Sexual McCarthyism and the Neopuritanical Left: A Conversation with Laura Kipnis & Angela Nagle

 

 

Laura Kipnis: Avoid “unnecessary references to parts of the body” warns a recent directive from the commissars of sex on my campus.

The introduction to this dialogue between Laura Kipnis and Angela Nagle will focus largely on the contents of Kipnis’ book Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia on Campus. Excerpts and introduction from Nagle’s book Kill All Normies Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right were previously published on MONDO 2000 here. Consider reading it first

 

Laura Kipnis

 

I like to challenge dogma — the type we once called political correctness before that term was deformed by the far right to mean anything they disagree with. But I was none-too-pleased when I finished reading Unwanted Advances by Laura Kipnis.

Not only did she provide a litany of examples of Kafkaesque (no, actually Kafkaesqe i.e. The Trial) activities taking place on college campuses involving “hearings” related to often bizarre accusations of sexual misconduct, the main subject in the book was someone who I knew, at least virtually, pretty well.

I finished the book with the queasy feeling that I needed to say something about it. The problem was (and is) — given the temper of the moment, and the horrible bigotry-for-all of the current White House occupants — one wished one could be unambiguously in solidarity with “The Resistance.” I weakly mentioned that a former MONDO associate was the subject of Kafkaesque events detailed in Kipnis’s book in a couple of tweets and then more or less let it go. But I went to work on organizing this conversation and now…. the moment of truth

The aforementioned MONDO associate Peter Ludlow was a vocal and frequent contributor to the MONDO 2000 Conference on The WELL, back in the early and mid-90s (when The Well was one of very few “social media” hangouts on the internet). And he became a contributor to How To Mutate & Take Over The Word: An Exploded Post-Novel the book that I, and my coauthor St. Jude Milhon (RIP), wrote along with “The Internet 21” — approximately 21 people who joined in the creation of that mess as part of a mostly-failed role playing game. Ludlow wrote some essays mocking the style of that periods’ “cyber-critics” — a branch of poststructuralism/postmodernism that had discovered the cyberpunk/cyberculture much to their excited borderline-erotic horror.

irresistibly charming Peter Ludlow

In Ludlow’s case, there was a kind of double-jeopardy Kafkaesque trial. Initially, he was investigated for allegedly groping a student who had spent the night in his apartment.  In this case, he was not informed of the charges against him nor the evidence against him, nor even what the specific actions were that he had committed.  He was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor was he allowed to question his accuser, whose case later collapsed in a court of law. Even the University did not find evidence of the groping part — even under the very weak “preponderance of evidence” standard. As Kipnis notes, important elements of the student’s accusations were clear fabrications, not least of which that the student had jumped into lake Michigan in early February and then got out and walked outside for an hour to dry off.

When Northwestern seemed intent on getting rid of Ludlow anyway, they later pressured a graduate student and former lover of his to testify against him.  Her initial response was that she had merely been in a “deeply inappropriate” relationship with Ludlow (a time when she had a boyfriend in Boston that she would subsequently marry).  She had complained to Ludlow that if news about their relationship got out it would “ruin her”.  But clearly given Northwestern’s path, news was now going to get out.

When the second group of charges came, Ludlow was again not informed of the specific charges against him and had to meet with the university “investigator”  — a former prosecutor — for several hours without a lawyer present.  The initial charge against him turned out to be a date-specific occasion of nonconsensual sex (the student woke up naked one day just before Thanksgiving break, and did not remember having sex, but concluded she must have). When Ludlow produced a hotel receipt showing he wasn’t home the evening in question, and text messages from the following day showing Ludlow trying to break up and the student trying to preserve their (by then) nearly two month old relationship, the charges drifted. Now the charge was that Ludlow had used his power and “charm” — charm is actually the word used by the investigator — to manipulate the student into a relationship that lasted from October through December.  The student, a 25-year-old who had already been through a master’s program and dated a previous professor, did not have the tools to make such a decision on her own, it seems.  

Kipnis notes that the graduate student said to the investigator that “it was only years later” that she realized that she had been manipulated by Ludlow, and that a key woman in the philosophy profession convinced her of this.  So, by her own admission it seems, she concluded that her “consent” to a relationship that lasted for three months and thousands of text messages could be withdrawn years after the fact.  It seems her advisor not only had the power to tell her what she should consent to; she also had the power to tell her what she did consent to.  The paradox, is that “consent” is no longer an act of the student’s will; it is now the decision of an academic superior, and that decision by the superior can overwrite previous willful acts of consent by the student.

Some may assume that only those awful “cisgendered” males have been on the receiving end of these accusations and quasi-legal prosecutions/persecutions. In fact, an awful lot of gay teachers have faced the Kafkaesque “trial,” and more than a few women. The author of the book was subjected to a Title IX investigation for seven words in an essay published in the Chronicle of Higher Education referencing one of Ludlow’s accusers case, though not naming the woman. (Kipnis was brought up on Title IX complaints a second time over the book, and is now also being sued over it.) One gay woman was accused of looking at a girl’s breast while whispering in her ear. The offending act took place in a library.

I organized this brief email conversation between Laura Kipnis, author of Unwanted Advances Sexual Paranoia Comes To Campus and Angela Nagle, author of Kill All Normies: online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Nagle’s book was discussed and excerpted in an earlier MONDO 2000 article. Both women are leftists who have been getting a ton of angry shit from what one might call the identity left for challenging their dogmas.

R.U. Sirius

 

Angela Nagle

I’ve also sprinkled a few quotes from the books of both authors throughout the discussion. Some of Nagle’s excerpts from the prior article are worth repeating.

Laura Kipnis: In the official version of events, causality can run in only one direction: Ludlow alone can be the prime mover; Cho can only be someone things happen to… What use to anyone is a feminism so steeped in self-exoneration that it prefers to imagine women as helpless children, rather than acknowledge grown-up sexual realities.

R.U. Sirius: These are two very different books from two very different minds… but a commonality may be that both of you are leftists and your books have upset some other leftists (which isn’t hard to do but…). And I think it’s because you’re telling them about things they don’t want to know. Particularly with Laura’s book, even I got to the end and thought… I wish I didn’t know about these events. Now I guess I have to say something about it.  

I’d like to get both your thoughts on this… and do you think it’s a unique phenomenon of our virtualized times or is it just the same old circular firing squad? Also, any specific nastiness you’ve incurred that you’re willing to share….

Laura Kipnis: The Left has always been riven by sectarian differences and idiocies, but my problem answering this question right now is that I’ve lost a sense of who or what the left is. It seems to have become monolithic, at least when it comes to campus issues, which has lately been my subject, and where the nominal left starts seeming like a bunch of prigs, hysterics, censors, and authoritarians. As far as the feminist left, is there one if by “left” we mean attention to some version of redistributive justice along with the tenets of gender equity? They’re not either/or propositions obviously, but class has become the ugly stepsister, the identity that dare not speak its name, when it comes to the intersections of concern on the campus left.

But it’s worse than that. If you’re talking about — or with — students, for the most part the politics are incoherent. I’m willing to say, as an academic leftist, that it’s leftwing professors who’ve stopped teaching students how to think. I recall an exchange I had last year with a student at my own university (now graduated, I believe) when I wrote a letter to the school paper about due process. I was for it. (And against rushing to judgment without evidence, as had happened in a campus incident involving anonymous accusations against a frat.) There was the one response, from a student I didn’t know, about what I’d written:

“The letter refuses to hold hegemonic structures accountable for their endorsement of misogynistic masculinity and subsequent dehumanization of female-assigned bodies. This unwillingness is connected to the structures that secure white, cis privilege among faculty at institutions such as NU. These are the very structures that produce a confirmation bias against and invalidate survivors. The rhetoric that demands “we know exactly what happened” before taking action is trauma-inducing for survivors. I would hope any educator would feel that same obligation toward allyship to their students, some of whom are among the survivor community.”

Where does this gobbledegook come from? This was someone who, I presume, would describe herself as on the left. Yet she has no concept of democracy, which requires due process. I’m sure she would describe herself as “on the right side of history,” while overlooking the histories of false accusations against sexual and racial minorities. She spouts boilerplate phrases. And I suspect she learned all this as a student at an elite university, from professors spouting slightly more polished versions of the same boilerplate.  Read more “Sexual McCarthyism and the Neopuritanical Left: A Conversation with Laura Kipnis & Angela Nagle”

Kathy Acker Reading The Body 1991 (MONDO 2000 Issue #4)

Kathy Acker Interviewed by Larry McCaffery

When Kathy Acker smiles, her face shifts 2000 years in time, from Periclean austere to postmodern punk.

Embedded in one of her front teeth is a jagged chunk of bronze.

She is her own text, her own gallery. She’s a body builder in more than the usual way: her muscles animate spectacular tattoos. She has seized control over the sign-systems through which people “read” her.

You may also read her books. In Empire of the Senseless (1988) she systematically kills the patriarchal father, tries (but eventually fails) to imagine a society freed from Oedipal considerations and all taboos, and introduces a file of outcast myths—cyberpunk, modern primitive, pirate, motorcycle gang—to explore control over one’s life and the use of signs to create the meaning of that life. In Memoriam to Identity (1990) inhabits literary and historical materials—the work of Rimbaud and his relationship with Verlaine, Heian court writing, Faulkner—to present a contemporary version of the myth of romance.

During her expatriate years Acker became a major figure in postmodern and feminist fiction. Her novels (with spectacular Robert Mapplethorpe photographs on their covers) were attacked from right and left. Some feminists were made queasy by Acker’s depictions of emotional and sexual masochism, her obsession with obscenity. Some loathed her analyses of political and cultural repression; others, her takes on 1960’s Hippie utopianism. After a dicey decade in London, Acker moved back to the states, specifically San Francisco, where she teaches writing at the Art Institute.

Past mistress of the cunning juxtaposition and the Fine Art of Appropriation, her writing betrays a multitrack outlaw intellect. And she doesn’t shrink from mining outlaw “low culture” genres like SF, pornography, and detective fiction. The net effect of her work is not merely to deconstruct, but to decondition.

Acker is passionate and articulate, energetic and authoritative. Laughter and self-irony punctuated her rapid-fire presentations delivered in a heavy New York Jewish accent.

Larry McCaffery

Read more “Kathy Acker Reading The Body 1991 (MONDO 2000 Issue #4)”

High Tech High Life: William Gibson & Timothy Leary in Conversation (1989)

The story of Timothy Leary’s conversation with William Gibson is here.  This is most of the text as it was published in the first edition of MONDO 2000 magazine

TIMOTHY LEARY: If you could put Neuromancer into one sentence, how would you describe it?

WILLIAM GIBSON: What’s most important to me is that it’s about the present. It’s not really about an imagined future. It’s a way of trying to come to terms with the awe and terror inspired in me by the world in which we live. I’m anxious to know what they’ll make of it in Japan.

TRAPPED

WG: Oh, god. I’m starting to feel like Edgar Rice Burroughs or something. I mean, how did Edgar Rice Burroughs finally come to feel about Tarzan in his own heart, you know? He got real tired of it. Wound up living in Tarzana, California.

TL: You’ll end up living in a space colony called Neuromancer.

WG: That would be OK. I don’t think we’re going to have this kind of future. I think this book is so much nicer than what seems to be happening. I mean, this would be a cool place to visit. I wouldn’t mind going there.

TL: Where?

WG: To the Sprawl, to that future.

TL: Go up the well?

WG: Yeah. Go up the well and all of that. A lot of people think this is a bleak book but I think it’s optimistic.

TL: I do, too.

WG: I think it’s actually gonna be more boring. I think some kind of Falwellian future would probably be my idea of the worst thing that could happen.

TL: Yeah. That was a wonderful scene where you have those Christians who were gonna mug those girls in the subway.

WG: It’s not clear whether they’re going to mug them or just try to force some horrible pamphlet on them or something. Personally, I have a real phobia about guys like that coming up to me on the street . . .

TL: That’s a powerful scene! And you describe the girls as like hoofed animals wearing high heels.

WG: Yeah. The office girls of the Sprawl.

TL: Yeah, and they’re wearing vaginas, and — Oh, God! That’s a powerful scene.

WG: I like the idea of that subway. That’s the state-of- the-art subway. It goes from Atlanta to Boston, real fast. Read more “High Tech High Life: William Gibson & Timothy Leary in Conversation (1989)”

After the Technotopian Decade, Comes A Visitor. A Time Traveler

This essay was written for an exhibition by Marion Garrido at Art Centre La Casa Encendida in Madrid designed around the online adventures of “John Titor” — an alleged time traveler who lit up the web and conspiracy radio at the start of the 2000s. Keep in mind that this was written for a Spanish audience and some of the things I say about U.S. culture may seem a little obvious.

R.U. Sirius

On November 2, 2000 an obscure group called Time Travel Institute received a note on their website from someone calling himself TimeTravel_0. The person claimed to be a US military time traveler from 2036. He discussed some of the details of the time machine that had brought him.

This “arrival” remained obscure until January 27, 2001 when this (virtual) person showed up on the bbs of the Art Bell Show under the name John Titor, writing, “Greetings. I am a time traveler from the year 2036.” Titor claimed that he had been sent back in time by the US government to 1975 to grab an ancient IBM 5100 so that a legacy UNIX problem that was causing future trouble could finally be debugged.

 

On his way back to 2036, Titor had stopped off in 2000/2001 to visit with family. The alleged time traveler proceeded to entertain, inform and enrage Art Bell show users with details about the future and the time machine, which he described as “a stationary mass, temporal displacement unit manufactured by General Electric… powered by two top-spin, dual-positive singularities that produce a(n) … off-set Tipler sinusoid.” Titor provided images and descriptive specifications of said time machine.

Additionally, Titor warned of a US civil war in 2004 and a nuclear war in 2015 – with Russia and the US on the same side. He told that he was living in a future that was a mishmash of post-apocalyptic poverty — with people in survivalist mode, growing their own foods and fending for their own survival as individuals and in small groups — and pockets of advanced technology; advanced enough, for example, to build the Tippler time machine.

Titor remained on the Art Bell BBS for about four months, answering any and all questions about his life and his machine. He did not come on like a man with an important message from a more enlightened or chastened future civilization. He was casual. Titor seemed like a regular fellow who was just passing through and felt like chatting.

To understand what was being enacted then, it’s necessary to understand the US had just passed through the 1990s — and it’s necessary to understand that decade through the prism of two occurrences — Art Bell’s popular Coast to Coast late night radio show, and American technoculture in that time. Read more “After the Technotopian Decade, Comes A Visitor. A Time Traveler”

Becoming “Reality Hackers”

 

His (Sterling’s) famous introduction for that book (Mirrorshades), describing what cyberpunk was doing in fiction — seemed to express precisely what a truly contemporary transmutational magazine should be about.

the transition from MONDO 2000 to Reality Hackers — excerpt from Freaks in the Machine MONDO 2000 in late 20th Century Technoculture (yes… still in progress)

R.U. Sirius

Some time in 1988, we made a rash decision. Despite High Frontiers relatively successful rise within the ‘zine scene (where 15,000 in sales was solid), we decided to change the name of the magazine itself to Reality Hackers.

It was my idea.

We’d been hipped to cyberpunk SF and I’d read Gibson’s Neuromancer and Sterling’s Mirrorshades collection. His famous introduction for that book, describing what cyberpunk was doing in fiction — seemed to express precisely what a truly contemporary transmutational magazine should be about.

Here are some parts of it: “The term, (cyberpunk) captures something crucial to the work of these writers, something crucial to the decade as a whole: a new kind of integration. The overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground.

“This integration has become our decade’s crucial source of cultural energy. The work of the cyberpunks is paralleled throughout the Eighties pop culture: in rock video; in the hacker underground; in the jarring street tech of hip hop and scratch music; in the synthesizer rock of London and Tokyo. This phenomenon, this dynamic, has a global range; cyberpunk is its literary incarnation…

An unholy alliance of the technical world and the world of organized dissent — the underground world of pop culture, visionary fluidity, and street-level anarchy…

For the cyberpunks… technology is visceral. It is not the bottled genie of remote Big Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate. Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often, inside our minds.

Certain central themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk. The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration. The even more powerful theme of mind invasion: brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, neurochemistry — techniques radically redefining — the nature of humanity, the nature of the self. The Eighties are an era of reassessment, of integration, of hybridized influences, of old notions shaken loose and reinterpreted with a new sophistication.

Cyberpunk favors “crammed” loose: rapid, dizzying bursts of novel information, sensory overIoad that submerges the reader in the literary equivalent of the hard-rock “wall of sound.” Well, then… Read more “Becoming “Reality Hackers””

The Cyberpunk Issue — Pull Quotes from MONDO 2000 Issue #1 (1989)

A cyberspace experience might be a simulation of an entirely imaginary world as long as the space is physically lawful and self-consistent. Autodesk

 

Bush doesn’t want us to know whether he’s telling the truth of lying, but he wants us to be sure he’s not stoned while doing it. Robert Anton Wilson

 

McLuhan seemed to be giving permission for youth culture, rock & roll, and post-print libidinal tactility to finally, mercifully dismantle linear stuffed-shirt Western Civilization. Terence McKenna

 

Gibson has produced nothing less than the underlying myth, the core legend, of the next stage of human evolution. Timothy Leary

His females are shaman ladies, sophisticated wizards, playful, humorous, hip diviners. Timothy Leary

 

Burroughs found 50’s science fiction and used it like a rusty can opener on society’s jugular. William Gibson

McLuhan’s revenge. Media monsters . . . the worst street gang you ever ran into were, at the same time, intense conceptual artists William Gibson Read more “The Cyberpunk Issue — Pull Quotes from MONDO 2000 Issue #1 (1989)”

The Invention of Reality Hackers – A “Mutazine” (1988)

Something was starting to surface. Several small subcultures were drifting together, and some of these esoteric groupings included those who were creating the next economy. Clearly, we were positioned to become the magazine of a slow baking gestalt.

 

From Freaks In The Machine: MONDO 2000 in Late 20th Century Tech Culture

by R.U. Sirius

Some time in 1988, we made a rash decision. Despite High Frontiers relatively successful rise within the ‘zine scene (where 18,000 in sales was solid), we decided to change the name of the magazine itself to Reality Hackers.

It was my idea.

We’d been hipped to cyberpunk SF and I’d read Gibson’s Neuromancer and Sterling’s Mirrorshades collection. Sterling’s famous introduction for that book, describing what cyberpunk was doing in fiction — seemed to express precisely what a truly contemporary transmutational magazine should be about. Here are some parts of it:

“The term, (cyberpunk) captures something crucial to the work of these writers, something crucial to the decade as a whole: a new kind of integration. The overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground.

“This integration has become our decade’s crucial source of cultural energy. The work of the cyberpunks is paralleled throughout the Eighties pop culture: in rock video; in the hacker underground; in the jarring street tech of hip hop and scratch music; in the synthesizer rock of London and Tokyo. This phenomenon, this dynamic, has a global range; cyberpunk is its literary incarnation…

An unholy alliance of the technical world and the world of organized dissent — the underground world of pop culture, visionary fluidity, and street-level anarchy…

For the cyberpunks… technology is visceral. It is not the bottled genie of remote Big Science boffins; it is pervasive, utterly intimate. Not outside us, but next to us. Under our skin; often, inside our minds.

Certain central themes spring up repeatedly in cyberpunk. The theme of body invasion: prosthetic limbs, implanted circuitry, cosmetic surgery, genetic alteration. The even more powerful theme of mind invasion: brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, neurochemistry — techniques radically redefining — the nature of humanity, the nature of the self. Read more “The Invention of Reality Hackers – A “Mutazine” (1988)”

Fat Stream (Short Story)

by Rudy Rucker

Images supplied by Rudy Rucker

I’m Zak, and I hang with this highly charismatic woman, Zik. We have a streamer show out of San Francisco. It’s called ZikZak. I’m the eye, and Zik is the star. She’s a natural, people can’t stop looking at her. Gestures, voice, expressions, phrasing—she reels them in.

Me being the eye means I wear a helmet with eight outward-pointing cameras, also a pinhead selfie cam aimed at my face. Our stream’s users are interactively immersed, that is, we’re sending them so much data that they’re in a reality bubble containing Zik and me. They can move around in our virtual space, and they can look any direction they please. Ambient eyeball kicks. They imagine they’re with us, a member of our posse.

Since I’m the eye of our reality bubble, the patched-together image of my body is fubar. Our streamware filters out this degraded geometry and replaces it with a textured wire-frame model of me. We use my live selfie stream for the model’s face. Not that I’m anything special to look at. A skinny single guy in his thirties. Sadly yearning for love. Never the right woman, never the right time.

Zik is the one the users watch. My hi-def cameras lock onto her. She wears a couple of pinhead selfie cams as well, filling in any bits that my cams don’t cover. Most of the users hang close to Zik—some of them watch her from an inch away. Not that she sees them. Read more “Fat Stream (Short Story)”

First MONDO 2000 Editorial (1989) Annotated (2017)


cover photo by Morgan Russell

MONDO 2000 is here to cover the leading edge in hyperculture. We’ll bring you the latest in human/technological interactive mutational forms as they happen. (COULD PROBABLY RERUN SOME TECH ARTICLES FROM MONDO 2000 MAGAZINE HERE SINCE MOST OF THE THINGS THAT WERE GONNA HAPPEN IN FIVE YEARS ARE STILL GONNA HAPPEN… IN 5 YEARS)

We’re talking Cyber-Chautauqua: bringing cyberculture to the people! Artificial awareness modules. (THE GREAT THING ABOUT 1989 IS THAT YOU COULD JUST SAY STUFF THAT SOUNDS COOL… BECAUSE NOBODY KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT ANY OF THIS SORT OF SHIT)  Visual music. Vidscan Magazines. (SOME PROJECT OF ALLAN LUNDELL & TAYLOR BARCROFT ANNOUNCED IN THIS FIRST MONDO ISSUE… IT DIDN’T MAKE IT TO ISSUE #2 … IT’S MEMORIALIZED IN DEAD MEDIA NOW  Brain-boosting technologies. (WELL, HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL FOR THINGS LIKE TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION … I’D LIKE TO TRY IT!)…    William Gibson’s Cyberspace Matrix — fully realized! (SPEAKING OF BILL GIBSON, HIS ATTITUDE TOWARDS INTELLIGENCE INCREASE THROUGH DRUGS AND TECHNOLOGY IS THAT (PARAPHRASING) UNTIL HE SEES SOME IDIOT SUDDENLY WALKING AROUND BEING A GENIUS, HE’S NOT TOO INTERESTED… WHICH REMINDS ME OF LAWNMOWER MAN) Read more “First MONDO 2000 Editorial (1989) Annotated (2017)”

William Gibson & Timothy Leary Discuss Neuromancer Game That Never Was (Audio)

 

cover photo by Morgan Russell

We were working on our first Mondo 2000 issue. It was going to be the cyberpunk theme issue and we’d gotten interviews with the major cyberpunk SF writers, except William Gibson. Gibson’s management wouldn’t put us in touch with him. And then we heard that he was coming to the Bay Area and we turned up the heat, but his press agent had him set up for interviews with major outlets only and we were nobody and it was just a brick wall. So somehow, publisher Queen Mu wound up on the phone with Timothy Leary complaining about this and Leary offered to let us transcribe a tape of him and Gibson in conversation about ideas for the game spinoff that would accompany the release of the film of Neuromancer all of this being planned then — back in 1989 (actually, plans began in ’86). Leary was going to lead the development of the game… at least conceptually. (Well, it was all conceptual, ultimately.) Read more “William Gibson & Timothy Leary Discuss Neuromancer Game That Never Was (Audio)”