Larry Flynt: Sex, Lies & Politics: The Naked Truth (Kensington Books, 2004) It is an undoubted – albeit somewhat bemusing – shock to find Larry Flynt espousing such moderate liberal views, given the apparent content of his publications, Hustler in particular. Politically he treads the Democratic Party line, even going so far as to say nice things about the Clintons and the DLC. As far as sex is concerned, he utters not a word about the coprophilia and assorted dirty (in Bataille’s sense of “dirty”) sexual activities that make Hustler what it is (Personally, I’m not big on that sort of stuff, so I try to ignore it; the babes are what count; in fact Flynt says pretty much the same thing about himself when (p. 194; cf. also p. 223 on gays) he admits he’s into ‘vanilla sex’).
But, upon reflection, shock may be too strong a reaction. Consider that Flynt is in business (Cf. p. 136). In fact he created his business from scratch. He is not an academic and so suffers no delusions that the quasi-socialistic womb of the university faculty has much chance of universal application. Wealth must be created before it can be lavished on the unproductive, however deserving they may be. In fact, as an entrepreneur, Flynt never even had the advantage of the semi-socialistic culture of a corporation or a bureaucracy. The entrepreneur is a Wölfing, the original acorn gatherer, one of whose primary desiderata is social stability. So his adherence to a mainstream political viewpoint over a more radical but potentially destabilizing politics is perfectly natural. Indeed, as a success, he even feels it is an obligation to share some of his wealth, in a governmentally organized way, with the less fortunate.
Indeed Flynt’s political moderation - marked by the need to refer to his service record bona fides and occasional references to the good ol’ USA as the greatest whatever - is not sullied by any kowtowing to political mythologies or, as he calls it, “ceremonial crap.” “I not only don’t pledge allegiance to the flag, I also don’t sing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’…(p.223)” Now these acts of omission take courage, since they could easily inspire Xtian rioting. I suggest we all also omit “So help me God” from any swearing we do.
I’m sure Flynt is well aware that the Democrats would stab him and any other well-meaning pornographer in the back in a heartbeat, not just for momentary political advantage, but as part of their own political PR. Hillary Clinton has subscribed to the feminazi agenda of calling pornography a public health problem as a way around the Bill of Rights and Chuck Schumer is one of the leaders of the protect our children from pornography bandwagon (“Protect our children” is a code phrase for censorship just as “No child left behind” is a code phrase for “Don’t give public money to them nigger schools.”) And Flynt has been successful, with at least tacit cooperation from some forces associated with the Democratic Party, with his Million Dollar Ad and the sexual outing of several Republicans. But sadly any gratitude on Clinton’s part for Flynt’s help would be about as likely as Bush learning to read. Flynt, if he hasn’t already done so, would be well advised not so much to look for alternatives as for additional baskets wherein to put his eggs. The best bet would be individual politicians who are true libertarians – the only ones left in the Republican party probably all live in Arizona (Several states, all red including Arizona, voted down abortion restriction referenda in the 2006 election. The moral seems to be that abortion restriction, if subject to a popular vote, doesn’t have a chance. So Xtians resort to the coup d’etat strategy: Elect legislators who are acceptable on other grounds - lower taxes etc. – and have them pursue abortion restriction within the confines of the legislature. The electoral triumph of abortion was completely ignored by a media enslaved to Xtian dictates). Small parties like the Libertarians have constructed platforms far more in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. Even the Greens appear to be less likely than Democrats to enact censorship. But the argument for trying to influence the Democratic Part has always been electability and there may be something to that, given the outcome of the 2006 elections (Flynt wrote his book in an unsuccessful attempt to influence the 2004 election). But caution is in order. Some of the most heavily censored parts of the country are the supposedly blue northeast and Midwest. Flynt’s observation that certain politicians have “no principles other than staying in office (pp. 238-239; Cf. also p. 229)” applies to Democrats as well as Republicans. In fact there is a psychological universal hidden in that phrase. A certain personality type was developed along with democratic electoral politics, a type whose primary motivations seem to be a love of controlling others and a desire for gratification in the adulation of large groups of people. This type is the politician, Democrat or Republican. The persistent success of this type in monopolizing elective office is one of the great weaknesses of democracy. It means that those elected to office in democracies almost by definition do not have the best interests of their constituencies at heart – only their own gratification.
Another reason for Flynt’s moderate liberalism might lie in his own shock at the brazenness and near success of our own homegrown Mussolini. It is hard to believe, as the facts come out, that we have been witness to a carefully contrived coup d’etat that was foiled only by the incompetence of the conspirators. I’m not sure that people yet recognize that one of the major successes of this coup d’etat was the infiltration of the military with Xtian brownshirts partially accomplished through forced religious instruction at the military academies and through a purge of existing Pentagon commanders who resisted the creation of a Xtian Empire by means of forced retirement (Rumsfeld’s code phrase was “streamlining the military’), and their replacement with compliant operatives who would obey the President without question (There is a difference between questioning and refusing to obey a Presidential order; the purge replaced those commanders who at any time questioned Bush. Pace is an ideal Xtian operative since his adherence to popery has been a lifelong preparation for unquestioning obedience.) The purge of the Department of Justice was fortunately caught in flagrante delicto, but any number of Xtian moles are obviously still buried in its ranks. Even if we see Bush, Cheney et al. swinging from a lamppost one day, there would remain the large job of denazifying the federal bureaucracy and military and rooting out the moles Bush has placed in those organizations.
I remember dozing in my high school classroom one afternoon when the priest – in the middle of his weekly homily of why the pope should rule America – opined that all these new fangled gewgaws like psychotherapy (Psychotropic medications such as Prozac hadn’t been discovered yet) were really just a fancy name for what you can get for free (Well, it’s not exactly free. Try avoiding the collection plate some Sunday) in the confessional from a professional certified by the Big Fella hisself (The oft-repeated banter that Moose Shimanski down at the KOC is such a model for Xtian gentlemanhood that Godot is just an infinitely perfect Moose will more likely than not backfire with “folks” like me; if Godot is the most perfect football coach, I wonder if he enjoys ass-fucking wide receivers like our worldly football coaches?) Of course, the priest had it backwards. Confession and related ceremonies performed by preachers and shamans belong to the prehistory of psychotherapy just as alchemy belongs to the prehistory of physics (Cf. Freud V, pp.297 ff.). The advantage of scientific psychotherapy over priest-preacher-shaman therapies (PPS) lies not in any specific psychotherapeutic technique, but simply in the fact that it is a science. And like all other scientific behavior, it is subject to strictures of verification, revisability (for improvement in the case of therapies) and objectivity, none of which strictures apply to PPS. That is, the psychotherapist has no other goal than the mental health of his patient. He is committed to revising his techniques in the face of convincing evidence hat those techniques are ineffective. And he is committed to investigate improvements in his techniques as well as any entirely new techniques that may come along (This is one reason why we have a concept of scientific progress; the idea of progress is built into the idea of theory revisability that is essential to science. Even when criticized to the effect that a given scientific formation – theories, accepted observations, applied technologies – has not realized progress in some respect (e.g. the “We’ve built all these wonderful steel factories, but they’ve polluted the atmosphere” objection), the scientist is committed to investigate why that is the case and how the formation can be revised to achieve progress, if desirable, in that respect as well). PPS is at best indifferent to and usually actively hostile to revision and improvement. Conversely, it is the making public of shared results studied for the single goal of curing the patient that makes the psychotherapist a scientist in the broad sense (even though he does not rely on mathematical models as does the physicist and even though we still lack an adequate procedure for verification in the human sciences). But there are other advantages of psychotherapy over PPS. Obviously the success rate of scientific therapies is much higher than PPS, particularly in the case of properly prescribed medications. Even psychoanalysis enjoyed a much higher success rate than any form of PPS and provided the impetus for social changes that led to the decline in the incidence of those illnesses – hysteria and neurosis - that it was specifically devised to combat. In this respect, the comparative decline of psychoanalytic treatments is a byproduct of its very success - a brilliant example of scientific progress. Another disadvantage of PPS is that many PPS-ers belong to groups that are committed to goals other than the cure of the patient. At the very least they usually expect repayment (another way confession isn’t free) in your belief in some doctrine or mythology they advocate. More often than not, this involves participation in rituals, ceremonies or some other whoop-de-doo. Certain PPS-ers have more tangible ulterior motives, as in the use of confession to extend papist control over sovereign nations, a practice made into an art by the Jesuits.
It is noteworthy that when Flynt had a psychotic episode that had all the earmarks of your traditional mystical religious ecstasy, he went to a psychiatrist and not a preacher. He was prescribed an anti-bipolar psychotropic drug and cured (p. 218). But Flynt’s point is broader than comparative advantage of psychotherapy over PPS, for Flynt recognizes (echoing in this respect one of Freud’s major themes) that religion itself is a mental disorder. Strictly speaking, Flynt focuses on the visions-in-your-breakfast-cereal brand of religious fanaticism, which we can with some confidence identify as a form of bipolar disorder. It would be lovely if all these visionaries could be put under competent medical care and receive medications to relieve their disorders. You cannot, of course, force anyone to undergo a therapy he refuses, even if he is mentally ill. But it is simply unacceptable to allow the religiously insane to organize into groups and lay claim to an influence on public policy. When that occurs, then religion becomes more than an individual disorder. It morphs into a public health problem – or, in the case of recent electoral politics, something like the 14th century Black Death. The old saw about the inmates running the nut house must have occurred to sane people like Flynt more than once. For that reason we should take another look as to whether we can forcibly subject the religious to medical care. The voluntary acquiescence restriction is limited to cases where the mentally ill individual poses a danger to himself or to others. So, given the statistical frequency of the coupling of religion and violence, is it not reasonable to contemplate the forced medical treatment of at least some religious people – at the very least the priests, preachers and shamans?
Flynt makes passing reference to self-reliance as an antidote to the psychological dependency exploited by the preachers (pp.218-219 &225). This thought, however sketchy, deserves attention for two reasons. In the first place it is an alternative to the approach advocated by Sam Harris who appeals to Jainism and Buddhism as non-religious moral systems. Both suggestions deserve consideration since a fully articulated alternative approach to how one should live one’s life, though not necessary (not necessary because you don’t need a fully furnished house for immediate occupancy once you’ve escaped the nut house of religion; you might rent for a time while you’re choosing the furniture), would be a good idea. Flynt’s inclination in particular merits attention because, like it or not, self-reliance has a distinguished intellectual history beginning with Emerson and Thoreau. Nietzsche borrowed the idea from Emerson in developing his theory of the Übermensch. There are other alternatives as well. The Western scientific tradition has certain buried assumptions about how one should lead one’s life. There are also suggestions throughout Western intellectual history from Epicurus through Pietro Aretino to Bertrand Russell. I would venture to suggest that, as with many other projects, in the search for a Philosophy of Life, it is the search itself that’s half the fun.
The theme of self-reliance suggests an Eloge de Larry Flynt. It seems to be part of Flynt’s character that he is motivated not just by a desire to make money or to enjoy the pleasures of life, including sexual pleasure. He did not have to write this book, nor did he have to launch the Million Dollar Ad Campaign. Given his chosen profession, neither project had a chance of producing any personal material benefit. Likewise, Hustler does not have to take the tone it does, which is unique among pornographic publications (Hugh Hefner also has a uniquely personal world view – much less combative and more strictly Epicurean). And, given the degree of persecution he has suffered, his internal motivation must be very strong indeed. If Flynt’s intentions were less than honorable, one would say he was driven by internal demons. But since this book was written for it’s own sake (assuming he entertains no fantasies of public office or some other ancillary benefit) we are treated to the pleasant spectacle of someone motivated by his internal angels.
Flynt relies on a model of government that might be called the Honest Broker model (pp. 136-137). This is not in itself a fault, or, if it is, it is not Flynt’s alone. Every political philosopher that I know of has either advocated or assumed the Honest Broker model in the course of proposing theories about how to best organize a government. The Honest Broker model is not a separate theory of government in contrast with other theories. Rather it is it is a set of assumptions about government that is shared by most actual theories. For that reason the Honest Broker model underlies distinct political systems - monarchy, oligarchy, direct and representative democracy – as well as economic theories of social organization, such as socialism and free market liberalism. I sometimes like to call the Honest Broker model the Squire Allworthy model (or, if you like, the Ward Cleever model) since Squire Allworthy is an interesting symbol. Even though he operated in a sort of paternalistic way toward the inhabitants of his district, he himself had no direct offspring. The metaphorical ambiguity of Tom Jones, and its implicit mockery of royal blood descent, is heightened by the twists and turns of the foundling story. But I’m not convinced that it isn’t just muddling things to mix the issue of the family and tribal phylogenesis of government with the distinct issue of whether the Honest Broker model of government is indeed viable. So Honest Broker it is. Simply stated, the assumption of the Honest Broker model is that government is uniquely qualified to arbitrate disputes between all those entities under its control - individuals, families, clans, corporations, baronies, dukedoms, states, provinces, colonies, non-profit organizations etc. – and to prevent or punish wrongdoing on the part of any of these entities because government alone has no self interest, but rather, properly run, represents the interests of the entire nation. The obvious objections to this model are no secret. For example, monarchical and other forms of non-democratic government may indeed be self-interested. Or else some self-interested party might appropriate a government to its own interests (Flynt recognizes this, p. 138). The particular terms in which the drama plays out today involve the government as a referee between the rich and powerful on the one hand and the rest of the citizenry on the other. Government is the institution needed to prevent the abuse of the people by the powerful. But if the rich and powerful take control of a government, they can turn government to help them in their abuse. Likewise, almost inevitably a class of people springs up who identify themselves with the government and so identify their interests with those of the government. Of course, this can mean either that they subordinate personal interests to those of the nation (good) or that they subordinate national to personal interests (bad). Thomas More called these people courtiers. In the minds of many these obvious objections can be answered and the individual government’s faults repaired. Flynt talks about reinventing government and More proposed a system where courtiers (read bureaucrats or civil servants) were eliminated.
But there may be a more essential problem with the Honest Broker model as a way of looking at government or as a basis for a political theory. There may be something wrong with the assumption that government is the referee of the game and not one of the players. Indeed there may be something wrong with the assumption that there can be something like a single institution that can function as a referee for all the other entities that compose a nation. For the Honest Broker model incorporates an imaginary three part structure in society composed of two litigants and the government in one manifestation or else the people, the wrongdoer (or danger) and the government in another manifestation. I wonder whether there is not something essentially wrong with the assumptions this three-part structure involves, that is whether the model that the government is the unique representative of the people as a whole and thus uniquely situated to punish wrongdoers is not fatally flawed in such a way that mere adjustments (new elections, bureaucratic reshuffling, constitutional amendments etc.) are insufficient as long as the political system relies upon the government as an independent and impartial referee. At the very least in an electoral democracy the government tends not to represent the interests of the entire nation; it represents the interests of the majority. And even where some legal safeguards are written down to protect the rights of the minority, there is, on the one hand, a difference between rights and interests that works to the disadvantage of rights, and, on the other hand, the record of actually enforcing the paper rights granted to the minority, or, properly - Thoreauishly – speaking, to the individual, is not encouraging. If there is meaning to the phrase, “Fascism is the dictatorship of the majority,” then that meaning can be related to the faults in the Honest Broker theory of government.
Geneva March 2007