Custer’s Last Stand
The few readers who paid attention to Charles Custer’s China Geeks website on June 26, would have been interested to read a note similar to that written by so many unappreciated 6-year-old runaway boys, telling their mothers “By the time you read this, I will already be on a bus for Kansas and will never come home again. And then you’ll be sorry.”
The cryptic message, telling no one in particular that he was leaving “for private reasons” that he just “didn’t care to get into”, was a typical 6-year-old’s attempt to put a brave face on the acute embarrassment of public failure by someone who got it all wrong.
Custer’s accidental good fortune in having some of his comments quoted by a few right-wing US media sites, appear to have created a delusion of invincibility but also a hubris that led him to rather overestimate his talents and value.
He fancied himself as a documentary filmmaker and professional writer but, to see his true standing, one needed only to note his China Geeks website replete with apparently unsuccessful begging letters for any kind of writing assignment.
And, in fairness to the world, even a cursory examination of his sample writings was sufficient to expose his lack of intellectual and literary gifts. Being ‘editor-in-chief’ of a one-man website is hardly a credential.
Perhaps overcome with the thrill and excitement of making immature and denigrating comments about China, he mistook mean-spiritedness for talent and led himself down the wrong path.
And down the wrong path he did go. Custer so fancied himself another American Messiah that he regularly attacked China, its people, its government, its culture and systems, and generally went where not many people dare to go – at least not without NED funding and the protection of the US embassy in China.
But sadly, he had no such value or connections, and when his inflated self-importance prompted him to attack Yang Rui – one of China’s most popular TV hosts – his quickly-zippered lip was ample testimony to his real, and lonely, place in the world.
The very real threats of serious legal action, combined with his rather dismal personal finances, were likely sufficient to show him the way home.
We find ourselves speculating that the reference to “by the time you read this, I’ll already be on a plane to the US” may have been intended as much for his landlady as anyone else, since, by his own admission, his life in China was impoverished.
With “Charlie, Leia, and their international team of China experts” having difficulty buying groceries, and treating Starbucks as a luxury, the writing must have been on the wall for some time. We’re told his mother paid for the plane tickets home.
But it isn’t a lack of spending money that prompts a 6-year-old to run away from home. Rather, it’s the feeling of being unloved and unappreciated, and here we might generate some sympathy for Mr. Custer in his last stand.
One of our contacts – who is close to the situation but wishes to remain anonymous because he isn’t authorised to speak openly on such matters – tells us, “Charlie’s feelings were really hurt that the NED didn’t consider him important enough for funding.
Charlie felt he was doing a consistently oustanding job of denigrating China, locating all the pimples and warts, more so than ‘dolts’ like Andrew Jacobs of the NYT, but they just ignored him.”
He felt himself a real ‘Western Warrior’, imagined himself having international acclaim, but found himself spurned. And after his thick-headed attack on Yang Rui, and the deliberate mis-translation of Yang’s words, his vulnerability was palpable.
We might also expend some brief sympathy for Custer’s Chinese wife of recent years who must now have a better-developed sense of evaluating foreigners and separating the winners from the losers.
It must have been a difficult decision for her, to leave her homeland for the great unknown in the company of a man whose failings were perhaps becoming more apparent by the day. What future will she have now?
Custer’s petulant “I may return someday, if I can get a visa”, is unlikely to generate either sympathy or pity, since it is likely the financial implications of the court action that will keep him safely at home on the farm in Kansas.
And his assurances to his few readers that he will continue to make future posts on China, is only a bit of smoke. Anything he bothers to write now, will be irrelevant to all but him. China is out of his future.
And this Custer didn’t even have the courage to make a last stand. Instead, he shot off his mouth, had a epiphany, put his tail between his legs and ran for home.
And good riddance.