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In Defense of Charlie Chaplin

The Little Tramp and the Refugees who Loved, then Loathed him by Dove Barbanel demonstrates how prudery flowers anew among my generation. All are drunk on Weinstein, some seem enraptured by the mirth of the wine; most are hung-over from joyless intoxication.

Male-feminist Barbanel anachronistically scolds Chaplin’s being a ”womanizer” (why not ”philanderer”, or ‘’whore”?) equating the tramp’s philandering to Weinstein’s psychopathic extremes. Barbanel compares poor Charlie Chaplin to war-criminals, ISIL and Libyan mercenaries—merely because Chaplin was cruelly exacting of actors, had many children and lovers (“the womanizer’s bastards”?)

In Athens I volunteer with refugees. I once immigrated (safely, by plane) between countries, and descend from migrants who braved oppressive circumstances. Many refugees are artists who survived a cutthroat performing arts world before the wars. Chaplin remains a role-model.

Perhaps Barbanel’s war-tired audience in Athens, wiser from real torments, were given insight into the deficit of empathy and of humor in Western societies that led to the refugee crisis (a crisis of solidarity) in the first place: an unintended reading of his sterilizing endeavors.

Arturo Desimone
Athens, January 30th 2017

The above is a ‘’Letter to the Editor’’ I sent after reading the NYT piece by Athens-based activist Barbanel, who attests how he first introduced women refugees in Athens to the work of Charlie Chaplin by libeling the late actor as abusive, comparing Chaplin to ‘’the women’s oppressors”. Such comparisons emphasize that which Masha Gessen—one of the more nuance-seeking mainstream public intellectuals—calls ‘’the danger of misplaced scale’’ in pieces she wrote comparing the current American sex-panic to similar puritanical crazes during the Cold War (such as the gay-baiting that sprung forth from Red-baiting during the 1950s Cold War USA.)

The New York Times during the 1950s had come to the defense of Chaplin when the actor was banned from returning the United States, blacklisted as a communist after the FBI had amassed more than 2000 pages on his activity, and after the British MI5’s investigation as to whether Chaplin was a Jew, revealed that Chaplin was a gypsy born in a caravan in Birmingham. “I am a victim of lies and vicious propaganda’’ Chaplin said from his outpost of exile in Switzerland.

Such abuse of the dead as committed by New Left McCarthyists like Barbanel also reveals the enforcer of progressive values and hype to willingly withhold knowledge from curious refugees: the only way destitute refugees may come into contact with the art of Charlie Chaplin, while down-and-out in Athens without euros to buy tickets to a cinema, is if they first accept the special colouring with which Barbanel serves Chaplin. Burroughs warned us in the prefaces to his Naked Lunch to first look at ‘’what is on the other end of that long newspaper spoon’’ Burroughs, of course, was referring to death.

 

Arturo Desimone is a writer, poet and visual artist currently based between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was born and raised on the island Aruba, a son of immigrants and exiles. A book of his poems, La Amada de Túnez, is forthcoming from the Argentinian poetry publisher Audisea Libros. His poems short fiction pieces and translations have appeared in literary journals such as The Adirondack Review, Blue Lyra Review, CounterPunch Poets Basement and Drunken Boat.

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