Nazism and The New York Post

A short, fun little lesson in media:

The New York Post contacted me about doing a feature called “In My Library” where they pick a famous author or other person of note, and discuss 4 of their favorite books. I love reading, so of course I agreed.

Barbara Hoffman called me and we had a long and very pleasant conversation about my four selections; Confederacy of Dunces, Neon Bible, The War of Art, and Zen and the Art of Archery. I talked about why I liked them, gave her my perspective on the books, we even talked about why her teenage son was a fan of my work and what advice she could impart to him about dealing with women. It was a genuinely good discussion/interview.

Then I get an email from the PR woman who set this interview up (she’s not my PR woman, she works for the play that I’m in NYC for, but she was involved in setting this up). She forwarded this to me from Barbara, and asked me for another selection:

“I’m sorry – I just realized that Eugen Herrigel was a great big NAZI. Can you see if Tucker could give me one other book instead – I could call him back or he could email me a few sentences about it, but I’m really loathe to use this book.”

Eugen Herrigel wrote Zen and The Art of Archery, one of my selections. Obviously, I had no idea he was a Nazi, because nothing in the book is about political philosophy, Nazism is not mentioned even once, and in fact, the entire book could be seen as a rejection of all political philosophy (very much including Nazism).

But now that I do know he was a Nazi, it doesn’t change my opinion of the book, because the book is fantastic. Just like I don’t think less of American heroes like Thomas Jefferson, even though he owned slaves and regularly had sex with (raped?) them, or Martin Luther King Jr., simply because he was an inveterate womanizer (he actually treated women the way people think I do). I think this way for a very simple reason: I am fully confident that much we do in our society will be considered barbaric by future standards, and all I can ask is that I’m judged by the standards of the time, just like all people should be.

Furthermore, I am not going to go on and on about free speech freedoms–this is a private newspaper, not a public park, they can print whatever they want. And in the wake of the revelation of the (OBVIOUS) fact that our government tracks every single thing we do, I’m not going to pretend like this is some oppressive impingement on my freedom. It’s not.

What it is a small simple example of the media world we live in (and have lived in for a long time): Virtually no one in media thinks for themselves, they do not consider facts, understand perspective, or care about reality. All they do is signal to others what they want to be perceived as. The NY Post asked me to change my selection simply because they didn’t want to be associated with a book that was written by someone who was probably a Nazi, even though the book is considered a classic and has literally nothing to do with Nazism. They care about how they are perceived, not about what they actually are.

If this had happened even 5 years ago, this post would be a rant about Barbara Hoffman or the media or whatever. I’m past that. Not because I don’t think the system is broken (it obviously is), and not because I don’t want it to change (I do), but because I understand now how it works, and get that she’s just a pawn who can’t see anything on the board other than her own tiny place. And the worst type of pawn, because she thinks she’s not.

Media is not about facts or reality. It’s about perception, and for the most part, perception and projection of self. You know the saying ‘all politics is local’? Media is the same way, except its ‘all writing is a projected signal of what you want to be seen as.’ The system works like an algorithm that selects people who reinforce its power, moving them up, and discarding or ‘silencing’ the rest. It tolerates dissent only in the sense that it is fake choice, used to quell real issues (e.g., arguing Republican vs Democrat, as opposed to critiquing the entire system). Understand this seemingly simple perspective, and you understand all of media.

There are two ways to deal with this: Get angry, rant…and then ultimately do nothing (those rants you read on Reddit about the NSA are always just projections of impotence, a way to feel like you’re asserting your power without having to endure the pain of doing it). Or reject the old system and build a new one. You can’t change the system that exists though. Systems don’t fundamentally change. They get replaced.