Frames /sing


The Fall of Larval Subjects: Bloom and Rose


It seems it has been a long time coming. People have found Levi Bryant’s voluminous and often creative postings as inspiration for what is possible in the blog-form of thoughtful, internet expression, but it seems one-by-one the petals have fallen- off the rose, within to find a philosophical subject who has pressed himself as close as possible to what is less than appealing about blogged, quick-fire thinking processes. Others still maintain a favorable view, but for me his unadmitted self-contradictions, pronounced declarations, penchant for inventing term after term, principles upon fallacies, and lastly his brittle treatment of those that disagree with him, left me with the feeling of someone who wanted to “play” the philosopher, or at least the philosophy professor.

Beyond the recent Grey Vampire jaunt into hatreds, now it seems that in his largess Levi has taken on in a rather but perhaps typically absurd way Reid over at Planomenology, who made the mistake of actually questioning the political worth of a non-normative ontological world, sheerly conceived of as equally real objects. The sad thing seems to be that Reid once took his inspiration from Levi, only to find himself (and his ideas) wildly characterized in typical Levi Bryant over-stretch and obfuscation. As Reid writes opening up in response Projective Indignity, where he point by point takes apart each of Bryant’s strategies of evasion and general intimidation:

Larval Subjects was one of my favorite blogs, and one of the major reasons I started doing this in the first place. He had significant influence on my development in philosophy, leading me to the controversial, but I still think fundamentally sound belief that Deleuze and Guattari can be understood as continuing the work of Lacan, not breaking with it. It was through him that I first heard about Badiou, speculative realism, non-philosophy, and so on. His impact has been very important to me.

Now Levi has decided to publish a post whose tone and tenor would be easily at home on the Fox News Channel. I’m tempted to ignore this nonsense altogether…but I am really quite uncomfortable with having myself so dramatically misrepresented on such a popular blog. So I suppose I’ll have to point out, one by one, the inaccuracies littering his post – Media Matters style. I doubt this will have any effect on his end, and will likely serve only to escalate the tide of bullshit, but I’ll come to that road when I cross it

I don’t always agree with Reid, but even when in debate he seemed like the very best of blogged thought: local, thoughtful, inspired, playing none of the professorial games of bluffery and bullying that Levi (and Graham) seem to like to employ. Mikhail was first on this recent display of philosophical spearing, here, but the reason I find it worth posting about is that aside from those that consider themselves citadeled against ignorant Internet masses, I do think philosophical thinking via internet discussion a “community” process and when general community standards are violated, it is a responsibility of community to at least raise the events to a level of notice.

Of course there are all kinds of discourse on the Internet, but when folks which to express themselves in something of a high-brow standard, aiming at being taken philosophically (and I am not even sure that I am one of those, I just post what is interesting to me), its best to keep them to the standards that they claim to raise.

Levi has, at least in my view busied himself alienating his questioners over time such that it probably makes the most sense for him to do away with the comments section of his blog altogether (something I have suggested for a long time), as his recent allies K-punk and Harman have done.  This is difficult for Levi because he ever wants to give the impression that his ideas come out of dialogue, as rational, necessary conclusions which any reasonable person could not help but embrace. He is ever mystified when others don’t agree with him (they must be either dull witted or unread). Personally I do not find megaphone broadcasts very interesting, and I only turn to Levi’s posts when some other person references them (and even less so for Harman and K-punk). It just seems that just as commerce seems to creep into internet networks (with real books being written in these contexts), the selfish, scrabbling identities that commodification seems to at its worst brings out, expresses itself with REAL objectifying power.

Addendum: Here Levi responds to Reid apologizing for his tone, but then somewhat in self-excuse claims that though in the wrong because he was “provoked” by Reid. Somehow it is was Reid’s fault:

While my rhetoric was way out of line and over the top, I do not think it was unprovoked given that associating someone with neoliberalism is much like calling them a fascist or a Nazi.

Levi feels that he has been called the equivalent of a “Nazi” by being associated with neoliberalism though Reid’s assessement that the equalization of objects serves only as a weak and facile democraticization. (I thought philosophers were supposed to specialize in distinctions, but he cannot tell the difference between being associated with neoliberalism, and being CALLED a Nazi.) No doubt this imagined “Nazi” smear conducted by Reid’s rather reasoned arguments (in which I detect not much smearing) touches off the feeling that Levi has been subject to something of this kind of language:

[I hate ] second, the creatures of ressentiment who seem to delight in tearing others down, in finding ways to torture them, who have orgies of hate together when they get ignored seeing themselves as victims rather than being the assholes that they are. Racists, jilted white men, insecure nationalists, misogynists and homophobes, trolls, Christianists and religious zealots of all sorts that are convinced they’re victims, gossips, etc., etc., etc.

Of course this is a quote from Levi, and not Reid. This  really isn’t the way that Reid expresses himself. Its Levi, talking as usual to himself

But it’s not just that Levi was provoked, or as he put it, feeling that he had been “kicked in the stomach”. It’s also the case for Levi that his bullying of Reid (as a professor of philosophy unto a graduate student, and a popular bloggist to a wee bloggist), bullying he confesses, is also the case of him merely not treating him “like a puppy”. Levi, despite the apology was simply being all man about it with Reid. He was just giving Reid a friendly hockey check back on the ice.

I think it is strange to suggest that somehow because of his age or station as a graduate student he is supposed to be treated with kid gloves or patted on the head like a puppy when, to use a hockey metaphor, he himself “checks” hard in public.

For anyone who read Reid’s analysis of Levi’s exchange, we know that this was not the case at all. Its good of course to hear Levi apologize but those who know him know that this is pretty much par for the course: I was completely wrong, I’m very sorry, except for the fact that I was provoked and I out of respect to him refused to treat Reid as a puppy, again I repeat I was completely wrong.


5 responses to “The Fall of Larval Subjects: Bloom and Rose

  1. Anthony Paul Smith October 2, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    It is strange that he once associated me with Heidegger’s support of the Nazis and was surprised that this upset me very much and now thinks its fine to get upset at people when they call you something akin to being a Nazi (?!?!).

    • kvond October 2, 2009 at 8:44 pm

      Its not really strange all. Levi is very thick with the implied insult and very THIN in his skin. He is so overly concerned with his image as a social justice protester AND a philosophical master of discourse, its pretty much walking on egg-shells when you touch on either. I remember my first go round with Levi. I was new to his blog and I was struck how much he likes to give the impression of the master of the discourse (while pretending to dialogue). I said as much, in passing, and all the hair raised up one his head declaring that I can called him a Nazi, when in fact was making no such reference at all. This seems to be one of his regular tropes and fears (and, from your own experiences, one of his usual accusations as well).

  2. Mark Crosby October 3, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    It’s so sad, isn’t it? But does this compare with Greek tragedy? Why am I reminded of a song from my youth, “Werewolves of London”? Must be from reading too much Oscar Wilde today (VERA AND THE NIHILISTS is a real sob story..)

    • kvond October 3, 2009 at 9:37 pm

      What is “sad” about it to me is not its high tragedy, so much as it seems to mark out the very path of almost all academic philosophical method of the control of discourse through tactics of authority and dissimilation. If you read Reid’s rebuttal to Levi’s bull, you see that Levi has been playing the “professor” the whole time, not having much of a clue what Reid’s point was, bluffing as he went, never simply having the dignity to simply say “I withdraw”. It was the process that was prior to Levi’s rancorous post that actually was the slow “tragedy” in that it happens everywhere, in every classroom. The attack post and then the apology later was simply car crash humor to the extreme degree.

  3. Paul Bains October 4, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I did say I was out of the loop.
    I guess that’s not a bad thing – as you intimated a while back. I still saw some creativity – and didn’t have the history to notice petals falling off…’selfish, scrabbling identities.’
    I’m glad I don’t have a blog – I’d be e-assassinated in minutes for my naivety.

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