Against Niceness

Trendwatch. A triptych of stories on a theme.

Beware of Cupcake Fascism

Fascism is, if nothing else, necessarily majoritarian, and nowadays racism is very niche-​appeal (just look at how laughable every EDL march is, where the anti-​fascists outnumber the alleged fascists by a ratio of more than two to one). But you could get a huge mass of people to participate in a reactionary endeavour if you dressed it up in nice, twee, cupcakey imagery, and persuaded everyone that the brutality of your ideology was in fact a form of niceness. If a fascist reich was to be established anywhere today, I believe it would necessarily have to exchange iron eagles for fluffy kittens, swap jackboots for Converse, and the epic drama of Wagnerian horns for mumbled ditties on ukuleles.

You Are Triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma

Fifteen to twenty years ago, books like Wendy Brown’s States of Injury (1995) and Anna Cheng’s The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation and Hidden Grief (2001) asked readers to think about how grievances become grief, how politics comes to demand injury and how a neoliberal rhetoric of individual pain obscures the violent sources of social inequity. But, newer generations of queers seem only to have heard part of this story and instead of recognizing that neoliberalism precisely goes to work by psychologizing political difference, individualizing structural exclusions and mystifying political change, some recent activists seem to have equated social activism with descriptive statements about individual harm and psychic pain. Let me be clear – saying that you feel harmed by another queer person’s use of a reclaimed word like tranny and organizing against the use of that word is NOT social activism. It is censorship.

The Twee Revolution

But I am grateful to Spitz for reminding me that Twee has, beneath all the chirping, something passionately affronted and defiant; that its embrace of underdogs—their flops, their freak-outs, their difficult third albums—has an actual moral application. […] In Boston, as I write, two former college-football players have just been arraigned for beating a homeless man—a beating that might have been fatal were it not for the intervention, as reported by The Boston Globe, of “a petite woman in her 20s who asked not to be named.” The woman’s intervention was apparently literal: she placed her body between the victim and his attackers. Truly Salingerian, or Cobainian. A paradigmatic instance of Twee heroism, one might say. Defend the vulnerable. Disarm the tormentor. Be strong. Be Twee.


Header image courtesy Christopher Wilde

One response to “Against Niceness”

  1. […] I’m seeing a growing emphasis on ‘compromise’ as a conceptual anchor in writing about political action. No longer just a word that’s used casually, it’s a word that carries weight. Personally, I wonder if it’s gaining ground because it doesn’t try to fight partisan, polarized, contentious politics, but instead tries to figure out to make partisanship a more constructive force. (Perhaps it goes hand in hand with a cultural rejection of “niceness”?) […]

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