July 11, 2023
Life is full of surprises. Two weeks ago, a professor from Ben-Gurion University publicly called me out on Twitter. That’s not surprising; I expect Jewish academics to dislike me. I have a rep, justified or not (spoiler alert: not). The surprising part was that the prof was angry that I’d yet to address new “developments” in the Covid origin story.
The prof claimed that my “refusal” to address such matters in light of my previous skepticism of lab leak theorizing means I’ve “lost credibility” and I’m a “washed-up alcoholic.”
Well, alcoholic, sure. But washed-up? That suggests I once had a better career, and considering that in the 1990s if an Israeli professor reached out to me it would be to call me “Nazi,” and now they reach out for my opinion on a global pandemic, I’d say I’m doing better now.
Anyway, the prof and I smoothed the Dead Sea waters and I promised I’d get to Covid as quickly as possible.
And I don’t wanna piss the guy off (again), but I’m going to make this a two-parter. Because what better way to answer a man from the Holy Land than with a parable?
I present, the Parable of the Burning Balcony.
It was Friday, January 31st, 1992. And the only reason I can be that specific about the date is because I was scheduled to attend some idiotic “Holocaust revisionist” conference sponsored by a black guy in South L.A. the next day (I was just doing it to collect $200 for videotaping services).
Now, two things happened the Friday before the conference:
(1) I broke up with my girlfriend Karen (yes, it used to be a real name before it became a slur), who’d often threatened vengeance should I ever leave her (and immediately after the breakup I received a phone message from her ex-husband, an L.A. Times photographer, threatening my life for having “touched his woman”).
(2) JDL leader Irv Rubin told his followers via his 1-800 infoline (remember, there was no internet back then) about the upcoming conference and the JDL’s plan to “take action.” And for the record, by 1992 Rubin already had a history of physically attacking me.
So that Friday was eventful. And it would become even more so.
At about 1 a.m. I started to feel a massive heat in my apartment. I was living in a second-floor two-story duplex with a loft, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a private rooftop patio. And yes, rent in 1992 “black L.A.” was so low, even a not-wealthy guy like myself could afford a nice place. My beloved gentrification has killed low Westside rents. And I hear from frustrated white readers about that all the time: “Hey, Cole, I’m Motorbike Mike from Bakersfield. I wanna move to L.A., but because of your fuckin’ gentrification me and my babe Superboobs can’t even afford a studio.” Indeed, gentrification has robbed West L.A. of the company of Motorbike Mike and Superboobs. But it also priced out DaQuan.
A fair deal.
Where was I? Right—a terrible heat. And I saw that my balcony was on fire. So I called the fire department and ran to my door to exit, because the heat was making it feel as if those floor-to-ceiling windows were gonna explode. And then I stopped in my tracks, because I remembered that one of the JDL’s tactics was to start a diversionary fire to herd people to the front door, where a pipe bomb was wired. But, because I’m the bravest man who ever lived (fuck you, Iwo Jima guys), I opened the door and fled.
The firemen arrived and doused the blaze and I said to them, “I’m a controversial public figure; will you be sending an arson investigator?” And I had a real-life (and well-deserved) Big Lebowski “they have us working in shifts” moment, as the captain was like (of course I’m paraphrasing), “Dude, this is 1992 black L.A. All first-response services are overworked from rampant crime. Your balcony was singed; we put out the fire. Good night, dumbass.”
So I went back into my apartment and I realized how bizarre it was that I didn’t hear anything prior to sensing the heat. I heard no Molotov cocktail, no car creeping down the sleepy alleyway behind the building. Yes, it was January and cold, so the windows were closed. But still, it was 1 a.m. and dead silent. I had no idea how that fire started.
Of course I’m thinking, “This is the JDL sending me a message.” But I’m also thinking, “Or, is this Karen exacting her revenge?” And then I’m like, “Or is it her ex? He had just threatened my life. Was this him trying to execute that threat with the questionable competence that defines all L.A. Times employees?”
The next day I didn’t go to the black guy’s event; thinking about the fire had kept me up late, and I wanted to sleep in (I sent a crackhead friend to videotape it and collect my payment, warning him, “Don’t blow it on crack.” You won’t believe what happened next!).
That afternoon I checked the JDL dial-a-Jew line, and there was Irv making a vague comment about having “sent a message to Nazis.”
Also that afternoon, I got a call from Karen.
Why? We’d broken up. Why would she be calling? And she also made a vague comment, about “seeing how my night went.” It was never her style to ask such banalities. Was she fishing to find out about the fire? She literally called to say nothing else.
So was it Rubin or Karen or the ex? And it got more confusing. The apartment beneath mine was home to two Asian UCLA students. One fat, one skinny; I called them Fat Man and Little Choi. As I went outside to examine the damage in the daylight, I heard the two guys giggling inside their apartment. Like some clichéd scene from a movie, their front door was open just a crack, just enough for me to sort-of hear. And the snippets I heard were “Holy shit that was crazy,” and “Yeah, I don’t think anyone suspects.”
Unable to catch additional details, I knocked and entered. I asked them if they knew anything about the fire, and they were like, “Oh no, we were sleeping. We students! We study hard, long days! Need sleep!”
Two weeks later, at about 10 p.m., I heard a scream from the alley and there’s Little Choi, sitting on the steps smoking a cigarette, watching as Fat Man, in his underwear—high as a kite, having a bad trip of some kind—was waving around a piece of burning cloth while shrieking, “Woo-woo!” (the trouble with Chinamen is that you never know if they’re being unintelligible or simply saying their name).
Turns out the guy was a maniacal druggie (hey, at least we found one who’s not inscrutable).
So was it them? The partially overheard convo, the fiery dragon-dance?
But the night of the fire I hadn’t heard a sound; certainly not the sound of a fat idiot on acid.
No matter who started the fire—Karen who felt jilted, her ex who’d already threatened my life, Rubin who was known for arson, or Chunk-King who traded CCP for PCP—by necessity this story involves coincidences. If Karen didn’t do it, her call was coincidental. If Rubin didn’t do it, his infoline message was coincidental. If Pan Fry didn’t do it, his fiery erratic behavior was coincidental, as was the partially overheard conversation.
Yes, coincidences happen. Steve Bannon’s a tard.
But here’s the deal: I’ll never know who started that fire. I haven’t seen Karen in three decades, Rubin’s dead, and I never even got the Chinamen’s names.
I will die not knowing. I’m at peace with that. But let’s say all of a sudden a bunch of you guys start investing a huge amount of time and effort into solving the burning balcony mystery. And you form teams and forge identities based on the fervency of your belief, with your adherence to your theory of choice often involving personal experiences and prejudices.
“I’m team KAREN! She did it; women suck. A woman once left me high and dry (in fact, it was Superboobs), so I KNOW the culprit’s gotta be a stinkin’ bitch.”
“I’m team CHINAMAN! Them Chinks can’t be trusted fer nuthin’. You know how to tell if a Chink’s lyin’? His mouth’s movin’. The very fact that them slant-eyes denied it is all the proof I need to KNOW they done it.”
“I’m team RUBIN! Kikes are behind every bad thing that happens in the world. That’s how I KNOW he did it! Lousy Hebe.”
“I’m team EX-HUSBAND! My husband left me for another woman (Superboobs again…that gal gets around), so I’ll never trust a husband. That’s how I KNOW he did it!”
And some teams even go to the chalkboard to explain that all of them did it! Conspiring! “If there are no coincidences, none of the parties can be innocent. That’s how I KNOW they did it TOGETHER!”
That whole situation would be idiotic, right?
Okay, but why would it be idiotic?
You’ll likely say, “Because people would be wasting time arguing over an ancient story of no importance.”
And that would be correct. But it’s not the main reason the situation would be idiotic.
The idiocy is, people would be tying their identities and reputations to something they cannot know. They can think they know all they like, but the simple truth is, they cannot and do not actually know who set the fire.
The Covid origin story has everyone on “teams.” And the fact that a college professor who’s never met me would become furious with me for wanting to thoughtfully sift through new evidence and not make an immediate pronouncement either defending “my team” or ceding victory to the “other team” is unfortunate.
I do not have a team; my Covid pieces merely cast a critical eye on the evidence presented for the lab leak theory. I’m not choosing sides, but there’s been tremendous pressure from people, especially on the right, to take evidence that is often circumstantial or, dare I say, coincidental and use it to declare a team victory.
Don’t be those people. Don’t find your identity in the solution to a mystery that at present cannot be solved with certainty. Might it one day be solved? Unlike my balcony fire, absolutely. But it ain’t now.
Certain people—straight white males, primarily—are not allowed to use their biological identity as their “team,” as every other demographic group on earth is encouraged to do.
But don’t use a mystery as a surrogate.
That said, next week I’ll address the recent lab leak claims as best I can. See you then. In the meantime, if you see a fat Chinaman who’d now be in his 50s waving burning rags in an alley, would you please ask him if he started that fucking blaze?