Slaughtering those that slaughter sacred cows

BukowskiWe at enjoy slaughtering the sacred cows that have been slaughtering sacred cows for so long that they, themselves, have become sacred cows.  Those that have report on the life of Charles Bukowski, for example, usually reserve a special place for him beyond attack when they write about him.  Professional writers may have written a couple negative paragraphs about him through the years, but those paragraphs are usually immersed in an otherwise romanticized narrative.  The fact that the man was a miserable alcoholic that abused women, for example, is only added to the overall narrative as a footnote.

“I know, but come on!” those that write these romantic narratives retort.  As my Dad would say: “Don’t come on me!”  (Stress added by the author as an attempt to prevent the reader from reading innuendo into a man that didn’t know innuendo.)  Don’t “I know but come on” me, Bukowski was a miserable alcoholic that abused women.  One could lay money on the fact that if Bukowski defended traditional America, the fact that he was a miserable alcoholic, that abused women, would be at the forefront of the narrative.  As a non-traditional writer, that attacked traditional sacred cows, Bukowski gained entrée into the sacred cow world, and this fact got our hackles up when we began to research him more.

Usual sacred cow slaughterers usually engage in ad hominem attacks that attack the sacred cow of traditionalists rather than the actual message.  They seek to debase the traditional message of sacred cows by attacking them personally without risking an editorial on the otherwise divisive issue that the messenger covers.  The writer is then allowed to espouse their opinion without actually stating it. This is done so often, it has slipped over into the general discourse.  It is our goal, and—unbeknownst to us until recently—the theme of our blogs to attack those not usually attacked in an investigatory manner.

The “I know but come on!” romanticized article writers usually give their sacred cows an immunity card, based on the fact that their sacred cows have been slaughtering the “correct” cows for so long that the relative “importance of what they’re doing” overrides the normally required divesting of facts.  I know he was an alcoholic that abused women, but come on do we dismiss Bukowski’s views on Mickey Mouse on that basis?  We can, when we consider that the memories of his miserable childhood eventually led Bukowski to becoming an alcoholic and hating anyone, of any age, that might have been made happy by the “cutesy” icon. {1} We can also dismiss almost all of Bukowski’s views on love, when we properly detail for the reader the fact that he abused the women of his life, and that his love life was as mercurial as that of most alcoholics.

The thing of it is, when these sacred cows are not professionally challenged by journalists, we readers don’t properly challenge them either, and we all end up believing everything they say as gospel.  Most of us end up thinking the journalists’ sacred cows are righteous and unusually well-informed based almost exclusively on the fact that they spent their careers tearing up traditional ways of thinking, and we end up believing almost everything they have to say.  Why challenge a line of thought that is not professionally challenged?  Who do we think we are in this dynamic?

We’re all told how naïve it is to believe everything we’re told, but those issuing such phrases usually want your rebellion reserved for things the church says, things Republicans say, or things your parents told you.  “Do you believe everything you’re told?” an X-Files writer will ask you in the course of an episode.   “Because if you do, you should know that your government (when it’s run by Republicans) has fed you a bunch of lies over the years, and it should be your duty, as an American, to challenge every supposed fact you hear before you form an opinion on anything.”  It was the X-Files television show, Rolling Stone magazine, and a number of other sacred cow institutions that led us to the realization that sacred cow slaughterers generally become sacred cows that no one will slaughter, because they slaughter all the right cows.

Now no X-Files writer, or self-respecting journalist, would say something as obvious as, “When it’s run by Republicans”, but the import of the message of their productions and interviews are clear.  When it’s run by Republicans, journalists will hit hard, and their subjects will return volley, but when it’s run by Democrats, divisive issues about a politician’s views don’t come up, the Democrat leader’s views on a matter are a non-issue, or the section that did involve something negative views about the Democrat leader were not published.  It’s impossible to know which action is taken on a relative basis, but the end product is obvious.  It’s so obvious to some that they cannot believe that others don’t see it.  Most don’t see it, however, for they usually accept sacred cow messages—from those that attack traditional sacred cows—as gospel.

When attacking anyone’s message, it is vital that we avoid ad hominem attacks.  Too often, an individual that attacks traditional sacred cows does so in an ad hominem manner to avoid angering readers that have divergent opinions on otherwise divisive issues.  Too often, ad hominem attacks are performed to strip the foundation out from under an argument without arguing the actual facts of the message.  Too often, it is the goal of the attacker to get you to stop following the messenger that reports on the messages they don’t care for.  It is vital, therefore, that we remain on message when refuting, but is it also vital that we avoid all personal attacks as well?  It is not.  As the theme of this particular article suggests, it is a vital component to an article on Charles Bukowski to include the fact that he was a miserable drunk that abused women to point out that this isn’t pointed out often enough in the romanticized narratives, but we should refrain from allowing that be the central focus of our argument.

We don’t care if anyone reads Bukowski in other words.  We don’t care that anyone brings our qualifier to every Bukowski line that they read.  We don’t want one person to avoid reading Bukowski with our refutation of his message, but we feel incumbent upon us to let you know that there was another side of the man that is too often not reported on when it pertains to his message.

Charles Bukowski only achieved sacred cow, “cool kid” status late in life, but if you are one of those privileged enough to see one of these-later in life-interviews, you probably didn’t see any challenging questions.  The interviewer would probably use the “that was not the purpose of this particular interview” plea as an argument for why he didn’t grill Bukowski on his views.  The interview was about Charles Bukowski, his takes on life, and as an effort to promote Charles’s latest vehicle, and if Bukowski chose to provide us with some of his political views that is his prerogative.  It’s a free country, and we have freedom of expression.  True, but we also have freedom of the press, and the latter should require the interviewer to challenge his guest, but that isn’t what this interview is about, so sacred cows like Bukowski are allowed uninterrupted venting, because, well, they’re sacred cows.

Charles Bukowski is, of course, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  He is but a symbol of the endemic problems that exist in journalism.  Too often in the area of non-political, celebrity journalism that some people care about, the opinions of the periodical lay beneath the surface undetected by the observer.  These opinions rear their ugly head, subtly, in areas where the interviewee is allowed to slaughter a sacred cow of traditional Americans without challenge.  As stated earlier, these opinions are usually so general that the reader cannot know how well-informed the star’s opinion is.  For this reason and others, most publications won’t print specific positions of any of their personal sacred cows, because that would reveal them to be utter morons and ruin the sacred cow status the publication reserves for them.



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