Just today, I saw a news item that hit me in a somewhat personal way. The man pictured above, Jake Rush, is running for U.S. Congress in Florida’s 3rd Congressional district. You might think certain things on seeing the picture on the right – weird, gothic, freak, outcast, deranged, maybe even dangerous – and I’d like to talk about that for a minute, about how the media went WAY into left field, and intentionally so, on this one.
First, this article seemed to start it all. It is from a blogging site in the district in which he is running, it looks like, and the article can be charitably described as a “takedown” piece – that is, one meant to do damage to his public life and Congressional prospects. A more accurate description might be a “nearly slanderous pile of trash.” Several others have followed on Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, The Miami Herald and the Sunshine State News. They have been various shades of unfair or silly, occasionally substantive or useful, but all have suffered from being derivative works based upon the original article linked at the top of this paragraph.
Now, before I go on, I want to dispel some illusions. I am not a supporter of Jake Rush. I don’t like him, I found his behavior in the Camarilla/MES to be various shades of stupid, unfair, immoral or unpleasant, and were he running to be my Congressman he would not have my vote unless his opponent were Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, or the equivalent. He is running to the right of the Tea Party, and I’m somewhat to the left of the Democratic Party, so we don’t get along.
His politics are not what is being attacked, however. His hobbies are, and they are being attacked in a way that very much reminds me of certain tracts I once read by Jack Chick. That man once wrote a pamphlet (that you can find after the last link) called “Dark Dungeons” in which he uncovers the evils of Dungeons & Dragons, how it encourages the occult, devil worship, casting spells, and teen suicide. The rhetoric of Saint Petersblog sinks to this level and stays there. It plays on misconceptions and misunderstandings, perpetuates biases and stereotypes, and mischaracterizes him in the worst way. It’s frankly quite sickening. There ought to be plenty to attack him on without resorting to this sort of rhetoric, and that they have shows at best a certain laziness on their part and at worst an intent to deceive or distract that makes them undeserving of a place in any legitimate news media.
Vampire role-playing games grew out of vampire fiction, and have been a part of the collective imagination for a very long time. Even before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula or Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire, the vampire or something very much like it has been a part of the collective imagination. That people should want to explore that, that people should make it their hobby, is not “bizarre” or even noteworthy. The “Twilight Saga,” as groan-inducing as it is in some circles, proves that vampires have a very widespread appeal. Even 50 Shades of Grey, which is not explicitly about vampires, was inspired by vampires because it was originally composed as fanfiction (amateur short stories written by fans, based in the universe or on characters of some popular work of fiction) based on the aforementioned “Twilight Saga.”
If my readers want me to, I’d be happy to break down the (many) factual errors in the Saint Petersblog article about Jake Rush, but I don’t know if the investment of time is worth it right now because it would be substantial. At first blush however, this reminds me somewhat of a certain media explosion in the mid 90s, the Roderick Ferrell case. In this tragic case, a mentally-unbalanced young man carried out several murders in Florida and tried to make it to New Orleans, all under the delusion that he was a vampire. He was insane, clearly, but instead of delving into this fact and understanding that insanity will find an outlet the media examined the question of whether the role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade was dangerous in and of itself. This assertion is ridiculous, for the same reason that the accusations of Patricia Pulling about Dungeons & Dragons are ridiculous, because so many people who play that game do so little (I in fact played this game, and though some may think me a little weird I think I’m quite sane thankyouverymuch). In fact, I’d be willing to bet a reasonable sum f money that there are fewer people per capita that commit capital crimes and play Dungeons & Dragons or any role-playing game, than who commit capital crimes and watch football or basketball or baseball or soccer or hockey or NASCAR.
If you want to attack the man’s politics, go ahead. To take what he said while playing a character as his own words, however, is the same as judging any Hollywood actor by the things a character of his once said. Would you attack Mel Gibson because of his role in “Payback?” Would you attack Samuel L. Jackson because of his role in “Pulp Fiction?” Would you attack Robin Williams because of his role in “One Hour Photo?” Would you attack Ronald Regan because of his role in “The Killers?” Would you attack Arnold Schwarzeneggar because of his role in “Predator?” I wouldn’t, and I don’t condone it of anyone else.
Attacks like these perpetuate a misunderstanding and a stereotype, and they do great harm to kids all over the country. The very kids who are marginalized, who are “geeks” or “outcasts,” who seek an escape from these games, grow into lawyers and aspiring Congressmen, police officers and military officers, in my case into scientists and engineers. Calling them weird is grade school bullying, and it is unbecoming of adult discourse. Find better reasons to attack him; I don’t doubt they exist. I can even give you a few if you ask nicely. If you don’t alienate everyone he ever associated with in the Camarilla by keeping up this line of attack, I’m sure you’ll find their memories improve greatly and you’ll not have to troll Wikipedia for your character research. So do yourself a favor, Saint Petersblog, and give up on this line of attack.