Cannibalization of Charlie Sheen
by Anthony Gregory: American
History’s Forbidden Truths
wisdom tells us that the rich and famous have it easy, that they
get away with murder, that they can buy and charm their way out
of all the social traps the rest of us face. But in fact, people
love to see a fall from grace, and they love to kick the fallen
when they’re down. When the mass media target a celebrity for character
destruction, the ostracism and witch-hunts are typically more relentless
than when a commoner is in the crosshairs. There is no privacy.
There is no escape. The entire media class, from Hollywood to Manhattan,
lines up to cannibalize one of their own with gratuitous relish.
Sheen has been the biggest national story, while the Arab world
is aflame with revolution and the U.S. marches toward ever more
war and economic disaster, is not the most remarkable thing. What
is most striking is how easily so many line up behind a consensus
that someone ought to be the butt of all jokes and the focus of
everyone’s mockery and outrage. Why is the public so obsessed? Does
the public’s obsession fuel the media’s, or is it the other way
main mystery is why so many entertainers have
jumped on the bandwagon to belittle the actor. Why are so many
glitterati pointing their fingers and laughing, judging, and psychoanalyzing
Sheen from afar? And even if it was kind of funny the first time
to compare his eccentric quips to the ranting of the dictator Qadafi,
isn’t it a bit unseemly for so many to be piling on with such insults?
A look at the
supposed reasons why Sheen has deserved such ridicule and voyeuristic
attention can help dispel a number of myths about the media, the
press and the dominant national culture. Specifically, we now see
the "socially liberal" media is not quite how it’s normally
If we lived
in a reasonable society, the most serious accusation would be that
Sheen has assaulted women, which he denies. But this has not been
the focus of the attacks on Sheen. It should probably be the only
charge that comes close to rising to the level of news. But according
to today’s zeitgeist, his other alleged sins are far more severe.
endless fascination with Sheen’s drug use. The media are in many
ways pro-drug. Rock music and most popular music, going back to
jazz, has been shameless in the glorification of narcotics, stimulants
and hallucinogens. Comedies on networks and cable give a wink to
casual drug use, or even outright encourage it. We’ve had three
presidents in a row who admitted to having used marijuana, and almost
no one in even the "serious" press condemns this outright.
alleged abuse of drugs is now everybody’s business. Not only do
the new-born Puritans in his profession point to these supposedly
unique personal failings; TV quacks diagnose his "addiction"
from a distance, just so the whole nation can prove their allegiance
to the therapeutic state by shaking their heads at the shame of
his interview with Piers Morgan, Sheen addresses the drug use.
He questions the very concept, as commonly understood, of "addiction."
His response is almost Szaszian:
As long as
I subscribe to the beliefs of others that build these models that
don't really leave any room for individuality or creativity or
anything that like, you know, they say you've got to surrender
and you've got to get rid of your resentments, sit in a room and
like be all lame, you know.
He says he
never missed "a money day" of work – meaning, he never
was a drain on his show’s production budget. He claims he always
kept that part of his life away from his kids. He points out that
cigarettes were perhaps his most regrettable habit. And in what
might be one of his greatest offenses, he expresses relief not to
be "held hostage by AA anymore." His dissent from the
Alcoholics Anonymous model of addiction is a verboten blow against
the psychiatric establishment for which there is no excuse.
not his defense is sound, he has given one, and yet most everyone
has rushed to judgment on this matter as though they know a true
addict when they see one – on television. The drinkers in our
community, the pill-poppers in our neighborhoods, the druggies throughout
the rest of the liberal media – we are all to believe that these
people’s problems pale in comparison to poor Charlie’s.
is even more shameless on the question of Sheen’s sex life. Everyone
in the media believes in sexual tolerance, surely. Marriage need
not be between a man and a woman. It can be between two men, or
two women. Yet the fact that Sheen wants to "marry" two
consenting women – a practice common in many societies for millennia
– means there must be something wrong with him, something that makes
him especially freakish. People should be allowed to do what they
want in their own homes – that is unless we are talking about a
weirdo, a megalomaniac, a man who has fallen out of favor with the
that he was hired for an off-color role in large part because of
his off-color lifestyle, and he has suffered a bait and switch.
Indeed, the whole profession is off-color, and everyone knows it.
Whether Charlie’s personal life should be hailed or condemned, there
is something awfully peculiar in seeing him attacked for his deviancy
by the same liberal establishment that has for decades essentially
argued that deviancy doesn’t exist.
Sheen’s superlative success as an entertainer has something to do
with the smears and ridicule. The rich and famous always love to
cannibalize those even richer and more famous. Sheen was the most
financially successful of TV actors, so the envy we usually see
dripping off the silver screen – from the Oscars to the press corps
– most likely played a role here. On the other hand, some have attacked
him over his personal finances and contractual issues, yet it is
hard to imagine that within his industry he is very unusual in any
To add to the
perfect storm, the TV star has violated one of the greatest doctrines
of political incorrectness. Although Sheen
himself is Jewish, he has committed the grave sin of involuntary
piece in the Telegraph, drawing a bizarre link between
Sheen, the Pope and Julian Assange, describes the key allegation
as "Charlie Sheen’s renaming of the producer of his former
sitcom Chuck Lorre as ‘Chaim Levine’, carrying with it as it does
two suggestions: one, that Jews are the controlling forces behind
the US media, and two, that they have disguised this fact about
themselves and need to be outed."
himself has referred to his own Hebrew name in a "vanity
card," aired in front of millions at the end of one of his
How did Chaim
become Chuck? How did Levine become Lorre? The only answer I come
up with is this: When I was a little boy in Hebrew school the
rabbis regularly told us that we were the chosen people. That
we were God's favorites. Which is all well and good except that
I went home, observed my family and, despite my tender age, thought
to myself, "bull$#*!."
that Lorre used to call him Carlos Estevez. If true, both men called
each other the names they were born with. Without knowing whether
Sheen is telling the truth about this, we can still get some perspective
here. Would it be scandalously wrong to call Sheen "Carlos
Estevez"? Does it carry with it suggestions about Spaniards
being embarrassed of their origins? Even if so, would we expect
this kind of mild anti-Spanish slur to rise to the level of a small
international controversy? Would people presume not only to pass
judgment on a man’s state of mind, but to identify a general societal
trend toward bigotry, all because someone called someone else by
his given name? That is what has happened here.
is probably the mass media’s most tangled web of double standards.
Making fun of some groups is always more OK than other groups. Hollywood
has always jumped on board with ugly nationalist racism when directed
against an enemy of war; it has always been willing to make fun
of helpless and harmless religious minorities, unprotected ethnic
and immigrant groups and people with some disabilities and diseases
(but not others); and the old, the ugly and the fat are generally
fair game. Hollywood will even make fun of blacks, Jews, gays and
other official victim groups, but only in certain contexts, and
the rules always shift and are somewhat unpredictable. And if the
wrong entertainer slips up in an interview or even off camera, there
will be hell to pay, even if what was said was objectively no more
demonstrably hateful or mean-spirited than prime time TV during
much as the liberal media love to claim openness toward questioning
authority, some political positions are just considered too beyond
the pale to tolerate. Sheen has wandered too far into embracing
"conspiracy theories" and so the guy is not defensible.
His views are not within the respectable range of opinion, like
the belief that it’s fine for the U.S. government to invade and
occupy foreign countries, detain suspects without trial, and run
up trillions of dollars of debt like it was nothing.
Some will protest
that Sheen does not deserve a rigorous defense. He faces no real
persecution – except, arguably, the civil affair concerning child
custody. And, perhaps, he has acted immorally. And, anyway, he has
his millions and his women and claims to be happy.
But the confluence
of factors in the media’s sacrifice of Charlie Sheen tells us more
about the media than about the man. There is something rotten in
our mass culture. It is the stench of an establishment that pushes
a flavor of social progressivism upon the country while reserving
the right to burn social heretics at the stake on even the most
hypocritical of pretenses.
And it is against
this establishment’s witchhunt and all its nefarious social consequences
that a defense must be waged. Most certainly, it can be argued that
Sheen has not acted virtuously. But the attacks on him have clearly
been more distasteful, more pathetic, more indicative of a society
in decline, than his own behavior. For the crimes of drug use, sexual
deviance, and political incorrectness, a great talent has been thrown
under the bus by a drug addled, sexually deviant, socially insensitive,
politically clueless mass media and liberal culture. They have eaten
one of their own. It has happened many times before, to Robert Downey,
Jr., Britney Spears, Tiger Woods, and now Christina Aguilera. And
it will happen again. And if even the most handsomely paid actor
on TV is helpless against the official pop culture’s hypocritical
lynch mob, what hope do any of us little people have should the
mob decide we too deserve to be lynched?
to my friend Eric Garris for his help on this piece.
Gregory [send him mail]
is a research analyst at the Independent
lives in Oakland, California. See his
webpage for more articles and personal information.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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