Tagged toxic

On White Male Toxicity and Academic Complicity: A Run In With The David Foster Wallace Society

RND/ To consider a brief run-in with the ‘International’ David Foster Wallace Society – a summary of rhetorical internet micro-aggressions. In which your initial message to the DFWS was in part prompted after receiving seven literary submission rejections in a row (it’s not that you don’t really care about the suffering of others at the hands of toxic white male culture – but you are jealous of and angry about all the privileged literary attention such assholes get over everyone else):

Message to the David Foster Wallace Society

Subsequent email exchanges are as follows. Note how this clique deliberately fail to critically engage with what’s being discussed – like it’s all about their hurt feelings, their innocence – and nothing else. Man the covered wagons, we’re under attack! Talk about a lack of awareness of institutional white male privilege..

Dear Mr. Bucher (I presume)

> I’m not sure if you are expecting a sincere reply to this

Merely because the question was rhetorical, doesn’t mean it wasn’t serious.

> but we are a scholarly organization affiliated with the American Literature Association

Oh well, that’s All White then.

> and have published critical work on gender and Wallace

You mean, https://www.dfwsociety.org/2017/08/08/scholarly-pieces-by-women-on-dfw/

I wonder if these distinctly academic titles directly address women’s suffering at the hands of DWF, his general toxic bro-lit masculinity – and what the moral consequences are for privileged societies like yours.

> So no, obviously we don’t think the Society should be cancelled.

Obviously, indeed. Sir, such a reply is telling, as it does not appear to address anything in the link originally sent. Here’s another DWF Society may also ignore:


Sincerely, Robert What

Dear Mr. Short

Thank you for your reply.

> We attempted to have ourselves cancelled back in 2018 when the article you cite was first published (HOT take, beeteedubs), but due to changes in our vendors’ Terms of Service (most recently due to COVID-19), we were unable to secure refunds for our Society expenditures. Alas, we exist still!

That it seems the Society makes light of DFW’s abuse and toxicity is no joke.

> Rest assured though, every last one of our board members is engaged in nonstop, public self-flagellation for our sins.

Such a response seems to indicate the degree to which DFW Society does not feel in any way morally responsible for the toxicity of its deified literary hero.

> I’d love to elaborate, but I already owe myself another 40 lashes for taking time out of my flogging schedule to respond to this email.

Perhaps if one were to spent more time thinking critically, it would leave less time for self abuse in public.

> 1. How does one “rhetorically wander”?

One doesn’t. If it wasn’t entirely obvious, I’m telling you David Foster Wallace was a considerable douchebag – and that your Society simply needs to listen.

> 2. Have you ever read anything Wallace wrote?

If you have, my condolences; like many, I once cherry-flicked through Infinite Circle Jerk for an hour or so, looking for any good bits – but had to stop due to almost dying from terminal, hipster induced boredom.

> 3. You are aware the man is dead, yes?

So the dead get a free pass? What about those he left behind, still dealing with the trauma he caused? DFW’s toxic legacy lives on though rabid fans, complicit via ignoring his disgusting misogyny – and probably their own. ‘Death Of The Author’ indeed.

> What would you propose our punishment be?

It’s already happening; the DFW Society appears to be suffering under the delusion that nothing white male bandanna wearing saviours do in real life have any baring on academic literary analysis. They are wrong.

> What would, at the end of the day, finally satisfy?

That privileged societies like yours take the suffering of women seriously? In fact, I want to hear from any of DFW Society’s female members about this matter.

> (At the risk of spoiling the joke) Sarcastically, El Presidente

No the joke’s on you, Friendo.

Sincerely, Robert What

> Pee Ess, I am considering bringing a motion before the Board to acquire your “2020 sky bat” (as opposed to, say, a “2020 earth bat” or “2020 water bat”) piece, but I foresee its $178,248.00 USD price tag being cost prohibitive at the current exchange rates. Is your fee negotiable? Much Appreciated, —RS

(Obviously a piss take. -Rob ;-)

> First of all: it’s Dr. Short.

Well excuse me, Doc.

> Second, if you’d had even a cursory look at what we do, you’d see that your concerns are being addressed and that our board is far from homogeneous.

More White People: The David Foster Wallace Society

Oh, one can certainly see that. The diversity is breathtaking. As for ‘my concerns’, what are those exactly? Oh, wait – you already seem to know:

> I know that in your own mind, you think you’re doing something courageous. Awareness-raising.

No, initially in fact I was merely pissed about receiving several literary rejections in a row – specifically, about how rich privileged white males seem to get the lion’s share of attention; I then decided to sarcastically vent a little by sending your nice Society a note about toxic white males.

> Maybe even posting these little exchanges in some social setting I couldn’t give a shit less about to show how right you are and how wrong we are.

Easy there, Tiger. That your spurs are jingling and jangling quite so hard, could well be interpreted as an indication of the precise degree such messages touch a direct nerve in societies like yours. Question is Doc, is what you ‘give a shit about’ – David Foster Wallace – really worth anyone’s time and attention?

> But what you’re actually doing is trolling a group of well-meaning, thoughtful, considerate people who are actively wrestling with all the years-old shit about Wallace you somehow think you’re bringing to our attention.

Is it merely trolling, if others get to see the types of political processes at work under the surface of an otherwise seemingly well meaning, thoughtful and considerate (/literary) society? One wonders what ‘active wrestling’ takes place in such Societies, which too often seem little more than rhetorical ideological devices for pandering to the myth of (the essential purity of toxic male) literary deities – who should perhaps be resigned to the historical dustbin.

> I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Wallace after the Karr revelations. After the Max bio.

What do you want, another medal for contributions to dead white Western male culture? What does ‘writing a doctoral dissertation prove’, exactly? That everything’s dandy in literary paradise? That there’s nothing more to say or do about white hipster assholes like David Fucking Foster Wallace – that anyone who complains or is pissed off about such Bros, should simply shut up and let Teh Academics get back to the ‘real work’ of continuing to tell everyone else how great their literary heroes are, ‘despite minor flaws’? How exactly does a dissertation protect woman outside academic ivory towers from white male bro-lit toxicity? These are questions such societies and institutions cannot answer adequately, because it would mean questioning their very existence.

> Our board is made up of university professors.

Yeah? And my fist is made up of five fingers. So what? You see, such empty, argumentum ab auctoritate statements do little to prove that such literary societies aren’t themselves as privileged and toxic as the people they purport to study dispassionately, subjectively and critically.

> Think it through before you go running your mouth to people who study something for a living.

I’m trembling in my boots. Congrats, Doc; you just summarized everything toxic about academia. And how exactly is one message highlighting what everyone already knows about the hideousness of David Foster Wallace running one’s mouth? (What are yall white ivory tower academics so afraid of?)

> Do me a favor: Save this exchange like a time capsule. When you turn 30, come back and read it. Brace yourself for the blood that rushes to your face. -RS

Oh, the embarrassment of reaching out rhetorically to the mighty International David Foster Wallace Society – a society of (let’s get this straight) well-meaning, thoughtful and considerate academics and university professors, who (with their qualifications and doctoral theses) politely warn strangers not to run their mouths.

I’m really not impressed, Doc.

Sincerely, Robert What

> Mr. What

> You wanted to hear from a “female” (we prefer to be called women, but that’s another issue) member of the society.

My apologies.

> I’m Dr. Short’s current VP, if you couldn’t tell from my email, so I’ll chime in.

Cool and the gang.

> Every writer ever is problematic in some way.

That’s information content zero. (Why, someone from your Society wrote to me today with a problematic warning.)

> Find me one without a shady past, and I’ll find out one with something to hide.

How the hell exactly is trying to push a woman out of a moving car ‘shady’?

> That said. I’m not sure you’re clear on what a literary society does.

What I’m not sure about, is that literary societies are clear about the degree to which they should, in and via everything they say and do, be actively protecting people from toxic white male culture; because scribbling a bunch of dry, ‘merely academic’ papers and sitting around comparing notes on “The Greatness Of The Mighty White Man” just isn’t cutting it.

> Members of the International David Foster Wallace society are not fans.

Obviously not. But such a statement doesn’t automatically immunize an academic society from the possibility of essentially uncritical attitudes towards their chosen subject. Who really cares if one is ‘critical’ about (for example) literary sentence structure, when the very existence of an institution is itself a measure of cultural toxicity and white privilege?

> We do not look at the person himself as a deity or anything close to it.

And yet, by not having released an official statement front and centre, bearing witness to the fact of DFW’s privileged white male toxicity, showing full support for victims and speaking out directly against such awful behaviour, such a society continues to act complicit with such prevailing attitudes.

> We do not focus on Wallace as a person.

Why the hell not? (He certainly focused all his awfulness on other people around him.) See, this is precisely the innate problem with academics and academia. Unless one speaks in their officially sanctioned Academic language, one’s voice doesn’t count.

> As scholars and academics, that’s usually not the point of studying any person’s work. Sure, knowing someone’s biography or listening to/reading/viewing interviews may help in interpretation of the literature, but it is by no means the whole story.

Such convenient political compartmentalization regarding any DWF based cognitive dissonance seems ideological par for the (academic) course. As for ‘telling the whole story’, I’m sure you don’t mean the actual, as-lived daily context of suffering at the hands of assholes like David Foster Wallace. That would certainly help with one’s ‘interpretation’ of his particular merits as a human being.

> Since you’re fond of links, I invite you to go to the society website main page and look at the “Mission Statement”. In case you don’t want to click that, Here it is: “The International David Foster Wallace Society was founded to promote and sustain the long-term scholarly and independent study of David Foster Wallace’s writing. To these ends, the Society welcomes diverse, peer-reviewed scholarship and seeks to expand the critical boundaries of Wallace studies. We recognize and champion the visual, the alternative, and the literary: the presence of minds at work. The Society showcases a variety of projects—at conferences, on panels, in our print publication, The Journal of David Foster Wallace Studies, and through other non-traditional modes of scholarly expression.”

Actually it was the first thing I read before sending my initial message. And this post is my non-traditional mode of non-scholarly expression. How you liking it so far?

> So basically, we read; we study, we encourage others to read and study; we write; we published; we encourage others to write and published. Never has the IDFWS claimed Wallace to be without fault, nor have we dismissed his problematic past.

One doesn’t have to ‘claim’ such writers to be without fault, nor does one have to dismiss a ‘problematic’ past (and why would anyone anyway) for a Society to still act as a complicit mouthpiece for toxic white male culture. One simply has to continue to exist – continue to convince oneself one is already doing everything needed to protect others and prevent further abuse. If the problem is in the very foundation of the institution itself, continually drawing attention to all the ‘good eggs’ constantly working within it is misleading.

> In fact at DFW18, an academic conference which, again, focuses on the work, not the writer, the keynote speaker spoke on “reading our problematic faves.”

BFD. ‘Problematic Faves’ sounds like a album by Neutral Milk Hotel. Where however do such polite, white keynotes meet the real world – where such ugly, consequence free abuse continues to fester unchallenged? Be honest, who but real Stans would even decide to go to such conferences anyhow – if not already convinced by a writer’s ‘essential OK-ness’? (Note: writers like DWF are not essentially OK.)

> Since most of the articles you’ve pointed us to are from 2018, you’ll understand the timeliness of such a talk.

I’ve no doubt all those who suffer under white male culture are cheering for the DFW Society’s blistering, timely critiques.

> To respond to one of your points made to Dr Short, the DFW Society is not responsible for any of the actions that Wallace made during his lifetime; the society did not form until after his death, and no person is responsible for the actions of another. To repeat one of Dr Short’s points to you: “But what you’re actually doing is trolling a group of well-meaning, thoughtful, considerate people who are actively wrestling with all the years-old shit about Wallace you somehow think you’re bringing to our attention.”

“No person is responsible for the actions of another” is probably one of the more dubious, non-philosophical statements it’s possible to make.

> You’re not saying anything new; you’re just saying it in a particularly self-righteous way and in a way that makes me believe that you think you’re doing something revolutionary.

Jesus it was only a quick rhetorical message – I wasn’t wearing a Ernesto Guevara costume at the time, ffs. You want to talk revolution? I say dismantle societies like yours.

> Every scholar (most of whom are also college/university instructors) has a decision to make w/r/t continuing to study/teach a person after they find out about the issues in that person’s life/past.

That, in essence, is precisely my point about the weakness inherent in the very existence of the DFW Society. Did it need forming? Absolutely not. Does it need to continue to exist, given how much of a monumental tosser David Foster Wallace turned out to be (and more importantly, just how much of an Icon of / for assholes he lives on as, with academics continuing to essentially champion His Mighty Works?) No.

> I personally stopped teaching Sherman Alexie because doing so would financially support him by having my students purchase his books, and that’s a personal choice that I made.

OK, fine. But people are still purchasing Dear Dead Dave’s violently overrated books – and his estate still benefits. Meanwhile, others are making it ideologically easily for them to do so without genuine critical reflection – something which seems inherently impossible within an institution’s ideological boundaries.

> Dr Short mentioned that Wallace is dead, meaning that he no longer benefits financially from such situations, and that he is no longer a threat to anyone. In fact, by all accounts, including D.T. Max’s in the biography, once Wallace married his now widow, he really was not a threat to women anymore.

This seems so wrong-headed, it’s difficult to know where to begin. The entire point about DFW is that he’s a symbol of ultra-privileged, utterly toxic white male culture. And academic literary societies owe a lot more to those who actively suffer under such symbols on a daily basis. ‘Not really a threat to women anymore’ seems polite code speak for ‘we as a society [literary or otherwise] are entirely blameless. Stop complaining.’ These types of political call to apparent neutrality are telling.

> As a woman (note: not female, but woman. I’d prefer to be identified by my gender and not my genitals), I feel incredible empathy and compassion for Mary Karr.

As a philosopher I prefer to be identified by the truths I help reveal, not by anyone’s genitals. (How does having incredible empathy and compassion for one of David Foster Wallace’s many abuse victims exactly tie in with a critique of literary and academic societies and their complicity with innately toxic cultural symbols?)

> I have also had communications directly with Mary Karr. Have you? Are you attempting to white knight someone who doesn’t want or need you to do that?

Sorry, but I just couldn’t but help read that as “I also have black friends.” (Like, the equivalent of someone who personally knew DFW, wanting to appear innocent of his abusive nature, proclaiming “I also have female friends!”) As for your subtle Whiteknighting accusation, what I’m simply doing is directly questioning the very existence of societies such as yours.

> The reason that the people on the IDFWS society, regardless of gender, have decided to continue studying and encouraging others to study his work is that we find his work valuable. Even if he as a human being was deeply flawed, his work is worth looking at for what is has done for and to the literary landscape.

Interesting, first off you state your gender is all important – and then that the DFW Society doesn’t regard gender at all. The problem with DFW’s ‘work’ is that it’s inherently privileged, as pure as New York snow, and extremely valuable for his publisher. His work is arguably not worth looking at, precisely because he was a deeply flawed and often inhuman being. As an icon, all DFW did for the ‘literary landscape’ was merely to signify that it actively continues to be as dull, homogenous and deeply toxic for people that aren’t white or male.

> I personally find Ernest Hemingway a morally reprehensible human, and often wonder if the Hemingway Society has to deal with this kind of bullshit (believe it or not, you are not the first self-proclaimed warrior to try to help us see the error of our ways.)

If all of this is merely B.S, then I apologise. However, your words and the overly defensive attitudes of the DFW society seem to indicate the deep sociopolitical paradox and schism in the heart of academia, and associated literary societies. (As for being a self proclaimed warrior – I’d say that was a sight more interesting than being some professionally miserable, self-hating academic caught in a toxic relationship with white bro culture, no?)

> I also really dislike everything about literature (something Dr Short and I disagree on), but I would never demand that someone justify their study of him to me because as a scholar of literature, I understand the importance of what he contributed to literature, albeit begrudgingly.

You hate Literature itself? Well I hate David Foster Wallace, who I don’t even count as literary. Finally, common ground!

> If you have any other questions or concerned that you think would be better answered by my particular gender, feel free to follow up. But please hit a spell check before sending off a self-righteous message to a bunch of literature scholars and journal editors. XO, Veep

Yeah? And you might try running a chekeddy-check on pseudo-critical academic privilege. Better to spell something wrong than be wrong (say, champion the symbolic ideology of suspiciously talented, dead white literary jerkoffs. That the International David Foster Wallace Society obviously refuses to engage in any way with their own inherent toxicity and complicity, speaks volumes.)

Bite Me, Robert What

Ascii Portrait Of David Foster Wallace In 8 Point Courier (.txt in a .zip)
Example Reference Links

Jim Sterling’s Guilt Free Gaming Manifesto, 2020

RND/ To consider a popular ‘guilt free gaming manifesto’ as formally named in 2020 by The Mighty Jim Sterling:

Jim Sterling, ‘Guilt Free Gaming Manifesto’ 2020


“No think. Game good! Game good so no think about sad when fun good game is a big yes to play. Gameplay? Fun. Graphics? Yes. Politics? No politic. Because having politic make a sad time. And sad is a bad time to be. 10 out of 10 for good new video game, no lower. Lower is bad and game good. Videogames are never politic, so don’t question. Don’t challenge. Just consume! Only buy, thank you. Devs no put politic in game anyway, so don’t look. No question. No doubt. Don’t speak. No talk, only play! No think, only play. No sad because to sad is to bad and to bad is not videogames. Because video games good and happy and no sad. Sad is bad. So don’t be bad, because if you are sad, then you bad. You bad.”
– Jim Sterling, Shut Up, Stop Thinking, And Play Games Guilt Free

Jim clearly identifies the complicit, blindly consumerist, pro-industry ideology of mainstream ‘shut up and take my money’ gaming fanboy culture, and it’s classic Orwellian Newspeak style.

Example Reference Links


// how to play big science

80s Fantasy Art Painting of The Regular Reader

RND/ To consider an 80’s style fantasy art painting, inspired by the only regular reader of your shitty nowhere blog. *sniff*

3840 x 3114 .jpg, based on a window display by Ryoko Ishioka. Face by actress Cec Verrell.

The Regular Reader

Rather than creating communication, it exhausts itself in the act of staging communication. Rather than producing meaning, it exhausts itself in the staging of meaning. A gigantic process of simulation that is very familiar. The non-directive interview, speech, listeners who call in, participation at every level, blackmail through speech: ‘You are concerned, you are the event, etc.’ More and more information is invaded by this kind of phantom content, this homeopathic grafting, this awakening dream of communication.
– Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

Alexa Ranking For robertwhat.com

Example Reference Links

// how to play big science?

24Hrs on Twitter as a Lonely Waste Of Time

RND/ In which, due to a particularly bad recent fit of existential depression and terminal boredom, you mistakenly try getting back onto Social Media, only to find it somehow even emptier than your old, half-undead life. Some notes in passing:

  • You find the user interface a bit more slick and ‘friendly’ than you last remember
  • You won’t even get the name you want because some idiot piss weasel with two tweets is cyber-squatting there
  • The recommendations of ‘who to follow’ are toxic and worthless
  • The ‘taylored ads’ that pop up are astoundingly meaningless to you; it’s like patchoui flavored nut-shaving foam was being advertised to Travis Bickle. No only is Travis violently not-interested in your foam, he now wants to casually kill you with something sharp
  • You pause while writing this, to take on some watery yet disgustingly salty barley soup out of a old can, with organic brown pittas and strong cheddar cheese
  • All the old sad faces you used to once follow are still there, denizens of nowhere, shuffling around in their empty open air prison, still forever waiting for something, anything to happen – but it never does
  • One cool guy you’ve interacted before gave you a free Steam key to his crap indie game, which was truly generous. But it’s still crap, and he just can’t see it
  • The worst tweet you saw within 24 hours was the following, willingly self-compromised, middling, spineless, carefully stage managed, weasel-like, hang-wringing, ‘one must always find a happy compromise’ style tweet by a generally good but annoyingly fretful videogame-critique Youtuber. It’s offensively-inoffensive nicey-niceness made you slightly puke in your mouth. (A little like his videos then..) Is this where we’re at on Social Media? [As opposed to what, Rob?] Jeez, might as well get yourself a fucking PR middle-manager bot to tweet for ya:
*blurrgggh, shiver*
  • Yuck! You tweeted back “Pussy”, and a Henry Rollins “Do it” video link. Drop and give me twenty, motherfuckers
  • You didn’t find any way of immediately muting retweets – in which whiny hipster liberals, trustifarians and other ultra-privileged, cheap-champange weekend socialists ‘ditto’ some vaguely lefty™ news item – not that such often vitally important voices don’t need amplifying, not that you didn’t often entirely agree with the truth behind the stories retweeted, but mannn – there was still the sneeking suspicion retweeting such news was often simply more about ‘look at all the politically correct things *I’m* interested in – and therefore look how important and socially with-it I am. (why i also even watched ‘get out!’ with my black friends without sweating too much.)’ Of course, saying that online makes you out like some psychotic, professionally miserabalist alt right chode. Best to keep your trap shut, Kid – which seems precisely the point of Twitter from the very outset. (So why sign up with the other digital lemmings?) Shut up, keep your head down and get on with it – whatever the fuck it is – because the alternative of talking a load of time wasting shite to a bunch of *other* random assholes online – seems infinitely worse. (Hang on though, isn’t that the Interwebs itself? Other than just continually punching the time clock before death for something to do, what the holy cosmic shit are we all even doing out here? Where even is ‘here’?)
  • Speaking of which, talk about the World White Web! Pasty guffawing nerds in a room, talking near-total shit about shit videogames. There doesn’t seem much in the universe that’s more tedious (other than wankers who follow Elon Musk.) And still – years after you left – the same old fragmentary, going-nowhere-fast conversations and too-little-too-fucking-late style mini rants about how ‘you know, i think we (the indie games community) need to #unionize’ and ‘the difficult issue of #pricing’ in the modern marketplace. Your eyes often rolled so hard while listening to all this, you got eye-lash.
  • Unless your already famous, nobody gives a flying tinker’s tweet about who you remotely imagine you are, and nobody is remotely interested in what you’re doing – they just want positive feedback echo chambers where you talk to them about themselves, their endless bullshit little projects and plans. But try turning that conversation about for a nanosecond and try shoehorning in the fact that, ‘hey look over here, I’m an artist, too!’ and that sudden horrible sucking noise you’ll hear is the sound of all the air in the social media airlock being vacuumed back into the bottomless Electronic Void. “There is only self promotion on social media, the only self promotion allowed, is for those already (/self) anointed ‘Social’ enough to tweet constantly about their (digital) selves – their fucking amazing, endlessly artistic productive chipper and fun filled existences.’ How utterly cliquey and deeply.. pathetic it all seems.
  • Twitter makes you feel like a desperate ‘try-hard’. Why the fuck bother tweeting when nobody’s listening? The whole thing seems vacuous and shallow. Who’s trying to please who, here? Do you really think you’re gonna get anyone to follow you – even the sad sacks with no life are too busy to know you even exist.
  • Some indie game gamedev tosser was following 12k people. Just staring at his stupid smug head and that number underneath it made you mad. Like anything could have been less meaningful, or vain. He’d have to use a fucking rotatory sander on his smart phone just to swipe down fast enough to read his twitter feed. What a crock. What a paper thin sham. ‘Interaction’. You’d rather interact with a passing bolt of lightning than lower yourself to follow this wanker – or even worse, have him follow you. “You do understand that? It’s not really a special message to you, Mr. Cole.”
  • You left, and nobody even knew you’d gone. How depressing – and how impossibly naive on your part. Like you could of expected anything else. This is not your scene. You were never part of the in-crowd. Make your own scene – crowds are not to be trusted. A mere 24 hours on social media, and you feel like an endless month of dead end Sundays has been dumped on your existential doorstep. To hell with that energy sapping white noise.
  • Twitter and other companies of their ilk are nothing but data sucking parasites, concerned only with their warped version of ‘community spirit’. That is, feed them your secrets and dreams, and (passively, like morons) watch them bloat up like ticks. Tweet me about that when it happens – about how you helped made it happen – and *then* I’ll follow you.
Existential Saturday Night Tweet


On Simply Seeing Red Stars

RND/ To consider (briefly) those poor devolved LOLtube morlocks, who automatically imagine they speak universally for all sentient beings (oh the irony) at all points in spacetime:

The video to “Stars” features Hucknall wandering around a desert surrounded by large gold stars with close-ups of him and a woman. It was edited by Marc Eskenazi.
– Stars (Simply Red song) from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2550 x 3114 .jpg, sceenshot edited in Gimp

Seeing Simply Red Stars

In which mistakenly reading such common comments make you see red stars.. and yet the hopeful threat of reading a classy rejoinder to The Above Comment draws you into the Ass of The Toxic Comment Hole.

Example Reference Links

// how to play big science