nihilism. Everyone’s calling the Tea Party nihilistic. Do a TEA NIHILISM Google search and see.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm is thrilled. She loves the word, its soft insidious feel… The middle H adds a dying breath to its barely-there sound…

A beautiful mysterious letter-set, n-i-h-i-l-i-s-m. The movement of the mouth in saying the word maps the regress of nihilism itself —

A strong initial sound at the outset as if you’re headed somewhere: NEE…!

(Note: You can do it NIGHilism if you prefer.)

Then a catch of the breath on the H as you remember it’s pointless.

A final collapse into the enervated quietude of LISM..


Europeans (Nietzsche, Dostoevsky) long ago cornered the market on nihilism. Finally America – perennially dismissed as too youthful, optimistic, and pragmatic for nihilism – gets its chance. You go, girl.

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5 Responses to “Post-shutdown, the word on everyone’s lips is…”

  1. Dave Stone Says:

    Ooooh! Oooh! A chance to overintellectualize! I’m very excited. I teach nihilism in my Russian history classes by having the kids read Turgenev’s _Fathers and Sons_. My students TOTALLY get Bazarov, the nihilist character, but they can’t stand him. They immediately see parallels to coffeehouse hipster types who insist that everything is meaningless and pointless, and they will NOT accept that world view.

    So I don’t buy the Tea Partiers as nihilists. They DO fervently believe in the absolute and objective rightness of things: God, low taxes, the imminent danger of socialism. World-weary resignation and je m’en fichisme just isn’t their style.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Dave: The Turgenev sounds exactly right: Ground zero for nihilism. I myself like the much more obscure character Armand Vedel in Gide’s The Counterfeiters.

    I agree that nihilism isn’t quite right for the Tea Partiers. They are, I think, revolutionaries with nihilistic tendencies. That is, I think they are willing to go all the way to nihilistic behavior on behalf of their enthusiasms. This doesn’t make them nihilists, but it gets them, under certain circumstances, close.

  3. dmf Says:

    Freud’s death-drive(n) might be a better label/diagnosis, but really aren’t they just Protestant-social-darwinists, I don’t think that they understand themselves as gambling/monkey-wrenchers more as destined to rule on earth as in heaven…

  4. david foster Says:

    Agree with Dave S…nihilism is a much better description of the garden-variety cynical hipster than it is of the Tea Partier.

    The only way it would make sense to view the Tea Partiers as nihilists would be if one believed that meaning in life is to be found only via government, and that hence a belief in smaller / less-intrusive government makes life meaningless.

  5. MattF Says:

    The TPers suffer from the illusion that they don’t have a political philosophy, they’re just your ordinary commonsense neighbors who want to bring on the Apocalypse. As ever, what happens after the big A is unclear– but it will be terrific, you betcha.

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