14 October 2003

The Day of the Locust

Pleasure in the humiliation of others - Schwarzenegger's lifelong compulsion - is the textbook definition of sadism. It is also the daily ration of right-wing hate radio. As governor he becomes the summation of all smaller sadisms, like those of Roger Hedgecock that in turn manipulate the 'reptile within' of millions of outwardly affluent but inwardly tormented commuter-consumers. In their majesty, the predominantly white voters of California's inland empires and gated suburbs have anointed a clinically Hitlerite personality as their personal savior.

The last word about all this should, of course, belong to Nathanael West. In his classic novel The Day of the Locust (1939), he clearly foresaw that fandom was an incipient version of fascism. On the edge of Hollywood's neon plains, he envisioned the unassuageable hungers of California's petty bourgeoisie.

'They were savage and bitter, especially the middle-aged and the old . . . Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize they've been tricked and burn with resentment. .. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies.'

Fandom scares me sometimes. The howls of outrage by bookfen over the storyline changes in Peter Jackson's films of The Lord of the Rings have to be heard to be believed. Why are we busy debating this tripe when there is a real world to argue over? Why do completely rational individuals suddenly morph into RUDBs without warning when football is discussed? Why do people learn Klingon? Why can I mumble in Sindarin? What does it all mean?

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