Powerlessness Corrupts

More curated tumblr jottings, which some people seemed to like.  Rewritten and expanded.

There is, in fandom, an impulse to denounce which is very congruent with a similar impulse that exists in some iterations of right-on politics.  It comes from a similar place: helplessness.  We’re always told that power corrupts, and it certainly does.  But powerlessness corrupts too.  People in fandom get accustomed to worshipping that which is handed down to them.  They can then discover the opposite but equal pleasure of execrating that which is handed down to them.  What both have in common is the idea of passively accepting what you’re given.  And yes, hating on something is a form of passivity quite distinct from the activity of criticism.  Passive acceptance of texts is, contrary to myth (a myth largely put around by fans, amazingly enough) far more common within fandom/s than in the general television viewing public. 

Jane Q Citizen puts Doctor Who (or whatever) on her telly, doesn’t like it, and so switches over to hunt for something she does like… or she likes it (having no long-cherished internal needs that she has trained herself to expect to be met by it), so she watches it, and then she forgets about it.  John Z. Fan puts Doctor Who on his telly, doesn’t like it, but cannot switch it off because he is a fan (and yes, this can apply to me too in some ways).  So, passive and powerless to influence the show that he loves but finds disappointing, he rages.  He isn’t writing it or producing it himself, and he doesn’t even have (because he’s chosen to abnegate it) the basic and paltry consumer freedom that capitalism grants us and lauds so much: the freedom to hunt for another product that will satisfy us where one product has failed.

Meanwhile, in many sections of right-on politics, splittery and sectarianism and denunciation rule the day because the right-on either have no real mechanism by which they can actually change any of the stuff they don’t like (clicktivism being such a dead end, and most branches of direct action and protest being dead ends too when taken by themselves) or they despair of the one thing that really can change things – mass, working class action – because we’re in a long-term trench of neoliberal downturn.

The powerlessness corrupts.

Meanwhile (again), there is another strange tessellation.  The gap between fandom and actual critical savvy is uncannily similar to the gap between right-onitude per se and actual critical political education.  The fan mindset can (notice I say can) leave one hungry for the tools of proper critical analysis but does not itself supply them.  Similarly, right-onitude (however well intentioned and sincere) can leave one hungry for the desire to think politically but does not itself supply the actual critical understanding one needs in order to do so sensibly or usefully.

Between the desire and the reality falls the shadow.

(And I’m not being patronising because I have in the past fallen into most of these traps myself, and still occasionally do today.)…

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