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“Fight Club” Or “The Battle Of Algiers”?

I’ve refrained from saying much about Boston because I don’t have any special information, expertise or knowledge, and I’m not particularly interested in yoking that tragedy to my own political hobby-horses (or straining to prevent others from doing same). Our culture’s penchant for gnawing on the bloody bones of tragedy is one of our least-attractive qualities.

My only semi-public comment that I can recall was to say: the movie we’re in is more “Fight Club [1]” than “The Battle Of Algiers [2].”

I’ve said this before, and the more I say it, the more I like it. (Some might say that is characteristic of my own self-involvement.) I like it because it continues to accrue new meanings.

The nice thing about thinking we’re in “The Battle of Algiers” is that it opens up space for a discussion of policy. Thus, we can debate whether the problem is an imperial foreign policy (or whether the problem is that, like France in the 1960s, we’re inviting in immigrants from the very regions affected by that foreign policy). We can debate whether we are being insufficiently vigilant in the war on terror, or the war on radical Islam, or whether our excessive vigilance is precisely what is fueling radicalism and terrorism.

But I’m increasingly skeptical that this line of thinking has any utility. The Boston bombers were legal immigrants who came as children from Dagestan, a region minimally affected by American foreign policy. The older Tsarnaev, Tamerlan, appears to have been introduced to radicalism by an American citizen who converted to Islam. His own Imam seems to have been among those alarmed by his radical turn. So far, all the evidence suggests that he was inspired by groups like al Qaeda, but not actively recruited by any such group. The brothers appear to have seen themselves and their resort to terrorism as part of something much bigger than themselves. But it’s not clear that this was true anywhere but in their own heads. Regardless of their professed ideology or inspiration, fundamentally they were space monkeys.

There’s probably a policy question to be asked about whether we’re making more space monkeys than we might, whether some cultures or countries are producing them in especially alarming quantities these days. There are undoubtedly things to say about the pace of job creation relative to changes in the size of the labor force, about the fate of masculinity in an era of global deindustrialization, the effect of mass-communications on traditional cultures, etc. But cultures and economies are slow-to-turn ships, so any policy questions thereby implicated are not “solutions” to any near-term security concern.

I guess my point is: the quest for perfect security is just as foolish when it’s pursued under the banner of anti-imperialism as it when it’s pursued under the banner of neoconservatism. We should be advocating a more restrained foreign policy because our current, highly forward defense posture is wastefully expensive in blood and treasure, eroding our constitutional order, and creating more problems overseas than it solves. But even after a hypothetical rethinking of American foreign policy, we’ll still be the richest and most powerful country on earth, a symbol of the order of things as they are. And as such, a potent target for space monkeys everywhere.

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "“Fight Club” Or “The Battle Of Algiers”?"

#1 Comment By Jack Ross On April 22, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

Yes. That. Thank You!!!

#2 Comment By FN On April 22, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

I doubt that the US being “a symbol of the order of things as they are” plays any significant role in making it a target of terrorism. It is more likely quite specific actions of the US. However, on the psychological side, jihad is in a way Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll, the latter now in the form of fighting, the former in the afterlife. Plus the fight is for a supposedly noble cause. I find it not surprising at all that this idea appeals to many, especially young men who do not get laid often enough.

#3 Comment By the unworthy craftsman On April 22, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

But aren’t “Fight Club” anxieties about the changing role of men what is really behind the “Battle For Algiers” struggle of the civilizations?

#4 Comment By reflectionephemeral On April 22, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

Or, more Columbine than 9/11.

The lesson is, a small number of people (generally young males) bent on causing havoc and terror can do so. This is especially, but not solely, the case if they are willing to die in their efforts.

#5 Comment By cw On April 22, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

I don’t remember space monkeys in either “Battle for Algiers” or “Fight Club.” I do remember them in “Planet of the Apes, except the space monkey was Charlton Heston. Maybe that is a good metaphor. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was Charlton Heston in a world turned upside down and lashed out.

#6 Comment By Steve Sailer On April 22, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, and Solzhenitsyn were all fascinated / repulsed by Chechnya’s courageous and psychotic culture. The Bomb Brothers were just Chechens acting Checheny, living the Chechen Dream.

#7 Comment By Frank OConnor On April 22, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

I don’t know if you’ve seen The movie “Alpha Dogs” but for me it perfectly captures the bored nihilism of today’s youth that leads them into violence as pointless as what happened in Boston last week. Dave Cullen’s book “Columbine” is also brilliant exposition of the space monkey culture where orgiastic violence is as much an antidote to boredom with school, with family, with life rather than any political statement. Most of them have nothing coherent to say, which is why they speak the language of violence.

#8 Comment By quaker78 On April 22, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

No what was behind the Battle for Algiers is that alot of French had invested generations of lives in Algeria, many of whom left Alsace-Lorraine in order to remain French, and didnt want to leave.

#9 Comment By Steve Sailer On April 23, 2013 @ 7:27 am

When two brothers do something that strikes us as nuts, but is the kind of thing that’s admired in their culture, it’s not “Fight Club,” it’s Pushkin’s “Tazit” or Tolstoy’s “Hadji Murat.” It’s Chechen culture.

#10 Comment By Just Dropping By On April 23, 2013 @ 7:30 am

cw wrote: I don’t remember space monkeys in either “Battle for Algiers” or “Fight Club.”

“Space monkey” was a term Tyler used to describe the footsoldiers of Project Mayhem. When the first recruit comes to the house and is shaving his head, Tyler tells Jack:

Tyler Durden: Like a monkey, ready to be shot into space. Space monkey! Ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

#11 Comment By cw On April 23, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

Thank you Just Dropping By, I haven’t seen that movie for years.