The Unknown Hoya and the Shadow Projection of the Left

“How does it feel to have the entire world projecting its shadow onto you?”

That’s what my friend and editor said to me in the fall of 2018. 

I was the focus of one of the nastiest political hits in American history. I’ve written about the ordeal for the past several years, and there is going to be a book about it in the fall. In summation, before I move on to other subjects, I wanted to address a larger spiritual reality of what happened. 

What the leftist politicians, the opposition researchers, and the media in 2018 took part in was an epic example of what is called “shadow projection.” It’s a concept of Jungian psychology that refers to blaming others for the very things of which you are guilty—of casting onto them your own lust, jealousy, rage, etc. Jung’s concept has gained currency in recent years with the rise of rage in the West and the arrival of cancel culture and Twitter mobs. The world is now a free-fire zone of shadow projection.

A clear example is CNN. The network which sold itself as the center of decency and truth was actually a cesspit of affairs, sexual abuse, and on-camera wankery. CNN was one of the main squadrons in the blitzkrieg that tried to destroy me in 2018. 

On July 9, 2018, President Donald J. Trump announced his intention to nominate Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to serve as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court after the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. More than two months later, a woman named Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when we were all in high school. The media went crazy, even going through our high school yearbook. An extortionist and future convicted felon named Michael Avenatti produced a woman named Julie Swetnick, who claimed that Brett and I had attended 10 parties in high school where girls were drugged and gang raped. Swetnick claimed that she herself was the victim of a gang rape.

Avenatti, who was on CNN practically nonstop in 2018, just got sent away to prison for two-and-a-half years. His crime was extorting a woman named Stephanie Clifford. So while Avenatti was accusing us of gang rape it was he who was, in reality, screwing over an innocent woman. In the psychology dictionary under “Shadow Projection” there should be a picture of Michael Avenatti.

It’s important to clarify that when talking about the shadow, Carl Jung emphasized it is crucial not to ignore or suppress our own shadows. Instead, we should integrate them into our psyche. “The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality,” Jung wrote, “for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.” 

“Bringing the shadow to consciousness,’’ analyst Liliane Frey-Rohn once observed, ‘‘is a psychological problem of the highest moral significance. It demands that the individual hold himself accountable not only for what happens to him, but also for what he projects . . . Without the conscious inclusion of the shadow in daily life there cannot be a positive relationship to other people, or to the creative sources in the soul; there cannot be an individual relationship to the Divine.’’ 

In other words, own your own stuff or you will blame others for it. In Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche, Robert A. Johnson argues that some of the best-integrated people have been Christian saints and monks. After years of prayer and wrestling with darker instincts, they have achieved an equipoise that allows them to own their shadows. This isn’t the same as facilitating sin or evil. It’s living with the knowledge of your own flaws and defects and owning them. 

“Today, whole businesses are devoted to containing our shadow for us,” Johnson writes. “Newspapers offer us a daily allotment of disasters, crimes, and horrors to feed our shadow nature outwardly when it should be incorporated into each of us as an integral part of our personalities.”

In 2018, the media was in a shadow-projecting frenzy, howling about my high school friends and our keg parties, sex, and wild 1980s lifestyle. I remember an interesting challenge to them that came from an unusual source—“Saturday Night Live.” No, I’m not talking about the Matt Damon sketch when Damon played Brett. Rather, it was a sketch where Adam Driver, playing me in the 1980s, goes to a crazy party where people skinny dip, do drugs, and hook up. At different points the picture freezes to reveal what became of these people. Several of them, in fact some of the most indulgent partiers, had futures as anchors in the liberal media. In other words, they became shadow-projecting hypocrites.

Especially funny in retrospect is how the media went after The Unknown Hoya, an underground newspaper I helped run at Georgetown Prep. Ian Shapira described The Unknown Hoya in the Washington Post:

The Unknown Hoya, an underground newspaper at Georgetown Preparatory School in the early 1980s, prided itself on its coverage of the crude. One issue featured a photo of a student vomiting into a toilet and an article laced with slurs against girls at the nearby Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md. The same issue also pitched a new school song that included a joke about rape and paeans to kegs of beer. Another issue reportedly carried photos of a bachelor party the seniors threw for a teacher that featured a stripper.

Aside from the charge that we joked about rape, which is false, the dark picture Shipira tries to paint really depicts a fairly normal example adolescent boys wrestling with their shadows. As Robert Bly argued in his A Little Book about the Human Shadow, it is essential that boys encounter and deal with their shadows in order to achieve any kind of spiritual maturity and wisdom. Without this process, they become people like Jim Acosta—all surface, no soul. 

In 2018, CNN aired an exposé about some short videos I had directed. My work had been good enough to be used by an American Idol contestant, and was even complemented by Alec Baldwin. (I might not want that endorsement now.) What did CNN focus on? The idea that I liked to shoot “fresh-faced and buxom young women.” Yes, I like pretty and buxom women. I probably need to be sent to a reeducation camp.

In 2018 I had a friend compare my situation to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. I had been minding my own business when this Ring of Power fell into my lap. In my case, the ring was knowledge about Brett Kavanaugh.

The thing is, there was no secret knowledge. It was all projection by opposition researchers like Avenatti. My situation was not Tolkien, it was A Wizard of Earthsea, the science fiction novel by Ursula K. LeGuin that tells the story of the young wizard Ged. He is focused on learning “to gain power” with his magic (like so many of us as adolescent boys), so much so that he casts a spell to summon the dead. It unleashes a shadow. 

As he first reads about the spell, Ged “saw that something was crouching beside the closed door, a shapeless blot of shadow darker than the darkness.” The master wizard Ogion then enters, dispelling what he later calls only “the shadow of a shadow.” Orion then questions young Ged: “Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light?”

Ged travels to an island called Roke—on a ship named Shadow—but his refusal to integrate his own shadow leads to a terrible eruption. As Jung observed, “the less [the shadow] is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” Despite being warned by a new instructor, The Master Hand, that “[t]he world is in balance,” Ged argues that “surely a wizard . . . was powerful enough to do what he pleased, and balance the world as seemed best to him, and drive back darkness with his own light.” Ged uses a spell to summon a spirit from the dead, but the spell unleashes something else, described by Le Guin as a shadow “the size of a young child [with] no head or face.” The shadow attacks Ged, who barely survives. 

Ged spends the rest of the A Wizard of Earthsea learning to integrate his shadow. Eventually, he recognizes it as part of himself. Near the end of the story, Ged sees his shadow in a corner of the deck on his boat. He is no longer afraid. He accepts that he is encountering a part of himself.

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