An Introduction to Mimetic Theory





I compiled the following documentary film on the origin of cultures, in three parts, introducing some major topics of mimetic theory and René Girard’s thinking. Transcription of the videos (in English & Dutch) is available below, beneath PART III.

PART I of the film explores the fundamental role of mimesis (imitation) in human development on several levels (biological, psychological, sociological, cultural). René Girard’s originality lies in his  introduction of a connection between this old philosophical concept and human desire. He speaks of a certain mimetic desire and ascribes to it a vital role in our social interaction. It explains our often competitive and envious tendencies. More specifically, Girard considers mimetic desire as the source for a type of conflict that is foundational to the way human culture originates and develops. In his view the primal cultural institutions are religious. Following a sociologist like Émile Durkheim, Girard first considers religion as a means to organize our social fabric, and to manage violence within communities.

The more specific question the first part of this documentary tries to answer is the following: where do sacrifices, as rituals belonging to the first signs of human culture, originally come from? How can they be explained? Click to watch:

PART II starts off with a summary and then further insists on the fundamental role of the so-called scapegoat mechanism in the origin of religious and cultural phenomena.

PART III explores the world of mythology and human storytelling in the light of Girard’s theory on certain types of culture founding conflicts and scapegoat mechanisms. Girard comes to surprising conclusions regarding storytelling in Judeo-Christian Scripture. 







The Absurdity of the Christian Faith? Hell, yeah!



What is the purpose of the New Testament?

Well, the writers of the New Testament want to enable an encounter with Jesus of Nazareth.

Why would that be important?

The New Testament authors all believe in God. They are convinced that God is revealed in the person of Jesus, who is therefore called “Christ”. Basically they claim that knowing Jesus is an excellent way to know God.

Okay, now suppose there is a God – which I don’t believe, by the way –, why on earth would it be important to know God?

Maybe you will label the following answer as an absurdity, if not as an outright offensive statement.

The New Testament writers are convinced that you cannot know yourself if you don’t know God. So, according to them, if you are interested in knowing yourself, you must know God.

Your prediction turns out to be right. The Christian faith sounds ridiculous. It claims that there is a God, which is a first absurdity to my atheist ears. Second, it claims that I should somehow learn to know a poor Jewish guy who lived and died two thousand years ago in a remote area of the Roman Empire if I want to know that “God”. Indeed, that sounds absurd!

Does the Christian tradition claim that this is the only way to know God? What about the people who lived before Jesus? What about the people who have never heared of him?

I don’t know about all the Christian churches, but I do know that the Catholic Church acknowledges other ways through which God can be known. In that sense the answer to your question is no. The Bible and the Christian tradition as a whole are not the only ways to experience the reality of Christ.

Anyway, what you are saying still sounds patronizing. I’m an atheist. I don’t have to know a fictitious “God” to know myself. Moreover, what if I’m not interested in knowing myself at all? Why would it be important to know myself?

Let me ask you this question: is it possible for people to know themselves without love?

What do you mean? What has that got to do with anything we are talking about?

Well, you will need to be a little patient now. I’ll try to explain it.

I’ve learned from child psychiatrists that there are basically three types of child neglect, which are often mixed together. All of them have to do with a lack of love. The first one is treating a child as if the child is worth nothing. That is the merely negative approach. The second is treating a child as if the child doesn’t exist. That is the indifferent approach. The third is treating a child as if the child is a superior being. That is the merely positive approach.

Children who are treated in these ways will grow up craving attention and recognition. In order to satisfy this craving, they will tend to present an image of themselves that they believe will give them the desired attention.

The child who ends up thinking he is worth nothing might try to avoid further negative criticism by attempting to meet everyone’s expectations. This child does not know who he is or what his qualities are, apart from being whoever people want him to be. He has difficulty recognizing his own talents because he suspects others might ridicule them. Being ashamed of himself in this way, he tends to look up to others – as if they are flawless and he is full of mistakes.

The child who experienced a lot of indifference while growing up might think he must be a bully to get recognition. This child does not know who he is or what his qualities are, apart from being a bully. He reduces life to a powerplay.

How seldom we weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves (Thomas a Kempis)And the child who is used to be treated as a superior being might think he indeed is superior to others and might only listen to people who confirm his self-concept. This child does not know who he is or what his qualities are, apart from being the narcissist he has become. He has difficulty recognizing his own flaws. Being ashamed of himself in this way, he tends to look down on others – as if he is flawless and they are full of mistakes.

If those children would have been treated with love, they would have discovered their talents as well as their flaws without being ashamed of them. Moreover, if people can recognize their own true talents, they will be more able to recognize and appreciate the talents of others as well, beyond inferiority complexes, powerplays or jealous competition.

In short, loving others is only possible if you truly love yourself and that’s why you should know yourself in some sense. If you believe loving yourself and others is important, then you should develop a minimum of self-knowledge. This is only possible if you refuse to treat anything as divine, except love itself. If you open up yourself to receive love, you will be able to love yourself as well as others.

I understood everything you said until your next to last statement. Could you please explain what you mean by “love is only possible if you refuse to treat anything as divine, except love itself”?

It is a short version of Mark 12:28-31, in which Jesus summarizes the teachings of the Bible:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard the Sadducees debating Jesus. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, the teacher of the law asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The Greatest Commandment in Hebrew.jpg

“To love God” is, in a Jewish sense, the prohibition to consider anything as divine or “perfect” (see Exodus 20:3-4). It is the prohibition on idolatry. Now let’s connect this principle to what was mentioned earlier.

If you want to learn something that will help you, learn to see yourself as God sees you (Thomas a Kempis)Someone who suffers from an inferiority complex has the tendency to idolize others and to blame himself for everything that goes wrong in his life. He also has the tendency to compare himself to those so-called “perfect” others in order to develop an acceptable self-image. Thus he is primarily interested in others as “mirrors”. Others are reduced to means who should confirm a certain self-image. Having experienced a lack of love while growing up, the person who suffers from an inferiority complex is not interested in himself apart from the image he hopes will give him some social recognition. Unable to truly respect himself he is also unable to respect others. As said, he is only interested in them as means, not as ends in themselves. His whole life is dominated by fear, more specifically by the fear of punishment or rejection by others if he doesn’t live up to a so-called acceptable image in his main social environment. His life is hell. Hell is real. 1 John 4:18 puts it this way:

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

no fear in love

The same reasoning goes for someone who suffers from a superiority complex. This comes as no surprise, as a superiority complex is often a compensation for feelings of inferiority and shame about one’s own flaws. The person who suffers from a superiority complex has the tendency to idolize himself and is again only interested in others as means to confirm his so-called “perfect” self-image. Fearing failure the person who suffers from a superiority complex turns his own life and the life of others into hell.

Love is the abandonment of the fear of not being perfect. It is the abandonment of any kind of idolatry, which creates the possibility to “love your neighbor as yourself”. Again, “to love God” is, in a Jewish sense, the prohibition to consider anything as divine, neither yourself nor others. As such, it is the conditio sine qua non “to love your neighbor as yourself”. Respect for the prohibition on idolatry as an absolute commandment is the recognition of the singular divinity of love. That is the paradox that is at the heart of the Christian faith.

Indeed, the Christian tradition claims that “God is love”. Hence, in this light it is true to say that you can only know yourself if you know God: you can only know yourself if you know love.

See for instance 1 John 4:16b:

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

agape love

Love allows us to discover the truth about ourselves and others, beyond illusory self-images. It allows us to discover each other’s beauty, as we no longer consume each other as means to satisfy our desire for recognition, but recognize each other as ends. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth embodies the reality of love in an excellent way. That’s why they call him the Christ and that’s why they call for an Imitatio Christi. The importance of that kind of mimesis in the Christian tradition runs from the apostle Paul over Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) to René Girard (1923-2015) – to name but a few.

Jesus criticizes both superiority and inferiority complexes in people in order to enable “re-connections” and reconciliation between them. He offers the grace of forgiveness so that we might no longer be ashamed of ourselves and that we might be able to forgive and accept the flawed nature of others as well. Whenever that happens and the reality of love is established, there is “heaven” – “the Kingdom of God”. Love leads to the salvation of ourselves and others.

The glory of God is a human being fully alive (Irenaeus of Lyons)As Irenaeus of Lyons (130-202) writes, “the glory of God is the human person fully alive.” The human person who is “fully alive” is the person who overcomes fear in order to love more deeply. Love transforms fear from fear of the other (as a potential rival) into fear for the other (as my neighbor).

I guess my next question is superfluous. You do believe in God, heaven and hell?

In Christianity you are not martyring yourself (René Girard)Yes. I do believe in the reality of love, and I do believe that wherever it is given room to establish itself there is “heaven”. As I also believe that wherever fear takes over there is “hell”. And as far as this world is concerned, we always find ourselves between heaven and hell, between love and fear. The challenge is to distinguish between those two “spirits” or dynamics, and to rely on love ever more deeply. In reference to Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), discernment is key in order to follow the transformative and creative power of love, which turns fear of the other (as a potential rival) into fear for the other (as my neighbor). We can only hope people will imitate each other in this way.

So love over fear, even if love can bring you in a situation where you end up being despised, rejected or crucified by people who hate the criticism of their socially mediated self-images?

That’s the challenge, yes, in which we more often fail than succeed.

Isn’t it foolish, if not absurd to live that kind of risky life?

Hell yeah, it is! But I would rather live an authentic life in the realm of love than die to an inauthentic one because of fear. As that saying goes, derived from a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892),

“It’s better to have lost at love than never to have loved at all.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson In Memoriam XIV_XXVII_XXXV

I believe that is true. There is a comfort in love that does not depend on its eventual outcomes. In that sense it is “all-powerful”, however much vulnerable and fragile it is.


“All the World’s a Mimetic Stage…” – Some Revealing Comedy

The following is a collection of (tragic) comical references to some of the cornerstones of René Girard’s mimetic theory, especially its analysis of the reality of mimetic desire and rivalry in human relationships. They appeared on Mimetic Margins throughout the years.

Have fun with the short videoclips from Mr Bean, Chris Rock, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory!



It’s all there below, in this classic piece of British humour – some of the basic elements of René Girard’s mimetic theory: mimetic desire, mimetic competition or rivalry and the haunting nightmare of the mimetic double. Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean really is the master of ceremonies here. Indeed, we often take more than we need when there are other people circling around the same buffet.

Moreover, mimetic dynamics generally are at work in the development of our eating habits. It would be very interesting to create an intensified dialogue between Paul Rozin’s research on the acquisition of likes and dislikes of foods and René Girard’s mimetic theory. Although some scholars already made some connections between the two (for instance in Culinary Cultures of Europe: Identity, Diversity and Dialogue, ed. by Darra Goldstein & Kathrin Merkle, Council of Europe Publication, 2005), much promising work remains to be done. Click here for a previous post on the subject, Mimetic Food Habits.

Enjoy this clever excerpt from Mr Bean in Room 426 (first broadcast 17th Feb 1993):



American comedian Chris Rock refers to yet another example of mimetic dynamics (in the TV Special Never Scared, 2004), the potential rivalry between two good friends over the same potential partner:



“I hate all this philosophical mumbo-jumbo! It just doesn’t make any sense!”

I’ve experienced reactions like these from my students quite often while trying to teach them some philosophy. They express the normal frustration people get when they just don’t seem to succeed in mastering the issues they’re facing. To be honest, I more than once imitated their feelings of despair by getting frustrated and impatient myself about their inability to understand what I was trying to say. The story of students blaming teachers for not explaining things well enough, and of teachers responding that their students just don’t try hard enough, is all too familiar. But, at the end of the day, having worked through some negative emotions, I somehow always manage to sit down at my desk and try to improve upon my part of communicating. I can only hope it stays that way.

The writings of Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas are not always easy to understand, let alone agree with. Roger Burggraeve, one of my professors at the University of Leuven, has proven to be an excellent guide to introduce me to the philosophy of Levinas (click here for an excellent summary by Burggraeve). But explanations at an academic level are not always easily transferable to a high school level. Regarding Levinas I’m faced with the challenge to explain something about his thoughts on “the Other” and “the Other’s face”. Although Levinas’ musings often appear to be highly abstract for someone who didn’t receive any proper philosophical training, his thinking springs from very “earthly”, even dark realities and experiences – especially the experience of the Holocaust. Levinas’ response to the threat of totalitarianism is actually very down to earth, but because it wants to be “fundamental”, I can imagine it indeed sometimes comes across as mumbo-jumbo to sixteen year olds.

Luckily enough for me, as a teacher, an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (season 3, episode 12 The Cold War) can help to make clear what “the encounter with the Other” could be like in a particular situation. Moreover, it also serves as a good way to connect René Girard’s mimetic theory with some of Levinas’ main insights. Here’s the story:

Will and his nephew Carlton have a crush on the same girl, Paula. Carlton had been the first to date Paula, but after introducing her to Will, she also becomes Will’s object of interest. Will imitates the desire of Carlton and, upon noticing this, Carlton in turn reinforces his desire for Paula by imitating his new rival Will. This is a prime and archetypal example of what Girard has labeled mimetic (or imitative) desire, which potentially leads to mimetic rivalry. Will and Carlton become each other’s obstacles in the pursuit of an object (in this case a person, Paula) they point to each other as desirable. They become jealous of each other and try to out compete one another. They both fear the other as a threat to their self-esteem and independency. Ironically however, as they try to differ themselves from each other by unwittingly imitating each other’s desire, they resemble each other more and more. In fact, their sense of “being” becomes truly dependent on the other they despise. They end up dueling each other in a pillow fight, trying to settle the score.

At one moment, near the end of Will and Carlton’s fight, something happens which indeed illustrates what Levinas means with “response to the Other’s face” (click here for some excerpts from Levinas’ Ethics as First Philosophy). Will pretends to be severely injured (“My eye!”), whereon Carlton totally withdraws from the fight. Carlton finds himself confronted with Will’s vulnerability, and is genuinely concerned for his nephew’s well-being. The Other he was fighting turns out to be more than his rival, more than the product of his (worst) imaginations. Indeed, before being a rival the Other “is simply there“, not reducible to any of our concerns, desires or anxieties. Carlton is not concerned for his own sake: he doesn’t seem to fear any punishment, nor does he seem to desire any reward while showing his care for Will. He abandons all actions of self-interest “in the wink of an eye”.

This is an ethical moment, as Levinas understands it. It goes beyond utilitarianism which, as it turns out, justifies itself as being “good” by arguing that self-interest (i.e. what proves useful for one’s own well-being) eventually serves the interest (well-being) of others as well. Putting forward the effect on the well-being of others as justification for utilitarianism is telling, and shows that utilitarianism in itself doesn’t seem to be “enough” as a foundation for ethics. Moreover, utilitarianism serves the interests of “the majority”, which threatens to overlook what happens to minorities “other than” that majority. Sometimes sacrificing a minority might seem “logical” from this point of view. By contrast, in what is “the ethical moment” according to Levinas, one fears being a murderer more than one’s own death. In other words, provoked by the Other’s “nakedness” and “vulnerability” (the Other’s face which lies beyond our visible descriptions and labeling of the Other), OUR FEAR OF THE OTHER IS TRANSFORMED IN FEAR FOR THE OTHER. The mimetic rivalry between Will and Carlton is thus interrupted until, of course, Will reveals he was only joking about his injury… and the pillow fight continues.


Eventually, Will and Carlton quit fighting and start confessing their wrongdoings towards one another. They no longer imitate each other’s desire to assert themselves over against one another, but they imitate each other in being vulnerable and forgiving, recognizing “each Other”. They imitate each other’s withdrawal from mimetically converging desire and rivalry. It is by becoming “Other” to one another that they paradoxically gain a new sense of “self”, as an unexpected consequence…

Enjoy that grand twist of humor in Will Smith’s unexpected philosophy class…




In the book Evolution and Conversion – Dialogues on the Origins of Culture (Continuum, London, New York, 2007), René Girard talks about popular culture and discusses the power of mass media. His approach is very nuanced, as he distinguishes between positive and negative aspects of these phenomena. He even dares to compare television series Seinfeld to the works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Girard develops his thoughts in a conversation with Pierpaolo Antonello and João Cezar de Castro Rocha. The seventh chapter, Modernity, Postmodernity and Beyond, reads the following (pp. 249-250):

Guy Debord wrote that ‘the spectacle is the material reconstruction of the religious illusion’ brought down to earth. Could we consider the expansion of the mass-media system, and the ideological use of it, as a ‘kathechetic’ instrument as well?

Of course, because it is based on a false form of transcendence, and therefore it has a containing power, but it is an unstable one. The conformism and the ethical agnosticism induced by media such as television could also produce forms of mimetic polarization at the mass level, making people more prone to be swayed by mimetic dynamics, inducing the much-feared populism in Western democracies.

Do you agree, however, that movies, TV and advertising draw heavily on mimetic principle, therefore increasing our awareness on this score?

Yes and no, because the majority of Hollywood or TV productions are very much based on the false romantic notion of the autonomy of the individual and the authenticity of his/her own desire. Of course there are exceptions, like the popular sit-com Seinfeld, which uses mimetic mechanisms constantly and depicts its characters as puppets of mimetic desire. I do not like the fact that Seinfeld constantly makes fun of high culture, which is nothing but mimetic snobbery, but it is a very clever and powerful show. It is also the only show which can afford to make fun of political correctness and can talk about important current phenomena such as the anorexia and bulimia epidemic, which clearly have strong mimetic components. From a moral point of view, it is a hellish description of our contemporary world, but at the same time, it shows a tremendous amount of talent and there are powerful insights regarding our mimetic situations.

Seinfeld is a show that gets closer to the mimetic mechanism than most, and indeed is also hugely successful. How do you explain that?

In order to be successful an artist must come as close as he can to some important social truth without inciting painful self-criticism in the spectators. This is what this show did. People do not have to understand fully in order to appreciate. They must not understand. They identify themselves with what these characters do because they do it too. They recognize something that is very common and very true, but they cannot define it. Probably the contemporaries of Shakespeare appreciated his portrayal of human relations in the same way we enjoy Seinfeld, without really understanding his perspicaciousness regarding mimetic interaction. I must say that there is more social reality in Seinfeld than in most academic sociology.”

Maybe a small example can lift a tip of the veil. I chose a short excerpt from Seinfeld’s episode 88 (season 6, episode 2, The Big Salad). Jerry Seinfeld is dating a nice lady. However, when he finds out his annoying neighbor Newman is her former lover, his face darkens… One doesn’t have to watch the whole episode to know what will happen next. Indeed, Jerry eventually breaks up with his date, imitating what Newman did and ‘ending it’. The reason Jerry’s desire for his girlfriend diminishes precisely lies in the often imitative or, as Girard would call it, ‘mimetic’ nature of desire. Jerry just doesn’t desire his date directly all the way, but he is – like all of us – sometimes heavily influenced by certain models who point out what he should or should not desire. In this case, Newman turns out to be a model who negatively influences Jerry’s desire…

This scene is fun, because it’s all too recognizable and it mirrors some aspects of our tragic comic behavior – good, refined humor as it should be!

Click to watch:



Sometimes, just sometimes, quite revealing scientific insights slip into popular culture. I was watching a rerun of an episode of The Big Bang Theory sitcom on Belgian television. More specifically, I found out, I was watching The White Asparagus Triangulation (episode 9, season 2 ).

Mimetic DesireThe title itself can already be connected to a basic concept of René Girard’s mimetic theory, namely mimetic desire. As it turns out, “triangulation” indeed refers to the triangular nature of human desire (beyond instinctive needs) as described by Girard: the desire of a subject towards a certain object is positively or negatively influenced by mediators or models (click here to watch an example of negatively mediated desire from another popular sitcom, Seinfeld). Humans imitate others in orienting their desires – their desire thus is mimetic.

In the case of this episode from The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon tries to positively influence the desire of Leonard’s new girlfriend, Stephanie. After all, she is the first of Leonard’s dates to meet Sheldon’s high intellectual standards, so Sheldon does everything to increase Stephanie’s desire for Leonard. At some point he tries to persuade the girl next door, Penny, to present herself as a rival/model for Stephanie. Here’s the script for this scene.

Scene: Outside Penny’s door.

Sheldon (Knock, knock, knock) : Penny (knock, knock, knock) Penny.

Penny: What?

Sheldon (Knock, knock, knock) : Penny. Zucchini bread.

Penny: Oh, thank you.

Sheldon: May I come in?

Penny: No.

The White Asparagus Triangulation Penny and Sheldon Zucchini

Sheldon: I see. Apparently my earlier inquiry regarding you and Leonard crossed some sort of line. I apologize.

Penny: Well, thank you.

Sheldon: So, have you and I returned to a social equilibrium?

Penny: Yes.

Sheldon: Great. New topic. Where are you in your menstrual cycle?

Penny: What?

Sheldon: I’ve been doing some research online, and apparently female primates, you know, uh, apes, chimpanzees, you, they find their mate more desirable when he’s being courted by another female. Now, this effect is intensified when the rival female is secreting the pheromones associated with ovulation. Which brings me back to my question, where are you in (Penny slams door). Clearly, I’m 14 days too early.

Female Chimpanzee Sexual Swelling KanyawaraSeveral lines of evidence indicate some female competition over mating. First, at Mahale, females sometimes directly interfered in the mating attempts of their rivals by forcing themselves between a copulating pair. In some cases, the aggressive female went on to mate with the male. At Gombe, during a day-long series of attacks by Mitumba females on a fully swollen new immigrant female, the most active attackers were also swollen and their behaviour was interpreted as ‘sexual jealousy’ by the observers. Townsend et al. found that females at Budongo suppressed copulation calls when in the presence of the dominant female, possibly to prevent direct interference in their copulations. Second, females occasionally seem to respond to the sexual swellings of others by swelling themselves. Goodall described an unusual incident in which a dominant, lactating female suddenly appeared with a full swelling a day after a young oestrous female had been followed by many males. Nishida described cases at Mahale in which a female would produce isolated swellings that were not part of her regular cycles when a second oestrous female was present in the group.
The White Asparagus Triangulation eventually gets its title from another scene in the episode. Sheldon tries to establish Leonard as “the alpha male”. Sheldon will pretend that he is unable to open a jar of asparagus. If Leonard then opens the jar he will have won the mimetic competition over the question “who is the strongest?”, resulting in an increase of his sex appeal. Of course, for the sake of comedy, things go terribly wrong :). Here’s the script for this scene.

Scene: The apartment.

Leonard: All I’m saying is if they can cure yellow fever and malaria, why can’t they do something about lactose intolerance?

Steph: Leonard, you’re going to have to let this go. You had a little cheese dip, you farted, I thought it was cute.

Sheldon: Oh, hi Stephanie.

Steph: Hi.

Leonard: Want some more wine?

Steph: Yeah, I assume I’m not driving anywhere tonight. (Sheldon lets out a loud noise).

Leonard: What are you doing?

Sheldon: I have a craving for white asparagus that apparently is destined to go unsatisfied.

Leonard: Excuse me. What the hell is wrong with you?

Sheldon: I’m helping you with Stephanie.

Leonard: By making constipated moose sounds?

The White Asparagus Triangulation Big Bang Theory

Sheldon: When I fail to open this jar and you succeed it will establish you as the alpha male. You see, when a female witnesses an exhibition of physical domination she produces the hormone oxytocin. If the two of you then engage in intercourse this will create the biochemical reaction in the brain which lay people naively interpret as falling in love.

Leonard: Huh? Would it work if I just punched you in the face?

Sheldon: Yes, actually it would, but let’s see how the lid goes. I’m not strong enough, Leonard, you’ll have to do it.

Leonard: Oh, for god’s sakes.

Sheldon: Go ahead, it’s pre-loosened.

Steph: Do you want some help with that?

Leonard: No, no, no, I got it.

Sheldon: No, yeah, yeah, he’s got it, and that’s not surprising. This is something I long ago came to peace with in my role as the beta male. Open it. (Leonard tries again. Then taps jar on counter. Jar breaks.)

Steph: Oh my god, are you okay?

Leonard: No, I’m not. I’m bleeding.

Sheldon: Like a gladiator!

Steph: Oh, honey, you’re going to need stitches.

Leonard: Stitches? With a needle?

Steph: Well, yeah, I mean, just a few.

Leonard: Oh, okay, yeah, hang on a sec. (Throws up in sink)

Sheldon: FYI, I was defrosting a steak in there.

Hoe OpenVLD en N-VA zichzelf dreigen te verliezen in hun strijd tegen het katholiek onderwijs

Naar aanleiding van de discussie over de organisatie en de inhoud van het levensbeschouwelijk onderwijs in Vlaanderen schreef ik een opiniestuk voor de website Thomas (over godsdienstonderwijs, KU Leuven). Het stuk kreeg als titel Twee uur levensbeschouwelijke grammatica en woordenschat zijn geen luxe, en werd opgenomen in een dossier dat aan de regeringspartijen werd bezorgd.

Hierna volgen nog enkele bijkomende bedenkingen.

Korte kroniek van een symbooldossier: politieke spelletjes vs de strijd om een EERLIJK DEBAT

Op de website van Doorbraak ( verschijnt op 3 september 2019 een artikel van de hand van Pieter Bauwens met als titel Halveren N-VA en OpenVLD aantal uren godsdienst in secundair onderwijs?

Daaruit blijkt dat beide politieke partijen een beknotting van het vak godsdienst beogen, zij het om enigszins verschillende redenen. Dat bemoeilijkt alvast ook op dat vlak een duurzaam pact tussen N-VA en OpenVLD.

Volgens prominente stemmen binnen de N-VA zet het jonge concept van de “katholieke dialoogschool” de deur wagenwijd open voor een sluimerende islamisering van de Vlaamse cultuur. Die kritiek gaat eigenlijk uit van een verkeerde voorstelling van zaken. Niettemin is ze voldoende om een bepaald soort perceptie van het katholiek onderwijs te creëren die kwaad bloed zet bij de bredere achterban van de N-VA. Op de koop toe vervangt de katholieke onderwijskoepel ook nog eens één uur Nederlands in de eerste graad door een nieuw vak Mens & Samenleving – in voege vanaf september 2019. Ook dat is niet naar de zin van veel N-VA’ers. Het vak Nederlands is te belangrijk voor hen om aan de uren ervan te tornen.

Katholieke Dialoogschool.jpg

Zoals N-VA en de andere Vlaamse partijen pleit ook OpenVLD voor een grondig onderwijs van de Nederlandse taal. Wellicht is dat voor OpenVLD voldoende om niet gelukkig te zijn met de afschaffing van een uur Nederlands in de eerste graad van het katholiek onderwijs. Anderzijds kunnen de Vlaamse liberalen moeilijk ontevreden zijn over de lesruimte die een vak als Mens & Samenleving krijgt. Ze ijveren immers al jaren voor de invoering van een vak LEF (“Levensbeschouwing, Ethiek, Filosofie”), en Mens & Samenleving sluit daar inhoudelijk bij aan.

Sterk Nederlands taalonderwijs hangt natuurlijk niet alleen af van het aantal uren Nederlands op een school. Toch schijnen N-VA en OpenVLD vastbesloten om meer uren voor het vak Nederlands te voorzien. Beide partijen zijn het er blijkbaar over eens dat omwille daarvan één van de twee uren godsdienst moet sneuvelen.

Het zal nog moeten blijken of een politieke overwinning op één aspect van het taalbeleid van de katholieke onderwijskoepel opweegt tegen de mogelijke verliezen. OpenVLD zou erin moeten slagen om het enig overgebleven uur godsdienst te laten verdwijnen als ze het vak LEF alsnog op een gebrekkige manier wil invoeren (als een vak van één uur, wat de inhoudelijke ambities van LEF compleet onmogelijk maakt). Of het zou moeten zijn dat OpenVLD eraan denkt om te knippen in het pakket van andere vakken (bijvoorbeeld geschiedenis), maar dat lijkt onwaarschijnlijk. Het is bovendien nog maar de vraag of het vak LEF uiteindelijk nog nodig is. Naast het nieuwe vak Mens & Samenleving is er immers ook een nieuw leerplan voor godsdienst. Dat plan voldoet in meerdere opzichten aan basisverzuchtingen van voorstanders van LEF. De eliminatie van het vak “godsdienst” zou dan vooral een symbolisch statement zijn.

Eist OpenVLD werkelijk dat het katholiek onderwijs het vak godsdienst opgeeft en daarmee ook de vrijheid om zichzelf te zijn? Zal OpenVLD principieel maar één levensbeschouwelijk pedagogisch schoolproject toelaten, inhoudelijk bepaald van staatswege? Dat druist in tegen alle basisprincipes van een partij die zichzelf “liberaal”, “democratisch” en “rationeel” noemt.

Kortom, in haar ideologische strijd tegen de essentie van het katholiek onderwijs bestrijdt de Vlaamse liberale partij paradoxaal genoeg ook zichzelf.

Het is bijzonder twijfelachtig dat N-VA zal meegaan in het begraven van een vak dat essentiële aspecten belicht van levensbeschouwelijke tradities die – ten goede en ten kwade – bepalend zijn geweest voor het Europese zelfbegrip.

Niemand is gebaat bij een cultureel maatschappelijke afkalving door een verzwakt levensbeschouwelijk onderwijs, ook niet als daardoor een zogenaamde “vijand” lijkt te worden vernietigd. De pluraliteit aan stemmen in Vlaanderen heeft bestaansrecht. Laten we dat zo houden.

P.S.: Eerder schreef ik een pamflet dat een aantal verkeerde veronderstellingen en soms valse aantijgingen over het huidige godsdienstonderwijs in kaart brengt en kritisch belicht. Daarvan lees je de korte versie hier, de volledige versie hier.

Het pamflet werd door meer dan 1000 mensen ondertekend (van jong tot oud, van gelovigen tot ongelovigen, van studenten tot professoren). Alsnog ondertekenen kan via volgende link:

Katholieke Dialoogschool (vak rooms-katholieke godsdienst)

De storm is voorlopig gaan liggen, maar de ronduit oneerlijke manier waarop sommige opiniemakers het debat over het levensbeschouwelijk onderwijs vaak voeren, vereist een blijvende kritische en wetenschappelijk gefundeerde waakzaamheid.

Joël De Ceulaer is één van die opiniemakers. De inleiding van Knack op een artikel van hem aangaande levensbeschouwelijk onderwijs liegt niet om de laag-bij-de-grondse “trukendoos” die soms wordt bovengehaald:

“Naar aanleiding van de jihadistische aanslagen in en rond Parijs pleitte Knack-journalist Joël De Ceulaer in het Radio 1-programma Hautekiet voor de afschaffing van levensbeschouwelijke schoolvakken. Herlees hier de ‘Lastpost’ die hij daarover schreef in Knack van 5 november 2014.”

Joël De Ceulaer opnieuw pamflet Godsdienst met of zonder LEF

Gelukkig zijn de traditionele media niet de enige spreekbuis meer. Er zijn genoeg nieuwe kanalen waarlangs “dissidente stemmen” zich kenbaar kunnen maken, tot spijt van wie het benijdt…

Leaving Neverland: “It’s NOT about Michael Jackson…”

The history of allegations of child sexual abuse against Michael Jackson all started with the Jordan Chandler case. By now, a lot more is known on how that all came about. This excellent documentary by Danny Wu is a must see:

If the media and the general public do care about the very serious issue of child sexual abuse, if they do care about #MeToo, and if they do care about professional journalism that can withstand the “Donald Trump” allegations of being “fake news”, then the media and the general public should have a thorough conversation and debate about Leaving Neverland. If truly “it is not about Michael Jackson”, then HBO and Channel 4 should be questioned on how they could ever air a massive production that is such a terrible, disastrous mess on such important topics. Read more here: Towards the Death of the #MeToo Movement? A Case of Killing in the Name of the Victim.


Yesterday (August 13, 2019), two new productions were launched on Leaving Neverland.

Michael Jackson: Chase the Truth was the first one. In it, investigative journalist Mike Smallcombe gives a very balanced and fair assessment of the allegations by Wade Robson and James Safechuck (click here to read, pdf).

The second one was Lies of Leaving Neverland. It contains brand new video footage from Wade and Joy Robson’s 2016 deposition. The information in Lies of Leaving Neverland makes clear that Smallcombe’s professional journalistic judgment might have been too friendly.

There were many outspoken voices after Leaving Neverland first aired. The question is, where are they now? Or are the above mentioned issues suddenly not important anymore? Oprah Winfrey was one of those voices. She aired the special After Neverland, wherein she discussed Leaving Neverland with Wade Robson and James Safechuck in the presence of child sexual abuse survivors. This was her assessment at the time:

“For me, this moment transcends Michael Jackson. It is much bigger than any one person This is a moment in time that allows us to see this societal corruption.

I taped 217 episodes on sexual abuse. I tried and tried and tried to get the message across to people that sexual abuse was not just abuse. It was also sexual seduction. [Dan Reed was] able to illustrate in these four hours what I tried to explain in 217.”

Since then, massive credibility issues have surfaced, which makes it really unethical to use Leaving Neverland as a vehicle to “expand the conversation about child sexual abuse”. If it truly isn’t about Michael Jackson, then there are better alternatives to do that, like Deliver Us from Evil (on child sexual abuse by a Catholic priest).

People who aired and/or watched the four hour long horror of Leaving Neverland should at least have the humility, fairness and decency to watch the following information in the 30 minutes long Lies of Leaving Neverland.

And maybe, just maybe, they can then question their own “belief systems” in order to have a more honest conversation. It shouldn’t be about “(fans of) Michael Jackson”. It should be about the Leaving Neverland production itself, like the documentary below:

Channel 4 and HBO could have known that Leaving Neverland would have been highly problematic. Joe Vogel, for instance, wrote a brilliant article highlighting the problems that were already known at the time the production aired. Forbes published What You Should Know About the New Michael Jackson Documentary on January 29, 2019. Since then, many new damaging facts have been revealed. They turned Leaving Neverland into a veritable disaster.

Channel 4 and HBO should be held accountable.

P.S.: Those who still manage to be intellectually dishonest by referring to the blatant untruths in Leaving Neverland as “unimportant details misremembered because of trauma” should realize that those so-called unimportant details are not presented as such in Leaving Neverland. They are presented as key elements in the stories of Wade Robson and James Safechuck.

In short, to minimize the untruths regarding those key elements as allegedly “being misremembered because of trauma” is ABUSE OF REAL TRAUMA:

CSA Victim Opposing Leaving Neverland Tweet

READ What You Should Know About the New Michael Jackson Documentary (Joe Vogel, FORBES, January 29, 2019).

READ One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History (Charles Thomson, HUFFPOST, June 13, 2010).

READ The Truth About What Michael Jackson Had (And Didn’t Have) In His Bedroom (Raven Woods, HUFFPOST, July 8, 2016).

READ Leaving Neverland Exposed: The Devil is in the Details by Damien Shields.

“Leaving Neverland”: aantoonbare riooljournalistiek die de #MeToo-beweging schaadt


De joodse en christelijke tradities bevatten een bijzondere gevoeligheid voor fenomenen als mob violence, victim blaming, seksisme en racisme. Ze trachten “stem te geven aan de stemlozen”, hetzij in situaties waarin de stem van individuen wordt over-stemd door een patriarchale groepsmentaliteit of in situaties waarin de stem van individuen verdwijnt door de schreeuwerigheid van de alomtegenwoordige massamedia.

De christelijke traditie interpreteert de bekommernis om de stem van de stemlozen als het werk van de “Heilige Geest”, die ook wel “Verdediger”, “Advocaat”, “Helper” of “Trooster” wordt genoemd (zie bijvoorbeeld  Johannes 14, 16-17: “En Ik zal de Vader vragen jullie een andere Helper te geven, die voor altijd met jullie zal zijn, de Geest van de waarheid. De wereld kan Hem niet ontvangen, omdat ze Hem niet ziet en ook niet kent; jullie kennen Hem wel, want Hij blijft bij jullie en zal in jullie zijn.”).

In het licht hiervan zullen de joodse en christelijke tradities tegelijk verdediger en criticus van de #MeToo-beweging zijn. Die beweging zou immers de stem van de stemlozen moeten vertegenwoordigen. In de mate dat ze dat niet doet en meer en meer stem geeft aan de blinde en verblindende lynch mob van de massamedia zal ze op weerstand mogen rekenen.

Het volgende artikel concentreert zich op de zaken van seksueel misbruik tegen Michael Jackson (hoewel niet exclusief). Het is een typisch voorbeeld van de wijze waarop het collectieve geweld van de massamedia de geloofwaardigheid van de #MeToo-beweging bedreigt als een beweging die “stem geeft aan de stemlozen”.


In 2007 was Channel 4 producent van de documentaire Michael Jackson: What Really Happened. Daarin wordt een zekere Víctor Gutiérrez ten tonele gevoerd als “onderzoeksjournalist”. De man zou gespecialiseerd zijn in de beschuldigingen van kindermisbruik aan het adres van Michael Jackson. Gutiérrez krijgt uitgebreid de kans om zijn verhaal te vertellen.

Wat die documentaire niet vermeldt, is dat Gutiérrez in 1996 een boek publiceerde overMichael Jackson Was My Lover - The Secret Diary of Jordie Chandler Michael Jacksons zogezegd pedofiele relaties met kinderen, in het bijzonder met Jordan Chandler. De titel van dat boek was Michael Jackson Was My Lover: The Secret Diary of Jordie Chandler. Achteraf bleek dat het dagboek van Jordan Chandler, waaruit Gutiérrez beweerde te citeren, helemaal niet bestond. Met andere woorden, het boek van Gutiérrez over de expliciet beschreven zogenaamde pedoseksuele “liefdesrelatie” tussen Jordan en Michael was een compleet fictieve fabricatie van Gutiérrez. Pittig detail: Gutiérrez bedankt onder andere NAMBLA in zijn boek – een Amerikaanse organisatie die pleit voor de normalisering van pedofilie.

Be Careful Who You Love (Diane Dimond)Op een ander moment beweert diezelfde Gutiérrez een videotape van 27 minuten in zijn bezit te hebben waarin te zien zou zijn hoe Michael Jackson een kind molesteert. Diane Dimond, journalist voor het Amerikaanse tabloid programma Hard Copy (en ook uitgebreid aanwezig in de Channel 4 documentaire uit 2007), is degene die het nieuws over de videotape op een stellige en gretige manier brengt. Ze interviewt ook haar – naar eigen zeggen – “betrouwbare bron” Víctor Gutiérrez. Het zou niet de laatste keer zijn dat Dimond en Gutiérrez aantoonbare (weliswaar lucratieve) leugens in verband met Michael Jackson verspreiden. Het nieuws over de videotape blijkt immers een complete hoax te zijn: de videotape bestaat niet. Gutiérrez wordt hiervoor uiteindelijk veroordeeld, waarna hij naar zijn thuisland Chili vlucht. Daar is hij betrokken bij de creatie van een alweer fictief pedofilieschandaal rond enkele hooggeplaatste rechtse politici. Een straatjongen geeft toe dat hij valse beschuldigingen had geuit nadat Gutiérrez hem had betaald. Na de verspreiding van nog een ander leugenachtig seksschandaal wordt Gutiérrez voor de tweede keer in zijn leven veroordeeld tot een geldboete en deze keer ook tot een gevangenisstraf van 61 dagen.

Over de eerste zaak tegen Michael Jackson, die omtrent Jordan Chandler, is intussen veel bekend. Danny Wu maakte er een uitmuntende documentaire over:

Channel 4, dat in 2007 zo graag “onderzoeksjournalist” Gutiérrez liet opdraven, is samen met HBO verantwoordelijk voor de televisieproductie Leaving Neverland,  opnieuw over beschuldigingen van kindermisbruik aan het adres van de intussen overleden Michael Jackson. Regisseur Dan Reed vertelt in een interview voor Slate’s The Gist podcast (met Mike Pesca, op 1 maart 2019) hoe zijn film tot stand kwam (vertaling uit het Engels):

“Het project [Leaving Neverland] kwam tot stand door een toevallige conversatie met een bestuurslid van Channel 4, terwijl we aan het praten waren over de grote verhalen die enigszins onopgelost zijn gebleven. […] Ik stelde iemand aan om wat onderzoek [naar de beschuldigingen aan het adres van Michael Jackson] te doen en ze [sic] kwamen hiermee aandraven, met – als ik het mij goed herinner – een pagina uit een buitenlandse krant die verwees naar twee kerels van wie ik nog nooit had gehoord, Wade Robson en James Safechuck.”

Dan Reed vertelt dan verder hoe hij Wade Robson en James Safechuck elk één keer opzoekt alvorens hun verhalen over misbruik door Michael Jackson op te nemen. Tot zover zijn “diepgaand onderzoek”.

Het werk van Dan Reed en Channel 4 (in samenwerking met HBO) resulteert in een alweer expliciet verhaal over “pedoseksuele liefdesaffaires van Michael Jackson”, en dat is waarschijnlijk geen toeval gezien het verleden van Channel 4. De “informatie” van Channel 4 over Michael Jackson in hun documentaire uit 2007 verwees immers al uitdrukkelijk naar het werk van de meermaals veroordeelde riooljournalist Víctor Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez lijkt voor eens en altijd het zogenaamde “patroon” voor Michael Jacksons relatie met kinderen te hebben gecreëerd, en dat op basis van complete ficties. Dat patroon is inderdaad typisch voor de wijze waarop pedofielen te werk gaan, alleen verwijzen de verschillende bouwstenen ervan aangaande Michael Jackson niet naar werkelijke feiten. De beschuldigingen van Wade Robson en vooral van James Safechuck vertonen alvast veel gelijkenissen met de pedoseksuele fantasieën van Gutiérrez.

Ondanks bovenstaande bevindingen blijven sommigen beweren:

“Niemand kan uiteindelijk weten wat er in de slaapkamer van Michael Jackson is gebeurd, behalve dan de mensen die er zelf aanwezig waren!”

Sinds de televisieproductie Leaving Neverland uitkwam, is intussen wél bewezen dat een significant deel van het beweerde misbruik meerdere keren moet zijn gebeurd in niet-bestaande bedden van niet-bestaande kamers tijdens niet-bestaande ontmoetingen.

Totnogtoe kan niemand uitleggen waarom de beschuldigingen, ondanks de vele aangetoonde onwaarheden, moeten worden geloofd.

Bovendien is circumstantial evidence quasi onbestaande: de overgrote meerderheid van de mensen die Jackson van dichtbij hebben gekend toen ze kinderen waren (zoals Kelley Parker en Brett Barnes – zie onderstaande tweets als reacties op de beweringen van Robson en Safechuck), ontkent bij hoog en bij laag dat er ooit iets ongepasts is gebeurd. Daarnaast sliep Jackson nauwelijks zelf met kinderen in zijn bed – en zeker niet alleen – ondanks wat zo vaak wordt gedacht. Zie onder andere de open brief van de familie Schleiter.

Kelley Parker on Michael Jackson Tweet

Brett Barnes Tweet on Wade Robson Lies

Het staat fans van HBO en Channel 4 natuurlijk vrij om desondanks te blijven geloven in “de hoge journalistieke standaarden” van die bedrijven.

“But if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is tabloid journalism.”

READ What You Should Know About the New Michael Jackson Documentary (Joe Vogel, FORBES, January 29, 2019).

READ One of the Most Shameful Episodes in Journalistic History (Charles Thomson, HUFFPOST, June 13, 2010).

READ The Truth About What Michael Jackson Had (And Didn’t Have) In His Bedroom (Raven Woods, HUFFPOST, July 8, 2016).

READ Leaving Neverland Exposed: The Devil is in the Details by Damien Shields.

Wie een journalistieke parel wil zien, kan beter naar Diego Maradona kijken. De Oscar-winnende regisseur van die productie, Asif Kapadia, heeft honderden uren filmmateriaal bekeken, heeft Maradona en andere betrokkenen verschillende keren geïnterviewd, en is niet afhankelijk van een handvol foto’s en van grondig geknipte uitspraken waarrond een emotioneel manipulatief verhaal van vier uur wordt geweven.

Intussen is een documentaire op komst over Michael Jackson waaraan onder andere Charles Thomson meewerkt – een waarachtige onderzoeksjournalist die al verschillende keren werd bekroond, onder andere voor zijn onderzoek naar een pedofilienetwerk.

HBO en Channel 4 zullen een les krijgen in grondige onderzoeksjournalistiek. Rasechte en meervoudig veroordeelde riooljournalisten als Víctor Gutiérrez zullen er geen sporen nalaten.

Bekijk alvast volgende bevindingen van diverse journalisten:


Een Vox/Morning Consult survey (gepubliceerd op 5 april, 2018) wijst uit dat 86 procent van de vrouwen die de #MeToo-beweging actief steunen zich zorgen maakt over het fenomeen van valse beschuldigingen. Ze zijn met name bezorgd omdat ze de #MeToo-beweging willen beschermen (lees meer hier: Why women are worried about #MeToo.)

Overgemediatiseerde zaken van seksueel misbruik die, wegens het grote aantal aantoonbare leugens, uiteindelijk te belachelijk blijken om waar te zijn, schaden inderdaad de algemene geloofwaardigheid van slachtoffers van seksueel misbruik en seksueel geweld.

De zaken rond aanklager Carl Beech of de zaken rond de valselijk beschuldigden Cliff Richard, Simon Warr, Brian Banks en de Amerikaanse David Bryant en diens Engelse naamgenoot David Bryant creëren een cultuur waarin echte daders van seksueel misbruik twijfel kunnen zaaien omtrent de beschuldigingen van echte slachtoffers.

Wie, zoals in het geval van Leaving Neverland, geen rekening houdt met gerechtelijke besluiten over de schuldvraag van een persoon, en wie toestaat dat er een mediatieke hetze kan worden gevoerd tegen iemand op basis van zeer dubieuze “getuigenissen” van twee vermeende slachtoffers, draagt verder bij aan het creëren van die cultuur van twijfel omtrent de beschuldigingen van slachtoffers van seksueel misbruik. Dat geldt des te meer als de dossiers van die vermeende slachtoffers al tweemaal door een rechter werden verworpen, onder andere met de mededeling in het dossier van één van de twee dat

“… géén rationele officiële onderzoeker de beëdigde verklaring ooit zou geloven.”

Indien de #MeToo-beweging veronachtzaamt hoe het strafproces tegen een beroemde vermeende dader van seksueel misbruik precies verliep, wordt ze zelf een facilitator van seksueel misbruik en geweld. Daders van seksueel misbruik kunnen zich dan immers opnieuw gemakkelijker achter “een sluier van twijfel” verschuilen. Simpelweg en op een luie manier verwijzen naar de vermeende “macht” en “goede advocaten” van een bekende dader, mag nooit een vrijgeleide zijn voor een trial by media. Dat zet de deur open voor heksenjachten, en daarvan claimt onze “verlichte” samenleving afscheid te hebben genomen.

Wat de twee zaken tijdens het leven van Michael Jackson betreft: de eerste zaak uit 1993 was een duidelijk geval van poging tot afpersing (klik hier voor meer informatie) en de zaak van de aanklagers uit het in 2005 gevoerde strafproces was zo onzinnig dat de samenleving er nooit tijd, geld en energie had mogen aan verspillen (klik hier voor meer informatie). De beschuldigingen van de vermeende slachtoffers van Michael Jackson werden in ieder geval lang voor de officiële hashtag MeToo tot in het absurde toe ernstig genomen.

Het is trouwens geen toeval dat verscheidene slachtoffers van seksueel misbruik intussen deze hashtag gebruiken: #wadeandjamesdonotspeakforme.

#MeToo Credibility Leaving Neverland 1

De haast automatische twijfel aan de getuigenissen van slachtoffers van seksueel misbruik zou volgens sommigen tot de rape culture van een ander tijdperk moeten behoren. Vandaar dat de #MeToo-beweging bezorgd moet zijn over bedenkelijk eenzijdige en inhoudelijk gemakkelijk aanvechtbare producties als Leaving Neverland, zeker als het gaat over overleden personen die zichzelf niet meer kunnen verdedigen én die tijdens hun leven al over de hele lijn werden vrijgepleit na een grondig gevoerd strafproces. Daarenboven spelen duidelijk grote financiële motieven in de dossiers van Wade Robson en James Safechuck.

CSA Victim Opposing Leaving Neverland Tweet

Kortom, wegens hun hoogst bedenkelijke gehalte dragen de overgemediatiseerde dossiers van Wade Robson en James Safechuck bij aan de twijfel omtrent getuigenissen van slachtoffers van seksueel misbruik, en dus, tragisch en paradoxaal genoeg, aan de rape culture die de #MeToo-beweging wenst te bestrijden.