The Extreme Regions of Normal

From The Guardian: What do incels, fascists and terrorists have in common? Violent misogyny.

Fascism, then, is an exacerbation, a more militant extension, of the patriarchal relationships between men and women that have persisted for centuries. It is a worsening of the fantasies, the violence, the misshapen desires that the whole system of gender relationships that have long pertained in European societies and those in the new world that are descended from them. Rather than a thing, which is categorically distinct from other social and political systems, fascism is a process, which can easily recur, and wherein we can see men, and groups of men, who have commenced the journey.

And murder under the auspices of fascism is not a mistake. Barbara Ehrenreich explains in her foreword to Theweleit’s book that it can’t be reduced, on his account, to merely a symbolic act, or a displacement of some other psychological or economic crisis: “the fascist is not doing ‘something else’, he is doing what he wants to do”.

The piece does pretty much what it says on the tin and I take no issue with its argument. But I’d like to point out another dynamic that jumps out at me about the incel movement.

You might have to bear with me for a moment here . . .

I remember talking to a friend of mine a few years ago about “bro” culture. He made an interesting point that has stuck with me. The bro, he said, was basically masculine power and dysfunction totally divorced from masculine responsibilities. That’s to say, the bro wants and has all the power of a man under patriarchy, he engages in all the pleasures and pursuits available to a man suffocating under the weight of masculinity, all the stuff meant to allow that man to ‘blow off steam’ or whatever so he can get back to work. But The Bro has none of the work to get back to. He has none of the attendant responsibilities of patriarchal masculinity and none of the reasons for these valves. He’s not the only working member of a family. He doesn’t have to pay all the bills. He’s not even taking out the garbage. Probably, mom is doing most of that for him. What he has left is his gendered power, entitlement and dysfunction. It’s a bit like those lumbersexuals that were lumbering around a few years ago, all looking like woodsmen, none of them ever chopping down a tree. The shit was never any good but, now, it’s broken free from any association except dudeness and the dudenessness of dude power. It’s all gone feral. It’s off it’s chain and it’s a bit ridiculous. Partly because it’s oh-so-serious. So, like, whatever.

And, I’m not saying that there’s some sort of cure to be found in re-assigning gendered responsibilities. I’m not that nostalgic to begin with and if I tried it, my wife would probably put a blade in me. I couldn’t even blame her. Fuck that hokey old-timey shit. What interests me in my friend’s point, is the idea of power divorced from, if not its purpose, from its sort of central reason. The power is shit, the reason is evil and the purpose is ridiculous but there’s a grain of truth in his assessment – This principle and modifications of it, seem to be some of what we’re seeing in some of these areas.

I bring this up because the whole incel thing reminds me a lot of geek culture, particularly that of the fandom around science fiction and science fiction conventions. Not on the level of the stereotype of  ‘losers who can’t get laid’ but in some of its other components. At SF cons, people who don’t like SF are called “mundanes”, the incels call non-incels “normies.” There’s that strange sense of persecution, mixed with wildly oscillating feelings of superiority and inferiority and complaints about not being approved of by “the mainstream”, which is regarded with contempt even as its approval is sought as a legitimating force – mixed with a really bizarre sort of purposeful ignorance that places these groups outside of the mainstream in their self-conception when, in reality, they are thoroughly inside of the mainstream and even act as its cops, carefully and violently policing the norms others have established. Science fiction is extremely popular. Misogyny is not revolutionary. Yet, these groups, somehow, think the opposite. They aren’t strange. They are only in the extreme regions of normal. Fascism is the same. It looks revolutionary and different and is everything but.

If bros can be regarded as masculine dysfunction and power divorced from responsibility and reason, this movement reminds me of fandom divorced from its artifacts. Organized, online misogyny is a fandom without the shows, books or games at its center. In place of those, it’s developed its own canon of artifacts. These are all artifacts of itself produced by itself.  [Pushing it here but – this might be some inevitable result of fan-service, where anything and everything but The One True Fan is slowly squeezed out.]  What this culture looks like, to me, is an autocannibalizing fandom. As such, it lacks any hope of redemption.

A fandom centered in artifacts not of its own production, might have some hope. A different point of view might sneak in. Some truthful nutrition could enter the process. But, here, there is no such hope. The only thing added is more bodies at the table. These men have totally entered the matrix at the exact moment they think they’ve been “red-pilled” out of it. Caught in a meat-grinder feedback loop, they will eat and starve at the same time. This would be tragic if they were the only victims of themselves. But murder is among their waste-products. They eat themselves and worship their shit. This is not just tragic, it’s fucking dangerous. And we need to be aware of it.

The point that I’m trying to blunder towards here, rushing along in a pre-work time-squeeze and without enough coffee, is that it’s not enough to be aware of or to stop the weird and extreme forms that The Normal has assumed under The Hallucination Regime. We have to be aware of these things, these normal powers and dysfunctions, that accrue around our responsibilities and artifacts, before they divorce from those things, go feral and autocannibalize. We have to stop these at the points where redemption is still possible, where nutrition can still sneak in – where the artifacts are not totally self-produced and completely self-referential. By the time cultures reach the point of eating themselves, it’s probably too late to stop their specific madness. But denied fresh bodies to join the feast, these groups will starve.

The sooner, the better.

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