Portland Anonymous: Fragment Nine

If ever there was an example of someone who made an odd celebrity in our current era, he was it.  It was almost like watching a time machine.  Back in the day, at least as far as our video footage is concerned, it was more common for there to be articulate conversations between celebrities and hosts on various shows and people would actually watch that sort of intelligent conversation.  Unfortunately, for the most part, that has not lasted up to today.  I don’t know for sure what exactly the problem is.  Is it that we do not have many articulate and intelligent stars who are willing and able to hold forth competently on a wide variety of subjects without sounding as if they are regurgitating the soundbytes of various partisan hacks?  Is it because we don’t have many intelligent hosts, because most of them are too busy being partisan hacks themselves?  I’m not sure exactly what the solution is, but I do know that it was definitely a strange thing to see him talk to hosts who weren’t quite sure what to make of him, especially once it became clear to everyone that he wasn’t a part of our label anymore.

***

Yeah, it was interesting talking to him after the news had leaked about the buyout from the studio.  It was a tough thing to witness his gracious politeness and be aware that beneath the velvet glove there was some steel there.  He was a fiercer person than most people understood, but he did it without being too nasty, at least most of the time, I think.  It was hard to talk to him, hard to ask him questions, because one was aware that there was more going on than he let on but at the same time he had strong emotional control.  Of course, we wanted a scene, we wanted something quotable, and he would give us something that we had to interpret, tea leaves for us to read.

***

It became apparent pretty quickly to us that he wasn’t the same sort of celebrity that we were used to dealing with and that he managed to be both politically incorrect without being nasty about it.  He presented us with a strange challenge, how was it that someone so obviously intelligent and so obviously decent as a human being be so conservative, even reactionary, in his political and social positions.  That was hard to deal with for us, and it became ever harder to deal with once he got doxed and had to leave the Portland area.  That really set things back because it made him a target and even a martyr for those who were on the right, and we obviously didn’t see eye to eye with him.  It’s hard to express sympathy for someone while not trying to endorse their own perspective that differs so widely from one’s own, and I don’t think that’s a balance we were able to maintain.

***

I remember the first time we at Fox News got to talk with him.  It’s not really our normal pattern to interview celebrities, especially because his material wasn’t overtly political in the way that some people’s are, but as soon as we would see the interviews he had with others, we realized that this was someone who had an intelligent and articulate worldview and that the rest of so-called journalists were just usually unable to handle it.  The fact that he was from Portland made it even more interesting, because it is an area that we are used to hearing of because of all the lunatic left that goes on there, the antifa rioting and the general ease of finding protest marches for any sort of leftist cause possible there.  Yet he didn’t go out of his way to talk to us; we had to fight pretty hard to get him to talk to us, and it was a highly rated show, of course, because he was as genuinely friendly person to talk to, although he was quite a bit more reserved than one would expect for a celebrity.  I just got the feeling that he was a well-read person with very strong opinions who knew how other people thought and was aware of his own differences but not the sort of person who wanted to pick a fight, and it was a pleasure when I could get him on the phone or get him in the studio for a talk while he was trying to record more music and deal with the repercussions of being a reluctant celebrity.  It was obvious he didn’t want to be famous, but he wasn’t going to throw it away either.  He was going to be, at least as much as possible, himself in a public way that was dignified.  He was aware that it would likely cost him a great deal of support among those who might have liked him more had he been like other celebrities in how he viewed the world, but he was too honest for that.

***

I remember having a conversation with him about media bias, and he was surprisingly pointed with me about it.  We in the press like to think of ourselves as crusaders for truth who are willing to be fair and just regardless of our own political positions, but while he was no relativist at all, quite the opposite really, at the same time he was pretty fierce about the way that perspectives were influenced by our experiences and our worldview.  And that was certainly true of him.  He was definitely someone whose worldview shaped the way that he viewed us, and not always in the way one would expect.  He was used to being an outsider, used to being marginalized, and so he didn’t have the same sort of motivation to fit in that others had.  He had been an outcast all his life, I think, and his attitude was more like, “Here I am, take it or leave it,” and that came off as a bit unfriendly, which clashed with the fact that he was generally a polite and tactful person, quiet but honest.  He was someone who seemed to live with a high degree of tension, if not cognitive dissidence, in his highly complex approach to dealing with others.  It wasn’t often very much fun talking to him and I don’t think he enjoyed talking to us either, but he understood that as long as we were being polite he would give us an opportunity to gain some attention by having a spirited discussion.  For the most part, I think everyone managed to talk about some serious issues without anyone crossing the line.

***

In our particular channel we aren’t used to talking to or about American celebrities, but it so happened that he was someone who had traveled the world and even lived abroad, and so it quickly came to our attention that he was someone of more interest than an American balladeer would be normally.  As a patriotic but knowledgeable American it made for some spirited conversations as he was quick to defend his country and point out what he saw as double standards between how we tended to view the United States and how we viewed other nations.  Like many conservatives, he was a fan of Israel and more tolerant of imperialism than most of us, but it surprised us that he was so interested in independence referenda around the world.  I have to admit he threw us for a loop because our understanding of Americans is that they are simply not interested in the rest of the world and he was a case where this was obviously not the case.  I suppose his travels and his time abroad had given him a sense of understanding of the rest of the world, but it didn’t make him less patriotic, it just simply gave him a strong awareness of how out of step the United States was with the rest of the world, without encouraging him to be in step with the rest of the world.  It was unsettling really.  It’s one thing to blame someone’s worldview on ignorance, but he was not ignorant.  He knew how the rest of the world operated, to a great extent, but was willing to support what he viewed as the right ways even when they were unpopular in the rest of the world, and that made him a considerably more unfriendly person to talk to or talk about than most of his fellow Americans of similar views, because we could only blame it on perversity rather than ignorance, without him being a disagreeable fellow.

***

I had become familiar with him before he became famous, largely because he was reasonably active on social media, and had liked one of my books.  I always appreciated the verve and wit he had in conversation and it was fun to talk to him about culture and religion.  He was always pretty open about where he stood, but he was also interested in understanding other people as they viewed themselves, without changing himself.  Sometimes you think that understanding others will lead to agreement, but he didn’t operate that way.  For him, understanding others would sometimes help him with polemics, sometimes help him disagree without being disagreeable, sometimes help him understand where he and others different, and he clearly had a lot of respect for others without necessarily feeling as if compromising who he was and what he was about was worthwhile.  The result was that he was a truly fascinating person to deal with, and one I always had a great time talking to online or as a fellow guest member of various shows.  If he had lived longer, I might have asked him to do a dialogue with me about our shared interest in traditionalist Christianity, but I didn’t have the chance.  He just didn’t have enough time.

***

I honestly don’t think it matters what Europe thinks about various matters.  Of course, I think when you are talking about Europe or the United States or any other nation or group of nations, you have to differentiate between the people at large and their mindset and goals and the elites who tend to remain in power in diplomatic and political circles.  In the United States, for example, we tend to have a large group of people that is not very knowledgeable or very interested in most of the rest of the world.  Like most people around the world, they have their own private interests and concerns that they want to focus on and as long as the rest of the world isn’t getting in their way they are not going to show an interest in what the rest of the world is doing.  I don’t see a problem with that view, even if I am someone who clearly is very interested in the rest of the world.  Our elites, on the other hand, have a long history of being deeply involved in the world to protect the interests of business, or to change regimes that are unfriendly to American commercial interests, and so when an American travels abroad, he is not seen as a generally friendly and tolerant tourist, which he or she usually is, but is seen as a supporter of the CIA’s removal of some president or prime minister that the tourist has probably never heard of.  Little could be further from the truth.  As much as many Americans hate socialism and Communism–I know I certainly do–we are not generally people who support the assassination of popularly elected leaders even when the people of those nations are clearly idiotic for having elected a socialist for political office.  In our own nation, we would do our best to demonstrate through reason and rhetoric that socialism was a mistake and that it would be counterproductive to the well-being of the people as a whole, but that’s not always an argument that has worked well abroad.  My own views concerning imperialism are close to those of Bastiat, who saw it as expensive and worse than useless.  I don’t think that we gain very much as a people through coercing others.  It’s much better when we can behave with justice and find genuine common ground with other peoples and other nations, where our success and their success are intertwined, where our interests are more or less in harmony, and when we can all respect the right of the other people to govern themselves as best as they are able in the knowledge that we will defend them from foreign domination and threat even as we would like support ourselves internationally as well as to have a market for our goods and services.  It is only when there is mutual honesty that one has the chance for beneficial long-term relationships of respect rather than lying and bribery and corruption and so much of what goes on in geopolitics these days.

 

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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