In the face of human meaninglessness, given the inevitable extinction of even the remote possibility of thought as the universe ticks towards its eventual demise, let us turn to the current election cycle. Like Kent Brockman welcoming our new alien overlords, my acquiescence to this election cycle has made me welcome the absolute extinction of all life. Much has been made about Trump defeating expectations and “decency,” as he has, barring a Ted Cruz-led attempt at a coup d’etat, all but locked up the Republican nomination. The concept of “decency,” of course, is completely alien to something as nakedly exploitative, vicious and brutally stupid as American politics, so I hope to address the wide range of thinkpieces being churned out regarding the significance of Trump’s most openly terrible supporters—that pitiful jamboree collectively referred to as the alt-right. As a motley collection of conspiracy theorists, misogynists, theocratic monarchists, racists, borderline Nazis, anime Nazis, actual Nazis, pick-up artists who happen to be fanboys of the Third Reich, and rapists’ cheerleaders, this illustrious bunch is currently being flogged by Breitbart as a dynamic, youth-led, and irreverently offensive right-wing political movement juxtaposed with the neoliberal consensus of the more staid elements of the Republican party. For those more grounded in reality they are, rightly, the most loathsome collection of human beings to gain a mouthpiece in an election cycle since the halcyon days of Barry Goldwater or David Duke. Of course, those catering to the cuckold-obsessed anti-Semitic racists would like to treat their fan base as uniquely responsible for the political ascendency of Donald Trump (a yam with a combover), regardless of how tenuously this idea is connected to reality. There are three related concerns here: firstly, that the alt-right is new or has a particularly strong impact on the Trump campaign; secondly, that the alt-right represents a coherent set of related concerns; and finally, that the rise of Trump is related to his “slaying it” in the anime porn/Neo-Nazi Twitter demographic, rather than the brutal, casual bigotry of wide swathes of the population.
There is not much evidence to indicate that the alt-right has much to do with Trump’s success. The reincarnation of Il Duce—cobbled together from a bottle of spray tan, an overripe orange, and a 1920s political cartoon of a predatory capitalist—has probably reached unprecedented heights only given factors that existed long before the dregs of Twitter mewled their first “cuck.” The Republican Party, or the coalition of people who matter in terms of funding and ideological grooming, has spent the last 20 or so years attacking a “Washington culture” consisting of taxation-hungry perpetual insiders, disconnected from the needs of “real” Americans. The most important architects in terms of producing this consensus are the Koch brothers, who spent endlessly to gradually normalize this dogma in favor of free market capitalism, a system that benefits them and people like them at the expense of basically every other carbon-based lifeform. This is accomplished less by attempting to enlarge the membership rolls of the Mont Pelerin Society and more by claiming that an elite class of out-of-touch politicians (funded by nebulous yet scary donors) are spending your hard-earned taxes on entitlement programs—which is why you are stuck in a dead-end job. This was extremely successful early on—the Kochs’ Golden Boy was George Bush II, a man who openly outsourced thinking to his cabinet in order to devote his time to seeming somewhat confused about what his job actually was.
However, the messages disseminated to the masses are not necessarily taken up by their recipients as intended. For example, the intention behind launching the astroturf Tea Party movement was to bolster resentment regarding Obamacare (among other aims), and to conveniently confuse those who were already dead-set against federal health care reform about what that actually would mean. Instead it produced a sprawling rockstar movement of conspiratorial cranks who floated theories tying together the Illuminati, Obama’s secret Muslim identity, Obama’s lack of American citizenship, “death panels,” and various strains of ideologically-tinged xenophobic nativist populism. However, this created a paradoxical situation wherein career politicians spent their entire careers decrying career politicians (such as Ted Cruz, likely Zodiac Killer and a goblin shark in a suit with an Ivy League education masquerading as an everyman, despite a long history of holding positions of power). Weirdly, Trump eschews the dogma that party donors would like to see promoted (neoliberal capitalism, cut with whatever keeps the voters in the cheap seats), opting instead to give the people what they wanted and embracing hardline populist nativism. Economically, he’s why the money surge behind much of the pre-2016 Republican party (with the Koch brothers being a major example) is now a slow trickle at best. There is probably a compelling conversation regarding the fact that neoliberalism is basically compatible with any social ideology (which explains the career of Murray Rothbard, who embraced everything from the Black Panthers to Pat Buchanan for neoliberal reasons), but what’s more relevant for this article is the chorus of dog whistles arrayed in support of neoliberalism. The Republican party base has been cultivated under a platform of schoolyard-level bullying and bombastic proclamations, and given that much, Trump is a bona fide hit—simply because he bypasses the unnecessary components for a Republican campaign, such as actual neoliberalism or maintaining a position that could be nailed down (given that he seems to hold consistency in almost the same contempt he holds women).
Which brings us to the noisiest followers of Donald Trump, led by professional clown and the collective effort of 44 /pol/ contributors Milo Yiannopoulos. As an important caveat, plenty of people give Milo too much credit by ascribing his stated beliefs to some kind of inner conviction; another not-insubstantial number of detractors treat him with something between curiosity and contempt. My perspective is to take Milo at face value and not believe anything that comes out of his mouth. It isn’t that I think he is insincere in his attempts to offend people; rather, I think that his true sincerity lies in his naked ambition and desperate need for attention. In this sense, Milo is like the multi-season, multi-platform reality contestant of talking heads—he is guaranteed to draw ratings, but too loathsome to actually deserve a prize, and has the somewhat-sad belief that constantly hitching his star to whatever topic the most people are up in arms about will finally break him into “the end game,” whatever it is. This is complementary to his life as a trust fund baby and college dropout who found his “calling” in Gamergate, a movement well-suited to his personal integrity (exemplified by his acceptance of a tech job—for Breitbart—which he was radically unqualified for in order to outsource his actual writing duties to Kotaku in Action and 8Chan. ETHICAL!).*
*Which explains some of his editorial choices, such as publishing an article about the MRA-approved Sex Robot thesis as a rebuttal to feminism.
Milo’s greatest contribution to a non-organization devoted to a non-issue that drew scam artists to it like moths to a flame was (ironically) acting as a shield from criticisms of bigotry by virtue of his identity as a bona fide minority.** Gamergate provided a trough of money for anyone who would pander to them, and set a low bar for pandering in their willingness to give a man allergic to reality (and shirts)—an off-brand, more openly-racist Anton LeVey —thousands of dollars to produce a documentary without possessing even the rudimentary skills to do so. This doesn’t even touch upon Gamergate’s provision of a convenient source of (at least theoretical) revenue for preening hacks with delusions of grandeur such as Roosh V and Paul Elam. Unlike the contemptible dregs that flocked to the persecution complexes and #Benghazi-like paranoia that defined Gamergate in order to fleece some of the most guileless people to ever throw a tantrum, Milo brought something resembling respectability and journalistic credentials (and found a niche for lining his own pockets). Yet Gamergate couldn’t last forever (and despite their near-constant Internet whining, most of the people involved in Gamergate were not in it for the long haul—as much as swastika-tattooed racist creep Andrew Auernheimer (“Weev”) wanted Gamergate to become the next big thing in white nationalism, most of its adherents were more interested in harassing women on the Internet than starting a race war), so Milo jumped onto the next frontier in reactionary content: the alt-right.
**Given Gamergate had a PR problem from the get-go as young, white men who were proud to attack women and minorities in gaming, their solution (rather than reevaluating their position) was to don digital blackface and brownface and argue that “SJWs” are using them (minorities, not Gamergaters in blackface) to further a point. What rare non-white, non-dude Gamergaters there are have been trumpeted as proof of GG’s total lack of bigotry. Milo fills in their token gay man slot.
Firstly, the alt-right is sort of a weird shorthand for a bunch of things and, importantly, many of said things lack any shared, core tenets to lash together a meaningful coalition—other than maybe harassing Jewish journalists, or calling people “cucks,” or loving Donald Trump. There isn’t a particularly simple genealogy but, to make some sense out of it: skinhead-style Neo-Nazis (the sort that populate Stormfront or were members of the National Socialist Movement, the American 3rd Position, the Aryan Nations, etc.) spent the last 20 or so years being humiliated in every conceivable way. Their attempts at street activism were systematically crushed with pitiful turnouts (i.e. their nadir was having ARA or Anti-Fa stomp them in public) and their larger organizations were gutted by SPLC lawsuits. However, the politer versions of racism and Holocaust denial and Nazi apologism (Jared Taylor, Steve Sailer, etc.) continued to exist as a “tolerable” fringe among right-wing circles, trading more on nativism and xenophobia than open appeals to burn crosses. And, naturally, a lot of the alt-right blogs and “thinkers” cluster around ideas promoted on “race realist” (i.e. not-that-politely racist) sites such as VDARE and American Renaissance.* The post-Cold War conspiracies about Marxism, without the boogeyman of the USSR, also morphed into a more paranoid conspiracy that nicely meshed in with the ‘culture wars’ about university education. The term Cultural Marxism, derived from a baffling reading of the Frankfurt School and Antonio Gramsci, is popular among the conspiratorial fringe, a call to action to find creeping Marxist messages in everything (without even a basic understanding of what Marxism is!). Essentially the argument is that Cultural Marxism is the product of Marxists (usually controlled by an illuminati cabal of Jews, obviously) who infiltrated public institutions to turn children towards Marxism and to make the media proclaim messages that are Marx-like (most of these messages are probably not found in Capital, Volume I, and have more to do with race and gender-egalitarian beliefs than seizing the means of production, but I digress). While heavily popular with the Stormfront crowd as a new dog-whistle for Jews or progressive thought, it also became extremely popular with the rambling crowd around Alex Jones and Glenn Beck (albeit slightly trimmed of its overtly Nazi elements). Finally, the tech-bubble libertarian fringe—possibly with a side of woo (for a really good rundown, read Corey Pein’s piece for The Baffler)—has functioned as a factory for weird ideas about egalitarianism, notably from Curtis Yavin and Nick Land. While the “Dark Enlightenment” or NeoReaction as proposed by Yavin and Land is ostensibly taken various degrees of seriously by people who view themselves as the future dictators of a transhumanist fiefdom, their concept that authoritarian rule is preferable to democracy and equality is a lie which can easily snowball (like a katamari of loathsomeness) to incorporate the other fringe ideas concerning race, gender, and sexuality (hence the very weird pickup-artist-to-reactionary-politics connection, as seen with Roosh V and Heartiste). Given that, this worldview (reactionary persecution complex) is the main motor of tantrums such as Gamergate, the Rabid Puppies and Men’s Rights Activism; prior to this election cycle, those were the public faces of this sort of thinking.
*Also the White Citizens’ Council, which was influential to Dylann Roof, and the John Birch Society, oft-plagiarized by PUA scum and Gamergate panderer Matt Forney.
Most people with a modicum of decency would rather be subjected to an unanesthetized dental appointment than be referred to as a Gamergate supporter, MRA, or the sort of person who thinks that an unending mine of inadequacy and overcompensation like Theodore Beale (“Vox Day”) is a reasonable role model. There are perfectly good reasons for this—for example, most people find it to be in poor taste to change their Twitter avatar to a picture of Hitler and go about harassing a nebulously-defined enemy as a way of feeding their persecution complex. But at the root of most of the alt-right is the toxic result of aggravated entitlement running face-first into failure. To be somewhat cruel but abundantly clear: the alt-right is the product of people who were (regardless of skill, talent, ability or capacity) told that they were special and deserved to succeed, and rather than accepting the reality of their total ordinariness, turned to blaming their failures on others. To be even more mean-spirited: Theodore Beale is a pathetic sack of absolute failure whose sole contribution to this world was ballot-stuffing to try to win an award. After an embarrassing stint in electronic music, he moved on to a failed career in publishing, where he is most famous for being expelled from the Science Fiction Writers of America for his unrepentant racism. Rather than accepting that he might just not be all that talented, Beale resorted to flooding the voting of the Hugo Awards (which he desperately wants to win, in order to prove he has experienced something even resembling success) with Gamergaters and their ilk.* Even with this ballot-stuffing measure, Beale has still failed to win his coveted award, so he has insisted that having the award go to no one is some sort of moral victory (and also, this year, managed to be trolled by Chuck Tingle). In his case, being a petulant, tantrum-prone manlet is essentially the only accomplishment that he can list (since his job writing for WorldNetDaily is probably more the product of his father being a founder than his capacity to string words together) and makes him an excellent face for the alt-right. That is, he is preening, pseudo-intellectual, impotent, balding, overcompensating and comically shrill; despite dubbing himself as a Supreme Dark Overlord in a laughable attempt to puff himself up, he comes across more like Cobra Commander sans any inspirational qualities. The alt-right is a lot of things: a haven for some of the most loathsome people on the Internet to create a safe space, a demonstration of Wilhelm Reich’s observations on the relationship between unhealthy sexuality and authoritarian personalities, a movement where a vast majority of adherents conflate human interaction with misunderstood wolf psychology—however, the one thing it is not is particularly novel. Most of their ideas about social decline are drawn from various strains of fascism, which in turn drew on classical sources. There is not even a particularly coherent picture of what comes after cultural decline among the alt-right —although an all white homeland is the most popular (and Milo himself often dodges talking about these elements, because they give lie to the veneer of respectability he wants to hastily apply to the movement).
*Weirdly, the Gamergate argument—that gaming has been flooded by outside perspectives with an agenda forcing multiculturalism on a homogeneous gaming community—is actually what the Rabid Puppies ended up being: a ideologically bent group of outsiders attempting to twist an industry into catering to their wants.
The comforting thing to do is to stare at the dregs that populate the nebulous alt-right and reassure yourself that you are nothing like them. This is the content of most of the hand wringing editorials—how simply uncivilized it is for people to anonymously stalk and harass individuals they disagree with, how disturbing the unabashed racism and misogyny is, how terrible and regressive their gender and sexual politics, are or how gauche and tasteless it is to openly lust after Donald Trump.* It is certainly a far cry from the elegance with which most people swaddle their casual bigotry. Cathy Brennan—pioneering fake goth, transphobe and internet stalker—is mostly loathed for her casual transphobia, yet she and Milo are nearly identical in their position on transphobia, including their support of the Pacific Justice Institute and the Drop the T campaign. That is, while she certainly identifies as a liberal of some sort, Brennan’s anti-trans activism is nigh indistinguishable from Milo’s, their only major difference being that Milo wears the standard-issue queer haircut far better. It is the proximity between the alt-right and the casual bigotry of the general population that should be worrying, not the supposed gulf between them. Hillary Clinton (the lock for Democratic nomination) in her infamous “superpredators,” speech was only divergent from the crude racism that populates most of the alt-right blogosphere in her unwillingness to use racial slurs. Ultimately the difference in positions of RamZPaul and the Democratic hopeful boils down to the degree to which they are willing to be open with their callous assessments of race issues. This is not to claim the position that racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, etc. are inescapable components of being “human,” but rather to point out that even most of the politically-acceptable liberal positions are not all that divergent from those of the supposedly extreme right wing. The alt-right is probably the best illustration of Nietzsche’s concept of ressentiment, the ease with which individuals elide the pervasiveness of the toxic beliefs openly espoused by the alt-right by suppressing them and burying them in cordial language.
*This is not hyperbole on the part of yours truly. Milo Yiannopoulos openly lusts after Donald Trump referring to him as “Daddy,” which resulted in his depressing internet slap fight with Ben Shapiro, which featured the headline, “No Donald Trump Isn’t Your Daddy. Grow Up.”
Most of the liberal hand-wringing over the “rise” of the alt-right (which is more reflective of the pervasiveness of toxic ideas than of any actual power held by a bunch of incompetent Internet trolls) is especially tied to the use of violence. Americans, in particular, like their violence extremely sanitized and far from home—and the overt adoption of Nazi motifs and casual racism of the alt-right is shocking to them. Of course, these are the same people who crow endlessly about how “All Lives Matter,” as a way of divorcing their ostensibly privileged position in society from the reality of anti-Black police violence. These same people, of course, are the sort who proclaim the ultimate value of free speech, and defend the right of fascists to express their views, believing that some sort of cold rational debate exists and would defeat them. The truth is that, from their own viewpoint, the alt-right wins as long as anyone acknowledges them and their putrid soapbox—and the best solution to shutting them up is the one that has been proven effective time and time again: smacking them upside their stupid heads to remind them that rather than some monstrous alien overlords, they are Redditors with questionable hygiene, whose power fantasies are totally divorced from their actual capabilities.
Art by Jun Joestar.