Zero Squared #131: Fire Hides Everywhere

Julian Feelds is a Swiss novelist, filmmaker, and visual artist. Throughout his life, Julian has lived across South America, Europe, and the United States He currently works and lives in Los Angeles, California.

I want to remind you that we’ve moved the Inside Zero Books podcast from the Zero Books blog to Patreon. This will make it easier to get the member’s only podcast on podcatchers. It also means that we’ll be repeating the first year of Inside Zero Books daily on our Patreon account. If you missed Inside Zero Books podcast the first time, or if you just want to hear the old episodes again, they’ll be available.

And if you’re a former member who emailed your address to take me up on the Zero Books parting gift of a random paperback that should be on its way.

I also want to urge you to pick up Anselm Jappe’s The Writing on the Wall, and you might also get ahold of Philip Cunliffe’s Lenin Lives, and, of course, if you haven’t read it already get yourself a copy of Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies. It’s guaranteed to transform any leftist get together into a struggle session.

Zero Squared #89: Deplorables

NYU professor Michael Rectenwald is the guest this week. Rectenwald was recently at the center of a small controversy at NYU because, after being called out on Facebook for posting a link to an article mocking the need for alternative pronouns for all the various genders, he decided to create an alt-right persona and critique SJWs on twitter. When he announced the results of this “experiment” in an interview for the Washington Square News a slightly larger controversy erupted. His colleagues signed a collective letter criticizing his illogical rhetoric, finishing with the line “the cause of Professor Rectenwald’s guilt is certainly no, in our view, his identity as a cis, white, straight male. The cause of his guilt is the content and structure of his thinking.”
After this Rectenwald took a leave of absence from his University. With a little investigation it appears that he requested this leave of absence, but insinuated that the leave was not voluntary.

His story went somewhat viral. He was interviewed for various publications and penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post with the headline: “Here’s what happened when I challenged the PC campus culture at NYU.” He wrote, “I was strongly encouraged to take a paid leave of absence [and told] that it had nothing to do with my recent media posture. That’s not exactly how I see it.”
However, soon after this was published some of Rectenwald’s private emails were also published, namely a correspondence between NYU Dean Schwarzbach and Rectenwald. This correspondence made it clear that the leave of absence had been granted at Rectenwald’s request. The final email from Schwarzbach concludes.

“For us to be clear on your needs, we require you to state unequivocally and in a direct, unambiguous response whether you still need the leave you requested. I expect that answer—whichever you give—to be henceforth the same in all settings. If you cannot do that, at this point, I think I have no choice but to make a decision based on your public utterances, and the leave you requested—apparently under false pretenses—is withdrawn, and you are expected to meet your classes as assigned.”

I do not know if Rectenwald is now back at NYU and teaching or if his leave was extended, but I do know that all of this went on while the possibility of his promotion was being determined and that he eventually was promoted to the level of full professor.

From the outside, and with the facts that I have so far, it looks to me like Rectenwald pulled this stunt in order to create a context wherein his being passed over for promotion would have negative political consequences for the university. That isn’t a demonstrable fact, and if Rectenwald wants to return to the podcast in order to explain his side of the story more fully I’d be glad to talk to him again.

At the time this was recorded Trump had not been elected and I was very sympathetic to his cause.

I should take a moment to talk about that last fact. The fact that Donald Trump was elected is a game changer. The notion of safe spaces, for instance, has an entirely different connotation now that Stephen Bannon has been selected to be Trump’s chief of staff in the oval office. That said, the need for overcoming racial divides, for creating alliances and struggling together as a people regardless of race is the only way to amass enough political power to effectively fight back.

Rectenwald’s claim that identity politics on the left feeds and strengthens identity politics on the alt-right is worthy of consideration outside the context of Rectenwald’s shenanigans. Standing in solidarity with all the different people who Trump is scapegoating, making sure we protect and defend each other from attack, is necessary. Combating racism is an immediate priority even as we return to the task of changing the economic foundation that generates racism and divides us.

Diet Soap Podcast #214: The Religion of Identity

Amber A’Lee Frost is the guest this week and we discuss her essay “Bro Bash” which was recently published in Jacobin magazine. The essay created quite a stir in twitter social justice circles as a criticism of Sarah Kendzior was mischaracterized and this led to false accusations. Rather than try to explain the whole debacle in my own words I’m going to refer to a helpful info-graphic and I’ll provide a link to it in this week’s show notes.

This week I’d like to thank daniel w and david for their one time donations, and also thank Ted F, Jacob L, Andy Marshall, John Spillane, and John L for their regular monthly donations. And I’d like to urge regular listeners to the Diet Soap podcast to find the paypal buttons at Also, the podcast is also available via iTunes and I urge people who enjoy this show to consider leaving a review at iTunes in lieu of a donation.

Diet Soap Podcast #187: The Fantasies and Representations of a Shattersnipe

The guest this week is the blogger and critic Foz Meadows and we discuss her ideas on Gender, Race, Detectives, and Space ships, ideas she writes about often at Strange Horizons, The Huffington Post, and her own blog called Shattersnipe.

It seems appropriate to talk about race, racism, identity and inequality today, just after the Trayvon Martin murder trial, although the way we go about it in this episode, discussing the cast of characters on Joss Whedon’s cult classic Firefly, and how people of color, gays, and women are represented in books about magic pirates and dragons, well, this may not seem very serious. I’ll just say, in our defense, that our ephemeral pop fantasies are born out of the harsh realities that structure every day life.

Still, I would caution listeners that what’s most important to think about isn’t the isolated details or the attitudes, but rather the structures and mechanisms that bring these attitudes into being. Every genre has its logic, whether the genre is high fantasy, a police procedural, or a real life instance of racial profiling and murder.

My Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded this week. There were 87 backers in all and this week I want to thank Henry W, Derick Varn, Anna W, James G, Cathy K, Kurt O, Aquila H, Jennifer L, Daniel Coffeen, Ray P, my agent Kristopher O’Higgins, James K, John K, Reagan S, Ken Beare, Aaron W, Jason H, William C, Kwame A, Kara B, Jon M, Paul H, Akwhistler, Douglas Lain Sr, Mark B, and Maxx B.

The Think the Impossible Tour will be starting in late August, right after my book Billy Moon comes out from Tor. I’ll be producing podcasts at each stop and, hopefully, meeting a lot of you who are listening from San Francisco, Chicago or New York.

There are several clips in this episode. There are clips of Richard Pryor discussing how blacks and whites behave differently at funerals, a clip from an video about Gustave Courbet, a clip from a BBC interpretation of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, a bit of dialogue and the theme song from the Rockford Files, and finally, at the end, a clip from Doug Henwood’s terrific program Behind the News. Henwood can be heard in conversation with Adolph Reed about a movie called The Help. dietsoap187