Saturday, 23 January 2016

Character Assassination, Lies, Gossip & Innuendo

The Comics Journal #253 (June 2003) published (at Dave Sim's request) two letters from Cerebus fans, Jack Baney and Allen Rubenstein, which had originally been intended for publication in Aardvark Comments letters page within Cerebus, but were omitted due to space limitations. Dave Sim's detailed response (over 15,000 words!)  was published in The Comics Journal #255 (September 2003) and #258 (February 2004). What follows is just a short extract from that reply.

...Well, I have to disagree with you there. I did get isolated because I spoke out. People believe that being an anti-feminist is the same thing as being a misogynist or a racist. No, a misogynist hates women because they are women. A racist hates black people because they are black. What I have is a political disagreement with what I believe to be a wrong political direction that my society has adopted and a wrong political choice that the majority of women have made their own. It appears that my actions are, as you assert, "engineered to alienate as many people as possible" only because virtually everyone else thinks that there is a sound basis to Marxist-feminism and believe that disagreeing with Marxist-feminism is a sign of bigotry. I disagree. I think Marxist-feminism is bigotry itself, which maintains itself, as Mao's Cultural Revolution did, by ostracizing those people who are basically saying, "Dude, the experiment isn't working."

Ostracizing Dave Sim, ignoring and disparaging his work, while refusing to enunciate where you believe that the [15] Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast are not only not Impossible, are not only Possible, but are, in fact, Shining Truths of How to Conduct Our Glorious Society is very reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution. Your experiment isn't working. It is working less well as we go along. The enemy isn't the person who is trying to tell you that. The enemy is your own persistence in a misapprehension that doesn't suit the nature of free and democratic people. I can't rule out the possibility that God picked me for this job for the basic reason that He knew I would build a very small impregnable fortress.

I wouldn't have a publisher or an editor who could lean on me. I wouldn't have any advertisers who could be leaned on. I wouldn't have a wife who could threaten me or children that I had to worry about "having an evil misogynist dad." I wouldn't have any female friends that I wasn't completely prepared to lose out of my life (all of whom I have lost out of my life, willingly and happily) if it came to a question of appeasing them or sticking with what I believe to be the truth.

I would be working with distributors and retailers who have learned by hard experience that freedom of the press is meaningless unless you're willing to make work available that other people want to read, no matter what you think of it personally. I would have a business partner who would accept that -- in terms of written content -- it is my book. I have offered twice to include and/or write on Gerhard's behalf any disclaimer Gerhard wanted to run in the book, disavowing his having anything to do with the written content. The first time he said that he was pretty sure that no one would believe that he agreed with what I was writing. The second time he simply said that it wouldn't be necessary. So that is where and how things stood and stand here in the small impregnable (so far, God willing) fortress.

That left only the "mob" and a flat-out Marxist-feminist "Enemy of the People and the Glorious Revolution" "hanging in effigy" on the Internet, character assassination, lies, gossip and innuendo as the only means available of attempting to destroy me. If I had a nickel for every time I've been called insane since #186 came out, I would be a very wealthy man. A lot of people are convinced that I must be suicidal, doing without friends as I do. On the contrary, given how those people responded to a simple minority viewpoint, I count myself to be very lucky to have found out who and what they are so that I didn't have to waste any more of my time on or with them. I'm not insane. I am a perfectly sane individual living a very coherent and simple life, a large part of which involves metaphorically staring down virtually every other person in the comic-book field who is, to my own great amusement, waiting for me to flinch.

Folks, I'm not going to flinch. I have nothing to flinch about. You will flinch (you, in fact, have flinched, and are flinching) because you can't answer my argument. You can't even address my argument. All you can do is indulge in mob behavior, character assassination, lies, gossip, innuendo, calling me insane and hoping that that will drive me insane, believing that I'm suicidal in the fervent hope that I will kill myself and that (in the brand of logic peculiar to Marxist-feminists) that my argument will therefore die with me. I haven't indulged in a single one of those unbecoming approaches to societal discourse with any one of the people that I am metaphorically staring down. I don't have to, because -- until a female member of your ranks can present a coherent counter-argument to Tangent and the [15] Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast -- I am the one who is in the right and you are the ones who are in the wrong. You were wrong to ignore my argument, you were wrong to engage in character assassination, lies, gossip  and innuendo when you had no answer to my argument, you were wrong when one of you claimed to have threatened me with physical violence, you were wrong to indulge in character assassination, lies and innuendo when I answered that claim of a threat of violence in a like fashion. Under your own Marxist-feminist standards (however degraded they may be) I am right and you are wrong.

Sorry to hurt your collective feeling like, but, you know, there you go...


Anonymous said...

I have no doubt that Dave feels that he was "isolated" because he spoke out. But the historical record proves that he was never kicked out of the comics field; he left. He says that nobody defended him, but that is simply false. The historical record proves that everyone defended him; everyone said that he had the right to say anything he wanted, and nobody said he should be prosecuted or that his right to publish these things should be removed.

But that's Dave's general method: he feels things, convinces himself he doesn't, and invents post hoc rationalizations for them.

Unfortunately for Dave, he's not actually very good at thinking. His misunderstandings and misuse of evidence, his errors of logic and causation, his moving the goalposts, his arguing from analogy and anecdote, and his last-ditch recourse of calling on unverifiable supernatural beings (either god or demons) to support his case -- all manifest regularly in his so-called arguments. In his "Mama's Boy" essay, Dave wrote, "You know when I write about something that you think you have a very clearly defined opinion about, and by the time you're done reading it you feel like a food because I've just made mincemeat of your opinion in a few pithy paragraphs?" Has that every actually happened to anyone? Then you were beaten up by a little girl. "I am right and you are wrong," is the best argument Dave can make.

Dave's real problem is not that people didn't defend him, it's that they didn't agree with him. But of course, you have the right to say anything you want; you don't have the right to be listened to, let alone applauded. Dave continued to write, draw, and publish Cerebus right up to the end. If fewer people wanted to read it, that is not him being isolated, excluded, or ostracized; that is comics readers making free choices about what to read. They don't like your comic, Dave; deal with it. Dave's irrational "comics metaphysics" belief that he has some sort of objective significance to the Universe does not allow him to see that.

We agreed with Dave for a good long while. He said, "I'm a funny cartoonist," and we agreed: you're a funny cartoonist. He said, "I'm a graphic novelist," and we agreed: you're a graphic novelist. He said, "I'm a serious artist," and we agreed: you're a serious artist. He said, "I'm a champion of creative freedom," and we agreed: you're a champion of creative freedom. He said, "I'm a great thinker," and we said, "Yeah, not so much." And that just drove him up the wall.

Critic Bob Fiore once wrote that Dave is fortunate that his creative instincts run counter to his thinking. Cerebus remains an fascinating, wildly inconsistent, and worthwhile work.

-- Damian T. Lloyd

Steve said...

Hmm, where did I leave my 15 foot pole 'cause I'm sure not touching that with a 10 foot one.


Erick said...

I think I have finally figured out what Dave is doing.
What everyone needs to remember is that Dave plays the long game. Cerebus anyone?

He does not always make the correct decisions but once he has set his mind, he absolutely commits to the performance.

Yes, Dave is a Performance Artist. My guess is that Dave decided to turn the second half of his life into performance art, and not unlike Andy Kaufman - when he commits to a thing he confuses and alienates those who thought they knew him.

Dave is not crazy. He is simply committed - no pun intended, to his art as performance.

What i can not quite fathom is why he chose what he calls 'feminism' as his subject?

There may or may not be real beliefs behind his screeds.

To those saying this can't possibly be a performance, i say 'why not'?
It is just as likely as Dave championing a view about women that he must know most would find abhorrent.

If he can commit 26 years of his life to a comic book, he can do the same with a performance art project.

I am not trying to defend Dave or make an excuse. His views rather real or 'art' driven I find to be despicable.

I just posit an alternative theory as to why

The question is: When to peg the start of the performance? 186 or later?

CerebusTV said...

The Book of Ecclesiastes on futility comes to mind, in regards to speculation.

Jack said...

You know, The Comics Journal #255 included not only Dave's reply to me but also an article I had written (about Harvey Pekar) that I was extremely proud of. As far as I was concerned, it was the official Jack Baney Issue of The Comics Journal, and best if all, it was published online on October 3, 2003--my 30th birthday! That night, I went out to dinner with my two best friends (an old one and a new one) and had a great time. I basked in the certainty that my life was finally starting to take off.

...Boy was I wrong.

Sandeep Atwal said...

Every time "Damian T. Lloyd" posts something, I can't help but picture Davis Aurini:

"Now let me explain to you stupid idiots what's REALLY going on..."

Tony Dunlop said...

Now Damian and Sandeep, you boys play nice.

"Dave's real problem is not that people didn't defend him, it's that they didn't agree with him."

That's not what he's saying; rather, it's that, by his criteria, nobody has refuted him. Of course you can't refute someone who insists upon taking control of all of the definitions, axioms, and rules of inference and arranging them in such a way that they, by design, lead to one's desired conclusions. And I say this as someone who actually thinks Dave (and many others) have valid points to make regarding feminist thought.

Anonymous said...

"A misogynist hates women because they are women."

This s a bit odd to see - Dave Sim has repeatedly invoked the dictionary definition of misogyny (or at least A dictionary definition of misogyny) to defend himself against the charge - and now here he is using a definition that differs from the one in the dictionary in a pretty visible way.

Well, which is it - is a misogynist a person who hates women, or a person who hates women for specific reasons?

"Ostracizing Dave Sim, ignoring and disparaging his work, while refusing to enunciate where you believe that the [15] Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast are not only not Impossible, are not only Possible, but are, in fact, Shining Truths of How to Conduct Our Glorious Society is very reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution."

Er, what? Is he saying people secretly agree with him? That's a pretty bold claim - one I don't think is supported by the evidence (maybe by some anecdotes, but I'm sure you've all heard that saying about the plural of anecdote).

"...given how those people responded to a simple minority viewpoint..."

"Minority"? I don't know how things are in Canada, but here in the U.S., one can run for President on a ticket of opposing feminism (the people who do so may not explicitly identify themselves as doing so, but their actions and stated policies make it unmistakably clear), and sometimes win. If it's a minority who holds that view, it's a large one.

"I'm not insane."

I don't you actually have the authority to make that call - though, granted, few (if any) o us do, either.

"until a female member of your ranks can present a coherent counter-argument to Tangent and the [15] Impossible Things To Believe Before Breakfast -- I am the one who is in the right and you are the ones who are in the wrong."

Two things: male opinions on/defenses of feminism aren't valid?

Secondly, that's not being right or being wrong work. Whether or not you are right is independent of the perceived quality of your own argument - or, for that matter, that of your opponent's.

I could, for instance, argue that Zooey Deschanel is a magically-enchanted bag of Skittles. I could make a very long, seemingly well-crafted highly sesquipedalian argument supporting this position, entirely free of visible emotion. I could make it look like it makes perfect sense. And you could respond with a profanity-laced rant typed entirely in lowercase and employing the highly questionable refutation that Zooey Deschanel can't be a magically-enchanted bag of Skittles because there's already one of those in Hollywood and it's Nicole Kidman. And I could look at your pitiful attempt at a rebuttal as proof that my initial assertion was correct...

But it's not. Zooey Deschanel is not a magically-enchanted bag of Skittles, and flawed attempts to point that out do not magically turn her into one. The truth exists independently of one's ability to defend it.

Anonymous said...

Ha, Sandeep! Thanks for the compliment; I think I come across more like "Darryl" from "Kids in the Hall", eg.

-- Damian

Jeff Seiler said...

Anon: I don't have the *authority* (being retired), but I do have the training and expertise to "make that call". Dave Sim is not insane. In fact, I just spoke with him by phone a coupla hours ago, and we had a very reasonable, logical, and sane 43-minute conversation about proofreading and about AMOC (two unrelated subjects).

Well, at least his side of the conversation was very reasonable, logical, and sane. You'd have to ask him what he thought about my side.

Jeff Seiler said...

And as long as we're quoting from tv shows, what was that one one of the characters periodically says...well, to paraphrase:

"I'm not insane! My mother had me tested!"

Anonymous said...

@Jeff Seiler - Well, the key word in my qualification WAS "if" - if you want to vouch for Dave Sim's sanity I won't debate that (it's Dave Sim vouching for Dave Sim's sanity I find questionable). You've conversed with the man and I haven't, after all. All I have are the words in front of me, some of which make sense to me and some of which don't.

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, Anon, I would humbly suggest that if some words in front of you don't make sense, then you might want to look to the problem being with the receiver and not with the transmitter.

And, as to my training and expertise to say that Dave Sim is not insane, that comes not just from my relationship with him, but also from my extensive post-secondary education in psychology, which culminated in a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology followed by 12 years working in the field. I know from crazy, and Dave Sim ain't it.

Anonymous said...

@Jeff Seiler - Well, I wasn't disputing that - I did notice your comment about "training and expertise" and inferred from that that you have some experience in the relevant fields. If I didn't mention it it's because I didn't think going out of my way to do so would actually add anything.

And while I don't dispute that you may have intended for it to be humble, suggesting (if you'll forgive the paraphrase) that "there can't possibly be anything wrong with the argument I agree with, so YOU must be the problem" kind of comes across as the opposite. It's a flawed defense anyway - it can be employed by anybody in defense of anything, and requires next to no effort.

Erick said...

A Masters degree in counseling psychology is not inherently a license to diagnose a mental illness.

In no way am I saying that Dave has a mental illness, nor do I believe that he has. But your supposed expertise is not proven by the degree you mentioned.

You could simply be a school counselor or an addiction counselor. Those are worthy fields but certainly not the first that would come to mind to accurately diagnose a mental illness.

Jeff Seiler said...

Well, Erick, I took one undergraduate and two graduate courses designed to teach students how properly to understand and utilize the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and I was specifically trained in making differential diagnoses, a key element in deciding whether or not someone is sane. And, my first Master's degree program, before transferring to the second one, was in Clinical Psychology, the study of abnormal psychology. I think I can safely say, based on my lengthy correspondence, uncounted phone conversations, and numerous face-to-face encounters with Dave, that I am correct in saying that, based on my training and expertise, he is not crazy. Sane and sober as a judge, so to speak.

Anon: What I was driving at, humbly or otherwise, is that, in my experience, when first I read a passage in Cerebus that I don't understand or which seems incongruous or doesn't make sense, it pays off to reread it in a broader context. There is any number of passages in Cerebus that only make sense in the context of later issues or even volumes, or, even, previous ones. For instance, the reprinted panels above of Rick being terrorized by Mrs. Thatcher (in Rick's Story) refers directly back to her having instructed one of her underlings to break his thumb for the transgression of having hit his wife, in Jaka's Story.

Erick said...

I accept at face value what you state are your qualifications. I think course work and experience do trump - in certain circumstances, the actual attainment of the Doctoral degree that most would associate with the ability to make such a qualified judgement.
That being said, your extensive and perhaps close personal contact with and obvious admiration of Dave (and or his work) does not seem to provide the buffer that some might need to accept your judgement on this matter.

However since we are merely an informal gathering, and because I have previously stated that I do not believe Dave is in any way less than sane, it is nice to know that a professional thinks the same.

Jack said...

Man, imagine having Jeff Seiler as your therapist. "So I was discussing your dream about your mom and your fear-of-intimacy issues with my close personal friend Dave Sim. Dave--whom I know quite well, by the way--noted wryly that the very concept of intimacy is a Marxist-feminist invention. Of course, this is an idea that Dave and I have previously discussed during our frequent conversations (he is, after all, a longtime friend). Now to return to your childhood horse-wetting incident at rodeo camp, Dave Sim thinks..."

Jeff Seiler said...

Heh. Chortle on, Jack, chortle on. But, of course, I would never discuss any client's issues with Dave. Utterly unethical and unprofessional.

Actually, Erick, people who "just" have Master's degrees in psychology make those kinds of diagnoses every day, as did I. It doesn't necessarily take someone with a Doctorate in psychology or psychiatry to do so, although, to be fair, the ones with Doctorates often, but not always, supervise the ones with "just" Master's degrees.

Erick said...

Actually I am quite well aware of what the degree confers - at least as far as it can in the United States. I have no idea what your nationality is.
You do seem a bit defensive about it, and for my part in making you so, I apologize. I never used the word "just" as in "just a masters" to describe your education or background.
You put in a lot of work to obtain that degree and you should be proud of it

Anonymous said...

I agree with Erick that Jeff's relationship with and feelings for Dave might cause one to question Jeff's objectivity about Dave. Jeff says he's free with his criticisms of Dave,, but most of them tend to be of the "Dave, sometimes you're too handsome," variety.

Dave said that he was diagnosed a "borderline schizophrenic", and that seems to fit. Colleen Doran, among others, spoke of Dave's menstrual cycle, when the paranoid and nasty "Other Dave" would appear from nowhere. Fortunately he's high-functioning, and was able to find a field in which his obsessive drives and interests were an advantage.

But "insane" is a tricky determination. Dave is certainly not a danger to himself or to others. He's not completely unmoored from reality -- although, for someone who declared he strives to perceive reality as accurately as possible, he sure is bad at it. His major problem (common among auto-didacts) is that he doesn't know how to think -- how to judge evidence, how to formulate a rational argument. His oversized ego (common -- perhaps even necessary -- among artists) doesn't allow him to see that.

Dave's a bit peculiar, yes. But insane? No.

-- Damian

Jack said...

I think Damian is right about the ego thing. "I'm writing, drawing, and self-publishing the longest and most complex comic book in history," eventually morphed into, "I'm the first person in history to have interpreted the Bible correctly, I've completed the unified field theory that eluded Einstein, I'm aware of an evil supernatural being that no one else knows about and that is trying to destroy me, I'm a despised Pariah King who is being willed to commit suicide by thousands of people, I may have inadvertently caused the tsunami," etc. My guess is that an outsized ego plays a major role in both his wackier beliefs and in the fact that he's a good or great artist.

Norman Mailer's influence also looms large in Dave's outlook. I haven't read all of Mailer's books, but he was certainly into the idea that larger forces are at work in our seemingly mundane lives, as we serve as footsoldiers who must assist an embattled God through courageous action. One aspect of his worldview had a big effect on me for a long time--Mailer denounced masturbation several times in the interview book Pieces and Pontifications (paraphrased, "You're giving yourself unearned pleasure without fighting the good fight or the bad fight, and you may be sending your best son into your hand!"), which convinced me to stop jerking off for several years. I think he convinced Dave of a lot of things, too.