Why Lena Dunham Triggers the American Right

Poe’s law holds that without knowing the author’s intent, it is impossible to tell the difference between an expression of extremism and a parody of extremism. But occasionally, a creature that is unconsciously self-parodying escapes the Internet and takes shape in our reality, like something out of a nightmarish version of Tron. So it is with Lena Dunham, a figure who so encapsulates and exemplifies the death throes of Western Civilization that it is often impossible to believe that she is a real person rather than an elaborate piece of performance art like Joaquin Phoenix’s rap career. More importantly, she doesn’t just trigger redpilled Traditionalists and Identitarians but the PC functionaries of Conservatism Inc., uniting all the mutually contradictory and hostile tribes of the American Right into one glorious celebration of pure Hate.

The collective conservative freakout over Dunham began with the publication of her memoir Not That Kind of Girl at the age of 28. While it was obnoxious when Barack Obama was writing autobiographies in his 30’s, a rich girl with a sitcom publishing retrospectives before reaching her third decade heralds a new standard of cultural decline. The fact that the book was interpreted even by those predisposed to support her as schtick and a “quirk offensive” didn’t hinder the promotional effort.

Though conservatives have been taking potshots at Dunham for years now, the first salvo of this particular campaign was fired by Kevin Williamson’s National Review cover story, Pathetic Privilege. Williamson, who specializes in trying to trap leftists as anti-liberals, strikes some predictable notes in hammering Dunham as the spoiled product of unearned wealth, complete with “visits to child psychologists three times a week; having a summer home on a lake in Connecticut, and complaining about it; [and] writing a ‘voice of her generation’ memoir in which ordinary life events among members of her generation, such as making student-loan payments or worrying about the rent or health insurance, never come up.” And of course, he’s got plenty more material to work with as Dunham’s family is that insufferable combination of liberal dissolution and extreme affluence. This is the kind of White middle class anger that has been a staple of the American Right since the Hard-Hat Riot in 1970.

But Williamson also delves into Dunham’s childhood sexual practices as described in her own words. These acts, and especially Dunham’s act of writing about them, can only be called perverted. According to her own prose, she casually masturbated next to her sister, manipulated her vagina in ways I’d rather not describe, bribed her with candy to kiss her on the lips and, in her oddly chosen phrase, “anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”

One only has to imagine the reaction if a famous male actor wrote a memoir in which he described these acts upon a younger sister. For the record, Dunham’s younger sister Grace doesn’t seem to mind all this today, though the fact she’s now a lesbian may lead you to your own conclusions.

Of course, female sexuality is always easy to sensationalize. And, to be perhaps overly fair, some kids do weird stuff when they are young--one is reminded of Louis CK recounting how he walked into a room to find his four year old daughter spread eagle. But they do weird stuff because they don’t know any better and in a civilized culture you are embarrassed when you encounter it, tell children not to do it, and recount such bizarre experiences later with befuddled laughter as part of the challenges of parenting. Well-adjusted adults don’t promote weird childhood sexual behavior as some kind of odd proof of moral superiority and enlightenment.

Therefore, it’s not about prudish conservatives reacting against Dunham’s vulgarity. It’s the fact that Dunham is somehow claiming the mantle of victim in that obnoxious SWPL way that combines snark with moral solemnity. She says, “The right wing news story that I molested my little sister isn't just LOL--it's really fucking upsetting and disgusting.” The word choice alone elicits fury.

To simultaneously patronize her critics as somehow weird and aggressive, portray herself as a female liberal under attack, and express outrage because people are quoting her own words reflects so complete a lack of self-awareness that it can leave a critic questioning his own sanity. Such a person, one thinks, can’t possibly make such a claim without knowing something essential that we don’t. It’s like the sudden lack of confidence you have in your own rationality after meeting a schizophrenic.

But then we see that Dunham eagerly, gleefully, and irresponsibly throws terms like “rapist” at people she’s encountered over the course of her life. She accuses a Republican named “Barry”–whom Williamson was able to track down without much trouble–of raping her at Oberlin. As Williamson notes:

Oberlin opened an investigation into the incident after the publication of Dunham’s book and has consulted with the local police department. The statute of limitations for rape in Ohio is 20 years, and Dunham graduated in 2008…Dunham’s writing all this is, needless to say, a gutless and passive-aggressive act. Barry is not a character in a book; he is a real person, one whose life is no doubt being turned upside down by a New York Times No. 1 best-seller containing half-articulated accusations that he raped a woman in college, accusations that are easily connected to him. Dunham won’t call him a rapist, but she is happy to use other people as sock puppets to call him a rapist. She doesn’t use his full name, but she surely knows how easily it can be found. She wouldn’t face him in a court of law, but she’ll lynch him in print.

Williamson’s case here is that Dunham is essentially a rich brat, unwilling to take responsibility for her own actions, unable to live up to her own standards (he criticizes her own views on sex, relationships, and sexual roles as “utterly conventional”), and eager to cast aspersions on others while reacting to criticism of herself as illegitimate. And this stance as privileged victim touches something deep within the primordial id of all factions of the American Right, leading to the kind of sputtering disgust that unites the Savitri Devi devotee with the College Republican hack.

But Willamson understates the case, and doesn’t fully grapple with the depravity Dunham represents. As with all things political, it’s about who, not what. Though some leftists are uncomfortable with Dunham’s lack of melanin, she is still higher on the diversity ladder than gross conservatives. The mainstream media is practically celebrating her actions with her sister, as Dunham can now “teach” us about how we are the problem because we don’t talk enough about Brave New World-style childhood sexual activity. And of course, there’s a Tumblr for mini-Dunhams to proclaim how they too are special little snowflakes of perversion.

Feminists at Jezebel have rallied to Dunham’s cause because of the importance of people being able to describe their own “sexual narrative,” a term also deployed by Dunham’s sister. In the words of racecuck Ryan Chapin Mach at the Huffington Post, determining your own sexual narrative means that “power to determine what constitutes sexual abuse rests entirely with the accuser, not with the National Review or the Twittersphere. It's a doctrine that's meant to give agency to individual victims and not every dude on 4Chan with a keyboard and an opinion.”

Of course, this also redefines what “victim” actually means, turning it into something purely dependent on a left wing political agenda rather than anything objective or independent of the views of the people involved. In a phenomena familiar on college campuses, a drunken hook-up or female infidelity magically transforms into “rape” the morning after, whereas lesbian statutory rape can transmute into a heroic crusade for civil rights. And not all rape is equal–as far as lesbian statutory rape goes, as it says in The Vagina Monologues, “If it was rape, it was good rape.” The hamster wheel of female rationalization thus replaces the objective words written by “dudes” trying to apply a logical standard. Heterosexual and male sexuality is pathologized, while homosexuality and abortion are held to represent a greater good and some kind of revenge against conservatives, “dudes,” and whites.

Beauty standards also become a pathology in the world of Dunham. She insists on rolling her ballooning rotundity around the red carpet and before the cameras of a horrified audience on Girls. This would be largely unobjectionable except for the shrill insistence by the Great and the Good that she is in fact sexy and desirable. She even works this into her show, creating a minor controversy when she portrayed her corpulent figure as the object of lust for Patrick Wilson on Girls, leading to estrogen fueled caterwauling when viewers and commentators openly mocked the premise. Indeed, much of the media’s insistence that we celebrate this person derives from her physical unattractiveness, which sometimes seems like a deliberate effort to revolt the masses. Dunham can troll us simply by the act of existing.

Worse, as time goes by we begin to suspect that the sense of detachment and irony that made Girls interesting to some viewers is entirely absent from Dunham’s conception. The female characters of Girls are selfish, hypocritical, blinkered, depraved and unlikable–but as one critic noted, who said you are supposed to like them? Just as viewers managed to sympathize (or at least empathize) with the sociopathic and murderous Tony Soprano or the devious Walter White, viewers could watch Girls and at least relate to the characters, if not respect them fully. The utter self-indulgence of Hannah and the others was a SWPL counterpart to Honey Boo Boo.

Yet Dunham’s real life political activity seems an unironic echo of her Hannah character–indeed, she’s far worse. Of course her political activism is entirely focused on abortion, “marriage equality,” and whatever else furthers both self-indulgence and self-congratulation. Of course, she believed the KKK was at Oberlin College.  Of course, she managed to compare voting to sex in that kind of pseudo-edgy lefty way that leads “artists” to create Christmas Trees that look like buttplugs

But I could forgive all of it–yes all of it–until I saw her participation in the Rock the Vote. The video surpasses the work of Leni Riefenstahl in creating a compelling cinematic rationale for a National Socialist dictatorship. A progression of goofy white quasi-celebrities and black homosexuals awkwardly dance to Lil’ Jon while the “musician” in question does his best imitation of President Camacho. At the center is Lena Dunham and Fred Armisan of Portlandia, two celebrities who have made a career of parodying Urban Elves, but here unironically urging viewers to partake in the fetish of voting in order to defend “human rights” and “women’s equality” (with Lil Jon helpfully screaming about legalizing marijuana while smoking a cartoonish joint). Dunahm’s participation is literally nauseating as she gyrates arhythmically in what I can only guess are pajamas, a kind of liberal uniform for the Obama Era.

I was indifferent to Obama’s re-election. I roll my eyes at liberal protests. But upon viewing Dunham’s fat rolls cascading down like hurricane waves flooding a doomed city, I experienced alienation so profound I actually despaired. I find it impossible, literally impossible that someone—anyone!—could view the ad as a “cool” way to get people to participate in the democratic process. And yet people did, and I was a “hater” for not seeing it.

One can’t help but be reminded of the story in Mikulas Kolya’s Men, Art, War about the grim, post-revolutionary judgment of a White “mouthpiece” for the former regime, an actor who had performed a goofy dance in a commercial to sell televisions. Before he is taken out to be executed, he is told:

“You do understand, don’t you, that you have defamed a people? That your shameless display denigrated all the people on earth, but most grievously your own? You put into the minds of millions that your people were all weak-willed clowns fit only to be mocked and scorned.”

And thus we get closer to the real reason conservatives of all stripes hate–yes hate–Lena Dunham. (Or, as leftists would say, find her “threatening.”) Everything about her existence is a representation of decadence in human form, wrapped in a cloak of victimhood. The current insistence that parading her childhood pervasions should be celebrated is only the latest example. Dunham is the crystallized essence of the leftist commentariat demanding we accept obvious untruths: that 2+2=5, that ugly must be called beautiful, and that writing out the equivalent of scrawling dirty words on a bathroom stall is cause for tribute and celebration.

As Theodore Dalrymple noted:

When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.   

Lena Dunham isn’t fat–she’s sexy. Her views aren’t boring and asinine–she’s original and important. She’s not a mascot of the powerful–she’s a victim of the right wing. She’s not promoting abnormal and destructive behavior–she’s standing up against repressive weirdoes.

It’s like they’re daring us to call out the lie. Lena Dunham is the walking reductio ad absurdum of feminism, of liberalism,  and of the managerial state—a terrifyingly prominent homunculus spawned by this monstrous cultural machine. And despite knowing it’s giving that machine power, despite knowing I have no control of it, despite not knowing her personally, and despite acknowledging the only thing I can do is avert my eyes, I can’t help but be triggered–and I know I’m not alone.