November 13, 2006

Two Words about the Nietzsche Comic

I didn't talk about this last week when it happened, and I was not planning on talking about it this week either, but Zach Nicolazzo's guest column today is, I think, an important must-read. Zach works in ORL and therefore has, as the column's called, a different perspective on the issue.

The other thing I want to say is that I've heard Drew Lerman is in a freshman seminar called Nietzsche, Freud, Kafka, and that it was his frustration about his professor's treatment of Nietzsche that led to the comic. Apparently, Drew believes he has the correct view of Nietzsche's will to power as a will to dominate. I know he thinks it's liberal academic revisionism, but that's just not the case. The concept of the will to power is not about domination; it's about self-mastery in a non-ascetic, non-subservient sense. That's a tricky distinction perhaps, but it's the difference between being a spontaneous, active and vital human actor who recognizes the presence of other human actors, and being a megalomaniac driven only by the control of others. Lerman's disregard for "liberal academic" scholarship is troublesome to me because it denies the rather obvious fact that many scholars, over many years, have worked very diligently to do justice to the actuality of Nietzsche's thought, and not the Fascist appropriation of that thought. Lerman rejects the very idea that scholars really can transcend any desires they have to warp something to their own ends, and instead just to do a good job of interpreting a very difficult and historically fraught text. It bothers me a great deal that, as a freshman, Lerman is already arrogant enough just to dismiss the function and results of good scholarship simply because he disagrees with them (uninformedly). It bothers me more that his arrogance has resulted in such a flip comic that has been placed before our community.


  1. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Nicolazzo's column is pretty content-free.

    Drew Lerman made a joke about sexual assault, and as we all know at Dartmouth, jokes about sexual assault cannot go unanswered. So Nicolazzo stepped up and said "jokes about sexual assault are bad." Regardless of whether he's right (he is), I doubt that he spent more than 5 minutes typing it. And, of course, it ends with the PC party line "[n]ot only am I troubled as a man dedicated to promoting the end of sexual violence, but also as a concerned member of the Dartmouth community." It sounds like something written from a template, rather than anything he actually thought about.

    Your larger point about Lerman and Nietzsche is much more interesting. There's nothing inherently wrong with questioning a professor's motives or his good faith in his presentation of a topic, but when you don't understand something well enough to evaulate a professor's treatment of it, you should really STFU.

  2. As a man at Dartmouth, Nicolazzo should be worried about the comic, but not for the reasons he posited. Let's think about the actual event depicted in the comic. The female involved is drunk enough to be vomiting, but the male is drunk enough to be conversing with a long dead German philosopher, and, as can be gleaned from the text, was clearly incapable of making reasoned decisions by himself. It seems, even, that he was feeling societal pressure to not let down a girl who was "all into him," and perhaps those pressures (as well as being drunk enough to have a hallucination of Nietzsche) influenced his decision to have sex. So basically, we are dealing with a case of two incredibly intoxicated people, neither of whom are in the right frame of mind to be making decisions. What worries me is that no one seems to care that he was just as intoxicated as she was, and that neither are in the right frame of mind to make decisions. This poor kid is not only going to have sex that he'll regret tomorrow, he's going to be accused of rape because he had sex with a drunk girl... no one caring that he was at least as drunk and incapable of making decisions as she was when it happened.

  3. Anonymous4:02 PM

    This reminds me... we should have a link to the comic

    The guy looks sort of like Bryan Johnson from AC/DC.

  4. I'm not sure about the claim that he's frustrated with liberal academic revisionism; he's a self-professed liberal. Not that that necessarily keeps him from being able to comment on the issue. However, there are plenty of other moral dilemmas (cheating on a test, theft from a fraternity, etc) that are equally topical and could have made his point just as well, without inciting the type of outrage that I'm sure he wasn't looking for.

  5. Travis12:40 PM

    I have to say I disagree with the notion that sexual assault is off limits when it comes humor. "Life is Beautiful" turns the Holocaust into a touching and poignant comedy. "Borat" jokes about the murder of Jews and homosexuals in order to expose the sickness of American culture.

    Lerman's comic was not funny, but not because it dealt with sexual assault. It was not funny because it sucked.

  6. Yo, this Drew's name sounds familiar. Didn't he draw comics for the Free Press?

    Also, Travis+1. The comic blows.

  7. Travis12:15 PM

    Nick- yeah now that you mention it, I think he did draw for us. I think he was a friend of Meli's from high school or some such connection.

    And I think I am at this point more irritated by all the ridiculous drama surrounding the comic than by the comic itself. Lerman is not the rape-loving son of a bitch people are trying to make him out to be. He's just a kid in over his head who needs to work on his comedic stylings.

  8. Anonymous5:56 PM

    Not only does Nicolazzo being Drew's community director make his writing the article totally inappropriate, he also missed the point completely. Drew is not making any bold statement about his philosophical views. He happens to be an incredibly brilliant young man (if one were to talk with him before making flippant remarks about his age and mental ability one would realize this), and it would be ludicrous to believe for one second that anyone working in public media would use their work as a means for expressing his justification for rape. I know for a fact that he discussed the entire situation with his professor, and the the comic doesn't stem from any sort of conflicting views between the two. Rather, it's an exercise in complete absurdity. To take this comic as serious commentary, you have to totally ignore the fact that Nietzsche is drinking in a frat basement. Maybe I haven't been to the right frat on the right night, but I've yet to be approached by 19th century philosophers saying "yo dude".

    Because this is a personal blog you have the right to post "this is what I heard" information; but to blindly analyze something based off of incorrect information to which you have no connection make you come off looking arrogant and uninformed to friends of the accused.

  9. Anonymous7:45 PM

    Based on the facts that (1) Lerman is in a Nietzsche seminar, and (2) he said what he said in the comic, I think Seal was right to draw the conclusions he did. These comics are presented to the public without any context, so the public is entitled to read them without any context and draw its conclusions accordingly.

    I don't think anyone believes that Lerman was trying to justify rape. What he's been accused of is making a joke that could potentially be read as undermining the seriousness of rape. No matter how absurd the comic is, or how clear it is that it's not out to justify rape, Dartmouth's administration feels itself to be under a strong obligation to get its panties in a twist and to be offended.

    Enter the idiot Nicolazzo, with the usual garbage about being a "concerned member of the Dartmouth community," etc. If you say the word rape or anything similar with a hint of levity, someone at Dartmouth will be calling for your head. Context isn't relevant to these people.

  10. Anonymous11:36 PM

    Yeah, Little Green Blogger you are so smart and insightful! Yeah! You got it!

  11. Gott Ist Tot10:55 AM

    What an interesting controversy. I have two and a half comments.

    1. Mr. Seal's post misses the point of the comic, which takes a facetious tone, and is in fact saying the exact opposite of what he thinks it's saying. If anything, the comic is critiquing the idea of "liberal revisionism" as a dismissal of non-fascist interpretations of Nietzsche, not supporting it.

    The comic attempts to express this by having a drunken frat boy inclined to sexual assault imagine Nietzsche telling him it's okay by invoking the idea of "liberal revisionism."

    1.5. ... but Lerman expressed himself poorly. The comic's a mess conceptually, and it's not surprising that it confused people in a number of ways.

    2. I'm so glad I escaped college before this repressive, upside-down idea of liberalism took over. All this over a comic? Sounds to me like the men at Dartmouth live in a perpetual state of fear that they may cross some invisble PC boundary and be castrated in the public square. Go Gators.

  12. If anything, the comic is critiquing the idea of "liberal revisionism" as a dismissal of non-fascist interpretations of Nietzsche, not supporting it.

    Actually, that's exactly what I'm saying. I recognize, however, that what I said was unclear, but let me help you unpack what I said.

    The sentence at the heart of your confusion is probably this:

    "I know he thinks it's liberal academic revisionism, but that's just not the case."

    I really fucked up this sentence, but here is what I meant to say:

    I know that Lerman may believe that the view that Nietzsche was not a fascist is mere academic revisionism, but he is wrong. It is the case that the current view is correct and Lerman's view is false. Furthermore, Lerman's flippant appraisal of the current understanding of Nietzsche is troubling because it shows an enormous and uninformed arrogance.

    As for your other point:
    If the men of this campus are really, as you say, "liv[ing] in a perpetual state of fear that they may cross some invisble PC boundary and be castrated in the public square," then they're not very manly, are they? Maybe you could teach them a thing or two.

    Go non-fascists.

  13. Gott Ist Tot3:34 PM

    Hmmm. Now I think *I* was unclear. Sorry. Let me try again.

    What I'm saying is that I don't think Lerman *was* labeling the view that Nietzsche was not a fascist are "mere academic revisionism."

    I think he was (poorly) mocking that view by having a drunken partygoer express it. The drunken character is imagining Nietzsche telling him that he, (Nietzsche) really *should* be intrepreted in a fascist way, so as to justify his (the partygoer's) inclination to abuse the young woman.

    I agree the whole thing is flip, arrogant, and miscalculated in terms of social sensitivity, not to mention unclear, but I think that if you asked Mr. Lerman, you'd find that he would not favor the fascist interpretation of Nietzsche.

    ... as for my perception of liberalism being perverted into hysterical PC-ism at Dartmouth, perhaps you're right that it takes more of a man to negotiate those waters than to avoid them!