SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
August 7, 2016

Nothing is Coming. Nothing is Already Here

 

Okay, I apologize for going back to all this yet again, but it seems I’m on kind of a roll. At the heart of it, I think I’m trying really, really hard to talk myself into writing that damned book I mentioned last week.

            For no other reason than simple curiosity and boredom, yesterday afternoon I did something I’ve never ever done before. I went on the internet and typed “Nihilist Workers Party” into a search engine to see what might pop up. My guess is I’d never done this before because I knew what I’d find. Usually when I do things like that, run a search on some obscurity or another that interests me, like the Russian Meat Squats or Tex Johnson and his Six-Shooters or W. Lee Wilder, I’m disappointed to find the only things that come up are things I’d written on the topics myself over the years. I was expecting the same thing here, just links to three dozen of my own stories and nothing more. Who the hell else would have anything to say about the NWP, right? Back in the day some of our zany antics had gotten us written up in a few publications like the Wisconsin State Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and Time, which often felt compelled to drop in descriptors like “jerks” or “terrorists” along the way, but that was in a pre-internet era. I was certain it had all since been long forgotten. But like I said I was curious and bored. With a sigh I hit the return key, already wondering what I was going to do for the rest of the day.

            So imagine my dismay when I discovered that the Nihilist Workers Party, which Grinch and I founded three decades ago as a means of livening up a slow afternoon, suddenly had it’s own Facebook page. That was news to me and Grinch both. Appropriately enough, the page was empty. Still, what the fuck? I guess in this day and age it’s just to be expected. More insane than even that, “Nihilist Workers Party” had been taken as the name of some miserable godforsaken musical outfit consisting of what sounds like one guy and a Casio. Under our name he’s been doodling out sterile, unimaginative electronic instrumental ditties before posting them on line. Now I’m trying to decide if it’s the perfect nihilist gesture, or the embodiment of anti-nihilism. I’d probably say the former had he not stolen our fucking name. He’s no Pain Amplifiers, that’s for goddamn sure.

            Worse and funnier still, the NWP had been cited not only on sites about the history of nihilism as a philosophical and political movement, but also in serious academic tomes about philosophy, radical student movements, and, my own personal favorite, educational policy (!). Don’t quite fathom the reasoning behind that last one, and lord knows I’m not going to read it to find out, but I’ll accept it. Once again the operative question here becomes what the fuck, right? Odder yet, most of the books had been published within the past ten years, and they all seemed to give us much more credibility than we ever gave ourselves, the poor deluded bastards.

            When I mentioned this to Grinch, he responded simply: “This is a stunning indictment of the paucity of new ideas in contemporary academic research.” which I guess means we can chalk it up as yet another glorious victory in the long and endless struggle.

            But that was only the beginning. Over the course of the past year or so, I’ve pointed out on several occasions here that as the inevitable trajectory of the current presidential race began making itself abundantly clear, it was also becoming abundantly clear it wasn’t the Democrats or Republicans, but the original platform of the NWP that was poised to become, by mandate of the citizenry, officially instituted as American public policy, no matter who won. And wouldn’t you know it? That very same idea has suddenly come into vogue, cropping up in editorials appearing on much bigger and schmantzier websites than this one, with much higher traffic volumes. It goes without saying, naturally, that rarely do these editorial writers see fit to credit me, Grinch, or the NWP by name. Why give credit where credit is due, right? But you’d at least think they’d have the common decency to send us a whopping check for making their jobs and thinking easier.

            One New York-based writer who shall remain unnamed, one who has a presence on a number of slick, high-profile news and politics sites and undoubtedly gets paid far better than I do, has made a cottage industry in recent months, it seems, of aping what he reads here. He gets away with it though, considering he writes for liberal publications, by slapping the nihilist label on Republicans alone, clearly not comprehending it’s not a partisan issue, that the political show is merely a reflection of the street-level culture at large. He also gets away with it by dropping in all sorts of “facts” and “quotes” and “names,” none of which concern me much. Beneath all the flim-flam and chicanery, his core argument remains wearily familiar, even if he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. The real kicker is that he seems to be using “nihilist” as some kind of insult, as if it was a bad thing.

            Another writer, this one also a professor at an Ivy League university, likewise ran with the nihilist agenda on another fancy site, likewise applied it to the GOP exclusively, but with the added “hmmm . . .” factor of applying it to the American public as well, while citing Nietzsche.

            Yes, well.

            Forgive me for being a little paranoid and bitter, though I’d admittedly be less so if some of those damned whopping checks started showing up in the mail. There are two ways of looking at all this. The first is that Grinch and I are being ripped off wholesale, though even then I guess I should be grateful someone’s actually reading this. The other is to trot out the tired old “Ten Minutes Ahead of My Time” bugaboo that’s cursed me my entire career. As noted in earlier columns, maybe it’s just taken this long for the rest of the world—including it’s snooty, highly-paid commentators—to catch up with us and recognize we laid it all out long before anyone else imagined the country would become this deeply and hilariously stupid.

 

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