Calling Jim Gillis Drunk
For no particular reason, except a recrudescent weakness in the face of my urge to procrastinate this stormy evening, I checked in on the news that’s fit to print online from the Newport Daily News. Meandering into the columnists’ area, I received these words of anecdotal wisdom from staff writer Jim Gillis:
All along, Mel’s denied any anti-Semitism in his work. But a few belts of hard liquor are a strong truth serum. Some Mel buddy on the tube said something along the lines of, “Hey, he was drunk. He didn’t mean what he was saying.”
Actually, when people are hammered, they say what they really think. More than a few times, drunken locals have left me voice-mail messages suggesting that kids molested by priests probably deserved it or enticed the good father.
Some were so drunk they left their names.
“Actually,” huh? Actually, what people really think is more often revealed between the lines of well-polished prose. Gillis’s lone example of drunken honesty (besides the Catholic Gibson) bespeaks a storyline that unrelated examples might have scuttled, even as they strengthened his point. Surely a local opinion fixture such as he has received drunken voicemail from non-papists.
Despite my being able to sketch a grad student’s Ph.D. thesis on the link between drunkenness, truth, journalistic texts, and Ernest Hemmingway, I’m not so sure that Mr. Gillis has adequately considered the motivations of his voicemail correspondents. Were they being honest, or were they hurling ideas that they felt sure to shock their target? Or might it be more likely that they were expounding a truth at which they’d arrived once alcohol had drowned out half — arguably the higher — of the impulses by which we discover, understand, and express what we truly believe?
Since some of them left names, perhaps the journalist Gillis should seek them out and ask. But maybe he’d better knock a few back, first.