Friday, November 24, 2017

What goes around, comes around.

During the recent online culture wars, and their spillover into campus and protest politics, feminists have tried to embrace transgression with the Slut Walk movement and sex-positive pro-trans, pro-sex worker and pro-kink culture that was central to Tumblr. However, like the right, it has run up against a deep philosophical problem about the ideologically flexible, politically fungible, morally neutral nature of transgression as a style, which can characterize misogyny just as easily as it can sexual liberation. As Lasch understood, for progressive politics anti-moral transgression has always been a bargain with the devil, because the case for equality is essentially a moral one.

Equally hated and loved critic Camille Paglia argued that de Sade’s depiction of human evil as innate was a form of satire directed against the Rousseauist tradition, from which contemporary feminism springs. De Sade’s work famously features sexual violence as well as abhorrence for family and procreation, instead creating a violent transgressive sexuality based on the values of libertinism and individual sovereignty. [...]

That the transgressive values of de Sade could be taken up by a culture of misogyny and characterized an online anti-feminist movement that rejected traditional church-going conservatism should also not be a surprise. The Blakean motto adopted by the Surrealists, ‘Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires’, dominance as sexual ‘sovereignty’ and the freeing of the id from the constraints of the conscience have all descended from this transgressive tradition. Just as Nietzsche appealed to the Nazis as a way to formulate a right-wing anti-moralism, it is precisely the transgressive sensibility that is used to excuse and rationalize the utter dehumanization of women and ethnic minorities in the alt-right online sphere now. The culture of transgression they have produced liberates their conscience from having to take seriously the potential human cost of breaking the taboo against racial politics that has held since WWII. The Sadean transgressive element of the 60s, condemned by conservatives for decades as the very heart of the destruction of civilization, the degenerate and the nihilistic, is not being challenged by the emergence of this new online right. Instead, the emergence of this new online right is the full coming to fruition of the transgressive anti-moral style, its final detachment from any egalitarian philosophy of the left or Christian morality of the right.

Excerpt, Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right, by Angela Nagle. pp. 38-39.


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