“When I was a young man my friends and I thought we were famous and believed that every time we met for a beer it was a historical event. I grew up before television so it was easier to create one’s own mythology, but we truly believed that Montreal was a holy city, all of us were sainted, gifted beings, our love affairs were important, our songs immortal, our poems deathless, and we would lead lives of delicious self-sacrifice to art of God.” ~ Leonard Cohen, 1988
“War is wonderful. They’ll never stamp it out.” ~ Leonard Cohen, 1974
“I’d say it’s all from real situations. The experience is real but one tries to treat the experience imaginatively.” ~ Leonard Cohen, 1973, on his song-writing.
Today parts 3 & 4 of my discussion with Ann Diamond go up, plus a fifth mp3 with the stuff that didn’t make it to the final cut, for those completionists out there (in my opinion it’s all worth your time, of course, but I know many people aren’t as interested in dismantling the wall of cultural illusion brick by brick as I am).
In the third audio, Guerrilla in the Room, Ann talks about the art scene in Montreal in the 1960s and 70s and how closely tied it appears to have been to McGill and the MKUltra program, making it clear that Leonard Cohen was part of a much larger social phenomenon which has been mostly forgotten or buried since that time. But if you take a cultural figure out of the context from which they emerged, what you end up with is something very far removed from the actual truth.
Since recording these podcasts, I’ve been reading a large book collection of Cohen interviews called Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen. That sort of says it all, doesn’t it?
Pop history is written by the winners.
They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
As I already knew, Leonard Cohen is capable of a degree of apparent wisdom that’s rare in the entertainment field. There were times when I found myself wondering how it was possible, in the face of such seeming depth and insight, that Cohen could really be involved in the sort of CIA-mafia-pedocratic shenanigans which Ann Diamond’s testimony so compellingly unveiled. Of course, this idea—that apparent depth and wisdom, even kindness and humility—cannot co-exist with (or be a front for) sociopathic behaviors is really no more solid than the one about great art showing the soul of the artist and therefore being “all we need to know” about any given social mover and shaker. (Hitler was a lousy artist. There you go!)
I fought in the old revolution
on the side of the ghost and the King.
Of course I was very young
and I thought that we were winning;
I can’t pretend I still feel very much like singing
as they carry the bodies away.
The facts have to speak for themselves, however, and for me they do just that. Not that together they make up a fully coherent counter-narrative to the official LC story; it’s too soon for that. But they do prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that many aspects of Cohen’s life, personality, and actions have been covered up. This strongly suggests that the accepted version of Leonard Cohen is not to be trusted, and therefore, that neither is Leonard Cohen.
I said this can’t be me, must be my double.
For me, there is an almost irresistible attraction, once the buried Plutonium starts to seep through the disturbed earth, to dig deeper and find the evidence that will do away with the cover-story for good. And so here we are again.
When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender,
this I could not do;
I took my gun and vanished.
While reading the interviews, I found myself less and less impressed by Cohen’s apparent wisdom and aplomb, and more and more turned off by what I began to see as a subtle kind of condescension, self-importance, and messianic proselytizing posing as humility and self-effacement. In a way, the proof for me was in how adoring the pieces written around these interviews invariably were. Almost every last one of them (I am up to part IV, page 439) introduces the conversation with commentary about how gracious, kind, humble, and beguiling a man Cohen is, and how excited and honored the interviewer is to be meeting him. Time after time, the pieces stress his legendary status and how, as an artist, he is just a feather or two away from incarnated divinity.
By his fruit shall ye know him, the fruit here not being the many (and increasingly bloated) songs, but the abject adoration which they have invoked in (alleged) music critics and biographers. Interesting to note, in this regard, that Cohen himself and many of the writers all refer to his songs as “prayers” (even Bob Dylan did). Which begs the question, prayers for what?
The holy man praying for that special sort of humility that inspires worship?
Who is it whom I address,
who takes down what I confess?
Another thing I noticed was how frequently Cohen used the same terms, phrases, descriptions, sometimes verbatim, making his sage-like persona look increasingly like just that: a mask, a routine, a shtick. This is one thing if you’re Mick Jagger, whom no one is going to mistake for a saint. Another when it’s a man supposed to be beyond all that. So is Cohen’s master-shtick appearing to be a man without a shtick?
If you want a lover
I’ll do anything you ask me to
And if you want another kind of love
I’ll wear a mask for you
There is one interview towards the end of Part III which is a marked exception. It’s with Richard Guilliat for the Sunday Times, dated December 12th 1993. In it Cohen is obviously drunk and talks more like a sexual predator than a holy man. As well as recording, without judgment, Cohen’s drunken crassness, Guilliatt writes this:
Unlike many Canadians, Cohen is a passionate defender of the American ideal, but the solutions he sees to the country’s problems are surprisingly authoritarian—more police on the streets, the censoring of violent television, the application of force. “At certain times of crisis, like in every other society, extraordinary and emergency measures have to be invoked . . . The fact is that the predators—on all levels, whether it’s Wall Street of the streets—are about to take over.”
A moment when the mask slips? In vino, veritas. (Another thing to note: Cohen’s unaddressed alcoholism bleeds through the pages of this book. How holy is that?)
Of course, this is all observation and not evidence. If it were presented as evidence, it would more likely be interpreted as my own prejudice against Cohen, now that I have begun to adopt an alternate version of “the Man.” But from my point of view, it is an essential part of the reassessment process. Evidence causes a shifts in perception, and shifts in perception allow for previously unseen evidence to be recognized.
When I hear Ann Diamond’s experiences of Cohen, or read about Kelley Lynch’s side of the story, and place Cohen’s public persona in the context of those testimonies, what I start to see, or imagine I see, is less the charming raconteur or droll connoisseur of love and life, and more the clever dissembler, manipulator of information, and manager of perception.
So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I’m very sorry, baby, doesn’t look like me at all
I’m standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah they don’t let a woman kill you
Not in the Tower of Song
Another thing about those “prayers”: so much of what Cohen says, particularly in the latter part of his career (the post-Prozac years, from 1990 to date) is devoutly religious both in tone and terms, even if it doesn’t pay lip service to any specific religion or deity. Cohen is downright pious, let’s face it, and yet somehow he gets away with it. But how often has religious rhetoric and sentiment been a cover for a legion of sins? Often enough for us to smell a rat when we hear it? Don’t we know the signs by now, or that only the worst of sinners prays so goddamn much? Apparently not.
Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
That’s an order!
In an unrecorded conversation with Ann Diamond, we talked about how the desire to get to the truth of Cohen wasn’t primarily a desire to expose him as a liar and a thief (and possibly much worse). It was out of a need to identify a false representation of reality for what it was, allowing us to take steps towards a truer one.
The saintly sage Cohen whom so many admire, revere, and even worship, is, in my view, a counterfeit of the real thing. Granted, he is a very good counterfeit. The MKUltra team didn’t mess around. Cohen may just be their proudest accomplishment, from that period at least, and in terms of a successfully engineered “lifetime actor” with an extremely high public profile. As such, he is an almost flawless representation of the good (and successful!) poetic soul, the man of high art and sensual lusts who is both a worldly success and a spiritual servant. Holy mount Zion! In the halls of rock n’ roll, he’s practically the Messiah. (Sorry, Bob.)
You don’t know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I’m the little jew
who wrote the Bible
Yet all the while working for the Man?
Perhaps this is the most important job a socially engineered cultural icon such as Cohen (if such he is) can do for the System? By presenting a counterfeit spiritual and artistic currency, he helps ensure we won’t look for the real thing. And even if we happen to stumble on it, we are unlikely to recognize it because it won’t match the sort of style and grace that we have been conditioned, by straw sages like Cohen, to expect.
He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube
All I know for sure (as with Strieber, John de Ruiter, my brother) is that Cohen is not what he seems. To find out more about the man behind the seeming means going into the margins where the small shrill voices of possible truth can be heard. It means moving away from the machine-like howling of Hype that is doing its utmost to drown those small voices out, and when it can’t drown them out, to pathologize, criminalize, and institutionalize them, as appears to be the case with Kelley Lynch.
One good thing about that: in the process, both the Bitch Goddess of Culture and her cold-cutting servants start to show their true colors.
The war was lost
The treaty signed
I was not caught
I crossed the line
I was not caught
Though many tried
I live among you
I had to leave
My life behind
I dug some graves
You’ll never find
The story’s told
With facts and lies
I had a name
But never mind
“Forgive me for asking…” it may have seemed a significant question made banal, but it needed an answer, “what are you trying to achieve in your songs; what is your ambition?”
“To create a vapor and a mist,” Cohen responded, “to make oneself attractive, to master it . . . Really, it’s all an alibi for something nobody’s ever been able to talk about.”
(“The Romantic in a Ragpicker’s Trade,” by Paul Williams)