The first person a liar must deceive is himself.
Sophistry is nothing more than a deceiver who twists logic to cover up a lie.
CBC Radio ran a piece that was based on a twisty piece of rambling tripe spewed by Claire Dederer in The Paris Review about men such as Roman Polanski and Woody Allen who have marketed themselves as Great Men, when, in fact, they are mediocre men who know how to play a gullible crowd.
Right off the bat, she perpetuates a myth:
They did or said something awful, and made something great.
No, they made something to justify the backbone of their beliefs that allowed them to do and say awful things. They produced no great thing whatsoever. They used cinema to manipulate, and they did it with a patriarchal storytelling style: the protagonist is the hero by default; hence, he is the one to root for throughout the story because it is all about The One — and don’t you dare challenge that theory or you will be cast as a villainous rube who is too simple to see their genius.
Nice try, but I am not buying that con job.
Dederer never challenges the structure of their stories. She doesn’t like Woody Allen, but she’ll give Polanski a walk.
She seems to be trying to place her backside on two chairs, trying to seem as if she is thinking things from both angles:
Because the finishing is the part that makes the artist. The artist must be monster enough not just to start the work, but to complete it. And to commit all the little savageries that lie in between.
She has some sort of verbal tic, wondering aloud amid gratuitous and poorly-placed profanity if these men are monsters or not (and whether she may or may not be one herself; she reminds me of Sigmund Freud’s well-heeled Viennese female patients who proved to be too suggestible for their own good); yet she misses the entire point: these were labeled Great Men when they were actually Destructive Men, Hurtful Men, and Sick Men, and what they produced wasn’t art, but merely showing the signs of their own illness.
It is akin to finding out you have been diagnosed with an illness, but then suddenly find nuance and complexity with weakness, frailty, limitations, and being vulnerable, dependent on others to survive, and in constant agony.
That is not reasoning: it is a defence mechanism and cognitive dissonance because you cannot face a truth: that you are wasting away. If you can no longer work, and have young children that your illness will force you to leave behind, your vulnerability and stress grows rapidly.
What do you do? How long do you commit a confirmation bias by finding all these blessings that have been blown away by the curses in your life?
At what point do you face the unfair finale that has been forced upon you for no good reason?
You are no longer healthy, but sick, and becoming poorer because of something you cannot control.
You are not being an optimist trying to spin your condition: you are being a self-deceiver.
But what if you really cannot face the direness of your sickness?
Do you start infecting other people with the same debilitating illness? Do you sell those you infected a line about how strong they will become? How happy it is to have a sickness? All the benefits there will be with this disease? How brilliant and nuanced they will become experiencing weakness, suffering, and confinement?
That is precisely what has been happening for decades: Sick Men have sold the world on the idea that they are Great Men — and only other intelligent elites will have the intelligence to “get” their sickness.
Because that is the lie these movies sold to a public. That weakness was strength. That evil was good.
And that sick is great.
Cinema has been conditioning people to applaud predatory behaviours. They are primed and groomed to think it is a great thing to be prey that a predator must devour to survive.
It is a scam, of course. It is no different than a phishing scam that assures you that you are special, brilliant, and elite if you send thousands of dollars in a pyramid scheme.
Do we congratulate grifters and see them as brilliant for fleecing pigeons? Should we have an equivalent to the Oscar for best con job? Do we let these people keep the spoils of their plunder because their trap was complex and nuanced? Do we label their duplicitous schemes art? Do we continue to give these people our money no matter the lies they peddle, or the damage they do?
Of course not. We know they are lying, and the real reason they are telling those lies: to get away with their stealing. You aren’t some sort of sophisticate who sees the brilliance of a con man’s come on.
You are just a sucker about to get taken for a ride as you serve as a free minion for a propagandist.
You aren’t seeing that a predator has produced a cinematic manual on how to harm another, and then justify it.
These are not “great” works from a Great Man or giant: these are lies created by the sick and the weak who must misuse the arts to pretend their weakness is a strength.
Like a vulnerable child who is told he wants to be exploited and molested by the predator who has lured him, and then begins to believe those lies, audiences are often trained to justify those who abuse them as well.
It is all smoke and mirrors.
What we need is a manual showing audiences how to spot emotional manipulation from predatory fictional stories, and how to see it because those stories are not art, but propaganda.
The films of Polanski and Allen would serve as case studies on how to see exploitation for self-interest.
And Ms. Dederer — and those sophistry-loving knuckle-draggers at The Paris Review — would be in desperate need of getting a few harsh lessons in reality on how to stop serving as apologists for the racist and misogynistic stories Sick Men have been forcing down the throats of audiences for years.