I discovered the personal blog of one Chez Pazienza, Deus Ex Malcontent, when I was in college. This was before the internet opinion sphere had ossified to the degree it has now, so reading not only such vitriol, but such clear, compelling vitriol was quite novel to me. Even as the internet media realm has expanded, giving platforms to numerous more voices, Chez and his bluntness, his cynicism, and most importantly his anger stood out to me. I kept reading his blog, and kept reading his site The Daily Banter.
Now, he’s gone. Even as someone who didn’t know him personally I still knew him through his writing, where his struggles with drugs, depression, and the vicious personal cycles that both arise from and also create the need for self-medication were evident. Despite the fact that some people may have seen his death as an inevitability of past behavior, I can’t help but see his passing as a casualty of the political era we live in.
We need more people like Chez. He and Freddie de Boer, who thankfully is still alive, are both people I see in my reading who have the ability to articulate, defend, and contextualize an opinion with no regard to how popular it is. Ultimately, agreeing with them was not the point, because agreeing mindlessly to anything you read is just another declaration of surrender to eyeball-grabbing, approval-seeking internet culture. Though I doubt it was intentional in this respect, it was good that Chez pissed you off because then you had to go back and actually try to figure out what he was saying. Writers who make you think are way more important than writers who make you nod.
Chez’s timing was terrible. Now is when we need more middle fingers in the air, not fewer. His death diminishes everyone who is trying to write about the truth, whether they have an audience of thousands or (in my case) maybe a dozen. It’s a reminder that speaking truth to power is emotionally draining, and those who do it need all the support they can get.