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Look, I understand that some people’s projects are so scaldingly pertinent that they are as it were under a sort of quasi-divine mandate to break the rules of, well, rational discourse, conversation, critique and response…

But everyone who’s been blogging for a bit knows what sort of bullshit it is to respond to someone’s post without attribution – without a link or even an unlinked mention of the post or blogger that you’re responding to. Not only is it disrespectful, but it leaves the responded to party in a weird position of not knowing what to respond to or whether to respond in the first place. It’s the internet equivalent of the sucker punch in a crowd, and it’s the sort of thing people do when they want to lash out but they’re scared of the consequences of doing so.

(Before anyone responds that not linking to your interlocutors is some sort of exercise in performative “facelessness,” let’s be clear that Mark is happy to link to those who agree with them… Facelessness simply isn’t the point.)

Anyway, so Mark wrote a response… to something. Whether to me or someone else or some paranoid fantasy of a generic group of antagonists, we’ll never know unless he tells us. We can only guess. He’s already done this once, in a post who’s addressee was obvious even to the uninitiated. Again, it’s an uncourageous tactic from a guy who likes to lecture his interlocutors on what is and isn’t acceptably punk in these conversations. And this from someone who’s constantly lecturing all of us about our failures to exhibit a set of refutable claims for which we can be held accountable!

I’m not even sure whether this bears addressing at this point, and for a few reasons. First of all, Mark’s just now said that he’s not really interested in hearing critiques of his argument, er, project. For the record, I can’t distinguish at this point between the Troll and the Grey Vampire, so I’m lumping them both together. My suspicion is that both simply mean “haters,” “those who disagree with Mark.”

I would agree that [Trolls] pose a threat to themselves, but in some ways they are more toxic to those with projects than the trolls. It’s quite easy to identify and distance oneself from a troll: once you’ve established they are a troll, sever all contact with them and – this is imperative – don’t read anything they write. This requires a little discipline, but not much, and after a while you’ll completely forget the upset they caused. For what is usually a very short period, trolls cause a great deal of incendiary, fruitless antagonism, but it seldom leaves much of a lasting trace. The final victory over them is achieved by simply persisting in the pursuit of a project, refusing to allow yourself to be ensnared in the self-doubts and impotent autocritique that disables them and which they seek to transmit to you.

Hmmm…. Again, I understand that we’re supposed to sign on against rational conversation, but doesn’t this seem like the sort of thing you would say when you’re not so much resolute in your ideas, single-mindedly committed to your project, but rather scared shitless that someone’s found a hole or holes, someone is asking questions that you simply don’t have the guts or brains or honesty to answer? I mean, if you’re commitment is as solid and vivid as Mark claims his is, surely you can allow yourself to read the responses of others without suffering some sort of debilitating panic attack….

Here he is, again, on the Grey Vampire:

The debilitating effects of the Grey Vampire are often much harder to identify and combat. They are ‘friendly’, they seem to be positive, they make their points respectfully – what’s to dislike? Ultimately, though, their stance is precisely the same as the Troll – they are profoundly suspicious of commitments and projects, except that their anti-productivity comes out as sunny scepticism instead of outright aggression. One of their favourite tactics is the devil’s advocate appeal to what someone else, not them, might think. Might not things be seen in another way? (This would be completely different if they were making a point that they were prepared to subjectively identify with: then we could get somewhere, then there would be an actual difference of positions, instead of one position confronting an infinite series of movable obstacles and promissory notes.) Another tactic – particularly effective at wasting time and energy this one – is the claim that all they want is a few clarifications, as if they are just on the brink of being persuaded, when in fact the real aim is to lure you into the swamp of sceptical inertia and mild depression in which they languish.

Grey Vampires are not a standing reserve because – this is the awful tragedy, the terrible revelation that eventually strikes you about them – they will never be mobilised. Like the Troll, their alibi – to themselves as much as to others (and to the big Other) – is that they are always about to do something major – their scepticism, equivocation and vacillation is just a temporary phase, soon to be set aside. But the Grey Vampire never has much of a sense of urgency. That’s partly because they don’t feel that they have to justify themselves to the world (sometimes there is a class dimension here – the GVs tend to have an implacable core of inner confidence which is the birthright of the dominant classes). They worry about their vacillating drift, but not too much. They have doubts, but – sadly in many ways – those doubts will never harden into a breakdown, any kind of subjective destitution.

The fact of the matter is that there are no conversational slots to fit into other than fawning agreement apparently. Respectful criticism is in fact disrespectful passive-aggressiveness, but disrespectful criticism won’t even be countenanced. Just as with the anti-humanism he’s taken up, it seems to me to be a case of someone who’s read a bit of philosophy and theory but simply doesn’t understand the subtlety of the claims advanced therein – or has allowed himself to get carried away by them such that they shut down thought rather than advancing it. “Anti-humanism” isn’t a fantasy of the annihilation of the human, just as materially-minded discourse critique isn’t aimed at the terminal disruption of discourse altogether. The analysis of social structures and their deformative effect upon discourse isn’t meant to be employed as a sort of defensive wall, an affirmative action programme for the bad ideas of the (self-positioned) abject. Anyone who disagrees with Mark disagrees because they are the over-confident agents of power and class. Sorry, though. Whatever the social dynamics at play, it could be that your ideas are simply wrong.

It’s all very strange. Mark and his friends take a rather ungrounded poke at Badiou, and when others respond, he writes a series of posts against people taking pokes at Great Thinkers like himself. He claims that academics are always locked up in the meta and passive-aggressive contentless argument, yet he responds to critique with a maddeningly complex meta-argument about discursive circumstances, never getting anywhere near the point at hand. He attacks the failure of nerve on the part of his critics, yet can’t even muster the chutzpah to throw a punch at any actual person. He positions himself as oppressed by class characterizations, but can’t respond with anything but vague ad hominems about the upbringing and confidence of his interlocutors. He seems to be caught in a trap of terminal performative contradiction. Above all else, he accuses everyone else of convictionless slickness – when it looks, with each post, more and more unlikely that there’s anything other than polish and PR behind the stuff he’s peddling…. If it’s not true, well, it’d be a good thing to stop with the brand defense and claims of unfair treatment and just explain what he’s talking about.

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June 20, 2009 at 11:46 am

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  1. ads: “The fact of the matter is that there are no conversational slots to fit into other than fawning agreement apparently.”

    kvond: Painfully yes. One wonders if the greyest of vampires, so grey they don’t even know that they feed off, not the thought of others, but communication itself – so grey as to be White – are those that want to fall into the fawning agreement of “oh yes, those types…” (sigh). When I read Graham’s recent tripe on those Greys that suck the energy out of you I could not help but remember how much energy his dabbling philosophy took out of me, no matter my repeated attempt to engage with it. As I peeled its experimental onion skins down it simply was an incoherent mass of assumptions parading as a radical theory set to turn the philosophy world on end. Levi, another Grey Vampire Killer, is someone else with a “project” (apparently) though I can’t figure out what it is other than to claim that he is a perpetual bricoleur ever shifting alliances with some kind of dogmatic ephemera (NOW a Lacanian, NOW a Latourian, NOW Deleuzian, etc, etc., etc.). These three luminaries of the internet finding solidarity against the insipient others who devoid of “projects” (whatever that might mean) detract from their “work” is a pretty picture, and surely a sign that blogged communication is reaching new threshold. The commentless monologue of self-important proclamation (I am waiting for Levi to remove his comments function and dismiss the pretension that he is in dialogue) simply is losing its traction. There is too much interpenetration of communication these days for others to tire themselves reading masters of proclaiming their own thought.

    So what are we to make of these White Vampires, these keeper of the torch of blogged, insightful clarity, that only in Twilight fashion either resist the blood-sucking impulse that drives them becoming all the more anemic and pale, or find rabbits and rodents (secondary texts, news reports, wayward grad students) upon which to feed?

    Is this species really all that interesting? They cluster together sometimes to give themselves the impression that they form a community, but largely they just live in silent electronic halls papered over with fanmail (email which they have not immediately deleted). They worry about the Grey Vampires, the one’s that have tricked them that they may be White, the ones the sneak under their mental Spam filters.

    They cite on each others blogs saying things like “As K-punk so customarily and brilliantly put…” or “In an another fascinating post in a long line of fascinating posts, Levi…” when in fact nothing, no-thing, is passing between them except for the recursive passing of the same empty passport of authenticity that keeps getting stamped until worn, Nietzsche’s blank coin of truth.

    Nicely so, the blogged intellectual (aesthetic and political) experience is not confined to those who have official “projects” (we all have projects, monseiur), but rather is inviting to those who have interests, have questions, and thoughts, all of which feed and diverge into creative expressions and those commitments. It certainly is the case that the questions of others will not always be of interest and may even “drain” your energy, but loath should be those that decide that the questions of others need to be intimately qualified by your own OWN project. White Vampires are those that have stopped learning and largely enjoy the musical echo of the footsteps in their own castle. Now that is punk!


    June 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    • Dude, owning a castle is not very punk. Thrashing castles to highlight the onotological tensions they pose–similar to one thrashing the blogosphere’s trolls & grey/white vampires–is, actually, kinda punk. But the thing about punk is that you never really get along with anyone in the end, right? We all get tired of being told, and telling others, to “Fuck off” over and over, over time…

      That’s my post-grad/grey-vamp, friendly, passive aggressive, limited, subjectively unjarring, non-project related note. [Yet I’ll still continue reading k-punk, as a GHOST even, which is prolly more accurate for my status….]

      As much as we work to develop Web 2.0 into something of substance for whatever subversive means, isn’t the nature of the form to have centrifugal bullshit cycling around, trolls & grey-vamps & academics & others bumping heads indefinitely? [& here I think of iCite/Jodi’s recent posts…]

      In another light are we just complaining about the “workshop” model/speak filtering further into our discourse?


      June 20, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      • Tokyo: “But the thing about punk is that you never really get along with anyone in the end, right? We all get tired of being told, and telling others, to “Fuck off” over and over, over time”

        Kvond: Then again there is always the exemplary punk career path of William Broad…which we really might be dealing with here.


        June 20, 2009 at 8:47 pm

  2. So to some of the evidence for an uneasy alliance of Grey Vampire Killers, one need only look at how each Graham and Levi exhibit the very features that K-punk supposedly repudiates.

    K-punk, A Grey Vampire Killer: the Troll spends a great deal of time on the web saying how debased, how unsophisticated, the web is – by contrast, we have to conclude, with the superb work routinely being turned out by ‘professionals’ in the media and the academy.

    Graham Harman A Grey Vampire Killer, in the inaugural address of his new blog: “It is really tiring to have to deal with dozens of mouthy punks on a daily basis. What I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that I believe in democratizing access to intellectual life, not in democratizing intellectual life itself. The blogosphere, like the billiard halls and race tracks of old, has become a hangout for a pretty unbearable, unproductive cross section of the populace.” [Graham regularly talks about the “real work” that he and others are doing]

    K-Punk, Grey Vampire Killer: In many ways, the academic qua academic is the Troll par excellence. Postgraduate study has a propensity to breeds trolls; in the worst cases, the mode of nitpicking critique (and autocritique) required by academic training turns people into permanent trolls, trolls who troll themselves, who transform their inability to commit to any position into a virtue…

    [and]…Without a project, anyone – academic or otherwise – is in danger of falling prey to the lure of the Troll or Grey Vampire subjectivities. Detached from projects, academic skills become pathologies. The only aim becomes to demonstrate how much you have read (never enough – the debt is always infinite) or how much you have thought

    Levi Bryant, a Grey Vampire Killer Acolyte, describing his essential process: I shall proceed as a bricoleur, collecting what is ready to hand, without any particular project in mind. Perhaps one will emerge after the fact, apres coup, as a whole arising from the parts and existing alongside the set of parts which cannot themselves form a whole.


    June 20, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  3. Kvond I loved this; I sent the Horsepisser on unpaid vacation so if you want to fill in her position at the CPC, you’re welcome.

    • PC,

      That is a very kind offer to make, even if cheek and tongue are sufficiently twisted as one.


      June 21, 2009 at 1:56 am

  4. The ruling classes also love to look at, and look down upon, WHO is speaking — not WHAT s/he happens to be saying.

    K-Punk does a fine reading of the discursive field related to his work, but refuses to exert as much effort to actually defend his project.


    June 21, 2009 at 2:45 am

  5. “The ruling classes also love to look at, and look down upon, WHO is speaking — not WHAT s/he happens to be saying.”

    Yes. He has undermined his position further today by talking about ‘types’ of people, as if they were fixed, absolutes.


    June 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    • Hey, watch it, he is carefully crafting a taxonomy of creatures here, he’s trying to stare straight into the essence of things…

      (One wonders if Socrates was a Grey Vampire or a Troll? Damn leecher…)

      And those friggin’ punk kids, always trying to obstruct projects, banging on the drums, sniffin’ glue…Quiet over there(!), this is a White Vampire convention “Projects Only” can’t you read! Back to the poolhall the lot of you! And get of the fucking dole of our hard earned “work”….(never mind my contradictions, I know who you are…now scat!)

      long live the Billy Idol of punk.


      June 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm

  6. Um. Am I at the right blog?


    June 22, 2009 at 3:08 am

  7. Ha, Kevin – right on the money there with Socrates! I mean that dude was a total jerk asking his annoying questions without a pause. I haven’t read any of the posts about Trolls and stuff, but when I pointed out that Levi’s new type – Minotaur – is based on a possible lack of knowledge of who Minotaur actually was, I was told that I was needlessly “nitpicking” by no one other than the great defender of the weak (and ultimate anti-bully superhero) Harman. So if you say: “X is white” and I say “Actually, it’s black” then it’s clearly I am who is the jerk, right?

    On a more sinister note, what is going on in the blogosphere? Since when did it turn into a fucking uptight sunday school class with tsk-tsking and all.

    Mikhail Emelianov

    June 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

  8. Yes Socrates was the ultimate troll (or was it a grey vamp as he insinuated himself within the well-meaning collectors of knowledge and rightful opinion with seemingly benign questions)..and perhaps rightfully, or at least expectantly, was put to death.

    You should look at the posts on trolls,etc. They are pretty humorous, especially to seek K-punk (legitimate “outsider” looking), Harman (habitual abuser of blog etiquette and academic “work” makeer par excellence) and Levi (perpetual dabbler without “project”) coming together to form some kind of Party Line.

    I did not see your response on the Minotaur, link me if you like. But the Minotaur was certainly not what what Nieztsche called a “nook-dweller”. When Levi wrote his bit about the Minotaur all I could think of was Ariadne, waiting for her god to come pick her up on the shores of her island. How many Theseuses will abandon Levi?

    What happened on the blogosphere is that there was an accidental shakedown of “successful” species, who suddenly mistook their viewer counts and the small circle of people who respond to their posts as a sign of their authority and specialness, but have little sense of the fluidity, variety and fickleness of what the blog-intellect-world has become. These D-list actors get tired of questions and interlocutions and are forced to come together to identify, “types” essentialized persons that drain them of “energy”. It is enough if you and another person do not combine well (for instance Levi and I do not at all), but it is not because he is a “type”, a person suffering from some kind of pathology in some area of his life that needs to be cured. The fault between us is just that, between us. No big deal. The need to essentialize the other at the cost of losing track of the essentialization of yourself is a sad one.

    May the blogosphere keep changing.


    June 23, 2009 at 9:42 pm

  9. When Levi wrote his bit about the Minotaur all I could think of was Ariadne, waiting for her god to come pick her up on the shores of her island. How many Theseuses will abandon Levi?

    I like it when the abusive remark requires some knowledge of Greek mythology – way to go. I pointed out in a comments that an image of Minotaur “guarding” his labyrinth does not make sense as Minotaur was a prisoner of that labyrinth, not its master as Levi’s example implies. Unless I am horribly horribly misinformed because my mother was sympathetic to the poor creature and told me the story wrong, trying to present Minotaur as a simple victim of circumstances or rather of Minos’ disrespect of the gods.

    Mikhail Emelianov

    June 23, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    • If only the academic as Minotaur were filled with the rich associations and history that the Minotaur was. But it is very much like Levi, qua bricoleur, to use things that suit him with a certain kind of impunity, quite often coverted with all kinds of “nits” that no-one dare pick.


      June 23, 2009 at 10:49 pm

  10. persons that drain them of “energy”.

    well as a professional Troll and grey vampire combined into one ass I must say it’s not like they have A LOT of energy to suck on. Every k-punk post in the last year either ends with him calling on the Marxist becoming through the body of the Robot, or with the underlining of the SWP or whatever Party Line – ”neither Washington, nor Tehran”. Somewhere in this blank space (I guess the fourth dimension) things will some day happen, and K-punk will be the chosen one, being younger than Zizek. This is illustrated by loads of boring technotronic movies in which despite his superb taste k-punk finds value.

    Dr Sinthome on the other hand is so eager to succeed that he will find a new line of flight in every buttcrack, including of his very own garden-object. If psychoanalysis doesn’t do it, the narcissistic cat will even swallow anti-depressants. If anti-depressants don’t work, the cat will resort to neurobiology. And if that doesn’t work, there is always that NEITHER-NOR clausule to ensure that more options will be available next season. Neither Washington nor Tehran, but EGYPT.

    They’re also busy with philosopher-bashing, like a regular GANG. First they killed Kant, now they’re busy castrating Badiou.

    • PC,

      I like and I believe understand your parody methods, in fact may even appreciate them in theory, but chill out on the anti-depressants issue. There are so many more interesting ways to speak of someone.

      And I love this acknowledgement that there is really not that much to drain off from K-punk. I understand that he is somehow beloved for reasons I do not quite follow, perhaps being a forerunner of a kind of style of synthesis, and is a nice writer, but I haven’t got much of interest out of him. In fact really commentless blogs are some of the least interesting things to read, no matter the content.

      As to castrating Badiou, I was under the impression that he was a self-castrate in the traditional Lacanian fashion.


      June 24, 2009 at 1:47 am

  11. Oh c’mmon guys, you are just a bunch of alibi-makers without projects – why don’t you just get rid of your TV, stop going out with friends, dump your girlfriend/divorce your wife, stop cooking and sleeping and just write, write, write (and then write some more), because unless you write and you publish a lot, you have no business telling others what to do and how to think. You pathetic gang of energy-sucking, life-enjoying, carefree-blogging, other-interests-having jerks – I pity you, here I said it, I pity you all…

    Mikhail Emelianov

    June 24, 2009 at 3:15 am

    • Mikhail,

      Before you come up with your “project” perhaps you should begin a fund-raising one like this. It builds intellectual solidarity (money does…as do passed around compliments of the highest order)

      I roll over in my own yet-to-be grave to think that people are equating the mind (and philosophy) of Graham Harman with the mind and theoretical work of Bruno Latour. Talk about an unfair three-legged race at the church picnic. Latour is a razorblade of acute perceptions, categorizations, and tireless social science theorizing, Graham is, well…not Latour.


      June 24, 2009 at 4:09 am

  12. You’re just jealous, Kevin, it’s so obvious, plus I’m sure Harman needs to money, he has a large family to feed. And when Levi writes his book, Harman will put in a good word – it’s give and take, that’s how it works in the object-oriented world.

    Mikhail Emelianov

    June 24, 2009 at 4:28 am

    • I wonder how the ojbject-book feels about it.

      Yes, I recall when Levi reviewed the book and compared it favorably to Deleuze’s book on Foucault (!???). Absolutely hilarious. A very good book-report type book it is summing up Latour positions, but this whole academic, Let’s over-hype every modest text really becomes a lot of people all going to the same Emperor’s tailor because it is just too much to simply say, “Damn, the King is naked”.

      As for Harman needing money, god bless him. I don’t begrudge the money. There are worse things to spend money on. It is just all the crazy bullshit that surrounds it.


      June 24, 2009 at 5:01 am

  13. As to castrating Badiou, I was under the impression that he was a self-castrate in the traditional Lacanian fashion.

    You just can’t deal with the fact that despite his stability and sturdiness, Spinoza was basically a pantheistic bottom who sat at home cooking dinner while Lacan, swinging his big beautiful French dick around, decided never to come back.

    I’m sure the narcissistic cat doesn’t mind the mention of the anti-depressants, otherwise she would have been silent on the issue. The only reason she ever got into a squabble on that issue was to prove to the world just how STRAIGHT and JUST she is, and that she promotes the rights of ill people not to have their private life tampered with. Look at her now, she’s publishing one love letter to the Egyptian temptress after the other. Theirs is a tender, lasting relationship.

    • Long live the Oedipal Order (!), and those who seek to live inside it, outside it and beside it. “Mommy”, “Daddy”, “Baby” now THAT’s ontology for you.


      June 24, 2009 at 12:36 pm

  14. “Mommy”, “Daddy”, “Baby” now THAT’s ontology for you.

    Yes we should switch to Mommy does Daddy does Baby, or Baby does Mommy does Daddy.

    • Yes. Families are rather involute and not really vertically structured. Not only are relations polyphemous from above and below, but also side to side. That is there is an entire sibiling horizontality which is not determined by the “Daddy” and the “Mommy”.


      June 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm

      • That is there is an entire sibiling horizontality which is not determined by the “Daddy” and the “Mommy”.

        But the problem is that Oedipality’s dick is stronger and so the world still revolves around rockets, guns, conquest and fucking. You might argue that the world survives precisely because there is the sibling horizontality to keep some kind of a balance, but I don’t think the horizontality will ever put a hold on the Phallus. My hero Shaviro always says, you know, humans observe cats as inferior, but one could also conclude that cats have enslaved US in order to get us to feed them and take care of them. It’s a matter of perspective, really, but I think your way of dismissing Oedipality is kind of wishy-washy-sploshy in that you don’t seem to recognize its power.

  15. Hmmm, wishy-washy-sploshy. Now that is Big Rocket talk if I ever heard it.


    June 25, 2009 at 12:42 am

  16. This sure makes for some funny reading.


    July 2, 2009 at 8:48 pm

  17. Matt,

    Thanks to you and yours for helping my student out with the Trail! She seems quite pleased with whatever it is that you told her!


    July 2, 2009 at 9:06 pm

  18. Thank Stephanie. And I’m really glad it was helpful.

    Come back and visit sometime…


    July 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

  19. […] sure why Kvond has this strange obsession with me, but he certainly seems to be expending a lot of energy writing about me. […]

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