On Microfascism
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On Microfascism

Gender, Death, and War

Jack Z. Bratich

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eBook - ePub

On Microfascism

Gender, Death, and War

Jack Z. Bratich

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About This Book

Rooted in an understanding of how the fascist body is constructed, we can develop the collective power to dismember it.

Fascist and reactionary populist forces have undeniably swelled in the US in recent years. To effectively counter fascist movements, we need to understand them beyond their most visible and public expressions. To do this, Jack Bratich asserts, we must dig deeper into the psyche and body that gives rise to fascist formations. There we will find microfascism, or the cultural ways in which a fascist understanding of the world is generated from the hatreds that suffuse everyday life.

By highlighting the misogyny at fascism’s core, we are able to observe a key process in the formation of a fascist body. Recognizing the microfascism behind appeals to recover the past glory of white male subjects created by earlier foundational wars, we see how histories of settler colonialism, genocide, and domination are animating the deadly mission of fascism today. By focusing on the variety of ways the resurgent fascist tendency courts its own destruction (and demands the destruction of others), we can trace how fascism refines and expands the death and annihilation that underpins capitalist, colonial, and patriarchal systems.

On Microfascism are far-reaching and unsettling. Still, Bratich insists, the new fascism is not as powerful as its adherents wish us to believe. To defeat it, we must develop and defend a “micro-antifascism” grounded in the ethics of mutual aid and care in the everyday. Rooted in an understanding of how the fascist body is constructed, we can develop the collective power to dismember it.

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1 Autogenetic Sovereignty

Subjectivity and the Violence of Authority
DARYUSH “ROOSH V” VALIZADEH IS AN AWARD-WINNING MISOGYNIST. It was perhaps too early in a year that saw the rise of Gamergate and Milo Yiannapolis to dub him, in February 2014, as the “Web’s most infamous misogynist,” but he didn’t let his competitors take the spotlight so easily.
Roosh V is a self-made man. Not that he has cultivated an independent livelihood nor even lived the good neoliberal life by taking responsibility for his entrepreneurial self. Instead, and perhaps counter to the commonsensical notion of the self-made man, Roosh V’s life trajectory in the 2010s encapsulates a microfascist masculinity, or what I am calling autogenetic sovereignty.
Roosh V rose to prominence as a pick-up artist (PUA) with a global orientation and a series of sex tourism books on how to get laid in different nations.1 This could be seen as microfascist performance art, since it was unlike any modern, plebian variation of dating con-artistry. Instead, as his website Return of Kings heralded, his was a self-ordained royal lineage. The newness of what he dubbed “neomasculinity” resulted from rummaging through the past (reactionary Christianity, ideological evolutionary biology, and Stoic philosophy) to find “old ways of helping men” restore a lost patriarchal order. His mission: to renew and spread a monarchical masculinity.
Like any good traditional hero, Roosh V has faced some existential ordeals, which in his case could all be conveyed in one word: women. His entire PUA project is founded on the notion that female consent is a “barrier to be surpassed or sidestepped.”2 Roosh V needed women as an impediment to overcome and renew the sovereignty he always innately had anyway. Feminists were especially an obstacle, as they were the “reason that the ‘masculine man’ has apparently disappeared from the world.”3 His response to this crisis, a (since-deleted) blog post titled “How to Turn a Feminist Into your Sex Slave,” was to remind everyone of his sovereign power by reasserting mastery over them.
Despite being a self-made man, Valizadeh relied on women as objects to blame and instruments to renew his status. Valizadeh’s rallying cry was that “women forced him to act in a certain manner.”4 Men were sovereigns but under constant threat. Feminists in particular were so perniciously clever that he even blamed them for misogynistic killings, calling Elliot Rodger “the First Feminist Mass Murderer.” Classicist Donna Zuckerberg has pointed out that, for all Valizadeh’s claimed affiliation with Stoicism, “it is difficult to imagine a less Stoic pastime than ridiculing and attacking feminist writers for their ideas and physical appearances.”5 The self-made man, always on the brink of losing his subjective kingdom, must remake himself. This is done again and again through the reduction of women.
Valizadeh’s sovereign acts include edicts: to repeal women’s suffrage and for men to pass pro-men laws; to redefine rape according to his own standards (“All Public Rape Allegations Are False”); and to revive more traditional forms of the sexual traffic in women (by giving men absolute control over their female kin). Perhaps tired of providing so much nuance in his proclamations, he issued a blog-decree in language even non-sovereigns could understand: “Women Must Have Their Behavior and Decisions Controlled by Men.”6
Sovereigns have often found themselves under attack, needing safe spaces like forts and castles. In 2016, Valizadeh faced his own grand battle, as his valiant attempt to hold court off the Internet was ruined by the threats of marauding hordes of women. Valizadeh had issued a call for nationwide inreal-life meetups for the many kings and kinglets in training. After hearing women were going to show up with the intent of disrupting these men’s assemblies and squad roundtables, he canceled the event, declaring that he had been victimized by feminist harassment. His claim of victimhood only fueled his royal renewal project since it’s embedded in what Sarah Banet-Weiser calls “the dynamic of masculine injury and capacity—the injury is that masculinity has been lost, and the role of popular misogyny is to find and restore it.”7 The king never fully arrives—his “return” is a renewal of capacities at the expense of women’s capacities, via the further injuries visited upon them.
However, at least one woman provides something other than epic ordeals for Roosh V: his mother. The self-made Roosh-man makes himself thanks to the supportive infrastructure of his mom. His version of MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) involves going down the stairs to his mother’s basement. His man cave—in good necrophilic fashion—is a simulated womb, now filled with things hostile to the bearer of its predecessor.
The self-made man is obviously impossible. Moreover, it is a redundant phrase. Valizadeh embodies—in a distorted simulated way—what I’m calling autogenetic sovereignty. This might seem like a more convoluted way of saying self-made man and to some degree that is correct. But the “selfmade man” phrase has a contemporary sociological connotation that limits its explanatory power. “Self-making” goes much deeper into the history of social power than the modern entrepreneur or success story can convey. And it has to do with the long history of microfascism.
Autogenetic sovereignty harkens back to an idea that a subject can create itself ex nihilo, disconnected from material connections and contexts. This very separation, as we’ll see, is part of a long-standing patriarchal form of masculinity that distinguishes itself from women, turns to abstraction, and grounds itself in its own fabulations all at once.
Masculinity as such, traced through notions of sovereignty, is defined by autogenesis, an absolute act of power to define and create oneself. The self-making is the primary sovereign act. The phrase “self-made man” is thus redundant, as to be a man is already to have the claimed power to make itself. This is key to our understanding of microfascism since autogenetic sovereignty only exists as a process of renewal (rebirth) and elimination (of women).
Roosh might be an exemplar but it’s the regularity and norm of masculine subjectivity that is under investigation here. Why are self-made men so adamant about their separation? Why do they incessantly have to assert sovereignty rather than just be sovereigns? Why does the regeneration of sovereignty depend so much on managing others, and more specifically, on depleting the capacities of others?8
This chapter investigates these questions with an elaboration of ways modern and ancient selfhood is forged in autogenetic sovereignty. In addition to seeing this as hyperindividualization, we will explore how autogenetic sovereignty becomes composed into collective action as a network of black holes that resonate to produce life-destroying reality. Autogenetic sovereignty is embedded in the foundational philosophy and rituals of subjectivity. To put it bluntly, autogenetic sovereignty is microfascism in the subjective mode.

The circuit of flight and return: patriarchy and divine abstraction

The concept of autogenesis appears in feminist writings on modern subjectivity. For example, Judith Butler, drawing from Luce Irigaray’s work, argues “that the subject, understood as a fantasy of autogenesis, is always already masculine.”9 Susan Buck-Morss calls autogenesis “one of the most persistent myths in the whole history of modernity” (and of Western political thought before then, one might add). Doing one better than a Virgin birth, modern man, homo autotelus, literally produced himself, generating himself, to cite Terry Eagleton, ‘miraculously out of [his] own substance’.”10
Buck-Morss traces autogenesis to myths that the “‘birth’ of the Greek polis [comes from] the wondrous idea that man can produce himself ex nihilo. The polis becomes the artifact of ‘man,’ in which he can bring forth, as a material reality, his own higher essence.”11 She also sees it in Machiavelli’s “praise of the Prince who self-creatively founds a new principality and connects this autogenetic act with the height of manliness.”12
The essential resonance of men with the divine becomes one of the earliest mythic operations that create autogenesis. Traditions claim that man was created by the gods, or God, as a special category differentiated from nature and animals. The prior existence of the male infuses the Genesis Fall of Man myth in which “man came before woman, created autonomously by the gods or God. Man … was a separate creation, set apart from nature, with a unique relationship to his creator.”13 The Greeks’ origin story in the tale of Pandora also narrates the birth of men without women. In such stories, order and sovereignty are projected onto a transcendent sphere. Nature here comes second, after an initial separated, abstracted relationship that connects Genesis with autogenesis, masculine Creator with masculine created.
Through reenactments within initiation rites, men ritually repeat the divine act of Creation, thus authorizing their own project.14 The autogenetic sovereign flees toward an abstraction, authorized by that abstraction. Autogenesis means being a self-made man, but only via the power of the invented relation to a god. Men, created by an abstraction they created, get to become a creator, giving “birth” to politics, aesthetics, and other world-shaping structures. There is therefore no patriarchy without a foundational myth of self-reproduction, of autogenesis.
Women are required to play a part in this “phallic phantasy of a fully self-constituted patrilineality, and this fantasy of autogenesis or self-constitution.”15 For one thing, the introduction of women severed the relationship between man and the Divine and “introduced into man’s world all the features associated with nature.”16 Woman as original sin, a fall from transcendent abstraction, is a transgression primarily because her actions caused men’s own fall.
Women’s very existence is the disruption of the mythic order that established God in the first place. Women are positioned as the cause of all ills, including sin, severance from the Creator, and most importantly, death. Women become natural enemies of men because they resolutely embody nature itself. Women are not just seen as resisters to their roles, they are positioned, like Lucifer himself, as existential rebels, ones whose transgressions set in motion the necessity for order and the resulting status of women within it. Addressing women, early Christian lawmaker Tertullian proclaims, “You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of Divine law.”17
We can pause here to note a reversal. It’s not that patriarchal order is established first and then women transgress it. Law only exists as a way of framing Eve’s behavior as transgression. The Biblical God’s mythic punishment for woman’s transgression is twofold: the pain of birthing and the subjugation to men. Patriarchal order thus emerges afterwards, as penalty for original transgression. The need for punishment and control precedes the establishment of the law, with men becoming authorized to mete out the penance in the form of patriarchy. In the inaugural, primordial instantiation of order against transgression, autogenetic sovereignty mystically disappears as the inventor of order after inventing its rationale—the sinfulness of woman. Men give to themselves an origin—a relation to the divine, the autogenetic creation—while women are secondary and moreover tempt men downwards into nature (including death). Patriarchal masculinity is in this way self-invented, creating a system in which men are middle managers, interpreting their invented mythic divine figure while executing eliminationism based on those interpretations. The state of exception precedes the state, but now as primordial mythic violence based in gender production.
Of course, such autonomy is impossible. The gendered core of autogenesis positions women as the disavowed yet necessary realm of materiality, something that cannot be ...

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