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Some Brief Thoughts on Fanon

Frantz Fanon remains, after all this time, a threat to rightists: despite the fact that The Wretched of the Earth was written in 1961, it is still a shibboleth of terror for the 21st Century right-wing pundit.  In 2002, for example, right-wing columnist Robert Fulford wrote a National Post article on Fanon, referring to him as a "poisonous thinker", demonstrating yet again the fear that the colonial-capitalist right experiences when faced with Fanonist thought.  Fulford's article is filled with those typical and half-baked dismissals that demonstrate an inability, like every rightist, to actually read or critically understand something that is beyond their theoretical grasp.

Fanon the psychiatrist and romanticized murderer!  Fulford is repelled by what he takes to be Fanon's celebration of violence––like everyone who has read only a few sentences of Fanon, he imagines the revolutionary thinker to be celebrating bloodshed, singing the praises of slaughter.  In an earlier post, however, I spoke of how Fanon's understanding of violence was not a celebration; as Lewis Gordon indicated, anticolonial violence was always, for Fanon, a tragic reality.  In order to understand this tragedy, however, one needs to understand the context of colonialism––an understanding that escapes the average rightist thinker who lives, breathes, draws his existence from the fact of settler-colonialism.  For the Fulfords of the world, Fanon's analysis of violence can be nothing but a celebration because they see themselves in the prose, if they even bother to read this prose, and they are terrified.

So instead we are given the most asinine rejections of a straw-person Frantz Fanon.  Apparently Fanon was a "blamer who taught others to blame."  But what was he blaming and who was he teaching to blame?  The nuances and complexities of Wretched are lost on the Fulfords of the world––these pathetic thinkers, incapable of even reading a book, who are afraid that the colonized in their own context will target them.  Thus concepts pulled out of context, an entire book intentionally misread if read at all.  Fulford goes so far as to use the example of contemporary Algeria to mock Fanon, as if Fanon was not aware of what he called "the pitfalls of national consciousness"––he predicted cultural nationalism, the problems that would result when revolutionary aims were abandoned in favour of petty bourgeois nationalism.  So no, Mr. Fulford, he was not as you suggest "blinded… to the consequence of his words."  Not that the Fulfords of the world would ever understand, or even want to understand, what Fanon was analyzing in the first place: for this type of right-wing thinker every anticolonial theorist is a priori suspect.

Most amusingly, Fulford tries to blame the policies of the Khmer Rouge on Fanon.  His evidence?  Fanon was popular when Pol Pot was in France.  Until now I was under the impression that Samir Amin's theory of delinking was the popular scape goat of the Khmer Rouge's violence (simply because a member was one of Amin's students), but no!  According to this noxious right-wing thinker Fanon must be to blame because he was "popular" in France at the time and supposedly celebrated violence!

But what violence did Fanon supposedly celebrate, if he actually celebrated violence at all?  Violence against the colonizer which, for Fanon, was simply generated due to the violent context of colonialism.  Every right-wing thinker, especially the kind who lives and breathes and draws his existence from colonialism, will fail to understand this point.  For them business-as-usual, the context that results in the deaths of untold hundreds of thousands a year simply because of starvation and war, is not worthy to be recognized as violence.  Only the anger of the victims directed at the victimizers, the violence generated by the normative nightmare, is dubbed "poisonous" and altogether evil.

And yet this right-wing pundit's thoughts on Fanon are no different than the views leveled at every anticolonial thinker and movement in a colonial context.  In my last post, a troll on my comment string refused to recognize the colonial context of this hemisphere––every attempt to discuss the concrete conditions of colonialism was ignored, subjected to the most repellant and half-assed logic.  Fanon is simply someone who, for colonialists who think like Fulford, should not be read, should be dismissed ahead of time, and insulted simply because they dare to talk about the violent reality in which the colonized, in every colonized context, are submerged.