Lobster C*** and Civic Republicanism

For at least a year now, a unique form of civic republicanism has been occurring in the second stall on the right in the first floor bathroom of Mason Hall. Various members of the Michigan student body have collectively covered the stall with images and phrases regarding a fictional being they call “Lobster C***” (I apologize for the vulgar name).  Lobster C*** is exactly what he sounds like: a combination of a lobster and a male penis.  He is presumably inspired by Jonah Hill’s drawings of male penises in the movie “Superbad” but it is unlikely that we will ever know his true origin.  In these images, Lobster C*** is portrayed as an all-powerful superhero, with phrases written about him saying things like “Lobster C*** uses his claws of justice to tear down the rhetoric of hate” and “All hail the all-powerful Lobster C***”.   These drawings are painted over very frequently by the school, yet images of Lobster C*** keep reappearing with phrases like “Paint cannot defeat Lobster C***” and “Like a phoenix rising from the ashes Lobster C*** will emerge from the paint”.  In fact, the Lobster C*** phenomenon has extended to other bathrooms around campus as well, like the bathroom on the third floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library.  If you want to see pictures of Lobster Cock, here is his official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001765296077.

Lobster C*** may seem like nothing more than a juvenile prank, and quite frankly it is very juvenile.  However, regardless of whether it is juvenile or not, I think it is still a good example of old-fashioned civic republicanism.  There have been several blogs this semester describing how communication technology and social networking has revitalized civic republicanism as seen in the Arab Spring, but in the case of Lobster C***, students who don’t know each other and are not organized in any way have come together to participate in a group project of decorating a bathroom stall with the same theme.  The authority figure (in this case the University of Michigan) has tried to silence their expression numerous times by painting over it just as many rebellions and artistic movements have been attempted to be silenced by authority figures throughout history.  However, this group of civic republicans has persisted in their common goal of turning the second stall on the right in the first floor bathroom of Mason Hall into a shrine for Lobster C***.

This all might seem very stupid and trivial to you.  However, just because the goal that a group is working towards isn’t particularly noble or significant doesn’t have anything to do with whether it is a form of civic republicanism.  Lobster C*** may not be about a political revolution or democracy.  However, I believe it says a lot about the ability and desire of people to come together and fight for a common goal, whatever it may be, despite never being organized or communicating with one another directly.  I also believe Lobster C*** represents a struggle over freedom of expression.  It reminds me of a topic I studied in History 322 (a class about Nazi Germany) last semester: the Dada cultural movement that spread through central Europe around World War I.  The Dadaists rejected the need for art to have meaning and society’s obsession with logic, favoring artistic anarchy instead.  Dada artworks, arguably the most famous one being Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, which is simply a urinal and nothing more, don’t have any particular meaning and aren’t supposed to.  European governments attempted to marginalize and silence the Dadaists, just like the University of Michigan has tried to silence Lobster C***’s artists, but they have continually failed.  (You can read more about the Dada movement here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dada).  I encourage all of you to check out Lobster C*** in the second stall on the right in the first floor bathroom of Mason Hall and even contribute to him if you want.  If you do, you will be participating in a unique form of civic republicanism that is just as pure as protesting in the Diag or signing an online petition.  Also, let’s be honest, Lobster C*** is hilarious.  You know you love Lobster C***.

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9 Responses to Lobster C*** and Civic Republicanism

  1. aazilli7 says:

    First of all, I think this is a great topic. You are right in suggesting that it is a common goal of people to spread Lobster C*** to the world, and that this is an act of civic republicanism in which people converge on an ideal, but it could very well be a result of classical liberalism. One could argue that this is also an act of individual expression. Due to the mysterious nature of Lobster C***, it could very well be a single person dedicated to the cause. This might be a single person who refuses to be censored. It might then be that the common goal of the people around this person is to censor Lobster C*** and other forms of vulgarity and vandalism, and this is the sole person standing out from the crowd. This is clearly an issue applicable to what we’ve learned in class, and you are most likely right that it is an act of civic republicanism among a small group of people–a faction if you will–but I think it’s important to account that there is also a likely possibility that this is an example of classical liberalism instead.

    And you’re right. I do love Lobster C***.

  2. udontempura says:

    It almost makes me wonder if Lobster C*** would be less of a movement if the University had taken absolutely no moves to suppress it (painting over it). This is a great example in how the more you oppress, the harder they fight back. As Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Will lobster C**** come back harder then ever (absolutely no pun intended) under the suppression? Is Michigan’s best move to embrace the movement?

  3. kbreit4 says:

    Looking at both of the comments, they both raise good arguments. I feel as though the second commenter is correct in that if the University hadn’t painted over it numerous times the popularity wouldn’t have reached the height it is at now.
    When I started reading the post I definitely thought it was going to head in a classic liberal direction; in that an individual started it, was rejected at first but then it became more widely accepted like how Rand explained the invention of fire.
    It kind of reminds me of Morone, in that in the “democratic moment”, people are rebelling and resisting authority. Though, I’m sure, the school won’t stop painting over the graffiti, the idea behind it fits.

  4. hengk says:

    For the sake, stretch, and optimistic goal of applying Lobster C*** to more of our readings, how would Lobster C*** fit in regards to Emerson? I think Emerson would love the idea of a Lobster C*** movement. The very idea of graffiti on the bathroom walls does not harm anyone, but truly runs against the grain. Maybe the original author of Lobster C*** looked inside themselves, and saw the urge to draw in their soul. In doing so, they rejected the notions that one must not draw on a bathroom wall. I can hear Emerson complaining, “Why not?” Be an individual, and do something that makes you happy and fulfilled inside!

  5. brandoneinstein says:

    While the lobster c*** has personally aided myself in “passing the time”, and the various depictions and conversations regarding the infamous crustacean have been well documented, the author’s post is in fact both creative and relative to our course discussions. I also see the clear connection between civic republicanism and the student body’s (well, half of the body’s) yearning towards a common goal: the maintenance of the lobster c***k against the administration’s will. Against Madison’s philosophy – a well known classic liberal/Federalist – by promulgating the desire to keep the lobster c*** in the bathroom stall, we will inherently create a forceful faction. Nonetheless, the idea of communal togetherness for a common goal, such as preserving the lobster c*** certainly maintains numerous examples of civic republican ideals.

  6. nmanningham says:

    I love this post almost as much as I love Lobster C*** himself. While I do believe Lobster C*** was created by one or two brilliant individuals, I believe that the attempt to suppress the all mighty being has united a large group of individuals in the fight against the authority figure that is the University of Michigan. Therefore, while it may have been originated by an individual and could represent a classic liberalism ideal, I believe it has transformed into a group fighting for a common goal and consequently represents a civic republicanism ideal.

    The Lobster C*** revolution has created a faction who all hold the same goal: keep Lobster C*** alive and prospering. This faction will not let excessive repainting stop them. Their determination is inspiring even if the entire concept is trivial and juvenile.

  7. hadasbrown says:

    I think this is a great post! However, just to complicate things, couldn’t we argue that Lobster C*** is a classic liberal? The greater good of the school could arguably be maintaining a clean and neat atmosphere, and this individual’s goal is to express himself despite the presence of that good. Also, in response to an earlier post, I definitely see the Emersonian angle – deciding that his own personal value is to disseminate Lobster **** and his message, despite it being so contrary to mainstream values.

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  9. czli2011 says:

    Lobster C*** draws questions to a lot of our class readings. By Shklar’s standard argument, Lobster C*** should not be a citizen, meaning he should not have standing and thus should not be respected or heard. Following the logic of Tocqueville, Lobster C***’s physical nature as a combination of a lobster and male genitalia differentiates him from human beings to the point where he will inevitably be excluded from society. However, Lobster C*** has defied our expectations, and risen to fame (or infamy) in the U of M community. Despite not being able to work or earn (as he is a drawing on a bathroom stall), and being physically different from us, Lobster C*** has still managed to capture the adoration of students from all walks of life, whether it be the Polsci student or the humble Engineer on central campus for a quick stroll.

    Is citizenship, then really inclusion? Or even active participation? Or is it simply to be known and respected? I believe, my friends, that Lobster C*** is as much a citizen of our U of M community as we are.

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