“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fuck Faces

So, some Hollywood celebrity has said that her motto is “Don't be an arrogant fuckface,” and the In-a-Hysterical-Huff Post has described it as the best life advice ever given.

I noticed last week that commenters on another article seemed happy to label those with whom they had some dislike or disagreement fuckbags.

But what are these things, and why are they bad? A fuck face might be quite nice, or funny: just look at Pasolini's Decameron. And a fuckbag? Is it a scrotum? A bag of sex toys? What? And why are those bad?

Or are we saying Bare life animated corpse that I'd like to violate? (Very bad in context, since fuckbag was being used against a now common and notably sexist meme.)

Wanker and other derogatory terms I understand--there seems to be a clear referent. But that's not the only reason to prefer them. This isn't an elegy for a mythical lost age where we said what we meant and meant what we said. It's more about how the new insult is a double-wide turbo charged truck in comparison to the older one, which now seems like a cheap old bicycle.

These new blends of insult approach word salad, but not enough. There is some minimal reference, and therein lies the aggression. This isn't about the free play of the signifier, but its opposite, the coercive mashup of little bits of reference, demeaning the whole notion of faces and fucking, and bags etc, not to mention sounds and words.

These features are symptoms of a terrible, narcissistic aggression, fueled by the mirror shades that are the affordances of online subjectivity.

Astounding how easy and viral these terms are--the whole game is to be--what?--not disinhibited, maybe repressively desublimated (thanks Frankfurt school!) enough to use them. Interestingly, I wonder whether the celebrity and her audience would have felt less comfortable saying wanker.

Speech is energy and energy, obviously, can be used as a weapon. But who is being attacked by fuckface? It's as if language, let alone sexuality, let alone the user of the term, is tearing itself/herself apart in the act of flipping the bird in another random act of online superhighway (as Clinton used to say) road rage.

Saying Don't be an arrogant fuckface is being an arrogant fuckface. And hearing it in a TV studio without wincing. And publishing a Huffing and Puffington piece about it.

This is much more dire than some older guy lamenting people's lack of manners. This is lamenting people's lack of pleasure, its gentle pulsation, its tendrils. Lack of pleasure regarding sexuality and language, two interrelated phenomena.

Fuckface is a pleasure defoliant. The Napalm of insults. It strips the entire forest, the communication dimension in which the speaker herself or himself also resides. Nothing left to salvage.

It's sort of like channeling Schopenhauerian will. In Schopenhauer's world, if you eat me, that is will eating itself. The world of what he calls representation (incarnation, physicality, enactment) that disguises this snarling loop is left in tatters. The new insults are arc lights of cynical reason.

My mum, a psychoanalyst, is really disturbed by the way the internet seems to want to allow everyone to play at having not a mental illness but a personality disorder, something far more intense and chronic and basic than acute misery.

I think we need to have another look at what Žižek was writing in the later 90s, when he kept on and on making the point that the transition to what he was calling virtual reality needed to be noted and analyzed. Something is happening, he was arguing, and we won't even be able to see in such a way as to notice that something is happening, a few years into virtual reality.

When some people (scholars and the military) had the internet, it was some kind of freedom pleasure space.

Now that “everyone” has it, it's become an authoritarian aggression space.

When did that flip occur? It's interesting to think about, because it involves the paradox of the heap (the Sorites paradox). Was there a more or less precisely defined transition moment between these two states, and roughly how many people were online for it to have occurred?

Let alone why. We have no idea why--apart from the fact that samsara is aggression, or that people aren't yet ready even for consumerism, let alone more futuristic forms of pleasure. It's the angry agricultural God who yells fuckface at his creation, which is a reflection of his face. The psychotic who-is-killing-whom snarl: faces that fuck, death to faces, fuck as kill, faces of pleasure as ugly insults.

And the parallel transition from wanker et al. to fuckbag et al, alliterative messes insidiously less significant than shouting some truly a-signifying wash of consonants. (Again, this isn't a war against the signifier in the name of the good old referential days that I'm trying to mount here.)

The culture of fuckface is funny if you can see how caught people are in finding the fastest, most efficient aggression mode. Unfortunately, you have to be pretty contemplative to have slowed down enough to appreciate how funny it is. And it's funny in a desperate way, like watching puppets fry themselves alive. Live human auto-sacrifice. Yahweh tearing his face off.


D. E.M. said...

I really enjoyed reading that. The last two sentences, especially. And I have no idea why my phone autocorrects fuckface to dickface! omg

Josh said...

When did that flip occur?

Hypothesis: 2006/07. That's iPhone + Facebook available to all. What used to be 'virtual reality' - a play space defined by its separation from daily life - attached its sensors to the everyday, began sucking up data about the everyday: into the databases. These, we think, 'know' more about our lives than we do. The definitive record resides now in what used to be 'virtualized' space. Reality is there, not here. Reality itself has been virtualized.

This makes us anxious and angry. All the time.