A Fan’s Life: The Agony of Victory and the Thrill of Defeat by Paul Campos

William Davis writes in the May 18, 2023 LROB:

* Adam Smith’s famous metaphor of an ‘invisible hand’ guiding markets was one of the Enlightenment’s many appeals to a fictional outsider, supposed to be a barometer of value. Since then, the discipline of economics has implicitly assumed that markets are instruments of justice, in that the price system is oblivious of the cultural identity or political status of its participants.

* The anxiety buzzing in the background throughout A Fan’s Life is that fandom, having entered the public square, has now infected American culture and politics at large, with the eager support of big monied interests.

* Once liberalism gave way to neoliberalism, the bourgeoisie were no longer tasked with sustaining juridical ideals of fairness and balance in society, but were tasked instead with whipping up enthusiasm.

* Once there is sufficient space for every opinion and claim to be published, what need is there for anyone to be looking down on them from a position of assumed disinterest? Fandom can become the norm instead. The internet is less a ‘marketplace of ideas’ (as conservatives and libertarians would have it) and more a ‘marketplace of passions’.

This has significant knock-on effects for the rest of the media, especially the liberal media that once sought to distinguish themselves in terms of their commitment to facts, neutrality and critical distance – values which, in a public sphere awash with fandom, can appear both technically unnecessary and culturally haughty.

* Nationalism, after all, is a form of fandom, which rebels against the constraints of liberal reason by expressing an unapologetic bias for one ‘side’ against every other. Outrageous conservative media outlets such as Fox News (founded in 1996) and Breitbart (2005) have nourished the sense that nobody is free from bias or prejudice, and that it is only the liberal elite who would ever pretend to be so in the first place. The internet isn’t just a space where fans debate with one another, but also where tribes build up a distorted and hateful picture of their enemies. ‘While sports allegiances can be seen as a sublimated form of politics,’ Campos argues, ‘political allegiances can also be understood as a form of sublimated fandom of the more traditional kind.’

* the mentality that distrusts all claims to neutrality ends up seeing corruption everywhere.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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