During the question portion of Prof. Rizzo’s talk on the movement of Futurism, an audience member remarked that it almost seemed that Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Futurism’s founder, did not believe his own act, and might be trying to get people to believe him only so that he could turn around and laugh at them. Futurism’s pointless macho posturing, anti-intellectualism, outright dislike of nature, and bizarre hypocritical rules on pasta-eating do seem like a joke. In fact, the 1920s movement’s ethos seems like some nightmare parody mashup of the Tea Party with hipsters. Consider – Futurism’s doctrines made clear the members’ war-mongering and their disdain for women, feminists, academics, and nature, but put a hipster-like spin on the concepts with the attitude that they are special and new, and everyone who doesn’t act like a Futurist is clearly old and hidebound.
While I can understand why the audience member might have had the idea that Marinetti did not take himself seriously, I fear that, photographs of hypocritical spaghetti-eating aside, he did. Some of the actions of the Futurists, such as deliberately starting fistfights at their gatherings, seem staged to attract notoriety, it is true, but the preponderance of evidence indicates that Marinetti and at least some of his followers seem to have held their views sincerely. Notably, Marinetti did not change his mind on the outright desirability of war even after being wounded, going so far as to dedicate a book to the shrapnel that injured him. As Rizzo reported, he also made remarks, apparently seriously, on how much better nature would be if it were utterly twisted and destroyed through warfare.
There are a few aspects of Futurism that I do not find terrible. Beginning in Europe in the early twentieth century as it did, it could hardly have avoided providing inspiration for artists and musicians. Similarly, Futurism inspired fashion designs, that while entirely too colorful and asymmetric to my mind, probably were just the thing for some people. Overall, though, I have to disagree with Marinetti’s fetishization of warfare and distrust of nature, feminism, and academia.
Hearing someone express the view that Marinetti took himself unseriously, and comparing his views to those of the modern American extreme right wing, I was reminded of speculation I have heard to the effect that Donald Trump does not take himself seriously, is in fact “trolling” America. While it would be mildly comforting to assume that he does not wish to actually become president, this man with absolutely no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, who has somehow managed to sway a segment of the population into apparently sincerely declaring their belief that he would be a good leader, I am afraid I have seen nothing to suggest that this is the case.
The brash, dangerous rhetoric of windbags was listened to in the 1920s, and it is listened to today. By seeing in our own crudest public figures echoes of Marinetti and Futurism, we can hopefully know to turn aside and not be taken in.