Jail white men to save the planet – Jane Fonda

The Hollywood star insisted climate change would not exist without racism and the patriarchy (from RT)

Humanity’s best chance to save the planet from climate change lies in locking up white men, Hollywood actress Jane Fonda told an audience at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

“This is serious – we’ve got about seven, eight years to cut ourselves in half of what we use of fossil fuels, and unfortunately, the people that have the least responsibility for it are hit the hardest – Global South, people on islands, poor people of color,” the Barbarella star explained, insisting, “It’s a tragedy that we have to absolutely stop.”

We have to arrest and jail those men – they’re all men.

 

Without naming any of the men she believed to be responsible for the looming demise of the planet, Fonda went on to draw connections between Earth and its minority inhabitants, arguing, “There would be no climate crisis if there was no racism. There would be no climate crisis if there was no patriarchy. White men are the things that matter and then everything else [is] at the bottom.”

Read the rest.

 

“If You Want to Reach Me, You’ll Find Me Reading COSMOPOLITAN

That title will make no sense to anyone born after about, say, 1975. But bear with me! We’re going to tell you a story of magazine publishing, mass media, Women’s Libbery, and sex talk over the last 50 or 60 years.

But first please take a tour with us in our Backstory…

Understanding Trade Advertising

A few years back I was trying to write an essay on the precipitous, seemingly never-ending decline and decay of TIME magazine. I was going to call it The Long, Grueling Downward March of TIME. The featured illustration would be a mockup of a title card from the March of Time newsreels, which of course were a big deal in the 1930s and 40s. Back when my average reader was growing up.

But it was a difficult topic to encompass, and I let myself get sidetracked by a curious side-story to the whole thing: magazines’ trade advertising, a now all-but-vanished industry.

Forty to sixty years ago you’d see ads at commuter railroad stations, and on the bulkheads (or whatever you call ’em) of passenger coaches on the New Haven RR. Also the Long Island RR, the NY Central’s Harlem and Hudson Lines, the PRR’s Paoli Local on the Philadelphia Main Line, and most probably the Erie Lackawanna out in New Jersey. Railroads had individual names then. They were clean and classy, they ran on time (usually), and they carried a lot of trade advertising for newspapers and magazines.

PARADE…is the Sunday Giant.

FORBES: Capitalist Tool.

Such advertisements weren’t aimed at potential readers of Forbes or, Lord knows, Parade (an extraordinarily lowbrow and popular newspaper Sunday supplement that lived for 80 years till it finally died a few months ago). No, these commuter-railroad ads were aimed at ad buyers, and maybe the sales people at the agencies, the people who called themselves “account executives.”

TIME magazine had perhaps the most elaborate trade advertising campaign of the late 60s, helmed by Young & Rubicam. You’d see a half-dozen, maybe even a dozen, poster ads out on the train platform. All in a row, all nearly identical mockups of a TIME cover, only with a different upscale TIME advertiser featured in each one. The copy would go something like: “TIME: Where Braniff Flaunts It.” Which in those days everyone knew was a reference to the big double-truck ads from Wells Rich Greene for Braniff Airlines, with the heading, “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It!,” with a startling visual of, say, Andy Warhol chatting with Sonny Liston in Braniff first-class seats. (This was an era when most sentient people were expected to recognize advertising slogans, and so Mel Brooks put the Braniff line into his 1968 film, The Producers.)

Anyway, as you walked down the train platform, or glanced out the windows at Cos Cob or Bronxville, you’d get the message, over and over. TIME was where the smart money went. TIME was where you wanted to advertise high-ticket items to upscale customers. Braniff. MG 1100’s. Brooks Brothers suits. Johnny Walker Black. Lucchese boots.

Actually they never featured Lucchese. Ad buyers on the New Haven line in 1969 wouldn’t have understood that. Johnny Black they would understand, so if you were handling the campaign for Glenlivet, you’d look at the outdoor ads and be reminded that Johnny Black scotch had two full-page TIME insertions per month, while Glenlivet didn’t have any. And you’d think, “Maybe we should make TIME part of our media buy!”

An implicit but unstated message in the TIME trade-ad campaign was that TIME was still a solid and trusted advertising environment. While Henry R. Luce (1988-1967) still lived, Time Inc. had been considered a gilt-edged, crack outfit, right up there with—as they used to say years ago—the Marine Corps, the Catholic Church, and McKinsey & Co. All of which may be well and thoroughly pozzed today, though none quite so badly as TIME, which was already in sorry shape in the 1980s when they started putting Madonna on the cover…instead of painterly portraits of Ev Dirksen or the DuPont CEO who gave us Corfam.

So much for this tangent.  I’ll save my TIME eulogy for another time and place. Right now I’m going to move along to another classic bit of trade advertising from the same era, one that didn’t claim upscale status at all. In fact it reveled in being the vademecum of shopgirl and secretary. That was Helen Gurley Brown’s Cosmopolitan, an aggressively low- to middle-brow sex-and-makeup rag that came out of the Hearst Building on West 57th Street.

Diaphragms:
Or, the Transitional
Rabbit, Run’ Era of Sex Politics

Once upon a time, back in the 1910s and 20s and 30s, Hearst’s Cosmopolitan had been a popular family-type offering along the lines of the Saturday Evening Post, specializing in longish-form fiction (Agatha Christie, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis) and columns by name-brand celebrities (Gene Tunney, Amelia Earhart). This was all long gone by the 1960s, when editor Brown wrote Sex and the Single Girl, an early-Sixties bestseller on how to find the right man and get laid without necessarily getting pregnant. [1] After which, mid-Sixties, Brown revamped Cosmo, from an anodyne ladies-and-family rag into a celebration of working-girl licentiousness. “Career-girl freedom and sophistication,” Helen Gurley Brown might prefer to call it. But, as I say, the magazine’s target audience was secretaries and shopgirls.

If the magazine had had an iconic symbol in those days, it would be what doctors used to call a “pessary.” That is to say, a contraceptive diaphragm, less formally known as a “flying saucer,” according to John Updike. A round, flexible pink thing you stuck up your quim when you’d been to the singles bar and found yourself entering into a one-night-stand. (The you in this directive is female, needless to say.) Yes, a “birth control” device. It lived in a clamshell case in your top bureau drawer, or maybe at the bottom of your handbag, if you were out on the prowl. Often kept alongside some spermicidal cream or unguent. That’s enough detail.

I recall Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, in Updike’s Rabbit, Run, getting really pissed off when the girl he’s getting lucky with—part-time whore, as it turns out—runs off to the bathroom just as they’re getting started. “You’re gonna put on a flying saucer?” yells Harry. Harry hated the obviousness, the crassness of the whole thing: approaching sex or “lovemaking” as a mechanical necessity, an ugly physical function. You know, like going to the utility closet and taking out a Fleet Enema because you ate a lot of turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving and now you’re impacted and you’ll have huge difficulty taking a dump. Not exactly an arousing bit of foreplay.

The novel is set in the late 1950s. Perhaps 1959, as Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, is age 26, and that’s what author Updike was in 1959. So they both were born in 1933, in Reading, PA. Only in the book Reading is called “Brewer.” (Pennsylvania Dutch country, you see: they brewed beer.) John Updike wasn’t exactly like his protagonist. Harry Angstrom, a former high school basketball star, is a lower-middle-class guy with a nothing job, demonstrating MagiPeel Peelers in dime stores around Brewer; whereas Updike was then a young New Yorker writer who’d come out of Harvard. Rabbit, Run, which Updike originally began as a movie script, is a kind of “What if” contemplation on the author’s part: How shitty would my life be if I hadn’t gone off to Harvard? Would I be like some of those guys I went to high school with, who stayed in Reading?

Early in the book, the Mickey Mouse Club show is on TV and Head Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd is carrying on about proverbs and ethical living. “Know thyself,” he tells the kids. “Know Thyself, a wise old Greek once said… God gives to each one of us a special talent.” Harry and his young drunken wife Janice watch this when Harry gets off work. Harry has contempt for the smarmy Head Mouseketeer but watches this intently, because Jimmie seems like a wise preacher or coach who might have useful advice about how to straighten out your life. Later on, when Harry and Janice drift apart, Harry looks for advice from a real-life Jimmie, in the person of a shallow, agnostic, wisecracking Episcopal minister named Rev. Jack Eccles.

I last read Rabbit, Run about 1969, and this is the kind of stuff that sticks with me through the years. Mouseketeers and diaphragms.

Today, pop social-historians will talk about birth control and tell you, “Diaphragms were totally passé after The Pill came in.” Not quite, hon. They were the go-to protection at least through most of the 1970s. Most of us weren’t going to do The Pill. Hormones? All those side-effects? Your breasts would swell. It might ruin your fertility long-term (though that risk wasn’t clearly understood or enunciated back in the day). Finally: maybe you won’t even have sex this year. And meantime your diaphragm’s waiting safe and sound in your bureau drawer.

“Female Empowerment,” Sort Of

And now we circle back to Cosmopolitan, which my social peers and I seldom ever touched. Cosmo was coarse, but put it down a marker. Getting laid a lot in the 1960s and 1970s became a sign of Female Empowerment, a term that did not yet exist, but should have. And here is where Cosmo led the parade.

Then, during its high-water mark in those late 60s, early 70s, Cosmo‘s man-catching “empowerment” ethos started facing down competition from a much fresher and weirder bit of popcult—Women’s Liberation! Women’s Lib ideology operated in much the same way as Cosmo‘s—you were supposed to spend a lot of time thinking about your private parts, and you were to strive for independence and assertiveness. Except man-chasing and singles bars weren’t much in the picture. A baby might occasionally turn up, but he usually had no visible father.

Cosmo seldom directly addressed this pop-culture conflict in its pages, so far as I know.  When the Women’s-Libby Ms. magazine appeared in 1972, it didn’t acknowledge Cosmopolitan either. You could tell from the outset that Ms. wasn’t going to be anything like Cosmo. It wasn’t chuggy-jam full of makeup ads, and it didn’t have questionnaires and tips about sex and dating. And of course it didn’t have those garish, cat-in-heat Cosmo covers.

However one could argue that Ms. did take swipes at Cosmo in a very oblique way: it ran  a page or section at the back called “No Comment,” displaying perversely funny instances of “sexism” in advertising and media. “Sexism” here usually meant showing a buxom, glamorous female model in an ad for t-shirts or limousine services or whatever. In other words, using sex to sell your product. Precisely the sort of come-on that Cosmopolitan used on its cover month after month.

So Cosmo editors and Ms. editors inhabited two different universes and neither side openly acknowledged the other. I don’t recall anyone ever remarking on this paradox. Even though both camps were selling a Career Girl persona that liked to imagine itself as “Fun, Fearless, Female”—to use a 1990s Cosmopolitan slogan. But the rivalry really wasn’t between two magazines. At its root was a fierce culture war that neither could really articulate. And this made for many amusing, unacknowledged ironies.

Ms. featured actress Marlo Thomas as a contributor in the early years, mainly in a running feature about children’s self-actualization and sex-role ambiguity. These bits were later collected in a book called Free to Be…You and Me. Now, Marlo Thomas was mainly known as the Danny Thomas daughter who landed the title role in a 1966-71 TV sitcom, That Girl. [2] In this sitcom, Marlo’s character, Ann Marie, was all about chic clothes, flip-hairdo, mascara-and-eyeliner, and being man-hungry and marriage-focused (though there weren’t really any marriageable men around, given that the men in Marlo’s social circles consisted mainly of Jews, elderly divorcés, and homosexuals).

In other words, this sitcom actress, now playing on the Women’s Lib/Ms. team, was mainly famous for playing a character who was the veritable template of the Cosmo Girl! As the Cosmo ad copy went at the time (paraphrasing from memory here), “I’m 23, I’m a Gemini, I love to dance and snow-ski and listen to semi-classical music. I raise pedigreed longhair dachshunds, I’m fresh and funny, and I make a great chocolate fondue. I guess you could say I’m That COSMOPOLITAN Girl!

A trade-ad version of the “Cosmo Girl” copy was refined into a text-heavy print advertisement that might take up a whole page in the New York Times, or a four-foot poster in a subway concourse. This copy had more word, more italics, with the final tagline, “If you want to reach me, you’ll find me reading COSMOPOLITAN.” The Cosmo Girl campaigns were widely enough recognized that in 1973 Donald Barthelme published a postmodern comedy takeoff in The New Yorker, “That COSMOPOLITAN Girl.”

Helen Gurley Brown sometimes called herself a feminist, and to the end of her life believed that she and Cosmo had helped to pioneer the Women’s Liberation movement. But attempts to express this always looked like comical misfires. Much like the Virginia Slims cigarette print ads and TV commercials of the early 70s. (“You’ve come a looonnnng way, baby!”) For cigarette advertising, “women’s rights” meant that dames could now smoke skinny 100mm cigarettes in public.

For Cosmopolitan, it was all about young women being actively sexual and maybe promiscuous—we’ve got the Sexual Revolution now, baby, and The Pill! This was supposed to put them on a par with men, whatever that meant. Why they would want to be on a par with men remained the great unanswered question.

 

Why Ms. Failed

A great irony about Ms. magazine is that it was largely conceived and funded by Clay Felker, Gloria Steinem’s great & good friend, editor, mentor; and also founder of New York magazine. Ms. began with a big promotion from New York, while Clay and Gloria’s connections, including the best editorial and business brains of the era, seemed to guarantee its success. And yet…Ms. tanked…it ran in the red for many years and finally ended up as a squirrelly not-for-profit vanity operation that now barely exists as a website. This story deserves close examination.

In the early 1960s Clay Felker, a St. Louis boy (Webster Groves, MO), was  associate editor of Esquire. Clay should have become top editor, but he lost out to Harold Hayes. A few years later he triumphed anyway, redefining the regional magazine business in the late by creating the brash, elegant, up-to-the-minute-hip New York. It was a hit from the moment of its launch in 1968. (Go to Google Books and look at early issues.) Its success spawned a series of imitators in the field of regional weeklies and alternative-news magazines and papers of variable quality…New Times! New West! Miami New Times! Phoenix New Times!, LA Weekly!…some of which exist even to this day.

New York magazine was the resurrection, or continuation, of a newspaper Sunday supplement. That was New York Herald-Tribune‘s magazine, also called New York, which Clay had also edited. Tom Wolfe, among others, got his start writing for that Sunday-supplement way back in the early Sixties. When the Herald-Tribune died in 1966-1967, as the result of a bad merger and massive newspaper strike, Clay Felker and some of his edit staff and stable of “New Journalism” writers—Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, Jimmy Breslin—quickly got together and launched the glorious new standalone New York magazine.

A success from the start, as I say, as New York had both eye-grabbing design and no serious rival for advertising bucks. The New Yorker was the only other glossy weekly with a Manhattan focus. But after many years of William Shawn’s editorship it was now grey, somnolent, inward-looking; usually stuffed full of 40,000-word three-part John McPhee treatises on the history of barley or whatever, as well as obscurantist attempts at humor by Donald Barthelme. Apart from movie reviews and (sometimes) a Talk of the Town piece or a rare John Cheever or John O’Hara story, The New Yorker‘s editorial content was pretty much inaccessible. People got the magazine mainly for the cartoons and movie listings. Back in the late 60s we still had a movie house, maybe two, on every block of Midtown Manhattan. In those days a periodical could survive on running little more than movie and theater listings and ads.  The weekday New York Times would have three or four pages of movie ads and reviews alone. To mention Tom Wolfe yet once again: he gained his first real notoriety in 1965, when he mocked editor Shawn and the stultifying dullness of The New Yorker, in the Herald-Tribune version of New York. (“Tiny Mummies! The True Story of The Ruler of 43d Street’s Land of the Walking Dead!” Story told here in a Wolfe obituary.) Serried ranks of aging writers came out of the woodwork to damn the audacious young popinjay, and the rest is history.

But to get back to Ms. For reasons I cannot now recall, Gloria Steinem had become a big deal in 1970 or ’71. From being a byline in New York magazine she became the uncrowned queen and default spokesman of the Women’s Lib movement. Her media-friendly looks had a lot to do it: she wasn’t a harridan or hippie-radical, and she had a trim figure and big, long, honey-brown hair. She was like a Cosmo girl who’d gone to Smith and once took a job as a Playboy Club bunny, just so she could write a jokey magazine article. And now, finding herself a “movement” leader, she thought she needed a publication, a mouthpiece to communicate with fans and supporters. Maybe, she thought—a newsletter!

This is where Clay Felker jumped in and told his old protégé, more or less, that the newsletter thing was the lamest idea he’d ever heard. Something like: No, Gloria! You must have a hot new hip magazine! Yes! And I will help you! What Clay imagined was a witty, snarky female version of Esquire. Clay had wanted to be top editor of Esquire back in 1961, but lost out to Harold Hayes. And now he would midwife, so to speak, a new, brainy, funny Esquire, onlyyou know, for the ladies! Maybe Clay would get New York/Esquire “New Journalism” writers to contribute. Gail Sheehy, Gay Talese, Susan Sheehan, Jimmy Breslin, maybe even Tom Wolfe!

Months before Ms. was officially launched, Clay promoted a mini pilot issue of 40 pages, stapled into a December 1971 issue of New York. The bloodline was apparent here, and in the early issues the following year. No bra-burner stridency here, but lots of hipness and irony. A light, supercilious attitude dominated.

Clay knew editorial and design, but maybe not the business side of magazine publishing. Furthermore, Gloria and the other Women’s Libbers in Ms. editorial not only did not know the business side, they were downright hostile to business and advertising in general. Ms. got the biggest, send-off any new magazine has ever had, and it could have sailed on high forever had it accepted ads from Lancôme and Bergdorf-Goodman, but Gloria and colleagues decided they absolutely did not want advertising for cosmetics or fashion.

In fact, they didn’t want most female-oriented advertising. I suppose they were afraid of looking like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. They had it in their heads that fashion and cosmetics were the problem, the enemy of Women’s Libbery. Gloria probably didn’t think that, but as with the Bolsheviki, she had to accommodate the angriest, most extreme factions in the party.

Hence, the financial failure of Ms., one of the greatest paradoxes and fiascos ever, in magazine publishing. It’s as though Esquire were to reject ads for sports cars and golf clubs and scotch.

Another problem, on the editorial side, was that there were militants at the magazine who were mainly focused on navel-gazing issues of Women’s Lib. A big one in those days was, “Can we let lesbians into the Movement?” Ironical to consider today, but it was serious in the early 1970s. There was also cheerleading for abortion—pretty easy to obtain pre-Roe v. Wade, but they moaned about restrictions anyway. (Plus ça change. The current iteration of online Ms., led by octogenarians, is still obsessed with the need for free and easy abortion.)

And the Ms. staff would ask themselves, “Can we let men write for Ms.? I gather they gave a resounding no on that one. Just as they didn’t want male editors or business staff. So, no cover stories by Tom Wolfe. For that matter, no Gail Sheehy, either. She and Clay Felker had become an item—they would eventually marry in 1984—and they could see that the Ms. editorial board had determined to drive the magazine into the ground.

Only one spark of Clay’s original concept remained, and that was the notion that Ms. should have humor. This effort was relegated to that “No Comment” page, which mainly complained about “sexism” in advertising. Poor Clay himself got the shaft here in 1977, when his newly launched New West magazine (West Coast version of New York) ran a cut-rate subscription ad featuring a young lady’s poitrine tightly clad in a New West Magazine t-shirt. “Take advantage of us while we’re young an innocent.” And so it was slammed in the “No Comment” page.

The below Ms. commentary describes the Clay Felker/New York contribution to Ms. as a “one-page insert in 1972” when it was actually a 40-page mini-mag stapled into New York in December 1971. Gratitude is indeed just a word in the dictionary, and it does not lie sweetly with forgetfulness.

By 1987 Ms. it was seriously in the hole, and got passed to a series of owners trying to turn it around. Today it’s just a website that purportedly publishes a print quarterly. You can blame Ms.’s political advocacy for its failure, although obscurantist political missions don’t need to be fatal for a magazine. After all, National Review was always a money-losing operation, surviving year-to-year on gifts and grants and subsidies from the Buckley family. NR‘s bean-counters eventually figured out that they could shore up finances with such devices as selling tickets to $5000 shipboard cabins on celebrity-speaker cruises. This option, however, was never a likely one for the Ms. audience.

Moreover, Ms.’s editorial mission was very confused. Editorial content had less and less to do with its original core target audience (middle-class white American women), as the magazine started to fill up its pages with all sorts of extraneous topics, about foreigners and politics and People of Color, usually slanted from a progressive-Left angle. No more wit, hipness, irony. This was perhaps inevitable. There was a limited amount of subject matter directly relevant to Women’s Libbery, or even that amorphous, shifting cluster of grievances called “feminism.”

I once worked, briefly, on a strange website called Women’s Media Center. The content had almost nothing to do with broadcasting media, or with normal American women. About every featured personage was a “person of color” or Jewish (excuse me; Jane Fonda did turn up occasionally). and the topics under discussion were things like, “How Can We Get More Latina Anchorwomen?” I look at this website now, and it is still that way. Any outlet that makes its mission and purpose the promotion of a “progressive” ideology will inevitably go down this path of militant, ineffectual, fury. Likewise, Ms. magazine still exists, but only notionally. It makes no money, carries no ads, and no one I know reads it.

One can only wonder what would have happened if Clay and Gloria had managed instead to launch an “Esquire for Women.” They had the potential advertisers, and they had the editorial and advertising connections (via New York). Not so lucky was a later magazine called New York Woman, launched in the 1980s, conceived as an “Esquire for women,” and actually published by the Esquire parent company. It  was witty and excellently designed. It was free of strident Leftism and Libbery. It was advertising-friendly. Alas, it couldn’t pull high-ticket ads because it never got much visibility or circulation, or a celebrity editor. Perhaps it didn’t have a definable audience. And finally, the failure of Ms. had probably ruined the market for this sort of thing. So New York Woman turned out to be just another showcase. It survived for a while because American Express Publishing took it under its wing, along with its Travel+Leisure and Food & Wine. But it never got the kick-start that Clay Felker’s publicity chops, and Gloria Steinem’s celebrity, were able to give Ms. in the early days. Most people reading this will never have heard of it. Nevertheless it lasted six years (1986-92), and it did better stuff in those six years than a whole half-century’s worth of Ms.

Unseen Adversaries, Inchoate Theories

As I said before, the culture war between the Cosmo camp and Ms. faction was seldom acknowledged because the two sides were virtually oblivious to each other’s existence. One was firmly rooted in a culture of working girls who used sexual wiles and gossip to gain power. It didn’t start with the 1950s. Early 1930s “Pre-Code” films are littered with instances of Jean Harlow, Clara Bow, Barbara Stanwyck sleeping their way to the executive suite. And not to be an executive, mind you! Sometime Vanity Fair editor Clare Boothe Luce did a slightly later, slightly more sanitized version of this immoral fable in The Women (1936 play and 1939 movie).

So that was the Cosmo camp. The other faction was rooted in journalism, academia, and abstruse theorizing about social dynamics and sex roles. One of their leading tenets was that sex roles are not innate but are learned. According to Socialization Theory, people are born as tabulae rasae but are socialized to be male or female. Presumably, if you’re an only child with neglectful parents who don’t socialize you, you get to end up as neither sex. This bizarre theory was propounded as serious feminist sociology and psychology fifty years ago. It is still advanced today, in many a cultural-marxist fever-swamp.

Hang out with progressive self-described feminists on social media, and you quickly see arguments telling you how Obnoxious Male Behavior is the result of Socialization. You know—how they send 5-year-old boys off to Socialization Camps. Sort of like Parris Island in ’42, I guess, where they have to climb the water tower and go, “This is my rifle, This is my gun…” and other sorts of hazing and bullying.

Other persistent myths and conspiracy theories from those days include the notion that Men oppress Women, and that this is because of a Patriarchy Culture that must be dismantled. Actually you didn’t hear so much about Patriarchy back the old days; that term seems to have been dusted off and shined up in recent years because of the rise of critical theory in academia.

Patriarchy theories couldn’t get much traction In the 1960s and 1970s because back then most people were still conversant with a social culture in which most people were expected to get married, and have babies, and it was generally the female parent who ruled the roast. (Yes, the word is roast, not roost.) If you alter that arrangement—take the mother out of the picture—you have the basis for a situation comedy, because having the father stand in for both parents is inherently humorous. Even in savage jungle tribes, it’s the old females, not the silverback males, who demand that the young females be brought before them to be de-clitorized and de-labialized, with their vulvas sewn up. Ain’t Matriarchy a gas?

The social and cultural divide between the two camps could never be breached. Many a teenage girl of this era affected a distaste for fine clothes and grooming, lest she be mistaken for a dim-bulb Cosmo reader. Back in the 1970s, did you see a lot of girls at Smith or Mount Holyoke going around in cargo pants or white painters’ overalls, with scraggly, unwashed hair in the 1970s? Well, if you didn’t see them, that’s how it was. The fear of Cosmo-world propelled some of them into disheveled lesbianism, or performative lesbianism, or at least priggish spinsterhood.

It’s the same mentality that today makes otherwise intelligent women believe that the television series of The Handmaid’s Tale describes an actual, possible future in which women will somehow be enslaved and oppressed by the likes of Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. (Actually the original Margaret Atwood novel was a dystopian satire, mocking 1980s Leftists’ fear of Evangelicals and the Moral Majority.) While that is a confused, delusional way of thinking, it is useful for mindless sloganeering, in a sense someone like George Orwell would have understood. Better to die single and childless, many a middle-class, well educated young woman must have mused in the last fifty-odd years,  than to focus on Hunting for a Man—as though I were a Five Towns JAP or a Cosmo floozy!

So which was worse, Ms. or Cosmo? I tend to think that Cosmopolitan did far more to ruin relations between the sexes than Ms. or mainstream “Second Wave” feminism ever could. It made the heterosexual dating game tawdry and distasteful. It made catching a spouse (and seeking a home and family) something anyone should sneer at, if her ambitions were anything above the level of stewardess or cocktail waitress. And thus we raised a whole generation of girls, women—under this pervasive yet unnatural mindset.

I recall, in the 80s, being asked by strangers if I were seeking a husband or looking forward to raising a family. I would go into an absolute cringe. What did they think I was? The sort of bimbo who read Cosmopolitan?

Céline’s Guerre

 

 

Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Edited by Pascal Fouché
Foreword by François Gibault
Guerre
Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2022

Louis-Ferdinand Destouches (Céline), 1915. From the collection of executor François Gibault.

 

I must have been lying there for much of the next night. The whole ear on the left was glued to the ground with blood, the mouth too. Between the two there was an immense noise. I fell asleep in this noise and then it rained a heavy rain.

I’m not quite sure how that works, your ear and mouth both glued to the ground with dried blood. Maybe there’s a huge clot of blood? Anyway, this is how Louis-Ferdinand Céline, alias Destouches, begins his small novel Guerre, partly based on his experiences being wounded and hospitalized, 1914-15, during the Great War.

It was written in 1933-34 but published only last year. We can date the manuscript confidently because he wrote the Los Angeles address of his American girlfriend, Elizabeth Craig, on the back of one of the ms. pages (she’d recently moved back there from Paris), along with a draft of a letter to her. In the summer of 1934 he would go to California to look her up, and also to sell his bestselling novel Voyage au bout de la nuit (Journey to the End of the Night) to the movie studios. Neither effort quite panned out. Elizabeth had taken up with someone else, and Céline’s novel was thought too racy for the new Motion Picture Production Code. [1]

Guerre was one of three unpublished manuscripts that Céline left behind in a cupboard when he fled Paris in mid-1944, with his wife Lucette and their cat Bébert. What happened to the works afterwards is speculative and murky, but it appears they were lifted by a professional looter in 1944. They ended up in the hands of a Left-wing Liberation journalist who pretty much sat on them for many years, not wishing Céline’s widow to benefit from their publication. Céline, after all, had been a renowned collabo, propagandiste, anti-Semite, etc., etc.

I regret to say that an English translation of Guerre is not yet available, but given this work’s brevity and uncomplicated prose, an English version should be available before long.

The French edition of Guerre and its sequel, Londres, were both published last year by Gallimard. The third manuscript, a medieval saga called La Volonté du roi Krogold, remains unpublished at this time, but portions of it appear in Céline’s Mort à crédit (Death on the Installment Plan) and also in Guerre, as dreams or imaginings when the narrator is hospitalized. Céline therefore had special affection for this Krogold work, as one would for a gifted but autistic child. His publisher, Denoël, refused the book around 1933, despite the spectacular success of Céline’s first novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit. [2]

Getting back to the opening of Guerre, the narrator is describing in detail his painful consciousness as he lies there on the battle ground, numb and partly deranged. With his bloody mouth and bloody ear (and broken arm, we find), he sleeps, wakes up in the rain and looks at the remains of another soldier.

Over to the side there was Kersuzon, a heavy corpse all stretched out under the water. I waved an arm towards his body, and touched. The other arm I couldn’t feel. I didn’t know where the other arm was. Kersuzon had gone up in the air very high, whirled in space and then came down to shoot me in the shoulder, right through the raw flesh.

The wounds are partly autobiographical, though the author was never wounded in the head. So says Céline’s literary executor, François Gibault, in the book’s foreword. From a self-diagnostic report Céline supplied to his jailers during his time in Denmark, after the Second World War:

Permanent headache (or almost) (cephalgia) against which any medication is almost useless. I take eight pills of gardenal a day – plus two pills of aspirin… I have my head massaged every day, these massages are very painful to me. I suffer from cardiovascular and cephalic spasms which make all physical efforts impossible – (and defecation). Ear: Completely deaf left ear with uninterrupted intense ringing and whistling. This state has been mine since 1914 when I was first injured when I was thrown by a shell bursting against a tree.

‘I caught the war in my head,’ the narrator says shortly afterwards. ‘It is shut up inside my head.’ This is a running theme in Guerre. Headaches, painful tinnitus. So is that perennial Céline leitmotif, disgust.

Deaths here and there. The guy with bagpipes, he had burst himself like a grenade, you might say, from the neck to the middle of the pants. In his very belly were already two cushy rats which covered his rucksack with stale crusts. It all smelled of rotten meat…

Ferdinand—for such is his name, same as Ferdinand Bardamu in Voyage—now gets up and forages around, finds a couple bottles of burgundy and some canned monkey meat [slang: bully beef] that exploded from the heat but is still edible. He runs into some British soldiers who take him to hospital. And that’s where we spend most of the book. We’re somewhere near Ypres, where Céline himself spent some time in hospital after being wounded in 1914.

Ferdinand’s parents journey up to see him, he thinks them sniveling, pathetic bores. He makes friends with another wounded soldier, a bed-neighbor named Bébert, after whom the author will eventually name his cat. Or maybe it’s the other way around; one of the loose ends in the draft manuscript is that the same character is often called Cascade. Cascade/Bébert has a pretty young wife, Angèle, who is a prostitute. Both come to unfortunate ends. At one point Angèle asks Ferdinand to work a scam with her, playing an angry cuckolded husband who barges in while Angèle is servicing her British john—then Ferdinand angrily leaves while the “terrified” harlot weeps and shakes the soldier down for even more money. [3]

Another charming lowlife character is the nurse, Mlle. L’Espinasse, who pleasures the wounded and dying men, and perhaps herself, with hand jobs and maybe more. There’s some intimacy with a corpse, the narrator tells us. Eventually Ferdinand blackmails her with with these stories, enabling him to be transferred to a hospital in London. (That much is semi-autobiographical; Céline did go to London in 1915 after his hospital stay in Belgium, but he was fully recovered and put to work at the French Consulate.)

As is common with Céline, the narrative slips in and out of fantasies and hyperbolic riffs. Did nurse L’Espinasse actually have coitus with a corpse? Or is Céline just having us on, parodying the soldier-nurse romance in A Farewell to Arms? I find the latter thought irresistible. For four or five pages we have a reverie about King Krogold and crusading quests. Two British officers drive up and their names are a delight. “Major B K K Olisticle of Ireland and Lieutenant Percy O’Hairie, really a young woman of distinction and svelteness.” So that’s how British/Irish names look to the French? I see, very comical. What’s even funnier is trying to sort out what the author means by Lt. O’Hairie being an attractive young woman. Would a British army major have a female adjutant in 1915? I do not believe so. So perhaps Céline means Lt. O’Hairie looks like a young lady…or perhaps is one…inadequately disguised. This is Céline’s world, we have to make the best of it.

Alice Kaplan, writing last year in The New York Review of Books, blithely judged Guerre to be a 150-page outtake of Voyage au bout de la nuit.  Actually it’s about 130 pages in my standard-size large-type Kindle edition. Thus a very short novel indeed; though there are lots of forewords and appendices and images of heavily reworked holograph pages, in ink and pencil. While it looks as though the manuscript was last reworked in early 1934, it could be a third-generation rewrite of something antedating Voyage. An outtake? Probably not.

Kaplan sniffily dismissed the little book as sloppy writing and acted appalled that a book by such a banal, evil man was getting so much attention.

With 150,000 copies in bookstores since its publication on May 5, Guerre may be the first Céline book read by a generation that lacks the background for understanding what’s at stake. It is serious.

Groan. Yes, we know: those who do not remember the past are condemned to write lies about it, in the NYRB and elsewhere. But of course that’s Alice’s job, slamming Robert Brasillach and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and French Rightists in general. And it’s been a steady living.

 

Notes

[1] The story of Céline, Hollywood, and Elizabeth Craig was covered here in 2018.

[2] From a French-language website in 2012, some years before the missing manuscripts turned up: “If we want to look closely at the theme of Krogold, we must rely on the fragments we find in Mort à crédit. Although Céline speaks several times of a whole lost manuscript, an ‘epic novel’, a ‘Celtic legend’, entitled La Volonté du roi Krogold, we have found no trace of it. Fortunately, the legend, as it appears in Mort à crédit, is enough to reveal very interesting aspects of Céline’s fundamental vision and therefore provides us with a precious key to understanding his work.”

[3] “Fake victimhood: a fine allegory of Céline’s own modus vivendi,” says the disapproving Alice Kaplan in her New York Review of Books review.

4] Kaplan is sort of atypical. Jewish authors and critics are not all condemnatory of Céline. Elsewhere in that NYRB review she notes that Morris Dickstein commented that Death on the Installment Plan, “with only minimal adjustment, could sit on the shelf of Jewish American classics.” Philip Roth was also a fan. In fact, Dickstein has claimed Roth wrote Portnoy’s Complaint under the influence of a Ralph Manheim translation of Death on the Installment Plan, from which he drew not just the theme of masturbation but “the heightened farcical tone of the monologue, the sense of pain at the heart of laughter, which had little precedent in Roth’s work.” The quotations come from “Sea Change: Céline in America,” in Dickstein’s A Mirror in the Roadway: Literature and the Real World (Princeton University Press), 2005. Elsewhere in the minyan, we have Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker, who sees Roth channeling Céline in Sabbath’s Theater. Oy vey.

The Eternal Gallimaufry of the Jean McConville Affair

Some years ago I was having dinner with John Derbyshire and some others when John suddenly erupted, apropos of nothing, about the 1972 Jean McConville killing in Belfast. He did the usual denunciation of the killers, who remain unknown (though there have been many possible candidates).

Why was he on about the McConville case at this time? I guess it was in the news again. It had been in the news recurrently for the past few years, sometimes indirectly. In 2011 the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now calling itself the PSNI), along with the UK government, successfully subpoenaed some old audio tapes from my father-in-law’s library at Boston College. This subpoena was controversial for two reasons. One is that Boston College had given the interviewees a solemn oath that the tapes would not be made available to any intelligence or law-enforcement agency, whether from the UK or the USA or anywhere else, while any of the interviewees were still living. The subpoena was essentially a demand that Boston College break that promise. The other, simpler bit of controversy was that the US Department of Justice was enabling a foreign agency to lean on a private American institution.

The correct response to the subpoena by the Burns Library and Boston College, in my opinion and in that of my brother-in-law (who endowed and named the goddamned library) would have been to make digital backup copies of these interview tapes, then run the tapes through magnets till they were well and thoroughly scrambled. That would enable BC to comply with the letter of the subpoena while still keeping their word to the interviewees (who by this point were mostly dead and couldn’t complain). Everyone knows cassette tapes go bad eventually. At least I assume they were cassette tapes. Open-reel? Same deal.

I would also have advised President Nixon to have done much the same with the White House Tapes, and burned the originals in a mad bonfire on the White House lawn. (South Front; near Rose Garden.) I am not the first to think of this, but at this point it is neither here nor there.

Going back to the McConville case, it was in the news once again in 2014  because Gerry Adams had just been arrested by the PSNI for his possible role in the execution of Jean McConville. Rumors abounded that it was Adams who ultimately gave the order. Adams denied the accusation, there was no proof, and he was quickly released. This may have occasioned the Derb’s outburst at that dinner.

There’s never been any reliable evidence or testimony in the McConville case, yet I’m still seeing UVF-wannabes and others rant about it on Twitter, insisting that one Brendan Hughes or Dolours Price did the deed, and Gerry Adams gave the order.

The most preposterous reasons are offered for McConville’s death. One is that she was a Protestant, so that’s why the Provos killed her. Well, she wasn’t a Protestant, though she seems to have been, nominally, as a child. Another explanation is that she once helped a wounded British solder that came to her door, and this generated hostility among her neighbors. She may well have done such a thing (this is a claim made by her children) but that was year or more before her abduction and execution. Anyway her late husband, a Catholic, had been likewise a British soldier.

What nobody seriously challenges is that Jean McConville was at least suspected of giving aid and comfort to the British intelligence services—be they Special Branch, the RUC, MI-5, or intelligence operatives in the army. Her military handlers allegedly supplied her with a piece of radio gear, either a large Stornophone, or the newer, smaller Pye radio. This was a claim of Brendan Hughes, one of her abductors. The RUC/PSNI ombudsman and Special Branch roundly denied it. But then, it’s an easy claim to deny long after the fact. No proof is necessary or even possible. Ed Moloney and James Kinchin-White seem quite certain Jean McConville did have a police/army radio. Whether or not she used it much is another question.

A common narrative is that about a month before her final abduction and death, Jean went off to a bingo game, but was taken away for what seems to have been a drugged interrogation. She was discovered hours later, wandering the streets, barefoot and disoriented. Presumably she had been interrogated and warned by the Provos. Her final abduction suggests the Provos thought the warning didn’t take.

Those who whinge about Jean McConville’s death being “murder,” a murder of an innocent mother of ten children, simply deny all evidence and testimony to the contrary. Surely they could still mourn her death while nevertheless admitting the likelihood that she was a low-level spy, an intelligence asset for the army or RUC. This points to profound dishonesty on their part. Likewise, any culpability on the part of her handlers is overlooked or dismissed. She was living in a public-housing complex that held many IRA sympathizers and operatives. Surely, it was an unsafe place for her to be. Her handlers could and should have moved her and her family to some neutral ground, an estate where the neighbors were less partisan. Her handlers obviously didn’t care; they were ready to sacrifice her. Meanwhile using her and her children as human shields whom the Provos wouldn’t dare hurt.

And if the Provos did hurt them, well, enhh—no great loss, one supposes. Fine and dandy people, those handlers.

 

Scott Adams wants out. So do we. Why can’t we go?

Read the whole thing.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/scott-adams-undoing-a-timeline-of-the-dilbert-cartoonist-s-fall-from-grace/ar-AA186GJQ

Scott Adams Wants Out. So Do We.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/scott-adams-and-the-right-wing-insistence-on-white-victimhood/ar-AA1802Ug

Philip Bump. What a dumb cluck.

Reverse Podsnappery, per The Economist

While looking for this blog, I found this:

https://www.economist.com/britain/2018/06/21/podsnappery-and-its-reverse

Damage Control at American Girl

https://vdare.com/articles/american-girl-does-damage-control-but-they-ll-be-back

Fit But Unequal? A Very Strange Washington Post Graphic from 2014

Dated February 26, 2014, this large and complicated graphic has been a puzzlement to people for over eight years. Instead of comparing two creatures of similar race/species, two radically different individuals are portrayed. Mandingo Africans vs Greeks?

URL: https://postgraphics.tumblr.com/post/77911827440/fit-but-unequal-take-two-highly-trained

Art director: Bonnie Berkowitz. Illustrator: Alberto Cuadra. I contacted Bonnie about five years ago with questions about its composition. She had pretty much forgotten about it.

Ukrainians Murder Children in Donetsk

Never mind what Donetsk is. Read this story:

Medics aid large child.

Children among civilians killed in Ukrainian strike


Local media outlets, citing eyewitnesses, report that an artillery shell hit a bus stop in Donetsk

At least 13 civilians have lost their lives in a Ukrainian artillery strike on the city of Donetsk, local authorities have said.

Donetsk city administration chief Alexey Kulemzin took to Telegram on Monday, writing: “according to preliminary information, 13 civilians are dead as a result of a punitive strike on Baku Commissars square.

The official added that the exact number of those injured in the attack is not yet known.

Local media, citing eyewitnesses, has said an artillery shell hit a bus stop.

Read the whole thing.

The Very Last Word (We Hope) on Emmett Till

The Very Last Word (We Hope) on Emmett Till—D R A F T

Today we bring you more breaking news on the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.  And as always, the story is: there is no new news about Emmett Till.

It’s now been 67 years since the the beefy 14-year-old Chicago negro boy (as we used to say) was beaten and slain in Mississippi, a few days after grabbing and crudely propositioning a young white woman in a country store. Year after year we are promised new revelations and fresh insights about the case, but they never materialize. But this doesn’t stop the never-ending Emmett Till news cycle. Just recently (August 9, 2022) the New York Times spent a thousand words advising us there would be no new indictment or reinvestigation of the 1955 killing. (Mississippi Grand Jury Declines to Indict Woman in Emmett Till Murder Case.) Thank you for that update, New York Times!

A few weeks earlier, the Times’s ever-aggrieved African-American Charles Blow wasted a column telling us that 88-year old Carolyn Bryant Donham, the lady Till molested in 1955, is still a bad sort, an unpunished criminal, a key player in the Till murder (Shed No Tears for Carolyn Bryant Donham). Blow’s argument goes something like: if Carolyn hadn’t been standing there at the counter of her little grocery store in Money, Mississippi on August 24, 1955, then Emmett “Bobo” Till wouldn’t have been able to assault and insult her, so then Carolyn’s husband and brother-in-law wouldn’t have beaten and killed him and thrown him in the Tallahatchie River with a cotton-gin fan tied to his neck. In fact, Emmett might even be alive today!

The silliest news angle of recent months must be the one about the 1955 arrest warrant. It seems somebody found the original hand-written warrant to bring Carolyn in for questioning. Black news sites treated this as a major find, a piece of definitive proof that Carolyn was complicit in the murder; a watertight case for arresting and prosecuting the old lady today. Trouble is, Carolyn was already brought into court and questioned, way back in September 1955. Even if the warrant were still valid, it was served and answered a long time ago.

Media and legal harassment of Carolyn Bryant Donham has been going on for many years. Back in 2007, there was another grand jury empaneled in Mississippi, considering an indictment of her for manslaughter in the Till case. She was now 73. Needless to add, there was no new evidence and no indictment.

But the Till file newsfeed keeps rolling on, fiercer than ever. Steve Sailer and others on Twitter have a kind of running comedy routine about it. Commenting on a Variety review of a new Emmett Till movie, Steve tweeted, “You know, I was just thinking to myself, ‘It’s been at least 24 and maybe even 36 hours since I saw anything in the media about Emmett Till.’” Whereupon someone responded, “They will still be reporting new details on Emmett Till long after the heat death of the universe.”

The latest gusher of Emmett Till news seems to have begun with a dubious claim by a writer named Timothy Tyson. Way back in 2017, he published a book called The Blood of Emmett Till (Simon & Schuster). Here Tyson says he interviewed Carolyn in 2008, and that she recanted her trial testimony from 1955. Or, as some news stories put, “She admitted she lied.” For a while it was the stuff of screaming headlines and a slick treatment in Vanity Fair.

Specifically Carolyn denied the part in her testimony  where she said Emmett Till grabbed her by the waist and said “I f—— white women before.” “That part’s not true,” Carolyn told Tyson, as they sat in her kitchen and ate her homemade pound cake.

At least that’s the story Tyson tells. He even opens his book with that scene. They’re in the kitchen, there’s the coffee and pound cake, and Carolyn is talking about how Emmett Till leered at her and started to touch her, and then suddenly she comes out with, “That part’s not true.” From here, Tyson then proceeds to build a whole thesis around this idea that Carolyn falsified her testimony in 1955. And when we uncover this lie, he tells us, we lay bare the whole pathology of race relations in the 1950s South.

But Tyson himself has credibility problems. The “retraction” quote lacks proof, and the interviewee herself denies saying it. It seems Tyson brought a tape recorder along to his interviews, yet somehow failed to record the “not true” line. This is why a journalist friend of Tyson’s in Mississippi, someone who helped him with the book’s research, has openly accused Tyson of outright fabrication.

Furthermore, Carolyn Bryant Donham and her daughter put together a 100-page memoir about her childhood, the Emmett Till encounter, and all the fallout since. The key details in there are pretty much what Carolyn said in her court testimony in September 1955. As though out of spite, last month Tyson broke a confidentiality agreement with Carolyn and released her memoir to the Associated Press, apparently believing that its detailed recollections would help a grand jury indict her. But as noted in that New York Times article up top, the grand jury didn’t indict.  (A PDF of the memoir is online here).

The biggest irony in all this is that Carolyn’s 1955 testimony was actually irrelevant to the outcome of the Emmett Till case. The jury never heard it. The judge sent them out of the courtroom when Carolyn came to the stand. When the jury voted to acquit Carolyn’s husband and brother-in-law, their verdict was based on evidence, not implied motive or whether or not Emmett Till used the F word. And what evidence there was, was thin and circumstantial.

J.W. Milam, wife Juanita, Carolyn and Roy Bryant after the trial, September 1955.

Speculations and falsehoods about the Emmett Till case have plagued its press coverage since the beginning. Take for example the legend of the “wolf whistle.” In nearly every brief description of the case, one reads that Emmett Till was a little black 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered in Mississippi because he “wolf-whistled”—or “allegedly whistled”—at a white woman. Here is LIFE magazine’s first mention of the case in their October 3, 1955 issue:

In a sweltering small-town courtroom in the cotton-rich delta land, prosecutors for the state of Mississippi sought earnestly to convict two white men for the brutal killing of a Negro boy. (The boy, it was said, had whistled at the wife of one of the men.)

Unlike the jury, the press was present when Carolyn gave her testimony, so they knew perfectly well that the offense was not a whistle, but a physical approach with sexual overtones. Nevertheless it’s the “wolf whistle” that comes down to us in popular history. Sometimes the whistle is explained away as a bizarre speech impediment. After the trial, Till’s mother Mamie would sometimes tell people that little Bobo was maybe trying to say “bubble gum,” but was having trouble getting the words out. Meanwhile, the verbal and physical interaction in the grocery store, the overt suggestion of rape, and the fact that the husky Emmett looked like an adult and loomed over the bird-like Carolyn—these key points all get deleted from the popular telling.

The intended moral of the popular narrative is that the Deep South of the 1950s was a violent, backwards place, a region where a little black boy can be lynched for whistling at a white woman. It’s for that reason that when the recent Federal anti-lynching bill was finally passed in Congress (2021-2022), it came in under the title of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Federal anti-lynching bills had been introduced in Congress for a hundred years, but they never got anywhere because they were seen as superfluous—lynching after all was already illegal in every state—as well as an unnecessary intrusion into state sovereignty. Adding the Emmett Till name did the trick, though. It gave legislators an easy chance to virtue-signal, like voting to declare a National Gold Star Mother Day.

An inconvenient fact that nearly got papered over in 1955 was the fate of Louis Till, Emmett’s father. In a mawkish editorial called “In Memoriam, Emmett Till” (October 10, 1955), LIFE suggested that Louis was a war hero:

[Emmett Till] had only his life to lose, and many others have done that, including his soldier-father who was killed in France fighting for the American proposition that all men are equal.

In reality Louis Till was hanged in Italy for raping two women and murdering a third. Prior to the Army, he’d been a violent wife-beater. A judge gave him the choice of joining the Army or going to jail. After he was executed, the War Department informed Mamie Till, but Mamie chose to keep those details to herself during the media frenzy surrounding the 1955 murder trial. But they didn’t stay secret for long. By coincidence, Alabama journalist/novelist/television personality William Bradford Huie had written a book about the execution of Army deserter Private Eddie Slovik the previous year, and noticed a Louis Till grave, near Slovik’s in a special section of the Oise-Aisne American military cemetery in France. Recalling this, Huie wondered: Louis Till—could that be Emmet‘s father? Huie called up the Army’s Judge Advocate General. The JAG, after a bit of checking, told him yes indeed. Louis Till had been executed for rape and murder. (Huie discussed the matter at length in a 1979 interview.)

It wasn’t long before this spicy tidbit found its way to the editors of the Jackson (MS) Daily News, as well as Mississippi Senators James O. Eastland and John Stennis. So Eastland himself called up the JAG for confirmation, and passed the info to reporters. Soon the Jackson Daily News had a searing headline: “TILL’S DAD RAPED 2 WOMEN, MURDERED A THIRD IN ITALY.”

This revelation was more than just a curious bit of trivia. It was now mid-October 1955, and while Carolyn’s husband and brother-in-law, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, had been acquitted of murder, they were still in custody. They faced likely prosecution for kidnapping, which since the Lindbergh case had been a Federal crime. But the news about Louis Till put the whole story in a different light. A grand jury was empaneled to consider a kidnap charge, but they quickly came to a decision: no indictment. Case closed.

Ironically William Bradford Huie is himself responsible for some of the most colorful details—and popular misconceptions—of the Till case. He and LOOK magazine paid Bryant and Milam over $3000 for exclusive interviews, resulting in a famously lurid January 1956 article (“Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi“). Huie also interviewed some of Till’s cousins who were with him at the Bryant’s grocery store on that fateful day back in August 1955, and transcribed their first-hand observations:

Bobo bragged about his white girl. He showed the boys a picture of a white girl in his wallet; and to their jeers of disbelief, he boasted of success with her.

“You talkin’ mighty big, Bo,” one youth said. “There’s a pretty little white woman in the store. Since you know how to handle white girls, let’s see you go in and get a date with her?”

“You ain’t chicken, are yuh, Bo?” another youth taunted him.

Bobo had to fire or fall back. He entered the store, alone, stopped at the candy case. Carolyn was behind the counter; Bobo in front. He asked for two cents’ worth of bubble gum. She handed it to him. He squeezed her hand and said: “How about a date, baby?” … At the break between counters, Bobo jumped in front of her, perhaps caught her at the waist, and said: “You needn’t be afraid o’ me, Baby. I been with white girls before.”

At this point, a cousin ran in, grabbed Bobo and began pulling him out of the store.

Till’s mother later came up with an amusing explanation for that “white girl” photo. She claimed it came with the wallet when they bought it…and that girl “he boasted of success with” was actually Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr.

Huie’s talent for hard-boiled dramatic writing comes to the fore again when J. W. Milam tells about pistol-whipping Till in a tool shed a few nights later. Bobo was standing his ground. He said, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m as good as you are. My grandmother was a white woman.”

Milam recalls his angry thoughts at that point:

“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers—in their place—I know how to work ’em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain’t gonna vote where I live. If they did, they’d control the government.

“They ain’t gonna go to school with my kids. And when one gets close to mentioning flirting with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’. I’m likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights.

“I stood there in that shed and listened to that boy throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. ‘Chicago boy,’ I said, ‘I’m tired of ’em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. I’m going to make an example of you—just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.'”

This monologue is over-the-top stuff, William Bradford Huie making sure that LOOK magazine and its readers are getting their money’s worth. Huie had a good reason to overdramatize. He couldn’t tell the full story, had to be economical with the truth. He had to say Milam and Bryant killed Emmett “Bobo” Till all by themselves. Milam and Bryant were safe from further prosecution for the killing—the “double jeopardy” rule—but any accomplices they had were not. So Huie told a tale in which these two, and only these two, pistol-whipped Bobo in a shed, then drove to the riverbank, shot Bobo through the head, tied his body to a cotton-gin fan, and threw the whole works into the Tallahatchie River.

And they did have accomplices, probably at least four other individuals: two white men and two black men. In all likelihood these others did most of the beating, with one of the white men rumored to have fired the fatal .45 bullet through Till’s skull. The two blacks were Milam employees, identified as Henry Lee Loggins and Levi “Too Tight” Collins. Witnesses claim they saw these two holding Bobo down in the back of a pickup truck when he was being driven away. During the murder trial in September 1955, Collins and Loggins were sought as witnesses, but were nowhere to be found. According to the most thorough book on the case, Devery S. Anderson’s Emmet Till: The Murder that Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement (University Press of Mississippi, 2015), Sheriff Clarence Strider of Tallahatchie County took Loggins and Collins over to the next county and had them locked up under fake names. Reporters and prosecutors hunted for the two during the trial in September 1955, but couldn’t find them, and after the trial Loggins and Collins both denied any connection to the Till killing.

Like the possible white accomplices, Collins and Loggins are now long dead, Collins in 1962 and Loggins in 2009. Loggins did however appear in a film documentary and a 60 Minutes segment before he died (again denying any participation in the killing). Loggins was also a target of the same 2007 grand jury probe that was considering an indictment of Carolyn Bryant Donham for manslaughter. Loggins’ and Collins’ assistance in the Till murder remains an eternal blank space in the story. Their disappearance during the murder case no doubt simplified the trial immensely, as well as maybe saving their lives. But like Huie’s fictional touches, their silence leaves us with an oversimplified, often dubious narrative that’s inevitably at several removes from the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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