Image control Art, fascism, and the right to resist

Patrick Nathan

Book - 2021

"Fascism comes to life as a mood, not a platform; it slips in through the cracks of a culture on the level of art and language itself, too often undetected. The deluge of images across all our various screens never stops-one second you're looking at a photograph of Syrian children suffering in the wake of a chemical attack, the next you're feeling bad about yourself because of someone else's pristine Instagram selfie. And before you can process or properly weigh either of those feelings, a meme momentarily captures your attention. This endless scroll through a sea of visual content overwhelms and often numbs us. By and large, we no longer critically examine the images we consume, how we consume them, and how they affect Mixing the literary, personal, and political, Image Control examines recent cultural episodes as well as the ancient roots of language and myth to understand how images have been used and misused as propaganda throughout history. In one instance, Nathan recounts what it was like to grapple as a queer thirteen year old with the implied violence in the photograph of the fence on which Matthew Shepard was left to die. In another, he lays bare the isolating perils of seeing only the curated highlights of a life on social media. By exploring our connection to language and image, Nathan builds toward the idea that if fascism exists first on an intimate aesthetic"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 303.375/Nathan Checked In
Berkeley, California : Counterpoint 2021.
Main Author
Patrick Nathan (author)
First hardcover edition
Physical Description
228 pages : illustration ; 24 cm
  • Introduction
  • What a Time to Call this Alive
  • We Have Always Written with Light
  • Little Symphony for the Body
  • The "Resistance" and Other Stories.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A lively investigation of the numerous connections among fascism, imagery, media, and politics. Books about fascism are rarely unpredictable, and social science nonfiction is rarely a wild thrill ride. But when Nathan applies the style and imagination he demonstrated in his debut novel, Some Hell (2018), that's what we get. Though the author is upfront about his lack of expertise with the mechanics of fascism and photographs, his originality of thought drives this impressive nonfiction debut. He leans on Susan Sontag and Bertrand Russell to make some points early on, but it's the way he weaves together the deaths of Matthew Shepard, the Columbine High School massacre, and 9/11 with the rise of Donald Trump and Survivor that makes readers wonder what twist is coming next. "If Marilyn Manson played America's antichrist, Trump seems to be it--the American monster par excellence," Nathan writes. Not all his pronouncements hold up intellectually, as he sometimes exaggerates to make a convenient point--e.g., "the American fascist aesthetic is one of noise and merchandise…the aesthetic of resistance is no different--equally noisy and commodified, right down to the T-shirts, the slogans, and stupid tweets." Nonetheless, readers will be fascinated as the author explains the importance of expressing ourselves visually through the origin of memes, the language of GIFs, and how it all fits together with the work of Homer and the power of representation. Nathan delivers deep thinking and clever turns of phrase in equally abundant amounts, making his history lesson and philosophical discussion a page-turning good time. Of course, the shadow of Trump looms large: "While the most visible aspect of this fascism is, without a doubt, an omnipresent, autocratic bigot whose every photograph and tweet and facial gesture is consumed and interpreted in myriad ways--a kind of image-meth scarcely anyone can stop using--to call Donald Trump this fascism's alpha and omega is to give him too much credit." An unexpectedly entertaining scholarly warning about fascism's spread through imagery. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.