Letter to Thomas Fleming

By John "Birdman" Bryant


March 29, 1997

Thomas Fleming, Editor Chronicles 934 N Main St Rockford IL 61103

Dear Mr Fleming:

Since I wrote this between Good Friday and Easter, it was obviously inspried by God, or perhaps the Devil. You have my permission to publish it provided you do not make any substantial changes without my prior approval and provided you include the note at the end.

I have included a copy of my catalog for your amusement.

Chronicles of Wasted Chronicles

Chronicles is a magazine which is simply too dull for words. OK, OK, I read it, so it can't be that dull; and in fact since I have an international reputation (at least among my wife) for pickiness, that means that since I actually pay good money to read it, then any criticism I make has to have a hollow ring to it. But because of my graphic and hyperbolic (to say nothing of elliptic) tendencies in writing, any time I criticize something my criticism has a holler ring, which perhaps accounts for something (tho I'm not sure what at this point).

But like I said, Chronicles is a magazine too dull for words. Which is another way of saying that it has too many which say too little. Its editor, Thomas Fleming -- or perhaps Phlegming -- since he is responsible for so much gunk that catches in my throat and makes me want to cough up a bolus -- was once characterized by somebodyorother -- who to this very day remains just somebodyorother, while Mr Fleming remains Thomas Fleming, editor of Chronicles, and envy of people such as me who would like to be at the helm of an influential magazine, even if I would cut the crap and Do it Right -- well, as I was saying, Mr Fleming was once characterized by somebodyorother as a "failed poet", a description which is perfectly understandable since Mr Fleming has never once to my knowledge published a single good poem -- or, for that matter, a single readable poem -- in all his years as editor, even tho he is wont (as failed poets who are also unfailed editors have a tendency to do, I suppose) to publish all kinds of poems to fill in the white space in his magazine, or perhaps he goes so far as to lop off some of those dull words on the ends of his magazine's articles in order to make some white space so he can fill it in with more words which then can be lopped off to make more room for poetry, and perhaps this is what the description "failed poet" was referring to.

But in case it escaped your attention (it certainly escaped mine), my point was that these dull articles need some words lopped off them -- in fact, lopped off right up to their titles, and, what the hell, you may as well lop off the titles while you're at it and save the postage, except, of course for the fact that subscribers have to be made to feel that they are getting "something for their money", which means that all those words come in handy to give them the feeling of "something", even if it is really nothing, and is that something for nothing or nothing for something, or something else, or just nothing? Of course it is true that I read those words -- or at least some of them -- I already admitted that, and it is simply not fair to bring it up again, because I am busy criticizing Chronicles and Mr Fleming, and I don't like to be interrupted, and I'm going to slap your wrist if you bring it up again, do you HEAR me, young man?

Well, anyway, like I was saying, there is nothing much to the articles in Chronicles except for one, and please don't ask me which one, because I don't know. Or at least I don't know until I actually read it, which usually means that I have to read thru the whole damn magazine just to find that one article -- the one article which makes it worthwhile to read all the rest, which, as I have said, are absolutely not worthwhile, so I ask you, how is it possible to make articles worthwhile when they absolutely aren't, and what is the sound of one hand clapping, or one jaw flapping? But my point (again, I seem to have just missed it; do you know which train it left on?) is that Mr Fleming, who as I said seems to have no talent at all, seems to have a talent (is that a contradiction?) for finding just that one article which makes going thru the rest of his dull-as-dishwater rag worthwhile, which leads me to the conclusion that Mr Fleming has a gnome for an assistant (gnome de plume, perhaps?) who, in spite of Mr Fleming's poor job of selection and editing, seems to be able to prevail on the refractory Mr Fleming to carry this one good article. Which means that Mr Fleming's magazine is saved once again from the predation of his own incompetence (we should have knowm, Nescafe?).

Now after many years of analysis I have synthesized a thesis about what the problem is with Chronicles besides the fact that I am forced to go thru the painful process every month of reading the dull articles in order to find the One Good One (but not the Two Good Two, or Three Good Three, or whatever). The problem is that Mr Fleming has made Chronicles look like the New Yorker, which is supposedly sophisticated, but is actually sophistical. What I mean is that Chronicles appears to imitate the New Yorker by being full of these meaningless and absurd woodcuts (or drawings that look like woodcuts) which all have at least three characteristics in common: one, they are ugly; two, they are boring; three, they are stupid, and three point one two, they are irritating, which I label three point one two because it is a logical product of one, two and three, and how do you like my New Math? And because woodcuts are Old, and because most of the people who read Chronicles are conservative, or rather Conservative, and Conservatives are Old -- or at least they think Old -- perhaps because of all of this Mr Fleming thinks that the woodcuts he puts in his magazine will resonate perfectly with these Old people, who resonate only because the Conservative head is hollow (ring, ring?). This, of course, is not to say that it is any more hollow than the liberal head; rather it is only to say that the liberals are right about at least one thing, namely, that liberals and conservatives are equally stupid, altho their stupidities are about different things, and isn't diversity great?

But anyway, one of the major problems with Mr Fleming is that he is an egotist. He is an egotist because he always puts one of his own articles as the lead article of every issue, which is unlike other editors, who at least have the common sense and human decency to lead off with a good article which in Mr Fleming's case would be the One Good Article, since that's all he seems to have, but then perhaps he is saving it because he knows that if people find his One Good Article at the beginning, they won't read any further, because, somewhat like those old bumper stickers used to say, "I Found It". And worse than that, Mr Fleming always shows how conservative -- or Conservative -- he is by filling his articles with references to Greece and Rome and classical literature, which is -- by my standards at least -- Highly Boring. That, of course, is partly because when I was in school I never read any of that stuff, so I usually don't have the Least Idea of what he is talking about, so it makes me feel ignorant and inferior, and like I don't have a clue, man. Of course the reason I didn't read that sort of stuff is that I actually tried but found it Highly Boring, and when Mr Fleming regurgitates it in his articles, it remains Highly Boring, and the fact that it was filtered thru Mr Fleming's conservative -- or perhaps Conservative -- tunnel-vision perspective doesn't make it any Less Boring, but actually makes it Even More Boring.

But don't get me wrong. Western Civ was great -- at least when there was nothing better. And for years and years -- centuries, actually -- there really wasn't anything better. But now, of course, there's me, which brings me to what is probably the real bee in my bonnet (does that refer to a cross-dresser at a Be-In?) about Chronicles, to wit, that they never published any of the several articles which I submitted to them, and which I stopped submitting only after I finally figured out that, if you get right down to it, the chance of my getting published in Chronicles was about the same as, well, I really can't think of any cool comparison that would end the sentence with a bang, so I'll just settle for a whimper. Of course I'm a product of Western Civ, which means that my writing is actually a part of Western Civ, which means that I really ought not to throw too much mud on Western Civ since I would undoubtedly get a clod or two on my snoot. All I am saying is that what gets touted as Western Civ by Mr Fleming and his ilk is really not so good, and is in fact, and for the most part, Highly Boring. Which is undoubtedly why Mr Fleming is so given to filling his articles with it.

Now one of the reasons Western Civ -- or at least the form of Western Civ practiced by Chronicles -- is so boring is that conservatives -- or perhaps Conservatives -- like Mr Fleming have absolutely no sense of humor, except perhaps when making fun of liberals, who are really so pathetic that making fun of them is sort of like stepping on a whoopie cushion -- it's a cheap laugh, and any kid can do it, so why bother unless you can irritate your parents? The problem with conservatives -- or Conservatives -- is that they are always so damned Serious, and who the hell wants to be around people who are Serious, especially when they are also Highly Boring. OK, OK, I'll admit that there are some things in the world that it pays to be serious about -- even Serious about -- like when you are going to get laid next, and perhaps -- especially for conservatives -- or Conservatives -- whether you can actually Get It Up once you have gotten a Place To Put It.

I guess the real problem I am grappling with is that Chronicles and I are mismatched. That is, as a well-rounded libertarian peg I don't fit into their very square conservative hole, which is because I enjoy laughter and sex and have absolutely no interest in references to Greece and Rome and classical literature unless they are actually enlightening, which in Mr Fleming's hands they rarely are, but rather are used only to show that Mr Fleming is Educated, by which is meant Highly Boring. But even more, I am interested in being a Bigot, which is liberalese for being Politically Incorrect. Mr Fleming, of course, as a Good Conservative, is quite willing to pretend to be Politically Incorrect, but when it comes down to Actually Doing It, well, what can I say, he just seems a bit, shall we say, Soft. This is because when you are going to be a Full-Blooded Bigot like me, you have got to do a bit more than bash negroes, because negroes are such an easy target, tho my impression of Chronicles is that it is really not even that good at bashing negroes. No, if you are going to be Politically Incorrect in the full (or perhaps fulsome) sense of the term then you have got to do the Big Thing which hardly anyone except a Full-Blooded Bigot will do, which is to bash Jews. Now Jew-bashing, of course, is a very old sport -- Martin Luther used to do it, even, and he's been dead for a couple of years, now. But since the defeat of Hitler and the arrival of Political Correctness, Jew-bashing has gone very much out of style, so that means that if you want to be a Full-Blooded Bigot you have simply got to bash Jews once in a while. But you have also got to be sophisticated, because doing things like calling them "Christ killers" and "parasites" just doesn't carry much weight any more -- most people are atheists nowadays (at least in the practical sense that they place their faith in technology rather than miracles), so they don't really give a damn about some megalomaniac who decided to commit suicide by getting cruce-affixed; and most folks are sophisticated enuf now to realize that "parasitism" is just the whine which jealous people emit when they see that Jews are richer than they are. So like I say, if you want to engage in Jew-bashing, you have to be sophisticated about it, and the ultimate in sophistication -- the Latest Model, you might say -- is Holocaust Revisionism. Of course, as its proponents never cease to point out, Holocaust Revisionism is not and absolutely will never be Jew-bashing, which is literally true except that the sounds you hear when you fire up the Revisionist machine are mostly the bloody squeals of Jews being involuntarily separated from their mythology, or perhaps just being gassed -- it's really tough to tell.

Now I will admit that I like Jews. It is a vice, perhaps, but I just can't help myself. But I also like Jew-bashing, at least in its more sophisticated varieties, and not just because the Revisionists are right, which they surely are, but also because I get a kick out of shocking people, and there is just no better way to shock people than to bash Jews. I mean, let's face it -- Jews are the most intelligent, sophisticated, nicest and most beautiful people on earth, schnozzes not excepted (they were called "aquiline noses" and greatly admired in Roman times, and, hey, am I being illuminating with this kind of reference to Rome, or what?). And what's more, everybody knows it, including (and especially) the bigots. Which is exactly why bashing Jews shocks people so much -- they say, "Hey, when you've got such nice people, it is absolutely the worst possible manners to bash them. Blacks -- well, most of them are genuine low-lifes - - but Jews -- Jesus H Christ -- I mean, if the Jews want to have a Holocaust mythology, who the hell cares? We don't bash Primitive Baptists or Jehovah's Witnesses or Big City Methodists or any of the other Truly Weird People or their Totally Crazy Beliefs. So leave the Jews alone. And besides, I don't want to lose my job!"

So why bash Jews? Well, besides the shock value, it's like Mt Everest -- we want to climb it because it's there -- or, in the case of Jews, because they have shoved the Holocaust in our face and down our throats and up our tushies and dared us to challenge it, and in fact in most countries except America have actually made laws against challenging it. Which means it is also a free-speech issue, as are similar politically-correct mandates forbidding "hate speech", "sexual harassment" and the like which have been implemented by liberals, which Jews mostly are. Or to put it another way, Jew-bashing of the sophisticated variety is not merely fun, but it actually has a point, which at least puts it one-up on Henry Ford and the Protocols.

Now the problem with Chronicles boils down to this: Mr Fleming is a conservative -- or perhaps a Conservative. What that means is that, in spite of the liberal assault on just about everything good, decent and right about America, Mr Fleming is content to take a few potshots at liberals while babbling on and on about Greece and Rome and the literature that few have heard of and absolutely nobody reads -- except perhaps conservatives, or maybe just Conservatives. What Mr Fleming needs to do, then, is to stop pussyfooting around the shallows and instead dive off the deep end into the Slough of Despondent Bigotry. Or to put it another way, by pulling his punches and not hitting the liberal monster in its direct center -- namely, Jews -- Mr Fleming is not only missing a great sport, but he is helping to throw a good many others off the target.

Oy vey!

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