I've been thinking about the TikTok girl who was piled on by baby TRAs because she dared to say that lesbians should be allowed to express a "genital preference" (ie refuse to have sexual relationships with bio-men) - and it gives me an opportunity to tweet about postmodernity.
The alt-right would think that postmodern theory is to blame for the ills of contemporary society. Jordan Peterson, a walking illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect, is to blame for this. His legacy is a wider demonisation of postmodern theory and its purported Marxist origin.
It is useful to think of two strands of "postmodern theory" (there are more, but this is highly simplified for Twitter and to fit the example at hand. The first are "theories of the postmodern". The second are "applications of the postmodern theory" or "applied postmodernism".
I'm going to deal with these backwards. Applied postmodernism is what the alt-right are really talking about when they say "postmodernism". It refers to theories which purposefully seek to redress perceived power imbalances in culture after the "modernity" of Marxism.
While Marx saw power stratified along socio-economic lines, applied postmodernism rejects all prior grand narratives that structure culture - including Marxism. Into that vacuum flood theories of individual empowerment and new structures of culture tied to the way we identify.
The tools it uses to do this are "theories of the postmodern" - which were never intended for that purpose at all...
Theories of the postmodern came first. They sought to explain a world that was no longer cultural structured along institutional strata - in which the church, the village, the tribe were no longer important. They saw that communication had globalised and fragmented culture.
These theorists (Jameson, Barthes, Baudrillard) were *critical* of this turn - they did not embrace it. They reported what they saw and, pessimistically, regarded it as inevitable. They were right.
Why did a girl being bullied on TikTok make me think of this? Because it is a postmodern occurrence.
One of the cultural structures that are reconfiguring in postmodern times is the notion of "sub-culture". See how this young woman presents, firstly. Her user name is "g0th1ck". She wears blacks and has died black hair and piercings.
Gothic punk dates back to the late 70s/early 80s - one of the last subcultures that was wholly centred around music. Teenage sub-cultures since the 90s have just been a constant rehash and remix of fashion and music sub-cultures that existed in "modern" times.
She expresses her allegiance to this "sub-culture" through her name and attire and her video subject matter. However, in her video we also see how contemporary sub-cultures configure in the absence of fashion and music as innovative narratives.
Here's what happens next: She posts a video saying that young lesbians shouldn't feel they have to accept male-bodied partners. Thousands (literally) of young people pile with two dominant messages 1) she is a "TERF" 2) that she is not "alt" (short for alternative).
In response to this, G0th1ck responds with multiple apology videos in which she uses equally dehumanising language about TERFs ("I didn't mean to agree with the TERF"). The commenters refuse to accept her apology and double down.
G0thi1ck posts a "goodbye" video in which she promises to "educate" herself (meaning, reprogramme herself to better express the values of the commenting populus). She is most appalled not by invocations of suicide or sexist responses, but that she has been called a TERF.
That is the postmodern moment - a coming together of both the postmodern condition (the period we are unequivocally living through) and applied postmodernism (the weaponisation of theory for libertarian ends).
Being a TERF is now a terrible thing to be, with distinct immutable characteristics. Being a TERF is also a tribal alignment - a fixed position one can take in the culture war. A culture war that has been enabled by applied postmodernism.
TERFs don't see themselves as a sub-culture - BUT TRAs DO. In the 1950s mods and rockers clashed on the seafront at Brighton. In the absence of those tribal unifiers - memetic ideology has poured in to fill the gap. TRAs think they are the mods and TERFs are the rockers.
This will probably comes as a surprise to older people - the idea that, in contemporary times, adopting a viewpoint is a tribal act like dying your hair. That's because you were born in the modern era - before communication was fragmented by the digital.
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