Joan Baez’s Vanity

Joan Baez: I am Noise was showing at the Princess Theatre this week so my wife and I went to see it.  Up until about half way through, it was not too annoying.  It was narcissistic and self-serving, of course, and Baez always sings as if the audience has an obligation to express convincing and polite approbation or else, but I found it tolerable until she began to relate how broken down she was for a period in her life.  It’s hard to describe what she meant because the whole thing was amorphous and, I think, purposely vague, but it emerged that her sister Mimi, who also experienced these disorders, claimed that her father had French-kissed her once in the back yard by the clothesline.  Then Joan Baez– also, of course, in therapy– began to recover her own memories of abuse about which she was decidedly vague.

Aside from the obvious controversies, one must immediately acknowledge that she admitted to being desperately addicted to quaaludes at the time.  One must also sadly note that her career was in decline and she was no longer as important or celebrated as she once had been and that can be, for someone admittedly addicted to public adoration, a tough pill to swallow.

Think about it:  she was massively doped up on quaaludes (so badly so that she approved the stupidest album cover photo of her career–in a space suit– during this period for the stupidest album of her career — a desperate attempt to maintain her relevance by embracing rap), depressed about the loss of her prominence on the activism circuit (the Viet Nam War had ended) and possibly even more depressed about her own failures as a mother (she continued to tour leaving Gabriel in the care of others).  The cover of Time Magazine (an awful, ugly graphic) must have seemed so long ago by then.  And David Harris didn’t turn out to be that great of a husband after all.

There was a reference to hypnosis in there but I’ll say no more about that because I can’t recover a memory of the details of context.  But some of the content of the tapes she played in the film reminded me of the suggestive tactics of the “therapists” involved in recovering memories of abuse by the victims of the Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.

I remained puzzled by several things.  As is often the case, one allegation begets another and, sure enough, the zombie “recovered memories” reared it’s ugly, festering head and Joan claimed that she also had been abused.  Of course, there is no specific date or time or location, and of course her father is deceased and unable to defend himself.  Of course, she had been heavily into quaaludes for eight years– which, I suppose, offers an explanation of just how many layers of shit covered those hidden memories.  Of course.  What astonished me is that no editor or producer thought fit to either excise the questionable allegations or at least do a little more to acknowledge that recovered memories are “controversial”.  Because they are not “controversial” at all.   They are the product of junk psychology and have been thoroughly discredited and debunked.  They were promulgated by books like “Sybil” and “Satan Remembers” which have been convincingly shown to be hoaxes.

But then again, this is a vanity project, not a documentary.  We saw nothing that was not approved of for us by Joan Baez herself.

Add to that the issue of hypnosis, which was also part of her therapy…  look, it’s 2023.  Wake up.

Things come to a crux when Mimi tells of being French kissed by her father, a recollection that leads Joan to pursue her own path of thrice-weekly therapy, including hypnotism, which has her remembering her own inappropriate experiences with her dad — which the film does not go into great detail on. The doc includes letters and voice messages from her father in which he accuses Joan of having fallen prey to false memory syndrome, but Baez tells the filmmakers today that if even 20% of what she remembers is true, that’s damning enough.

Twenty percent of nothing is still nothing.  This is throwing mud onto the wall and believing that some of it must stick.

I will not be polite about this issue under any circumstance.  A good deal of damage has been done by credulous individuals who don’t care about science or evidence or facts and are willing to believe something because they just “feel” it must be true– as Joan Baez suggests in this vanity piece.  She even suggests that her father might have “felt” that it wasn’t true.  And that both feelings are valid.



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