Traumatized by rejection, our former columnist assumes a new – and weird — persona
Many writers have trouble taking rejection well. They’re sensitive souls, after all, and don’t like being told that their work, in a word, sucks. Anthony Gancarski, author of Unfortunate Incidents, and a former columnist for Antiwar.com, is a case in point. I rejected what was to have been the latest installment of his column – and he went over to the Dark Side.
Gancarski’s piece for Frontpage, detailing his conversion to the pro-war position, is distinctly … weird. There is, first of all, his description of his former beliefs:
"If someone had told me a few months ago that I’d be writing a piece for Front Page on this theme, I would’ve dismissed him as a lunatic. After all, then I was supporting the positions expected from those on the so-called antiwar right. I was harshly critical of Israeli defense initiatives, more willing to talk up for Noam Chomsky than the sitting President."
What has Noam Chomsky to do with the antiwar right? Precisely nothing. But to the readers of Frontpage, and apparently to Gancarski, there is little need to explain this seeming anomaly. And that is Gancarski’s great problem as a writer: he never explains, or argues, but merely asserts, without evidence, and without links. (This is the Internet, but you’d never know it from his polemics: in his current screed, we get not a single link out of him. This is the mark of a writer who expects us to take his word for everything.)
At any rate, according to Gancarski, his sojourn on the antiwar right meant that, "more or less without meaning to, I went hard-left." He turned to the right, and found he’d turned to the left. Say what? The man is dizzy with his own confusion.
He explains that he "moved over to Antiwar.com to write a weekly column for them at $25 a pop," and confides that "this was a raise from my Counterpunch pay." So, he didn’t like the pay: I trust the 30 pieces of silver from Frontpage affords him the satisfaction of knowing that he’s finally getting what he’s worth.
Gancarski claims that he began to have doubts when he started getting mail from "anti-Semites." why is this a reflection on Antiwar.com, and not on the content of his writing, he doesn’t say. He was also, he claimed, getting linked to by people he "wouldn’t let in his living room." Interview requests "were scarce," he complains, except for "a Muslim radio station in South Africa." Although we don’t make the email addresses of our writer public, poor Anthony complains that his mailbox was filling up with missives from MoveOn.org. Horrors! No money, few interview requests, and anti-Semites drawn to his work like moths to a flame — it was then that he began to have misgivings:
"I started to wonder — is my opposition to the US action in the Middle East, however noble and well-intentioned it seemed to me, actually playing into the hands of America’s enemies, strategic adversaries, and economic competitors?"
What "economic competitors" is Gancarski talking about? Is he saying he was duped – by the French? Or perhaps it was the Taiwanese. If only he’d stayed with Antiwar.com a little longer, we would’ve had him playing soccer!
Gancarski’s ranting directed at me makes little sense, until one realizes the real object of his frustration: we weren’t properly respectful of George W. Bush. He claims to have been shocked – shocked! – by my November 26 column, in which I take the President to task for counterposing the prospect of another 9/11 to four more years of Bushian rule. Gancarski writes:
"This set off a number of alarms. Who was Justin Raimondo? Why was he so lacking in respect for a sitting President? Did Raimondo even think how such a column might strike his own readers? I am still at a loss to understand it. When the column appeared, it was hard for me to read much it without revulsion."
Who was Justin Raimondo, indeed. Didn’t he read my columns? A random sampling of my writings over the past few years would’ve yielded plenty of statements to the effect that George W. Bush is the worst President we’ve ever had, bar none. His presidency is a disaster for the country, and the world: I’ve said it again and again, in so many different ways that it’s hard to believe that Gancarski was unaware of my views.
Poor Gancarski, the sleepwalker awakened: Yet I heard nothing from Gancarski about this column: not a note, not a peep of dissent. Our correspondence had been limited to notes from me to him, asking him to stop dashing off columns entirely bereft of facts, and please start putting a bit of effort into his pieces. These apparently stuck in his craw, germinating, at last, into a full-throated screech of rage.
Gancarski had approached us, asking him to give him a chance as a columnist: I agreed, based on his work for TAC. But I was beginning to have qualms. The man is a sloppy writer, all opinion and no facts, at least when he was writing for us: his pieces for The American Conservative were much tighter, and far more interesting. Why, I wanted to know, couldn’t he do the same for us?
Did he listen? No, as evidenced by his submission of a sorry excuse for a column which I reprint below, unedited and in full:
"Roger, Over and Out: What Moore can be said about Michael?
"Late one night recently, a pair of soused young ladies knocked on my door. The hallway was pitch-black, so I didn’t unlock the deadbolt before asking them what they wanted. ‘I want some sugar,’ one of them cried, ‘I am your neighbor! I just want to make you come-a…’ The reference to one of Howard Dean’s favorite songs scored points with me, so conversation continued through the quasi-confessional barrier of the closed door.
"What do you need sugar for? I asked, for lack of anything else to say. ‘To make Kool-Aid,’ they cried.
"I gave up no sugar and kept the door closed, and the girls galloped down the stairs and out of my building. I went out on the balcony and called to them: ‘I’d have given you sugar for cookies, but not Kool-Aid! Too many people need deprogramming already!’
"Their response — snapping each other’s thongs — indicated that my allusion was lost on these Paris and Nicole wannabes. Despite the bimbos‘ ignorance, the Kool-Aid discussion nonetheless reinforces my current read on political discourse; these days, it seems everyone has drank some toxic brew, causing them to lose their minds and babble on about Islamofascists or the International Jewish Conspiracy as the Present Danger that must be obliterated yesterday. All of which is nothing but the old familiar codewords for the converted and misinformation for marks."
Is it me, or does this long and patently unnecessary introduction make absolutely no sense? What is the point – I asked myself, as I read it – except to pad and exceedingly short and content-free column? Undeterred, and desperately hoping he’d somehow tie it all together, I pressed on:
"Which brings me to Michael Moore. [Ed. Note: At last!] I was in high school when Roger and Me came out, and watched it dutifully, thinking that the movie was interesting despite its viscerally repellent narrator. Later on, I caught episodes of Moore’s short-lived Fox series TV Nation, but my mind didn’t change about Moore. Even if I found myself agreeing with something he said, I found myself rejecting him as the messenger. He seemed too contrived. Yet I was unable to crystallize that criticism into anything more concrete even as Bowling for Columbine, his flick about gun violence, drove me straight into the arms of the NRA."
But why is Michael Moore "repellent"? I guess, since Gancarski describes him as "viscerally" so, the author feels no need to explain himself. But, then again, Gancarski never feels any need to explain himself: we are supposed to accept his subjective evaluations at face value, on faith. But this just won’t do: I’m prepared to accept that someone may be "viscerally repellent," but, dammit, I want to know why the author feels that way. Alas, introspection is not one of Gancarski’s strong points. But I digress:
"Moore’s friends are not in power right now, of course, and the filmmaker from Flint conveniently and reflexively opposes most anything the Bush team does. Fair enough — I have opposed aggression against Iraq since before Desert Storm, so I sympathize to a point. Despite agreeing with him on the issue of the War, my praise for him is necessarily tempered by my realization that the methods he uses to make the case against ‘full-spectrum dominance’ are sentimental, ill-considered, reductionist, and counterproductive; as long as Moore and others reduce the case against the war in Iraq to ‘human-interest’ prose, they will never succeed in stopping Washington’s wars on foreign soil. In the interest of ‘truth-telling,’ these mountebanks habitually sabotage their own positions."
But how and where does Moore utilize his alleged "method" in terms of "human interest prose" – and what, by the way, is "human interest prose"? The reader is not even given a clue, never mind an actual citation. It turns out that Gancarski’s anger is motivated by pure partisanship:
"A case in point is a recent essay by Michael Moore making the rounds. ‘Dean Supporters, Don’t Give Up.’ His point? That even though protests against the war in Iraq have accomplished precious little beyond getting Ramsey Clark some face time, Moore [a supporter of Wesley Clark on the basis of his "manner" and his ‘electability’] urges Deaniacs not to give up despite their candidate‘s Muskiesque collapse in Iowa and New Hampshire. ‘You have done an incredible thing. You inspired an entire nation to stand up to George W. Bush. Your impact on this election will be felt for years to come. Every bit of energy you put into Dr. Dean’s candidacy was — and is — worth it. He took on Bush when others wouldn’t. He put corporate America on notice that he is coming after them. And he called the Democrats out for what they truly are: a bunch of spineless, wishy-washy appeasers… Everyone in every campaign owes you and your candidate a huge debt of thanks,’ wrote Moore."
Is this the "human interest prose" – the "sentimental" reductionism – Gancarski is inveighing against? I don’t see it. Moore is merely praising the insurgent spirit that motivated the Deaniacs – and nowhere does Gancarski even attempt a critique. Instead, he turns to smearing:
"I’m sure Lyndon LaRouche will be giving Dean a call to thank him for the nudge. I bring up LaRouche purposely; he likely could sue Dean forcopyright infringement. The reductionist, slashing character assassinations of political opponents comes straight from the perennial candidate’s playbook, as does the Messianic self-indulgence. And I’m hard pressed to think of significant differences, leading me to wonder if Howard Dean is just warmed-over LaRouche with a bankroll. Time will tell, I reckon, whether Moore is a hackish flack or the real thing after all. My take? If it quacks like a flack, stay the hell back — if Moore goes down, he’ll take his ‘friends’ with him."
Again, we are asked to take Gancarski’s seemingly arbitrary assertions as canonical. But what, exactly, is the connection that the author discerns between Dean and LaRouche? Where is the evidence that Dean’s views resemble LaRouche’s? Gancarski doesn’t deign to regale the reader with the reasoning behind his effusion – and one gets the feeling that perhaps he feels they don’t deserve any reasons. He rails against "reductionism," "character assassination," and "self-indulgence" – but these are the very sins that he, as a writer, is guilty of!
I had no compunctions about rejecting this farrago of false analogies and smarmy smears. LaRouche, as is well-known, is a raving anti-Semite. Did Gancarski mean to imply that Dean – and Moore – were of the same ilk? In an email to me, he denied it – and I believe him. The big problem with Gancarski’s writing has always been his jarring malapropisms.
Gancarski’s reaction to the rejection of his piece was to fly into a rage. It is the mark of a truly unbalanced personality, however, that his anger seems to have pushed him into the abyss. Like the disturbed "Eve White" in The Three Faces of Eve, this trauma induced the creation of a new persona in the author, sprung , it seemed, from nowhere. Suddenly, the neoconservatives Gancarski had spent each and every column abusing were seen to have redeeming virtues:
"At least they understand the game America had to play for the foreseeable future. Attempting to create democracy in the Middle East can’t be airily dismissed as an imperialist policy objective — not when the security of the United States in an age of terror depends as much as it does on what goes on internally in Islamic countries, or on maintaining stable, reliable allies in the Persian Gulf, central Asia, and other volatile regions. Realizing that led me to an inconvenient conclusion: I had ‘outgrown’ the position that had gotten me started writing about politics seriously in the first place."
Today the neocons and their plans for "democracy" in the Middle East can’t be "airily dismissed," but it was only yesterday that Tony "Hot Air" Gancarski turned his blowtorch in their direction:
"The active duty military understands what the War on Terror is; a shell game for old men and their younger, flabby, soft-palmed, unctuous, duplicitous, and effete neoconservative adherents. All Hell will break loose domestically when these newly-embittered veterans find common cause with the elderly and the anarchists, and it looks like that day is coming soon enough."
And he accuses me of having a style that is "pure rhodomantade" [sic]! (He means rhodomontade, but spelling was never the great writer Gancarski’s strong point).
Gancarski absurdly berates me for my "physical remoteness from any of the real work being done in the War on Terror" – as if I’m supposed to plonk myself down in the middle of Baghdad in order to be able to write about – or have an opinion about – what is happening in Iraq. Really? We all await the news of Gancarski’s coming departure to the front lines of the "War on Terror" – will he be traveling in the company of his new sponsor, David Horowtiz?
In closing, Gancarski again refers to his paltry payment, and disdainfully notes that he’ll just have to do without the 25 bucks, but there is one big compensation: "I feel I’ve gotten my credibility and my country back."
Whether he had any credibility to begin with is an open question. In writing for us he could be witty, and pretty nasty in a way that was often amusing: but credible? I don’t think so.
One example: In writing yet another attack on Howard Dean, Gancarski’s big objection seemed to be that Dean had hired a former leader of the AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobbying group, to work on fundraising. He seemed to imply that this somehow tainted Dean, in spite of the beating the candidate had taken about the desirability of taking an "evenhanded" approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While I am no fan of Dean’s, this remark seemed intemperate enough for me to take him to task, albeit gently, in my column. He said nothing about it at the time, but when he wrote a long abusive letter on the occasion of his rejected column, he accused me of smearing him as an anti-Semite. I leave it to my readers to decide for themselves whether that’s what I was saying: in my view, I said no such thing. I offered, however, to clear the matter up in a future column. I never heard from him again, however – until he went public with his ridiculous article.
As for getting his country back, the volatile Gancarski needs to get his emotional equilibrium back, assuming he ever had any. If and when he does, he’ll find out he’s defected, not to the Real America, but to the fantasy land of David Horowtiz, where critics of a futile and unnecessary war are a "Fifth Column," ex-Trotskyites wander the halls hailing George W. Bush’s "global democratic revolution, and writers are free to vent their grudges without regard for truth, facts, logic, or common sense. No doubt he’ll be more comfortable there: and, at any rate, I’m sure the pay is a lot better.