02 December 2010

Spectacle and Antinomianism

Many on the left worry about being "offensive" and indeed worry even more when other people are being "offensive." Many on the right -- conservatism being a sort of machismo these days -- are pleased to offend, of course. This doesn't make them any good as readers or writers. I'm always amused when I run into a young conservative fellow who signed up for a class or writing program after reading a left-wing and homoerotic book like Fight Club. It touched them somehow, but not in any way they could understand, so they just take the stuff Groundlings always take away from some piece of art: spectacle and antinomianism. Antinomianism is part of why so many middle-class white dudes see themselves as victims; they can't be tough rebels if they acknowledged that they're actually already Empire.

--Nick Mamatas


  1. And yet somehow if they were to embrace their privileged status and identify wholeheartedly as the elite legionnaires of the Empire, I don't think communication would improve.

    (also, the fact that they don't do that automatically? Makes me wonder if the establishment hasn't in some way actually let them down. Some way that isn't easy for them to pinpoint, and so they go assuming the women and brown people are taking away their goodies.)

  2. An interesting point ruined by vapid generalization at the end. So accidents of birth have made all white "middle-class" Americans (or at least the male ones)"Empire"? There have been no rebels, no individualists, no iconoclasts? None who have ever studied, explored, participated in, or joined another class or culture? Not one has ever rejected any of the apparently inherent and inevitable values, assumptions, and blinders that must forever and unquestionably be attached to him because some theorists have decided that it is so?

    I think some on the left should worry a little more about being offensive...

  3. Okay, you win; I take it back.

  4. I don't see how Fight Club is "left-wing."

  5. I haven't read the novel of Fight Club and it's been years since I saw the movie, so I would not be able to be specific were I to try to explain how it's left-wing (the homoeroticism seems obvious to me, but then ... it would).

    However, I did happen upon an academic essay, "Enjoy Your Fight!: Fight Club as a Symptom of the Network Society", that seems to get at some of the ways it could be construed as left-wing. Here's a PDF. I'm sure there's more out there.

  6. For a definition of "left-wing" that skips over pansy feel-good liberal progressivism and goes straight to anarchy, I guess?

  7. For a definition of "left-wing" that skips over pansy feel-good liberal progressivism and goes straight to anarchy, I guess?

    Well, yes. I see Fight Club was right-wing anarchic and patriarchal. The homo eroticism I don't see because Tyler is imaginary, and the members of the club are using each other to feel more manly ("after fight club watching football is like watching pornography when you could be out there having great sex"), not intimately loved. The homosocial* I do see because of the latter. FC members may be subverting consumerism and shallowness, but they're only doing so because they didn't get the chance their fathers did to live like strong powerful "men" instead of emasculated cogs in a machine.

    I refer to how Tyler refers to their generation as a men raised by a women and what a problem that is, and how the lowest class among them are the brightest and the best he's ever seen, how they were lied to about their potential to live rich and beautifully and how they're now going to wipe their ass with the Mona Lisa and destroy the beautiful French beaches they'd never afford to go to.

    The philosophy of FC is an entitled ass sticking his middle finger at the world for denying him the manhood he was supposed to inherit. I think this is exactly the "Antinomianism" Nick talked about. I think FC speaks more to libertarians and propertarians more than to socialists, communists and left-wing anarchists.


  8. I haven't seen the film, but I have read the book, and I think by the time the characters are stealing the liposuctioned fat of the rich to sell back to them as soap, it's hard to call its anarchy right-wing in any meaningful sense of the term.

  9. There's a reason why someone might read about some small segment of the population: some number less than all ("so many") conservative middle-class Groundlings and then decide that this somehow critiques "all white 'middle-class'* Americans" who are male—but it's not because my comment was actually about all white middle-class American males. (Hint: not a single reference to any particular nation, much less the US, is even made!)

    Rather, that particular objection to my claim is actually a datum point in its favor.

    It's also utterly bizarre to read FIGHT CLUB as a right-wing book, especially if one is going to point to the bit about "lowest class among them [being] the brightest and the best" who were then lied to by the capitalist class and consumer society. That's even leaving aside the fact that the main personal target of the narrator is a man—he's fighting himself in the form of Tyler, after all, and utimately defeating Tyler.

    *In scare quotes! Hee!