The Short Happy Life of Alan Smithee

His online moniker was the pseudonym used by disgruntled film directors for movies so bad they disavow any association.

His avatar was J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, head of the Church of the SubGenius.

His birth name was Christopher A. Chopin, and he was an attorney from West Palm Beach, Florida. He died unexpectedly October 8, 2017.

The only thing I had in common with this gentleman, online or in real life, was a shared disdain for the Clintons. I don’t know where Alan Smithee’s dislike of Bill and Hillary Clinton came from. Mine derived from a visit to the Clinton Foundation website some time in early spring, 2016. Scanning page after nonsensical, sloppy, confused page and obviously substandard financial information, I became overwhelmed by the horrible realization that I had been a stooge, a gimp, a fool, a moron, for working in an honest, above-board way with not-for-profit organizations as an executive and board member.

If only I had stolen money, food, clothing and opportunities from homeless and poor people. I could have taken scholarship funds and sent them overseas. I could have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars to help people recover from natural disasters, spent it on myself, and told the public I was the most charitable, saintly person ever.

Via Twitter, I noticed that Alan Smithee was quick with old news clippings excoriating Clintons. He had dozens of examples proving their lies dated back decades. From the clippings and their appearance, I deduced he had access to Lexis-Nexis, the database that attorneys use. Other phrases and references made me also think he was an attorney.

I questioned him about this but he was evasive. Over the 2016 holiday season, I asked “how can you spend so much time looking up these articles and sending them on Twitter and maintain a law practice?” He didn’t spend that much time online, he said. He didn’t really care about Twitter at all: just a casual thing. He didn’t address the question about his practice at all.

During the incredibly long 2016 U.S. election season, “Smithee” built up quite a following of Twitter users, especially for a self-declared parody account. As I made stone cold certain I’d never work as a nonprofit executive again by revealing Clinton Foundation debacle after debacle on every continent, Smithee tweeted out ancient article snippets proving what liars Clintons were. His message expanded to encompass general government evil.

I discerned that Smithee was intelligent and well-educated and for a time, he seemed ethical. Then I saw him toying with his followers, alternating between praise and verbal abuse.

I realized that a lot of his followers didn’t seem to know that “Alan Smithee” wasn’t just a fake name, it was a Hollywood tradition. They had no idea what I meant when I’d ask how his movies were doing. They didn’t seem to recognize the apocalyptic counterculture satire of “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius.

The floating head with the pipe did tip others off in one way. The real Christopher A. Chopin liked and collected tobacco pipes, leading others to discern the real identity behind the pseudonym: Christopher A. Chopin, a family law attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“There’s a story there,” I told someone after his death was revealed this week. Smithee was sad at times. Before he turned cruel to followers and others, he had mentioned an interest in writing. It seemed as though he wanted some kind of creative outlet. He was proud when his Tweetstreams were featured in media articles.

People speculated he had grown so tired of the Twitter circus he’d arranged his “death.”

Twitter’s “Alan Smithee”: Christopher A. Chopin

He left behind a family: parents, wife, daughter, and sister. There was a real person there and I think perhaps a real story. Perhaps someone will write it, but that someone is not me.

Some people haven’t said anything about Alan Smithee/Christopher Chopin because they are unable to say anything positive. Almost 100% of those people are people of color.

I don’t think Smithee had any idea that his very nature was uncommunicative with, noncomprehending of, and disrespectful toward the beliefs, concerns and experiences of people of color.

I wrote an article about another attorney, a man who, like Smithee, is someone I can know only through writings. I wrote about Vince Foster, Bill Clinton’s school friend. Foster’s suicide occurred only months into Clinton’s first presidential term. His death is thought by many conspiracists to be murder. That’s not what I wrote about.

Shortly before the November 8, 2016 election, someone at the FBI released thousands of documents related to the Clintons via their FBI Vault system. Among the documents were redacted notes from the Vince Foster suicide investigation. The first part of the file consisted of the routine FBI background check into Foster’s fitness to serve as an attorney in the White House. It was this, not the crime investigation, that interested me. These notes contained remarkably consistent testimony of friends, neighbors, co-workers, clients and family. They showed what kind of man Vince Foster was — a fine one — and it was this story, one I had never heard or known before, that I wanted to write about.

Reading and thinking about Vince Foster, I felt one of the most acute senses of loss I have ever known. The Clintons’ boundless greed, their endless prevarication, and massive, solar-system spanning egos didn’t just destroy Vince Foster. They made it so much more difficult for a man like Vince Foster to exist.

There may not have been the greatest amount of truth in the “American Dream” before the Clintons, but there was something. I know it wasn’t a lie that my grandfather was a good man and led a good life. My father, too, was a good man. I had hope myself — for such a long time. I believed that if I just tried hard enough I could be successful. I applied this principle throughout my life. I believed that being good, being honest, caring for others, living an honorable life —

The Clintons dismantled every shred of personal and professional ethics from public life. They enacted policies that made it impossible for average people to get ahead, that destroyed people’s retirement funds, eliminated millions of American jobs, threw people of color into prison or impossible lives of debt and toil, hurled truckloads of drugs into inner cities, and created a monstrous welfare ‘program’ that destroyed countless lives.

When I read about Vince Foster’s life in Arkansas, so opposite to everything we hear about his school chum Bill Clinton, my heart caught in my throat. This was it, I thought. This is the day that honor died in America. The sweltering day in July, 1993 that Vince Foster, an eminently honorable and humane man, shot himself in Fort Marcy Park, because he couldn’t reconcile the way he was raised and lived, the way he was, with who and what his friends really were.

So, what I saw with Smithee, whom I did not know, is a man who did have some desire to seek honor. I’m not that fond of attorneys in general but I have known some fine ones. The best attorneys are men and women of great integrity, courage and honor.

I think there was something of that in “Alan Smithee,” but he had lost his way. He knew the Clinton’s vicious amorality and Oort Cloud-sized Gordian Knots of lies were at the root and basis of how our country has lost its way. He knew this, but no one man or woman can combat such things.

And that is the best I can say about Alan Smithee.

According to Harlan Ellison and my grandmother, “You’ll go far Amy, because you have heart.” Author of 40 books, former exec., Nebula Award nominee, Poor.

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