A Brief History of Nutters

For the last six weeks, a cosmic force has possessed my girlfriend. The symptoms of this malady are largely the inability to stop talking about one topic, and a maniacal look printed over the eyes. That’s nothing new—they’re hysterical by nature. You must know to whom I refer?

Perhaps it’s outmoded to observe and opine upon such stereotypes, but the stereotypical is so often typical. Can you believe we allow them to vote, to drive, to operate machinery? Of course, by “they” and “them” I’m referring to those millions of men and women who’ve spent the last six weeks mainlining into their veins the narcotic spectacle that was the Amber Heard-Johnny Depp trial.

Perhaps their giddy hysteria is warranted. After catching a few snippets of the highlights, I decided post-haste to employ a new unit of measurement. Johnny Depp imbibes “mega pints” of red wine, an innovation which I’ll employ with the pettifogging diligence of a disgruntled parking attendant. I might smash up the kitchen, bellow mad mutterings at my kennel of stray Labradors. My mimicry stops there. I’d rather not lose the tip of my finger to an errant flying vodka bottle, or discover allegedly human feces in my bed.

For the mercifully unaware, Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation after she intimated in a Washington Post essay in 2018, at the height of the #MeToo trials, she’d suffered domestic abuse during their batshit marriage.

For some mental reason, TV cameras beamed every moment of the drama into the lives of millions. Like those clickbait headlines, what happened next was inscrutable. “This young actress ruined her reputation using this one weird trick. Housekeepers hate her!”

Amber accused Johnny of beating her. She also admitted on video (filming every unedifying detail of one’s life is compulsory now) to hitting him.

Unlike Amber, Johnny had multiple witnesses testify that she had on numerous occasions attacked him. On their honeymoon, Amber allegedly left Johnny with a “shiner.” Amber also admitted kicking a door into Johnny’s head, stubbing a cigarette out on his face, and throwing objects at him, including a broken vodka bottle that sliced off the tip of his finger.

On tape, the enraptured heard Amber mock Johnny’s claim to victimhood in the age of #BelieveAllWomen.

“Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them! I, Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence,” Heard said, adding: “See how many people believe or side with you.”

Well, the jury did. Speaking to the New York Post, one juror said he and fellow jurors found Amber’s claims did not add up, her often theatrical testimony amounting to “crocodile tears.” Like myself, that juror is under no illusions that Johnny Depp was a model husband. Both Amber and Johnny, he said, appeared to be in the wrong and as bad as each other.

Johnny won his case. Amber partly won hers. Johnny got $10 million in damages, while Amber got $2 million. Both have probably ruined their lives and the next ones and the ones after that.

After the result, Amber said that “women’s rights have been set back decades,” to a time when “a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated.”

“It sets back the idea,” she said, “that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”

According to critics, the result possessed God-like omnipotence. Women will now live in fear. Women will now suffer at the primitive hands of emboldened wife-beaters. Never again will anyone anywhere believe a woman about anything anywhere.

Before our age of My Truth, suggesting bad things will happen because one didn’t get one’s way used to be called emotional blackmail. The grotesque irony of such claims is in their crude parody of the domestic abuse cliché: Look what you made me do.

Quite how the plight of one woman poisons the prospects of half the planet defies reason.

In a post-trial interview released last week, Amber blamed social media’s Salem-like tendencies for her loss and for ruining her reputation.

That cannibalistic culture Amber correctly diagnoses as the malady of modernity is the same culture that Amber and her more fervent supporters championed and continue to champion in the #MeToo movement.

Would Amber Heard have blamed such a culture had she won her case?

At least she got the dignity of a fair trial and due process. Liam Scarlett, and many others accused of bad behavior, weren’t afforded such basic mercies. Scarlett is one of many who killed themselves after their no-trial convictions in the court of #MeToo.

In the aftermath of this trial, that same noisome culture engorged itself senseless, conjuring all the nuance, charm, and delicacy of a dive-bar headbutt.

Apparently, the end of #MeToo is nigh. Not so fast, insisted co-founder Tarana Burke, the news of #MeToo’s death is greatly exaggerated. Another more exotic spurt of thinking claimed the trial between two people whiter than a sack of rice in a snowstorm “sends a message to black women everywhere.”

“No!” cried the Guardian, “an orgy of misogyny,” the “strange, illogical, and unjust” verdict will “compel women back into silence—by force.”

It continued: “While most of the vitriol is nominally directed at Heard, it is hard to shake the feeling that really, it is directed at all women.”

Social media, reality TV’s Ritalin-addled problem child, has won the final victory over reality itself.

According to one tribe, Johnny Depp could not be innocent because Johnny Depp is a man. Men are the cause of all bad things. Ergo, Johnny Depp is guilty. According to another tribe, Johnny Depp could not be guilty because Johnny Depp is a man. Women are the cause of all bad things. Ergo, Johnny Depp is innocent.

Perhaps vegans blame the result on meat-eating, while carnivores blame the result on a lack of meat-eating. Sooner or later, antisemites will reveal some mad muttering about a Jewish plot. The more fanciful of nutters may claim the whole trial was a false flag.

Doubtless, some would rather do away with the idea of a trial altogether. Those railing against the result do so because the result discredits their Theory of Everything.

To those infected with such a mind virus, the idea of a jury first presuming one’s innocence, then weighing and assessing the evidence in pursuit of the truth is grossly demeaning to their infallible doctrines. After all, juries do their best to make judgments without emotion or the stigmata of human nature, and certainly without considering the apparent all-importance of one’s genitalia or skin color.

The unhinged reaction, then, stems from the jury’s reflection of life as it is, not as many would like it to be—messy, hopelessly complicated, with dashes of good and often lashings of bad.

This is the natural evolution of a culture that junked long ago all standards and metrics as oppressive antiquations, in favor of My Truth.

Without such benchmarks, nothing is better than anything and everything is the same. If everything is the same, then there’s no truth. The truth, then, is whatever one chooses it to be.

Our ever-spawning tribes of My Truthers have their own founding beliefs, their own articles of faith, their own heresies, their own commandments, their own Gods, their own Devils. The irony: apparently, religion is dead.

I’ve long suspected the truth is dressed in overalls, and ignored because it refuses to parade itself on TikTok.

Back in the 1940s, a self-educated stevedore on the San Francisco docks wrote in his spare time works of rare genius.

In The True Believer, Eric Hoffer said mass movements infect people with a malady before offering the movement as a cure. They “draw their adherents from the same types of humanity, and appeal to the same types of mind.”

Our modern tribes, from Left to Right, offer easily digestible soothers explaining why some people do bad things and why life isn’t a saunter around Eden, but could be if not for those people. They promise to perfect what cannot be perfected.

“Oppressed by their shortcomings,” Hoffer wrote, “the frustrated blame their failures on existing restraints.”

What they really want, he said, is an “end to the free for all,” of modern life. “They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is subjected in a free society.”

Such movements, he wrote, can rise without belief in a God, but never without belief in a Devil.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at Oxford Sour. Subscribe to Christopher Gage’s Substack here.

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About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist and a founding member of the Gentlemen of the Swig. Subscribe to his Substack, "Oxford Sour."

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images