I got a surprise email from a stranger yesterday. It read, in its entirety, so:
How appropriate that a smug, shitty, rightwing publication like “Butterflies and Wheels” shares the name of a sentence in a book that is key to the plot of an idiotic movie like “Shattered”. Both the ‘zine and the movie are worthless.
No greeting or signature or anything stuffy like that, just that rather random observation. It made me laugh a good deal, I must say. I also forwarded it to Jeremy, knowing it would cause him to grin sharkishly with delight. He’s always wanted abusive mail about B&W. In fact it’s really very sad: he thought there would be abusive email, he thought it would pour in and keep on pouring, he thought B&W would attract hostility and contempt as soon as anyone noticed it. He was looking forward to it. A month or so before he started creating B&W ex nihilo he had a nice little exchange about something at TPM Online with some guy in Prague, full of rough and tumble and raillery; he told me that soon I would be luxuriating in that sort of thing too. But…that was six years ago, and it never really happened. There haven’t been any really furious emails. Some mild dissents and criticisms, yes, but nothing like what Jeremy was expecting. Six years of waiting – so you can imagine how pleased I was to be able to forward him a genuine example at last.
Jeremy asked if he could reply, and I (being a byword for generosity, and besides I hadn’t been planning to reply) said sure. You’ll be wondering who sent the abrupt little note. It was the Unrepentant Marxist himself, Louis Proyect. Jeremy’s affable reply went as follows:
It’s always lovely to receive fan mail from sophisticated and erudite readers such as yourself.
I’ve seen it said many times of you that you should stick to film reviewing. But I say no, Louis, no! I can see a role for you after the revolution – don’t worry, it’s just around the corner! – as a kind of ambassador of goodwill; a communist love machine, if you like, fostering a common humanity wherever you go, bringing joy to the masses, that sort of thing.
I know what you’re thinking. Nobody takes you seriously, right (except maybe that strange fella with the odd surname at Lenin’s Tomb – though come to think of it that might be you)? Don’t despair, I’m sure that will change! A bit of collective ownership, and you’ll be right up there in the pantheon of communist greats: Trofim Lysenko, Nadia Comaneci, Falco… and Louis Proyect.
Hey, it’s even possible that someday somebody will read your blog. Okay maybe that’s pushing it, but hope, Louis, hope!
Anyway, my friend – comrade even – please keep in touch; it has been a joy.
Jerry (fraternal, of course – though, if I may say so, you look damned sexy in that picture of yours – xxx)
The unrepentant one replied, as elegantly as before:
Neocon scumbag, your “philosophical” credentials are one rung beneath those of Dennis Miller and Michelle Malkin. I once told Alan Sokal that there are a lot of creepy, crawly things drawn to his writings, you included.
Impressive, isn’t it. Substantive; well-reasoned; cogent; rigorous but civil; erudite. How could either of us not be persuaded? Jeremy admitted defeat:
Dear Louis, You Old Goat
You seem troubled, my friend. This is not good!
Has your life not turned out as you hoped? I imagine as you rage against the dying of the light that you look back and wonder whether you should have taken an alternative course. Perhaps you wish that you’d chosen charkhas rather than dialectics, Himalayan goat-herding rather than… what is it you do exactly?
But I say again, Louis, despair not! There’s still time. There are projects to complete. Indigenous peoples to patronize. Small archives to create. Your life has meaning, Louis, you must believe it. Do not fear the existential void, my friend, for you are… <--- dramatic pause - an unrepentant Marxist!
This is lovely, isn’t it – that we get to talk like this.
I’ve lunched with Alan (Sokal) a couple of times. He never mentioned you. Odd that…
The UM shot back:
How are you spending the riches accumulated from sales of “Little Book of Big Ideas”, by the way?
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #756,628 in Books
I love how you are obsessed with how many people read or don’t read my blog. This kind of Norman Podhoretz desire to “make it” is an odd obsession of snot-nosed ambitious neocons like yourself. Too bad you don’t have Podhoretz’s dubious talents otherwise you too might get invited to pontificate like your hero Hitchens.
And there the matter will rest, because Jeremy is content to let him have the last word. But it’s interesting that people feel free to do this kind of thing, and it’s also interesting when people on the left, who presumably think they are working for a better world with more peace and harmony and solidarity, think the road to utopia is paved with vituperation. Proyect is very reminiscent of Bill Donohue of the ‘Catholic League,’ a guy so full of Christian compassion and mercy and agape that he tries hard to get students expelled and professors fired or perhaps kicked out of Minnesota, for trivial and invalid reasons. That’s why we thought the exchange worth publishing. It’s interesting that supposedly idealistic types give themselves permission to engage in various kinds of unprovoked bullying.
(I should add that I don’t feel the smallest compunction about publishing Proyect’s emails, because I never requested them.)