The Narrator reads in the papers that people have bombed a skyscraper. This was all a part of Project Mayhem, Tyler’s latest project. The first rule of Project Mayhem is that you don’t talk about Project Mayhem. Tyler holds weekly Mayhem meetings in which he teaches people how to fire guns and make explosives.
Suddenly, there’s a secret group within the secret group. Project Mayhem is like fight club, but it’s more violence and with a larger social plan. Where fight club members use violence to change themselves, Project Mayhem members use violence to change the external world.
Tyler gives out weekly homework assignments for Project Mayhem, all of which involve creating chaos, anarchy, and misinformation in society. Project Mayhem members bomb skyscrapers, ruin museums, sabotage fashion shows, etc. Tyler also tells every one of his followers to get in a fight—and lose. They’re also required to buy a gun. The point of Project Mayhem, Tyler claims, is to teach every man to “take control of the world.”
Tyler encourages his followers to target places that are symbols of civilization at its best, such as museums and skyscrapers. Tyler’s message is that by accepting pain and violence in their own lives, his followers can become powerful—powerful enough to “control” the world. The problem is Tyler’s idea of control is pure anarchy and violence—and this is no longer violence as a means of self-fulfillment or enlightenment, but violence inflicted on unwilling victims.
Tyler invented Project Mayhem at a fight club meeting. The Narrator fought a new member and hit him until his face was “ruined.” Afterwards, he fantasized about destroying rainforests and shooting endangered species. The next day, at breakfast, Tyler told the Narrator about Project Mayhem, a plan to destroy civilization.
Much as the Narrator and Tyler founded fight club because they were frustrated with their lives, Tyler founds Project Mayhem after the Narrator expresses his frustration with the monotony of his new life (i.e., his life as a fight club member). The Narrator wants to direct his aggression at other fight club members, as usual, but Tyler wants to turn his own aggression outward and use it to attack civilization itself. Note also that once again the Narrator’s fantasies or dreams lead into Tyler taking concrete action.
In the days following their breakfast, Tyler gets the Narrator to print the “rules of Project Mayhem,” and begins welcoming people into the house—they all sleep in the basement. Everyone who joins Project Mayhem must bring 500 dollars for personal burial, and bring two black shirts and two black pairs of trousers. Tyler calls his recruits “space monkeys,” comparing them to the animals who died in space so that astronauts could survive later on.
Remember the six white shirts and two pairs of black trousers the Narrator wore on his old business trips? Palahniuk implies that Project Mayhem is becoming as authoritarian and collectivist as the corporate culture that Jack and Tyler were trying to rebel against in the first place, as symbolized by Project Mayhem’s new “uniform.” Tyler’s talk of “space monkeys” suggests that his followers must be willing to die for a “greater good,” though he never properly explains what this greater good is.