WHITE is mostly a meandering litany of complaint about the folly & degeneracy of the younger generations – bestowed upon us by an elder of the elite american literary establishment.
The reams of repetition are mixed into an unsuccessful word-soup along with passages of disjointed memoir & a mass of throwaway opinions on cultural ephemera such as popular Hollywood movies, show-business characters such as Charlie Sheen & Richard Gere, long ago TV shows, deceased cable channels, and drunken tweets from 2011.
In fact much of WHITE concerns tweets Ellis himself sent out while drunk and or high concerning his views of female and gay celebrities and their work in the culture industry, and the predictably screechy response to these tweets from the twitterati.
Well, if you thought anything could be more boring than decade old celebrity twitter spats, you were wrong – here’s a book about them which out-bores anything.
Ellis justifiably won huge praise for his early hits Less Than Zero & American Pyscho – satires of capitalist immorality and imperialist violence – books which had genuine shock factor, allegorical power, hypnotic technique and glittering prose style. WHITE , in which he has come full circle to defend a system he once viciously satirised, has none of these redemptory aesthetic and rhetorical qualities. It a just a boring, predictable, incoherent, narcissistic, half-baked and utterly pointless dump in the face of the reading public.
WHITE has three false theses, each elaborated by attacks on various straw persons e’g ‘the millennial boyfriend’ and straw groups such as the notional ‘Generation Wuss’.
Young people are too soft and should grow up.
Free speech is under threat from the left.
Trump (and by extension Bolsonaro, Le Pen etc) should be accepted, not resisted.
Quite aside from the silly idea that you are somehow under developed or mistaken if you respond passionately to injustice, (i.e a snowflake), there is simply no such thing as Generation Wuss. Young people today face a far more anxious, insecure, far more difficult to mentally navigate, far more frightening world than any since the second world war. This is causing a rise in depression, suicide, nihilism, addiction..on the one hand, but it is also giving rise to incredible courage and resistance.
The youngsters of Extinction Rebellion facing jail in London or the striking students of Brazil facing the batons of Bolsonaro’s police are hardly ‘Generation Wuss’. How, by the way, can such a ‘Generation Wuss’ be in any way threatening to the free speech of Donald Trump, a billionaire with a nuclear arsenal? Ellis’ analyses here as elsewhere is full of glaring contradictions and holds no water.
The left doesn’t oppose free speech – it opposes hate speech aka stochastic terrorism – this is public speech deliberately intended to raise community tensions and lead to violence against vulnerable minorities. The ‘free speech’ campaigned for by the enlightenment and subsequent generations of activists and writers was to do with the right to critique the powerful, with the uncensored expression of progressive secular values, with the free exploration of scientific or philosophical ideas l, with the frank representation of repressed aspects of sexuality & identity. This is the free speech the left has always supported, defended and participated in and we continue vigorously to do so.
This obviously has nothing to do with shouting abuse at minorities or telling lies about vaccines and so endangering lives – we would be fools to simply allow the far right or conspiracy theorists freedom to sow divisions that always end in conflict and disaster.
Besides this, free speech means simply you have the private right to say what what you want – having free speech doesn’t give you the right to call for pogroms on national TV in the middle of a civil war – which is the kind of so-called ‘free speech’ defended by Ellis.
The world is entering a very dangerous and possibly fatal period. To argue that we should all just calm down in the face of climate change and the rise of far right violence is to make propaganda for the far right & the oil barons. We are right to resist and right to protest as these are the only ways in which we can defend rights, spread solidarity, & make progress in society. If we don’t stand up to Trump and those he inspires, we are complicit. And never forget that resistance works – ask the nearest milkshake!
Ellis mistakenly sees the resistance to Trump as being led by hypocritical rich celebrities (its not news that shallow rich people float about good causes) – instead of, for example, by grassroots immigrant defenders and striking teachers who don’t have time or interest in twitter debates. Proving he knows little about real world politics or the the real world resistance. The ‘left’ he critiques exists nowhere but twitter and has no impact on real struggles for equality.
Ellis rounds the book off by accusing Trump’s opponents of being anti-american – this is of course a phrase something like which will be found in every racist online bachelor’s repertoire of stock defamations. It calls to mind Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s anti-communist witch-hunt known as the House Un-American Activities Committee.
It’s ironic but not inappropriate that this once vital novelist reveals by his choice of words here that when it comes to ‘fascism’ & ‘free speech’ and so on, its Trump and Trumpets like Ellis we have most to fear from – not some imagined ‘Generation Wuss’!