The Authentic and the Inauthentic

Back when I used to read newspapers, I’d always head straight for the opinion pieces and the letters pages. The rest of the newspaper was relatively uninteresting news. It was a delight to find an opinion piece by Bernard Levin in the Times in the early 1970s, and an opinion piece by Jill Tweedie in the Guardian a decade later. It wasn’t that I necessarily agreed with what they had to say. It was that I agreed with them saying it. I wanted them to speak their minds, say what they thought. I wanted to listen to their authentic voices.

I have had the same experience with the rise of the blogosphere, in which more or less every blog is someone’s authentic voice, very often with a number of authentic voices in the comments beneath, agreeing or disagreeing.

And I think that maybe the media war being fought in the USA, between the mainstream media and the alternative online media, is battle of authenticity. It’s a battle of authentic individuals – Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Mark Levin -, speaking their own minds, up against inauthentic organisations like CNN, Fox News, NBC, etc, etc.

And organisations like CNN, Fox, NBC, and also the BBC, ITV, etc, are inauthentic primarily because they are not individual persons, but instead companies of people in which there is some sort of ‘party line’ which company employees must adhere to. They are all of them doing a job that they are being paid to do.

It’s the same with actors, who are paid to speak somebody else’s lines. They are all, more or less by definition, inauthentic. I can watch more or less anything on TV and tell within seconds whether I’m watching actors speaking lines, or authentic individuals speaking their minds. Great actors, like Marlon Brando, are those who best manage to simulate authenticity. But even they never quite manage it perfectly.

And, somehow or other, authenticity always beats inauthenticity, every single time. Politicians, who are the most egregiously inauthentic of people, are inauthentic because they are always toeing some party line, and never speaking their own mind. Which is why politicians try to avoid encountering any authentic individuals, who will always defeat them (as famously happened with Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he encountered an ordinary English woman on a street somewhere).

Donald Trump is an example of an authentic individual politician (almost a contradiction in terms) who speaks (and also tweets) his own mind. You may not like what’s in his own mind, but if he is now President of the United States, it’s because millions of Americans recognised him as an authentic individual. He’s got where he was by not being a standard cardboard cut-out politician, like, for example, Hillary Clinton and more or less any other politician you care to name.

The current French election, which I’ve been distantly following, seems to me to have boiled down to one fairly authentic individual – Marine Le Pen – versus an inauthentic one – Immanuel Macron. And at the moment, the inauthentic one looks set to win the run-off on Sunday.

Just because they’re authentic individuals doesn’t mean anyone is right or good. It seems to me that Adolf Hitler was an authentic individual, who spoke his authentic individual mind. It was just that his authentic beliefs were, at bottom, pretty screwy – and very nasty.

And I would guess that all the great prophets – Moses, Jesus, Buddha, etc – were also authentic individuals. They certainly all appear in history as unique individuals, with unique opinions.

And it seems to me that the essence of authenticity lies in individual identity or personhood. And all inauthenticity grows from some sort of superposition of some additional role on top of this individuality, as when someone becomes a father, or a husband, or a manager, or a lieutenant, or a general, or a Prime Minister, or a bishop, or a Pope, or a clown. Such people are not mere individual people, but individual people playing some additional role. They are not being themselves. And therefore they are inauthentic.

It was something that I noticed with my father, who rose to be a senior manager in a telecommunications company. He used to occasionally have me accompany him to his office in Rio de Janeiro, where I would simply sit there all day in one corner, watching him as he gave out orders, and signed papers, all in a brisk and businesslike fashion. He was quite different from the man who would come home in the evening, and sit down quietly with a newspaper and a beer and a cigarette. He was, I came to think, two people. One was the office tiger, and the other the homely pussycat. I told him as much one day, some years later. “Shame on you,” he replied. But I felt no shame. I had simply been observing.

The war between smokers and antismokers is a struggle between the authentic and the inauthentic. Smokers are all authentic individuals. But antismokers are almost invariably members of organisations like ASH or WHO or BMA or something, and therefore devoid of authenticity. Deborah Arnott is speaking lines that she’s memorised. She’s toeing some party line. And therefore she’s inauthentic. Furthermore, those antismokers who tell smokers to “exercise self-control” (by stopping smoking) are really asking them to become inauthentic individuals, doing the bidding of others. The ex-smoker who dreams every day of cigarettes is an inauthentic individual because he’s stopping himself doing something he wants to do. The antismoking Dr W, in whose house I once lived, was someone who exerted such iron self-control over himself that he was incapable of laughter. He could only perform a crude simulation of it.

And the war between authenticity and inauthenticity is being fought everywhere, as real versus unreal, truth versus lie. And the authentic truth is maybe very, very slowly winning. It began winning in the 1950s with the arrival of authentic individuals like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. The Beatles were an authentic bunch of Liverpudlian boys. And the Rolling Stones an equally authentic band of Londoners. And they appeared in a music business in which there were any number of inauthentic clones who were simply obeying the orders of their managers and supervisors in the deeply inauthentic music industry. The Monkees were an inauthentic band, as were the American Beetles. But then, we seem to have returned to the era of inauthentic clone boy or girl bands who are following some formulaic path to stardom.

So maybe authenticity doesn’t win in the end.

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About Frank Davis

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21 Responses to The Authentic and the Inauthentic

  1. Mike says:

    The privat, blogs are probably only the last sources of the independent information and opinion.. All the tv networks and newspapers are strickly connected to the political force that actualy rule or to the opposition. They create almost symbiotic relationships with politicians so, they inform people only about things that help their supporting party or try to discredit their opponents.
    Thats, why I choose to read blogs than watch cnn or another bullshit propaganda tube!
    And I just love your Blog
    So keep the great work!!!
    Take care Mr Frank

  2. Lecroix says:

    Reblogged this on Contra la ley "antitabaco" and commented:
    ¡Bravo!

  3. petesquiz says:

    Another excellent piece, Frank. It reminded me of the oft used quote (don’t know where it originated) that fits this – “Sincerity is the key; once you can fake that you’ve got it made!”

    Sadly, a good enough fake can fool most people for enough of the time to do damage.

  4. beobrigitte says:

    Just because they’re authentic individuals doesn’t mean anyone is right or good. It seems to me that Adolf Hitler was an authentic individual, who spoke his authentic individual mind. It was just that his authentic beliefs were, at bottom, pretty screwy – and very nasty.
    He wanted power and dictated his beliefs. Non-conformers were severely punished. Just as tobacco control used it’s power punish the non-conforming, non-complying smokers.

    And I would guess that all the great prophets – Moses, Jesus, Buddha, etc – were also authentic individuals. They certainly all appear in history as unique individuals, with unique opinions.
    None of them dictated that everyone had to conform. They provided an option for those who wished to follow their teachings without interfering with those who didn’t.
    That’s definitely not tobacco control. Ironically, I believe tobacco control would have been far more successful if it had adopted the prophet’s approach. Perhaps it wanted to do that but it’s impatience got in the way?
    It’s too late for tobacco control&friends to become prophets. Dictators and greedy people never make good prophets and usually in the end are overthrown by the oppressed and disillusioned people.

    • Rose says:

      There is the tax for non-believers, Brigitte.

      I’ve been paying the tax for non-believers to our government ever since I took up smoking because I didn’t believe Richard Doll and I knew that there wasn’t any road tar in cigarettes.

      What’s in a cigarette?

      Acetic Acid (vinegar)
      Acetone (nail varnish remover)
      Ammonia (cleaning agent)
      Arsenic (ant poison in the USA)
      Benzene (petrol fumes)
      Cadmium (car battery fluid)
      DDT (insecticide)
      Ethanol (anti-freeze)
      Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
      Hydrogen Cyanide (industrial pollutant)
      Lead (batteries, petrol fumes)
      Methanol (rocket fuel)
      Tar (road surface tar)
      http://web.archive.org/web/20090106012619/http://www.pfizerlife.co.uk/SmokingWhatsInACigarette.aspx

      The new one

      What’s in a cigarette?

      Stearic Acid (candle wax)
      Paint
      Butane (lighters)
      Acetic Acid (vinegar)
      Methane (sewer gas)
      Methanol (rocket fuel)
      Cadmium (batteries)
      Nicotine (insecticide)
      Toluene (industrial solvent)
      Arsenic (poison)
      Carbon Monoxide (exhaust gas)
      Ammonia (detergent)

      pfizer.co.za South Africa
      Now dead, who seem to have got it from the WHO.

      CHEMICALS CONTAINED IN SECOND-HAND
      TOBACCO SMOKE (PARTIAL LIST)

      Stearic Acid (candle wax) etc etc
      http://www.who.int/tobacco/mpower/2009/c_gtcr_protect_people_tobacco_smoke.pdf?ua=1

      • Vlad says:

        They taste their own medicine now when anti vaccine people talk about some of the ingredients in vaccines – formaldehyde, mercury, acetone and so on.

        Of course, Pfizer&co claim that it’s perfectly safe to inject this stuff in babies. When they’re adults and want to smoke it via products manufactured by competition, only then it becomes a problem. LOL

      • Quite correct there is not and never has been road tar in cigarettes!
        There is however T.A.R. in cigarettes.
        T.A.R. is the acronym for Total Aerosol Residue (the gunk left over from oxidation of vegetable matter)
        The presence of tar is just a falsehood propagated by ANTZ and unfortunately accepted by many smokers and nonsmokers.

  5. waltc says:

    But I also think the press, like the universities, hire only the right-thinkers from the same desired mold. They don’t have to be told what to write or how to slant, their minds are pre-slanted. I noted at the White House Correspondents dinner the other night, where they gave out scholarships to–they announced– 23 promising young journalists, that 20 of the 23 recipients were girls, more than half were minorites and half the minorities had unpronounceable foreign names. Which led me to imagine that their winning essays (the imagined criteria) were all about Social Justice and the perils of Global Warming and their desires to Change The World.

    On inauthenticity: Back when I still worked in advertising, I was briefly on an after work drinks basis with the CEO of the parent company. One evening, he told me–in rather boring detail–about his trip to Detroit to meet with the muckamucks of General Motors. When I asked him what they were like–what he thought of them as people–he looked at me blankly, as though I’d asked something completely beside the point and something so irrelevant it was something he hadn’t, and needn’t to have considered. IOW, it was a meeting of the depersonalized inauthentic with the depersonalized inauthentic. Yet another reason I knew I was in the wrong business.

    • garyk30 says:

      ‘Social Justice’ is one of those terms that can mean whatever you want it to mean.
      Others are:
      Climate Change
      Equality
      Fair Share
      Livable Wage
      Hope and Change
      Make America Great Again
      Human Rights
      Entitlements
      Free Speech
      Hate Speech
      And etc.

      Words that are illusions, all of them.

    • Frank Davis says:

      They don’t have to be told what to write or how to slant, their minds are pre-slanted.

      Aren’t all our minds “pre-slanted” in one way or other? We might recognise the slant in other people’s minds, such as your 23 young journalists, but can we recognise our own? And aren’t we always being slanted all our lives, by our parents, our education, our friends, the media, books we read, and so on? Or is there a right slant, with all other slants being wrong?

  6. garyk30 says:

    What make an authentic person?
    Is it being what you think you are or is it being the person that you want to be.
    You can not be the person that others think you are; because, that person varies from viewer to viewer and is as different as the life experiences of the people doing the viewing.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It’s probably easier to say what makes someone inauthentic than it is to say what makes them authentic. So, if they’re not saying what they themselves think, but what someone else wants them to say, they’re clearly being inauthentic. So we can dispense with all politicians, and all employees (at least while they are doing their employers’ bidding) Whenever people are saying or doing something that they themselves don’t want to say or do, they’re being inauthentic.

      But I suggested another form of inauthenticity in those ex-smokers who want to smoke (dream every day of cigarettes) but who exert “self-control” or “self-denial” to stop themselves doing what they really want. Such people have, in my view, internalised some sort of political or religious authority. There is a “boss” inside their heads.

      Remove all the various forms of inauthenticity, and theoretically you’re left with authentic people, who say what they think. But it’s probably not that simple. I was describing people like Alex Jones or Michael Savage as authentic individuals, because neither appears to be be employed by anyone to say what they do.

      I don’t think it’s being “what you think you are” or “what you want to be”. I think it’s being “what you are”, warts and all. One can authentically “not know” or “not be certain”. And one can authentically change from day to day. I don’t know any number of things, and what I do think I know I’m never entirely certain about, and my opinions are in constant flux. I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things over the past 10 years.

      • garyk30 says:

        At least you are honest about such things, many never question their thinking and beliefs.

      • garyk30 says:

        NYU ADMINISTRATOR GOES FULL ORWELL: VIOLATING FREE SPEECH ‘ENSURES THE CONDITIONS OF FREE SPEECH’.

        • Joe L. says:

          This has been happening all over the place as of late, mostly on college campuses.

          A growing number of people seem to believe it is part of their “freedom of speech” to form mobs and cause riots in order to prevent those with differing viewpoints from speaking freely.

          It is very Orwellian, and deeply disturbing that this movement seems to be growing and is practically being encouraged by the mainstream media.

  7. Yes, in Brazil, today is the last legal day for our current president of the republic to veto a new immigration approved by the Senate. So, last night after work, a small group went to protest on Avenida Paulista, in the city of São Paulo – several of them smokers. When they were surprised by a small explosion, stunned by the noise, they were struck by five or six strangers. The police accompanying the protest intervened and took everyone to the police station for the Bulletin of Occurrence. Conclusion: 12 crimes targeted against the group of Syrian and Palestinian refugees – one does not even speak Portuguese! But the press reversed the report by accusing the protesters of xenophobes, fascists, etc., etc., etc.
    If this new law is passed, the violence I see on TV about Europe, I will see live in my neighborhood. My son attends the bar of one of these aggressors because he thinks it’s cool, human rights, we’re also the children of immigrants, etc. Today, I covered a position, but he came in denial of reality.
    Exact timing of the bombing in Paulista
    Sad, is not it?Avenida Paulista, in the city of São Paulo – several of them smokers. When they were surprised by a small explosion, stunned by the noise, they were struck by five or six strangers. The police accompanying the protest intervened and took everyone to the police station for the Bulletin of Occurrence. Conclusion: 12 crimes targeted against the group of Syrian and Palestinian refugees – one does not even speak Portuguese! But the press reversed the report by accusing the protesters of xenophobes, fascists, etc., etc., etc.
    If this new law is passed, the violence I see on TV about Europe, I will see live in my neighborhood. My son attends the bar of one of these aggressors because he thinks it’s cool, human rights, we’re also the children of immigrants, etc. Today, I covered a position, but he came in denial of reality.
    Exact timing of the bombing in Paulista

    Sad, is not it?

  8. wobbler2012 says:

    Barring Hitler of course you could replace authentic with good and replace inauthentic with bad and it would be pretty much spot-on.

  9. Don’t count the votes before they’re cast Frank. Hillary and the rest of the US Dems would have given 100 to 1 odds against Trump winning. I’m amazed Hillary actually survived election night: her entire world was suddenly turned upside down with absolutely no warning at all. (Well, the warnings were out there, but she and her friends certainly didn’t see them.

    – MJM, I don’t count votes. I don’t count beans. I count CHOCOLATES!

    • Frank Davis says:

      Hillary Clinton has become a rather sad, pathetic figure. Even the MSM seems to be turning against her, according to this report.

      In response, even the likes of MSNBC, NBC, and CNN, all of which vehemently displayed rampant bias toward Clinton during the campaign, turned on the Democratic candidate, labeling her ‘pathetic’ and a ‘failure’.

      “That was pathetic,” he said. “I’ll say it … I’ll get killed. Everybody I’ve talked to, Democrats, independents, Republicans, and the like said that was pathetic.” said Joe Scarborough of MSNBC:

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