Not Surprised: Thoreau Pissed Off Some New Yorkers

Column by Douglas Herman.

Exclusive to STR

Years ago, while working in LA as a struggling scriptwriter, I observed that Hollywood is a Moronocracy:  movies made by morons, for morons and about morons.  Rainman, Forrest Gump, Waterboy, Dumb & Dumber, Batman vs. Superman, etc. You see the trend? Intelligent, insightful opinions, subtlety, cleverness, playful and caustic remarks have no place in American letters or in Hollywood movies.
Would Henry David Thoreau get published today? Anywhere? Would Henry find a place in American letters, as an essayist, novelist or even a screenwriter? Absolutely Not. With his pithy remarks, insightful reflections and caustic opinions, the answer is clear.  No, Thoreau would never be published in the mainstream media.
A couple of months ago, American Chronicles of the New Yorker magazine published a hit piece to prove my point. You see, the Eastern elites prefer their writers  to shelter in place. They prefer that most of their morons spout imperial moronocracy in the mainstream media. Kathryn Schulz’s recent hit piece entitled Pond Scum reads like an engorged Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman or Charles Krauthammer diatribe of almost ten thousand words.
“The real Thoreau was, in the fullest sense of the word, self-obsessed, narcissistic, fanatical about self-control, adamant that he required nothing beyond himself to understand and thrive in the world,” droned Schulz, sounding as if she is describing Donald Trump. “From that inward fixation flowed a social and political vision that is deeply unsettling.”
A political vision that is “deeply unsettling”? Wow. Who knew Henry was a spokesman for the Trump or Sanders campaign?  Kathryn Schulz’s remarks are both silly and profane, which are excusable in a critic, but without being very funny or profound. She even accuses Henry of being an anti-caffeinite for attempting to avoid coffee or tea.
“Think of dashing the hopes of a morning with a cup of warm coffee,” Thoreau wrote in Walden. “Ah, how low I fall when I am tempted by them.”
To New Yorkers, this is heresy. Avoid Starbucks? What kind of foul degenerate does that? Akin to people like the actress Penelope Cruz daring to criticize the killing of innocent Palestinians in Operation Cast Lead. Remember her? She was cast as an anti-Semitic villain for daring to criticize Israeli war crimes.

Food For Thought

Seriously, whenever a diet guru today suggests we avoid caffeine, nicotine or saturated fats, these people are praised to the high heavens in the turgid pages of the media. Their diet books go straight to the bestseller list at The New York Times. But Henry dared to suggest the same diet awareness more than 150 years ago in the pages of Walden.  
“Thoreau teaches us to not do as he does but to decide for ourselves how to live our lives,” wrote Bob Krumm. “The book is descriptive, not prescriptive. It is about the journey of a flawed human being like we all are. Thoreau would be appalled by anyone who tried to imitate him or follow Walden as a recipe for living. Think for yourself is the meaning.”
Apparently a lot of otherwise intelligent people detest Thoreau because he dares to suggest we avoid the state, the corrupt political system and – Gasp! – the mainstream media.
“Making a virtue of his incuriosity, he discouraged the reading of newspapers.”  Naturally, Schulz disapproves. Most intelligent people today might agree with Thoreau when he wrote: “I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper . . . . To a philosopher, all news is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.”
Murderous old women, to be honest. Calculating and cruel.
Think of it: The New York Times kills more people than any outbreak of Ebola, Zika or ISIS, by encouraging the dismemberment of this or that Middle East country. And they never apologize for being accessories to war crimes. The same could be said for The New Yorker or The Atlantic Monthly, magazines that encouraged the attack on Iraq in 2003. Ironic when one considers The Atlantic Monthly used to carry works by Emerson and Thoreau back before the American Civil War.
Today I would like to believe Henry would agree with the premise that The American Media is The Enemy of The American People. More innocent people have been slaughtered by poisonous opinion columns, appearing in American newspapers, penned by highly-paid pundits effectively encouraging war crimes around the globe, than have ever been killed by America’s newest arch villain, Putin.
And yet, rather than hold any of these living war criminals to blame, mainstream columnists attack a 19th Century New England naturalist. 
“Why, given his hypocrisy, sanctimony, and misanthropy, has Thoreau been so cherished?” Schulz demands to know. Why is Henry so cherished? Because Thoreau pretty much says what lots of folks all over the world are saying, Kathryn. They are saying to DC, Tel Aviv, NYC: Stay-the-hell-away-from me. We are ALL just echoing Thoreau.
“Wherever a man goes, men will pursue him and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate oddfellow society,” Thoreau warned.
I recall reading that quotation at the time of the Vietnam War, when I was constrained to belong to a desperate oddfellow society called the US military. At the time I thought: how prescient. And nothing has changed since then except the names of the perps and war criminals.
The greatest damnation Schulz reserves for Thoreau occurs when Henry witnessed the aftermath of a shipwreck on Cape Cod shores. A shipload of refugees blew ashore and most aboard the ship drowned, just like the boatloads of refugees today. But because Thoreau does not shed crocodile tears, Schulz damns him for his perceived heartlessness.
Curiously, the money power elites, who pimp for these MENA wars, as did The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Washington Post, now try to guilt Americans into opening their arms and wallets to house war refugees.  To that I say: drop dead, main sanctimonious scum media. Is that too harsh, too misanthropic, dear Kathryn?  I certainly hope so.
I suppose we should take Kate’s critique with a great grain of gluten-free salt and thank her. Why? Because she put the man on the STR masthead smack into focus again. No such thing as bad publicity, as they say in Hollywood. 

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 149

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman can be found wandering the back roads of America. Doug authored the political crime thriller, The Guns of Dallas  and wrote and directed the Independent feature film,Throwing Caution to the Windnaturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA. Write him at Roadmovie2 @


Samarami's picture

A good piece on the nature of state media.

As I posted on another STR thread this morning, Lew Rockwell had a decent take on the same overall topic yesterday. Large segments of the general population are awakening, due to the marked increase of web exposure. Not enough for our taste, perhaps, but a healthy increase from when I was a lad.

The Kathryn Schulz's are no longer canon. And it pisses 'em off.

I recently came across an article I had bookmarked a couple years back, by a "Sigmund Fraud" at Waking Times. Worth a perusal.

If you can't dazzle 'em with breelliance, you gotta baffle 'em with bowl-sheet.


Amerikagulag's picture

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you can't criticize. - Voltaire

Mark Davis's picture

Good points; well written.
I loved this one: "Think of it: The New York Times kills more people than any outbreak of Ebola, Zika or ISIS, by encouraging the dismemberment of this or that Middle East country. And they never apologize for being accessories to war crimes."

Paul's picture

"And yet, rather than hold any of these living war criminals to blame, mainstream columnists attack a 19th Century New England naturalist."

A good thing, too. It would be worrisome if such a collection of lowlifes actually appreciated Thoreau. I'd have to start questioning Thoreau!

Douglas Herman's picture

Thanks Mark & Paul for your compliments. I try to channel my inner Henry in such matter:  WWHD. And it helps to have an easy target like Kate Schulz, author of such books as "Being Wrong."
"If you want to feel better about not being perfect and see the potential upside in your errors, read Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz ... a brilliant book with a sweeping grasp of philosophy and physics and all points in between." —President Bill Clinton