Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year

Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year

I’m not really sure what to say about the year 2016. “At least we didn’t all die in a nuclear blast” is one good thing I could mention, I guess.

On a personal level, it was a year of disappointments and setbacks, fears and frustrations, but also the year in which I sat in a taxi coming back to Chelsea from Broadway after a dinner with great talents whom I also simply admire as people, and the very dear friend and great talent sitting next to me turned and said, “You’re doing it right, you know.” I surprised myself by believing her. There are people in my life who burn very brightly, you see, and I’ve learned to let their light in, and for that I am grateful.

In light of that, in light of them, here are the six things I definitely did right this year: Continue reading “Writing round-up, 2016: Six non-horrible things that happened this year”

James Foley’s critics are the real cowards

James Foley. Image via marquette.edu
James Foley. Image via marquette.edu

And when I talk about his critics, I don’t just mean Charles C. Johnson (although, seriously, screw that guy).

Since news of Foley’s beheading by ISIS first broke, I’ve seen enough depressing Facebook “debate” that basically argues that gee, isn’t it sad that this journalist was slaughtered – but couldn’t he have been a little bit more “Braveheart” about the whole thing?

Where was the resounding cry of “FREEEDUUUUUM”? And how DARE he read an anti-American text before he was slashed to death?

OK, so, here’s the deal, you miserable idiots:

Heroism is going into a war zone to cover the kind of stuff that would make *most* people piss their pants before scampering off to cover the designer cupcake beat for Better Homes and Gardens for the rest of their lives.

Heroism is NOT telling everyone about how YOU personally would morph into Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and deliver a gorgeously backlit “Men of the West” speech while facing certain doom at the hands of an extremist maniac.

Death in conflict zones is often messy, horrific, banal and humiliating.

Death in conflict zones is NOT like the movies you watch on Netflix in the relative comfort of your safe home while jacking off to visions of yourself as a fearless commando and handsome battlemage.

Also, there are other captives there besides Foley. Who knows what would have happened to them had Foley tried to spoil ISIS’ gruesome PR stunt.

Also, you people know nothing. You don’t know what it’s like to deal with constant violence. You sure as hell don’t know what it’s like to be a hostage. Only the people who have gone through that know. Patronizing such people with your own bullshit version of what it means to be a “hero” exposes both your ignorance and childish desire to appear tougher than you are. And in the case of Foley, you’re playing a game of big dick willy with a dead person. Congratulations!

Isn’t it bad enough that Foley’s family has lost their son? Isn’t it bad enough that Foley is now being used both in nihilist jihadist PR, as well as death porn-style “journalism” popularized by the NY Post? Isn’t it bad enough that someone who was this brave, and this talented – and I really must stress the BRAVE part for all of you who have never known war and lawlessness and horror – is lost?

I’m not even going to get into the assertion that Foley basically deserved his fate because he wasn’t into guns and Mitt Romney. Whoever wrote that can go to hell.

Please read Max Fisher’s tribute to James Foley instead.

Tom MacMaster: an even bigger jackass than previously thought?

If this is true (check the comments), then, uh, yeah.

You know, having lived in Dubai and Amman, there’s not way I could even begin to speak with any authority as to what is going on in Syria, so maybe that’s why I’m so shocked as to how this guy appears to just calmly impersonate Arab people for the sake of scoring a rhetorical point after being exposed to the entire world as a… God, I am even struggling for the proper words to describe his behaviour right now. I am way too much in awe of what is being displayed here. I may need to take a moment.

Dear Tom MacMaster, your non-apology sucks even worse than your screw-up

Updated below, to include a link to Tom MacMaster’s real apology

Lying to people is never a great way to help an important cause. Still, I can understand how someone can get caught up in a lie of this magnitude, I suppose. I write a lot of fiction, and I know that fiction, even political blog fiction, has a way of warping an individual author’s mind in a peculiar way – that’s usually positive, but then it can wind up like this.

What I do not get is the fact that Tom MacMaster has basically defended his actions.

 I do not believe that I have harmed anyone – I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.


Hate to break it to you man, but you have harmed plenty of people. Such as, you know, those who are really in Syria. You’ve sat in the goddamn safety of Scotland, pontificating, while other people have suffered from brutal violence. You’re typing away at your freaking keyboard, while people are getting shot. You’re on vacation in Istanbul, while a country is falling apart not far away. None of these things are your fault. But what has resulted in actual harm is this: Your lying and self-aggrandizement helps de-legitimize the very things that many of those people are fighting against.

I’m no expert on Syria, but gosh – it seems to me that a fake persona created by some tool from a foreign country plays directly into the hands of those who are claiming that no violence is going on and everything is just dandy.

Can I just say that I’m not at all surprised that Tom MacMaster is a student? Because while most students certainly don’t act like this – he certainly fits a certain type, the self-righteous type for whom serious issues such as what’s going on in Syria are a kind of “thought exercise”, people so caught up in precious theory that they’re willing to appropriate other people’s problems and other people’s pain for the sake of a rhetorical point.

“”I regret that a lot of people feel that I led them on…”

Those people? The ones who feel this way right now? Were led on, dumbass. Their feelings are exactly correct on this one.

“What I don’t regret is the fact that I did hopefully bring a good bit of attention to real human rights abuses in Syria, the real situation that real people are facing even if through a fictional voice.”

No, man, no! You brought a lot of attention to yourself! And you appear to have learned exactly jack shit from the experience!

Once again, I can understand how someone can get caught up in a fictional online persona. But after having been called on it – and called on the damage such actions result in – there should be no excuses. “I fucked up, I’m sorry.” Why is that so hard to say in a situation like this?

I mean, how about I go and pretend to be an Auschwitz survivor on the internet? A Chernobyl victim? A human rights activist blogging via mobile phone via a stray WiFi signal while locked in jail somewhere? I mean, it would draw attention to the issues, bro. It would totally not be a joke! Sure, I’d be stomping on the dignity of the actual people whose lives were torn apart, but I would be providing a Western audience with a unique voice here! Because we all know, that catering to a Western audience with a goddamn blog is the key issue when violence breaks out. Clearly.


This reads to me as sincere and genuine and thoughtful. And I’m glad for that.