Sunday, October 03, 2021

updated at bit. It's depressing how unsophisticated the sophisticated have become

Jacob Bacharach in the New Republic, 2021: Ayn Rand Made Me a Communist
How an adolescent love affair with "Atlas Shrugged" opened up the world of radical politics.

I don’t suppose that when my parents sent me off to the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop they imagined I’d return, a few weeks later, both gay and an objectivist.

Bacharach in the New Republic, 2016: I Was a Teenage Nazi Wannabe

The alt-right is a loser's poor fantasy of what a radical revolution looks like. I should know.

I was nearly expelled from high school my senior year, just before graduation. Only my grades, acceptance to a relatively prestigious college, and privileged position as the son of one of the pillars of the local economy prevented it. I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult.

Bacharach, 2021

...As for me, I’ve never quite figured where to place myself on a left-right spectrum: a moralist but a moral relativist; a queer atheist with an enduring affection for the most traditional of religions; an anarchist by intellect but a collectivist by sentiment. I do count myself a radical, and even if my later development as a political writer and thinker owed a great deal more to Didion and Vidal and Ishmael Reed and a lot of crackpot early-aughts bloggers, then it would still be no exaggeration to say that my earliest, most formative, and most enduring encounter with a radical politics was the high priestess of The Collective herself, Ayn Rand.

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” Get it, girl!

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote".  Often, they are. It depends. Didion was a Goldwater girl, and she's still not a "liberal". Gore was always a patrician. This idiot is so confused. He still doesn't know what he is, or what he wants to be.

Bacharach, 2016

We were seniors in 1999, the year of the Columbine massacre. For most of the couple of years preceding, we’d been cobbling together a masterpiece of experimental filmmaking—actually, a semi-related skein of filthy, profane sketch gags centered on the peripatetic wanderings of a character (I use the term loosely) named “Headless,” defined chiefly by the fact that he wore, or was, a full-head rubber Tor Johnson mask. We filmed in our backyards and the woods behind them, in parking lots and alleys, in our bedrooms, and, most ill-advisedly, in the hotel where we stayed on our AP Government trip to Washington, D.C. Then one of us left the VHS master copy sitting on a table in the Laurel Highlands Senior High School cafeteria.

The movie inevitably made its way to our principal. There were plenty of bits to get a decent and unimaginative man riled up—rituals cribbed from Anton LeVay, drug use both simulated and actual, violence, and plenty of fake blood. But I have to believe that the worst moment for that poor administrator and for our poor parents was when they watched another friend of ours, a nice girl from a devoutly Christian family—Lord knows how we cajoled her into participating—crawl between my legs to perform simulated fellatio on a TV remote control. I suspect we meant all this as some kind of commentary on the media. The camera panned up to my contorted face. “Oh yeah, baby,” I growled, “Suck it. Heil Hitler, my dick is your Fuhrer.”

I was already out, the only openly gay kid at my school. I was—I am—a Jew.

John Waters is a conservative. Ask anyone who knows him.
In the 2016 piece he name-checks Nick Land, but doesn't get the point. I'm seeing more and more of this... 

I'm so fucking bored 

"I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult."

"...he double-majored in music and English and became deeply involved in avant-garde theater, trying out and discarding various radical ideologies like costume changes."

Earlier this year, another hipster wannabe communist and Rand, linking to the history.

Jeet Heer retweeting Krugman on Asimov, and writing about comics. Asimov, the intellectual hero to Krugman and Gingrich and Henry Farrell. I liked Asimov at 12 and knew it was intelligent pop crap. Naked Sun, the one that stayed with me, is detective fiction, the only pulp ever to rise above the name. Ray Bradbury and later Philip K. Dick rose above pulp in other ways.  I read a page of Rand at 17 and knew it was incompetent.  But all of the above, as I've aid a thousand times, documents unsophisticated understanding of art. And change is slow.

More of the same, at a higher level. The brilliance of Steely Dan is inseparable from the limitations. As with the Coen brothers and Nabokov: the poetry of velvet-gloved overdetermination, the late style, not of individual artists but of a form: the Russian novel,  American popular song, Hollywood film. Nabokov is better than Borges because not conceptual or in the service of ideas, not openly reactionary, but too knowing.  Didion belongs on that list too; I think she'd agree. The fans bother me more than the people they worship, even Borges. I  didn't read comics much as a kid, but when I found one by Jack Kirby, from the late 60s, the drawings fascinated me: they combined a rough graphic style with a narrative pull in a way I hadn't seen before. My response was visceral. I recognized that Kirby had succeeded in doing something even if I didn't quite know what it was, so I returned to it. And that's a definition of art.

I sent note to Bacharach; we had a bit of a back and forth. I told him he should follow Didion's model and be observant and honest to the point of making others and himself uncomfortable, since that's what makes good writing. He disagreed.

I reminded him of Didion's essay on the Central Park jogger. I told him the top image on the top left, above Lulu, is fascist: the identification with victimhood, and the demand for respect as a victim, of the world, and of being therefore too good for this world. Brooks was too smart to make that generalization. Didion didn't go as far as I have, but she makes the conservative case against individualism and the resulting narcissism. 

Didion is Bacharach's Judy Garland. He's a fan, writing for an audience of fans."Yes! Didion is so camp!" He can't admit to mocking her. He sees himself as a liberal, as liberals do, full of best intentions. 

It might be worth defining fascism as the rebellion of individualism against itself, since fascists are incapable of functioning within a community. 

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