David Barnett of the BBC recently wrote an article (see http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20190717-is-fight-clubs-tyler-durden-films-most-misunderstood-man) asking the question “Is Fight Club’s Tyler Durden Film’s Most Misunderstood Man?” Whilst not sharing the same author as the previous BBC Film article I dissected (see https://honeybadgerbrigade.com/2019/04/16/the-bbc-the-waronnerds-and-the-matrix/), they might as well; the BBC is hardly a place that embodies substantial worldview diversity. Either way, this article is yet more SJW agitprop and provides even more evidence that the BBC is a state subsidy for leftist politics.
But what does it argue?
Barnett argues that Tyler Durden is misunderstood. His evidence for this is that Tyler Durden, a character who represents an anti-consumerist anti-capitalist primitivist philosophy, has been “unironically” embraced by the “Men’s Rights Movement.”
His evidence for this is a reddit post which he claims is from a “user” called “The Motte.” He provides this link to the post: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte/comments/b2f8hx/fight_club_and_the_philosophy_of_tyler_durden/
The first problem with Barnett’s argument is that “The Motte” is the name of the subreddit, and that the “user” who made the post is /u/Dormin111. Barnett seems to not know how Reddit even works.
A second problem Barnett’s argument has is that The Motte is not even a Men’s Rights subreddit. It isn’t even a manosphere subreddit. How he connects the film to the MHRM remains mysterious, because The Motte is not /r/MensRights, /r/FeMRADebates, /r/Masculism, /r/KotakuInAction, /r/TheRedPill or any other prominent subreddit that focuses on gender issues from a male perspective.
But let us give Barnett some charity here. Internet counterculture is indeed inflected with many memes and lines derived from Fight Club. This was also noticed by Angela Nagle, author of Kill All Normies; she pointed out that 4Chan and other imageboards are filled with references to the work. Even the highly anonymity-driven and identity-devaluing aspects of “Chan Culture” can arguably be traced back to Tyler Durden’s statements that you are not some precious special snowflake but rather are made of the same decaying organic matter as the rest of us.
But Barnett doesn’t even manage to substantiate his case. He never outright explains precisely why Tyler Durden is “misunderstood” by Men’s Rights Advocates. He never advances a specific thesis or makes a specific allegation. He writes entirely with imprecise, weasel-worded, snide innuendo. When Chuck Palahniuk (author of the book) refuses to give the author a statement specifically condemning an alleged widescale adoption of Tyler Durden by MHRAs, Barnett is clearly frustrated by this. Where, exactly, do MHRAs misunderstand Tyler Durden?
As an MHRA myself, I disagree with everything Tyler Durden believes. Going by the very link that Barnett cites, Durden is a romanticist primitivist who wants a revolt against the modern world because Durden sees the modern world as incompatible with male nature. Durden does not believe in a feminine “mother” nature but rather a masculine “red in tooth and claw” nature that savagely culls the weak. As an advocate of the Enlightenment-Individualist tradition, I believe that modernity is the highest expression of a truly human nature, and that “decadent consumerism” is a joyous bounty created by those who used their rational faculties and free wills (the essential characteristics of human nature) to dream of a world better than the one they were initially faced with.
But Durden’s ideology does have antecedents. Like Angela Nagle pointed out, however, these antecedents were on the counterculture left. It was very common back in the 60s and 70s for men of the counterculture to see being part of mainstream culture as akin to being tamed, degraded, emasculated and broken. Women, and 50’s era “housewife” femininity, were seen as part of this, in the same way that the “wage slave” “cubicle drone” “family man” was. Counterculture men were skeptical of the “white picket fence” family unit, and the wives who came with it. This resulted in many male writers with counterculture sympathies using feminine figures to embody “the establishment” – the character of Nurse Ratched from Kessey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the classic example. Feminists like Camille Paglia have (in an argument endorsed by Nagle) argued that this ultimately comes down to a Freudian resentment of the authority of the mother.
Again, Barnett doesn’t explain where MHRAs (or his strawman version thereof, based on a sole reddit comment made on a non-MHRA subreddit) misunderstand Durden. Durden’s philosophy, as explained in the book and the movie, is very anti-‘feminine’ (as Durden defines femininity). Indeed, Durden’s philosophy can be fairly described as an anti-Enlightenment-Modernity, anti-Capitalist, primitivist Paleo-Masculinity. Whilst no MHRAs believe in such a philosophy (and indeed, the only manosphere figure I can think of who embraces such a philosophy is Jack Donovan, yet Donovan isn’t an MHRA), I guess Barnett is trying to say… well what exactly?
If MHRAs are misogynists (in Barnett’s mind), then why are they misunderstanding Durden? Nagle locates Durden as a character in a tradition of “left-wing misogyny” (her words). Where do MHRAs misinterpret Durden, then? Is Durden meant to be pro-gender-equality even when he’s a terrorist aiming to destroy a society he repeatedly identifies with women and femininity?
Or is the problem that MHRAs, despite being able to be either from the left or the right (philosophically speaking), are commonly categorized as “right-wing” whereas Durden is a mouthpiece for a philosophy that is typically described as “left-wing”? If this is Barnett’s reasoning (and again, Barnett doesn’t even state his actual reasoning), he’s simply either ignorant of or in denial of or attempting to erase the long tradition of leftist-countercultural thought that Nagle described as “left-wing misogyny.” There is, in fact, a tradition on the left that equated women with domesticated, conformist, traditionalist, consumerist wage-slavery (indeed, it mirrors long-running arguments made by actually-Marxist Feminists). Barnett doesn’t accuse MHRAs of supporting consumerism or even being pro-capitalist, so how can Barnett say that MHRAs fundamentally misunderstand Durden?
Barnett relies on exceptionally bad intellectual sources for his attempt at argument. One of them is Laurie Penny (a social justice warrior well-known for nosepicking-and-eating in public as well as her repeated vilification of historian David Starkey, see Starkey’s delicious smackdown of that atrocious princess-shrew here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj9dA6E3fJw). Penny, in her discussion of Fight Club, says that Durden is angry about consumerism “on a purely aesthetic level” and “does not, in fact, have any sort of social programme.” These are both untrue, going by the very source cited by the article explaining Durden’s philosophy. Durden is against consumerism on a meta-anthropological level (he believes it to be against human, and in particular human male, nature), and has a social programme of the abolition of modern society, beginning with the revolutionary destruction of the consumer finance industry (in starting Project Mayhem and masterminding a terrorist attack, Durden frankly takes far greater steps towards societal change than Penny ever has). Penny also cites Durden’s assault on a restaurant worker as evidence of the character’s inadequacy as a left-wing symbol, but this is ironic coming from someone who’s political side is more than happy to sacrifice the jobs of scores of Appalachian coal miners on the altar of Gaia, and is more than happy to treat economically successful ethnic minorities as complicit in white supremacy.
Penny further confesses her intellectual laziness when she mentions that “a lot of young men really do believe that misogyny itself is a form of brave social rebellion. They associate womanhood with oppression.” This, again, is the tradition of left-wing misogyny mentioned by Nagle and given a Freudian justification by Paglia. Penny doesn’t even to bother providing a refutation for its central claims; she merely rolls her eyes. Why should the basic claim of it be dismissed, however? As even Penny admits, “what generation of men hasn’t been raised by women?” In other words, what generation of men isn’t familiar with intrusive feminine authority? Isn’t this a reason for men to associate women with “the establishment,” particularly when their mothers and most of their teachers are female?
Not to mention, Penny’s admission of the Hand That Rocks The Cradle raises further questions. If all generations of men have been raised by women, how are women not complicit in and even supportive of the very patriarchy that Penny decries? If the childrearing is done by women, and all gender norms are a product of socialization, then it is women who must be the agents by which patriarchy is transmitted. Yet feminism continues to be the nagging harridan toward men, even if Penny’s logic would suggest this is an ineffective strategy to end gender norms. As a consequence, one must wonder just how sincere feminism is about ending the gender norms.
Barnett quotes Penny in what is probably the clearest example of an argument his article produces. Why do Men’s Rights advocates misunderstand Tyler Durden? “I don’t think toxic masculinity is a revolutionary force of social change. I don’t think Palahniuk does either. Clearly, parts of the internet disagree.”
So the argument seems to be that MHRAs see Tyler Durden as an avatar of “toxic masculinity” and thus embrace him. Additionally, MHRAs believe this “toxic masculinity” to be an antidote to oppressive social norms. This is obviously a very tenuous argument. Firstly, the evidence that MHRAs in general embrace Tyler Durden is thin to say the least. Secondly, the argument that MHRAs embrace Tyler Durden as a symbol of masculinity is also never substantiated; whilst perhaps a handful of tradcon/paleocon manosphere figures do, figures like Farrell clearly do not. And finally, the idea that MHRAs believe Tyler Durden Masculinity to be an antidote to oppression seems wacky; if this were true, the MHRM would be dominated by anti-capitalism, yet the reality is that the vast majority of MHRAs are against classical socialism, accept or even outright endorse markets, and many are even outright pro-capitalism. Indeed, many anti-MHRA types note that many conservatives and libertarians are in the MHRM; Tyler Durden Masculinity sees free market economics as emasculating. Not to mention, the article cites the fact that Neil Strauss’s The Game mentioned a PUA who used “Tyler Durden” as a pseudonym. PUAs are hardly out to radically overturn societal order; PUAs (and Red Pillers) believe the societal order to be biologically ordained, and that men need to accept it and improve themselves to succeed. Such an attitude is hardly one of a revolutionary who believes in overthrowing an oppressive order.
Indeed, the insinuation the article makes, that MHRAs embody/embrace toxic masculinity, is hard to square with the final part of the article. As the article quotes Tyler Durden, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t.” This doesn’t sound like an embrace of “alpha maleness” but rather a disillusionment with such a project; paleomasculine websites like Return Of Kings fail to note that historically speaking there were very few kings and very many serfs. What is it? Are MHRA’s toxically-masculine dudebros? Or are we emasculated failures who didn’t rise to the level of alpha-maleness?
It isn’t really a surprise the article ended with such a contradiction. When men write feminist thinkpieces, they’re almost compelled to subtly include emasculating insults when discussing the MHRM or men’s advocacy in general. Because men, after all, are meant to be strong; any man who complains is clearly being weak and thus is not a “real man” at all. And of course, the man writing this article gets to put down a fellow man and mock and emasculate them, so as to position themselves above their fellow man and thus validate their own “real manhood” and thus hopefully attract attention, validation, and maybe even sex, from women.
So where, exactly, does this article leave us? It is interesting how utterly evasive, noncommital and unspecific the article is. It doesn’t state what it will aim to argue. It doesn’t even air specific criticisms of the MHRM. It loosely and languidly connects various notions and associations, almost like a Rorschach test. It clearly has little-to-no familiarity with the MHRM, and the only literature it cites are one reddit post on a non-MHRM subreddit and a famous book about pick-up artistry but not about men’s rights. Apart from that, an ideologue against even the existence of a men’s rights movement is relied upon for providing the closest thing to an actual argument the article makes. I’d like to think that the lack of argumentative substance in this article reflects a known and confessed inability to compete in the marketplace of ideas, but that would be self-indulgent of me.
But we need to remember that independent public broadcasting always ends up as a state subsidy for progressive-left/establishment-left ideology. This article isn’t really meant to convince. Rather, it is meant to preach to the choir and receive upvotes on Twitter. It is psychological welfare for those in the middle-to-upper-classes of London who vote Lib-Dem. It is state-sponsored condescension directed towards those men who won’t one day be millionaires, movie gods, or rock stars. It is an attack against anyone who dare advocate for the humanity of the non-female half of the human race. It is mental masturbation for people who habitually mock MHRAs as excessive/frequent masturbators. It isn’t meant to be an argument; the side that produces stuff like this doesn’t think they need to provide actual argument for their positions.
All I can hope for is that incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson decides to privatize the BBC. After all, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.
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