasted:

The Lichfield Group features unrivalled government, media, and business experience. Exemplary is the Group’s high level connections with the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency, on the one hand, to The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, and nationwide broadcast or cable networks on the other.

The Group’s unsurpassed combination of legal, business, media, political, and government savvy enables it to handle crisis management, tactical, or strategic positioning with unexcelled deftness. Whether a client is a giant corporation handcuffed by ill-conceived United States government policies or a foreign government anxious to influence the decisions of Congress, the President, agencies, the judiciary, or State governments, The Lichfield Group is armed with the skills and contacts indispensable for success.

4 Should these tweets be deleted, these screenshots will show what this page looked like when they were extant:

bruce fein tweets at ityb p1 cropped bruce fein tweets at ityb p2 cropped

bruce fein tweets at ityb p3 cropped bruce fein tweets at ityb p4 cropped

5 The tweets:

Should this tweet be deleted, this screenshot will show them when they were extant:

whats with all the slut shaming cropped

6 From “Rand Paul didn’t plagiarize his NSA lawsuit” by Adam Serwer; it seems this headline is a little too absolute and unqualified. Based on the examples given by Dana Milbank, there are uncanny similarities between the two drafts, and all that has taken place is that Fein does not make such plagiarism charges, though his ex-wife does:

A spokesperson for RANDPAC forwarded an email from Fein denying Mattie Fein’s allegations. “Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me,” Fein said in the email. “Her quotes were her own and did not represent my views. I was working on a legal team, and have been paid for my work.” Bruce Fein confirmed to msnbc that the email was from him.

7 Should this tweet be deleted, this screenshot will show what this page looked like when they were extant:

bruce fein tweets at ityb p5 cropped

8 This interview with Jack Hunter, conducted on July 6, 2010, can be found in four parts on youtube: “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 1″, “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 2″, “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 3″, “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 4″.

The excerpt is taken from part one.

9 This story is covered in several places, including this site: “The Ron Paul Newsletter Story That I Found The Most Disturbing: “Blast ‘Em?””.

10 This story seems to have ignored by just about every news outlet, though it is covered in-depth on this site: “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part One”.

11 “Rand Paul aide slammed after report” by Katie Glueck in Politico (ugh) gives a good overview of the various things Hunter has said in the past.

12 From “U.S. military teams, intelligence deeply involved in aiding Yemen on strikes” by Dana Priest, via “Bum Fights” by Mark Ames:

The Obama administration’s deepening of bilateral intelligence relations builds on ties forged during George J. Tenet’s tenure as CIA director.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Tenet coaxed Saleh [Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh] into a partnership that would give the CIA and U.S. military units the means to attack terrorist training camps and al-Qaeda targets. Saleh agreed, in part, because he believed that his country, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, was next on the U.S. invasion list, according to an adviser to the Yemeni president.

Tenet provided Saleh’s forces with helicopters, eavesdropping equipment and 100 Army Special Forces members to train an antiterrorism unit. He also won Saleh’s approval to fly Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles over the country. In November 2002, a CIA missile strike killed six al-Qaeda operatives driving through the desert. The target was Abu Ali al-Harithi, organizer of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Killed with him was a U.S. citizen, Kamal Derwish, who the CIA knew was in the car.

Word that the CIA had purposefully killed Derwish drew attention to the unconventional nature of the new conflict and to the secret legal deliberations over whether killing a U.S. citizen was legal and ethical.

13 From “The Third Man”, on Barr’s involvement with DOMA:

His departure from the G.O.P. was notable because Barr didn’t just work in Congress; he often lived there, sleeping on his office couch. And when the Republican leaders wanted to be sure the far-right wing would support a measure they frequently went to him first. Barr didn’t just advocate Second Amendment rights; he held a seat on the board of the National Rifle Association. Although he voted in favor of some civil-liberties and small-government measures, he was also an ardent supporter of the war on drugs. He repeatedly sponsored legislation to undermine ballot initiatives legalizing medical marijuana-“bogus witchcraft,” he called it-in Washington, D.C. Barr vehemently opposed abortion, and once argued that even if his wife were raped he would do what he could to prevent her from having one. He wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, voted for a constitutional amendment outlawing flag desecration, and even tried to legislate against Wiccan soldiers who wanted to practice their faith while in the service. A churchgoing Methodist, Barr rarely invoked religion when discussing policy with his aides, but he told constituents that “God’s hand” was guiding his votes. In 1998, he traversed the country, trying to persuade people that President Clinton was leading America into amorality. “You can lie, cheat, steal, shoot someone,” Barr said in Iowa, at an event attended by Republican Presidential hopefuls. “You can do whatever you want and it doesn’t matter-it’s a cartoon world.” In 1999, Congressional Quarterly labelled Barr a “Conservative True Believer.”

Perhaps the best source on the passage of the destructive drug laws of the 1980s and 1990s is Eric Schlosser’s Reefer Madness, and it makes clear Barr’s full and enthusiastic involvement:

In 1981, Congressman Newt Gingrich introduced a bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. Fifteen years later, as Speaker of the House, Gingrich sponsored legislation demanding a life sentence or the death penalty for anyone who brought more than two ounces of marijuana into the United States. Although the Clinton Administration opposed that bill, it accepted the basic premises of marijuana prohibition, allowing the heirs of the Reagan revolution to set America’s policy on the drug. Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Bob Barr emerged as two of pot’s fiercest and most outspoken critics. McConnell tried without success to make federal penalties for selling or possessing marijuana equivalent to those for selling or possessing cocaine and heroin. Barr fought hard to prevent any research into the “so-called medicinal use of marijuana” and claimed such attempts were part of a vast conspiracy. “All civilized countries in the world,” he said, “are under assault by drug proponents seeking to enslave citizens.” He called the effort to reform the nation’s marijuana laws a “subversive criminal movement.” McConnell and Barr were deeply concerned about the potential harms caused by smoking marijuana; but smoking cigarettes was a different story. Barr opposed lawsuits against tobacco companies, arguing that such efforts were reminiscent of “Soviet rule” and that the product in question was “legal, widely used, profitable, disfavored by the ruling intelligentsia…and subject to some colorable claim that it harmed someone, somehow, somewhere.” In 2002 McConnell accepted more money from tobacco lobbyists than any other member of Congress. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, responsible for an estimated 440,000 deaths every year.

14 This episode is described in many places, including “Presidential also-rans stiff small businesses” by Dave Levinthal and Robin Bravender:

Maryland-based author James Bovard sued 2008 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr for $47,000 he’s owed after ghostwriting a book for the former congressman. Barr, who once called [link does not go to the proper text in the original, so it’s been fixed] for “a surge in federal fiscal responsibility,” this month reported still owing a dozen different vendors an aggregate $157,450.

“I suppose when you deal with politicians, you shouldn’t have high expectations,” Bovard said. “He thinks he can walk away from paying his debt, but he is mistaken.”

15 What follows is the full text from Bruce Fein’s endorsement of Barr:

June 20, 2013

Fein – “Only Bob Barr Can Protect and Advance the Constitution in Congress.”

Bruce Fein, one of the leading Constitutional experts in the United States, is proud to endorse Bob Barr for Congress.

“It is vital to all who care about the Constitution, and who seek to have a Member of Congress who not only supports limited constitutional government but understands it, that Bob Barr return to Congress in GA 11,” Fein said in a statement today.

Fein said also:

“America is at a crossroads. There is a real battle in Washington between those who support a more oppressive federal government and those who support the Constitution. This is not a time for well-meaning but inexperienced people in Congress. We need Bob Barr, who brings his experience, seniority, and constitutional expertise with him and who will, on Day One, lead the movement, at a national level, for limited constitutional governance in Washington.”

“If you are a conservative who supports limited government and the Constitution, then join me in supporting Bob Barr for Congress,” concluded Fein. Bob understands that the final end of the state is to make men and women free to develop their faculties and to be morally accountable for their destines, not to create a Leviathan regulating and scrutinizing every nook and cranny of our lives.”

“I welcome the endorsement of my good friend, Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar with whom I have been proud to work with for many years, said Barr; who continued: “It is an honor to have Bruce on our team as we work to restore and reaffirm the concept of limited government in Washington and respect for the Constitution.”

Bruce Fein is Chairman of the American Freedom Agenda, founder of Bruce Fein & Associates, Inc., and The Lichfield Group; author of Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for our Constitution and Democracy; and a columnist for The Washington Times. Mr. Fein graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1972, clerked for a prestigious federal court, served as special assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel and the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Assistant Director for the Office of Legal Policy, Associate Deputy Attorney General, General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission, Counsel to the Joint Congressional Committee on Covert Arms Sales to Iran, Visiting Fellow for Constitutional Studies at the Heritage Foundation, Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Guest Lecturer at the Brookings Institute. Mr. Fein specializes in constitutional and international law, is a frequent witness before Congress, and is a regular guest on national television and radio.

Since everything related to a political campaign is ephemeral, I’ve uploaded screenshots of this page in the campaign website should it be down.

bruce fein campaign website p1 bruce fein campaign website p2

16 Should this site list go down, or should this entry be deleted, the following is a screenshot from the page on June 30, 2014:

grassroot instiute of hawaii on spn list

17 From Exposed: The State Policy Network, specific page 5:

While it has become an $83 million dollar right-wing empire, SPN and most of its affiliates do not post their major donors on their websites. The identities of the donors we have discovered reveal that SPN is largely funded by global corporations – such as Reynolds American, Altria, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Express Scripts, Comcast, Time Warner, and the Koch- and Tea Party-connected DCI Group lobbying and PR firm – that stand to benefit from SPN’s destructive agenda, as well as out-of-state special interests like the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family – that are underwriting an extreme legislative agenda that undermines the traditional rights of modern Americans. Corporations like Facebook and the for-profit online education company K12 Inc., as well as the e-cigarette company NJOY, also fund SPN, as demonstrated at its most recent annual meeting.

18 Contact information was taken from (link):

M22 Strategies, Inc.
4095 State Rd 7
Wellington, FL 33449

Link on UPS site of drop-off and shipping locations which lists this as a location: link. Location on Google Maps: link.

19 The tweets on twitsave: “Mattie Fein doesn’t have legal…” (link); “Surely you don’t agree…” (link); “I did not write the article.” (link); “You represented Lon Snowden.” (link); “The problem is that Bruce…” (link); “Hard to believe…” (link); “The question is whether…” (link).

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David Cronenberg’s Videodrome: Bad Religion

“She kissed his cheek, and the flesh against her lips felt as cold as the snowflakes at the window.”
–“Mojave” by Truman Capote, from Music for Chameleons

“And so it is “I,” the person among other persons, alone yet inseparable from the community of others, who sees as if for the first time and who reflectively comes to know the meanings that awaken in my consciousness.” – Clark Moustakas, Phenomological Research Methods, quote taken from “Being a Celebrity: A Phenomology of Fame” by Donna Rockwell and David C. Giles

(This contains spoilers for Videodrome, though it is very much written for those who have seen and are familiar with the movie. Given this, no attempt at a plot summary is made. There are spoilers for Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch as well. Script excerpts are taken from on-line transcripts at Script-o-rama, for Videodrome and Naked Lunch. I am indebted to The Rule of Metaphor by Paul Ricoeur, as a helpful, though often difficult, guide on the subject.)

One of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever seen. Some do not wish to attempt to examine the mysteries of why a certain film works, especially if it has this kind of memorable power, disturbing or otherwise; that this is like sealing beautiful flowing smoke in a glass. The hyptnotizing, electric flow ends with the entrapment, and there is perhaps something unfeeling as well – this kind of examination can be close to trapping insects in jars, and plucking their wings off. I know all this, and I look closer anyway1. What follows are my brief explorations of Videodrome. As with all explorations, they are unfinished.

The first thing to be looked at might be the quality so often remarked about this movie, its prescience. That it features a man who becomes obsessed with a virtual reality, to the point that he can no longer distinguish between the real and his hallucinations, this all is taken as an anticipation of our internet dominated lives, now. Properly placed, Videodrome is not a prediction, but simply a reiteration of past themes. Cronenberg himself would dismiss the idea of a conscious, intentional attempt at augury in many places, among them his introduction to a showing of the film in 2009, “Cronenberg Videodrome Intro” (from 1:30-3:00 in the clip):

The movie has been seen as being quite prophetic, as you mentioned, of everything from the internet to virtual reality, to interactive television and so on, I suppose you could say, “Did I anticipate all of that stuff?” and I suppose I could say, “Yeah.” But so what? Because nothing happens as a result of that. I wasn’t really trying to be prophetic. I was trying to…when you, if you’re an artist, all you’ve got, that might be unique, are the antenna that you have, that are sensitive to things that are in the air, that are around, that perhaps other people are not sensitive, as sensitive to, for whatever reason. And so I think that was what I was really doing then. Because there is a character in this movie [Brian O’Blivion] who is modeled after Marshall McLuhan, and he was certainly around the University of Toronto when I was there. And his thoughts, and his presence, and his prophecies, which were quite astonishingly accurate, I must say, so for me to…I was really trying to…to distill something of the zeitgeist of the time, I suppose, and also make something that was entertaining and sexy and perverse, I think. And you’ll let me know if I did that or not.

The director would again dismiss the possibility, as well as explain the genesis of the movie in “Cronenberg on Cronenberg” (15:55-17:42 in the clip):

Videodrome really came from the limitations of television at the time. Which was, I remember as a child, we had an antenna that would rotate, to pick up, each station needed the antenna to rotate to get the best image. So, you’d be watching your TV set, rotating the image, and seeing it come into focus in a way. And sometimes, when the major…this is something else that people don’t think of. It wasn’t twenty four hour a day television. It was…at eleven o’clock, eleven thirty, television was finished. Until the morning. You didn’t go all night. After all the television stations had shut down, you could sometimes pick up some strange signals, from…now, in Toronto it would be mostly from America, maybe Buffalo. Maybe from New York. Maybe from Detroit. And those signals were very weak, but you could pick them up late at night. And you would see things, but it would never be clear. And you wouldn’t know what you were watching. And it was very mysterious. And sometimes very disturbing. And very intriguing. And so I used that experience with Videodrome. In other words, old technology at the time. I even have scenes of a satellite dish, and so on, but of course when I was doing it, it was an antenna, not a satellite dish. There were no satellites. And it was just that idea of picking up a mysterious, forbidden signal. That somehow you had access to, via accident. And that’s really what it had to do with. Videodrome.

This idea of a hidden channel, is something very relevant, powerful, even today. [CRONENBERG: Yes.] When you think of the internet [CRONENBERG: Yes.], this darknet, there always seems to be a place where people are hoping to find something forbidden, or…

Yes. That’s actually true, and it’s why people sometimes think Videodrome is anticipating the internet, of course I wasn’t really thinking about it, but it’s true that some of the things that I was playing with, which is to say interactive television, television that would respond directly to you, was, is, in a sense, an anticipation of something…that has become the internet. Really. So, it hasn’t changed, and yes, there are some very forbidden…imagery and videos on the internet which….I mean, it’s quite extraordinary that the police could come to your house and discover that you had downloaded some images and arrest you and put you in jail for a long time. Mostly, child pornography and so on. But…that’s an extraordinary thought. That the images condemn you, immediately. And that, even though you just sat in your room and clicked to access them. But you were condemned by doing that. That’s extraordinary.

One should note the key element in the TV signals picked up from across the border, and that is the lack of control. The TV signal is described as “mysterious, forbidden”, a transmission where “you wouldn’t know what you were watching”. We have perhaps the exact inverse of the contemporary internet, which is defined by the search engine google, along with content filters like facebook and twitter, whose orderly and authoritative results arguably disciplined a wild and unruly place. Whereas the Videodrome signal is something like an unnamed ghostland, unknown and invisible to all atlases. It exists as a result of technology, and yet it also has the qualities of a hallucinatory vision which might seize a character, and whose meaning they must decipher, whether it has an implication for the here and now, or a portent of the future. This, of course, is a near exact description of the visions of another movie, which resemble old TV transmissions, the transmitted warnings of Prince of Darkness.

John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness - We are transmitting - URL if gif doesn't load:

Given that Videodrome is seen as a prescient vision, it might be useful to look at someone else from the very same time whose work is seen as predicting the internet, though that was not his intent, either. This would be the writer William Gibson, and his book Neuromancer, published only a year after Videodrome‘s release. I do not link the two out of any intent to make kleptic accusations; I think Gibson himself properly answers why you might have a similar focus in the movies and books of the time in “William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211”:

There’s an idea in the science-fiction community called steam-engine time, which is what people call it when suddenly twenty or thirty different writers produce stories about the same idea. It’s called steam-engine time ­because nobody knows why the steam engine happened when it did. Ptolemy demonstrated the mechanics of the steam engine, and there was nothing technically stopping the Romans from building big steam engines. They had little toy steam engines, and they had enough metalworking skill to build big steam tractors. It just never occurred to them to do it. When I came up with my cyberspace idea, I thought, I bet it’s steam-engine time for this one, because I can’t be the only person noticing these various things. And I wasn’t. I was just the first person who put it together in that particular way, and I had a logo for it, I had my neologism.

The neologism, the one Gibson put together, was cyberspace, before there was anything substantial outside of his fictional world that the name could be applied to. In this same interview, Gibson mentions his strongest influences: “William Burroughs, J. G. Ballard, Thomas Pynchon.” He gives special mention to Burroughs and Naked Lunch, describing it as a kind of science fiction without being hidebound to the traditions of the genre2. Lunch has been named by Cronenberg as his favorite book, and he, of course, took on the Sissyphean task of making it into a movie. Again, however, we are not speaking of A simply leading to B. “One of the reasons Burroughs excited me when I read him was that I recognized my own imagery in his work,” says Cronenberg at the time of the Lunch movie’s release. “It sounds only defensive to say, ‘I was already thinking of a virus when I read that!’ But there is a recognition factor. That’s why I think you start to feel like you’re vibrating in harmony with someone else. It’s the recognition, not that they introduced you to something that was completely unthought of by you.”3 Our thoughts slowly congeal into a metaphor, and we see elsewhere the public expression of someone else’s thoughts in similar metaphors. Lunch‘s Interzone is the unruly mix of many peoples where fantasy is unleashed; Neuromancer separates these two worlds with the vast crowd of the Sprawl, several interconnected North American cities – and the unrestricted virtual life of its cyberspace, the Matrix (a term native to this book and not the later movie series)4; Videodrome takes place in the interethnic mix of Toronto with a hero whose business is buying and selling pornography, and where its virtual fantasyland shares the movie’s title.

This is how I see Videodrome: as a partial expression of the themes of Naked Lunch, but one that is ultimately truer to the book than the actual movie adaptation. Though Lunch is often taken as surreal nonsense, with no connection to the actual, I think it is very obviously an attempt to express the author’s life experience, specifically his drug experience and his queer life, and the truest method of expression would be through often hallucinatory imagery. Burroughs had little involvement with hallucinogens, and the images of Lunch do not feel like any attempt at reproducing the experiences of such drugs, but at conveying a specific physical and emotional sense. A gay man, a drug user of the time must have felt like a hunted man, and so the protagonist of Lunch is someone literally hunted: a man wanted by cops who is also an undercover spy. The images are unreal, but not without purpose. The repulsive figures of the Mugwumps and Reptiles are visions of the addict himself, his flesh in a state of accelerated decay, his body deforming into something others consider monstrous, and about which he is indifferent:

On stools covered in white satin sit naked Mugwumps sucking translucent, colored syrups through alabaster straws. Mugwumps have no liver and nourish themselves exclusively on sweets. Thin, purple-blue lips cover a razor-sharp beak of black bone with which they frequently tear each other to shreds in fights over clients. These creatures secrete an addicting fluid from their erect penises which prolongs life by slowing metabolism. (In fact all longevity agents have proved addicting in exact ratio to their effectiveness in prolonging life.) Addicts of Mugwump fluid are known as Reptiles. A number of these flow over chairs with their flexible bones and black-pink flesh. A fan of green cartilage covered with hollow, erectile hairs through which the Reptiles absorb the fluid sprouts from behind each ear. The fans, which move from time to time touched by invisible currents, serve also some form of communication known only to Reptiles.

During the biennial Panics when the raw, peeled Dream Police storm the City the Mugwumps take refuge in the deepest crevices of the wall, sealing themselves in clay cubicles, and remain for weeks in biostasis. In those days of grey terror the Reptiles dart about faster and faster, scream past each other at supersonic speed, their flexible skulls flapping in black winds of insect agony.

The Dream Police disintegrate in globs of rotten ectoplasm swept away by an old junky, coughing and spitting in the sick morning. The Mugwump Man comes with alabaster jars of fluid and the Reptiles get smoothed out.

The air is once again still and clear as glycerine.

The Sailor spotted his Reptile. He drifted over and ordered a green syrup. The Reptile had a little, round disk mouth of brown gristle, expressionless green eyes almost covered by a thin membrane of eyelid. The Sailor waited an hour before the creature picked up his presence.

It is perhaps helpful to look at this imagery next to that of the excellent memoir of addiction, White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin, by Michael Clune. Though the book goes through the expected arc of such experience – introduction, addiction, descent, and many attempts at recovery of a pre-addicted life – it never falls into the monotony of detailing the endless days of addiction as if such dull accounting is charged with interest to the outsider, but effectively conveys this difficult life through often surreal images. This imagery never suggests an affect, an attempt at novelty, or simple writing games, but an honest relating of the addict’s inner life, so involved in inner twistings as to often break from reality. We have it in early description of a dealer:

In that bare front room at Dominic’s there is a trembling joy in the air. The thick sun of June gets trapped, pools, and grows cloudy. Proto-organisms form in the cloud of wood-color, heat, and sheet-light. I’m full of angels who fasten their lips and wings and hands to Dominic’s body, until he looks like a beach a thick flock of seagulls has landed on. By the time we get to the kitchen he doesn’t even look human.

We have it in this monologue about invisible spirits and creatures as a junkie injects, as intricate and solid a world as that imagined in Lunch:

He held the syringe before all of us. I could never have afforded a shot like that. It should have been in a museum. “Inducing the creature,” he said softly. He felt expertly along his neck till he found the pulsing vein. There was a black tattoo of a cross running down his neck and the vein pulsed along the cross. He slid in the needle and pressed down on the syringe.

“The creature is induced to crawl. Induced to walk. Induced to beg. To soil itself or not to soil itself. The sin is not the inducement. That’s what those old Christians in the joint never understood.”

“The sin is not the inducement,” Fathead continued. “That He may raise up the Lord casts down. Even unto the pit. This shit we think we’re doing here.” He laughed. “Another eye burns in our eye, another hand reaches through our hand. This,” he held up his thick, needle-scarred hand, “this is a glove.” He gazed thickly on it. “An abode for any spirit of the air. Every unrighteous and unclean spirit.”

“And that’s what God is,” Fathead said. “When the creature is induced to crawl out of the creature. I’ve seen it myself. The whatever leaving his eyes, ‘dying.’ Crawling into the invisible world. A thousand spirits curled up in a spoon. You should see the spirit leaving a man’s face; you can feel the room get thicker. I’ve done it myself. I’ll do it again.”

It is there in the sequence where Clune creates for himself a fictional refuge as he tries to stop using, a refuge which cannot contain the piercing cold, and this imagined sanctuary conveys better than any simple physical details the deeply frightening sense of naked vulnerability when trying to kick the drug:

That first night of kicking, I imagined I was living in a castle. A blizzard was raging outside. I’d been trudging though the blizzard, carrying my sword and shield, fleeing the enemy. I knocked on the massive oak door of the castle. I heard the slow sound of the bar being raised and the door swinging open. The friendly warmth rushed out, strong friendly hands pulled me, fainting, inside.

“You must be exhausted,” said a tall, handsome man in chain mail. “Well, everything is going to be fine. We have everything you need in this castle. The walls are strong; the enemy will never get in. And we have enough supplies to last for years in here.” I nodded and tried to smile.

They showed me to a room high in the walls. A big fire roared in the fireplace. A clean, white bed piled deep with cushions lay in the corner. I stood for several minutes gazing at it. I repeated the contents of this room in the castle over and over to myself. I was shivering terribly.

“They have hundreds of soldiers to protect me in this castle. The blizzard rages outside. It is warm and safe and deep inside the castle. I’ll fall asleep now.” But the shivering cold came through the thick castle walls. They had to move me deeper inside the castle, where I’d be warm.

They had to move me again. Deep in the castle’s heart, to a windowless room, with an ancient glowing furnace and a fire burning in the fireplace. They’d never heard of drugs. I heard hundreds of soldiers rushing in the corridors.

“They’re going to their battle stations.” I invented the name of the enemy. The history of the country. The names of the people in the castle army. “Henry Abelove, Lieutenant.” I counted their weapons. Lieutenant Abelove led me on a tour of their supplies and armaments.

But something was missing. Despite the plentiful stores of food, everyone in the castle looked starved and crazy. Despite the vast fires, the huge furnaces, the halls piled high with entire felled forests, I could not stop shivering.

“There is no sleep in this castle,” Lieutenant Abelove said sadly.

“But,” I said, “I thought that one first enters the castle, and then passes through into sleep.” He shook his head.

“This entire structure is built along the wall of sleep, but at no point does it penetrate it.” I tried to follow his words.

“Can’t we use some of these weapons, some of this fuel to break through?” He shook his head sadly. I tried to stop thinking about the castle.

Naked Lunch is a book that is unremitting in its nihilism, though at the same time full of cheerful laughter. We are lecherous, we are wicked, we are cruel; virtue and good works will not save us from suffering and painful death, both of which can be very funny to a passerby. The outlook might be that of someone fallen to the bottom of the pit, at a dead end bar, laughing at the fellow cripples alongside him. The humor is not that of a superior type looking down, or the cheerless kind of someone pining for some lost paradise and wanting to bring it back, but of a writer deep in muck who has no inclination to leave it. The landscape is unsettling – though not a Nowhereland, but very much America. New York City is life-like, and so is the book’s Missouri, filled with American types:

He stands up screaming and black blood spurts solid from his last erection, a pale white statue standing there, as if he had stepped whole across the Great Fence, climbed it innocent and calm as a boy climbs the fence to fish in the forbidden pond-in a few seconds he catches a huge catfish-The Old Man will rush out of a little black hut cursing, with a pitchfork, and the boy runs laughing across the Missouri field-he finds a beautiful pink arrowhead and snatches it up as he runs with a flowing swoop of young bone and muscle-(his bones blend into the field, he lies dead by the wooden fence a shotgun by his side, blood on frozen red clay seeps into the winter stubble of Georgia) . . . The catfish billows out behind him . . . He comes to the fence and throws the catfish over into blood-streaked grass . . . the fish lies squirming and squawking-vaults the fence. He snatches up the catfish and disappears up a flint-studded red clay road between oaks and persimmons dropping red-brown leaves in a windy fall sunset, green and dripping in summer dawn, black against a clear winter day . . . the Old Man screams curses after him . . . his teeth fly from his mouth and whistle over the boy’s head, he strains forward, his neck-cords tight as steel hoops, black blood spurts in one solid piece over the fence and he falls a fleshless mummy by the fever grass. Thorns grow through his ribs, the windows break in his hut, dusty glass-slivers in black putty-rats run over the floor and boys jack off in the dark musty bedroom on summer afternoons and eat the berries that grow from his body and bones, mouths smeared with purple-red juices . . .

By rooting the book so solidly in the United States, rather than create a separate new universe of obscenity, it makes clear that its world – of drugs, queerness, and nihilism – is a part of America and always has been. “American humor is a really angry rube humor,” a point made by Michael O’Donoghue, insightful observer and comedy legend. “Very mean and aggressive. I’ve always liked American jokes.”5

The movie adaptation junks this nihilism, and junks the mean-spirited laughter. One example: a story about becoming consumed by one’s own asshole, which might be about the junkie’s physical sense of self-destruction, but is most definitely a nasty joke, is given in the movie a portentous setting of a dark highway, as if there were some deep meaning at its heart, and the deep meaning were its purpose. We might look at the original story in the novel, told there by Dr. Benway, and immediately hear the distinction in the lively patter which might remind one of Lenny Bruce, or other comedians of the time:

BENWAY: “Why not one all-purpose blob? Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.

“This ass talk had a sort of gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose? Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.

“This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriloquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called ‘The Better ‘Ole’ that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, ‘Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?’

“‘Nah! I had to go relieve myself.’

“After a while the ass started talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time.

“Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy incurving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: ‘It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.’

“After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole’s tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body. He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell. So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have amputated spontaneous-(did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa and only among Negroes where the little toe amputates spontaneously?)-except for the eyes, you dig. That’s one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eye on the end of a stalk.”

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

The movie has a tragedy in its first act, and this tragedy is its narrative heart, a re-play of Burroughs killing his own wife when he tried to shoot a glass on top of her head, and missed. This is all played sincerely, the protagonist even shedding tears, whereas an event like this in Naked Lunch, the book, would be played as a Buster Keaton pratfall. The tragedy pushes Bill Lee (Burroughs himself, for all intents and purposes) away from New York City (a very ersatz one, compared to the very real one of the book) and his fellow writers (a barely disguised Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg), to the mysterious Interzone. The book’s Interzone is very obviously the Tangier that Burroughs stayed in, full of spies, thieves, and disreputable characters; the paranoid scenes of the book are an attempt at capturing the paranoid setting6. The movie’s Interzone has vague references to the middle east, but is another place entirely, of the imagination, the prevalent spies a seemingly arbitrary feature. There, Bill Lee meets a couple who are Paul and Jane Bowles, but given the names Paul and Joan Frost. This Joan is somehow a reborn version of the other Joan, Joan Lee, the dead wife. There is the suggestion that somehow Bill Lee must overcome his inhibitions about his own queerness, and that this will lead to finally becoming an accomplished writer. The movie hints that Bill killing Joan was an unconscious expression of a desire to rid himself of his female mate, in a conversation with the gay Paul Frost: “They say you murdered your wife,” says Paul Frost. “It wasn’t murder. It was an accident,” replies Bill Lee. “There are no accidents. For example…I’ve been killing my own wife slowly, over a period of years,” Frost replies. “Well, not intentionally. I mean, on the level of conscious intention, it’s insane, monstrous,” Frost adds. “We appreciate,” says a typewriter agent, “that you might find the thought of engaging in, uh, homosexual acts, morally and, uh, possibly even…physically repulsive.” Bill Lee himself speaks of the dread he feels about his own identity: “I shall never forget the unspeakable horror that froze the lymph in my glands, when the baneful word seared my reeling brain. I…was a homosexual. I thought of the painted, simpering female impersonators I had seen in a Baltimore nightclub. Could it be possible I was one of those subhuman things?” This also shows up as an unfinished phrase in his typewriter, with one word made ominous through its absence: queer.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

“Hank”, also known as Jack Kerouac, and “Martin”, also known as Allen Ginsberg.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

“Paul and Joan Frost”, also known as Paul and Jane Bowles.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

Taken from the real life adventures of William and Joan Burroughs.

“Are you a faggot?”, asks a young man who wants to pick up Bill. “Not by nature, no. I’m not. I wouldn’t say…faggot. No.” The young man wears a centipede on a chain, and when Lee picks up a centipede body at the marktet, he has a slow realization of dramatic revulsion. “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine,” says the young man. “He specializes in sexual ambiguity.” Lee is introduced to the Mugwump, whose head, covered in phallic tubes that spit jism, also changes into a typewriter. Both with the various typewriters and elsewhere, we have a theme of hermaphrodite sex, Lee’s aversion to queerness ovecome as the male blends into the female. Bill carresses with powder the sensual orifice of a typewriter. Bill sits with Joan as she types away, the typewriter transforming into a mixed gendered beast turned on by the erotic story Joan is typing. Bill and Joan have sex, and this same mixed gender beast joins in. Joan’s domineering female housekeeper, Fadela, is also her lover, a woman who actually turns out to be a man underneath, Dr. Benway. Bill first accepts, and is then repulsed anew by his own sexual identity: he finally sleeps with an Interzone double of the young man who propositioned him, and right after he is given a nightmare vision of queer life, a monstrous decadent piercing the same boy like a captured animal. In this movie with such a heavy debt to Burroughs’ own life, that Lee ends in a state of revulsion at queer sex is perhaps supposed to explain the frightening, malevolent sex of Burroughs’ books. Bill Lee gets Joan Frost back, ransoming her with the Mugwump’s head, the creature of sexual ambivalence. Lee leaves Interzone for Annexia with this new Joan Lee, who must die again before he can cross over to the new country. Her death is unavoidable, an experience that the writer will annex for his own books, and the moment she dies, Lee is given entrance. All this – the idea of the tragic, the necessity of confronting the tragic in your writing, along with the idea of queer life as an issue – is alien to the wiseacre universe of Naked Lunch, the novel.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

Videodrome lacks the humor of Lunch, the novel, but it does have the book’s nihilism. At no point does it seem that there ever was a right choice for Max Renn to make, to avoid this increasingly strange and dangerous world. The two factions of Videodrome, headed by Barry Convex and Bianca O’Blivion, seem both equally unsympathetic – though Convex takes a slight lead in malice. Neither offer salvation or safety from the bleakness. Where Lunch the movie is set in a phantom New York City, Videodrome takes place in a very real, squalid, unpolished Toronto, and placing the exotic horror in a specific place makes its fearsome effects more acute: this is really happening. “Toronto. I was terrified to come to Toronto,” said Roberto Benigni to Cronenberg, several years after Videodrome‘s release. “Because all I knew of it was from your films.”7

There are several points in Videodrome where, if we’re looking, we might see similarities to Naked Lunch, the book, but these are in terms of broad concept, rather than anything borrowed for the movie’s distinct and memorable imagery. The book tells us of the Senders, who are able to practice a kind of devastating mind control comparable to the way Max is manipulated by the rival parties of Videodrome. Overusing this form of telepathic control transforms the Sender into a centipede8 and there is a brief moment in Lunch when a man’s flesh drips away as green ooze, revealing a massive centipede underneath; Barry Convex is shot, and it’s as if something primordial emerges from within his dying body9. A character pulls a black furred egg from inside a boy, an alien object taken out, just like Barry Convex inserting a videotape into Max10. Lunch‘s Interzone is a place of unrestrained sadomasochistic fantasy, just like the virtual torture chamber of Videodrome11. The book ends with Bill Lee shooting two detectives that are hunting him, and then escaping off into the unknown, somewhere outside time and space. This might bear a passing resemblance to the killing spree of Renn, which climaxes in his leaving for a different kind of unknown12.

Were I to begin to try and get at the source of this movie’s power, I would say that it lies with the movie’s visual metaphors lacking anything like a structure, didactic or otherwise, which defines them. The context of Naked Lunch, the movie, gives a strong definition to its own metaphors. The creature of mixed genitalia that entangles itself with Bill Lee and Joan Frost, the typewriters with sensual openings, the jism spitting creature of sexual ambivalence, the Mugwump, are all part of the theme of a man unwilling to admit some aspect of his sexual identity, who is unable to admit to his complicity in his wife’s death, and who must try to admit to both in order to become a great writer. The metaphors of Videodrome may well be equally didactic, but lacking anything like the rigid surrounding organization, their power and mystery is enhanced.

For example, the metaphor, “my love for you is a rose bush in flames,” whatever its many flaws, is ambiguous in meaning without setting. Is this love like a holy one, a holy love profaned, a great love destroyed, or one so intense that it must be ephemeral? If this line is placed in the context of a short story about a man discovering his wife having an affair, the line is reduced to a singular meaning: our great sacred love is now destroyed. The metaphors of Videodrome may well lend themselves to didactic readings, but the story offers no direction one way or the other. I find this sense of stepping into something uncertain is there at the movie’s very beginning when Bridey James wakes Renn from sleep:

Civic TV, the one you take to bed with you.

Max, it’s that time again. Time to slowly, painfully ease yourself back into consciousness. No, I’m not a dream, although I’ve been told I’m a vision of loveliness. I’m your faithful girl Friday, Bridey James, here with your wake-up call of today, Wednesday the 23rd. You got that? Wednesday the 23rd.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

I always hear ease yourself back into consciousness as having a slight air of menace, as if Bridey knows of the dreamworld that is soon to come, and you can wonder to what extent she’s a conspirator with the other players in what comes next. Bridey has this ambiguity because like all the other characters in the movie, there really is no character there. They do what’s necessary for the plot and provide exposition, but do not have much more substance than that. Nicki Brand is an enigma of unreconciled elements. She hosts the “Emotional Rescue Show” (“You want help. You need help.”), and she’s clear that she thinks Renn’s movies are dangerous, “We always want more, whether it’s tactile, emotional or sexual. And I think that’s bad” Yet her first words at Max’s are, “Got any pornos?” She always wants more as well, a needle through the ear, a cigarette burned in her breast, and finally giving it all up to live her dream to be on Videodrome. An actual character might give an intuitive coherence to these polarities, but she does not. Brian and Bianca O’Blivion are the movie’s only guides to the hallucinatory technology, and they may be villains as well – but that is left entirely to us. There is nothing in their character that implies one thing or the other, and we might read what we want.

The metaphors of the movie, as said, could be read in the simplest terms, of movies transforming men and women into the ideals of their gender. The identification with these ideals, our approaching these ideals, gives us a sense of power, yet ultimately we are submissives, submitting to media, whose ability to reproduce and distribute images throughout the world can be thought of as a near divine power. Nicki is submissive, longs to play a role where she’s constantly submissive, and she disappears to be an image, though it’s as an image she becomes dominant. We see her choke O’Blivion to death, and we see her take over Renn’s video system, where she entices Max to bury himself within her. This last, where he sticks his head inside the tumescent screen of her lips, doesn’t suggest male penetration so much as male surrender. Max becomes the movie ideal of his own gender, a man with a gun, and yet it’s also a position without power or choice. The gun seals itself to his hand, and he becomes only one thing, an assassin, just as Nicki becomes only one thing, an image. He kills at the command of others, for their reasons, first his work associates and then Barry Convex. The gun should be a symbol of dominance, and yet he’s only submitting to the commands of someone else. Before the gun melds to his hand, it first sinks into the genital crevasse of his stomach, the same place where the tapes are inserted that give him his kill orders. “When I first got on this picture, I was an actor. Now I feel like I’m just the bearer of the slit,” James Woods would say to Debbie Harry during production. “Now you know what it feels like,” she replied13.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome - Max and the TV - URL if gif doesn't load:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

The newspaper story featured in the corner of this still is its own separate epic, detailing the adventures of rogue CIA agent Ed Wilson, who would sell weapons to Qaddafi in 1981. The Times story featured here is “Records show Wilson made millions on C.I.A. Experience”; this site early on reviewed Peter Maas’s excellent book on the subject in the post “A Libyan Footnote, The Sorry Tale of Edwin Paul Wilson, or: Manhunt – The Incredible Pursuit of a CIA Agent Turned Terrorist (Peter Maas)”.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome - Max gets his programming - URL if gif doesn't load:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

This, I think, is a credible reading, but one without certainty. There is nothing in the surrounding plot or characters to push us towards this reading, only our own experience and the suggestibility of the metaphors themselves. There is something of the unconscious in the movie – “the film drifts along like a dream from one disturbing episode to another,” Keith Phipps wrote in an excellent discussion of the film14. We might compare it to another movie of the unconscious, seemingly untainted by rule-making or restriction, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Here, we are also given images in which a great deal can be read, whether it’s Sandy staring at Jeffrey with newfound fear on the way to Dorothy’s, the sensual mouth of Dorothy open with pleasure and holding a chipped tooth, a crippled mute father, a woman commanding a boy for sex, an abusive man dominating a woman who call each other mommy and daddy, etc. There is something beguiling in what is unseen in Velvet, that we’re never given the full truth of the conspiracy between the Booth gang and the police department, and that there’s something to the characters of Sandy and Dorothy that remains unknown.

This makes sense as part of the movie’s perspective, of an adolescent boy who has just touched on the world’s secrets, and will only know more of them much later. The characters of Dorothy and Sandy may not be fully seen, but they are full characters, with what we do see hinting at what’s beneath. Though Blue Velvet may be dream-like, it at least gives us some context for these images, connecting them to sex and sexual roles. The father’s physical decline pushes the son into the role of an adult, at the same time that he moves into the frightening and alluring world of sex beneath happy domesticity. Sandy is drawn to Jeffrey, and she might be drawn to him because he’s a detective, because he’s a pervert, or because he’s both. He wants to play the role of a hero and help Dorothy, but he wants to play the role of Frank as well, and hurt her. He wants to be with Sandy the way he’s with Dorothy, and Sandy wants that as well. The movie gives us this context for these images, so they undulate around a specific possible meaning, without ever becoming head smackingly specific: the secret revelation of Blue Velvet is not that Jeffrey’s father abuses his mother, or anything else of tangible fact. There are no secret revelations, only endless dreams.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

We are given a context, in the characters and story of Blue Velvet, through which we might see these images, where we are given nothing comparable in Videodrome. There is nothing equal to those characters, which are not hidden, but seemingly not there at all, letting us, say, read as much mystery as we want in Bridey’s opening lines. Velvet allows us to reduce its images to a possible haze of meaning, while Videodrome gives us no such net. We are left with only the limits inherent in the images themselves, a vaginal gulf erupting in a man’s stomach, a gun falling within, and the gun grafting itself to his hand. The metaphors imply ideas that are not foreign to us, though the images themselves are alien. In a book with a realistic setting, these images would be acceptable similes, with obvious meanings of longing and violence. You are like the lips on the TV screen in which I bury myself. I am like the gun from which a man extends. I feel like TV is killing me. In Videodrome, these similes become metaphors that the characters inhabit. You are the lips on the TV screen in which I bury myself. I am the gun from which a man extends. TV is killing me.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome - TV turns into a gun - URL if gif doesn't load:

I have attempted to use Naked Lunch as a helpful prism through which to see Videodrome, as images that are not unprecedented or some discrete island, but a set of metaphors kindred to Lunch, both of which find more felicitous expression in the fantastic than the literal. The other helpful perspective, which I don’t think is mentioned often enough, is to see Videodrome through the lens of faith. Max Renn lives in a squalid, decaying city trafficing in a product that has value but no substance, and little or no utility. Capitalism is decadent, his city is in decline, like Rome’s, and here we have an interesting setting for his introduction to the mysteries of Videodrome. It is Masha who leads Renn to the O’Blivions, and in her first scene, she sells him a video of a roman orgy, Apollo And Dionysus (the gods are greek, but it looks very much like a roman bacchanal), and the second opens with a dancer and a restaurant, both clearly in a faux oriental style15. We might see here references to the two capitals of a past empire, Rome and Byzantium, before the arrival of a new creed. Where do we find the O’Blivions? At The Cathode Ray Mission, where they evangelize the poor and abandoned, just as any church might. Max: “You think TV can help them?” Bianca: “Watching TV will help patch them back into the world’s mixing board.”

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

A book I found very useful for looking at this movie in this light is Emile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, an attempt to find the essential underlying forms of religion by investigating the religious life of the tribes of Austrlia and North America. How much of its scholarship has been superceded by later efforts I am uncertain; I have found it a valuable source of insight whatever was published afterwards. The book’s description of how the concept of a soul may have come about is especially striking:

In order to find the elementary form of the religious life in these animistic beliefs and practices, three desiderata must be satisfied: first, since according to this hypothesis, the idea of the soul is the cardinal idea of religion, it must be shown how this is formed without taking any of its elements from an anterior religion; secondly, it must be made clear how souls become the object of a cult and are transformed into spirits; and thirdly and finally, since the cult of these spirits is not all of any religion, it remains to be explained how the cult of nature is derived from it.

According to this theory, the idea of the soul was first suggested to men by the badly understood spectacle of the double life they ordinarily lead, on the one hand, when awake, on the other, when asleep. In fact, for the savage, the mental representations which he has while awake and those of his dreams are said to be of the same value: he objectifies the second like the first, that is to say, that he sees in them the images of external objects whose appearance they more or less accurately reproduce. So when he dreams that he has visited a distant country, he believes that he really was there. But he could not have gone there, unless two beings exist within him: the one, his body, which has remained lying on the ground and which he finds in the same position on awakening; the other, during this time, has travelled through space. Similarly, if he seems to talk with one of his companions who he knows was really at a distance, he concludes that the other also is composed of two beings: one which sleeps at a distance, and another which has come to manifest himself by means of the dream. From these repeated experiences, he little by little arrives at the idea that each of us has a double, another self, which in determined conditions has the power of leaving the organism where it resides and of going roaming at a distance.

Of course, this double reproduces all the essential traits of the perceptible being which serves it as external covering; but at the same time it is distinguished from this by many characteristics. It is more active, since it can cover vast distances in an instant. It is more malleable and plastic; for, to leave the body, it must pass out by its apertures, especially the mouth and nose. It is represented as made of matter, undoubtedly, but of a matter much more subtile and etherial than any which we know empirically. This double is the soul. In fact, it cannot be doubted that in numerous societies the soul has been conceived in the image of the body; it is believed that it reproduces even the accidental deformities such as those resulting from wounds or mutilations.

This idea of a double, exactly like us but enhanced in some traits, comes to us from a century old book, and yet it describes well the avatars people have in videogames, and the proxies they seek out in movies and TV. The ability for men or women to identify with a particular actor is often considered essential to the actor’s success, for the audience to be able to see themselves as this person and live vicariously through them, on-screen and off. Hollywood is called the dream factory, and celebrity life is often thought of as dream-like, with the on-going question of how “real” it is. In one disturbing moment, Max slaps Bridey, but he’s actually slapping Nicki, but no – he’s not slapping anybody at all. Here, and elsewhere, we have something not unlike when we find ourselves in a very real-like dream, only to act, and to find ourselves awake. We also have the worry that long precedes any concerns about violence in videogames and movies, about whether the subconscious brutality and sex that emerges in our dreams is something dangerous.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome - Max slaps Nicki, then Max slaps Bridey - URL if gif doesn't load:

We might also find something insightful in its description of the ways in which animist beliefs arose, which might apply to the imagery of the movie:

Since the first beings of which the child commences to have an idea are men, that is, himself and those around him, it is upon this model of human nature that he tends to think of everything. The toys with which he plays, or the objects of every sort which affect his senses, he regards as living beings like himself. Now the primitive thinks like a child. Consequently, he also is inclined to endow all things, even inanimate ones, with a nature analogous to his own.

The world of Max Renn is one where objects take on a kindred human sensibility; he is transformed by the Videodrome signal, and these objects are as well. He imagines himself slapping Nicki, whipping a TV carrying her image, he is moved to sexual ecstasy by the masochism of Nicki and the idea of sexual violence. The tape’s pockets stick out like teeth, eager to bite, with the same appetite for violence as Max, his TV swells with a veined tumescence, turned on by the image of Nicki. The child transposes his feelings on his toys, and Max sees his essence animating his objects as well.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome - tape that bites - URL if gif doesn't load:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome - TV comes alive - URL if gif doesn't load:

Brian O’Blivion is a leader in this new faith, and his explanation of how he acquired his gift of sight suggest something like the paradox of god and the first cause. The universe requires a first cause, which is god, and that in turn brings up what was the first cause of god, where we might say the divine is its own first cause, or that cause and effect breaks down in the field of the divine, or some other solution. Brian O’Blivion, we are told, helped create Videodrome, after which he was killed by his fellow creators:

My father helped to create Videodrome. He saw it as part of the evolution of man as a technological animal. When he realised what his partners were going to use it for, he tried to take it away from them and they killed him, quietly.

Yet at the same time, the very hallucinations of Videodrome create it:

I had a brain tumour. And I had visions. I believe the visions caused the tumour, and not the reverse. I could feel the visions coalesce and become flesh, uncontrollable flesh. But when they removed the tumour, it was called Videodrome.

We have a phenomenon, that like the divine, is its own first cause, and where orderly cause and effect disappear. Brian O’Blivion is dead, but his words continue to guide the living. “This is him. This is all that’s left,” Bianca says, pointing to shelves and shelves of tapes. He is seemingly dead, but he isn’t. Max: “But he was on that panel show.” Bianca: “On tape. He made thousands of them, sometimes three or four a day. I keep him alive as best I can. He had so much to offer.” Again, this might be seen as something strange and new, when it is simply a transposition of a tradition common to any religious faith, where adherents consult the words of beings of the past, no longer on earth, but who have prescription, guidance, or wisdom for every occasion, whether they be Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, or another.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

The conflict between the O’Blivions and Barry Convex might be seen as that between different schisms of the same faith, with the O’Blivions wanting to achieve transcendence through the creed, while Convex wishes to use the creed for practical ends, as a force to shape a hard nationalist ethos.

North America is getting soft, patrón, and the rest of the world is getting tough. Very, very tough. We’re entering savage new times and we’re going to have to be pure and direct… and strong…if we’re going to survive them. Now, you and this…cesspool you call a television station…and your people who wallow around in it and your viewers… who watch you do it…you’re rotting us away from the inside. We intend to stop that rot.

This is a movie where the villain runs Spectacular Optical, a business that sells glasses, and the villain is named Barry Convex; a convex lens is one that focues light to a particular point. He wishes to use this new religion as a directed force, while the goals of the O’Blivions are separate from any state or any earthly purpose. Convex is killed during the presentation of his new Medici line, and perhaps the name is not idly chosen. The Medicis, as most know, would come into conflict with the fanatic Savonarola, who wished to reform the catholic church which had close ties to the merchant family. We might see the fight between Convex, who wishes to use the creed for secular objectives, and the O’Blivions, who see the faith as an end in itself, as echoing this old division between the Medicis and the zealot.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

The O’Blivions genuinely wish that people achieve a final stage, the new flesh, which Max attempts in the movie’s ending. We have here another similarity with religion, where the apotheosis of faith is considered the abandonment of flesh itself. Durkheim touches on this phenomenon as well, when discussing the shared trait of all religions of keeping separate the profane and sacred worlds. The most dedicated of the faith attempt to avoid the profane as much as possible, with the most extreme answer the avoidance of all profanities of the flesh by forsaking it completely through suicide:

The two worlds are not only conceived of as separate, but as even hostile and jealous rivals of each other. Since men cannot fully belong to one except on condition of leaving the other completely, they are exhorted to withdraw themselves completely from the profane world, in order to lead an exclusively religious life. Hence comes the monasticism which is artificially organized outside of and apart from the natural environment in which the ordinary man leads the life of this world, in a different one, closed to the first, and nearly its contrary. Hence comes the mystic asceticism whose object is to root out from man all the attachment for the profane world that remains in him. From that come all the forms of religious suicide, the logical working-out of this asceticism; for the only manner of fully escaping the profane life is, after all, to forsake all life.

There are many examples of this, but I turn to one of the more well-known of recent ones, when thirty nine members of the Heaven’s Gate cult peacefully committed suicide. This was not considered by them a rejection of life, but an attempt at a kind of space travel, which required them to leave their physical bodies. “We are all choosing of our own free will to go to the next level,” says one of the women who died16. The “next level” was one way they referred to it; “Evolutionary Level Above Human” was another. The process of leaving their bodies was called “exiting the vehicles” or “disengaging from the body or vehicle”. This exodus was initiated by the return of the Hale-Bopp comet, after which they were to return to their homeworld of Sirius. Before death, they recorded messages of calm happiness: “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long” or, “I couldn’t have made a better choice.”17 Ten years after the event, the L.A. Weekly piece “Heaven’s Gate: The Sequel” by Joshuah Bearman [archive link: ], would describe the belief system and place it as part of a long tradition: “Updating esoteric, early Christianity by way of science fiction, their millennial paradise could be found only by renouncing terrestrial attachments and shedding one’s “container” or “vehicle” to ascend into space and live eternally with the Chief of Chiefs, or God.” In the context of such events, the movie’s final moment where Max Renn says “Long live the new flesh”, then shoots himself, does not seem alien at all, but part of a larger tradition as well.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion


That the O’Blivions are equally malicious as the Convex faction is strongly hinted at, I think, in this final scene. Only a little while earlier, after Max’s failed attempt to kill Bianca O’Blivion, we have this dialogue:

They killed her, Max. They killed Nicki Brand. She died on Videodrome. They used her image to seduce you but she was already dead.

Given that the image of Nicki Brand was used before to seduce and manipulate Max, and given that Barry Convex and Harlan are now dead, the only source for the movie’s closing image of Nicki must be Bianca. Since this is an image that has been used in the past to manipulate Max, it might be asked if it’s being used here for the same purpose, this time by Bianca, in order to dispose of an inconvenient leftover assassin. Even the same line said earlier, “Come to Nicki”, and the same seductive tone, is now used again:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

I want you, Max. You. Come on. Come on. Come to me now. Come to Nicki.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

Don’t be afraid to let your body die. Just come to me, Max. Come to Nicki.

So, Max Renn is perhaps being lured by another kind of illusion, the possibility of a transcendent afterlife. We might also note the non-specificity of the devastating phrase, “They used her image to seduce you but she was already dead.” What seduction is Bianca speaking of, and from when on was Nicki already dead? It’s right after Max Renn is exposed to the videodrome signal that he meets Nicki on the talk show, and I’ve always felt the dialogue in that scene to be unnatural. I try to think of what their banter reminds me of, and then I remember: the strange, uncomfortable talk in between the action of old soft-core porn.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

What about it, Nicki? Is it socially positive?

We live in overstimulated times. We crave stimulation. We gorge ourselves on it. We always want more, whether it’s tactile, emotional or sexual. And I think that’s bad.

Then why did you wear that dress?


That dress. It’s very stimulating. And it’s red. You know what Freud would say about it?

And he would have been right. I admit it. I live in a highly excited state of overstimulation.

Listen, I’d really like to take you out to dinner tonight.

Nicki…is Max Renn a menace to society?

I’m not sure. He’s certainly a menace to me.

Is this lack of versimilitude an unintentional effect, or a very intended one, of a man who isn’t meeting a live woman at all, but only the image of a dead one? I hear “they used her image to seduce you”, and I think that there can be only one possible meaning, because Renn is first seduced by Nicki on the talk show. From which it naturally follows: Nicki is already dead, only an image, throughout the movie.

The idea of an image superceding the life that inspired it, is one more exotic idea not native to Videodrome, but a commonplace of our world, where the living are often an impediment to the power of the icon’s image. We might return briefly to the work of William Gibson, to see him touch on the idea of the supremacy of the image in Idoru, where a living singer marries another singer, one who is only a hologram. This, however, is only the use of the near future as a metaphor for the ever present. To take another, more obvious example, the image of Marilyn Monroe is eternally that of a woman who never reaches forty, without anything alive to grow old, anything to remind one of Monroe as anything human, anything other than an icon. One anecdote told in Goddess by Anthony Summers, is of Monroe’s interest in Juliette Récamier, who commissioned a nude statue of herself. As Récamier aged, and her figure started to go, she had the breasts of the statue smashed. When Monroe began to age, she smashed herself19. The cruelest thing that can be said of Elvis Presley’s death is: good career move. The cruelest thing that can be said of Marilyn Monroe’s death is: good timing.

This kind of image, an icon that persists and supercedes the actual performer’s existence, derives its power from being an engima whose questions are never answered – who exactly was Marilyn Monroe? – which is intertwined with its second quality, someone intimate yet always at a great distance as if we are seeing them as part of a massive crowd. There is an exact moment in Monroe’s life which captures this, when she appears before thousands of troops in South Korea, and it was this moment that made obvious how big a star she would become. From The Genius and the Goddess by Jeffrey Meyers:

Performing for the first time before a live, rapturous audience, Marilyn did ten shows in four days and entertained 100,000 troops. The soldiers were muffled up in fur hats with ear flaps, heavy winter jackets and thick combat boots, while she gamely appeared, outdoors and in the extremely cold Korean winter, in high heels and a tight, strapless, low-cut dress. She enlivened the show with some suggestive jokes, and asked, when describing sweater girls, “take away their sweaters and what have you got?”

She sang four songs: “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Bye Bye Baby,””Somebody Loves Me” and “Do It Again.”The refrain in the last song – “Come and get it, you won’t regret it” – was considered too provocative for the sexually starved troops and had to be dropped from the repertory. She excited the audience, who screamed with delight and craved what she was offering, and brought the shows to a frenzied climax.

This allows us to move easily into the life of another woman who became focused on the ecstasy of the crowd’s reaction, and wanted something likewise in her own life. From Sinner Takes All by adult performer Tera Patrick with Carrie Borzillo:

How bad do you want what you want? I wanted to be famous and adored so bad it nearly killed me. Well, in all honestly, I nearly killed me. But before we get to that, let me start at the beginning….

In 1986 I was ten years old and my mother had already left us. It was just me, Linda Ann Hopkins, and my dad, David Hopkins, a carefree hippie of English, Dutch, and Irish descent. I was born in Great Falls, Montana, but was living with my dad in Fresno. On a rare father-daughter day out, he took me to a thrift store in town to do some shopping. We were on a budget. As we made our way though the tiny, cramped shop, I saw her hanging on the dusty wall behind some cracked vases and rusty candelabras. It was a beautiful black-and-white photograph of Marilyn Monroe from the Korean USO tour she did in 1954. She was beaming as she posed for hundreds of handsome men in uniform, who in turn were ogling her in all her blond-haired, blueeyed glory.

Something lit up inside me when I saw that photograph. I thought, “Someday, men are going to look at me that way.”

I couldn’t stop staring at this photo, thinking how much I wanted to be that girl. The girl everyone adores. The girl whom fame made so happy (little did I know what a sad wreck she really was). All I knew about Marilyn at the time was how much I wanted to exude the power that she did. I wanted to be famous like that. I just didn’t know what for yet. I never thought it would be for porn.

That what Patrick wished for, what she wanted fulfilled, was fame more than anything else, is stressed in two other places in the memoir:

She [photographer Suze Randall] followed through. We shot that Friday for Penthouse. It was just a few days before my scheduled Monday meeting with Playboy. I couldn’t believe it was happening so fast. All I could think was, “I’m going to be in Playboy and Penthouse, make tons of money, and be famous!”

When I entered the adult industry, it was not my goal to become a mainstream actress or star. If that’s what I wanted to do, I would’ve gone the typical route of taking acting lessons, going in for auditions, and trying to get bit parts like every Hollywood hopeful does. But that wasn’t my quest. I’ll be honest, I just wanted to be famous and I liked to model and to be nude.

Patrick would eventually achieve her goal, and she gives us a scene in her memoir comparable to Monroe’s, of a crowd infatuated with her presence. She herself states that “it’s easier to perform for a larger audience than a more intimate one,” and it might be argued that this is what the fan wants, not intimacy, but intimacy combined with distance, the woman nude on-stage amongst a crowd of thousands. The meet and greet afterwards does not involve meeting a person separate and apart from the image, which the image reproduces, but rather, meeting a person who is a live reproduction of the image, and so the distance on the stage and the brief meet do not impede the wanted effect, but are necessary for it to take place.

One of the biggest conventions I ever did was the Sexpo in Sydney, Australia, in 2004. I appeared at the convention for a whopping fee of $20,000 (and first-class airfare and accommodations, no less!), but where we really made bank was when they booked me to dance at a venue that normally hosts big rock bands and seats eight thousand people. I had eight nearly sold-out shows in four days there.

Before we knew how big the venue really was and that it was sold out, Evan [Evan Seinfeld, her husband] gave me this pep talk: “Don’t worry if there’s only two hundred people there. You’re new to the market. Don’t worry.” And then we show up and there were thousands of people there. Once again there wasn’t a stripper pole on the stage because it wasn’t a strip club, so we decided to improvise a bit and use a chair in the center of the stage as a prop. But that didn’t help much. The huge stage made our tiny chair look like Stonehenge from the movie This Is Spinal Tap. We were cracking up over that. Evan decided to just treat it like a rock show and use the video monitors at the venue to show my performance. That did the trick.

The large crowd didn’t freak me out at all. In fact, it’s easier to perform for a larger audience than a more intimate one. It’s easy to be great when you have thousands of people screaming for you. The intensity of the crowd really got me going, and I killed!

The line for photos and merchandise afterward was the longest line I’d ever had in my entire career. It was so long and so slow that Evan got a megaphone and was walking down the line telling people, “Due to the large volume of fans, we are selling one thing. It’s a package with a DVD, a Polaroid with Tera, and an autographed eight-by-ten photo for fifty Australian dollars.” He was embarrassing me. He’d stand up on the table and shout out: “Cash only!”

The relationship of the audience to the famous individual here, which also transfers over to the image of the famous individual, is expressed well in dialogue from one of Patrick’s films, Tera Patrick Filthy Whore 2. Whatever happens after this dialogue is of no importance here. I bold the most important point:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

The fans are out there by the thousands.

You know I had it with those damn premieres, all those screaming people. Those great unwashed.

We’re royalty to them, honey. Dollar Diamond and Ruby Paradise. The great screen lovers. They support us in grand style. The least we could do is let them worship us once in a while. What’s that?

Oh, honey that’s not you think, it’s-


No, no-


It’s not what you think. It’s a present for the premiere. C’mon.

Are you telling me the truth?

Would I lie?

Glamour puss?

You’re my glamour puss, sweetie. C’mon, you’re the glamour puss of the century.

It is beautiful. You have great taste, Rudy. Where did you find it?

Oh, from a guy down in de Vandeville. I put a little money on layaway, just for the right time.

Pay her the rest, darling, because this baby has found a home.

Oh come on, that’s not a kiss.

You can fuck me darling, but you can’t mess up my make-up.

This idea of worship is not so remarkable or noteworthy to stand out at all in this movie or anywhere. I think it’s only by looking at the connections between this kind of idolatry and the religious form that we might have a sense as to why it’s so important for Tera Patrick to be famous, that she “wanted to be famous and adored so bad it nearly killed me”, a feeling which is not some isolated pathology but considered a common desire. We might find some insight by returning to Durkheim, who pinpoints something called mana as being central to the religion of various Melanesian tribes:

Now among these peoples, we find, under the name of mana, an idea which is the exact equivalent of the wakan of the Sioux20 and the orenda of the Iroquois21. The definition given by Codrington [The Melanesians : Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore by Robert Henry Codrington, link is to the full text on] is as follows: “There is a belief in a force altogether distinct from physical power, which acts in all ways for good and evil; and which it is of the greatest advantage to possess or control. This is Mana. I think I know what our people mean by it…It is a power or influence, not physical and in a way supernatural; but it shows itself in physical force, or in any kind of power or excellence which a man possesses. This mana is not fixed in anything, and can be conveyed in almost anything. . . . All Melanesian religion consists, in fact, in getting this mana for one’s self, or getting it used for one’s benefit.”

This idea of mana, and the related concepts of wakan and orenda, are not parochial concerns, but arguably underlie all the religions which follow:

This is the original matter out of which have been constructed those beings of every sort which the religions of all times have consecrated and adored. The spirits, demons, genii and gods of every sort are only the concrete forms taken by this energy, or “potentiality,” as Hewitt calls it, in individualizing itself, in fixing itself upon a certain determined object or point in space, or in centring around an ideal and legendary being, though one conceived as real by the popular imagination. A Dakota questioned by Miss Fletcher [a reference to The Import of the Totem by Alice C. Fletcher, link goes to full text on] expressed this essential consubstantiability of all sacred things in language that is full of relief.” Every thing as it moves, now and then, here and there, makes stops. The bird as it flies stops in one place to make its nest, and in another to rest in its flight. A man when he goes forth stops when he wills. So the god has stopped. The sun, which is so bright and beautiful, is one place where he has stopped. The trees, the animals, are where he has stopped, and the Indian thinks of these places and sends his prayers to reach the place where the god has stopped and to win help and a blessing.” In other words, the wakan (for this is what he was talking about) comes and goes through the world, and sacred things are the points upon which it alights.

We are now in a better condition to understand why it has been impossible to define religion by the idea of mythical personalities, gods or spirits; it is because this way of representing religious things is in no way inherent in their nature. What we find at the origin and basis of religious thought are not determined and distinct objects and beings possessing a sacred character of themselves; they are indefinite powers, anonymous forces, more or less numerous in different societies, and sometimes even reduced to a unity, and whose impersonality is strictly comparable to that of the physical forces whose manifestations the sciences of nature study.

The wakan is the cause of all the movements which take place in the universe. We have even seen that the orenda of the Iroquois is “the efficient cause of all the phenomena and all the activities which are manifested around men.” It is a power “inherent in all bodies and all things.” It is the orenda which makes the wind blow, the sun lighten and heat the earth, or animals reproduce and which makes men strong, clever and intelligent. When the Iroquois says that the life of all nature is the product of the conflicts aroused between the unequally intense orenda of the different beings, he only expresses, in his own language, this modern idea that the world is a system of forces limiting and containing each other and making an equihbrium.

The Melanesian attributes this same general efficacy to his mana. It is owing to his mana that a man succeeds in hunting or fighting, that gardens give a good return or that flocks prosper. If an arrow strikes its mark, it is because it is charged with mana; it is the same cause which makes a net catch fish well, or a canoe ride well on the sea, etc. It is true that if certain phrases of Codrington [The Melanesians : Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore by Robert Henry Codrington, link is to the full text on] are taken literally, mana should be the cause to which is attributed “everything which is beyond the ordinary power of men, outside the common processes of nature.” But from the very examples which he cites, it is quite evident that the sphere of the mana is really much more extended. In reality, it serves to explain usual and everyday phenomena; there is nothing superhuman or supernatural in the fact that a ship sails or a hunter catches game, etc.

This idea of mana, a universal, ubiquitous force, is already well-known to us as an abstraction in a fictional universe, so well-known that I can quote a monologue devoted to it, and I have no need to identify the source movie as most readers will know immediately from where it comes:

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.

We might take the divine as something like an infinitely dense cluster of a quantity like mana. At the same time, it is not something outside of society, but contained within and dependent on the society itself:

But a god is not merely an authority upon whom we depend; it’s a force upon which our strength relies. The man who has obeyed his god and who, for this reason, believes the god is with him, approaches the world with confidence and with the feeling of an increased energy. Likewise, social action does not confine itself to demanding sacrifices, privations and efforts from us. For the collective force is not entirely outside of us; it does not act upon us wholly from without; but rather, since society cannot exist except in and through individual consciousnesses, this force must also penetrate us and organize itself within us; it thus becomes an integral part of our being and by that very fact this is elevated and magnified.

That the veneration of those in society overlaps with this idea of someone having great mana, great divine power, is obvious to Durkheim as well:

Also, in the present day just as much as in the past, we see society constantly creating sacred things out of ordinary ones. If it happens to fall in love with a man and if it thinks it has found in him the principal aspirations that move it, as well as the means of satisfying them, this man will be raised above the others and, as it were, deified. Opinion will invest him with a majesty exactly analogous to that protecting the gods. This is what has happened to so many sovereigns in whom their age had faith: if they were not made gods, they were at least regarded as direct representatives of the deity. And the fact that it is society alone which is the author of these varieties of apotheosis, is evident since it frequently chances to consecrate men thus who have no right to it from their own merit. The simple deference inspired by men invested with high social functions is not different in nature from religious respect. It is expressed by the same movements: a man keeps at a distance from a high personage; he approaches him only with precautions; in conversing with him, he uses other gestures and language than those used with ordinary mortals. The sentiment felt on these occasions is so closely related to the religious sentiment that many peoples have confounded the two. In order to explain the consideration accorded to princes, nobles and political chiefs, a sacred character has been attributed to them. In Melanesia and Polynesia, for example, it is said that an influential man has mana, and that his influence is due to this mana. However, it is evident that his situation is due solely to the importance attributed to him by public opinion. Thus the moral power conferred by opinion and that with which sacred beings are invested are at bottom of a single origin and made up of the same elements. That is why a single word is able to designate the two.

Thus, we can explain the desire of Tera Patrick and others to be famous. They wish to be touched by mana, they wish to become sacred objects. The sense of a sacredness mentioned here, the necessary “distance from a high personage”, is something recognizably intertwined with celebrity, where the famous are seemingly kept excluded and away, in private planes, high class restaurants, the VIP room of the club, a secret society outside of sight. For the famous to be seen in our world, in public and without make-up, seemingly ordinary, is treated as a revelation. The only moments when the sacred and the profane are officially to meet, when the profane might gaze on the sacred is during tightly organized ceremonies, as carefully planned and supervised as anicent religious rituals, such as red carpet events and the Oscars. Durkheim’s passage here on the prohibition of the profane touching the sacred, the negative cult as one organized around such contact, is helpful when we consider celebrities and their environs as the sacred, prohibited objects:

There are religious interdictions whose object is to separate two sacred things of different species from each other. For example, it will be remembered that among the Wakelbura the scaffold upon which the corpse is exposed must be made exclusively of materials belonging to the phratry of the dead man; this is as much as to say that all contact between the corpse, which is sacred, and the things of the other phratry, which are also sacred, but differently, is forbidden. Elsewhere, the arms which one uses to hunt an animal with cannot be made out of a kind of wood that is classed in the same social group as the animal itself. But the most important of these interdictions are the ones which we shall study in the next chapter; they are intended to prevent all communication between the purely sacred and the impurely sacred, between the sacredly auspicious and the sacredly inauspicious. All these interdictions have one common characteristic; they come, not from the fact that some things are sacred while others are not, but from the fact that there are inequalities and incompatibilities between sacred things. So they do not touch what is essential in the idea of sacredness. The observance of these prohibitions can give place only to isolated rites which are particular and almost exceptional; but it could not make a real cult, for before all, a cult is made by regular relations between the profane and the sacred as such. But there is another system of religious interdictions which is much more extended and important; this is the one which separates, not different species of sacred things, but all that is sacred from all that is profane. So it is derived immediately from the notion of sacredness itself, and it limits itself to expressing and realizing this. Thus it furnishes the material for a veritable cult, and even of a cult which is at the basis of all the others; for the attitude which it prescribes is one from which the worshipper must never depart in all his relations with the sacred. It is what we call the negative cult. We may say that its interdicts are the religious interdicts par excellence.

The sacred ultimately resides exclusively in images, with the actual encounter with the celebrity behind the image often a disappointment, not due to their own inherent failings, but simply because they are not an image. When the celebrity dies, any such impediment to the process dies, and if they die at thirty-six like Marilyn Monroe, any evidence of a life of aging, disease, or physical deterioration which might imply the limits of the image, this dies as well. The image divests itself of all connections with life, like Max Renn in Videodrome or any other devotee to a religious ideal, and becomes even more sacred. The image, even and especially the sexual image, is only that, without the element of the tactile or the tangible. Something of this is gotten at in this discussion from 1991 with Norman Mailer, on the idea of people who become objects of desire. I pay no attention to the digressions into feminism. From “Norman Mailer on Bookworm, Part Two [1991]” (15:20-17:28 in the clip):

I don’t think I’ve heard anybody say this…there’s an enormous fear…on people’s part…to be the object of desire. To cause desire.

Well, there you may have something. Certain people, not all. [SILVERBLATT: Not all people.] You gave me an idea. I think it’s people who have set their course in life, and they’re what I would call uni-souls…that is, they do not really want to have a deep relation with anyone else. Because that’ll deter them from their objective. It’s as if the navigator in them has lined up their sights, and said to them, “You are a torpedo. And if nothing deters you, you will be a huge success. You will blow up that huge target that is the very end of your ambition, and you will be immortal. And so, don’t let anything get in your way, just be a torpedo.” Well, people like that, sexual harassment’s absolutely outrageous. And it’s interesting that women who are leading feminism very often are that way. That is, they are singleminded in their goals. Feminism is their life. They see nothing to the left or the right of feminism. It’s not like, let’s improve men and women together, or: let’s try to rise to a higher level of human relations. It’s: feminism is the most important single thing in their lives, and they work for it twenty-four hours a day. They’re devoted to it. And they too are torpoedoes. You know, they got one goal.

I don’t know if it’s even characteristic of feminism. What I notice, living here in Los Angeles, which people call nowadays, “the least sexy city in America.” The most beautiful looking people, and the least sexually in kind people. Very low libido levels. The look is meant to create attraction, but there’s a strong “do not touch”. Because of exactly that torpedo factor you are talking about. People wanting to spring themselves into the future, and land at the center of the bullseye, and along that trajectory, attraction and dalliance can only be an interruption.

The place that Marilyn Monroe and other dead icons hold in our culture might be found in Durkheim’s distinction between ghosts and spirits, with Monroe very much a spirit:

[A] ghost is not a real spirit. In the first place, it generally has only a limited power of action; also, it does not have a definite province. It is a vagabond, upon whom no determined task is incumbent, for the effect of death has been to put it outside of all regular forms; as regards the living, it is a sort of a exile. A spirit, on the other hand, always has a power of a certain sort and it is by this that it is defined; it is set over a certain order of cosmic or social phenomena; it has a more or less precise function to fulfil in the system of the universe.

But there are some souls which satisfy this double condition and which are consequently spirits, in the proper sense of the word. These are the souls of the mythical personages whom popular imagination has placed at the beginning of time, the Altjirangamitjina or the men of the Alcheringa among the Arunta; the Mura-mura among the tribes of Lake Eyre; the Muk-Kurnai among the Kurnai, etc. In one sense, they are still souls, for they are believed to have formerly animated bodies from which they separated themselves at a certain moment. But even when they led a terrestrial life, they already had, as we have seen, exceptional powers; they had a mana superior to that of ordinary men, and they have kept it. Also, they are charged with definite functions.

That there is this kinship between ancient mana and fame, that we might speak of wanting mana when we say we want fame (and vice versa), is perhaps why there is a constant necessity to see some benevolent order in celebrityhood. Mana is divine material, god is inherently and eternally good, and therefore mana and fame are distributed according to virtue. The most famous are supposed to do good work, adopt children, and otherwise make obvious that this organization has the quality of divine sanction. This, of course, is utterly false. We might see the gulf in the life of Jenna Jameson, as described in her memoir How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale. Patrick and Jameson were engaged for a while in a not entirely friendly rivalry, and I make no attempt to weigh favor in that larger dispute when I say that Cautionary Tale is my preferred book of their memoirs, whether because of Jameson’s ghostwriter Neil Strauss (who played the same role for the memorable Long Road out of Hell by Marilyn Manson), or the raw materials of the life described. I do not elevate Jameson’s book out of any attempt to be a provocateur, only the virtue of the book itself, and only for that reason I think it serves as an honest and invaluable document in capturing what life was like now, more insightful than many books more distinguished and higher browed.

That I speak of a divine order of fame that would include pornography is perhaps unexpected, but not without basis. We might speak of a system of organization and distribution, in the manufacture and sale of products whose power is so great as to suggest the divine. This system might be called capitalism, whatever its actual qualities, a system which transmits the images of any beauty throughout the world, that produces powerful computer technology, that gives you access to affordable food and shoes. Pornography is part of this system’s god-like power, because it is through this vast system that beauty, the beauty of Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick, a beguiling surface that might be called something like a divine ideal, is exposed and unveiled for the billions. It is an order of divine power, with an underside that hints at the infernal. The disgusting conditions of the Amazon warehouses, the workers who are poisoned while making iPads, the children who make my shoes. There is the literally infernal as well, the hundreds who burned to death last year in the clothing factories of Bangladesh. The life of Jenna Jameson is the raw amoral anarchy that lies underneath, a godless world where there are only the strong above and the weak below, of contempt and control.

There is nothing here like the humble submission and divine benevolence as that between the worshipper and say, the Holy Virgin. Jameson is a picture of blonde innocence, a ruthless survivor, and a proud cash machine. “I was in control-of myself, and the men around me,” she writes of her first time dancing in a strip club. “And I loved it: I loved the attention and the confidence it gave me.”22 The strip club is a classroom, and the class is social dynamics. Once geeky and asocial, she learns how to talk. She learns how to act. She learns how to lie. While the customer mumbles on, she pretends to be open and caring. “Everything that came out of my mouth was complete bullshit. I could tell by looking at each person what he wanted to hear.” She is soon someone else. “Within weeks at the club, I began to transform from a geeky teenage girl into a money-crazed psycho. And I loved it.” Her look of innocence becomes even more innocent. “Since most of the men were into me because I looked so young and innocent, I decided to amplify that…I put my hair up in pony-tails, wore little pink shoes, and carried a plastic Barbie purse, which further contrasted me from the hardened girls.”23 She gets two lessons from another girl. Number One: “Be personable. Make him like you. Talk to him. Ask about his job. Act like you are interested.” Number Two: do shots with the customer, and make sure his are extra strong and yours complete water. “Get him as drunk as possible,” the other girl says, “and rack those songs up.”24

This is about money, but it is more about control. “It was a high to get the upper hand over a customer. They were dumb, they were drunk, and they deserved it.” The woman is naked, the woman is powerless, the woman has more power than the customer ever will. “The mentality is that if these guys are going to victimize us, we’re going to totally victimize them right back.”25 A local politician was into her and liked to be dominated. She pees in his beer and forces him to drink it. He buys her a corvette. “If you can walk into a room, lead on a bunch of guys, and then leave with thousands of dollars in cash in your pocket and no obligation to anyone…life is good.”26 She dances for celebrities, and she doesn’t care. Those assholes were Pantera? That old weirdo was Jack Nicholson? “Did you know you were just dancing for Whitesnake?” “Really, like I give a crap.”27 She moves on to photo work, and she has to contort herself into an aching pose that has nothing to do with the ecstatic state she appears to have in the picture. She looks over her shouldeer, nude, at the camera. “I had to arch so hard that my lower back cramped,” she writes. “When I see those photos now, it seems obvious that the sexy pout I thought I was giving the camera was just a poorly disguised grimace of pain.”28

She gets into porn as an act of revenge when a boyfriend cheats on her29. She stays in for the money. She starts out girl-girl, then shoots her first boy-girl scene when she’s eighteen with Randy West, who she describes as a decent guy, but a little old (forty six or forty seven), with the fashion sense of a homeless wrestler30.

Randy: So, are you interested in coming out to L.A. to shoot a video?
Me: Absolutely not. I only want to do high-end stuff.
Randy: The pay is three thousand dollars for one scene.
Me: What day you want me there?

Randy: How about doing a shoot with just me tomorrow?
Me: How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t really want to do that.
Randy: How about I pay you two thousand dollars more?
Me: Two thousand more than today?
Randy: Yes.
Me: Is tomorrow good for you?

Chris Nieratko, from a 2013 interview (“Jenna Jameson Interview”): Did you feel any of that when you were eighteen, really grossed out by these greasy men?
Jameson: Absolutely. Oh my god, you have no idea. I hate to throw him under the bus, but Randy West, god bless him, but he creeped me out so bad. I was just watching a documentary, I was on NetFlix, and they did this documentary called After Porn [After Porn Ends]…and I was, like, okay I wanna watch this. It’ll be interesting, it’s kinda my generation. So, he’s talking about this, there’s this little blonde girl, they called me and asked me if she can do a movie, and when I saw her, I saw dollar signs in my eyes, and I was like, okay, that’s creepy. I had just turned eighteen years old, and he had to have been at least fifty [the scene is from Up And Cummers 11 (link is relatively SFW, contains no pictures) which was released in 1994, and West was born in 1947, according to the same database, so he was either 46 or 47.]. And he was just so gross. And he totally lied about everything that happened that day. But I’ll just give it to him though. You know, whatever, he can have his little fantasy.
Nieratko: How do you get a girl boner to make a scene with a guy who’s fifty when you’re eighteen?
Jameson: You don’t. You’re just a good actress.

Randy West, from After Porn Ends: I used to say it’s like borrowing somebody’s body to masturbate with. “Excuse me, if you’re not busy, do you mind if I jerk off in your pussy, with my dick?” It’s kinda like that, which is not bad…you know, better than real jerking off. Right after I started producing Up And Cummers, I get this letter in the mail, I opened it up, and I see this unbelievably good looking, very young looking blonde girl…with beautiful natural boobs, little baby face, and she wants to know if I can help her get into the porn biz. The girl’s name was Jenna Jameson. I remember saying to someone, “Holy christ, if I get this girl to shoot for me, we’re going to sell some tapes.” I said, “Well, if you don’t wanna do guys, I’ll let you pick whatever girl you want to do that. She liked girls, so she picked this girl that I happened to be working with that day, who was doing her first movie, Kylie Ireland, so Kylie and Jenna were doing their thing together, and everything was going good, and they took a little break, and I said something like, “Man, Jenna, that’s a tasty looking pussy you got there.” And I believe she said, “Why don’t you come in and taste it?” And I went, *taken aback motion* “Okay!” I was doing the camera, but I handed it to my assistant, “Bob, hold on to this, start shooting.” So I get in there, and I start going down on her, and she starts squealing that squeal that she had…I’m guessing she’s kinda liking it, she seems like she’s getting off, and everything is good, I said, “Man, I am so fucking horny now, you guys mind giving me a double blow job or something?” She said, “Sure, we can do that.” *makes a prayer of thanks motion* “Oh thank you.” And they did, and it went well, and a week later, she kinda called me back, and said “You know what? You weren’t so bad, I could probably do a boy-girl scene with you,” the rest is kinda history after that.

A summary of the scene can be found in a review on an old mailing list, “Dunbar Reviews: Up and Cummers #11”:

Jenna Jameson. A sweet-looking, young little blonde. Nice natural tits, cute ass. I’ve heard told that she has since destroyed her body with fake tits (which she definitly did not need) and tattoos? Why do they do that? They do missionary and cowgirl shot from both the front and the back, and finally doggie. Randy finishes by coming inside her. It looks like he manages a decent load as she squirts it out of her cunt and it oozes into a puddle on the bed spread. Kind of gross if you ask me, but definitely out of the ordinary.

Jenna Jameson starts doing meth, then becomes entranced as she watches her boyfriend take apart a lightbulb, cook the meth in the glass, and inhale the smoke from the open base. She takes her turn, and the air comes in glassy smooth against her lungs. She lets out a three foot column of smoke from her lips. “Everything seemed to move in slow motion, and then someone pressed fast forward. My heart felt like a woodpecker was inside, hammering hard enough to burst through my chest at any moment.”31 She starts smoking every day. She organizes and re-organizes her bathroom a thousand times. She endlessly builds artwork with a gluegun. She plays so much handheld poker that her fingers bleed. In photo shoots, her bones stick out of her body and she starts clenching her jaw hard. “Jenna, relax,” the photographer says. “Let the tension out of your face.”32 The drug nearly kills her, then she comes back to life and has an even bigger career. She goes to Cannes with two other porn stars, Kaylan Nicole and Juli Ashton. “They had realized that with their beauty, boobs, and status, the rules that applied to the rest of the world didn’t apply to them,” she writes of Nicole and Ashton. “They had the attitude that they could do absolutely anything they wanted.” 33 She emerges from the plane into another world, the one she’s always wanted to be in, the one that Tera Patrick also longed to join. “It was one I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl, imagining what it would be like to be an international jet-setting model. In fact, it was wilder than my dreams. Flashbulbs went off everywhere.” The photographers have no idea who she is, only that she is a kind of sacred object, which their flashbulbs make more sacred. “The paparazzi screamed and fought to take pictures of me, even though they had no idea who I was. It was so overwhelming and disorienting being pushed through the admiring crowd toward a waiting limo. I knew, for the first time, what an actual celebrity must feel like.”34

She becomes a big star, and does some reporting for the E! Channel. “So you’re the reporter from the E! Channel,” says Wesley Snipes. “Why don’t you join us?” She accepts the invite. “So,” Wesley Snipes asks. “do you like it up the ass?” Anal sex, she writes, “is an exchange of power. And every man I’ve ever met loves the idea of dominating a woman by pushing his massive dick into her tight sphincter so that she loses control.”35 There are few people she’ll trust with anal. And she doesn’t like the closeness after sex. She sleeps with a waiter at Cannes. “When it was all over, he wrapped his naked body around mine. Instantly I stiffened. I hate cuddling.”36 She starts hooking up with the Anti-Christ Superstar, Marilyn Manson. They sleep together. “Why don’t you just stay and cuddle?” he asks. “Did you just say the c-word?!” she asks. “I don’t cuddle, but I lay with him for a little while longer and listened to him talk about religion.”37 Marilyn Manson likes to cuddle, and he’s a little too into anal. “Every time we were naked, he’d be going for my butt like a rat to cheese.”38 This is an act of power, of control, and you only do it with those you absolutely trust. “I’ve been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to do anal,” she writes, explaining why she’d only done it with three men up until then, and never on camera. “Doing it on camera would be compromising myself.”39

Anal is about control, porno is about control, though the power isn’t always where you think. “It’s time to meet the man you thought you envied,” we’re told about the boyfriends and husbands of porn stars who also act as their managers, “the suitcase pimps.” We’re given an overview of a manipulative wretch burdened by an emasculating fanny pack, which carries the porn star’s baby wipes, her lighters, and all other conveniences. These men are filled with get rich plans that never work, who buy the porn star dinner with her money while insisting she only eat salads, and is hooked on oxycontin, cocaine, steroids, or many other possibilities. The last instruction on playing this role: “Finally, when she is addicted to drugs, aged beyond her years, and can’t work anymore, help start the career of a fresh girl.”40 As Jameson’s own marriage fell apart, her director husband would wreak vengeance through the roles given. She does a scene where she gets hosed down surrounded by electric wires, one where she rides half naked on a blind horse, another where she plays a firewoman in balloon pants and a defective oxygen tank. In this last one, she has sex near a wall of actual flame while wearing a long blonde wig. “Will her flesh fry? Watch and find out!”41 A brief interlude featuring questions and answers with a male perfomer includes the most obvious query: “A lot of guys want to get into porn to get laid. What are your thoughts on that?” Answer: “Getting into porn is a death sentence. As a male performer you are doomed to be single for the rest of your life.” Why? “A guy performs seven to ten scenes per week at least. The number one performers do fifteen scenes per week. So what girl is going to go out with a guy who’s pounding fifteen other girls every week? No one. The guys don’t have any social life, because they are on set so much. And when they do go out, they are like lepers. Girls won’t touch them.”42

Jenna Jameson’s most frightening dream, the one that always recurs, is that there is someone nearby who can hurt her and she gives herself away.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the same nightmare. I am being chased through a large dilapidated house. There is someone directly behind me, but I can’t see him. I hide in the closet. I’m terrified. My heart is heaving in my chest. I know he’s right outside. I try to hold my breath so he can’t hear me. But I can’t stop gasping. It’s deafening. I know if he hears me, he’s going to open the door and get me. But there’s nothing I can do to quiet my fear. He’s coming closer. He can hear me now. It’s over. I’m going to die.

And then I wake up. To this day, I’ve never seen that person. Knowing that someone who wants to hurt me is so close by and that I am giving myself away is the worst feeling in the world.

The book ends with Jameson at the height of her powers. She tours as a feature dancer, and each night in each city she tells the crowd it’s her birthday. Instead of celebrating it on her own, she’s decided to spend it with them. “So I’m here, happy birthday to me,” is her secret thought. The grateful crowd always throws in extra cash. “That’s right, fuckers. Cough it up.”43 She knew who had the power:

So if I caught a guy saying something obnoxious to his friends, I’d knock his hat off or spill a drink on his pants. At one show, when a guy threw a penny at me, I kicked him in the throat with my heel. I got in constant fights with local dancers-I even hocked a loogie in one girl’s face-and had guys thrown out of the club on a nightly basis. If some asshole dared to touch me, I’d reward him with a backhand to the skull. I was out of control. It was awesome.

She goes out on another feature tour with a dancer who’s an occasional girlfriend, Nikki Tyler, and a man known as Mr. 187, after California’s code for murder, and who’s a sergeant-at-arms with the Hell’s Angels. “Mr. 187 was a badass motherfucker who was angry at the world and enjoyed nothing more than snapping a guy’s arm for looking at him wrong. So naturally, we took him on tour with us.”44 A few years later, Mr. 187 was charged with murder for killing a club patron, then acquitted, on grounds of self-defense. A few years after that, he was killed at the funeral for another member of the Hell’s Angels45. But back then he was still alive, and they were a three person wrecking crew. “They had realized that with their beauty, boobs, and status, the rules that applied to the rest of the world didn’t apply to them,” she said of Kaylan Nicole and Juli Ashton, when they were veterans and she was a newcomer. She knew now what they knew then. She and Nikki would demand $5000 a night, and they would get it. With merchandise and tips, they’d get $100,000 for a three night booking, plus limos, plus security, plus a five star hotel with room service, and a rider complicated enough to make sure that people got their shit right46. And…did I say already they were an utter wrecking crew?

Nikki and I were angry at the world in our own way, and Mr. 187’s function was to justify and enable it. He’d fan the flames of our Vicodin-and-vodka-fueled rage to the point where we got so out of control that even he couldn’t handle us. I’d smash out mirrors in dressing rooms; Nikki would clamp guys in leglocks until their heads turned purple; we’d kick drinks in guys’ faces; and we’d pass out on top of each other onstage.

There may be a habit of thought which sees Jameson as the chaotic exception, the intruder into elysium, distinct in an otherwise placid landscape. One reads the account of her childhood, and she is re-seen as something else, one more point in a mass that is raw, violent, savage. The movie Naked Lunch has nothing to do with the nihilist tumult of the book, but How to Make Love Like a Porn Star very much does. We are given excerpts of Jameson’s diary, before her stage name, when she was Jenna Massoli, and the girl there is bright eyed, tender, vulnerable. She is an unhappy iterant, moving from Vegas, to Florida, then Colorado, back to Vegas, then Montana, then Vegas again.

January 1, 1983

Dear Diaree,

I’m 8 years old.

I watched funny car racing. And I took tinsel off the Christmas tree. “real exciting,” My dads off tomoro. I watched a new show “Battle of the Beat.” I have a dog named “Ming.” My Grandma came over. My brother keeps on singing “You don’t want me anymore.” We had a good Christmas. I got a canopy. And my brother got a gun.

I watched the Black stallion.

April 1, 1983

Dear Diaree,

I broke my arm about 5 weeks ago. I just got my cast off. While I’m talking about hospitals my dads getting a chin augmentation. Hes getting it tomoro at 10:00. He’s nervous. He wants it to come in two minutes. I played a joke on my mommy Marjorie. I pretended to see a giant spider. She was scared, then I said APRIL FOOLS! She said you dirty rat. I laughed so hard. She was really mad. It was funny. Then we played Lego’s. It was fun. Were going to paint easter eggs.

Its going to be fun.

Bye Diaree


June 24, 1984

Dear Diarree Diary,

Sorry it’s been so long. I’ve had a lot on my mind. Well I’ll tell you all what’s happened. We moved in with grandma. We live on 7th & Franklin. I go to John S. Park school. I past into 5th grade. I turned 10 April 9th. My brother’s thirteen’s. Weve been having bad troubles. My mom and dad are getting separated. These last few days have been awful. Its been really hard on me a lot more than Tony cause he hates her.

I’ve had her as a mother since I was 2. My poor dad is feeling awful. She’s moving out today or tomorrow.

My heart is so broken I could just cry.

July 30, 1984

We moved to Boulder City and I’m doing fine. Today I saw my old friend beth. She does toe. She had an extra pair and let me have them. I can do toe at ballet class now.

There black. It’s about 10:07 at night. My dads home late at about 12:00. I can’t wait till then. I feel safer. We called into MTV Friday night video.

Duran Duran won. Ming’s sitting right beside me watching me write.

My Most Treasured Things

toe shoes
canopy bed
white dress
Real mothers neckless
Unicorn Collection

December 21, 1986

Dear Diary,

This is Jenna reporting from the cold region of Elko Nevada. I really like it down here. I have a lot of friends such as Natalie Glass, Kristine Poljak, and Ginny Richey. We got a new puppy. He’s a black Labrador. His name is Digby & he’s two months old. Welp, it’s almost Christmas & I don’t know a thing I’m getting! I’m in the bath writing this! Well I’ve finally gotten hair and I’m starting to get some boobs.

Well I better wash my hair.



November 24, 1987

Hello. I’m in Las Vegas now. We moved back. Vivian [her father’s ex-girlfriend] is history. Oh well. I will probably look back on my childhood and laugh. I laugh at it already. I have a lot of friends but I never go anywhere. It’s very depressing.

I went to State and I won young Miss Modeling Queen. And then I went to Nationals Recently and I got top ten in the country in my pageant.

I had a lot of fun.

September 20, 1989

Hi there! Well I moved to Montana and I’m not really very happy here. I miss Owen. He was my latest boyfriend in L.V. [Las Vegas] before I left.

Well here is whats been happening since I got to this place. Well, I am very popular but some fo the girls at school don’t like me.

October 1, 1990

Dear Diary,

The WORST thing in the WORLD happened today.
It’s so horrible I can’t even write it down or tell my dad or my brother anything.


But that wouldn’t be fair to my dad. I am not going to write anything down anymore. I am going to get out of here and forget all about this place.

I am so sad and torn apart and confused. I don’t understand people. How could this happen to me? I don’t know what to do. Life sucks.

Goodbye Forever Diary,


From a series of family interviews in the book, with Jenna, her father Larry Massoli, and her brother, Tony:

Larry: I’d like to know what happened in Montana.

Jenna: I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to talk about it.

Larry Massoli, Jenna’s father and easily the most interesting character in the book, worked as a police officer when they were first in Vegas, and that’s where he got caught in a war between two rival borellos. Mobsters tried to kidnap his children, Jenna and Tony, they put out a contract on him, they came to kill his family. The Massolis move to Florida. “I guess Florida was awful,” says Larry. “Ugh, Florida was ghetto,” agrees Jenna. Her school had a barbed wire fence and the kids’ tricycles were chained down together because otherwise they’d get stolen47. Someone tries to break into their house, but it’s okay: Tony has a gun. Tony slept with guns since he was six years old48. When they are back in Vegas, Jenna and her brother act like utter hellions. They steal fire extinguishers and spray passers-by. “We would go down to cracktown and see the crack hos on the corner and we’d fog ’em up!,” she remembers. “I remember one time we got this kid on a skateboard and there was a cop that saw us. We were in this total car chase, and we got away.”49 They would build giant sculptures in people’s yards, Jenna would light them up, and then-

Jenna: Finally, boom! Everything would explode in flames. People would be coming out of their houses freaking out. And then a couple days later on the news, “There’s been a rash of arsons across the Las Vegas valley.” And we’re all like, “Yaaaayyy!” Our dad had no clue.

Her father moves them again to Montana, to raise cattle and try to keep Jenna out of trouble. At school, the boys liked her and the other girls didn’t. They would chase her, throw her down, and punch her in the stomach. “One girl would get me by the back, and one would punch me in the stomach. They didn’t really hurt me, but Jesus Christ I got the wind knocked out of me. Or they would rip out my hair.”50 Before finally leaving Montana, Jenna saw the girl who picked on her the most getting something from her locker. She goes up and smashes the locker door so hard, it splits the girl’s head wide open51. This last act takes place after the worst thing in the world happened to her, after she’s stopped going to school because of it, after she’s decided she wants to get as far away as possible from Montana. She finally reveals in her memoir what it is, when writing about her first time on “The Howard Stern Show”:

He kept saying that something didn’t compute. He asked if I had a screwed-up childhood, and I said no. He asked if my parents had been strict, and I said no. He asked if my dad and I still talked, and I said we did. He asked if my mom minded what I was doing, and I said no. I had decided in advance that it was better not to discuss her death on the air. I didn’t think I could handle it.

But then Howard asked me if I’d ever been molested or abused. It was the one question I wasn’t prepared for.

This is the moment on the show, “Jenna Jameson first appearance on Howard Stern (1995) Part 1” (3:25-4:24):

You know what, sometimes I look at porno movies, and I go, man, that girl is so good looking. How could she be in porno movies? And I can’t figure it out. You know what I mean?


Listen. I have a lot of porno stars in here, but a lot of them I reject, because it’s like, how many times can you have a porno star? But then when I saw your pictures, you were such a piece of ass, I mean, look at this, is that a modeling ad, or what?

I thought that was some Sports Illustrated model.

Look at that. So then I said, she’s gotta have a screwed up story, she’s so damned beautiful. I see beautiful women in these pornos, and I go: how the hell do they get them to have-

Why are they in there.

-wild monkey sex in these pornos. You have to have had a screwed up childhood, right?

No. Actually-

Oh, come on. Something happened-

My dad was a cop.

And he never molested you?

Maybe it’s a rebellious thing.

Were they strict or what?

No. Not at all. I ran wild.

What happened? You just ran wild.

You had no supervision whatsoever.

Not really.

There you go.

They weren’t strict at all?


They let you do whatever you want?

I was out of control.

What happened was simple: she was beaten and gang raped by four boys after a football game. We are not allowed the comfort that these boys were something alien or obviously monstrous: she describes them as funny, good-looking guys. They raped her anyway. The family moved back to Las Vegas, and there, she was raped by her boyfriend’s uncle, a man named Preacher. “I’ve never told anyone about either the Montana experience or the one with Preacher because I don’t want to be thought of as a victim,” she writes. “I want to be judged by who I am as a person, not by what happened to me.”

This is someone who appears to live in a society without the protection of laws or social codes. Gangsters try to kidnap her, attempt to kill her family, indifferent to her father being a policeman. No taboo, restriction, or moral perimeter keeps women from punching her in the stomach, men from misusing her, men from raping her. The only guaranteed protection against home invasion are your own guns, the only thing that keeps other people from hurting you is your own spine. That the image of this woman is known to billions is a result of the most advanced technology, and yet the world she lives in appears to be lawless, modern America and pre-modern America, the west described in Orwell’s “Mark Twain: The Licensed Jester”: “The State hardly existed, the churches were weak and spoke with many voices, and land was to be had for the taking.” However, the law that Orwell emphasizes as absent, economic pressure, is overwhelming in Massoli’s life, is the only law that seemingly exists. It is because of money that she is able to act with fuller freedom than ever before – “I was out of control. It was awesome”. She has the license to be out of control because she’s pulling down five grand in three nights. This might be one of the few books where a woman speaks of sleeping with other women without any mention of it being a perceived transgression, a rebellion, or a violation of society’s rules. “As I was talking, she suddenly reached across the table, put her hand under my chin, pulled my face into hers, and kissed me,” she writes of another stripper she’s tutoring in necessary work skills, when the student makes a move on her.

It wasn’t a peck on the lips, or one of those fake sexy kisses that girls do with other girls to turn men on. It was a full-on tongue-exploring-mouth soul kiss. My breath quickened, and my mind raced. I was in shock. But, at the same time, I wasn’t. This was why I had really come up to her. I didn’t want to help her become a better stripper at all. I wanted to run my hands through her hair, feel her cheek against mine, and hold her in my arms. I had to make a split-second decision. And that decision was yes. Yes, I wanted to throw down with this girl.

She released my mouth and looked softly into my eyes. I wrapped my right hand behind her head, and she pressed her lips once more against mine. She kissed with the confidence and passion of a man.

Scenes such as this are not written for the appetites of men, but only as a blunt description of events that took place. From an account of times with another girl: “She could come fifteen times in a single session, and always wanted to eat me out when I was on my period. She called it war paint.” There is no mention of a contrast with what other women do, or what society expects of a woman to act, or any larger gay culture. These women and this society doesn’t exist in her life, and may as well be on a distant planet. If society does not exist to protect you from rape, robbery, and kidnapping, why should it even be acknowledged for such humble acts as this? In the review of the book by Charles Taylor, “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson”, this often insightful critic writes of Massoli as part of a larger group of sex workers in opposition and outside the values of the middle class:

What could seem a better way to flout middle-class values than going into stripping or nude modeling or adult movies (even though, for some of the people who go into them, they are the quickest route to middle-class stability)? But though sex workers have often been looked down on in the name of middle-class propriety, it’s interesting to think about what they share with the middle class.

Taylor re-assures us that these people are finally us as well: “Often those people wind up living traditional middle-class lives — they get married, have kids, buy a home.” This overlooks that Massoli was never middle class at her most successful, she was a multi-millionaire and part of the one percent, and it makes the mistake of placing Massoli as part of a larger group. Her life is the most extreme expression of unrestrained independence that might be found, without reliance on the government or solidarity with anyone, her career born in the ruthless desert state whose lack of gambling laws allowed its foremost industry to exist. “Fuck Gloria Steinem,” she writes52. You are alone in this world, so you’d better figure out how to handle it quick. There is no ethos or philosophy that can be connected to this life, except for one thing: Jenna Massoli has been able to survive a great deal.

That there is something lost in existing like this, in having to live like this, is suggested in one of Jenna Massoli’s longer diary entries. She expresses something that might be called innocence, and to find it appealing might seem like a longing for a pristine state that cannot exist in harsh life, like orchids that cannot survive outside the hothouse, but I think it is only a state possible for a person who can allow themselves to be vulnerable, for the possibility of giving themselves away, without feeling unsafe. Those who’ve read this book will find one sentence especially striking: “The next day I found myself alone in his room, him holding my body close to him.” Jenna Massoli had no issue with snuggling then.

June 9, 1988


A boy or should I say a man moved into our apartment yesterday or the day before. Amy and I were walking & we encountered one of her classmates. We talked awhile out at the swimming pool. He spoak to me about an attractive friend of his named Victor. He described him as blonde buff & tan. And of course he sounded attractive to me. I secretly inside wanted to meet this mystery man. But I was very timid about meeting strange men. But Amy said to just come and sit in the grass in front of his so called apartment. So I did.

We sat and had a few meaningless conversations, until I saw 2 dark figures moving at a somewhat fast pace. All at once they sat down in our huddle in the grass. One was dark haired and very old looking, sitting on his motorcycle helmet. The other, he was hard to take my eyes off. He struck me as the wild type, someone who could release my secret desire to be wanted in a seductive manner & to be treated & looked at as an attractive woman. And to throw away peoples tendency to look at me as a cute pretty but young girl. As time went on, he became more and more sexy. But I couldn’t show my secret desire to touch him. I think he realized how much I wanted him & he came and made himself comfortable unusually close to my warm body. He made me feel like no other boy or man ever made me feel. It was getting quite late so I got up and started to leave-thinking to myself it was silly of me to even think of being able to satisfy his needs.

But as soon as the thought ended and I was within two arms lengths away from him, a phrase I was secretly wishing he would say left his mouth, “When will I see you again.” My heart filled with joy and passion. “Tomorrow,” I said. The next day I couldn’t see him at all. But at about 11:30 p.m. I peered through my window and there he was. No, he wasn’t a figment of my imagination. He was real. He was standing beneath my open window, staring up at me. We greeted each other and I yearned to hold him close to me, like I so often thought about. He gave me his telephone number and he disappeared into the darkness. The next day I found myself alone in his room, him holding my body close to him.

He gave me a few playful pecks on my arms and my face. Then he gave me the most passionate and deep kiss I have ever even assumed there could be. My god. I wanted to stay here in his arms and make love to him over and over again until my body was so tired it had to stop. But I had to leave. He is the one that I want to be with day & night. But I don’t think you know that. Try to understand how much I want & need to be with you. Sorry for making it so long but I couldn’t tell you in any other way.

I will never ever stop wanting you.

There is the interesting contrast that Jenna Jameson has said in several places that she’s submissive when having sex with men (she is dominant with women), so the mass of images is of herself submitting to men, when she has a very different attitude in actual life, outside the bedroom: of being very strong, of someone giving orders, someone who never wishes to be vulnerable53. We have something similar with Tera Patrick, who gives her sexual likes as “rough sex, hair pulling, mild choking, getting tied up, playing the submissive, strong, tough, tattooed men”, yet this also is not to be taken for emotional fragility. Her attitude when she first entered this industry, and one that fit so well with it: “I was enjoying life. I was free. And I was horny. My motto was: ‘Get it up. Get it in. Get it off. Get it out.'” The obvious question is: to what extent we are in control of this role? Are we playing at dominating, or are we actually dominating? Are we playing at submitting, or are we actually submitting? At various points in Patrick’s Sinner Take All, her then husband Evan Seinfeld, takes over the narrative and gives his perspective:

Tera and I went back at it. We did everything. We were being silly, taking these photos of each other. We were having a lot of fun. I was trying to take a P.O.V. picture of myself peeing on her. Some people don’t understand what peeing is all about. Peeing on each other isn’t about the pee. It’s about domination and submission. It’s when she lays down on the floor of the shower and gives herself fully and says, “Go ahead do whatever you want. I’m yours.” We are a perfect match because I am so overdominant and she is super-submissive All of her friends’ worst fears came true: I made her my cock puppet. But she loved it.

Tera agrees: “I never let a man pee on me, but I let Evan. It’s about submission, trust, and giving yourself freely to someone, and that’s a turn-on.” Patrick’s memoir, which appears to be reaching the crescendo of a happy marriage to Seinfeld, a man she deeply loves, instead twists to an unexpected halt. We are put abruptly in an entirely different space in the book’s last chapter, with Patrick fallen out of love with Seinfeld and the two divorced. Patrick suspects that her husband always wanted to be in porn, and used her to achieve this fantasy:

Evan achieved his goal, but in the end I suffered. He was the dominating male who ran my life, and in that I lost a lot of myself. He was living the dream–he was going to bed with Tera Patrick at night and going to work in the morning and fucking another girl. I wanted a husband for life who only loved and wanted me. I wasn’t living my dream.

Again: are we just playing a role when we submit, or are we actually submitting?

This is all there in Nicki Brand, who is a submissive throughout the movie, yet who gives the orders to Max Renn, commands which he always obeys, including the final one to destroy himself. Again, we have the question of whether the power is truly our own. The image of Nicki Brand gives these orders, yet this image is manipulated first by Barry Convex, and later, presumably, by Bianca O’Blivion. Bianca is the other powerful woman in the story, yet she sees herself as only exercising her father’s will – “I am my father’s screen.”

If we might see Jenna Massoli’s life as part of a broken symmetry, the unsheltered life in the wake of a collapsed universe, then her own father’s life might be its mirroring arc. As said, Larry Massoli, Jenna’s father, is easily the most interesting character in the book. Where she lives seemingly outside of any state, he worked as its servant, a military advisor in Vietnam before the United States had officially entered the war54. Later, his job is to organize and train fighters to suppress the Simba rebellion in the Congo. Something there changes him. “It’s interesting because when you first go over you try to be so righteous,” he says in one of the book’s interviews with the Massoli family. “I grew up with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and they never shot anybody in the back. It was the white hats against the black hats. You have to do everything fair.” I’m very sympathetic to this man, and I’m not sure what I would see if I were to look closely at what took place where he was in Vietnam, or more crucially, what he says took place in Simba in response to his own side suffering massacres: “I would come up to a village and, instead of going house to house, I would level the whole place…We went from village to village killing them all. We just didn’t care. We didn’t care.” One is struck by this entire passage, gone somehow unnoticed, perhaps since this is a book about pornography and therefore nothing it says about war or America is to be given thoughtful consideration. This phrase, especially: “When I got to Africa I still had some humanity left.”55 When Larry Massoli returns, it takes him a decade to fit back into society. Like Freddie Quell in The Master, he turns to Scientology for structure and comfort; they get him a job at a Las Vegas TV station56. His dear wife dies of cancer when Jenna is two, the woman Jenna’s memoirs is dedicated to, and who continued to dominate their lives, in memory. Afterwards, Larry Massoli decides to do “what I had always wanted to do. I became this big crusader asshole. Because I couldn’t save your mother, I was going to save the world.” It’s when he refuses to look the other way or take a bribe during a war between two bordellos in Vegas that there are the kidnapping threats and a contract is put out on his life. Most important business in Jameson’s book is handled unofficially, and Larry Massoli settles this unofficially as well. He goes out to the brothel owned by those who threatened his family and put out a hit on his life, drives his patrol car through the front door, and empties two clips of a Thompson submachine gun into their bar. “I want you fuckers to stop fucking with my family.” Problem solved57.

After this, he enters a descent, a dark mirrored image of his previous life. He ends up on the run with his son, Tony, and out of contact with Jenna after another contract is put out on their lives, having to do with some other Vegas business that goes awry. He does acid with his kids. He does coke with Jenna and Tony. When they all do coke together, Jenna looks over at Tony and says, “Go, Dad.” Larry: “I completely reversed myself from being the self-righteous stupid ass that I was to a psycho.” Jenna: “Get down with your bad self, Dad.”58 He ends up dating a stripper, running a strip club with his brother where his daughter is a feature dancer, and smoking meth. Larry: “You know what? I don’t miss any drug. But the only drug I ever liked was crank. It’s the best drug on the planet, but smoking it. Not sniffing it.”59 He had left the world of heroic duty, whatever might be underneath, for his daughter’s world, a place of raw anarchy.

Tony: …it’s always been us against the world…

Jenna: That’s right.

Larry: …and it always will be.

That I write of these women, Tera Patrick and Jenna Jameson, as being something like sacred objects to be kept away from the profane, when they are in an inherently profane medium, pornography, is not a contradiction. There remains an elevation, a creation of distance, an abstract image to be worshipped, though the profaning of these sacred objects is different than it might be for other celebrities. What profanes the sacred for this kind of performer is anything that erases the distance between themselves and the general population, and these are tied almost entirely to their beauty: age, bad surgery, drugs, desperation, humilation. These all affect other celebrities as well, though they can be humiliated, or profaned, in ways that Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick cannot, through nabbed nude selfies and sex tapes.

That we might liken fame to this religious phenomenon of mana, and that it should be so prevalent in a secular society, perhaps explains why there are the constant countervailing impulses of making people famous, creating these sacred objects, and profaning these same sacred objects, humiliating the famous. An example of this might be seen in the career of Britney Spears, who was especially suited for the kind of sacred image making that resembles Marilyn Monroe’s. She was seemingly innocent, by which we mean sexually innocent, somehow unconscious of the electric sexuality of her poses, and so we have, literally, the sacred vessel unprofaned, as well as the cryptic quality of her image. This is perhaps best expressed in Chuck Klosterman’s “Bending Spoons with Britney Spears”:

Over the next ninety minutes, I will sit next to a purportedly fully clothed Britney and ask her questions. She will not really answer any of them. Interviewing Britney Spears is like deposing Bill Clinton: Regardless of the evidence, she does not waver. “Why do you dress so provocatively?” I ask. She says she doesn’t dress provocatively. “But look what you’re wearing right now,” I say, while looking at three inches of her inner thigh, her entire abdomen, and enough cleavage to choke a musk ox. “This is just a skirt and a top,” she responds. It is not that Britney Spears denies that she is a sexual icon, or that she disputes that American men are fascinated with the concept of the wet-hot virgin, or that she feels her success says nothing about what our society fantasizes about. She doesn’t disagree with any of that stuff, because she swears she has never even thought about it. Not even once.

“That’s just a weird question,” she says. “I don’t even want to think about that. That’s strange, and I don’t think about things like that, and I don’t want to think about things like that. Why should I? I don’t have to deal with those people. I’m concerned with the kids out there. I’m concerned with the next generation of people. I’m not worried about some guy who’s a perv and wants to meet a freaking virgin.”

And suddenly, something becomes painfully clear: Either Britney Spears is the least self-aware person I’ve ever met, or she’s way, way savvier than any of us realize.

Or maybe both.

A blunt contrast to this attitude can be found in Tera Patrick’s Sinner Take All:

Is it weird to think that people you know and people you meet have seen your porn and masturbate to you?

Yeah, it’s a little weird to know that someone talking to me has seen my innermost parts and I haven’t seen theirs. But it’s not weird that they masturbate to me. They also masturbate to Cameron Diaz and Carmen Electra and Jessica Alba and the girl at the grocery store. Men are just visual. I’m no different, except they have a little bit more to masturbate to, they see a little bit more of me. It’s just humbling.

When we speak of this unprofaned innocence, we end up speaking almost exclusively about Britney Spears’ image, one that allows the viewer to project a multiplicity of things that may not be there. Such a phenomenon takes place in a recent article on her Vegas show, “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It is a very good article, one where the author never actually interviews Spears, but discusses her image alone, in the preparation time up to this premiere. She speaks to one woman who became a fan when Spears shaved her head. “She was just saying fuck you to the world over and over. This was who I knew she was,” says the fan. “In the early 2000s, she was a phony. This was really her.”60 The obvious question is: are you sure? Is it not possible that she simply had a nervous breakdown? That perhaps whatever we, the public, see of her, is always phony, always false, out of the celebrity’s own emotional necessity. “Being a Celebrity: A Phenomology of Fame” by Donna Rockwell and David C. Giles (I came across this study via the Alice Robb piece, “The Four Stages of Fame: How Celebrities Learn to Accept — and Regret — Their Popularity”), describes one survival strategy: “The celebrity copes with intense public scrutiny through character-splitting. He or she divides into two identities by contriving a celebrity entity, a new self presentation in the “public sphere.” Arguably, there are people whose private personality works extraordinarily well as a public one, an enigma never to be resolved, a riddle that cannot be answered, under which there is nothing. Spears is asked over and over again, “What do people not know about you?”, and “Miss American Dream” treats the answer, “Really that I’m pretty boring,” as a defensive gesture when it perhaps is not61. The image alone implies that this cannot be the full answer, that the enigma cannot be unending, when it may well be62.

The metaphors of Videodrome have such a variety of meanings because there is so little to restrict any and almost all interpretations. The character of Nicki Brand is a blank, and that’s what makes her image so beguiling, and the public character of Britney Spears is a blank as well, making her image equally powerful. We are left to guess at whether shaving her head is a nervous breakdown or an expression of strength, whether the song “Work, Bitch” embodies the sadistic grinding of life now, or whether it’s a subtle rebellion against all these forces. The video of “Work, Bitch” features Britney dominating a group of dancers in leather and gimp masks, holding them fast in leashes, whipping one like Max Renn whipped a TV. We might read whatever we wish into either image, with nothing in the characters to guide us. This image might be provocation for laughs, it might be ironic, it might be sincere. Britney Spears was a sacred object and everything was done to try to profane her, to humiliate her, yet she has remained sacred anyway. She has kept her power, and now she’ll exercise it. She’s in control. It’s awesome.

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

The fan in “Miss American Dream” who loved her post-breakdown is the only one who ends up not liking the Vegas show. This fan, a dominatrix, compared it to the time she threw a party where she had to hire a prostitute who clearly didn’t want to be there. She had a vacant look in her eyes that killed the whole vibe, and Britney had the same look63. Again, I wonder: what is the difference between Britney’s enigmatic look and her vacant one? We might see whatever we wish, just as we might read life or death in the eyes of Nicki Brand. The apotheosis of being able to read whatever we want is when anything human no longer exists, and the image remains as a riddle to be puzzled over infinitely, something like Marilyn Monroe. One tradition described in Durkheim is the use of tattoos to mark someone as being affiliated with a totem worshipped by their clan; another is the idea of a mythic ancestor who is a protecting genius, a protecting spirit64. Megan Fox used to carry a tattoo of what might be thought of a mythic ancestor, giving an explanation in “The Self-Manufacture of Megan Fox” by Lynn Hirschberg, which coheres well with these ideas:

On her right forearm, Fox has an intricate tattoo of Marilyn Monroe. Although she has read biographies of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and other movie-star icons, Fox is particularly fascinated by Monroe. While Gardner led a wild life, her work is forgotten. Monroe created a legacy: her persona is instantly recognizable. It’s not a character she played in a particular movie like, say, Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” Monroe was her own brand before branding existed.

One might note that word which perfectly matches a character’s last name, suggesting it’s not arbitrary: Nicki Brand. Yet Fox does not keep this tattoo, perhaps because this spirit does not protect at all, it’s an image whose eternality is connected with its own creator’s early self-annihilation. It’s almost entirely gone in the infamous piece, “Megan Fox Saves Herself” by Steve Marche: “All that remains of Marilyn is a few drops of black against skin that is the color the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters,” and [Fox] says why: “I started reading about her and realized that her life was incredibly difficult. It’s like when you visualize something for your future. I didn’t want to visualize something so negative.” Marche took a great deal of flack for invoking the idea of Aztec sacrifices in connection with celebrity (say, “Esquire’s Interview with Megan Fox Is the Worst Thing Ever Written” by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete), yet I don’t think there’s anything flawed or foolish in finding connections between our idol worship and that of the past, that the similarities compel you to look in such areas.

After she erased the tattoo, Fox would compare Monroe to one of her contemporaries. “She wasn’t powerful at the time. She was sort of like Lindsay. She was an actress who wasn’t reliable, who almost wasn’t insurable…. She had all the potential in the world, and it was squandered.” Despite being a sound assessment, in a conflict averse industry, even this mild claim required self-censure65. A recent story, “Bungalow 89” by James Franco, describes an actress who very much resembles Lindsay Lohan, and even carries the name “Lindsay Lohan”. The same countervailing factors mentioned earlier took place in this woman’s life. We want you famous. We want you sacred. We want you wasted. We want you naked. We want you humiliated. We want you destroyed. The sacred is profaned, it ceases to be sacred, and the interest ends. That this “Lindsay Lohan” has none of the magnetism of the central character of the well-known piece, “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie” by Stephen Rodrick, is because it’s not enough for fiction to evoke the real-life character, it must also re-create the essence of their potent beguiling qualities. In this case, it is the mixture of the actress’s incredible talents and her self-destructiveness, and this, the story does not convey, giving only a few squalid details that would make the story go completely unnoted if the author and his subject were untouched by our modern mana. There is one line, however, that contains great insight, of especial value here, a piece of direction given by Nicolas Winding Refn to Franco. “Less is more; nothing is everything.”

(Images from Videodrome and Prince of Darkness copyright Universal Pictures, images from Naked Lunch copyright 20th Century Fox, images from Blue Velvet copyright De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. Artwork from How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Bernard Chang.)

(On July 15th, some small edits were made: the section about Tera Patrick and submission, and moving the Chuck Klosterman excerpt from a footnote to the main text. On July 16th, some further very small clarifying edits were made, mainly to the paragraph dealing with control and Nicki Brand. On April 16, 2015, this post underwent a copy edit. On April 18, 2015, the gif of Max slapping Nicki, then Bridey was added. On April 23, 2015, still images of the vision from John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness were replaced with a gif of same, and various supplemental gifs made from clips of Videodrome were added. On May 18, 2015, footnote #1, referencing William Empson, was added.)


1 This tension is an old one and stated more eloquently in William Empson’s classic, The Seven Types of Ambiguity:

Critics, as barking dogs on this view, are of two sorts: those who merely relieve themselves against the flower of beauty, and those, less continent, who afterwards scratch it up. I myself, I must confess, aspire to the second of these classes; unexplained beauty arouses an irritation in me, a sense that this would be a good place to scratch; the reasons that make a line of verse likely to give pleasure, I believe, are like the reasons for anything else; one can reason about them; and while it nay be true that the roots of beauty ought not to be violated, it seems to me very arrogant of the appreciative critic to think that he could do this, if he chose, by a little scratching.

2 From “William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211”:

When did you encounter the Beats?

More or less the same time I found science fiction, because I found the Beats when the idea of them had been made sufficiently mainstream that there were paperback anthologies on the same wire rack at the bus station. I remember being totally baffled by one Beat paperback, an anthology of short bits and excerpts from novels. I sort of understood what little bits of Kerouac were in this thing-I could read him-but then there was William S. Burroughs and excerpts from Naked Lunch I thought, What the heck is that? I could tell that there was science fiction, somehow, in Naked Lunch. Burroughs had cut up a lot of pulp-noir detective fiction, and he got part of his tonality from science fiction of the forties and the fifties. I could tell it was kind of like science fiction, but that I didn’t understand it.

3 From “Which Is the Fly and Which Is the Human?” by Lynn Snowden, hosted on Reality Studio: A William S. Burroughs Community:

“It’s a limited kingdom,” Cronenberg says with a proud smile, “but it’s mine. One of the reasons Burroughs excited me when I read him was that I recognized my own imagery in his work,” he says. “It sounds only defensive to say, ‘I was already thinking of a virus when I read that!’ But there is a recognition factor. That’s why I think you start to feel like you’re vibrating in harmony with someone else. It’s the recognition, not that they introduced you to something that was completely unthought of by you.

4 From Neuromancer, the witty point made in the description of the Sprawl is to liken this physical entity to an electronic one, so that even though the Sprawl and the Matrix are separate, they merge in their likenesses.

The Matrix:

A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void … The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the Pacific now, and he was no console man, no cyberspace cowboy.

The Sprawl:

Home was BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis.

Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen. Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white. Then they start to pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation. Your map is about to go nova. Cool it down. Up your scale. Each pixel a million megabytes. At a hundred million megabytes per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial parks ringing the old core of Atlanta . . .

5 From “Mr. Mike’s America: A Comic’s Trek with SNL’s First Head Writer” by Paul Slansky:

O’Donoghue counters with one that Belushi used to tell about Adam and Eve. He doesn’t remember the setup, but the punch line has Eve washing her private parts in the river and God shouting down, “You asshole! Now all the fish are gonna smell like that!”

“American humor is a really angry rube humor,” O’Donoghue says. “Very mean and aggressive. I’ve always liked American jokes.”

6 Some sense of the place can be found in the very good biography of the author, Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs by Ted Morgan:

Tangier being by definition a place where everything was freely bought and sold, it gained a reputation for wickedness. In his widely syndicated column, “As I Was Saying,” Robert Ruark wrote in 1950 that “Sodom was a church picnic and Gomorrah a convention of Girl Scouts” compared to Tangier, which “contained more thieves, black marketeers, spies, thugs, phonies, beachcombers, expatriates, degenerates, characters, operators, bandits, bums, tramps, politicians, and charlatans” than any place he’d ever visited.

In 1955, Burroughs began to see that Tangier could serve as a model for the setting of his novel, which he called “Interzone.” Tangier was as much an imaginative construct as a geographical location, a metaphor for limbo, for a dead-end place, a place where everyone could act out his most extreme fantasies. On one level, Tangier was a reconstruction of the world in a small place.

7 From “Cronenberg Videodrome Intro” (from 3:23-4:00 in the clip):

Speaking of Toronto, by the way, Roberto Benigni, who did the movie Life is Beautiful, italian film-maker…when he came to Toronto, and I met him…of course, this is when he won his Oscar for Life is Beautiful…he immediately got on his knees and started to kiss my feet, my shoes. “Great, Roberto.” Then he got up, and he said: “Toronto. I was terrified to come to Toronto. Because all I knew of it was from your films.”

8 From Naked Lunch:

Techniques of Sending were crude at first. Fadeout to the National Electronic Conference in Chicago. The Conferents are putting on their overcoats . . . The speaker talks in a flat shopgirl voice:

“In closing I want to sound a word of warning . . . The logical extension of encephalographic research is biocontrol; that is, control of physical movement, mental processes, emotional reactions and apparent sensory impressions by means of bioelectric signals injected into the nervous system of the subject.”

“Louder and funnier!” The Conferents are trooping out in clouds of dust.

“Shortly after birth a surgeon could install connections in the brain. A miniature radio receiver could be plugged in and the subject controlled from State-controlled transmitters.”

Dust settles through the windless air of a vast empty hall-smell of hot iron and steam; a radiator sings in the distance . . . The Speaker shuffles his notes and blows dust off them . . .

“The biocontrol apparatus is prototype of one-way telepathic control. The subject could be rendered susceptible to the transmitter by drugs or other processing without installing any apparatus. Ultimately the Senders will use telepathic transmitting exclusively . . . Ever dig the Mayan codices? I figure it like this: the priests-about one percent of population-made with one-way telepathic broadcasts instructing the workers what to feel and when . . . A telepathic sender has to send all the time. He can never receive, because if he receives that means someone else has feelings of his own could louse up his continuity. The Sender has to send all the time, but he can’t ever recharge himself by contact. Sooner or later he’s got no feelings to send. You can’t have feelings alone. Not alone like the Sender is alone-and you dig there can only be one Sender at one place-time . . . Finally the screen goes dead . . . The Sender has turned into a huge centipede . . . So the workers come in on the beam and burn the centipede and elect a new Sender by consensus of the general will . . . The Mayans were limited by isolation . . . Now one Sender could control the planet . . . You see control can never be a means to any practical end . . . It can never be a means to anything but more control . . . Like junk . . .”

9 From Naked Lunch:

Blast of trumpets: The Man is carried in naked by two Negro Bearers who drop him on the platform with bestial, sneering brutality . . . The Man wriggles . . . His flesh turns to viscid, transparent jelly that drifts away in green mist, unveiling a monster black centipede. Waves of unknown stench fill the room, searing the lungs, grabbing the stomach . . .

The death of Barry Convex in Videodrome:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

10 From Naked Lunch:

The boy felt a silent black clunk fall through his flesh. The Sailor put a hand to the boy’s eyes and pulled out a pink scrotal egg with one closed, pulsing eye. Black fur boiled inside translucent flesh of the egg.

The Sailor caressed the egg with nakedly inhuman hands-black-pink, thick, fibrous, long white tendrils sprouting from abbreviated finger tips.

Death fear and Death weakness hit the boy, shutting off his breath, stopping his blood. He leaned against a wall that seemed to give slightly. He clicked back into junk focus.

11 An excerpt from Naked Lunch, when a woman has sex with a character who’s just been killed in a hanging:

She locks her hands behind Johnny’s buttocks, puts her forehead against him, smiling into his eyes she moves back, pulling him off the platform into space . . . His face swells with blood . . . Mark reaches up with one lithe movement and snaps Johnny’s neck . . . sound like a stick broken in wet towels. A shudder runs down Johnny’s body . . . one foot flutters like a trapped bird . . . Mark has draped himself over a swing and mimics Johnny’s twitches, closes his eyes and sticks his tongue out . . . Johnny’s cock springs up and Mary guides it up her cunt, writhing against him in a fluid belly dance, groaning and shrieking with delight . . . sweat pours down her body, hair hangs over her face in wet strands. “Cut him down, Mark,” she screams. Mark reaches over with a snap knife and cuts the rope, catching Johnny as he falls, easing him onto his back with Mary still impaled and writhing . . . She bites away Johnny’s lips and nose and sucks out his eyes with a pop . . . She tears off great hunks of cheek . . . Now she lunches on his prick . . . Mark walks over to her and she looks up from Johnny’s half-eaten genitals, her face covered with blood, eyes phosphorescent . . . Mark puts his foot on her shoulder and kicks her over on her back . . . He leaps on her, fucking her insanely . . . they roll from one end of the room to the other, pinwheel end-over-end and leap high in the air like great hooked fish.

“Let me hang you, Mark . . . Let me hang you . . . Please, Mark, let me hang you!”

12 From Naked Lunch, Bill Lee killing Hauser and O’Brien:

I squirted a thin jet of alcohol, whipping it across his eyes with a sideways shake of the syringe. He let out a bellow of pain. I could see him pawing at his eyes with the left hand like he was tearing off an invisible bandage as I dropped to the floor on one knee, reaching for my suitcase. I pushed the suitcase open, and my left hand closed over the gun butt-I am right-handed but I shoot with my left hand. I felt the concussion of Hauser’s shot before I heard it. His slug slammed into the wall behind me. Shooting from the floor, I snapped two quick shots into Hauser’s belly where his vest had pulled up showing an inch of white shirt. He grunted in a way I could feel and doubled forward. Stiff with panic, O’Brien’s hand was tearing at the gun in his shoulder holster. I clamped my other hand around my gun wrist to steady it for the long pull-this gun has the hammer filed off round so you can only use it double action-and shot him in the middle of his red forehead about two inches below the silver hairline. His hair had been grey the last time I saw him. That was about 15 years ago. My first arrest. His eyes went out. He fell off the chair onto his face. My hands were already reaching for what I needed, sweeping my notebooks into a briefcase with my works, junk, and a box of shells. I stuck the gun into my belt, and stepped out into the corridor putting on my coat.

The narrator’s exit:

I hung up and took a taxi out of the area . . . In the cab I realized what had happened . . . I had been occluded from space-time like an eel’s ass occludes when he stops eating on the way to Sargasso . . . Locked out . . . Never again would I have a Key, a Point of Intersection . . . The Heat was off me from here on out . . . relegated with Hauser and O’Brien to a landlocked junk past where heroin is always twenty-eight dollars an ounce and you can score for yen pox in the Chink laundry of Sioux Falls . . . Far side of the world’s mirror, moving into the past with Hauser and O’Brien . . . clawing at a not-yet of Telepathic Bureaucracies, Time Monopolies, Control Drugs, Heavy Fluid Addicts:

“I thought of that three hundred years ago.”

13 From “Which Is the Fly and Which Is the Human?” by Lynn Snowden, hosted on Reality Studio: A William S. Burroughs Community:

And in which scene, Cronenberg wants to know, does he actually show a horror of female genitalia? I point to Videodrome when James Woods looks on in fear as he grows an enormous vaginalike slit in his abdomen. “He seems to like it!” Cronenberg laughs. “It’s almost like he’s proud of it and happy to have it!” Yeah, and then he loses a gun in it? Isn’t that highly symbolic of a well-known male fear? “Well, I’ve known some women who thought they lost their Tampax and were just as freaked out as anybody else.”

He tells a story from the making of Videodrome, when Woods is forced to spend days with rubber appliances glued to his chest to attain the previously mentioned orifice. “And he turns to Debbie Harry and says, ‘When I first got on this picture, I was an actor. Now I feel like I’m just the bearer of the slit.’ And she said, ‘Now you know what it feels like.’ So I’m forcing him to be the bearer of the slit! Reality is what he perceives it to be.”

14 From “The sex, violence, and new flesh of Videodrome by Noel Murray, Keith Phipps, Nathan Rabin, and Scott Tobias:

Keith: Videodrome fits snugly between the films Cronenberg made before and the films he made later, but it still feels like a leap forward. I think his early films are terrific, and value them in part because of their crude directness, like the way Shivers literalizes every sexual anxiety drifting around in the midst of the sexual revolution. There’s an elegance to Videodrome that’s absent in the earlier films, though, which I know is a weird thing to say about a movie most famous for putting a sexualized, videotape-hungry orifice in its protagonist’s belly. Yet the film drifts along like a dream from one disturbing episode to another.

The note of unconscious creation is sounded in an earlier post from a series on The Dissolve (other than the two listed here, there is the third in the series, “Kill your television (before it kills you)” by Keith Phipps) devoted to this movie, “The prescient analog nightmare of Videodrome” by Scott Tobias:

But the key to Videodrome‘s prescience is that Cronenberg isn’t interested in being prescient at all. He’s simply turning the present into a nightmare, and that nightmare is what the dark side of progress looks like. At the height of the VHS era, when the illicit pleasures of the movies-and the outlands of cable television-could be indulged, without shame, from the privacy of one’s own home, Cronenberg starts with that desire and watches it grow. Here, that means following one man’s quest to find the limits of what’s possible and go beyond it, to where the television isn’t just transmitting a signal, but is an active partner and biological component, “the retina of the mind’s eye.” As brainy as Videodrome is-like Cronenberg’s work in general-the film has an intuitive, id-driven quality, one that transcends logic by creating its own.

15 Although the sentence refers to it as a “roman orgy”, I now think its fairer to say that both meetings with Masha have references to the cultures which would influence the separate capitals of the Roman empire. So, we have the eastern “oriental” restaurant, and all the greek elements of the movie – the togas, the laurels, the columns – that would end up in Roman culture. Of course, there is the well known allegation that the roman empire simply took greek culture (art, philosophy, mathematics, etc.), and gave it practical application without any further intellectual development.

16 From “Families Learning of 39 Cultists Who Died Willingly” by B. Drummond Ayres Jr.:

The farewell tape, broadcast by ABC television, was especially strikingly for its upbeat tone, considering what lay ahead for those speaking and peering into the camera. On it, one cult member — none identified themselves — said his death would bring him “just the happiest day of my life.” and added, “I’ve been looking forward for this for so long.”

A woman who appeared to be in her 20’s looked intently into the camera and said, grinning broadly, “We are all choosing of our own free will to go to the next level.”

17 From “Heaven’s Gate: The Sequel” [archive link: ] by Joshuah Bearman:

A secretive, itinerant group of self-described monks following the teachings of their leader, who was known simply as DO, they’d recently moved into a 9,000-square-foot mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, which they called “the Monastery” and “the Craft,” and was paid for by members doing Web design and other technical services. The group had many names over the years but by that time had settled on Heaven’s Gate. They’d waited patiently for a sign, and DO thought the sky was now speaking. When another amateur astronomer announced on Art Bell’s conspiracy-minded radio show that he’d taken a picture of Hale-Bopp showing an elongated fuzzy brightness lurking in the tail, word quickly spread in UFO circles that there was an alien spacecraft accompanying the comet. Remote-sensing practitioner Courtney Brown collected clairvoyant “data” that also suggested an extraterrestrial presence. DO’s followers went out and bought a telescope. They couldn’t see the ship themselves, but that wasn’t important. When Hale-Bopp passed too close to Jupiter, and the giant planet’s gravitational pull altered the comet’s orbit so that it would return every 2,000 years, DO became certain: This was their long-awaited “indicator,” perhaps even the star Wormwood described in The Revelation. The group updated its Web site. “RED ALERT” flashed across the top; below came the announcement “HALE-BOPP BRINGS CLOSURE TO HEAVEN’S GATE.”

For years, they’d been hoping to return to the Kingdom of Heaven, which they called “Evolutionary Level Above Human,” or the “Next Level.” Day in, day out, the group – which they always said was not a cult but a “classroom for growing a soul” – had learned to transcend human existence through rigorous discipline. In preparation for the final step of leaving their human bodies, or “exiting their vehicles,” the group assembled uniforms: matching black Nikes and homemade black pants and shirts, each adorned with a custom-made triangular patch that said “HEAVEN’S GATE AWAY TEAM.”

The Exit Videos are so important to Rio that he includes full transcripts in his book. The videos are short; each of the 38 statements (one member chose to say nothing) is less than five minutes long. I watched them all. Instantly noticeable was how similar everyone looks. In preparation for their future lives as immortal, androgynous beings in space, the men and women of Heaven’s Gate were all required to wear matching bowl cuts and baggy, unflattering jump suits.

Equally striking is their uniform serenity. Seated outside, with San Diego’s pleasant spring dawning in the background, every single member calmly explained their enthusiasm for the wondrous existence awaiting them: “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long”; “I couldn’t have made a better choice”; “Thirty-nine to beam up!” Thomas Nichols, who had been a member since 1976 (and was the brother of Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek), said: “I’m the happiest person in the world.”

18 This subhead is taken from How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, which in turn gets it from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet #5”:

Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel;
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’er-snowed and bareness every where:
Then were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

19 From Goddess by Anthony Summers:

The Greenes watched bemused as Marilyn plunged into their library. She started reading about Napoelon, discovered Josephine, and scooped up every book she could find about her. Supper conversation in the Greene household was dominated for a while by Marilyn enthusing about Josephine and her entourage.

“She was fascinated,” says Amy Greene, “by women who had made it.” Marilyn especially enjoyed learning how Josephine’s friend, Juliette Récamier, who was renowned for her figure, treated a specially commissioned nude statue of herself. As she aged, and her breasts started to droop, she had the marble breasts smashed.

20 This concept is explained earlier in Durkheim:

Now among these peoples, above all the particular deities to whom men render a cult, there is a pre-eminent power to which all the others have the relation of derived forms, and which is called wakan. Owing to the preponderating place thus assigned to this principle in the Siouan pantheon, it is sometimes regarded as a sort of sovereign god, or a Jupiter or Jahveh, and travellers have frequently translated wakan by ” great spirit.” This is misrepresenting its real nature gravely. The wakan is in no way a personal being ; the natives do not represent it in a determined form. According to an observer cited by Dorsey, ” they say that they have never seen the wakanda, so they cannot pretend to personify it.” It is not even possible to define it by determined attributes and characteristics. ” No word,” says Riggs,” can explain the meaning of this term among the Dakota. It embraces all mystery, all secret power, all divinity.” All the beings which the Dakota reveres,” the earth, the four winds, the sun, the moon and the stars, are manifestations of this mysterious life and power” which enters into all. Sometimes it is represented in the form of a wind, as a breath having its seat in the four cardinal points and moving everything : sometimes it is a voice heard in the crashing of the thunder, the sun, moon and stars are wakan. But no enumeration could exhaust this infinitely complex idea.

21 This concept is explained earlier in Durkheim:

Among the Iroquois, whose social organization has an even more pronouncedly totemic character, this, same idea is found again; the word orenda which expresses it is the exact equivalent of the wakan of the Sioux. “The savage man,” says Hewitt, “conceived the diverse bodies collectively constituting his environment to possess inherently mystic potence . . . (whether they be) the rocks, the waters, the tides, the plants and the trees, the animals and man, the wind and the storms, the clouds and the thunders and the lightnings,” etc. “This potence is held to be the property of all things . . . and by the inchoate mentation of man is regarded as the efficient cause of all phenomena, all the activities of his environment.”

22 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

I was in control-of myself, and the men around me. And I loved it: I loved the attention and the confidence it gave me. Even though I had no idea how to hustle guys for lap dances, I was the new girl, and they all wanted me.

By my last dance of the night, men were crowding around the stage and throwing money at me. It was then that I knew not only could I make it as a stripper, but I could get each and every one of those other girls back for laughing at me.

23 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The Crazy Horse Too was the best high-school class I ever took. The subject was social dynamics. It was amazing how the incentive of cash made it so easy to talk to people; before, I’d had no motivation to learn to be polite or carry on a conversation with a guy. They all wanted the same thing anyway. Within weeks at the club, I began to transform from a geeky teenage girl into a money-crazed psycho. And I loved it.

It wasn’t that I discovered some dormant ability to be a natural conversationalist. Instead, I learned to be an actress, because I was still not outgoing naturally. My job was simply to put up with the poor conversational skills of the customers, to seem open and caring while they talked about themselves. When my turn came to talk, I learned to lie. Everything that came out of my mouth was complete bullshit. I could tell by looking at each person what he wanted to hear. I’d tell him I was studying to be a real-estate agent, a lifeguard, a construction worker. Anything to steer them away from what was really going on in my life.

Since most of the men were into me because I looked so young and innocent, I decided to amplify that. As my grandmother always said, “What you can’t fix, you feature.” So one night I put my hair up in pony-tails, wore little pink shoes, and carried a plastic Barbie purse, which further contrasted me from the hardened girls.

24 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

“When a guy comes into a club, most girls come up to him and say, ‘Do you want a dance?'” she told me. “That’s the last thing you should do. Be personable. Make him like you. Talk to him. Ask about his job. Act like you are interested.”

That was lesson one-the basics. Lesson two was to prearrange a deal with the waitress to put water in my shot and extra alcohol in the guy’s, and then order a round of drinks as soon as I sat with him.

“Get him as drunk as possible,” she said, “and rack those songs up.”

25 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

For us, these schemes weren’t only about the money; they were also for the adrenaline rush. It was a high to get the upper hand over a customer. They were dumb, they were drunk, and they deserved it. At least that’s what I thought at the time. Strippers can be vicious. The mentality is that if these guys are going to victimize us, we’re going to totally victimize them right back. It seemed like a fair exchange. And it was character building: I was finally learning to take control of people instead of being so passive in social situations.

26 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

They say that money can’t buy happiness, but that is an oversimplification. It actually depends on how you earn your money. If you’re juggling high-stress investments or managing scores of employees or deluged with phone calls or hiding something from the authorities, life is no fun. But if you can walk into a room, lead on a bunch of guys, and then leave with thousands of dollars in cash in your pocket and no obligation to anyone-not even an obligation to show up to work the next day-life is good. If I wanted to I would splurge on six bottles of Cristal champagne for my friends without a second thought. I wasn’t concerned about the future. My main objective was making money, and I met that objective night after night.

One local politician liked to be dominated and, although I had such a submissive personality naturally, one night I took his beer into the bathroom, peed into it, and then made him drink it. He loved it. The next night, he tipped me with a pink slip: for a brand-new Corvette.

27 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

“Did you know you were just dancing for Pantera?”

“Really, those assholes were Pantera?”

“Did you know you were just dancing for Jack Nicholson?”

“Really, that old weirdo was Jack Nicholson?”

“Did you know you were just dancing for Whitesnake?”

“Really, like I give a crap.”

“Did you know you were just dancing for David Lee Roth?”

“Yeah, what a letdown. I used to have wet dreams over him. But he was rude, irritating, and babbled incoherently the whole time. And my friend Carrie just left the club with him. I’ve lost all respect for both of them.”

28 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Next, she put me on all fours for a butt shot and asked me to turn my head back to look at the camera. But since my head looked teeny in comparison to my ass in that position, she asked me to bend my body so that my face and my ass were the same distance from the camera and both in focus. I had no idea what she was talking about.

It was such a challenge to look sexy and relaxed while manipulating my body into the various uncomfortable contortions Julia was running me through. Even for what Julia considered the simplest pose, like looking over my shoulder with my back to the camera, I had to arch so hard that my lower back cramped. When I see those photos now, it seems obvious that the sexy pout I thought I was giving the camera was just a poorly disguised grimace of pain.

29 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:


Teenager becomes a stripper.


Work, money, and approval of boyfriend.


Teenager starts acting in soft-core all-female adult movies.



30 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:

Randy, who of course volunteered to be the man in the shoot, was a decent guy. He was a little old and had the fashion sense of a homeless wrestler, but I didn’t have to touch him if I didn’t want to.

31 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:

Usually, he just ripped a strip of foil off a cigarette pack, and inhaled the smoke through a sliced-up straw. But one night around 4 A.M., Jack and some of his friends came over and none of them had any cigarettes. So someone came up with the bright idea of unscrewing a lightbulb in the kitchen. They heated the base of the lightbulb until the glue on it melted, then they pulled off the metal base. After emptying the bulb, they drilled a hole in the top and stuffed a little meth inside. They heated the side of the bulb with a lighter and smoked out of the hole where the metal used to be. I just stood and watched the whole thing. It was a beautiful process, and the smoke smelled so sweet. When Jack offered me a hit, I decided to try it. It couldn’t hurt to do it just one time.

I inhaled a little, and the smoke filled my lungs. Unlike pot or even cigarettes, it was so smooth I could hardly feel it. When I exhaled, a thin three-foot-long column of smoke escaped from my lips. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, and then someone pressed fast forward. My heart felt like a woodpecker was inside, hammering hard enough to burst through my chest at any moment.

After that, I never wanted to snort meth again. Smoking it was amazing. At first, I only smoked it when Jack was around because he was the only one who knew the mechanics of the whole foil and straw contraption. But since I had no other challenges in my life at the moment, I set my mind to figuring out how to do it for myself. And once I did, smoking meth became a daily pastime. The high was more dreamy and intense, but it didn’t last as long. Every ten minutes I wanted another hit, so I constantly asked Jack for more.

32 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:

Throughout the photo shoot, they told me, “Jenna, relax. Let the tension out of your face.” I was clenching my teeth so hard from the crystal. Even more embarrassing, in certain poses my bones were sticking out so badly that they had to artfully drape my clothes over them so that I wouldn’t repulse readers. There were no magazines for guys with fetishes for anorexic meth freaks at the time.

I vacuumed so much that the carpets were actually disintegrating. The house looked perfect, but if it seemed too perfect, then I had to rearrange all the furniture to make the place seem more natural. I must have organized the frigging bathroom cupboards a thousand times, sorting each item according to size or function or owner or frequency of use-all in the same night.

Some girls who get high pick at their skin all night. I was not a picker. I was a maker. I was constantly amazed by the innovative and profound avant-garde artwork I could bring to life with a glue gun. My pieces should have been hanging somewhere, like a mental institution. Though I was infamous amongst Jack’s friends for making papier-mâché dragons in the closet all night, my greatest creations were my self-collages. I would go through adult magazines and cut my pictures from the phone-sex ads in the back. Then I’d glue them to a piece of paper and stick funny little phrases from Cosmopolitan below them, like, “Is it a do or a don’t?” “What procedures have you had done?” or “7 ways to make him beg for more.” Then I’d pick up my little handheld poker video game and play it all night, until my hands literally bled.

33 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Afterward, I spent twenty-four hours packing ten suitcases, because I knew Cannes was a big deal and I wanted to be prepared for anything. They were bringing over two other girls, Juli Ashton (a former high school Spanish teacher) and Kaylan Nicole (the reigning queen of anal at the time), both of whom were more experienced and popular than I was. As catty as it sounds, I wanted nothing more than to prove myself over these chicks. But it was going to be hard, because I was trying to learn from them at the same time. They had realized that with their beauty, boobs, and status, the rules that applied to the rest of the world didn’t apply to them. They had the attitude that they could do absolutely anything they wanted.

34 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The minute we got off the plane, we were in another world. It was one I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl, imagining what it would be like to be an international jet-setting model. In fact, it was wilder than my dreams. Flashbulbs went off everywhere. The paparazzi screamed and fought to take pictures of me, even though they had no idea who I was. It was so overwhelming and disorienting being pushed through the admiring crowd toward a waiting limo. I knew, for the first time, what an actual celebrity must feel like. I had only been playing at being one, but I now felt it was within my grasp.

35 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

I walked past a table full of beautiful girls, with Wesley Snipes sitting smack in the middle of them all. He waved me over.

“So you’re the reporter from the E! Channel.” He smiled. “Why don’t you join us?”

Hesitantly, I sat down next to him, and all the other girls at the table shot me dagger looks. He was trying to get in their pants; they were trying to get in his pants; and I was confused. “So,” he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “do you like it up the ass?”

Being a porn star, I was used to such questions. But Wesley had no idea I was a porn star. Either way, I was offended.

Anal sex is an exchange of power. And every man I’ve ever met loves the idea of dominating a woman by pushing his massive dick into her tight sphincter so that she loses control.

For me to allow a man to have anal sex with me, I must have trust first. Because to be on the receiving end of anal sex is to give yourself completely to your partner. And that’s why, despite the fact that it is practically an industry standard to have anal sex in every sex scene, I’ve never done it in a film.

36 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

When it was all over, he wrapped his naked body around mine. Instantly I stiffened. I hate cuddling. When I’m hot and sweaty and sticky, the last thing I want to do is be pressed up against something else that’s hot and sweaty and sticky. I pulled away, and he looked hurt.

37 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

“Why don’t you just stay and cuddle?” he asked.

“Did you just say the c-word?!”

I don’t cuddle, but I lay with him for a little while longer and listened to him talk about religion. Then I made my escape. Rod was still waiting in my room for me.

38 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

And he wanted to fuck me in the ass a little too often for my comfort. Every time we were naked, he’d be going for my butt like a rat to cheese.

39 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

It has become a constant issue for me. I’ve been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to do anal. But even if I walked away with $300,000 for having done it, I would also be taking away the feeling that I gave up something that was really important to me. This is almost embarrassing for a porn star to admit, but I’ve only given that up to three men, all of whom I really loved. Doing it on camera would be compromising myself. Sex, on the other hand, is something I’m comfortable giving up-albeit not often-to a stranger in a one-night stand. The fact is, I’ve only had about fifteen different male partners on camera.

40 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, artwork by Bernard Chang:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

41 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, artwork by Bernard Chang:

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

David Cronenberg's Videodrome Bad Religion

42 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

A lot of guys want to get into porn to get laid. What are your thoughts on that?

Getting into porn is a death sentence. As a male performer you are doomed to be single for the rest of your life. A contract girl does eight to ten scenes per year. A guy performs seven to ten scenes per week at least. The number one performers do fifteen scenes per week. So what girl is going to go out with a guy who’s pounding fifteen other girls every week? No one. The guys don’t have any social life, because they are on set so much. And when they do go out, they are like lepers. Girls won’t touch them. Even girls in the industry avoid them, because it’s bad for their career to get stuck having sex with just one guy on camera.

43 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Every night became my birthday. I realized I could pull in more money if I told them that I blew off the chance to celebrate my birthday because it was so important to me to be there dancing for them instead. “So I’m here, happy birthday to me,” I thought. “That’s right, fuckers. Cough it up.”

44 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The Pink Poodle was a wild place, an all-nude strip theater that was always at the epicenter of some major scandal. The girls there were among the raunchiest performers I’ve seen onstage in this country. Nikki and I weren’t willing to do much more than get fucked-up and fall all over each other onstage, so our tips suffered accordingly.

The only thing that redeemed the night was meeting Mr. 187-a former marine, an erstwhile middleweight boxer, and the sergeant-at-arms for the West Coast chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Mr. 187 was a badass motherfucker who was angry at the world and enjoyed nothing more than snapping a guy’s arm for looking at him wrong. So naturally, we took him on tour with us.

45 “Anatomy of a Murder” by Will Harper, describes the killing at The Pink Poodle. “Hells Angels member gunned down at San Jose funeral” by Sam Webby and Tracey Kaplan is about the killing of Steve Tausan aka Mr. 187 at a funeral.

46 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

We were as destructive-and self-destructive-as a rock band. With both of us at the top of our game as porn stars, it was our greatest-hits tour. Most guys will watch a favorite porn clip more than they watch Star Wars or Zoolander, so when they saw us standing three inches from their faces, they went insane. Hundreds of people would chant our names before each show and fight to get close to the stage.

We brought feature dancing to a new level: Where some girls were getting $250 a show, we were getting $5,000, simply because we had the balls to demand it. Add to that Polaroids, tips, and merchandise, and we were pulling in over $100,000 for a three-night engagement. We insisted on five-star hotels with room service, limos to and from the club, and at least two security guards accompanying us at all times.

47 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: You always lived in great houses. You always had swimming pools. You always had great cars. You always dressed the best.

Jenna: I don’t know about that, Dad.

Larry: To me you did. At least, as much as a $40,000 a year policeman could give you. I guess Florida was awful.

Jenna: Ugh, Florida was ghetto.

Tony: I remember going to school and it was so bad. There was a barbed-wire fence around the courtyard. All the tricycles were chained to a pole in the middle so the kids wouldn’t steal them. So the only way you could play with them was if everyone got on their tricycles in unison because they were all tied together. I was in shock. I sat back and went, “Oh my God.”

48 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Tony: Remember that guy who tried to burglarize our place? Me and Jenna were at home. I think he knew we were latchkey kids. We thought someone had come onto our little porch area. Then we heard the doorknob wiggle.

Jenna: And Dad and Marjorie didn’t believe us. They thought we were insane.

Jenna: Tony started sleeping with guns under his pillows when he was about six years old. It was insane. Dad would never give him bullets but he gave him little Derringers and shit.

Tony: Yeah, but every time Dad dropped a bullet in the house, I picked it up and kept it in a box. So I was pretty well armed.

49 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Tony: It all started when we were younger and would egg people. Then we decided to take it to a different level.

Jenna: I came up with the idea of the fire extinguisher. I was like, “They’re readily available at every apartment complex. We just gotta go break the glass and take the fire extinguisher, which sets off the fire alarm. But if we get out of there fast enough, we’re fine, right?” So we had a collection of them. And we would go “fog people up,” as we called it.

Tony: I’d call someone over to the car to get directions …

Jenna: … and I’d psssssshhht out of the window. It was great because it’s like a cloud of death. And the people afterward are just coated in white. We would go down to cracktown and see the crack hos on the corner and we’d fog ’em up! I remember one time we got this kid on a skateboard and there was a cop that saw us. We were in this total car chase, and we got away.

50 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Jenna: Yeah, the way I dressed worked in Las Vegas; it didn’t work in Montana. But I was popular with the boys, and I wasn’t going to give that up for these jealous girls in school. So it just got more violent because their boyfriends would leave them for me. There was this one corner that I had to pass on my way to school, and the girls would wait for me there and chase me. They were corn-fed, so they were pretty tough. One girl would get me by the back, and one would punch me in the stomach. They didn’t really hurt me, but Jesus Christ I got the wind knocked out of me. Or they would rip out my hair. During school, they would draw on the back of my shirt with markers, put gum in my hair, stuff like that.

51 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: One day they called me and said, “We are going to put your child in a foster home if you don’t get her to go to school.”

Jenna: Oh, Dad. The worst thing happened in Montana. I never told you but I just can’t talk about it. It was so bad. And that’s why I stopped going to school. So when you told me that, I slipped a gear. I was like, “Okay, these people are threatening my life and trying to send me to a foster home? They want to play a game? Fine! We’ll play a game!” I wasn’t going to take this shit anymore. So I marched into school, and the girl who picked on me the most was leaning into her locker to get a book or something. I walked up full force and, boom, I slammed the locker door so hard and busted her head wide open.

52 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The job of porn star is not a calling—or even an option—for most women. However, if you make the right decisions and set the right boundaries for yourself, it can be a great living, because you’ll make a lot of money while doing very little work. And you’ll get more experience in front of the camera than any Hollywood actress. Though watching porn may seem degrading to some women, the fact is that it’s one of the few jobs for women where you can get to a certain level, look around, and feel so powerful, not just in the work environment but as a sexual being. So, fuck Gloria Steinem.

53 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

One local politician liked to be dominated and, although I had such a submissive personality naturally, one night I took his beer into the bathroom, peed into it, and then made him drink it. He loved it. The next night, he tipped me with a pink slip: for a brand-new Corvette.

From “Jenna Jameson: The Interview”:

Q: I was preparing for the interview and noticed that you have been in movies with both men and women. Do you have a preference to do a scene with a gentleman or a female?

They are very different. With men, I am very submissive. With women, I am very dominant. Which is weird. I try not to be dominant, and it would be nice to do a scene where I get my butt kicked. But I always end up being the man in the relationship (laughs). I get to be two different people.

Q: That is ironic, given your personality, I would expect you to be dominant with men as well.

Actually, I am very submissive. I think that has to do with my business, when I get home, it is nice to be a different self.

From “Jenna Jameson – Hotter Than Ever” (NSFW) by Bryan Keith:

Xtreme: I don’t know man, you’d have to tie a tourniquet around me for it not to end. But what do ya think your husband Jay’s biggest turn-on is?

Jenna: Wow, there’s so many. He likes, doggy style, he likes to be the dominant force in sex, which is great because I’m submissive when it comes to having sex with men, so I like a man who can show me who’s boss. And he’s one of those guys, that’s what turns him on…seeing a girl whimper, and I’m a good whimperer.

54 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Jenna: Dad’s had an amazing life. He went into the service right after he graduated high school.

Larry: That was in 1957. I was an, um, advisor for 729 days 16 hours and 27 minutes in Vietnam in the seventh armored division. But who’s counting?

Jenna: It’s hard to believe that you witnessed and participated in such violent scenes.

Larry: I’ll give you an example. I took twenty nuns and some orphans out of a little village sixty clicks southwest of Nha Trang and was waiting for helicopters to pick them up. But we were being followed by North Vietnamese regulars and some Viet Cong. So I placed myself halfway between the helicopters and the tree line. I had my Thompson machine gun on my back and my M14 rifle in my hands. When they came out of the tree line, I just started picking them off. The next day, they found sixty-one bodies that I had killed lying there. And that doesn’t include the bodies the North Vietnamese hauled off into the tree line.

Jenna: He killed all those guys without batting an eyelash, but he was scared of bugs.

55 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Tony: Later, he was sent to Africa to fight against a communist revolution over there.

Larry: The government came to me and said I could finish out my time if I’d organize and train soldiers in the Congo to fight the Simba communist revolution. It’s interesting because when you first go over you try to be so righteous. I grew up with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and they never shot anybody in the back. It was the white hats against the black hats. You have to do everything fair.

Well, I found out in war the best way to come home alive is to sneak up on people and shoot them. When I got to Africa I still had some humanity left. When we captured the rebels, we would have a trial and then we would pass judgment: we would imprison them, execute them, or send them back to their village. But after four months of walking in the bloody wake of Simba massacres, we flew the black flag. If you ran, you were a Simba rebel. If you stood still, you were a well-disciplined Simba rebel. So we shot everyone. I would come up to a village and, instead of going house to house, I would level the whole place. I would call in the P51 Mustangs. We used Napalm. I had a contingent of howitzers. We went from village to village killing them all. We just didn’t care. We didn’t care.

56 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, from a letter Larry Massoli sends his daughter when she’s writing the book:

And you don’t know this either, but we became Scientologists for a while. Judy’s brother, Dennis, was always a spiritual seeker. He gave me a job at the TV station and then turned us on to Scientology. He had been on L. Ron Hubbard’s boat with him.

Dennis [his late wife’s brother] found Scientology a little expensive, but it did us a lot of good and made me a little more compassionate and empathetic.

57 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: It was very scary at that time. They had put a contract out on me. I was so worried about the kids. What happened was that a guy named Walter Plankinton had opened a place called the Chicken Ranch, and a couple of cronies from a rival bordello came and burned the place down. So my lieutenant told me, “You are going to get a call to go to the other side of the valley. When you get that call just do what you’re told and wait it out, no matter what happens.”

And I said, “Not on my watch.” So I kept them from getting revenge. I refused to take bribes or turn a blind eye to anything illegal, so everybody wanted to chase me out of town. It was like the Old West out there, and they didn’t want anyone trying to tackle the corruption.

Tony: Remember when we had to go hide out in Johnny Whitmore’s attic?

Jenna: I forgot about that.

Tony: I was sleeping in the dining room at the time, on a day bed. And I heard a crunching on the rocks, so I knew someone was out there. I looked outside and I saw a shadow. So I went to dad’s room. He was married to Marjorie then.

Larry: Oh, Christ, Marjorie. I needed someone to help me with the kids. That was a mistake.

Tony: So I knocked on their door, and Marjorie was like, “Shut the fuck up. Go back to bed.” I looked out the window and saw this guy in a bandanna, and he was wearing gloves and had a brick in his hand. I was so scared I couldn’t breathe. Then the brick came right through the window. And you came running out buck naked and grabbed a Thompson submachine gun and ran through the front door shooting. The gun lit up the night, and all I could hear was the brrrraaaaappp brrrraaaaappp from the machine gun.

Larry: He got away, so I put my uniform on and code three’d it over to the Shamrock, which was one of the brothels that had fire-bombed the Chicken Ranch. I drove the patrol car through the front door and unloaded two clips into the bar with that Thompson submachine gun. Then I said, “I want you fuckers to stop fucking with my family.” And we never had a problem after that.

58 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: You know, the incident that sticks with me is when we were at the corporate apartment and we did coke. I did it with you, and you looked at Tony and said, “Go, Dad.”

Jenna: Get down with your bad self, Dad.

Larry: That’s exactly what you said. I will never forget that. I completely reversed myself from being the self-righteous stupid ass that I was to a psycho.

59 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

My dad, a former cop, whose sense of righteousness was so strong when I was growing up that he neglected his own children and risked his job to fight corruption on the police force, was now living this squalid life on the margins of society—running away from some sort of trouble in Vegas, dating a stripper, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, smoking the exact same drug he had seen nearly kill his daughter.

Larry: You know what? I don’t miss any drug. But the only drug I ever liked was crank. It’s the best drug on the planet, but smoking it. Not sniffing it.

Jenna: When did you smoke crank?

Larry: When I was managing the strip club. I did just enough to stay high all day.

60 From “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

Andrea is not the real first name of a New York-based dominatrix who is a Britney obsessive. She is very skinny, with long hair, a pointy nose, smiley eyes, and perpetual excitement. We met on BreatheHeavy and I’d asked if we could meet the day of the show. She had texted me to look for her — “I’m in a cowgirl look” — and she was, boots and hat included.

She’s been a Stan (an obsessive fan, a term plucked from Eminem liturgy) since 2003; that was when Britney, to Andrea, became Authenticney, less Bubblegumney and dropping that bullshit wide-eyed Virginey act. It was Meltdowney circa 2008 that sealed the deal for her, though. “Oh, I loved it,” Andrea said. “She was just saying fuck you to the world over and over. This was who I knew she was. In the early 2000s, she was a phony. This was really her.”

61 From “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

[Britney Spears] was sitting in a room in the semi-dark, slightly hunched over, a little bored, at the tail end of a daylong junket in which TV journalists asked her questions like “What do people not know about you?” (“Really that I’m pretty boring.”) and “What was the craziest rumor you ever heard about yourself?” (“That I died.”) and who her secret famous crush is, a question that she’s been asked for years and years and that she’s been giving the same answer to for years and years (“Brad Pitt”).

Everyone wants her most personal album and her most personal interview ever—we are a nation riveted by Britney’s personhood—and no matter how many times she answers our questions, still she is a whore and a liar and an idiot and a fraud.

Instead she answers the same questions she’s always answered: The crazy rumor, the favorite city to visit, the secret crush (that she died, for Christ’s sake; London, but she’s not sure why; Brad Pitt! Brad Pitt! For the love of god, it’s always Brad Pitt!). They’re gonna try to try you but they can’t deny you.

So now we get nothing, either because she’s wary of us or because she knows that if you’re reading this, your decision has already been made. Now she’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle bound together by a hair extension. Now, the weatherman gets to interview her.

62 I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the tone of this review, and I’ve often been hostile to this writer’s work in the past, but this very point is made in Jody Rosen’s review of the album Britney Jean, “Britney Jean is DOA”:

People who dislike pop music will sometimes point to Spears as Exhibit A — as evidence that pop is soulless industrial product, assembled by committee and performed by singing mannequins. Of all the major pop divas, Spears is the only one who resembles a singing (in her case, “singing”) mannequin. But her body of work is conclusive evidence that great pop — forsooth, art — can result from industrial production. Consider: “…Baby, One More Time,” “Oops!…I Did It Again,” “Toxic,” “Piece of Me,” “Til the World Ends,” “How I Roll.”

These songs are amazing, and they’re amazing not despite but because of Spears’s limitations. Spears has been one of the most reliable record-makers in music by playing to her strengths: by accentuating the synthetic, by making herself a vessel for songwriters’ ideas about celebrity and sex and other juicy topics, and by letting some of the world’s most talented producers treat her voice like sonic Laffy Taffy, a thing to be coated with sugar, dyed garish hues, and stretched into all kinds of preposterous shapes. It should be noted that credit for this aesthetic must go to Spears herself. Whatever she lacks in other areas, Britney has shown exceptional taste and judgment when it comes to what songs to record and release.

Unfortunately, on her eighth album, Spears had a wacky idea: to try to impersonate a sentient she-human. Britney Jean is, per Britney, “my most personal album ever.” The thing about personal albums is that they call for a personality, and a voice to project it. Britney Jean is dead on arrival.

“Miss American Dream” slightly mis-states what the review is reacting against, the nasty quality of the first single, “Work, Bitch”:

On the surface, “Work Bitch” is a bizarre dance song with depressing lyrics.

Vulture published a disgusted review, calling her not just the most boring singer on the planet but “the most boring person,” and “anti-matter in a belly shirt.”

Rosen’s review is not disgusted with the song, but actually likes it:

It has a couple of moments. I happen to like the stentorian career-counseling session “Work, Bitch,” in which Britney affects a bizarre “Euro” accent to bark out boasts and warmed-over RuPaul commands: “Go call the governor / I bring the trouble … You better work, bitch.

63 From “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

The only fan I met who didn’t like the show—and I did meet so many fans—was, if you can believe it, poor Andrea. A few days later we talked on the phone and she told me that Britney had seemed so unhappy to be there that Andrea, in her catsuit and still with her cowgirl hat, almost wanted to leave. Andrea had once thrown a sex party where she’d had to hire prostitutes to have sex with a group of people while she stood over them with a whip. There was this one prostitute who technically did a good job—“She got fucked and sucked, which is all I asked her to do, right?”—but there was something so vacant in the prostitute’s eyes, something so unwilling that it kind of killed the whole thing for Andrea. That’s what this felt like.

64 From Durkheim:

Collective sentiments can just as well become incarnate in persons or formulae: some formulae are flags, while there are persons, either real or niythical, who are symbols. But there is one sort of emblem which should make an early appearance without reflection or calculation: this is tattooing. Indeed, well-known facts demonstrate that it is produced almost automatically in certain conditions. When men of an inferior culture are associated in a common life, they are frequently led, by an instinctive tendency, as it were, to paint or cut upon the body, images that bear witness to their common existence. According to a text of Procopius, the early Christians printed on their skin the name of Christ or the sign of the cross; for a long time, the groups of pilgrims going to Palestine were also tattooed on the arm or wrist with designs representing the cross or the monogram of Christ. This same usage is also reported among the pilgrims going to certain holy places in Italy. A curious case of spontaneous tattooing is given by Lombroso: twenty young men in an Italian college, when on the point of separating, decorated themselves with tattoos recording, in various ways, the years they had spent together. The same fact has frequently been observed among the soldiers in the same barracks, the sailors in the same boat, or the prisoners in the same jail. It will be understood that especially where methods are still rudimentary, tattooing should be the most direct and expressive means by which the communion of minds can be affirmed. The best way of proving to one’s self and to others that one is a member of a certain group is to place a distinctive mark on the body.

For the same reason, the personages who for centuries have been the subject of myths respectfully passed on from mouth to mouth, and periodically put into action by the rites, could not fail to take a very especial place in the popular imagination.

But how does it happen that, instead of remaining outside of the organized society, they have become regular members of it?

This is because each individual is the double of an ancestor. Now when two beings are related as closely as this, they are naturally conceived as incorporated together; since they participate in the same nature, it seems as though that which affects one ought to affect the other as well. Thus the group of mythical ancestors became attached to the society of thé living; the same interests and the same passions were attributed to each; they were regarded as associates. However, as the former had a higher dignity than the latter, this association takes, in the public mind, the form of an agreement between superiors and inferiors, between patrons and clients, benefactors and recipients. Thus comes this curious idea of a protecting genius who is attached to each individual.

65 From “Megan Fox Clarifies Lindsay Lohan-Marilyn Monroe Comparison in Esquire” by Bruna Nessif:

“In the newly released article that I did for Esquire, there is a reference that is made to Lindsay Lohan that I would like to clarify before it snowballs into something silly,” Fox wrote.

“The journalist and I were discussing why I was removing my Marilyn Monroe tattoo, especially since in his opinion, Marilyn was such a powerful and iconic figure for women. I attempted to draw parallels between Lindsay and Marilyn in order to illustrate my point that while Marilyn may be an icon now, sadly she was not respected and taken seriously while she was still living,” she added.

Fox continued, “Both women were gifted actresses, whose natural talent was lost amongst the chaos and incessant media scrutiny surrounding their lifestyles and their difficulties adhering to studio schedules etc. I intended for this to be a factual comparison of two women with similar experiences in Hollywood. Unfortunately it turned into me offering up what is really much more of an uneducated opinion. It was most definitely not my intention to criticize or degrade Lindsay. I would never want her to feel bullied, as she does not deserve that. I was not always speaking eloquently during this interview and this miscommunication is my fault.”

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