I'm used by now to the demagoguery of people like J. Holtham and Isaac Butler - and I can even understand it as a marketing ploy; they're trying to make a place for themselves in the theatre, and neither seems to have enough talent to do so without a little boost from identity politics, and they both know it, so they go for it. I'm in the way. Hence the fireworks.
But what's Chris Wilkinson's excuse?
In a recent post on the Guardian, this freelance "critic" (at left) smears me in so many ways I - well, I really can't quite count them all. And here I thought British journalism had standards!
But first, I'd like to reply to Chris in the "intemperate, but undeniably honest" manner of J. Holtham:
Hey, jerk-off. Yeah, you - Chris Wilkinson. Fuck you. No, really, fuck you. Aren't you just a superior human being. And I'm so glad that you broke your own goddamn arm patting yourself on the back for all you've done in your infinite and unending warmth and grace for the racial discourse in a country that isn't even yours, a country that actually elected a mixed-race leader when your own country couldn't manage that in a million years. Some Americans are trying to move the dialogue forward without resorting to polarizing reverse racism that benefits upper-class ladies of leisure like Holtham and Butler. Can we go ahead now? Much obliged. But before we do, please know that you, my good friend, are the walking, talking embodiment of elite privilege. I shouldn't even have to write this piece; I should just link to yours and say, "Everything you read here? This is why honest critics get screwed." Asshole, I go after you and tangle with you and mock the shit out of you because it's fun, because you're so often wrongheaded, mean-spirited and full of shit, but mostly, mostly, because, you, sir, are the motherfucking inside voice of the establishment. You add nothing to the work, nothing to the discourse, nothing to anything at all, but your own rancid, blinkered, self-satisfied political correctness.
Did I mention fuck you? Because, if I didn't, hey, Chris Wilkinson, fuck you.
But let's step back from the pathetic rantings of J. Holtham, and ponder precisely why Chris Wilkinson is such an incompetent hack.
His dishonesty begins right at the top of his article, when he claims that I am "enraged" by the "self-reliance" of RVCBard.
Uh - what, Chris? Come again? Here's what I wrote:
I'm beginning to worry these days that racism has become a kind of psychological crutch for some people. While watching the plays of Lydia R. Diamond, for instance, I've twice felt that I was listening to a profoundly neurotic personality, but one that had found a kind of camouflage for its neurosis in complaints about racism. Meanwhile the blogs 99 seats and Parabasis have morphed into an orbiting system of obsessional dialogue about race. And now 99 seats has approvingly quoted an even more pathetically obsessed race-blog, from RVCBard (a pseudonym, of course), who meditates thusly:
". . . my experiences with White people have been confusing, uncomfortable, frustrating, and exhausting in this regard. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I always feel a kind of pressure to perform around White people. It's like I have to prove I'm worthy of their presence. It's proven very difficult to get a White person's attention, especially a White man's. It's even harder to maintain it for more than about 15 minutes. And if you're White, and you met me in person, I'm probably talking about you."
Uh - does that sound like "rage"? It's more like dismay. Common-sensible dismay at someone who feels she's "unworthy of the presence of White people." (Note the capitalization: Race = Nation.) Of course when you catch up with RVCBard on Twitter (as I have), you discover that while on her blog, she claims that it's taken her "a lifetime to start to build up my self-esteem and confidence - work I had to do as a direct result of the careless cluelessness of well-meaning White people," on Twitter, she's having the time of her life, sassing her friends, going out, seeing movies, even writing a little bit here and there - all while Chris Wilkinson is crying a river for her over by the Thames! I soon realized it's only on her blog that RVCBard is stricken and oppressed, a constant victim of "racial micro-aggression"; which leads me to believe that the whole trampled-flower routine is an act (either that or her tweets are an act, take your pick).
And at any rate, I'm certainly not dismayed by RVCBard's "self-reliance," as Chris would have it; instead I applaud the fact that she's been able to start a black playwriting group. What surprises me is that she expected white people to help her do it, and was disappointed when they didn't; that does suggest she's not quite as self-reliant as Wilkinson imagines, doesn't it? Because to me, her attitude is a bit like a gay man expecting straight people to organize his gay writing group for him. I mean sure, whatever, but . . .
Wilkinson stumbles on just as incompetently throughout his post - something tells me he's a kind of politically-correct troll, in fact, as he approvingly quotes Isaac Butler, of all people, who sputters the same epithet about me in between hair appointments and cashing the trust fund checks. Wilkinson wraps with:
"Of course any discussion of race – in the theatre or anywhere – is going to be awkward and painful. How could it not be? But surely we're going to get nowhere if we pretend that everything is OK, and that anyone who disagrees is a paranoid neurotic."
Uh - did I ever say that "everything is OK, and anyone who disagrees is a paranoid neurotic"? I mean, is that smear worthy of a lawsuit, or what?
Look, writing doesn't get as inaccurate as Chris's without an agenda. (And no, "dialogue" is obviously not on the agenda.) As I said, I understand Isaac Butler's and J. Holtham's M.O. Holtham doesn't have an audience, black or white - and he probably figures he's got a better shot at a white audience (he's writing "a Philip Barry comedy," after all!), hence the blog, etc. Butler's a wannabe director working New York's fringe. He's got a trust fund, a family friend at TimeOut (who, surprise surprise, sometimes writes for the Guardian, along with Chris), and other connections - but still somehow he can't get it to come together, and the word on the street is that this is because, like Holtham, he's okay, but nothing special. Hence, the seminars, the "convenings," the blog, et. al. Two savvy guys using race and connections as a springboard to a career. What can I say but, "Work it, baby!" It's happened before, on both sides of the color line, since the dawn of time. Butler-Holtham's (Butham's? Holtler's?) technique is innovative - they're doing it in tandem, as a kind of unit; but that's the only thing that's interesting about them.
But why is Chris Wilkinson letting these obvious operators play him like a violin? And why should he be taking RVCBard at her word (as it seems to change with her technology portal)? And didn't he notice that, despite all the outrage directed at me, none of my attackers had ever seen or read Lydia R. Diamond's work? I wonder, actually, if Chris has, either - or if he, too, is just tossing insults out of pure ignorance? Somehow that seems likely.