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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


I've often remarked that ideological critics are a superstitious, humorless lot, in that they're obsessed with performing "purity tests" for artists-- not just for those that advance reactionary political schemes, like Margaret Mitchell, but even for creators who show liberal tendencies, like Joss Whedon and Quentin Tarantino, but aren't quite militant enough for the ultraliberals' tastes. Yet I use the word "militant" advisedly, because most ideological critics are particularly superstitious about any expression of force or violence, as I examined in detail in Part 1 , Part 2, and Part 3 of A REALLY LONG DEFINITION OF VIOLENCE.

In that essay-series I mentioned how a pacifist political figure of the 19th century, Adin Ballou, coined the phrase "Might makes right." Throughout the following century, most ideological critics have shared Ballou's implicit opposition to this state of human affairs. Throughout the 20th century all types of heroes-- not even just the boulder-shouldered supermen, but also the purely ratiocinative detectives-- have been accused of promulgating "lynch law" in the name of some murky governmental organization.  This mood of continual ressentiment leads, ironically enough, to its own form of "lynch law," in which the ideologues can condemn anybody for anything, without providing any sort of internally consistent proof. I cited various non-HU examples in Part 1 and Part 2 of VICTIMOLOGY 101.

That said, I'm not utterly opposed to reading fictional narratives in terms of what moral lessons they *may* directly convey to audiences, but all such readings require (1) a basic understanding that fiction is not a form of direct moral address in the same way that non-fiction is, and (2) the courage to to build a solid case against a narrative's alleged immorality, rather than simply depending on simplistic, knee-jerk associations. Most ideological critics are not willing to go to this much effort, though many of them will pay lip service to preferring logical examination of issues over "the rule of force."

I've often theorized that the emotional pay-off from the ideological outlook is that it makes the ideologue feel as if he's made a difference by talking about the "tough issues" of racism, sexism, and so on. Ideologues ranging from Nathanael West to Rod Serling have chosen to view heroic fantasies as being "negative compensation" at best, and "bread and circuses" at worst. But if we go with Alfred Adler's own definition of the term he invented, then "negative compensation" only takes place when the person fails to show "courage" in adapting to a negative situation. One will never get an ideologue devoted to the ideal of social realism to view any form of heroic-or-violent fantasy as "positive compensation." But when the ideologues cite simplistic, knee-jerk ideas in lieu of solid evidence, they themselves are guilty of a failure of courage, and so fall within the vale of "negative compensation" by the terms of their own ideology.

Now, I've put forth a high-flown, Hegelian defense of "the combative mode," despite my knowledge that few if any popular critics will be able to grapple with the issues this defense raises. Yet the defense is not, in itself, my own "emotional pay-off." For me to have typed so many words fine-tuning all ideas relating to "the combat myth," it obviously carries some personal association, which I'll deal with more fully in Part 2. Clearly no form of "the combat myth" means anything to the ideologues, either because the myth never meant anything to them, or because they felt its impact as children but have come to associate it entirely with childhood. By the standard of *intersubjectivity* as I've outlined it here, the ideologues are not wrong, in terms of taste, not to like something that I like. They are only wrong in terms of promulgating bad logic to lift up whatever they like at the expense of what I like.

There's a key irony here. I'm fully aware that one of the very things I like about the "combat myth" is that it doesn't resemble the way real life arranges its various conflicts-- say, with courts and governments and insurance companies. That's one of my main reasons for liking it, whether one cares to believe that's "negative compensation" or not. In contrast, the ideologues want fictional narrative to conform perfectly not to reality as it is lived, but to one that clearly marks out who are the good people and the bad people-- yet not in any escapist terms, but in terms that are supposedly responsive to "reality."

More later.

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