Jared Lee Loughner's Nietzsche
January 18, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe


 
So over on the 'Also In Slate' (so much for that metaphor, huh?) area slate has a picture of Loughner right under a picture of Eisenhower and it's kind of funny how your expression can totally change the message of your hairstyle.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:49 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


has a picture of Loughner right under a picture of Eisenhower

It's funny if you switch the captions.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:54 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would be genuinely surprised if Loughner read any of those books he claimed to.

I say this as one who is well-acquainted with the ways of faking seminar readings, both as faker and fakee.
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


This, then, really is a kind of nihilism, only not the kind that people think Nietzsche was guilty of. It's the kind of nihilism that Nietzsche was trying to warn us about, and help us overcome.

Bingo. Too bad this had to come after four long, stereotyping, lazy-snark-ridden paragraphs about the "attraction of Nietzsche to socially maladjusted young men".
posted by vorfeed at 2:57 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


He's not an 'angry young man'. He was bugfuck crazy.
posted by empath at 2:59 PM on January 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Good article, but I agree with Capt. Renault - Loughner's a classic bullshit artist/bluffer. He didn't do his assigned readings for class, much less read anything for himself. Pseudo-intellectual all the way.
posted by facetious at 3:01 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


He's not an 'angry young man'. He was bugfuck crazy.

Can't he be both? "Bugfuck crazy" doesn't necessarily mean violently angry, and vice versa.
posted by muddgirl at 3:03 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


To quote Ellis Paul: Who killed John Lennon? A noone.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Capt. Renault: “I would be genuinely surprised if Loughner read any of those books he claimed to.”

Well, I imagine he 'read' The Will To Power. The trouble is that (a) The Will To Power is certainly not a book by Nietzsche and (b) he probably 'read' it the way people often read Nietzsche books – by picking an aphorism here, an aphorism there, etc. You read Nietzsche all at once or you don't get it at all. That's one of his masks, and unfortunately people don't seem to like seeing past it.
posted by koeselitz at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


It could have been titled

Nietzsche: Why the philosopher is misunderstood by just about goddamn everyone who's ever quoted him.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:18 PM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


Great post.

I think the article quite accurate - Nietzsche is popular with confused young undergraduates pretty much as described. But I think it includes women too, these days, and they're not always that troubled. Just a bit muddled.

Mostly they grow out of it, which is the cure for most education.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2011


You read Nietzsche all at once or you don't get it at all. That's one of his masks, and unfortunately people don't seem to like seeing past it.

Because it sounds like a lot of work, and if you put the work into it, what's the point of striking the pose? You've already done the work.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fun fact, IIRC: David Bowie, when he performed at The Backyard in Austin, make a joke in his opening about once being 19, morose, and carring around a book of Nietzche in his pocket.
posted by Nixy at 3:28 PM on January 18, 2011


You read Nietzsche all at once or you don't get it at all.

Either I disagree or you're using terms loosely. I know people who are multi-published Nietzsche scholars who haven't read either Fünf Vorreden zu fünf ungeschriebenen Büchern or Über die Zukunft unserer Bildungsanstalten, and we were explicitly told in a grad-school Nietzsche course not to bother with the Homer lecture, the Napoleon III thing, and various other early works as well as those above.

It would be very unlikely for a pretentious teenager in the US to read only The Will to Power, just because it's so much easier to get one's hands on a copy of Beyond Good and Evil. All the pretentious teens I have ever known who talked about how awesome Nietzsche was without actually understanding anything about Nietzsche were basing that on a cursory reading of Beyond Good and Evil.

Or worse, they were talking about second-hand Nietzsche as acquired from white-power websites (or publications, back in my own teen years).

That said, I agree with you about The Will to Power and think it should have a warning label on it that says something like "THIS IS NOT THE NIETZSCHE YOU'RE LOOKING FOR, BUT HIS ANTI-SEMITIC AND TENDENTIOUS SISTER."
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:34 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Enough of these blood libels against Nietzsche! We can't blame the actions of a single deranged individual on his rhetoric, even if the original cover of Nietzsche contra Wagner did feature crosshairs over the composer's face. (Actually, it was a surveyor's symbol, although you won't read that in the lamestream media.)
posted by uosuaq at 3:40 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


This reminds me of a favorite project that I began but never finished: reading all of Nietzsche in writing order, and watching him become slowly, progressively more insane, and then descend into bugfuckcrazy.

What of this works I have read and think I understand always strike me as so different from what people think of when they say the name that I wonder if I wandered into an alternate reality where he said something entirely different in this reality than mine.
posted by strixus at 3:42 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it not the fate of most "great thinkers" to be seriously misrepresented by the afterworld.
From Adam Smith to Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. A lifetimes work often becomes abbreviated to an easily understood cypher or cliché. Sometimes even an adjective.
Everyone knows what Kafkaesque means. And Orwellian.
Saves reading the books I suppose.
posted by jan murray at 3:43 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I, too, tried to read Nietzsche as a teenager, and came away with the idea that I'd have to learn German and probably Latin and Greek, to boot, and read piles and piles of philosophy books to even begin to scratch the surface of the knowledge needed to fully understand Nietzsche, plus all the historical details I'd need to place his thought properly in his time. After all of this, even then I wouldn't be certain if I could grasp his viewpoint. And this is why I chose the career of massage therapy.
posted by eegphalanges at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


Sidhedevil: “Either I disagree or you're using terms loosely.”

The latter. I only mean: the only way to really read Nietzsche is to read a whole work all at once, slowly and carefully, without picking and choosing an aphorism here and an aphorism there. He takes on a style – these short, bulleted paragraphs – that is not only easy to read as a series of disconnected thoughts, but encourages that kind of reading. But the trouble is that on examination you begin to see a very carefully-drawn web of thoughts and ideas. And you can only being to piece that together by reading an entire work carefully all the way through. Given that Nietzsche was quite given to irony, you risk misunderstanding completely if you don't read carefully in that way. And, of course, that's probably what he intended in many cases.

“It would be very unlikely for a pretentious teenager in the US to read only The Will to Power, just because it's so much easier to get one's hands on a copy of Beyond Good and Evil. All the pretentious teens I have ever known who talked about how awesome Nietzsche was without actually understanding anything about Nietzsche were basing that on a cursory reading of Beyond Good and Evil.”

Hrm. Yes, but libraries are diverse. I only assumed that because the article makes that claim. I guess I don't know much about Loughner's reading habits, but the only work the article mentions him being interested in is The Will To Power. And I am probably biased because that's the first work of his that I read.

And I should say that it took a long time to unlearn all the false stuff I picked up that way. I totally agree about the warning label thing.
posted by koeselitz at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2011


Koeselitz, you mean he might have deliberatly intended to mislead stupid people via their stupidity if they didn't pay attention?

How very RAWilsonian. Or maybe even Crowleyan.
posted by localroger at 3:56 PM on January 18, 2011


Note to aspiring mass murderers: cite Derrida as an inspiration. Reporters will look at the conclusions you drew from his work and say "Enh. Seems to be about as valid as any other interpretation of his work."
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 4:03 PM on January 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


News reports are also discussing how Loughner's favorite books included the Communist Manifesto and Hitler's Mein Kampf, as if that is of importance. What isn't realized by media and most of their viewers is that neither truly teaches about assassination. In fact, Mein Kampf speaks about how easily controlled both the media and the public are, which just burns of irony (seeing as mentioning the name of the book is semi-blasphemous).

I just hate the connotations put on some possibly good works by society, mostly caused by people who have never even held a copy of the book they are discussing (reference Sidhedevil's previous comment)

Rant aside, I really like the style of this article. Tongue-in-cheek to a perfect degree.
posted by MHPlost at 4:05 PM on January 18, 2011


The Antichrist
posted by clavdivs at 4:25 PM on January 18, 2011


Otto: Nice fish, Ken. You know what Nietzsche said about animals? "They were God's second blunder."

Ken: Well, you t-t-t-tell him from me that I kuh-kuh, I kuh-kuh..
posted by bwg at 4:36 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]




I really enjoyed the snark of the article, especially his summary of Genealogy of Morals which we read in my philosophy class last year.

In The Genealogy of Morals it's Nietzsche examining the real history of that Bible stuff your lame pastor barks at you in church (which you understand as saying two main things: no sex, no touching yourself) and proving that morality originates not in God but in the will to power—ancient priests seizing power over ancient masters by guilt-tripping them about the suffering of slaves. (Christianity is just "slave morality." So much for that dilemma.)

Man, if only we knew that, we could've just skipped over that entire month and a half we spent on that book.
posted by Deflagro at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2011


Friedrich Nietzsche - The Original Rockstar?
(heh)
posted by clavdivs at 4:54 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


afishcalledwanda
posted by clavdivs at 4:54 PM on January 18, 2011


This article is a somewhat breezy but reasonable overview of the Neitzsche conundrum. The author knows what he is talking about.

Of course, Nietzsche scholars will tell you not to run too far with these little wisecracks. You need to understand them in the context of his larger body of work, in which he often circles back to themes, again and again, revising and even contradicting his earlier writings.

This is where Nietzsche scholars like Heidegger and Kaufmann contextualize things.

But not Andy Kaufman. He wasn't a Nietzsche scholar.
posted by ovvl at 5:02 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Andy Kaufman was a Nietzschean. Here was a man who bent reality around him like the gravity lensing effect of a black hole. He didn't just create a table of values, he built the whole goddamn dining room set out of old growth wood he willed into being with fucking psychic power.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:36 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nietzsche, like Bukowski, Palahniuk, Kerouac and Salinger, is an author unfortunate in his readership. I try to remember this, as well as to remember the posthumous influence of his rotten Nazi sister, before I pass judgment on his philosophy.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:28 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Manichaean paranoia
posted by clavdivs at 6:52 PM on January 18, 2011


I read the New York Times personality profile on the assassin, not Slate's. To me the most interesting item was not his reading list; it was his obsession with lucid dreaming. Nietzsche is great fun to read, especially the early stuff; not so much fun to discuss with most people I have known. Bertrand Russell's comment was the classic.
posted by bukvich at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2011


"His followers have had their innings, but we may hope that it is
coming rapidly to an end."

(conclusion of Chapter 25, titled "Nietzsche")

from Bertrand Russell's "A History of Western Philosophy,"
posted by clavdivs at 8:01 PM on January 18, 2011


I always felt like Nietzsche was someone who was a) brilliant and b) crazier than leopard pants. When this author talks about him "revising" himself, it always felt like he was two steps away from sitting on the corner in his own pee arguing with himself.

But he was obviously smarter than I'll ever be, so maybe I shouldn't judge.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:02 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


a man who 'learns' from a fictional toothache is barky.
posted by clavdivs at 8:36 PM on January 18, 2011


The article was okay, but would have been better if had just been about Nietzsche and common misinterpretations by "angry young men", without the hamfisted connection to Jared Loughner for some kind of forced topicality.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 9:08 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nietzsche is aphoristic even when he's being systematic, and when he's being aphoristic, his writing is simply unmatched in its beauty and mayhem, its uncanny mix of compression and infinite suggestion.

Sounds like this Nietzsche dude needs a Mefi account.
posted by sour cream at 9:23 PM on January 18, 2011


"Tereza keeps appearing before my eyes. I see her sitting on the stump petting Karenin's head and ruminating on man-kind's debacles. Another image also comes to mind: Nietzsche leaving his hotel in Turin. Seeing a horse and a coachman beating it with a whip, Nietzsche went up to the horse and, before the coachman's very eyes, put his arms around the horse's neck and burst into tears.

"That took place in 1889, when Nietzsche, too, had removed himself from the world of people. In other words, it was at the time when his mental illness had just erupted. But for that reason I feel his gesture has broad implications: Nietzsche was trying to apologize to the horse for Descartes. His lunacy (that is, hi final break with mankind) began at the very moment he burst into tears over the horse.

"And that is the Nietzsche I love, just as I love Tereza with the mortally ill dog resting his head in her lap. I see them one next to the other: both stepping down from the road along which mankind, 'the master and proprietor of nature,' marches onward." -- Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being [1984]
posted by blucevalo at 10:02 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.

Wanda: Yes, they do Otto, they just don't understand it.
posted by bwg at 12:34 AM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


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