How to Survive a Character Assassination
A friend jarred me the other day by sending me this note:
Watching the left's insane treatment of Kavanaugh reminds me of some of what you dealt with at CSUN.
"CSUN" stands for California State University Northridge. My friend referred to the eight years during which I worked for that organization, 2008-16.
My friend sent me the note because the factors involved with Brett Kavanaugh's frightful battle for the Supreme Court coincided with my own harrowing experience with liberals: the California university professoriate; the Clintons; feminists; the intelligence field; Dianne Feinstein; Kamala Harris; the Supreme Court; and, most importantly, a psychedelic and Kafka-esque series of sexually charged investigations.
I decided to write ten tips for people who might one day be "Kavanaughed."
What has happened to Brett Kavanaugh will surely happen to many who read this. The cruel tactics and psychological machinery behind what the left does now to Kavanaugh developed in the lower rungs of society.
To give you a sense of what I faced at CSUN, let me share a story. My lived experience left me particularly vulnerable to smears by the time I was in my early forties.
I survived many scarring tribulations in the gay community, raised by a gay parent and then initiated into homosexuality at the age of thirteen. For fifteen years, I identified completely with homosexuality, slipping into destructive behavior, recreational drugs, and perennially abusive relationships. At the age of 28, I first had an experience with a woman. Suddenly disturbed by the fact that I was fornicating and might become a father, I came to Jesus, had a profound religious experience, and married her.
I arrived at CSUN at the age of 37, deeply evangelical in my sentiments, still secretive about my past, but increasingly called by God to bear witness against the abuses of the LGBT movement in order to help others.
My appointment to an English department in Los Angeles placed me in a lion's den. Out of about 150 instructors in the department, I was likely the only social conservative and one of perhaps two or three Republicans. My dean, a radical lesbian feminist, spoke to me about her work with the American Academy of Religion.
The latter association seems determined to subvert traditional Christianity. This lesbian dean would later come out as a player in the Clinton Foundation and the head of the Clinton Global Initiative on our sprawling campus with over 40,000 students.
The dean's radicalism did not preclude her accepting money from a national security grant, which she pressured me in 2009 to administer for two years. When the left-wing faculty rose up in protest against the grant, many of them believed I had brought the grant to campus. They had no idea that the dean had called me into her office and compelled me to run it, since at the time I was the only reservist in the college. So in what would become a long pattern of tricks, the dean set me up take the backlash that should have rightfully gone against her.
(The grant was tied in some way to Dianne Feinstein, as I learned when I received a letter from Sen. Feinstein thanking a local administrator for the work of the principal investigators, including me.)
My life had accustomed me to living as the outsider, but CSUN became my first experience as a "non-person." When Proposition 8 succeeded in November 2008, I voiced my support for marriage and became the target of vicious hostility. I got through vandalism, obscene phone calls, hate mail, and student outrage.
By 2012, when I published an essay describing my pains as the child in a gay household, off-campus activists mobbed the university administration with calls to have me fired. The university agreed to turn over copies of my emails to an unhinged Brooklyn homosexual who wrote, at the time, for the New Civil Rights Movement.
When the off-campus activists, your own family members, your co-workers, your supervisors, and your students all use the same cold phrases toward you – and avoid any contact with you – while a constant series of escalating bureaucratic snafus engulf you, you know you have become a "non-person." Your views have placed you beyond the pale of any dignity. You have no human rights. Nothing about you warrants decorum, respect, or courtesy. Every interaction is painfully vicious, every action against you carried out with self-righteous cruelty.
The dean had staffed her entire office with women, many of them lesbians. One woman in particular, her closest assistant, appeared to raise an adopted daughter with her lesbian lover. All of them took every opportunity to complicate and inflict misery on my life, especially the lesbian mom. Much of this I have detailed in Wackos Thugs & Perverts.
By 2013, a student filed a complaint and claimed I had had erections while lecturing about the links between Virgil and Walt Whitman; also, according to the complaint, which I never saw, I had referred to Helen of Troy as "promiscuous" and encouraged woman-shaming. The investigation lasted from about December 2012 until April 2013, when I received word that the provost, Harry Hellenbrand, had thrown the charges out. After interviewing my students, investigators had heard conflicting reports. But the Title IX investigator had dragged the investigation out over months, forcing me to observe strict confidentiality rules while my students freely discussed among themselves theories about my supposed arousal.
The dean and several colleagues acted as ringleaders, though their roles remained shrouded in secrecy because of the nature of the process. All the witnesses who went against me enrolled in classes with the same teacher, I noticed. He had expressed hostility to me in the past. In fact, he had circulated rumors that I belonged to the CIA. It was not until October 2014, and the launch of a third investigation, that their roles became apparent.
In October 2014, the university began an investigation into charges that I had knowingly harassed and discriminated against women and gay students by encouraging them to attend a conference I organized at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In October 2015, the university informed me that those in charge had cleared me of the charges of discrimination but found that I had engaged in "retaliatory acts" against the main accuser by not nominating her for any awards. Beside the numerous problems I documented with the investigation process, I drafted a response to the university's findings that could have swiftly refuted the retaliation claim: no award existed for which I could have nominated the student in question.
But the new provost, Yi Li, informed me in November 2015 that he had referred the matter to Human Resources to decide punishment. H.R. was still investigating the best disciplinary response to the charges. Provost Li told me I could not rebut the findings of the investigation until the punishment was decided. Then he refused to decide a punishment, leaving me in limbo until 2018, when the matter was finally closed by the faculty union because I had left that job.
I sought to file a complaint against the investigator for the discriminatory way in which she investigated me, but the other investigator to whom the office referred me told me:
- The office of the attorney general of California (then occupied by Kamala Harris) had deemed that no state law prohibited the university from imposing extraordinary limits on my right to speak freely and redress grievances related to my experience with a gay parent. I had submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, and the dean had stated repeatedly that she could not protect me from retaliation for voicing opposition to same-sex parenting, even if that opposition consisted of my telling my own life story truthfully. Therefore, because a student filed a complaint that she was uncomfortable having me as a professor based on my having described my childhood in the press, no wrongdoing under California law had occurred due to the special limitations on my First Amendment rights based on my being the child of a gay parent. The lesbian dean, gay people in general, and gay students were protected by California discrimination law against my public description of my own life. Nothing protected me even from retaliation for exercising my rights of free speech and redress of grievances. Because the university punished me not for using my free speech, but only for "retaliation" when I did not nominate for an award a student who had leveled charges against me that were thrown out, even though I could not have nominated her for any award at all, the university had done nothing wrong.
- Though I had proof that the investigator had violated university policy by not including, in my disposition, a mandatory provision stating that I could contest the findings of the investigation within a certain number of days, I could not investigate the investigator because no investigator could investigate a colleague in the same investigation office.
- The time limit had expired for me to contest the investigation.
I walked away from tenure at CSUN feeling like a ruined man. The internet teemed with defamation against me, which I was powerless to contest. I had grown obese and miserable, developing hypertension. Many conservatives had hung me out to dry, having decided I was simply too crass to associate with. The left had destroyed me. Here is what I learned:
- You have to defend yourself. Do not let publicists, lawyers, or spokespeople strategize for you. Do not go into hiding.
- Do not let people pay you off. Accept poverty before you accept money that binds you to silence.
- Be very public and firm. This will allow you to get public support.
- Pick a side and stick with it. When being smeared, you have no viable option to strike a middle ground.
- Give up on trying to document your way to vindication. The attackers will make up lies about you, and their lies will be carefully woven to surprise you. If you try to document everything you do, you will lose your mind.
- Accept that most people may believe the worst about you. What does God know about you? That is what matters. Pray several times a day, and never miss church.
- Have a sense of humor. The absurd circus that America has become can entertain you.
- Sleep, eat well, and exercise.
- Be very attentive to your spouse. She suffers in ways you may not notice, and if you do not keep her happy, you will lose the most important thing you have.
- Forgive all, for they know not what they do. A priest once told me, "Their hate is a cry of pain because they live in such darkness." If I do not forgive Elizabeth Say, the dean who did much of this against me, I will live in a prison of unsatisfied vengeance. That woman may likely never pay any penalty in this life for the vast devastation she wrought on my family. By forgiving her, I get the only freedom I can expect.
You know you have survived a character assassination when you wake up in the morning and you know that whatever happens today, you can live with yourself. Recovering from a character assassination is harder than recovering from sexual abuse. You may never get back to the whole person you were before. But if you find yourself slipping back into paranoia or obsession, listen to Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and remember that thousands of people have been through the same thing.