Today, almost five years exactly after I first finished the original Strieber piece, I have given a considered reading of Heinrich’s piece, “Old Balls of Fire: In Defense of Whitley Strieber,” and written an 8-page response, “A Straw Man’s Defense” (pdf).
Even though (as I expressed in the last post) I went into this battle fully expecting to take some hits, that is, prepared to be proven wrong in small or greater ways, I came out the other side pleasantly surprised. Heinrich (if he’s watching) may well find yet more things to froth at the mouth about in my response, but for my part I am content to have given the Old Fireball the attention he deserves, and to have been given the opportunity to express more clearly, and in new ways, my feelings about Strieber and about why I wrote this ****! article to begin with.
Some of these may be a suprise to some people, but to most of you, probably not. Since some of you probably aren’t interested enough to have read the OBOF piece, and therefore likely won’t be interested in reading an 8-page response, here are a few excerpts:
The OBOF piece claims that AK rejects Strieber on personal grounds, because he doesn’t fit my idea of what an avatar of alien intelligence ought to be, and act like. Yet OBOF simplifies AK’s argument and makes it somehow vulgar—Strieber is too “complicated”—when in fact, AK cites the complexity and contradictions around Strieber as evidence for his authenticity, not against it. What AK suggests throws into question Strieber’s integrity, honesty, and/or accuracy in reporting his experiences is not his complexity but his personal shortcomings, foremost among which is his apparent emotional instability. Granted, the discernment to judge such a thing as “emotional instability” can be questioned, and should be. But since the author of OBOF elsewhere refers to Strieber’s “histrionics” and cites his emotional overreactions, it seems as though he’s in agreement with AK on this point at least.
AK’s argument, simplified, is roughly as follows: if such transcendental, interdimensional or inter-species experiences have not afforded Strieber an increased degree of equanimity, self-awareness, patience, tolerance, humor, and lightness in his own behavior, then (allowing that they are real at all) it can only be because he has failed to integrate them and transform them into a personal, embodied wisdom. This means (since there is generally no middle-ground) that the experiences have probably had the opposite effect, and unbalanced him. This then throws into question, both Strieber’s ability to interpret and report his experiences, and the beneficial nature of those experiences themselves.
This is a very different argument to the one which OBOF attributes to AK, which is simply that I find Strieber distasteful as a person and want to take him down a peg or two in order to steal his experiences for my own aggrandizement (if I read his veiled logic rightly).
The AK piece used Strieber as a living example of the ways in which myth and reality intersect, on both individual and collective levels. Its analysis of Strieber was always meant to extend beyond the local question of Strieber himself, and his writing, into the collective confusion which the Strieber opus not merely addresses but also reflects. The aim was to incorporate Strieber the human being into the works and thereby provide them with a greater depth of meaning. AK rejects the notion that a work can be separated from its author.
I have returned to Strieber again and again since that first piece. I have attempted (and only partially succeeded) to get him to go on record. My original intention with this piece was to direct the attention of skeptics to what I felt has merit in Strieber’s work. This is a little known or acknowledged fact, and it was why I posted it at Rigorous Intuition, where the general consensus has been to see Strieber as either a charlatan, a disinformation agent (or both), or at best an unwittingly puppet of black-op agendas. It was at least partially frustration that many of the more intelligent, discerning researchers disregarded or dismissed Strieber’s work that prompted me to write the piece.