Oooh, Looky What I Got!!!

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This finally came in:


Now I can do that ‘Super Macho Men’ post I’ve been planning for so long (hints to its nature are here and here.) It’s about the wingnut Cult of Contrived Masculinity, and how it’s indicative of a fascist movement.

So far the book, on the mentality of the Freikorps, is awesome. I’m only a little ways into it, but Barbara Ehrenreich’s introduction is excellent. Already I’m introduced to a weird sort of misogyny. The letters of the men who led the Freikorps and, well, they write as if they are celibates. They’re married, have children, but the women and children are non-entities. It’s not that the men are degrading to their families as in abusive to them in the letters, it’s that they write as if they have no families at all. In short, they are in their own world, and that world is by men and for men. Anyway, here’s a taste of some of the history:

The weapons of the Freikorps had never been handed in. Their novels are permeated with a constant fear that weapons stashes will be betrayed; they are riddled with stories of desperate attempts to hide weapons under cover of night, with account of arms theft, trading, and smuggling. Weapons were dug up and removed from their oiled wrappings as the occasion demanded: against Poland in Upper Silesia (1921); against French occupying forces in the Ruhr Valley (1923); and later, on behalf of the SA.

Like that checkout scanner says on the 138th Episode Simpsons Spectacular intro: NRA4EVR!!!

Rudolf Hoess began as a member of one of those “labor communities.” Later on we find him with the Artamans. […] The Artamans were a Landbund (land league) that waged an ideological and practical struggle for the “purity of the German soil.” Their aim was to drive Polish seasonal workers — a necessary labor force at the time — from estates in the region east of the Elbe. According to Hoess, they met with partial success […]

I begin to understand where Michelle Malkin’s obsession with Mexicans is going…

But whatever. While those two quotes are too apt to be low blows, they are cheap shots. So, for some real substance, I’ll quote a bit from Ehrenreich’s introduction:

We are, remember, dealing with the Freikorps, the vanguard of Nazism, and we know that what they are about is not a witch-hunt. In the 1920s, the time of these “fantasies,” they are at war with the communists, and beyond them, the entire politicized German working class. And what they will finally undertake is not “sexocide,” as some feminists have termed the witch-hunts of sixteenth-century Europe, but genocide. What is the connection?

Here Theweleit takes us beyond any ground so far explored by feminist theory: from the dread of the women to the hatred of communism and the rebellious working class. I will not retrace his path, because my job is not to convince you, but only to prepare you. Always bear in mind that primal fear of dissolution. Communism — and this is not the communism of Lenin or Stalin, but the communism of Rosa Luxemburg, the most potent and horrifying of the “Red women,” and even, briefly, of Wilhelm Reich — represents a promiscuous mingling, a breaking down of old barriers, something wild and disorderly. (“Represents” is too weak a word. This is what communism promises the oppressed and, we must imagine, usually hungry, working class of postwar Germany.) The Freikorpsmen recount with icy horror a working-class seizure of a castle, where the occupiers proceed to glut themselves, fornicate indiscriminately (this is the Freikorpsmen’s account, anyway), and find a hundred ways to desecrate this tower of feudal, nationalist pride. To the Freikorpsmen, the Reds, like individual women, are a nameless force that seeks to engulf — described over and over as a “flood,” a “tide,” a threat that comes in “waves.” A man must hold himself firm and upright, or be “sucked in” by this impure sea… All that is rich and various must be smoothed over (to become like the blank facades of fascist architecture); all that is wet and luscious must be dammed up and contained; all that is “exotic” (dark, Jewish) must be eliminated.

Now, having come so close to the “last chapter,” we can no longer postpone the question of which men we are talking about and whose fantasies they are. For if the fascist fantasy — which was of course no fantasy for the millions of victims — springs from a dread that (perhaps) lies in the hearts of all men, a dread of engulfment by the “other,” which is the mother, the sea or even the moist embrace of love… if so, then we are in deep trouble. But even as I say that, I am reminded that we who are women are already in deep trouble. As Theweleit says, the point of understanding fascism is not “because it might ‘return again’,” but because it is already implicit in the daily relationships of men and women. Theweleit refuses to draw a line between the fantasies of the Freikorpsmen and the psychic ramblings of the “normal” man: and I think here of the man who feels a “normal” level of violence toward women (as in, “I’d like to fuck her to death”)… the man who has a “normal” distaste for sticky, unseen “feminine functions”… the man who loves women, as “normal” men do, but sees a castrating horror in every expression of female anger… or that entirely normal, middle-class citizen who simply prefers that women be absent from the public life of work, decisions, war. Here Theweleit does not push, but he certainly leaves open the path from the “inhuman impulse” of fascism to the most banal sexism.

I think it should be said though — especially since Theweleit himself does not say it — that the equasion does not work both ways. It would be a perverse reading of Male Fantasies, and a most slovenly syllogism, which leaps to conclude that “all men are fascists” or that fascism and misogyny are somehow the “same thing.” The fascist enterprise was not, after all, a modern witch-hunt, and the Jewish (and communist) men who fell victim to it were not substitute women, symbolic whores, or anything of the kind, but real men whose crime was their Jewishness, or their politics. Neither feminism nor antifascism will be well served by confounding fascist genocide with the daily injuries inflicted by men on women — and I urge the feminist reader to resist the temptation to do so. The problem is not that any comparison “trivializes” the Holocaust (we need comparisons if we are to inch our way up to some comprehension of the “unthinkable”), but that we need to preserve the singularity of the horrors we seek to understand. One example: the Freikorpsmen do not rape the “Red women” they capture; they beat them or kill them. We may say that rape is like murder, but it is not the same as murder. And the Freikorpsman’s predilection for murder, over rape turns out to be a clue.


[I]n considering the so-far unending history made by men of the warrior caste, it may be helpful to recall that it is not only that men make wars, but that wars make men. For the warrior caste, war is not only death production, but a means of reproduction; each war deforms the human spirit and guarantees that the survivors — or some among them — will remain warriors. I do not offer this as an “excuse” (there are none) but as a thought that may have practical value: If we cannot, certainly not in one generation, uproot the murderous fantasies, we can at least try to stop the war.

It is Theweleit’s brilliance that he lets us, now and then, glimpse [another] fantasy, which is the inversion of the fascists’ dread: Here, the dams break. Curiosity swims upstream and turns around, surprising itself. Desire streams forth through the channels of imagination. Barriers — between women and men, the “high” and the “low” — crumble in the face of this new energy. This is what the fascist held himself in horror of, and what he saw in communism, in female sexuality — a joyous commingling, as disorderly as life. In this fantasy, the body expands, in its senses, its imaginative reach — to fill the earth. And we are at last able to rejoice in the softness and permability of the world around us, rather than holding ourselves back in lonely dread. This is the fantasy that makes us, both men and women, human — and makes us, sometimes, revolutionaries in the cause of life.

Notice that last paragraph is not so utopian and unrealistic as it seems at first glance; it’s simply reasonable. But then again, fascism is perfected irrationalism. I know I quoted a lot, but she had a great riff going. I’m not very far into the book itself at all, but I already know it’s going to open my eyes.

I’m not saying I’m going to use it for my future post — at least not in so clunky a way as those first two quotes — and I’m not saying that wingnuts are Freikorpsmen. But I am saying that I want to digest what this book says about fascism and masculinity before I try to sort out the full psychological underpining of wingnut Super Macho Men. One thing for now, though — the mass Chickenhawkery aspect of modern wingnuttery is, I think, a new variable in the history of the bellicose macho movements. The wingnut Macho Cult is not participatory; it’s voyeuristic. It doesn’t get to experience first hand dominating or killing someone, but it is so damn thirsty for the knowledge that someone has been dominated, eradicated. This, from the point of view of humanity, is an improvement on the model. Better that they be chickenshits than they act out their fantasies. However, the war in Iraq ain’t over yet and it is in a postwar context that they may be more likely to play “for real”: I have the creepy feeling that when the goddamn war is finally over and they — not the soldiers, who will be relieved and happy, but the wingnuts — are demoralized and mobilizing against the “backstabbers,” that we’ll see a sharp upturn in rightwing terorism. But I don’t want to get into all that just yet.

Anyway, thought I’d share. I’m happy to have my book.


Comments: 43


Sounds like a pretty interesting book. But…“I’d like to fuck her to deathâ€? is really not “a ‘normal’ level of violence towards women”.


Yeah, my fantasies of fucking women don’t really end in their death. I’m not so sure that’s “normal”.

But the rest of it could be very interesting, and useful.


Not sure the voyeuristic element of militarism is all that new. People have found validation in the martial exertions of others as far back as history records. It’s human nature, and extends into other group-associated activities as well, like professional sports (the peculiar way that a team’s fans gloat when “we” have won).


I didn’t know Ehrenreich had it in her. That’s beautiful stuff, and, believe me, I never thought I’d see Sadly No! and the utopian strains of theory I read ever converge.

Gaza Strip Club


excellent point! The question then becomes one of numbers. Is the ratio of war voyeurs to warriors increasing? If so, this statement holds. I believe it is not increasing, but it sure is easier for them to be heard nowadays.

Bill in Everett

Dont get too excited about this books power to “reveal” the truth about men.This book is old news i read it at least fifteen years ago and over time its just become another piece of stale twentieth century Freudian claptrap.That last paragraph by Ehrenreich (whom I admire) is indeed naive and indicitave of the fact that people will see whatever they want to see in it;as your premature excitement has already demonstrated.There are some insights of value just dont get too carried away.


Damn, Ehrenreich can write.

Interesting…and frightening.


Yes, but did you get both volumes?


The difference from past times, Larry and Gaza Strip Club, is that without a draft in place your average basement bound cheeto stained war fetishist is as far removed from the threat of dying in battle as he is from getting beaned by Roger Clemens. The sports fan analogy is apt but the diminished chances of Joe Wingnut or his children ever being forced into the arena makes it easier for him to bang those thundersticks a little harder.

As for an eventual upturn in right wing domestic violence, I don’t think we’ll have to wait until the Iraq occupation is over. Spend any amount of time in right wing blog comments sections and you’ll find multiple statements along the lines of; it won’t be long before we have another terrorist attack, then we’ll finally develop the national resolve to,,yada, yada, yada, wank, wank, wank,, How long before some of them grow impatient and decide this strengthening of national resolve is way too important to leave to al Qaeda?


are they just war voyeurs, or voyeurs in other ways as well? we know their penchant for war; does this affect misogynistic tendencies as well? All hat, no cattle, as it were?


I have the creepy feeling that when the goddamn war is finally over and they — not the soldiers, who will be relieved and happy, but the wingnuts — are demoralized and mobilizing against the “backstabbers,� that we’ll see a sharp upturn in rightwing terorism.

I think this will be the case as well and we’ll be “guilty” regardless of the timing. Guilty if we bring them home before overruns/higher attrition rates, and guilty if we wait.


Interesting stuff! For some more evidence of latently homosexual, overly militaristic right wing nonsense, and perhaps some inspiration, you could do worse than to check out The Ruthless Guide to 80s Action. But perhaps you already know it.


the mass Chickenhawkery aspect of modern wingnuttery is, I think, a new variable in the history of the bellicose macho movements. The wingnut Macho Cult is not participatory; it’s voyeuristic. It doesn’t get to experience first hand dominating or killing someone, but it is so damn thirsty for the knowledge that someone has been dominated, eradicated.

not sure this is right? Isn’t sending out soldiers to do your killing for you part of the domination? It’s not the children of the upper classes who die in wars, after all, and while I’m no historian I doubt this is a new thing. I sort of have the impression the people who talk up the macho manly-man fantasies the most have always been the ones who sat on their asses and plotted and theorised about how glorious war is, and they are really getting off on the violent destruction of the male bodies of their own soldiers (as well as of the nominal enemy) and their own relative safe, sedentary immortality. However– hmm, I see you said “mass chickenhawkery.” Well, the ranks of the sedentary and educated-but-stupid have expanded a great deal. Maybe there are just more people now who are in the position the upper classes were in backwhen.
anyway just thinking out loud


Lawnguylander’s comment quoting the typical right-wing trope “we’ll finally develop the national resolve to (etc.)” makes me think this:

The ego is a jail cell from which everyone seeks one kind of escape or another, all the time. For wingnut war fans, one main form of escape is into the (fascist) fantasy of “our army.” Not the real army, of course (god forbid), but the collective masculine team that finds its definition–its only definition–in opposition to someone else’s army.

You see this in their language–not only “national resolve” but “they will come and rape our women,” “we are not a mature society,” etc. All this Nazi-like invocation of the masculine collective.

Surely a lot of this has roots in suppressed homosexuality, but not all. These guys’ heterosexual relationship toward women is fraught enough to send them fantasizing into the rugged, manly (and therefore reassuring, safe, empowering) embrace of the male collective–the army, “patriotism,”and its analogues, including the frat and the sports team.


It would be a perverse reading of Male Fantasies, and a most slovenly syllogism, which leaps to conclude that “all men are fascists� or that fascism and misogyny are somehow the “same thing.�

My experience in the last few years has taught me that conservatism and fascism, while maybe not the same thing, are waypoints on the same road. Misogyny, racism, general hatred of the “other” are just tools of the trade.

That rallying the troops has become more virtual than physical is just a modern efficiency in collecting political power.

Huh, when I started, I was trying to write something funny.


I might not fantasize about fucking a woman to death, but if I happen to be giving some fine lady a thorough hammering and during her fifteenth orgasm something explodes in her brain, killing her, I think I would brag about it afterward. Does that make me a fascist, or just a raging asshole? I am worried either way.


Have fun!

This is a wild, sometimes frustrating, quite often brilliant piece of (anti-) scholarship.

So controversial in Germany that Theweleit can’t get a university appointment.

You may need to bone up (no pun intended….. or was it?) on your Lacan once you delve into this labyrinth.

I look f’ward to the essay.

Other books that might be useful to your project:

– Dagmar Herzog, “Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany” (Princeton University Press, 2004)
– George Mosse, “Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe” (Howard Fertig, 1997)
– George Mosse, “The Fascist Revolution: Towards a General Theory of Fascism” (Howard Fertig, 2000) – there is an essay in here on masculinity and fascism
– Claudia Koonz, “Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics” (St. Martin’s, 1988)


“another piece of stale twentieth century Freudian claptrap”

I hope it’s not too explicitly Freudian. Depth psychology can be very illuminating, but Freud had a tendency to be, well, loony…not to mention funny. I once did a mock freudian analysis of ice hockey. The net represents the mother’s womb. It is guarded by the goalie (father). The puck is the seed, and the hockey stick the phallus, which (of course) is raised erect as the seed is shot into the womb. I was never able to watch hockey the same way again.


Interesting post

“The wingnut Macho Cult is not participatory; it’s voyeuristic. It doesn’t get to experience first hand dominating or killing someone, but it is so damn thirsty for the knowledge that someone has been dominated, eradicated.”

Part of this is just technology. Not be a total materialist or anything but… well, let’s face facts. The American military can blow up a lot of stuff with very few operators. Where Rome or the British empire needed lots of men to kill its enemies, America can do so with air raids–consider “Shock and Awe”. Modern wingnuts love technology, and this is important to never forget. “Smart bombs” and “tactical nukes” are wingnut favorites.


Another thing to remember is that wingnuts will often call themselves, and honestly think of themselves as Good Christians.

Also maybe read, if you can get through it, Hannah Arendt’s “On the Origins of Totalitarianism”, but it’s a long read.


I sort of have the impression the people who talk up the macho manly-man fantasies the most have always been the ones who sat on their asses and plotted and theorised about how glorious war is, and they are really getting off on the violent destruction of the male bodies of their own soldiers (as well as of the nominal enemy) and their own relative safe, sedentary immortality.

That’s not at all true–look at Hitler’s war record, for example.


Yeah, it is worth mentioning that today’s fry-cook Freikorps ain’t your Daddy’s SA. Say what you will about the early Nazis (and they were disgusting specimens morally), they were all battle-hardened. The Sturmabteilungen (sp?) named themselves after the WWI Storm Troopers, who were very physically courageous–they charged trenches with grenades. Picture Ace or Lord Spatula doing something similar–it’s simply too funny…


Wow! Haven’t thought of this book in a while. I read it when I was in college- and, freak that I am, it wasn’t for any class.. for fun.

What I remember most is the description of an ideology of “maleness” that is taken to nihilistic extremes.. it was definitely food for thought and it really did inform a series of paintings I was doing on the subject of maleness- I was in art school and mentioned the book in my thesis.

Fascinating stuff, but if I were to re-read it i would keep in mind that it is something of the Freudian/Foucauldian/poststructuralist etc etc that Paglia described as European overwroughtness. And from the German no less, – my art instructor the critic Jed Perl has wryly commented on how American intellectuals are rather too easily impressed at German cultural exports Like Anselm Kiefer and Richter: the weight of history, the dark night of the soul, the sturm und drang!

That said, I would still enjoy its premise and ideas just as I find them- interesting ideas.

But the title is truly awful. It’s the literal translation, IIRC, but it’s not about anything as vast and idea as “male fantasies”,- it’s a study of a very small subgroup, in Germany, in that specific era.

Happy reading! (Or sinister revelations about your inner self, mwahahaha..)


If you want to study the nexus of the cult of contrived masculinity, wingnuttia and fascism, you need look no further than Harvey Mansfield.


Another thing worth considering here is this. Armies at war are in a sense the ultimate expression of mob rule. It’s interesting to watch the weakest, softest kid when he comes into a squad. If he is accepted, and if he survives for a few months (both pretty big ifs) and he starts to develop a comfort zone, you will see interesting changes. He’ll develop a swagger. And many times he’ll become a bully. It’s amazing how safe you feel fuckin with people when you have nine heavily armed killers linked in brotherhood to you at the cellular level watching your back.

These same kids become the murderers, the rapists. They are the ones who break things and steal stuff from iraqis houses. They are the ones that slap the old men and cop a feel from the teenage girls. They are the ones who collect ears, and pose for funny pictures with dead enemy soldiers. They are in a place of macho confidence they never thought they’d be. People fear them, and with good reason. They are empowered in a way they never thought they’d be, and the power is intoxicating.

This is a portrait of wingnuts at war. And they’re all missing out, ’cause there isn’t a draft anymore…



garbologist: It’s not the children of the upper classes who die in wars, after all, and while I’m no historian I doubt this is a new thing.

Well, I’m not sure when the shift happens, but at least in the UK the officer corps used to be very genteel. (Grunts are another story.) It wasn’t always the case that the elite stayed away from wars.

Herr Doktor Bimler

J. K. Galbraith used to wonder why his opponents liked to describe themselves as “hard-headed” realists, as if cranial rigidity was a sign of moral superiority.
It’s one of those entrenched metaphors: Hard = good, soft = bad.
“Soft power” = evil evil contamination.

Galactic Dustbin

“Goddamn liberals sapped our national will. It was thier fault we lost Iraq.

I was there at the Fall of the Green Zone… we wanted to keep fighting…

What? Well no, I wasnt stationed there… umm no… I never was in the military, I had to fight the war of ideas here- but I SAW the Fall on FOX waiting for the season premire of Heroes. So its like I was there.

I put on my Stargate SG1 Uniform to show my support of the troops that week.
I was the first to link to Malkin’s new cheerleading video that night, so I am damn proud of my actions during that horrible time.

America stabbed us soldiers in the back…”

-Ace of Spade’s post, circa October 2018


Watertiger pic with caption.

Somehow, it seems on topic.

P.S. Sadly, No! is back to hating my personal information. *Sniff*


I see that people who buy this book also purchase “Sex and Fascism.” Which reminds me, where is the Doughy Pantload’s book on Hillary and other liberal fascists?


Isn’t sending out soldiers to do your killing for you part of the domination? It’s not the children of the upper classes who die in wars, after all, and while I’m no historian I doubt this is a new thing.

Actually, in the cultures I’m familiar with, this is not the case. In most of the ancient Greek city-states, the kings or princes would usually lead their own armies into war (often, they had become king by conquering someone else). In Rome, the upper class were expected to spend a shift in the legion before joining the Senate or otherwise participating in public life. Throughout the feudal period, only nobles could afford the horses and armor needed to conduct war.

Previously, the security of the society depended directly on the military prowess or tactical savvy of the guy in charge. Young men of the upper class went through military training as a matter of course; significant success or bravery in battle was often a stepping stone to the upper class.

I’m not up on “recent” history, so I don’t know when this all changed. But up through 1700 or so, the guys in charge would have been on the battlefield, at least, even if they were not on the front line. I suspect a large part of the shift was improved communication that allowed the leaders to coordinate the battle from greater distance.


Hey, HTML, enjoy the book — it’s a great one. I remember it having quite an effect on me the first time I read it a couple years back.


Dorothy, the examples I really like are Napoleon and Custer. Napoleon was an artilleryman, and he really created modern supporting fires doctrine. You know, the one that went off the rails in WW I ’cause there was no armor or air. But that crazy frenchman directed the battle from the front, and he ended up in his share of combat. Dude was an emperor.

And Custer? Cav, all the fucking way. Led from the front, in spite of the fact that he frequently lost control of his troops in combat ’cause, well, he’d find he was kinda busy.

And don’t forget Big George Washington. There was blood on that saber of his….



Read the Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger if you want to get an idea of the physical courage ethos of the earler breed of right winger. Powerful book. Hated the guy’s politics, but there was no way you could call him a coward. Damn.

Christ he would have laughed at the modern wingnut.

Oh, and his short novel On the Marble Cliffs is great analogy of the old school aristocratic Prussian conservative mindset facing the illogical mindlessness of the Nazis. The figure of Hitler is represented by the Forester – he was so damn ambiguous in his attitudes towards the Nazi years. Not a likeable man – but a fascinating one.

Oh, and if I remember correctly – there isn’t an important female character in either book.


But…“I’d like to fuck her to death� is really not “a ‘normal’ level of violence towards women�.

No. But, personal observation: when there’s a group of young males between the ages of puberty and, well, death hanging around together, shootin’ the shite, not otherwise sufficiently occupied to keep their eyes & attention elsewhere, eventually a woman will walk past. And the men will produce primate noises, and make manly manly ranking comments about her afterwards. And there’s always one guy — usually the group “goat”, the slightly retarded or especially funny-looking or obese or ethnically-diverse guy — who’ll say something like, ‘I’d fuck her to death, dude!’…

At which point (if my field observations are correct), there are two possible outcomes:

(a) The rest of the group stares at Goat until he retreats, mumbling, or gets smacked upside the ear for being “gross”. And the next time the male-bonding ritual requires chimp noises and sexual suggestiveness, Goat dials it back a notch or three.

(b) The rest of the group decides to “approve” Goat’s suggestion by increasing the volume on their own chimp noises. Next time a woman walks past, someone — probably not Goat, usually one of the two or three Betas — will up the ante by saying something like “We should grab her ass and show her, right now!”

At which point the Leader of the Pack either asserts his dominance by smacking that Beta down, or he decides the group can afford to keep escalating the rhetoric. And three or four rhetorical escalations later, the group is actually trying to figure out how to “grab” the next “ass” without drawing immediate and dire reprisals from the local authorities…

That’s the problem with too many of the Y-chromosone carriers on the Reichtard side of the blogiverse: They’re all Goats by nature. They’re a bunch of Richie Cunninghams with no Fonzies around to remind them that there’s only so many threats you can make before you’re called out — and that getting called out can have unpleasant consequences, whatever the temporary warm glow you get when you puff up your 46C chest and shout, “Yeah, you wanna piece a this, ya big — (sound of blunt object hitting sackful of mud)


+1 what FS said. I think I will order a copy of this as well. it is an interesting historical phenomenon how male fascists seem to have sexuality issues / insecurity issues.

The two who come to mind are Ace and Jeff Goldstein. HTML had one of the greatest posts here EVER:



Yeah, most of the Roman Consuls and subsequently emperors came out of the military: having the support of the army was what let you be in charge in the first place. If the army didn’t respect you, they’d just revolt and install someone else (in particular, the Imperial Guard was well known for king making–and killing).

I wonder how much of this changeover stems from a combination of capitalism and democracy. The military is no longer a major force of power in our society: it’s now simply raw numbers of people (democracy) and money (capitalism). Also, the widespred availablility of guns turns any random rabble into a force to be reckoned with, and transportation and heavy machinery are no longer the exclusive resources of the army, either. (I would hate to take on an angry guy in a backhoe, you know? And gods forbid the heavy crane operators working on downtown construction projects ever decide to revolt.)

What’s funny is I have never in my life been interested in “modern” history or “recent military” history, and now it’s suddenly extremely relevant and therefore fascinating. Oh well–one day the fate of the world may depend on knowledge of medieval literature, Latin and Greek–I just KNOW it! 🙂


I believe Remarque offered a few observations on homefront warhawks from the Great War.


Wow, Remarque. Been a while since I read that. For a more recent version, ‘Jarhead’, (the novel, not the movie) has some interesting portraits of people who, while not part of the millitary, derive vicarious thrills from association with the troops.


I find I’ve stumbled onto a conversation that is crucial to me in my own efforts to comprehend the collective consciousness of this era. I’m writing to recommend two threads to this conversation.

I very much like your term, “Over Invested Identity Politics” (OIIP). I myself can’t find my identity and I’ve finally come to realize that being without one IS my defining identity. The “waterdrop in a ocean” metaphor sits fine with me. The Buddhists are right — when the mind looks for a thinker it can’t find one. Spinoza was right — the apparent separation of mind and body, or body and nature, is an illusion. Yasutani Roshi summed this up perfectly — “The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.”

Your OIIP thread is related to this thread … on rightwing fascist identity politics and its origins. What I strongly agree with here is your recognition that fascism may be innate in us.

This is a huge conversation, and I admire your effort to achieve what Edward Tuft calls “topview” in such a complex undertaking.

An important notion from the discipline of psychology is “overdetermined.” Big things that are true in the psyche (collectively and individually) are rarely true for one reason, but for many. There are going to be a lot of theads in this tapestry.

A fear of uncertainty, of mushy gray, of being unmoored and lost in the oceanic, is of course the disease of the right. In short, anxiety is the disease of the right. A person existentially and permanently afraid can never have enough arms, or clear enough enemies. Continuous war is always the answer because the sense of peril is always the condition. It isn’t a coincidence that every rightwing president in America since Nixon has illegally used the military and lied to Congress and the American public about it — and yet the Republican Party (the Constitution and oaths to support the Constitution be damned) is continually rewarded for doing so … and is even perceived in the national mythos (oh so counterintuitively) as the Party of law and order and patriotism and principled values. It is also no coincidence that it is the Party with the most enemies — women, children, the poor, immigrants, unions, gays, terrorists, peace-lovers, socialists, progressives, etc. The world is black and white, and you’re either with us or against us is their code and mantra.

Barbara Ehrenrich slips farther back into history (than your excellent WWI Freedom Corps analysis) and touches on some of the threads in your conversation from a different perspective. Depression (as opposed to fear) is another potential response to loss of identity. Identity and the nature of confident-self-consciousness is key here … individuals who tend toward the right fear loss of identity and cling to the certainty of a rigid identity — even a mad and illogical one at war with obviously the wrong enemies — over the uncertainty of an atomistic and truly individual identity. The irony is that the right is made up of people who are afraid to stand alone, yet claim the pretense of rugged self-determination and informed self-reliance … of people who can never feel safe no matter how over-armed they are … of people who fear disparate thought as a fifth column that might overwhelm them and drown them. The right is made up of people who, like teenagers, struggle to be “different” and “their unique selves” by rigidly copying the unexamined values, language, and dress, of their equally anxious peers — and who exert a lot of psychic effort at suppressing their own differences and potential for thinking over “faith” in their perceived leadership and salvation.

John Zerzan is on a lot of the same ground, but his prism is a view through imposed capitalism and separation (specialization) of labor. I think you would enjoy “Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization.”

The challenge of fascism is that it is embedded in our collective psychology — almost as if it is a symptom of the disease of civilization — almost as if it is compensatory to the “modernistic”-thrust of civilization. A clue here (and a terrible one) is that fascism has always come from the most “civilized” (modern) nation-states, those where “progress” toward the melting of identity and the embrace of secular science and abstract logic has proceeded the farthest. The horror is the degree then to which the modern state can put the machinery of science and capitalism to the work of fascist ends — war, genocide, curtailment of human rights, destruction of the invididual, self-immolation.

Freud himself noted that a symptom is an effort at a cure. In some sense it is a healthy response. We have to ponder hard at the efficacy of capitalism if a healthy response to it (and so-called “modernity”) is fascism. Or, as noted by Ehrenrich, “depression.” Or, as noted by Zerzan, “emptiness.”

from Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy
by Barbara Ehrenreich

So highly is the “inner self” honoured within our own culture that its acquisition seems to be an unquestionable mark of progress – a requirement, as Trilling called it, for “the emergence of modern European and American man”. It was, no doubt, this sense of individuality and personal autonomy, “of an untrammelled freedom to ask questions and explore”, as the historian Yi-Fu Tuan put it, that allowed men such as Martin Luther and Galileo to risk their lives by defying Catholic doctrine. Which is preferable: a courageous, or even merely grasping and competitive, individualism, versus a medieval (or, in the case of non-European cultures, “primitive”) personality so deeply mired in community and ritual that it can barely distinguish a “self”? From the perspective of our own time, the choice, so stated, is obvious. We have known nothing else.

But there was a price to be paid for the buoyant individualism we associate with the more upbeat aspects of the early modern period, the Renaissance and Enlightenment. As Tuan writes, “the obverse” of the new sense of personal autonomy is “isolation, loneliness, a sense of disengagement, a loss of natural vitality and of innocent pleasure in the givenness of the world, and a feeling of burden because reality has no meaning other than what a person chooses to impart to it”. Now if there is one circumstance indisputably involved in the etiology of depression, it is precisely this sense of isolation. As the 19th-century French sociologist Emile Durkheim saw it, “Originally society is everything, the individual nothing … But gradually things change. As societies become greater in volume and density, individual differences multiply, and the moment approaches when the only remaining bond among the members of a single human group will be that they are all [human].” The flip side of the heroic autonomy that is said to represent one of the great achievements of the early modern and modern eras is radical isolation and, with it, depression and sometimes death.


HTML,Derrick Jensen’s work might fit into this discussion too,eventually. The Culture of Make Believe comes to mind,but so does some of his other stuff. I’ve been reading him over the years and his work has evolved some,but he writes alot about western culture and how manliness got all rolled up into being the perverse thing it is now.


Annie Laurie,

Thank you for saving me from having to say something fatuous to bf

a bunch of Richie Cunninghams with no Fonzies around

And I can just be all positive and say Bravo, and not just for this.


Um, you just kinda described the premises of this layman’s understanding of fourth generation warfare, so bully for the classics!11!


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