A Tribute to Sean Carasov

I just found out ten minutes ago that my friend Sean Carasov has committed suicide. The deed was carried out a few weeks ago at his home in California with a .45. I’d like to say a few things about Sean and what motivated him, and would prefer to do so now while I’m still in shock.

Sean Carasov was a revolutionary. His formal career was in the music industry, in which he served as a tour manager under Russel Simmons for acts such as The Beastie Boys until taking the band’s side in a lawsuit against Def Jam and moving out to California, where he worked for other labels and signed A Tribe Called Quest to one of them and meanwhile wrote articles for the music press. All of this alone makes him a figure worth remembering, but this is not what I mean when I call him a revolutionary.

I did not meet Sean until 2006, well after the peak of his career in music. Both of us were editors and contributors at a certain unconventional yet widely-read media outlet that I won’t name here but for which I still have a lot of admiration and fond memories. In that time and place Carasov used the moniker OldDirtyBtard in reference to his dedication to certain aspects of internet culture associated with the chans and those who frequented them (a segment of them refer to themselves as /b/tards due to the designation as their central message board as /b/). During the time I spent hanging around with the other editors in their IRC channel, ODB was my favorite collaborator due to his consistently clever and amusing chatter, and the two of us found that we shared a quite thoroughly overlapping sense of passion, emphasis, and intent, so we kept in touch even after I moved on from that venue.

About six months ago, I encountered him again after having not spoken to him in a while. He was not as happy-go-lucky as he had been previously and seemed at least situationally depressed about his failure to get back into the music business and otherwise feeling as if he had peaked at some point earlier in his 40-something years. His cat, for whom he had felt a great deal of affection which would probably sound silly to those who have never developed a deep fondness for an animal, was about to be put down. As our relationship was usually more about work than our personal lives, I don’t know what other factors, if any, might have prompted him to kill himself. And I’m troubled by knowing that things could have gotten better for him if he had kept looking for meaningful work for just a few more months.

There was another significant factor in his life at this point which I don’t think prompted him to kill himself but which had made things difficult for him, which is a shame because it was probably one of the things that he was most proud of and which I most admired him for as well. In early 2008 the amorphous internet-based entity called Anonymous launched the unprecedented campaign against the Church of Scientology by way of a widespread and multi-pronged effort termed Project Chanology which was itself prompted by a mutual “friend” whose real name I still don’t know, and Carasov took a characteristically forward role in revealing the church’s degenerate nature to potential victims as well as taking other appropriate action to diminish its ability to operate in the criminal and amoral fashion for which it is famous among everyone from former members to journalists to the United States government. Scientology operatives thereafter identified Carasov and provided his address and a complaint to police in Moscow, California, where he was arrested at his home and successfully prosecuted for a federal offence.

Upon talking to him again shortly afterwards, I asked him if he’d be interested in heading up a certain project I’m working on for which he had the perfect background and temperament. Not only did he kick it off with a bang, but he also provided an extraordinary degree of insight into how it ought to be approached in addition to filling it all out with several people he brought on for the purpose. Unfortunately, this particular effort will never get past the planning stages now; I don’t think anyone other than Sean could quite pull it off in anything close to the manner in which he would have.

There’s a lot I could say about Carasov as emblematic of any number of positive trends that I’ve seen in the context of that culture which is influenced by a certain portion of the internet culture in turn, but I’ll go into that on another occasion. I’ll end by noting that I am especially upset about this because having looked through my e-mail to see what our last communication consisted of, I saw an e-mail he had sent me a month ago in which he was trying to alert me to an interesting article regarding the dynamics of discourse in the current media environment. I saw the e-mail at the time but did not reply to it because I was busy going through others, and I think I meant to respond as soon as I had a chance. But I forgot to do so. It just sort of got moved into the pile. I’m not a good enough person to feel bad very often about things I’ve done or not done, but I feel bad right now. Here’s the link to the article he wanted me and some people with whom I’m working to read so that we could perhaps know that much more about the environment we wanted to change and the best way in which to do so. This was Carasov’s concern even when his depression was such that he would soon take a .45 to his head.

http://www.archive.org/details/Amusing_Ourselves_to_Death

Update

Someone else with whom the two of us were working just corrected me to note that the suicide was actually on October 30. This was the day after he had sent me the last e-mail.

Update

The above-mentioned Anon who launched Chanology just wrote to say:

He was one of my real life best friends. I had actually visited him in California multiple times and he had visited me.

We sent a contingent to his wake. His family was very glad to know he was working on some good things before the end.

This was a big loss for me.

Thanks for writing this. It is appreciated.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
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14 thoughts on “A Tribute to Sean Carasov

  1. The number one thing that I saw as an upside to hitting the age that I have is that I thought that most of my friends have finally stopped dying. I mean, I knew that they would start again for reasons like heart disease and strokes and cancer and whatnot… but not for a decade or so! But I had finally reached the point where I’d stopped hearing about “hold my beer and watch this” and suicide deaths.

    Hearing about such things always tears me apart and takes me back to my 20s where it felt like I heard about one of my friends dying every couple of months.

    It never gets easier, it never gets kinder, it never feels like anything but a punch to the gut.

    Dude. I hate to hear about when my friends die. I am so sorry that you had to hear about one of your friends dying.

    That sucks dude. It totally, absolutely, 100% sucks. I am sorry.

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  2. 20 years ago I found out someone I knew and who had shown me some kindness was dying of AIDS. I didn’t write him before he died and my failure to do so haunts me to this day.

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s death. I’ve no doubt he’d forgive your tardiness.

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  3. The worst part is going to be watching all the Scientology fucks congratulating themselves over this, as though they personally pulled the trigger.

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  4. Barrett,

    Thank you very much for your article, your words are convicting and at the same time hopeful for those of us needing a reminder of the gift of friends and such. Thank you for the link to the review of Postman’s book. Thank you very much for requiring us (and especially me) to stop and think of others especially during this time of year in our culture. Sean Carasov, of whom I knew nothing of before, has just touched another human being. Incredible. Thank you for reminding us that there are people not just positions.

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    • I appreciate you taking the time to say so. I don’t usually running around giving water to the dead, but Sean really was a truly admirable specimen of 21st century man, and I hope that this little account will inspire others to think about spending a bit of time fighting for what they believe in rather than waiting for history to do the job for them.

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      • This old dog is learning some new tricks – the main one is opening his mind and your article greatly assisted me. You need to write an article or many on what is the 21st century man. Imagine the education and his life’s message presses forward.

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  5. I am so sorry to read this. My apologies too for not seeing it sooner. He seems like someone I would have been proud to know, if only I had.

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  6. Ffff… Hurts, tho i’ve known since the second november… R I P sean, an extraordinarily awesome man, and quite the source of inspiration.. A few people who have actally influenced this world to the better during this decade..

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