Documenting a Whisper Campaign Against Me … Plus Two Friends Bravely Rise to the Challenge with Wisdom, Love, & Radical Honesty

by Margaret Anna Alice. Originally published on her Substack.

I have taken pains to protect the identity of my saboteur [I’ll call her S] because—as will become evident when you read these exchanges—she appears to be suffering some sort of psychological crisis, and I don’t blame her but rather her mental illness. As such, I have substituted any terms that could be traced back to her posts and indicated these substitutions in brackets.

Although her betrayal and attempt to sabotage me hurt deeply, I still feel she is doing valuable work toward our shared goals of defeating tyranny and ending democide. She writes beautifully and is multitalented, and my hope is reading this will help her regain perspective and unlock her imaginary cage so she can be liberated to focus on her good work.

How to Be an Upstander: Illustration of Ear with Earpiece or Earring

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.

“An ‘upstander’ is someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. When an upstander sees or hears about someone being bullied, they speak up. Being an upstander is being a hero: we are standing up for what is right and doing our best to help support and protect someone who is being hurt. In many ways, this is another word for being socially responsible.”
—“Upstander” as defined by The Bully Project (from the makers of the documentary BULLY)

The Silent Treatment

A few months ago, someone I considered a friend and fellow truth warrior stopped communicating with me. This was in stark contrast to her previously warm responses and occurred so many times, it became plain it was deliberate, despite no apparent provocation.

Anyone who has suffered the “the awesome power of the blank” knows how painful it can be. It activates the same parts of the brain physical pain does—the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex—and triggers the release of mu-opioid, a natural painkiller.

Each rejection etched another wound into my heart, and I found myself losing sleep and tears over this behavior the longer it wore on. As someone who strives to practice Stoicism, I realized I needed to focus on the variables within my control and let go of those beyond it.

So I decided to write her the following email to see if I could get clarity about what had occurred:

“This may seem silly and hypersensitive, but have I done something to upset you?

“I noticed you haven’t liked or responded to my comments for quite a while now. I thought maybe it was just an oversight, but since it has been happening repeatedly and you like/engage with the other comments, it feels intentional.

“Normally, I’m not bothered by what others think of me—unless it’s someone I respect and care for, like you. So I started worrying I had said or done something to hurt you somehow.

“Back when Notes was first launched, I used ‘Covidian,’ and you took issue with that term, which actually gave me pause about using it as I understand and appreciate your compassion toward those who are at different points along their path of awakening. But CJ is the one who coined that term originally (I think) and continues to use it and you are still engaging with him, so it didn’t seem like that could be it.

“Plus, you’re not the type to stop talking to someone because you disagree with them. My impression is you are all about lovingly and respectfully discussing diverse viewpoints.

“So I am racking my memory to figure out what could have caused this perplexing response (or lack thereof) from you and then realized I should just ask you.

“I prefer to be direct, and I know you do, too, so that’s why I’m asking. I don’t have time/energy for drama and have no intention of stirring any up. My hope is it is a simple misunderstanding, and I welcome the opportunity to clear it up.”

When she didn’t respond, I had my answer—but I still didn’t understand why.

My brain could not make sense of what had occurred, so an underlying unease permeated my consciousness, chewing away at the mystery as I dealt with pressing matters.

I finally found a clue in a post from around the time she stopped talking to me, and it appeared she suspected me of being a spy. In a way, this was a relief, because as upsetting as that accusation was, it at least made some sort of logical sense and my brain could finally stop gnawing on the problem.

I decided to stop trying to engage with her as the silent treatment was too painful, and once someone comes to a conclusion like that about you, there is no way of responding without them interpreting everything you say and do as confirmation of their beliefs.

People tend to see others through the lens of their preconceived notions.

If they are paranoid, they see people as a threat, and any actions that appear to invalidate their distrust are rationalized away to support their cognitive preset.

If they are open-hearted, they are inclined to see people as decent … until proven otherwise.

The paranoid are understandably trying to protect themselves from being hurt, while the open-hearted are making themselves vulnerable to that hurt.

One is driven by fear, the other by love.

Unfortunately, paranoia can easily tornado of control, forging a path of wreckage that rips through both the targets and the targeter indiscriminately. Even bystanders can get sucked into the funnel cloud.

When the paranoid set their sights on a suspect, they trigger a domino detonation that demolishes the bridge beneath their feet.

The Whisper Campaign

Those engaging in gossip or whisper campaigns prove themselves untrustworthy to those they’ve whispered to:

“What A says about B says a lot about A and little about B.”
—Paul Watzlawick, The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious (The Pursuit of Unhappiness)

If they are willing to betray a friend or ally, what’s to stop them from betraying the whispered-to when the opportunity strikes? Once trust is damaged, it can rarely be restored.

This is why I guard my integrity and the sacred trust in my relationships with my life—and why I was alarmed when a prominent figure (I’ll call her B) who had previously expressed admiration for my work unsubscribed. I reached out to understand why, writing:

“I noticed there was an unsubscribe notice for you, but since it is a comp rather than a paid subscription, I wanted to make sure it was intentional and not a mistake. I would be more than happy to reapply the comp but didn’t want to do it without your permission.…

“I have also had a completely perplexing experience with someone I have long considered a friend but who suddenly stopped liking/engaging with my comments over the past couple of months. When I emailed her to see if I may have done or said something to upset her, she never replied. While I don’t much care what propagandists or trolls say about me, it is incredibly painful to be blanked by someone I care for without any apparent provocation or opportunity to discuss the cause.

“It honestly has affected my sleep as I keep racking my brain trying to figure out what could have happened, and I am crying as I write this. I have to wonder if there is some sort of whisper campaign or something going on behind the scenes that is poisoning this and potentially other relationships with people in the MFM.

“If it were overt, I’d at least know what’s going on and would be able to defend against it. As it is, I feel like I’m being paranoid even bringing it up, but I cannot deny the anguish I have experienced as a result and want to make sure it’s not indicative of something more insidious (hence my alarm when I noticed your unsubscribe and why I wanted to reach out to you).

“I apologize for the lengthy and emotional email. I have absolutely no desire for drama and thus have chosen not to name this person as I am still hoping it is a simple misunderstanding that will be cleared up. Meanwhile, it is taking an emotional and psychological toll, and I just wish I could communicate with her to find out the impetus for her behavior.”

I never heard back from B but chalked it up to her being busy and tried not to take it personally, all the while starting to worry the rot extended beyond S.

Then, in an email exchange with Mickey Z. after my interview, he casually mentioned that same person had unsubscribed from him around a month prior—exactly the same time as she’d unsubbed from me.

That actually greatly relieved me because I thought it meant she was just winnowing down her reading list due to Substack overload (which I completely relate to, being around 30,000 articles behind with no hopes of catching up).

When I told Mickey about my experience with B and S (again, not naming her as I had no concrete proof), Mickey guessed the identity of S, which shocked me.

I wrote:

“You are so intuitive, Mickey! I was trying not to name [S] because I know you are friends, and I didn’t want to do anything to damage your relationship with her. I try to never say things privately that I wouldn’t say to a person’s face, but since all of my attempts to communicate with her since April have failed, I don’t even have that ability. And perhaps you have some insights that will help me understand what happened.…

“The only thing I could figure is she seemed to get upset at my use of ‘Covidian’ when describing the pro-vaxxers I had been engaging with on Notes, but she knows CJ coined that term and still talks to him. It’s like she is trying so hard to be loving and compassionate toward pro-vaxxers that she hurts those who share her values because they are critical of those who fail to use critical thinking, if that makes sense 🙂

“After I sent her that email, I took a look at her Substack from around the time she stopped talking to me, and I found this post.… I didn’t think twice about it when she first published it, but in retrospect, I wondered if that was about me given the timing and her dramatic shift from being very warm and loving to completely cold.

“My best guess is she took issue with my use of ‘Covidian,’ thought my engaging with them was stirring up division and anger, and jumped to the conclusion that I must be [a spy](!). It sounds far-fetched, but it’s the best I can figure given the puzzle pieces I’m working with.

“If she would tell me to my face what the issue is, I would at least be able to respond, although if she does suspect I’m [a spy], that is just like the kafkatrapping labels we were discussing in our interview—there’s no way to counter an accusation based on emotion rather than evidence because whatever you do will be interpreted through layers of contortions used to justify their original suspicion.

“Thank you again for your willingness to listen and weigh in (please take your time, no pressure). I didn’t want to drag you into this because I know you are as tired of this kind of drama as I am. All I want to do is just focus on my work, and I don’t have time to deal with this silliness, and I’m sure you don’t, either.”

Mickey explained how he’d guessed the identity, promising a more detailed explanation later:

“While I do see myself as intuitive, in this instance, it’s not the case. I heard it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. You’re not dragging me into anything. [S] already did her best to make that happen.”

When he let me know he’d written a description of what he’d experienced and would send it when I was ready, I told him:

“Wow, this is worse than I imagined, but at least it confirms my suspicions, so it is reassuring to some degree.

“It is experiences like this that make it clear who are not only your true friends but people of integrity and discernment. I don’t have the words to express how much your trust and kindness mean to me, Mickey.

“Please do email me what you’ve written as soon as you are able. I am eager to resolve this mystery while also trying to understand the extent of the damage and whether she has attempted to poison the well with others (e.g., [B]).

“So here I’ve been going to great lengths to protect her reputation and relationships in case it was a simple misunderstanding when it sounds like she was doing the opposite to me, despite her brand of love and forgiveness. I don’t understand how anyone in the MFM has the time, energy, and desire to focus on hurting others when we’ve got enough genuine threats to address. Very sad.”

Man Puzzling over Two Puzzle Pieces

The next day, Mickey sent me an astounding account that not only confirmed my intuition about S blanking me and a whisper campaign but went far, far beyond anything I’d envisioned. And that was just the beginning.

“Hi again! I will paste my story below and await your reply.… I never imagined things would get to this point. 😕

“Here’s my side/perception of this situation … [S] was a pleasant Substack acquaintance until she emailed a couple of months ago to say she had to talk with me on the phone. I tried in vain to have her explain in an email but she was persistent. We talked for 45 minutes. In reality, she mostly talked and I mostly listened.…

“She warned me that she suspected you. I told her I barely knew you and asked for evidence. She didn’t have much except something about how you came out of nowhere and were suddenly so popular.…

“[S] also shared that she warned [J] about you. She said he laughed and proceeded to let you know that [S] suspects you. Since (at that point) I had no contact with you for a long time and I was just told that you already knew about [S]’s campaign, I didn’t see any need to take any further action.

“Then, out of nowhere, you reconnected with me — very excited to be on Post-Woke. As you probably remember, I asked you with suspicion about this sudden change of heart. However, once I felt comfortable with you, I did what seemed right: I emailed [S] to say thanks for her warning but I’m fine with you and will have you on my show. I didn’t wanna be involved in a tiff between you and her.

“[S] then rapidly switched from calling you a spy to calling you a [‘malevolent entity’]. She wouldn’t even mention you by name because she claimed that her emails were being monitored. I said something like ‘As you can imagine, I have no idea how to respond to this’ and then, of course, I had you on the show soon afterward.

“Immediately, [S] stopped interacting with me, she unsubbed from Alicen, and she wrote the passive-aggressive [‘malevolent entities’] post. I opted to keep my distance. After all, I posited: MAA knows about the accusations for a while and I didn’t necessarily expect that you and I would stay in touch any more than my other guests do.

“The increased contact you and I have had during the past week led to me learning a little of your back story and I now feel compelled to share all of the above with you. I’d understand if you were upset with me waiting so long.

“It’s no excuse but I’ve seen this a hundred times (from grade school to ‘activist’ groups) and was just trying to practice self-care by not being a player in this drama. But when you told me your story, I realized that [J] never did tell you about [S]’s claims.

“Then you used the term ‘whisper campaign,’ and it brought me back to 2014 when I was the target of one of those myself (in the animal rights scene). I knew I had to tell you more of what I know about [S]’s recent behavior.

“I now regret … not asking you about this before we did our interview. Honestly, all I was doing was keeping a professional distance but once I read your tearful email to [B], I had to step up.”

I responded to Mickey:

“Well, that was astonishingly illuminating. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

“You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. I am immensely grateful for your compassion and honesty, Mickey.

“This is painful, but it is a great relief to know the truth and to confirm my intuition was accurate. It’s honestly a lot less painful than tormenting myself about if I had done something to hurt or upset her and wondering what could have possibly happened.

“It is very helpful to know about [J]. He didn’t tell me, but I am happy to hear he laughed 🙂 That’s how I would expect anyone who is familiar with me and my work to respond; the fact that some may have believed her makes me question their judgment.…

“So perhaps [B] unsubbed from both of us for the same reason. I wonder who else [S] has contacted in what appears a desperate attempt to sabotage me. I thought we were both fighting for the same cause and buoying each other up. That hurts, but again, I’d rather know.

“Her entire case is built on her perception that I’m ‘popular’? Wow. It’s funny because I have gone to great efforts to try and remain under the radar because for me this work is not about me personally but about something much bigger than myself. I am grateful when people appreciate and share my work, obviously, but I have gone out of my way to avoid being in the spotlight.

“After my positive experience with the Glenn Beck interview, though, I realized it is beneficial to reach a wider audience as together we have greater power to awaken the sleeping and resist tyranny, the goals that prompted me to start my Substack to begin with.

“Ironically, the two people who had previously requested interviews and who were at the top of my list were you and [S], so I reached out to both of you at the same time (not being aware that anything was awry as she was still communicating with me; when I brought up the interview, she told me she was dealing with some health issues so wasn’t sure when she’d be able to do it … now I wonder if that was a lie).

“The [‘malevolent entity’] detail is fascinating. A friend who admires both of our work asked me what I thought of that story as it reminded him so much of my fairy tale and he was worried I thought she might be plagiarizing/copying me. I didn’t take it that way at all and thought it actually complemented my story. Little did I know I was the [‘malevolent entity’] 😹

“It is bizarre that she has become so fixated on me, especially when we had such a positive connection and she was always so effusive in her praise.…

“I am sorry you suffered your own whisper campaign. That must have been agonizing. The hardest thing is seeing people you thought were your allies turn against you.

“I’ve always tried to avoid drama and gossip as I try not to give time/energy to anything that stands in the way of my all-consuming passion to write, research, and empower people to see through the propaganda so they can help us take down The Powers That Were (to borrow Dani’s phrasing).

“I never imagined I would find myself the target of such attacks. The fact that this coincided with [an external attack] compounded the negative impact, but the feeling of betrayal from a friend and the fear of a whisper campaign that would damage my relationships with others was infinitely more painful.”

Mickey then replied:

“It’s my turn to say THANK YOU! Not only for your grace but for not harshly judging my choices. And yes, please, let yourself exhale and trust it was literally nothing you did.… I know someone else contacted [S] to urge her to step back and assess her behavior. [S]’s reply insinuated that she is utterly convinced that she is being specifically targeted by malevolent entities. Heartbreaking but also hurtful to others, especially you.…

“I don’t fully recall all of [S]’s ‘case’ against you but after I emailed you, I remembered that she found it suspicious that you did such a time-consuming interview with CJ Hopkins. She posited that you were trying to distract him from his work.…

“At this point, I feel relief that I told you what I know and it seemed to offer you some relief, too.…

“Thank you again for your graceful reception of my story. I’ve learned a valuable lesson about always practicing radical honesty.”

I told Mickey:

“As deeply painful as this experience has been, it has been equally if not more moving to discover the people of true character, wisdom, and grace amidst this trial of friendship by fire.…

“The speculation about the CJ interview is almost frightening because it shows she is more mentally unhinged than I imagined. That is a level of grasping to justify her suspicions that would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

“I just caught Alicen’s latest post and wondered if it has something to do with [S]? I left her a comment to let her know how much I appreciated her words, today especially, but please convey my gratitude to her for having the presence of mind to see through the paranoid delusions, particularly when we have had little opportunity to connect directly. I love her exuberant creativity (I am still grateful for the serendipity of your introducing me to her while I was writing Letter to the German Bundestag as ‘I’d Rather Be High’ was such a perfect way to end that piece and captures my own ethos beautifully).…

“I love the phrase ‘radical honesty’ and am grateful to you for practicing it :-)”

As we were drafting this post, Mickey decided to review his email exchanges with S for details he felt would be pertinent to include. Below is the addendum he sent:

For the sake of clarity and accuracy, I’ll add more from my email exchanges with [S]: After the initial phone call, I did email [S] to express my appreciation for her intention to look out for me. Hey, I’ve been around enough ‘activists’ to know provocateurs can exist. Plus, my previous interactions with [S] gave no indication that she’d make up something like this. So, I kept an open mind.

“In a follow-up email, [S] added this about MAA: ‘I was sensing that she was competing with me very fiercely for some reason and lying through her teeth. I couldn’t understand why. Now I understand why, it’s because she is trying to divide people, and I try to build bridges and help, as much as I can, inspire camaraderie over differences.’

“I stated that if MAA was a bad agent, her deception would be her downfall. But, at the time, I didn’t know what to believe or think. I maintained a healthy distance from the situation until I began to seriously doubt that MAA had ever been told about [S]’s campaign against her.

“That’s when I quickly dashed off the emails that appear in this post. Obviously, I had no expectation that those private messages would ever be published on a very popular Substack. But here we are. My prayers go out to all involved, including [S].”

After reviewing it, I wrote Mickey:

“Reading ‘I was sensing that she was competing with me very fiercely for some reason and lying through her teeth’ floored me because it reveals the degree of her egotism/narcissism as well as her insecurity to think that I am even thinking about her at all let alone trying to compete with her. For me, the great joy of this experience has been writing my heart out and joining with others who are similarly fulfilling their purpose by contributing their own talents, which I thought she was doing, and I was celebrating her for doing so (for example, when I recommended her [omitted to obscure her identity] series and we exchanged these mutually appreciative comments). I was sincere in my words; perhaps she was not and is thus projecting, once again (just like the comment about dividing vs. building bridges as her actions clearly demonstrate the opposite).”

As I reflected on S’s words, I shared with another friend:

“I have been trying to be as understanding as possible of her given her mental illness, but I honestly found this statement enraging. She’s worried about ‘competing’ and ‘popularity’ when we’re in a battle for the very survival of humanity?! What is this, junior high school? Her statement reveals to me that this is all about her voracity for attention and narcissistic delusions of grandeur and not about being part of a worldwide community of people with shared values.

“Here I was naively thinking she shared my passion for this work and that we were joining hands in this great mission that transcends us. I feel like a speck in a sea of kindred spirits harnessing all of our talents to combat this juggernaut and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to connect with fellow creators like you … and so many unnamed others—and I made the mistake of thinking that included her.

“The fact that for her this is about competing for attention tells me everything I need to know about where her priorities, values, and sentiments lie. This suggests to me she may be a Cluster B personality type who may be more dangerous than I initially realized.”

I later asked Mickey when S first reached out to him. He told me their phone call was on March 19.

That was another Wow moment for me, given her April 2 reply to me about the possibility of us interviewing each other—her last communication to me, incidentally:

“This is wonderful! I hope you do more interviews!! Your talent deserves it.

“As far as the written interview you are kindly offering, I hope I can do it one day soon, right now I am dealing with tremendous difficulties, I don’t feel very well health-wise, and I hope to be able to do it once things clear.

“Thank you for your patience and kindness!!



To quote Jeff Childers’s catchphrase, “So.”

I wonder how long she’s been “lying through her teeth” to me.

From the Horse’s Mouth

Woman Blowing Smoke

Below are excerpts from the exchange where Mickey thanked S for looking out for him but letting her know he was comfortable with me.

Mickey reasoned:

“You think MAA is a spy. She knows you think she’s a spy. Yet she remains a paid subscriber of your Substack and continues to link to and support your work. 🤔

“In the meantime, I listened to her latest interviews and, to be radically honest, she sounds like any other Covid skeptic who’d be on Post-Woke.”

S then replied:

“As far as MAA, of course you don’t owe me any curtseys in terms of whether you interview her but please have a very good talk with Alicen about MAA first and maybe ask Alien to evaluate MAA using her instincts. That MAA is a spy and a [malevolent entity], I am sure. She has been actively trying to increase her bonding activity with several people for whom I expressed public love and support, and I think this is because she wants to make sure to have the influence because she knows I know, and she wants me to be isolated in that knoweldge. That is a theory, I don’t know, but this is a logical theory.

“She is not a paid subscriber, she asked me to do a comp swap when I was still not sure about her, and I have not gone public war with her, so it is stull in place. Obviously, my camaraderie toward you is there regardless of what you decided to do but interacting with people of this kind can be dangerous, and please talk to Alicen first. Alicen has a lot of very powerful ability to figure things out.”

She later added in a separate email:

“Also, an important thing. That she is a spy is less of a problem than that she is a [malevolent entity]. So yeah, talk to Alicen and get her opinion, please. Sometimes female instincts cut through mazes like few things can. And I like her. :)”

The comp trade happened around a year ago after she had agreed to do a Dissident Dialogue. I spent a day or two reading her work and drafting notes for questions. I emailed her first question, but she never sent a response. When I followed up a couple of weeks later, she apologized and said she was “behind a ton of things,” which I completely understood, feeling overwhelmed myself. Nothing ever came of that, so I figured she was just too busy.

Before that, she had written me:

“I also have a request. I have a dream to interview [K], who is my hero. Can you please ask him if it would be okay for you to share his email address with me? I would be also very grateful. :)”

I let her know “I would be honored to reach out to [K] on your behalf” and had already previously recommended her as a candidate to be interviewed by him. I had also introduced her to an author she respected for an interview, and, funnily enough, I had suggested her as a candidate to Mickey for a Post-Woke interview and helped facilitate that connection—a coincidence I had forgotten until reviewing my emails with her.

Learning S “was still not sure about” me at that time made me realize her deceit stretched back even further than I’d fathomed, rendering all of the gushing praise, all of the lovebombing, all of the pretty words (e.g., “you are very kind!!”; “your work is beautiful”; “Thank you for your kindness and generosity!”; and “You are such a talented and wonderful human being.”) she had showered on me in both emails and comments hollow.

When I read the sentence about “actively trying to increase her bonding activity with several people for whom I expressed public love and support,” I was again struck by the colossal egocentricity of that statement.

I’m not an authentic human being with my own life, history, and relationships but rather a cardboard cutout, a supernatural spy whose every word and deed is about her. If I have a warm interaction with someone, it’s because I’m trying to suck attention away from her, not because I care about that person and have a relationship with them.

It should relieve her to learn that, until recently, I rarely thought of her. I am a smidgeon preoccupied with my hundreds of projects in progress, caring for my loved ones, and trying to steal a few hours of sleep between deadlines.

I thought of her amicably when we interacted or I read her work, but otherwise, to quote Howard Roark, “But I don’t think of you.”

It was only when she began stonewalling me and I sensed something surreptitious that she began to occupy a tender space in my consciousness. Writing this article is my way of reclaiming that space. Hopefully, she can resume some degree of normality if she can shed her S-centered conceit that my world revolves around her, and I will happily return to not thinking of her.

The Plot Thickens

I do agree with S about one thing: “Alicen has a lot of very powerful ability to figure things out.”

Alicen is Mickey’s best friend. The day after Mickey and I had our original exchange, she sent me this gobsmacking email:

“It’s weird to say ‘I hope this message finds you well,’ given the situation at hand. But I DO hope you’re well, all things considered!

“Mickey told me that he told you about [S]. I think you should be aware of my exchange with her from the past few days.

“Basically I connected with [S] through Mickey and we did a podcast together. She was pleasant and we exchanged numbers.

“A few weeks ago, she texted me to say she wanted to talk about ‘something important’ via phone call. I was busy that week so I took a rain check. But in that time, Mickey told me that she was trying to rope him into ANOTHER conversation about you, claiming that you’re spying on her emails and stuff like that.

“I figured that’s what [S] wanted to talk about with me too, though she never outright said so. So I stalled, because I didn’t know how to gracefully navigate the weird position she was putting us in.

“I finally bit the bullet the other day. I sent her a long text chain, politely explaining that her behavior (calling people to sabotage another woman’s reputation, writing passive-aggressive Substack posts about how people aren’t smart enough to see that you’re a [‘malevolent entity’], etc.) is inappropriate and unethical.

“I told her, paraphrasing, ‘I think you mean well and that you’re trying to protect people from perceived harm, but the way you’re going about it is not right, and it makes me unwilling to get to know you any more deeply, because you’ve now established that you’re willing to use your platform to harm people’s reputations if they don’t agree with you.’

“After my long message, all she wrote back was, quote, ‘I am very benevolent towards you. Please use your magic to check for any foreign energy on you.’

“So… I’m of the opinion that she has departed from reality.

“I’m happy to send screenshots of my messages to her, if you want them.

“In any case, I just wanted to make you aware that you’re dealing with someone delusional. You might want to consider taking a legal measure to protect your reputation. People like this, who have broken off from reality, can cause great harm without even knowing that’s what they’re doing, because they’re so lost in the paranoia.

“I don’t say any of this to scare you, but to empower you to choose how you move forward.

“I’m very sorry that you’ve been betrayed in this way. But you’ve always been a messenger of Truth, and I believe that will serve you well in this situation. There is nothing to fear.”

All of this was occurring just as my mom was about to undergo hip surgery, and I read Alicen’s email to my mom while we were in the waiting room prior to her procedure.

After several interjections such as, “Oh my goodness,” my mom said sadly, “It sounds like she’s on drugs.”

I was feeling a bit delirious myself, having been up all night preparing for my mom’s convalescence at our house during her recovery, sanitizing the bathroom and bedroom surfaces to minimize the risk of sepsis and removing obstacles so she would be able to navigate the area with her walker. Not to mention that the day before, one of our cats had blood in his urine and had to start a third course of antibiotics for what our vet now suspected is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) … and our dishwasher broke.

Mickey was exceptionally supportive during this stressful period, and I kept him apprised of my mom’s progress, writing:

“I first want to let you know my mom’s surgery went smoothly, and she is here recovering now. I still haven’t found time to eat or even drink since getting back as there are so many details we have to attend to (a bunch of medications to be administered at different times, leg compressors to prevent blood clots, ice packs for 20 minutes every hour, precautions to prevent sepsis, drinking 8 glasses of clear liquid/day, eating 100 grams of protein (I do a low-carb/high-fat diet so made a batch of lasagna, green beans, jicama fries, protein balls, etc. up last night), and absorb about 60 pages’ worth of instructions for her recovery.

“It is nice to have my mom here, though, and I am grateful to be able to help her through this and am just so relieved the procedure went well.

“Secondly, Alicen’s email to me was jaw-dropping, and it touched me so deeply that she would do all that on my behalf when we had never even interacted privately before. I actually teared up when I was reading her email to my husband and telling him how wonderful you and Alicen have been. I still need to find time to reply to her (feel free to share this with her) but wanted to thank you again for connecting us.…

“I am now trying to catch up on on emails before the timer goes off for her icepack and leg compressors. I’m not sure how I’m functioning as I only got two hours of sleep and have only had a protein shake as my meal for the past few days.

“And we need to finish the Ellsberg video.

“Oh, and somewhere, I need to find time to cast spells on [S] and perform my [malevolent entity] work 😆 (I’m not making light of her very serious mental illness but have to find humor in the situation for my own mental resilience.)”

Closeup on Hand Holding Pink Rose in Field

As soon as I could carve out time, I wrote Alicen back:

“I want to reach through the screen and hug you. I want to grasp your strong yet gentle hand in my own. I want to applaud as your brave wings lift you toward the luminous sky.

“It is difficult to capture how deeply moved I have been by both your and Mickey’s ‘radical honesty,’ as he put it.

“While disturbing, your profoundly illuminating accounts of your experiences have brought three months’ worth of agonizing over this unfathomable mystery to an end.

“It affirms that exactly what I intuited had been occurring was in fact happening—but on a level I never would have imagined.

“It also helps me understand why I could not find a rational explanation for what I had witnessed. I was attempting to use logic and reason to decipher the code, but I now know that failed because I was not dealing with a rational person.

“Your response to her—despite us never having spoken privately—is a testament to your extraordinary character and discernment. As I told Mickey and he shared with you, I teared up as I was reading your email aloud to my husband, who said, ‘Wow’—and if you knew how exceedingly rarely he is impressed by people, you would understand the weight of that utterance.…

“I feel empowered, just as you hoped. And I do not feel fear, even though the risk is great, especially given [S]’s volatility and growing detachment from reality.

“I also feel no anger toward [S] as it is clear she has been captured by her delusions (although the narcissistic component adds a malignancy that makes her a greater danger). I wish I knew the key to free her from the cage of her self-deceptions, but I suspect any attempt I make to express the love, forgiveness, or compassion she so frequently preaches would likely be perceived as malevolent through her lens of irrationality.

“Your article on paranoia and narcissism was brilliant, BTW. I can’t believe I wasn’t familiar with the term ‘narcissistic discard.’ It is always a joy to learn a new eye-opening concept.…

“Being simultaneously attacked from both the outside and inside (the latter being far more painful) has felt like having sandbags strapped to my feet while running a marathon, but doing so makes me stronger and can be used as a trampoline for further creativity.… That said, I think I’m strong enough now and would be happy to shed the sandbags 😹”

Alicen replied:

“Oh my goodness. I’m so moved by your expression of gratitude.

“And I’m relieved that you feel that Mickey and I have done right by you, in how we handled [S]’s behavior. I wasn’t sure what I should say (if anything at all!) because I wasn’t sure yet (until her last message) if she was really that ‘out of touch.’ We hadn’t spoken enough for me to be sure.

“All I knew was that, in situations where I’ve been obsessed-over and slandered, I was devastated when nobody stood up for me. So I saw my chance here to help someone else going through the same thing, and took it. I’m happy to provide some refuge from what sounds like a lot of stress going on in your life. But the sun is coming! ☀️

“If you’re being judicious about ‘not letting this get back to [S]’ for my sake, that’s very considerate of you, but rest assured that I’m not personally worried about her. Not because I don’t think she’s potentially hazardous, but because that’s a risk I’m willing to take since I know the truth is on my side. And this ain’t my first rodeo. You can share the screenshots with whoever you want.

“But if you’re being judicious for your sake, i COMPLETELY understand and respect however you choose to share this info!”

Then I read Alicen’s text exchange with S, and that is when I realized the extent of her honesty, courage, and empathy for not only me but also for S. In response to S’s request to talk to her about “something of petty practical importance,” Alicen replied:

“Hey [S], I’ve been thinking for a long time about what to say to you, but I can’t figure out a perfect way that won’t potentially hurt in some way. So I’m just going to go for it, and hope that you sense the intended grace in my messages”

“At the time you contacted me, I learned that you sent similar messages to Mickey about a particular figurehead in the truther movement, so i made the safe assumption that you wanted to talk to me about that person too.

“Frankly, I was not interested in such a conversation because I don’t even know that person, and I’m not very involved in the community anyway.

“But since then, I’ve seen you write an article that reads like a passive-aggressive dig at anybody who disagrees with your assessment of that person, implying that they’re not as smart and discerning as you are if they can’t see what you see.

“I just want you to take a second to consider the following, in case you haven’t thought about this yet:

“What you may think of as ‘protecting people’ and ‘exposing the truth,’ actually comes across as you being the controlling and manipulative one in the situation. I’m NOT saying that’s your intention, but it IS the effect of your behavior. I’ll explain:

“The person you’ve been talking about , does not do the things you do. They don’t go around making secret phone calls in a vendetta to destroy another person’s reputation. They don’t use their huge platform to wrrite passive aggressive articles about other activists and turn people against each other.

“But you, do.

“So if i were to step back and look at this situation objectively, not knowing either of you, guess who i would think was the actual saboteur?

“i say all this with the FULL knowledge that you may take my messages as an indicator that I’m ‘on her side,’ but I’m not. i wouldn’t even have noticed her, had i not heard your accusations about her secondhand from Mickey. So, you’re giving her publicity, for starters.

“what i am saying, is that i think you mean well, but how you’re going about it is questionable to say the least.

“and despite what good intentions you may have, I am honestly VERY hesitant to get to know you more deeply now, because you’ve demonstrated that you’re willing to use your platform to take passive aggressive jabs at people. Regardless of how right you may be, that is NOT how i believe the truth needs to be, or should be, defended.

“all of this said, I recently went through a situation with a close friend where she began a descent into distress and paranoia about people in her life.

“And when i dared to offer a different perspective in the attempt to remind her of her power and agency, she viciously turned on me too – and now she believes i am also an agent who is stalking and spying on her. I’m not. But she’s past the point of reason. I can’t tell you how much it fucking hurts to have lost one of my best friends to paranoia. And there’s absolutely nothing i can do to prove to her that she is safe, and loved.

“I’m not implying that you are paranoid. I’m saying that this situation feels a lot like a situation i had with a paranoid person, and i simply do not have the stomach to go through it again, IF that’s indeed where this is going. Your behavior feels triggering to me. That’s more my issue than yours i suppose, but it’s for that reason that I’m hesitant to speak with you. I’m just being honest because truth is always better than silence, i believe.

“i don’t know what to say beyond that, except i see your positive work too, and i know you’re doing your best to do what you think is right. that’s a wonderful quality. i just don’t know how to move forward given this increasingly tangled situation. And my confusion about how to move forward, is only a statement on my own triggers, and not necessarily a judgment of you.

“All of that said, again i mean well, and i wish the best for you”

That is when S replied:

“I am very benevolent toward you. Please use your magic to see if there is any foreign energy on you”

Alicen then sent this closing text:

“[S], you have completely lost your grip on reality and you are acting unethically. I cannot and will not go along with this narrative. I’ve seen what I need to see, and the only mischief in this situation is being projected from you. Heal.”

Woman Disappearing into Picture Frame on Beach

Lemonade Stand 🍋

After reading through the texts, I wrote Alicen:

“As if I wasn’t already bowled over by your nobility, wisdom, courage, and grace, this text exchange deepened my respect for you even further. I don’t think you could have handled the situation any more perfectly.

“Thank you for doing what you did and for being who you are, Alicen.

“I honestly think your example is so moving and inspiring, it gave me an idea. Since you are bravely willing to let me share these messages under your name, what would you think about turning this into a guest post.…

“Basically, we can turn lemons into lemonade 🙂

“I would like to show how a painful, horrible situation can be turned into a beautifully moving testament to the nobility of the human spirit and the bravery of friends. Like I told Mickey, as painful as this experience has been, witnessing how the two of you responded outshines the darkness and transforms the hurt into love.…

“But I think together, this is a beautiful way to tell the story and embolden others to speak up in situations where it is called for. And maybe we can help plant a seed that will encourage [S] to reevaluate her behavior and seek help.

“What do you think? As usual, feel free to share with Mickey and get his thoughts :-)”

Alicen replied:

“I like this idea!

“As I was reading your email, I realized that there’s still an unresolved part of me (from situations past) that would’ve benefited greatly from transmuting those challenges into empowering learning opportunities like this. So this feels like justice for me too, in a way :)”

“Let’s make lemonade 🙃🍋”

And Mickey said, “I like lemonade! 🍋”

And so, there you have it. I hope you like lemonade, too, as we did our best to prepare it with love.

On Being Falsely Accused

I learned a striking bit of trivia from a friend:

“Bravo to you for maintaining integrity in the face of unjustified and stressful false accusations. Did you know that St. Margaret of Cortona is the patron saint of (among other things) the falsely accused? 🙏”

Upon looking St. Margaret of Cortona up, I discovered she is not only the patron saint of the falsely accused but also the mentally ill—a detail too fitting not to share.

How do I feel, now that this saga is drawing to an end?

Ultimately, I feel heartbroken. I am sad to have lost someone I considered a friend; to be disillusioned by a woman I felt was a fellow freedom fighter; to know she has been conducting a whisper campaign and attempting to damage my reputation and relationships for months; and to witness her self-destructive spiral as she slips further and further into her fantasy world.

But I also feel something else. Something surprising. I feel gratitude—and even joy. I told Mickey and Alicen I was glad it played out this way because “I would rather know her true character, and I wouldn’t have been blessed with the gift of your and Alicen’s friendship if it hadn’t transpired the way it did.”

Between this experience and attacks by vaxxopaths, I am reminded why I have struggled so hard to keep a low profile. As an introvert who simply wants to focus on writing, creating, and sharing empowering knowledge, I have always tried to put the emphasis on my content rather than myself. It seems Mistakes Were NOT Made going viral foiled those efforts, but so much good has come out of it that I feel it was worth the consequences.

As hurtful as her behavior has been, I sincerely hope S regains her equilibrium and escapes the allure of her delusions. It must be a frightening place to be.

Once she realizes she is the maker of her own misery and holds the key to her escape, perhaps we can sit down and have an honest conversation.

Real friends disabuse those they care about of their self-sabotaging illusions. While I could never again consider S a friend now that trust has been broken, I would still be willing to speak with her if it would help lay her phantasms to rest.

S, if you’re reading this, please reach out if you would like to talk. I bear you no ill will and hope you find healing peace.

Remember how you once shared how badly you felt about allowing yourself to be misled by rumors about someone you loved, but then it was too late to save your relationship and you now have to live with that regret?

Let’s talk before it’s too late.

The Last Puzzle Piece

Man Completing a Wall Puzzle

While researching Cluster B personality types, I came across histrionic personality disorder (HPD). That’s when everything inexplicable that had unfolded finally made sense.

Those familiar with my writing know I approach my search for truth like a detective, pinning one piece of evidence on the cork board after another, removing ones that are later disproven and rearranging the clues until I arrive at an epiphanic Aha! moment of clarity in which the puzzle pieces self-assemble into a recognizable image. Every isolated fact suddenly gains coherence in the context of a larger picture, and I then feel I have a solid foundation from which to proceed with further investigations.

That’s what occurred when I read the description of HPD. I got goosebumps when I encountered this list of characteristic behaviors, every one of which rang out like a struck bell:

  • a tendency to view situations emotionally and display overdramatic behaviors that aim to draw attention to you constantly
  • a persistent pattern of extreme emotionality and constant attention-seeking
  • you may typically feel the constant need to act in specific ways to receive a lot of attention wherever you are. If you aren’t receiving a lot of attention, you might feel deeply uncomfortable and disappointed.
  • To get this attention, you might start using different tactics. Some examples include:
    • dressing dramatically or provocatively
    • making up or exaggerating stories about you or things that have happened to you
    • exaggerating or making up the symptoms of an illness
    • showering other people with compliments and love declarations even if you just met them
    • getting into minor accidents that require other people to ‘rescue’ you
    • getting competitive with others in many situations or trying to trump whatever they’re talking about (e.g., ‘That happened to me, but in this better way’)”
  • Your need for attention might trump everything else and is the driving force behind how you act.

As is noted in the same source:

“These aren’t conscious tactics to manipulate or control others. It may feel very natural to you to act this way. You might not be aware of how these behaviors affect your relationships with other people.”

After listing the symptoms (five or more of which must be present for diagnosis under the DSM-5), Psychology Today sheds further light:

“They often fail to see their own situation realistically, instead tending to overdramatize and exaggerate. Instead of taking responsibility for failure or disappointment, those with the disorder typically cast blame on others.”

If S does have HPD, it would explain why her perceptions are so divergent from my own. It appears that in her mind, success is a zero-sum game, whereas in mine, it is a positive-sum game. Any win for truth is a win for me/us, no matter who achieves it. This is why I actively seek out opportunities for collaboration and applaud how Substack enables us to multiply our power exponentially as we each contribute our own knowledge, talents, and skillsets to form a gestalt greater than our individual parts.

The reason I am sharing what I learned about HPD is not to stigmatize S or mental illness but rather to demonstrate the power of awareness. It helped me transform my reaction to her statements and behavior from pain and anger into understanding and even sympathy.

But S—if she chooses—can benefit far more deeply from this information than me. If she recognizes these behavior patterns in herself, it could be a watershed moment for her that helps her comprehend the trauma, victimization, relationship volatility, misunderstandings, and miscommunications that have plagued her over the course of her life.

Naming an illness—whether physical or psychological—is the first step toward asserting power over it and ultimately healing from it. I know of individuals whose lives metamorphosed from torment into contentment when they realized they had borderline personality disorder, a condition previously considered untreatable—the quintessential example being Dialectal Behavior Therapy’s creator Marsha Linehan using her own invention to heal herself.

I believe S is at her essence a good-hearted person who does genuinely wish to help humanity, but her judgment has been clouded by mental illness. I hold out hope that she can escape her self-inflicted prison by acknowledging her role in its construction and seeking treatment options such as DBT.

When I ran a draft of this article by a friend who specializes in recovery from narcissistic abuse, she offered an alternative perspective, however:

“I agree with your assessment about HPD. Though I tend to view the Cluster B Personality disorders less as ‘illness’ and more as their personality, which is the sum of a person’s choices, actions, perspectives and desires. As a very bright law and ethics professor told me recently, for some reason psychology and psychiatry has been positioned as the authority on such topics, which perhaps pertain more to ethics since it describes a person’s character and morality. It makes sense when we hear the woke psychology experts speak on NPD [Narcissistic Personality Disorder] and the other Cluster Bs, very similar to how they position pedophilia nowadays, as if they’re a victim of their condition so we should feel bad for them.”

She later observed:

“I’m sure [S]’s passive aggressive comments are just a projection. There’s no reasoning with irrational people like those on the Cluster B train. The only way to save your sanity and health is to let them go.… I don’t see it as illness. I see it as choices a person makes.”

These statements raise captivating philosophical, ethical, and moral dimensions worth contemplating further. When sharing these insights with Mickey and Alicen, I wrote:

“It did make me wonder if I’ve been too understanding of [S] by excusing her behavior with mental illness. For my own peace of mind, though, I don’t want to be poisoned by bitterness toward her, so even if she is culpable for her behavior, I have no intention of carrying around the burden of resentment.”

How S responds to this article may reveal whether I (in my optimistic desire to give S the benefit of the doubt and differentiate her from her condition) or my friend (in her sober assessment and assignment of culpability to the practitioner of these behaviors) is correct.

Will she open her heart to reconciliation and healing, or will she harden it more? Will she shake my extended hand, or will she tighten hers into a fist? Will she respond with kindness or malice? Her actions will show whether love or fear is the dominating force in her life.

If she chooses to wage “public war,” it will only boomerang back at her because I stand on the rock of objective reality while she is sinking into the quicksand of fantasy and lies.

If she humbly reevaluates her fallacious beliefs and uses this experience as an object lesson in why it is wise to avoid making baseless accusations—not least because of the grief it causes to herself and the community she professes to care about in addition to the innocent target—then it could begin her journey toward redemption.

What’s the Matter Here?

I tell this story not to garner sympathy for myself but rather to share Mickey’s and Alicen’s modeling of what it looks like to be an upstander when you are witnessing an act of bullying, backstabbing, sabotage, or abuse.

One of my readers left a comment on a recent post about standing up for her special ed students that reads in part:

“As a special ed teacher for 30 years, I have always felt that given the children I was teaching if a problem of theirs became more than they could handle then it was my obligation to resolve it the best I could as an adult as their teacher and as a human being. A young child as young as 6 that is being beaten molested or threatened in some way by a parent, teacher, step parent, or other older child was my signal that I would now resolve the problem NO MATTER how hard it would be for me, no matter how uncomfortable it would be for the school district or abuser would become. I did some unorthodox things but it got results. The results always kept the children in safety and not a victim again. It was not easy and the principals hated me because I was unrelenting in my pursuit of protecting the innocent without a benefactor. I was taught in catholic school whenever God places a problem in front of you whether your problem or someone else’s then it became your responsibility to at least try to help. If it couldn’t happen then at least I was responsible for trying.”

Her testimony made me think of 10,000 Maniacs’s What’s the Matter Here?, whose chorus goes:

“I’m tired of the excuses everybody uses
He’s their kid, I stay out of it
But who gave you the right to do this?”

Natalie Merchant later sings in her angelic voice:

“Answer me and take your time
What could be the awful crime
He could do at so young an age?

“If I’m the only witness to your madness
Offer me some words to balance out
What I see and what I hear

“All these cold and rude things that you do
I suppose you do because he belongs to you
And instead of love and the feel of warmth
You’ve given him these cuts and sores
That don’t heal with time or with age”

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are watching someone hurt another person—whether it be physically, emotionally, or psychologically—please remember how Alicen and Mickey stood up for someone they felt was being unfairly maligned. That they managed to do so with such sensitivity and compassion toward the instigator makes their example of ordinary heroism all the more breathtaking.

And don’t be afraid to ask, “What’s the matter here?”

Note: I have inserted hyperlinks to relevant references in our emails for context. Also, the first two emails from Mickey reflect tiny cosmetic tweaks that do not affect the substance. Since neither of us knew at the time our exchanges would later become public, he understandably wished to make a few minor adjustments to notes he had hastily dashed off. Lastly, my mental health professional friend requested a change to one word.

Addendum (8/24/23): My husband just came across this video by DoctorRamani about what to do when a narcissist tries to turn people against you. What she recommends—shining a light on the truth and reaching out to those the narcissist may have tried to sway against you—is precisely what we have attempted to do here.

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