Should The Media Give Hunter Biden a Pass? Yes and No

Conservatives are once again pointing to media hypocrisy, noting that if Donald Trump, Jr. had engaged in the same kind of behavior as Hunter Biden, it would be a nonstop free-for-all. 

The conservatives are right, but I would add some nuance. There are two parts to Hunter’s “laptop from hell” and the stream of leaked video showing him smoking crack and hanging out with hookers. 

First, if none of this stuff connects directly to Joe Biden, it is of limited news value. Second, we have medicalized the problem of addiction to the point that we don’t call it what it is: evil. The videos featuring Hunter (is there anything he didn’t tape?) are evil. I say that with sadness more than condemnation. I myself stopped partying in 1990. I know all too well the portal near where Hunter lives and when we open it up, we let the demonic through.

A powerful recent book, The War Of The Gods In Addiction: C. G. Jung, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Archetypal Evil by David Schoen, drives home the evil nature of addiction. The War of the Gods focuses on the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung, who played a pivotal role in the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous. Jung, whose theories launched a lot of New Age ideas about things like the meaning of dreams, came across like an Old Testament prophet when he wrote about addiction. To Jung, addiction was a struggle between God and the devil. In The War of the Gods Schoen goes so far as to dismiss even St. Augustine as being insufficiently realistic about the objective reality and true danger of evil. 

Schoen, an addiction counselor, argues that while genetics and biochemistry play a role in addiction, there is another more powerful element present: archetypal evil. Addiction is not just a malady or habit or disease, like diabetes; it is a life destroyer, a devouring, malicious force that explodes homes, friendships, and love itself. “Ultimately,” Schoen writes, “addiction swallows up and destroys creativity . . . the addiction ultimately wants everything burned and sacrificed on its altar alone.” 

Schoen’s conclusion is powerful: 

In addiction, there is a permanent hijacking of the entire psychic system; the normal ego complex and all of its functions are as if put under a powerful diabolical spell that suspends and paralyzes them—the whole kingdom and everything in it. I cannot state strongly enough that to describe this core of addiction as a killer is not a dramatic overstatement to get your attention or an alarmist exaggeration; it is the stone-cold truth and reality of addiction.

This malevolent entity has many names from many cultures: Loki in the Norse myth; Set, the ”bringer of darkness and drought” in Egypt; Ahriman, the “prince of demons” in Persia; and of course, Satan in Christianity. To Schoen this “Archetypical Shadow/Archetypal Evil” is a “transpersonal evil” that is real and becomes manifest in the “Addiction-Shadow-Complex” of the chemically dependent. In short, the person turns into a monster.

When understanding addiction as an evil, it makes sense that spiritual power can fight it. I know myself that when all else failed me, calling on the name Jesus Christ did not fail.

Carl Jung grew interested in alcoholism in the 1920s. One of his patients, an investment banker named Rowland Hazard, came to Jung for help to stop drinking but could not stay sober. Jung told Hazard that his case was hopeless and that there was only one shot available—a religious conversion. Jung recommended that Roland “place himself in a religious atmosphere and hope for the best,” AA founder Bill Wilson recalled in a memoir. 

Hazard discovered the Christian organization the Oxford Group. He got sober and then helped a fellow drunk named Ebby T. to get sober. Ebby then encountered his old friend, the alcoholic stock speculator Bill Wilson. After a powerful religious experience where he was blinded with a white light and claimed he stood in the presence of God, Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous.

Wilson wrote to Jung in 1961 to express his “great appreciation” for his efforts: [Y]ou frankly told [Rowland] of his hopelessness, so far as any further medical or psychiatric treatment might be concerned. This candid and humble statement of yours was beyond doubt the first foundation stone upon which our Society has since been built.” 

Jung replied to Wilson a week later, “[Rowland’s] craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.” Jung added: 

I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community. An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil, which is called very aptly the Devil. But the use of such words arouses so many mistakes that one can only keep aloof from them as much as possible.

Jung observed that “[the word] ‘alcohol’ in Latin is spiritus, and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum.”

We know much more about addiction today than Jung did a century ago. Scientists have long found genetic risk rather than the devil behind the malady. The language and philosophy of modern 12-step culture is filled with medical terms and non-judgmental self-help clichés about being true to oneself and taking things one day at a time and platitudes about how deep down we’re all good people. Ironically, this argot is an echo of St. Augustine, who considered evil “provatio boni,” or the absence of the good. 

In War of the Gods, Schoen isn’t having it: “St. Augustine’s theory ignores aspects of scripture—the Devil, Lucifer, the fallen angels, and hell—that argue for a different, less humanely subjective conclusion . . . [he] reduces evil to the purely subjective human realm, which has influenced and encouraged many believers and nonbelievers to dismiss the existence of Satan and the Devil ever since, or at least to minimize and deny the reality of the phenomenon that these mythic images represent.”

Hunter Biden is fighting the battle now. Because he’s a liberal, no one is going to lay a glove on him. Here’s Twitter banshee Stephen King on Hunter’s memoir Beautiful Things: “In his harrowing and compulsively readable memoir, Hunter Biden proves again that anybodyeven the son of a United States Presidentcan take a ride on the pink horse down nightmare alley,” King writes in a blurb. “Biden remembers it all and tells it all with a bravery that is both heartbreaking and quite gorgeous. He starts with a question: Where’s Hunter? The answer is he’s in this book, the good, the bad, and the beautiful.”

I call this kind of gushing the David Carr treatment. It’s when the media decides to use a different standard to judge someone’s past behavior based solely on politics. (If you’re a conservative the press will crucify you forwell, drinking beer.) The Carr treatment is named after David Carr, a late, celebrated and liberal former journalist for the New York Times. Carr, who died in 2015, was a “super-mentor” to an entire generation of journalists, according to Mikaela Lefrak, writing in the Atlantic. Everyone from Jake Tapper to Ta-Nehisi Coates has praised him. The Times even has a fellowship named after him.

Carr was also a drunk and drug addict who verbally abused and violently beat women. Carr explored his savage behavior in his 2008 memoir The Night of the Gun. “David Carr’s latest subject is a pathetic human being, a thug, a manipulative jerk who uses people and puts his own kids in danger,” Howard Kurtz observed at the time. “The New York Times media columnist is writing about himself.” Raised in Minneapolis, Carr “was fired from a series of jobs in Minneapolis as his life became consumed by coke snorting and dealing (not to mention dropping acid) while he checked in and out of rehab centers and kept getting arrested.”

Then there were the women. “My duplicity around women was towering and chronic,” Carr wrote. “I conned and manipulated myself into their beds and then treated them as human jewelry, something to be worn for effect.” Carr beat up a girlfriend, Anna, breaking one of her ribs and throwing her off a dock. He also beat his other girlfriend, Doolie, who called the police after he slapped her in the face. “I tortured her, mentally, verbally and, eventually, physically,” Carr wrote. When warned that detailing such repulsive behavior could damage him, Carr says he and Anna were smoking crack the day she gave birth to their premature twins.

One reviewer, Bruce Handy, was appalled: “What’s with hitting women? Carr presents this as another aspect of his coke-fueled mania, but plenty of crackheads don’t smack their wives and girlfriends. Where does Carr’s anger come from?”

The answer is that no one cares, because David Carr, like Hunter Biden, is liberal royalty.

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