Sunday, 24 November 2013


... about Mark Fisher's "Exiting the Vampire Castle" piece is its underscoring of "a set of snobbish and condescending attitudes that it is apparently alright to exhibit while still classifying oneself as left wing".

Predictably I think, this is exactly the form a lot of the criticisms of the piece have taken. Lots of the contra comments on Facebook and Twitter have adopted exactly that "tone ... as if they were a schoolteacher marking a child’s work, or a psychiatrist assessing a patient" MF identifies.

People have tended to refer to the Vampires' Castle piece using words like "crude" or "incoherent". Then there's this slightly noxious piece (which, with its link to a photoshopped caricature, verges on character assassination). The starting point of the critique here is that "the reasons given [by MF in the Vampires' Castle article] ... do not lead to the conclusions he offers", that "it does not follow its own stated reasons". In other words, the teacher steps in to reprimand the pupil who hasn't polished his argument just-so.

FFS, the article is actually called "B-grade politics"!

Here again: "... a case of someone who’s read a bit of philosophy and theory but simply doesn’t understand the subtlety of the claims advanced therein."

And here: "What I would recommend Fisher is to do some reading". [sic]

Stepping outside of the internecine left for a moment, right-wing blogger Harry Mount made a very similar move earlier this month when he tried to discredit the "spoilt and childish" Russell Brand. Apparently, Brand's big problem in his journalistic writing is his overuse of "long, Latinate words that desperately scream 'I'm clever' at the reader". So according to Mount, Brand should "grow up" and "get a little more Anglo-Saxon" in his writing. These are highly contentious issues of style, about which there has been much debate for aeons. But Mount offers his maxim (Anglo-Saxon words=good, Latinate prose=bad) with the absolute authority of the High Tory schoolmaster.

Very different examples, but I think they're evidence of exactly the sort of imperious "reprimanding" tendency the Vampires' Castle conceit is trying to expose and challenge.


Benjamin said...

and that's Orwell again (the anti-Latinate). God forbid a prole should speak posh, and then of course they won't speak posh properly, with the capacity for all registers that only comes from the 'correct' class postion

Daniel Efosa Uyi said...

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keep up the good work.


Alex Niven said...

Yeah, there's more to be written about this I think. I reckon Orwell inherited the principle from a general tendency in late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century haute bourgeois English culture to valorise Anglo-Saxon "simplicity". That William Barnes thing about using "bendsome" instead of flexible, "speechcraft" for grammar, etc.

The racial, romantic-pastoral aspect is pretty obvious ...

Anonymous said...

k-punk fucked up and it's real sad cause he's my favrit.

But seriously, he made the first mistake by trying to engage in this ongoing argument. By his own logic, contributing to these meta-discourses on "what's wrong with left discourse" is a worthless energy drain. Debate, as the see see are you would put it, is idiot distraction.

I look forward to the "I Never Liked k-punk" t-shirts from all those jag-offs who prefer argument to critical thought.