Mark Miner's interesting email about the B4U-ACT conference
Dear Professor Berlin,
First, just a quick thank-you for contributing your time and expertise to the B4U-ACT conference. I had the pleasure of meeting "Richard Kramer" and the late Michael Melsheimer the last time I went through Baltimore, and wrote Richard when I saw Salon's article on the B4U-ACT conference. What catches my eye, as a purveyor of Classical Poetry in which paederastic relationships are considered one of the great graces of life, is the way paederasts have been so demonized these days in right wing rhetoric. I give some notes below which sketch out my own rhetorical strategies for rehumanizing the figure of the paederast by reactivating the comic literary tradition in which he features, and bringing it into active contact with contemporary discourse. We're not all as helpless and confused as the dupes on To Catch A Predator, you know! As the tides of rhetoric rise and swirl in advance of the 2012 election, I think it is important to remind the public that there are a few good boy-lovers out there: modest, self-controlled older gentlemen with a twinkle in their eye and a story on their lips that helps to guide younger men through the awkward places in life . . .
Thanks again for putting your neck out during this time of Right Wing tantrum throwing....
(Jeremy Hooper of the blog www.goodasyou.com just did a piece on Brian Brown, observing his use of threat of "normalizing pedophilia" to drive his anti gay marriage agenda)
I follow GoodAsYou regularly, and am very pleased to see you devoting a good amount of space to one of the rhetorical issues that interests me most: The paedophile/paederast as fear-image in the gay marriage debate.
(I italicize, in order to claim dibs on writing a book of that title!)
In addition to the established anti-ped queens like Linda Harvey and Judith Reisman, we now have Brian Brown making the desperation move of jumping on the anti-pedo bandwagon, as GAY documents so nicely.
Please do keep using your journalistic powers to KEEP DOCUMENTING the rhetorical use of the Pedo-Imago by the "Rabid Right!"
As Jim Kincaid says, in Erotic innocence: the culture of child molesting -
"The 'pedophile' is the place where a host of current revulsions are relieved; it is perhaps our most frequented cultural and linguistic toilet."
And sure enough, over and over again, there's Linda, Judith and Brian pooping away. We can all see 'em!
In real life, I am a classical scholar who gives voice to Greek and Latin poetry. My first market is introductory Latin & Greek textbooks and the well-known (dusty?!) authors of the school-room canon: Ovid, Vergil, Cicero, etc. But I have a strong secondary market in material with paederastic themes. In particular, I helped out with the reprinting of Edward Perry Warren's A Defense of Uranian Love, translating the Greek and Latin bits, all of which touched on paederastic themes in some way. (We are currently working on a website where you can HEAR EPW's favorite poetic bits.)
While I do not deny that I consider teenage boys to be the coolest things on this planet, I am a fairly conservative Christian person in real life. Poetry is my wife, as it were; I don't chase boys, as it would only lead to bad consequences for me & for them if caught. My commitment to celibacy, however, frees me up to do outrageous classical role-playing. In addition to putting on a Greek outfit and voicing Homer, (who sings the doomed and ruinous wrath of Achilles . . .) I have another character called "Didaskalos," "a Good Latin Teacher Gone Bad," that I use as a platform for doing material with paederastic themes. For instance, I directed Aristophanes' Thesmo for the APA meeting in San Antonio this January, and I certainly would not want "Mark Miner" taxed with the kind of "Old Comedy" hi-jinx that go on in that play! I had the Kinsman chase the (teenage male) Therapon around the stage while waving a stage-phallos over his head, threatening to "infundibulate him!" (Turn his asshole inside out.) There was a time and a place for that kind of thing in Ancient Athens, and to a certain extent, the APA continues to offer a sacred enclosure today.
For the sophisticated literary circles in which I travel, the concept of poetic personae is fairly well understood; I don't have to explain to literary scholars that being afraid of "Didaskalos" -- that he is going to rape some teenage boy -- is about as silly as being afraid of Edgar Bergen's puppets, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd!
Nevertheless, I am very concerned with how the popular mind is coming to terms with the modern, internet-based resurgence of interest in paederasty. Teenage boys are what they are, dirty old men are what they are, and the internet is what it is. Surely we can tell better stories than To Catch A Predator?
ANYWAYS, I was thinking it might be fun to have GAY do an interview with "Didaskalos," in character, ask "him" how he feels about being constantly used as a "toilet" for the fears and fantasies of the toe-tapping, luggage-lifting, craigslist-combing Right.
After suffering through the recent poorly-thought-out Queerty debacle over Daniel Villareal's "Can-we-please?" article,
It seems clear to me that any "juicy," "excerptable" material in the interview should be "marblecaked," i.e., water-marked with a message INVISIBLE to the excerptors, but OBVIOUS once pointed out. Once it's up on their website, that is!
So, if the game were to be played by someone a little swifter than Queerty's Danny V, it might go like this:
FIRST, some pro-gay blog naively publishes an interview with Didaskalos in which many playfully outrageous conservative claims are made, as an opening gambit. Like Colberrrrrr, Didaskalos likes to mock conservative rhetorical stuff by taking it seriously. Like the character Eumolpos in Petronius' Satyricon, Didaskalos espouses the right-wing ideal of "chaste youth under strict supervision" -- for his own ends! Once the interview is rolling, though, Didaskalos starts to relax, and "accidentally" makes a few comments which allow his "truly lustful nature" to emerge. These comments -- the bait -- are pounced on by the Right Wing bloggers, who regularly peruse Queerty, GAY, etc. for juicy tidbits to excite their fund-raising base. Those remarks are then REprinted by the right-wing bloggers out of context, as prima facie evidence of the validity of the CSA narrative, namely that SOMEONE ELSE is lusting after "our kids," and SOMEONE ELSE is going to get punished for it. (Those who don't know their own minds find the CSA narrative irresistably juicy and interesting.) But since the juicy and excerptable remarks are "watermarked," the embedded message can then be revealed, once the text is displayed all over their blogs.
What would this look like?
Well, suppose the message to be embedded read: "FUNDRAISING TOOL."
The article would quote "Didaskalos" burbling away merrily, like Barry Humphries AS Dame Edna Everage . . . and then would come this excerptable (because vaguely naughty) phrase:
For Underwear Never Did Restrain An Inspired Singer I N G T O O L
To see the embedded message, just circle the first letter of each word!
Once the quote was spattered all over the right-wing blogosphere --- please, please, please let WND do an article on Didaskalos --- then some other blog could casually point out the embedded message. A general brou-ha-ha would ensue; GoodAsYou could claim complete innocence; and the right-wing bloggers would be left looking like the manipulative fools they are -- the passage itself being evidently aware that it is being (mis-)used as a "fundraising tool," as are the people to whom such inflammatory letters are sent.
What do you think?
I paste some other Didaskalos ideas below.
(I begin in my own voice . . . )
I'm a 46-year old recording artist, many CD's & tours under my belt, doing leading work in the field of Classics (Greek & Roman Literature,) as you can see by my resume, and just now settling down to build a home recording studio in San Diego. I need my own studio, because my mentor, Professor Daitz, now wants me to record the entire Aeneid, which is the equivalent of getting a twelve-album recording contract.
I have done the traditional, bow-tie wearing, classics teacher thing -- cramming Greek and Latin grammar into upper-class prep-school boys to mark them as Ivy League material -- but actually I am more curious about the failures, pathologies, and impossibilities of initiation. What about girls? What about Japanese kids who are curious about Western Men? What about men who have reached middle-age and still need to be initiated? What about rough kids and prison inmates who who know all about physical violence and the struggle for "respect," but don't get a chance to express those feelings in fancy hexameter language, since they're "not on the college track?"
Having studied Performance Art and Acting at UCSD under Performance Artists Allan Kaprow & Eleanor Antin, my persona, for recording purposes, is the traditional one of the fussy pedantic paederast (boy-lover) school-teacher, who knows all the myths, and tells them to teenage boys. In that role, I call myself "Didaskalos," which simply means, "teacher" in Greek. Tag-line: ("Didaskalos -- a good Latin teacher gone Bad.") It is particularly amusing to pose as a paederast these days, since most of "normal" America seems to believe that:
Paederasts are all evil monsters with nothing to contribute to society; Classics is boring and obsolete; Kids with same-sex interests are best put in recovery programs where they are exposed to no story-telling but Biblical story-telling. The Child Sexual Abuse narrative marks some people as VICTIMS and some people as OFFENDERS, and people so marked will never get beyond those roles.
So, I'm now on a kick to try to get people to think about what initiation groups for teenage boys would look like if they were built around GREEK MYTHS, instead of Bible Stories. That is, around stories that affirm homosexual interests as good, even divine; warn against homosexual excesses, (Apollo never lives happoly ever after with his boys) and feature transitions to heterosexual interests. ---- As opposed to groups organized around Christian stories, featuring only the fires of Sodom and the freezing blast of Paul's disapproval. (I did two long-term stints in Christian "Post-Gay" groups, but I learned nothing new in them, since I was an alert enough kid in Sunday-School class.)
How about an article on What I Have Learned about Heterosexuality from the Greek Myths. Naturally this would feature Didaskalos in character, regularly alternating between high-minded Christian pronouncements about chastity, renunciation and the poetic sublimation of sexuality --and drooling lust for sexually disoriented male youth?
Indeed, I am now in the process of re-reading all Classical Literature through the theoretical lens of contemporary post-gay Christian ideology (“Pray-away-the-Gay,” “God’s plan for your (hetero-)sexuality,” “Breaking the bondage of False (homosexual) Images,” etc.) in order to better write about “the catalytic role of traditional heroic narrative in adolescent male identity formation.” “Traditional Heroic Narrative” means non-Christian, of course; I’m operating here in the mode of “Nietzschean Protest” against the life-denying aspects of Christianity.
This is a large project, but here are the basic points I would want to cover: I) You can expect your father to be absent at crucial times in your life, but things will work out OK in the end. (Odyssey) Christianity is all about adjusting you to a lifetime in which Daddy Never Comes Home.
II) It's OK to talk back to mom when she tells you to TURN DOWN THAT MUSIC, IT’S GIVING HER A HEADACHE. (Telemachos to Penelope; (Od. I) Zeus to Hera. (Il. I) even though mom is the power figure in the house sometimes, which means that you kind of respect her like a power figure, and even act like her sometimes because of that. In church life, you could easily be under the thumb of old women forever.
III) Sometimes you're going to be surrounded by a crowd of strange men who all have the hots for your mother, which is kind of creepy. (Od. I-IV) Man, I will never forget David Wolff. Back in the eighth grade, my mom picked me up after a computer-nerd sleepover, and David was all: "That's - -your mom?!?!" Over and over again, in a rather star-struck way. It was the first time I became aware that my mom was hot, (last phrase in strike-through formatting) I mean, that other guys thought my mom was hot! Nothing in Christian Literature or Christian Post-Gay groups prepared me to emotionally process that, but in the Classics you have a lot of it, from Oedipus to the suitors in the Odyssey. And all through middle school and high school, I kept wondering where, where,WHERE, is my heterosexual energy?!?!?! Now I know: All that time, it was tied up in my unprocessed adolration of my mom's hotness.
V) Paederasts, like Republicans, tend to talk a lot about ideals and principals and values and chastity, but then get overcome by their lusts and act like satyrs. That's funny, and that humor is what makes them OK. (the character Eumolpos from Petronius’ Satyricon) The post-gay groups I was in never saw anything funny about sex. Ever.
VI) It is possible to combine the "Child Sexual Abuse Narrative" and the "Fairy-Tale with the Happy Heterosexual Ending" in such a way that the rigidly assigned roles are unlocked. Pindar does this in Olympian Ode #1. Poseidon gazes at the fair youth Pelops, and does to him "what Zeus did to Ganymede;" the story is told as a straight-forward narrative of Child Sexual Abuse. And yet Pindar dances on -- that is, he has his chorus of teenage boys dance on, pursuing narrative goals beyond that clunky CSA "ending." Before the end of the ode, Pelops develops heterosexual interests, pursues and marries Hippodamia and fathers six strapping sons on her, with Poseidon's help. So, in narratological terms, the “Victim” has become a “Husband/Father,” and the “Offender” has become a “Helpful Older Man.” That makes Pin. Ol. 1 a revolutionary poem, in today’s anti-paedo, pro-CSA climate.
An article by an out paederast (or even a guy just posing as one, like me!) would be kinda ballsy at this point in time, since there is a feeling coming from the "professional" gay community that any peep out of the boy-lovers will destroy all the gay movement's hard-won gains. And the conservatives, as I have often had the opportunity to observe, are only one paederast away from throwing the kind of hateful anti-gay tantrum that would confirm them in the buffoonish role the left imagines them in.
Oh well. Here are a few contemporary stories, however, that Didaskalos would tie in with:
The Rolling Stone article on the now defunct NBC show, “To Catch a Predator.” Marcus Bachman's recently revealed work as an ex-gay "therapizer." And there are plenty of other characterizations of "post-gay therapy" as clunky and ineffective out there. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Video program. Jerry Brown just signed SB 48, which mandates PRO-GAY education K12 in California. You know the Right is already mobilizing against that! Former Gov. Schwarzn. has made Harvey Milk CA's new Gay Icon. You know, Harvey Milk, the SF guy with the string of teenage boyfriends . . . (!?!?) Presbyterians and other groups have now OK'd gay clergy. the Gay Marriage debate.
Linda Harvey, the one-woman crusader behind the "Mission America" website, would make a great antagonist. She is actively pitching the "What next? Pedophile teachers in the schools?" line as climax to her fund-raising pitches (against gay marriage; against gay teachers, against gay anything.)
This article contains some real gems of Linda-Think.
Because, just as the SuperFriends were "Created from the Cosmic Legends of the Universe," as Ted White proclaimed at the beginning of each show, so Didaskalos was created out of the fears and fund-raising needs of the Rabid Right!
Here's the deal: it takes the power out of hate speech to sing it right back to them, a la Yankee Doodle.