Tuesday, 24 January 2017

IDEOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT, AND "THE RIGHT STUFF"



There has been a lot of buzz lately about the "doxxing" of the TRS crew, and Mike Enoch in particular.  To a certain extent, dwelling on the situation is going to inevitably exacerbate the problem.  However, two prominent themes that have come up that I think deserve some attention. 

The first has to do with the idea of ideological orthodoxy.  I am a fan of Fash the Nation, and to a lesser extent The Daily Shoah. By listening to these podcasts regularly, I allowed what I consider to be a strongly dogmatic position—one that I can’t wholly identify with—to color my perception of the world.  I think this is a natural occurrence and to some extent, given a particular listener’s sense of conviction, varies from case to case.  These podcasts greatly shaped some people’s mindsets, whereas for some it merely introduced a new lexicon and provided news and entertainment.

Regardless as to which category the reader falls into, the worldview presented by TRS is one which celebrates ethnic nationalism and reactionary anti-Semitism, as well as exhibiting an unusually fawning adoration for statist authority.  These traits are not to be derided or commended here; they are simply what they are: the hallmarks of TRS orthodoxy.

As the endeavor gathered steam since its inception in 2014, an implicit distinction formed in my mind regarding its content; this was a distinction that TRS never collectively acknowledged though it would essentially become the operation's Achilles’ heel. Namely, the people running and following TRS knew that there was a distinction between being entertained by the content and actually subscribing to the tenets espoused by the shows’ hosts. 

This wedge between two types of behavior (temporary enthrallment and long-term behavior modification) also happened to coincide with the recent declared split between the Alt-Right and the Alt-Light. It is worth noting that TRS actively agitated for this division, most likely with the hope that this would ideologically inflame the people who were already on board with the burgeoning TRS-specific ideology. Another, most likely intended consequence, was that anyone who came under the sway of the podcasts because of their entertainment value would feel a conscientious duty to swear allegiance to the newly codified ideology.

As this developed, it became less of a matter to appeal to the movement as a whole, as it was about introducing a set of normative imperatives that interrogated the listeners’ eligibility to participate at the minimum capacity of listenership.  As the relevancy of “pool parties” and “D’nations” mounted, the promise/threat of “extreme vetting” for potential participants increased, leading to a quasi-cultish atmosphere.

Enoch inspects the TRS army.
This atmosphere then brings me to my second observation. One Facebook thread discussing the doxxing mentioned how the members of the Death Panel had begun "dropping like flies" and how, as this was happening, no one on the Shoah was explicitly mentioning this "elephant in the room."  For some reason the comment thread then veered into the topic of charismatic personalities being important to the right in general and admiration for these personalities in some cases outweighing fidelity to one’s core principles.

This idea is crucial if we think of the right historically. Figures like Schmitt, Junger and Yockey, among many others, understood that it is the individual’s ability, and earned right, to utilize judgement that characterizes right-wing (and to a lesser extent Western) thought.  This notion of volition is at the heart of Spengler’s valorization of the ‘Faustian’ character of Western man. As collectivist as the right can be, it will inevitably need to place faith in leaders, insofar as leaders can make lasting, concrete decisions. 

The divide between the dogmatism of certain factions on the Alt-Right and its push for Trump’s victory represent both the best and worst aspects of the movement.  In spite of Trump’s flaws, the movement as a whole saw him as a leader who stood for key issues and was bound to make definite judgments and decisions.  These decisions are not necessarily supported by every faction in the Alt-Right—but they are definite in character.  The dogmatism of factions like TRS came into existence by a gradual process of refinement, so to speak, but there was no genuinely authoritative Will behind them when push came to shove.

Once the individuals behind this honing were "outed," they could no longer revert to the position that they had been merely purveying entertainment within the parameters of a right-wing medium. They had painted themselves into an ideological corner that no one among them had the authoritative weight to maintain, so they abandoned that corner. (It's unclear, at the point of this writing, where things will go from here, though it appears that Fash the Nation has committed broadcasting seppuku.)

Having realized that I could not conform to their homogeneity, I had to begin viewing their output as mere entertainment. I did not see them as heroic leaders, but only as entertainers. The individuals most shocked by the revelations surrounding Mike Enoch, however, were offended for moral reasons. These are people who had struggled to conform to an ideal that they realized was not even upheld by Enoch himself. In short, they felt they had been let down by a man who wasn't what he appeared to be. 

The sadness of clowns.
What we continue to learn with the rise of online activism is that formal ideologies are inextricably tied to the platforms from which they are expounded. Coupled with this realization is the awareness that by playing to both our sense of engagement as well as our norms, formal ideologies impart a sense of permission. This is something Enoch mentioned on the Shoah a few times: the discourse of the Alt-Right gave whites the vocabulary to express their dissidence within the current political climate. The problem began with the dogmatic hardening of this sense of permission into a set of platitudes the listener was expected to adopt.
       
This mimicry as licensed by an idealistic political ideology brings us back to the emphasis on authoritarianism that I had previously associated with thinkers like Schmitt, Junger, et al.  When a program of political idealism is formulated by an ascertainable individual we are basically putting our faith in that person’s capacity for decision-making. Being ascertainable in the sense I am speaking of here does not necessarily entail forgoing anonymity, though that might lend authenticity at the outset of the project. What is crucial though is that, if one is anonymous, one realizes the limitations to which one can morally and ethically dictate.

I empathize with TRS, I will miss Fash the Nation if it does not return, and I don’t wish to paint everyone who participated in TRS with the same brush—there are degrees at work here. What I am arguing is that the decrees made by such a persona cannot overstretch their limits. There is a responsibility for both the hosts and the listeners to make their demands thoughtfully and with courtesy.

 

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