Category Archives: Alt-Rightgeist

Jumping the Great Whitegeist

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“You guys feel like going for frozen yogurt?”

Naming is the origin of all particular things and the medium is the message, so don’t be surprised (as yours truly predicted) at the death-by-branding of the above-ground alt-right, as carefree mockery in the face of conventional cant gives way to perennial fundraising and dead horse-flogging lamentations of unfairness that nobody can seem to stop.

Indeed, the conviction that bloviating is tantamount to resistance is what adolescents have in common with activists, precisely the plush-doll American dream that Occupy Bernie and the alt-right both thought they were rejecting. Onward! The affairs of strangers must be meddled in half-assedly. I’m all for realism (and vigilantism) in the face of swarthy Idiocracy, but…. an “ethnostate”? How very postmodern. Will there be spandex cycling shorts and fair-trade organic light roast for all us “conquerors and crusaders”? And how, exactly, does getting bricks thrown at you by Antifa harm (how does it not help) the plutocracy, the MSM, SPLC, “und so weiter”? I know, I know, Never doubt that a small, full-retard vanguard can change the world, and I wish you the best of luck. (Come at me personally with that febrile Jewology you like to horrify nursing home yentas with on the Forward comments section and I’ll give your plebeian ass a Greco-Roman colonoscopy like my name was Meyer Lansky. But hey, Richard Spencer says it’ll help you get your ideas out there, right?)

On the other hand—and this is what’s so woefully lost on the inveighing punditry as they puzzle over Spencer’s naughtiness—in an era of vaunted victimhood and infantile HR-speak, racism is healthy by comparison (nor is it entirely unhealthy in general.) Fact is, genteel aversion to frankness is a liberal impulse, not a consensus but a cowardice, and it provides far better cover for exploitation and well-heeled debauchery than get-off-my-lawn conservatism ever did. Neofascism is an overdue rejoinder to the empiricist hubris, intellectual courtesanship and mercenary behaviorism of TED Talk America. Unencumbered by race taboos, only the alt-right is putting forward novel analyses of gentrification and income inequality and elucidating the indispensable role of Benetton inclusivity in proliferating soulless corporatism.

These topics are somewhat ancillary, though. What sensible sort could argue that whitey isn’t sorely in need of a wake-up call? But as a political program, the alt-right jumps the shark. It jettisons all couth, all sense of balance, of individual dignity and of when the inclusive impulse is organic and sincere:

I asked [Spencer] whether I, as someone who is half-Chinese but had a classical Western education, would fit within his group… “I’m a generous guy,” he told me. “If you truly identify with our people, I would not have any problem with that.” But there were genetic deal breakers. “A full-blooded African, no matter how wonderful he might be—I’m not sure that would really work.” (Graeme Wood, Atlantic Monthly, June 2017)

How’s that for “freedom of association“? The pompousness here is far worse than the bigotry. It might be half-joking, but it can never be more than half-serious. Spencer’s identitarianism contends with its starting question (“Who are we?”) too brusquely to build anything but contrarianism and dissent upon.

20th century luminaries who flirted with fascism—Celine, DH Lawrence, TS Eliot—are dismissed today as brilliant but troubled gadflies. Symposia and scholarly papers are devoted to gauging the anti-Semitism of Nietzsche or Heidegger without really parsing their big ideas. In the postwar US, we’ve identified ourselves not with heritage or hierarchy but with the vanguard of wild abandon, the Beats, Lenny Bruce, Jim Morrison, gangster rappers and Hollywood mafiosi, many of whom (not incidentally) were astroturfed plants. Where has this led? Altamont, O.D., Henry Hill ratting out Pauly. Hunter S. Thompson’s proverbial “high water mark.” Divorce, illegitimacy, AIDS, pandemic nervous ticks, strange new addictions, and the destruction of the ecosystem in pursuit of personal fulfillment and freedom from societal constraints. Is this not a Dionysian death cult? Really, how much worse is fascism than, say, a liberal intelligentsia that gives sympathetic media coverage to child rape?

But this is the logical cul-de-sac of political liberty, and for anyone with an IQ above 120, the novelty has simply worn off all the system’s diversions. The white negro long ago supplanted the Ugly American with no resulting change of policy; the atom bomb destroyed the world passively. We live in an era when old men pass for youth impresarios, when Hollywood devours every last comic book and historical footnote for lack of fresh ideas and

the vast fatigue…experienced by a generation on which the multitudes of… innovations burst abruptly, imposes on it organic exigencies greatly surpassing its strength. (Max Nordau, Degeneration)

Just look at your average NPI conference attendee: preppy, scrawny, grey-complexioned, pimple-pocked, rocking Brooks Brothers like awkward bar mitzvah boys. They go about preaching Olympian beauty ideals and gabbing about master morality though as dependent moderns they’d be hard-pressed to make more than a pin-prick in the New Colossus’ pinkie toe.

To their credit, the alt-right is the last bastion of true, unco-opted, unadulterated social satire. I mean, what’s less relevant today than SNL? Lately the dominant, left-liberal paradigm begets only humorless ideological directives and “validation,” however oblique, of skin-crawling peccadillos. Like aging pop-stars, Saudi oil-wells and boomer entitlements, the legacy media is an obsolete investment being defended with ever-increasing ruthlessness:

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Even its Silicon Valley supersessionist heirs (whom you’d think would display more independence of thought, Lord knows they’ve got the requisite leverage) cling to its mid-20th century ideological commitments. Are they bringing us freedom? Behold the near-totalitarian level of perception-management we’re approaching, thanks to our zombified cooperation with this Zuckerberg, the protagonist from One Hour Photo leapt skin-crawlingly into real life and absolute power, only minus the emotions:

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Under the spreading chestnut tree….

They have seeded and infiltrated nearly every information source and thought trend; they can track your emotions in real time and find you in the remotest wilderness; they’ll use gay pride to ratchet up anti-Russian jingoism and black liberation to help destroy the middle class.

In keeping with this strategy, myriad popular online outlets affect a cutting-edge veneer these days, but a good general rule is that the more lurid and higher-budget the content, the more wholly owned its producers are by the planetary managerial class. The biggest backers of Vice, for instance, are BofA, Disney, George Soros and Rupert Murdoch. This brackish scene deserves the vilest ridicule, the most acerbic satirization, but there’d be no funding for that, for the same reason nobody ever invades Switzerland.

Some of the wittiest, most acerbic shit I’ve ever read in my life was spoken at NPI conferences or published on Radix Journal circa pre-Trump. When the point was to express these ideas (not just expand the audience for them), they were way funnier and more exhilarating. Now that the antiseptic media klieg lights have warmed the alt-right’s obligingly exposed butt cheeks, the fact can’t be concealed that vindictive, half-witted, pathos-laden language is rife on Counter-Currents, Radix, TRS, Red Ice and Occidental, and this humorlessness has diffused throughout the alt-right punchbowl as the imperative to branch out and justify itself overtakes insider ribaldry. How sad to be peddling an ideology of order, hierarchy and opposition to commercial vulgarity in the .25 cents’ admission Imagination Land of new media, only to get mere first world pushback as they traffic in ideologies that really punished thought-crime. Now that they’ve had their fifteen minutes, the leadership will spend the rest of their lives scraping donations, “Remember me? Just ten grand more to meet our goal this season.” Even Milo was doing interesting work as recently as 2015, before his election year transition to full-time attention-whoring. Spencer’s criticisms of him are blissfully un-self-conscious.

The problem with the 2016 NPI conference wasn’t the menace or poor taste of the sieg heils, it was the quivering bunghole that compliments the kind of toast Spencer delivered. I mean, “Children of the Sun”? That’s what the Times is calling a Nuremberg rally? Sounds more like a Maya Angelou quote over a stock photo. Children of the fucking sun, why not “God’s Chosen People”?

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“Hail Trump! Hail our People! Hail victory!”

The fact that the bourgeois American WASP is a diminutive, emotionally sterile cardboard cutout who might actually have enjoyed deferring this past seventy years to comparatively dysfunctional cultures that have a little more cut-loose panache than his own is as little discussed on the alt-right as Germany’s no-go zones are on MSNBC—though Spencer does acknowledge it, calling it “the white problem.” Of course, to suppose Trump will arrest these developments significantly is pitifully gullible optimism. As Spencer told some pie-faced yenta at Rolling Stone, “I think we’ve leveraged ourselves in an incredible way, but at some point we need to cross the Rubicon and have a footprint.” Translation: OMG, this might even lead to an internship. In a duck costume. At a mall kiosk. For (in the words of the great Marshall McLuhan) when you gaze long enough into the Facebook, the Facebook gazes also into you.

Power Lunch

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Let them eat hugely important topics

Media coverage of the alt-right has been profuse in the wake of the recent election. Based on the near-uniform reporting in mainstream outlets, it appears as though journalists covering the phenomenon have little prior familiarity with it. Normies affronted for the first time in generations with a resurgent far-right and a critical mass of unapologetic white racial consciousness originating—no less—with millennials savvily harnessing new media, evince not a little sputtering cognitive dissonance.

Maybe they’re right that this is all just a fresh face on fascism. But if so, such repackaging is not so much a subterfuge on the part of alt-righters, but the peculiar ambiance of the times that have given the alt-right momentum. Either way, one reason we keep hearing that there’s nothing novel about the alt-right is because media and academic conformists simply have no ready vocabulary to describe it that’s worthy of its novelty and moment. If the left-liberal hegemony of late-modern Americanism fails to suppress and supersede this new development, it will be because its pundits and cogitators failed to grasp its implications.

Of all the commentary I’ve seen in any mainstream publication, Atlantic editor David Frum’s comes closest (while failing) to treating the alt-right with any real depth or dispassion:

Over the past two decades, Americans have constructed systems of intellectual silencing that stifle the range of debate among responsible and public-spirited people. They’ve resigned hugely important topics to the domain of cranks and haters. If the only people who’ll talk about the risks and costs of a more diverse society are fascists, then the fascists will gain an audience.

A better way to put it might be, ‘If anyone who ever talks about the risks and costs of a more diverse society gets peremptorily maligned as a fascist in publications like the Atlantic, then anyone who speaks of such things will be a fascist according to the Atlantic which—not incidentally—is now a blog.’ But whaddoo I know? I’m not the editor of the Atlantic.

Obviously, David Frum cannot be arraigned individually on this charge he so richly levels at Americans as a whole, but his CV would seem to indict him quite a ways ahead of most others. What we have here is the unintentional concession from a ranking establishment figure, that public discourse in America is a consensus environment subject to peculiar ideological controls.

But whether ‘we’ or David Frum, or whomever, enable so-called cranks and haters to have a voice is much less interesting a question than whether those cranks and haters are saying anything true and worth hearing. Either Frum takes issue with the message regardless of the messengers, or there’s no need to peremptorily tar anyone as a crank and a hater. Even Frum acknowledges that the alt-right is responding to something. For those unbeholden to the interests he represents, a more interesting approach would be to ask whether other—cogent and visceral—interests are threatened, that the alt-right is advocating for. If so, then you’ve got to figure those interests, being prime targets of ‘systems of intellectual silencing,’ had rather not be serviced by the scarcely-chastened likes of David Frum.

The counter-revolution will not be internetized

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Vanguard of the breadline

Is there anything more transfixing than the lurid, sadistic hubbub in this degenerating land of naked opportunism? If the disgraceful Bernie Sanders stands as proof of far-left futility and co-optation, the alternative right stands for outright rejection of the eyeless smile that is reigning, late-modern Americanism—which is kind of like Emerson devolved to Dr. Phil and Dale Carnegie applied to Curtis Lemay.

What recommends the alt-right is that its targets and detractors are rattled more by its truths than by its falsehoods. Like the fish who in David Foster Wallace’s retelling inquires of his companion, “What the hell is water?”, Americanism’s acolytes carry no party card that they’re aware of. So the alt-right is a genuine red-pill, an unflinching gaze into the post-American abyss. But by giving it its moment, Hillary (who feeds as voraciously on the exsanguinated phantom of flyover “fascism” as she does upon the stem cells forfending her convalescence) unwittingly plunged the knife in and twisted: naming is the origin of all particular things, and after summer must come autumn. But until the cognitive dissonance of WNs jockeying for publicity at the trough of common denominator discourse asserts itself, their Apostle to the Gentiles will always be Milo.

Richard Spencer has obviously been reading his James Howard Kunstler. If the Kali Yuga is inexorsable, why take such pains to subvert the uninspiring dominant paradigm when we could be digging cisterns? As noted here before, there is of course the possibility of managed opposition, witting or un-. That genuinely galvanizing subversion might emerge from the exertions of a grad-school activist peddling online “identity” as he eagerly bottom-feeds for awareness-raising coverage is no less conceivable than, say, a vindictive art school reject conquering half of Europe. Problem is, however potent a tool, however wide it opens epistemic horizons, other than bringing people together in spite of cultural differences what the internet excels at is keeping us all off the streets. Counter-intuitively, this is advantageous for the alt-right, at least in the short term, because the alienation of willing participants (i.e., device-symbiotic telecom consumers) expressed within the ostensibly manageable confines of interactive media platforms cannot simply be excised like Randy Weaver or selectively arraigned like the Ron Paul newsletters.

But while racism may be the Emmanuel Goldstein of the Trayvon administration—and race the great taboo of the past half-century—it doesn’t follow that race is always relevantas Spencer tends to postulate. What do I care about FBI crime stats when the Percocet addict casing houses on my block is a peckerwood, and the sassy black lady posting black power memes to Facebook is a good neighbor? So the zeitgeist shift is welcome, until it goes full retard.

What is the alt-right really aiming at? At some point, changing the national conversation is just busywork, but an ethnostate is a tall order when the status quo is liveable and even luxe. When it no longer is, me clinging to my guns, religion and antipathy will not be a committee decision. Meanwhile, what good is subversion of the dominant paradigm if you remain a supplicant for corn pone? Better to buy a seed bank and an Alex Jones water filter while UPS is still delivering.

In any case, the initial burst of these phenomena always gives way to staleness, and power is always crepuscular. So assuming (for the near-term) that her handlers somehow prove incapable of outlawing thoughtcrime—a project you’d better believe is in R&D—at this point only an HRC administration can extend the shelf life of the alt-right’s liberatingly mischievous confrontation with late-modern Americanism. Because—if the God-Emperor frog memes are any indication—a President Trump will almost certainly disappoint. It’s enough to make you nostalgic for the Austrian corporal. The counter-revolution will not be internetized.

One God, no Masters

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Don’t ever stop throwing punches

But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. (Luke 19:27)

But the rest of the world they confront with a contempt reserved for enemies.                                   (Tacitus, Histories 5:2-5)

‘Tis the season of Mars retrograde reactionary chic. I have only one horse in this manger and he most assuredly is not the messiah.

Many an archetype has been cast in legend or approximated by a given personage in history, but it’s rare for an archetype to be embodied in an entire nation. The inimical distinction between Judaism or the Semitic spirit, on the one hand, and the Aryan or aristocratic spirit on the other, is a long-established cliché. Nietzsche called it master versus slave morality; Spengler described the Western as opposed to the Magian cultures. The Church once ascribed the insurrectionary personality of Barabbas to Judaism itself, instead prescribing meekness (or torture, as needed). Along with Shakespeare before them, mid-century continental fascists noted a certain lawyerly, pharisaical cunning, as opposed to Teutonic forthrightness; and Evola juxtaposed the emphasis on penitence and mortification inherent in Levantine spirituality with the high-caste self-possession he identified in the Indo-Aryan tradition.

But just how far are Judaism and yiddishkeit removed from the world of Tradition as Evola conceived it? How distinct is Jewish history from that of the West? Are the Jews merely the bearers of a fossilized culture, as Arnold Toynbee suggested? Or are we vectors of modernity (as both anti- and philo-semites have so often claimed)?

If it’s the latter, this would be a sort of revenge of the nerds: the bourgeoisie, particularly usurers (which is to say, particularly Jews) are the villains in any good critique of modernity. But trade is older than Judaism—so is banking—and one can always invoke the Florentines, the conquistadors, the Protestant ethic and so on. So the worm devouring a cadaverous West must be revolution: bolshevism, relativism, abortionism, negromancy, Yid pimps in guise of head shrinkers and persecuted artistes…..

Well, no one will deny that the Jews are a clever bunch, given to smarting disdainfully under every kind of regime—behavior that can’t be all that incidental to the biblical narrative of slave revolt. I’ll buy the theory that yiddishkeit has a lot to do with contrarianism (“a stiff-necked people”). But long experience assures me it isn’t trained in any particular direction, though of course among Jews some tendencies are more popular than others.

But envy, defiance and cyclical decay of the social order are universal. At bottom, what really differentiates the Jews is just smugness. We don’t believe your fables, we must be smarter. Some people would rather feel smart than be liked, in our case it was a two-thousand year investment. You don’t bash your brow against so many successive empires unless you value your distinctness above all else, as intellectual superiority.

But how does this factor into the erosion of Tradition and the onset of modernity? According to Nietzsche,

the Jews achieved that miracle of inversion of values thanks to which life on earth has for a couple millennia acquired a new and dangerous fascination–their prophets fused ‘rich’, ‘godless’, ‘evil’, ‘violent’, ‘sensual’ into one and were the first to coin the word ‘world’ as a term of infamy. It is this inversion of values (with which is involved the employment of the word for ‘poor’ as a synonym for ‘holy’ and ‘friend’) that the significance of the Jewish people resides: with them there begins the slave revolt in morals.

But something here smacks of reverse victimology, the stereotype of the ruined old noble. I mean, you got taken by slaves? I wouldn’t complain too loud about that if I was you. As Voltaire said, a sucker plays himself:

We hold the Jews in horror, and we insist that all which has been written by them, and collected by us, bears the stamp of Divinity. There never was so palpable a contradiction.

Indeed. But how is that Harold Abraham’s problem? Just because I wrote the tune you imbibe to doesn’t make me an alcoholic. In fact, in their assurance of God’s favor and the worthiness of their existence as a nation the Jews inflicted more damage on the Roman military than the efforts of any subjugant race outside of Teutoburg Forest, and they accomplished this well after the bulk of the defeats that Nietzsche credits with providing the impetus for their inversion of values. It would seem this is as much a race of fanatics (as Voltaire asserted) as it is of intriguers.

Besides, as a neo-platonic manifestation, isn’t kabbalism commensurate in some degree with Tradition? And how could so heady a brew of values-inversion as the Hebrew scriptures have informed the Traditional world of medieval Europe so prominently? It’s as riddled with pagan archetypes and saints as it is with sly Jacobs and Josephs. So my questions aren’t just rhetorical yiddish contrarianism.

Evola concurs with Nietzsche that the Jewish spirit contributes to subverting Tradition, but while Nietzsche savages priestliness, Evola provides it a place in his system. The mechanism of the Jewish enzyme upon the Aryan substrate has always been conceptualized without regard to these inconsistencies. The Jews are always the unmoved mover at the center of the critique of modernity. It seems anyone can find an enemy in the Jews. It simply cannot be that we’ve been working against all these disparate parties simultaneous.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the Jewish animus against x, y or z invoked to explain history. But I’ve seen and experienced the telepathy that prevails between Jews, and while it produces feelings of solidarity, oftentimes it also makes for an extent of visceral contempt that never directs itself at outsiders. The hatreds I’ve felt in my life for individual gentiles pale beside the hatreds I’ve harbored toward individual fellow Jews. When your racial origins are the source of (private) rapturous self-regard and (public) awkwardness and execration, a certain disassociation must take place. So the peculiarities of Judaism are incidental to what makes yiddishkeit an irritant or a deleterious factor in the long trajectory of civilization. The cause, the common quality that Jewish tendencies spring from is solipsism, not political allegiances or theological meanderings; those are mere effects.

And yet…. can you have so many diverse accusers without being guilty of something? Jews are Jews, one way or another there’s a peculiarity to their relationship with gentiles and it’s always similar themes recurring, right? As for Nietzsche’s inversion: Isaiah, Yeshua, Marx, Freud…. You can’t weather two millennia of ass-whoopin’ without a certain inversion of values, and the Jews are master publicists. (Mark Twain explaining the Jew-gentile dynamic with a dollar sign certainly appears unlettered by comparison.) But that means, attendant to the Jews’ ethnogenesis and the earliest redaction of their national myths, there had to’ve been values to invert. Is anything left of them? I think any culturally literate person can name a handful of badass Jews.

Nietzsche’s formula:

Originally, and above all in the time of the monarchy, Israel maintained the right attitude of things, which is to say, the natural attitude. Its Jahveh was an expression of its consciousness of power, its joy in itself, its hopes for itself: to him the Jews looked for victory and salvation and through him they expected nature to give them whatever was necessary to their existence—above all, rain. Jahveh is the god of Israel, and consequently the god of justice: this is the logic of every race that has power in its hands and a good conscience in the use of it.

In other words, there’s master Judaism and there’s slave Judaism, and whichever one your forebears selected out of that freaky Byzantine bazaar that Better Call Saul counseled them to order take-out from, it wasn’t the Jews who choose for them. Unmoved mover, indeed.

Herein lies the wishful but not unfounded reading of Nietzsche that so animated the Nazis: to suppose that the superior man is being thwarted by the rabble, by your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…. But degeneracy is pervasive, and if modernity’s critics are to be believed, it’s glacial. A thousand-year reich is a thousand year reich, even if all that’ll remain from it is “the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls,” as Eliot put it. So notable aspirant Nietzscheans were hopelessly bourgeois, cartoonishly apoplectic, sexually grasping cripples—not unlike today’s disaffected alt-right Winklevoss-twin product of self-esteem parenting and grad school. That’s not to deny that Zuckerberg’s a Yid creep, but if the archetype of cowardice belongs so squarely at the foot of Zion then it’s a red herring.

Of course I’m not limiting my derision here to brownshirts: “This plant grows most beautifully nowadays among anarchists and anti-Semites….” But the affinity of Jews to degeneracy differs little from anyone else’s slouch toward Bethlehem: the 19th century movements to liberalize Judaism, dominant among diaspora Jews to this day, the replacement of ritually significant mitzvot with empty compulsion or else with selective, self-serving tikkun olam, and the deep Jewish involvement in revolution all entail the general disdain for true freedom and virility with progressively less reverence for Tradition, the anchor without the heavenward aspiration, the center that cannot hold.

The death of God has not precipitated the retirement of the priests, who today are but sophists, obliged to market themselves unbeholden to clan, untethered by rite, by responsa, or by any non-contingent concept of truth. Trendy, sanctimonious, without filial devotion or the self-effacement inherent in a genuine ancestor cult, the vestigial Semitic spirit lacks the self-possession of that rare slave whose superior attributes justify his defiance and render his liberation not just inevitable, but ineffable; as opposed to a futile exercise in redistribution of privileges. And the contingency of Zionism reveals itself in the valorization of victimhood—without which Israel is unable to rationalize itself—that permeates Hebrew-language media, and the sheer vulgar refusal of all moral responsibility that characterizes American pro-Israel discourse whether right, left or in-between. What this all amounts to is not an inversion of certain values but a final betrayal of all of them: disdain for others’ strength, impunity when wielding our own.

So while the reactionary late-comer thinks he discerns a straight line connecting Exodus to Bethlehem, Bethlehem to Bolshevism and breakdown, Exodus is not a precedent, not all slaves are created equal, and nothing is new under the sun. Those once-and-future commissars, impresarios, blasphemers, proponents of revelry, turning to new gods, slouching toward Bethlehem, are as old as Baal, and rootless indeed. The remaining function, then, of Tradition, of both primordial Judaism and primordial Christianity (the only true kinds of each) is not tikkun olam but sridut olam, keeping the pilot light on through this darkest of winters, which so many self-declared JewsChristians and humanists have midwifed.

The bait ‘n’ switch

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Trump 2016

As a youth I admired a man, an experienced man with the wisdom of a poet. He was the hunter and I, the dog. I subsumed his instruction like a sultry musk. But when I asked a poignant question the smoke cleared, and he had vanished….

The promise of the good life is the bane of examination

Orchestrator of spectacle

Capturer of imagination

A grand discovery indeed, that connected fear and loathing to vices

Fool me twice, never again: an ancient, malevolent license.

The obscurantist’s inimitable art is to put a price on the sublime, not from town to town, but everywhere, for all time.

A discerning host, your merry diversions are his constant attendance to business.

 

Acute Jew

sic semper tyrannis

sic semper tyrannis

I.

May I recommend the Israeli author Etgar Keret? His work has been widely translated from the Hebrew and he writes occasional columns in the New Yorker and the Guardian. He stands accused by certain reviewers of solipsism and misogyny, but the first is outweighed by likability and the second is guilt-ridden enough to temper its vulgarity. With punk succinctness he lays down an incredulous exasperation, twinkling through lurking shades of methodical mental illness and characteristically abusive Jewish impudence. We see these same psychic fistulae in other artists whose work cannot be fully understood without reference to yiddishkeit—Babel, Kafka, Seinfeld. The Jews have the same relationship with senility as the Catholics have with epilepsy. Half Jews like Vladimir Visotsky and JD Salinger belong in a slightly different category—the mold is broken, the hybrid vigor overwhelming. “Justice, justice you shall pursue”….. St. Paul was driven by this madness, as were Freud and Trotsky and Lenny Bruce—mold-breakers, if not half-breeds. Not counting plagiarism (which those last four were richly guilty of), their scruples precluded the kind of emotional opportunism one encounters all over Keret’s Israel. Either way, it’s easy to see why these people are difficult to live with; we can barely live with ourselves. Borderline Personality Disorder might just as accurately be labelled Acute Jew.

What is interesting to observe about Keret, though, isn’t this characteristic Jewishness, but that it seems to subsist without much reference to Gentile influence. To understand Kafka, you have to understand pre-war mitteleuropa; to understand Babel, you need some sense of the Russian arch. You cannot appreciate Seinfeld without first appreciating America. But Keret presents entirely as a product of Jewish civilization—Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi would be proud, if uncomprehending. He plays entirely on effects that went indissoluble in exile, reemerging in the Levant one fine day to resume their invidious solipsism as if the intervening centuries were nothing but an aberration.

This is an awkward thing to behold. You meet bourgeois, well-travelled Israelis, and the most they can tell you about modern Europe is its orientation toward Jews and Israel, or the skiing, or the prices (especially the prices). The most they can tell you about Americans is that we tend to overpay unreflectively, that we haven’t any good, fresh bread, that we act nice but we’re just pretending. The most they can tell you about Kafka or Einstein is that they were Yidden. They smart at any notion that breaches the nationalist programing they received in primary school. It isn’t that they disagree; they can’t fathom such things. They’re in step with the most liberal current ideas about sexuality, abreast of the very latest technology. They insist that their country is on the front line of the West and of modernity in a benighted corner of the globe with a rich, Western heritage that only they, through hard luck and gumption, are suited to defend. Yet with the exception of a handful of times and places in the Western experience where Jews were heavily involved, their upbringing has utterly de-emphasized nearly every benchmark that otherwise lends commonality to the identities and intellectual traditions of the West across dozens of other cultures and languages.

Of course, Keret is of above-average worldliness, which is why I referenced him. The hucksters and harpies who populate his pages make the mundane maddening to an extent no other Israeli writer has achieved. His fiction bears traces of Chekhov’s influence, and it entirely lacks the deadening mimicry of America that one so often finds along the bourgeois cutting edge of other highly modern, marginally Western societies. But the overwhelming sense one gets from his work is the reemergence of an ancient cast of misanthropes who’ve nothing but flagrant disregard for all the rich commotion that has been taking place, aboveground, without them.

And yet, what makes this separatism remarkable is not so much its longevity, but the packing of bags it entailed. The Nazis and the Fascists were just like any other penny-ante pack of bandits whose meagre vocabularies tended to over-deploy the word respect. Vladimir Putin has this in common with your run-of-the-mill, twentysomething male Wal-Martian. The Zionists are little better, but at least they took their ball and went home. Where communism, progressivism and Christianity propose to alter the world for the benefit of various handicapped classes, where other romantic nationalisms proposed to redraw the lines around various peoples, Zionism proposed to redraw the Jew himself.

Anyone who has had their brush with Israeli culture knows this effort has been hit-or-miss. Of course, through Israel, Jews have demonstrated martial prowess, but perhaps all this proves is that the cobwebs needed brushing aside. Animals and men go mad in cages; a long enough litany of military setbacks will turn even a Yule Brenner into a Peter Lorre. Where various empires furnished the bars, the Sages made up the gilding. Modernity did away with both, but it couldn’t digest man’s tendency for tribalism. And while early 20th-century Zionism fixated on altering the Jew, under inescapable American tutelage Zionism today makes its most stringent and irrational demands of the Arab; not only does it invade his home, it demands his acceptance. This is pure insanity—the manic optimism and febrile entitlement of Democratic Man, held up by airport security off somewhere in literal East Jesus.

II.

Contrast this schizoid opportunism with Catholicism and Islam, religions that share a strong emphasis on man’s intrinsic capacity for reason, which each claims to satisfy perfectly. Though I doubt these claims, I agree that a person’s full, healthy development depends on the opportunity to discern reason from faith, and weigh the two against one another.

A sweet, dim-witted old Adventist once told me something I liked. She told me, “You are the priest of your family.” In Judaism, the nearest approximation of this and other dissenter sects of Christianity is Karaism, whose practitioners are required to draw their own conclusions from scripture (within specified guidelines), rather than defer to experts.

Though an orthodox Rabbinic (i.e., not a Karaite) Jew, my grandfather conducted himself as though he was the priest of our family. He taught my brother, cousin and I (paternal half-breeds, all, and therefore not Jewish under Rabbinic law) basic Hebrew liturgy and scripture, as well as a smattering of Mishnah, and started officiating his own holy day services at home with a small circle of friends and family when he came into conflict with the local rabbi. He was our last direct link in an unbroken chain of tradition.

Now I am married to an Orthodox Christian. To our marriage she brought along a sweet, gregarious and fair-minded little boy, the product of a previous marriage to a fellow Russian. Our son’s original father was disdainful of religiosity and my wife, a non-practicing believer, opted not to have him baptized. But I understand it as my duty to furnish my children with faith against which to weigh reason—a method for counting the stars, so-to-speak.

Judaism is nothing if not the self-styling of a racial caste, and to transmit it to my unmistakeably Slavic older son would be to paint over a zebra’s stripes and mark him as a permanent outsider. So with his and my wife’s agreement I had him baptized by the nearest Russian Orthodox priest.

Though the humble little church and the manner of worship conducted within it was beautiful and uplifting, the process of getting our son baptized was somewhat uncomfortable—as a matter of course our family’s religious backgrounds were inquired about beforehand, and although I was welcomed in (which I wouldn’t have been in Russia), there was a palpable discomfort at my presence from the deacon and the arthritic old pater, who made it plain he didn’t want me around once he ascertained that I myself was not interested in converting. At one Sunday service we attended, the elderly deacon, Hungarian-born as it happens, informed me that as a child in the 1930s his parents worked in the Rome office of some German company or other, and that along with a handful of SS-officer embassy attachés, they used to host a Jewish business contact and his wife. He said this just goes to show that my background is a trifling thing because, as Christ teaches, people aren’t so different.

Well that just doesn’t make things very interesting, and of course I beg to differ. I recently bought two children’s bibles for my sons, one Christian (The Golden Book Children’s Bible) the other Jewish (The Book of Adam to Moses). The Christian one leaves out almost all the jealous, avaricious intrigues of the Old Testament. Its Queen of Sheeba is a chaste diplomat (and white!). It omits the Song of Songs (always a source of adolescent wood in the shul pews), and its Proverbs has nothing to say about the advisability of joining a gang, of committing a robbery, or of going whoring. Its illustrations are bright and cheery. In contrast, though it uses ambiguous language, its Jewish counterpart omits none of the original’s salacious and morally disturbing details. Its illustrations are black, white, a bit abstract and dissonant.

Dissonance, for most people, is exasperating, and Judaism is as exasperating as the Jews. The first in a trifecta of characteristically Western theodicies that sacralize mankind’s aspirations against nature’s starkness, it fails to follow through and build upon those ideals, neither with the kind of comfort food Christianity holds out, nor the unambiguous finality of Islam. It contains laws, and hidden meanings, but no ready logic, and no real bedtime stories.

The Coen brothers deal with this omission in their updated Book of Job, A Serious Man. In this film, a decent family-man is hamstrung by egregious, unearned misfortune. At the end of his rope, he consults with a series of feckless, indifferent rabbis, only to be told kitschy allegories and peppered with unactionable platitudes. A meticulously fair (read: neurotic) man who expects the world to at least be fair at bottom, he seeks solace from his faith as his misfortunes multiply unabated.

As it happens, there’s an astute review of this film at the pseudo-highbrow white supremacist web journal, Counter-Currents, whose editors are big into Savitra Devi and the Hidden Hitler (or something). Its design gives the feel of a Rothschild coven; one gets the sense they aren’t big fans of George Orwell. Most of the pieces they publish are written in the style and at the level of a college admissions essay, but they’ve also got a good many editorial gems and some excellent crib notes on modern European heavyweights like Heidegger. Among the gems is this Serious Man review, by one Trevor Lynch. Check it out; it’s brisk reading, I promise.

Anyhow, the reviewer concludes from A Serious Man that the Coen Brothers are confirming his revulsion of Jews, by breaking their congenital mold to lambast Judaism’s hollow, compulsive high-hattedness. It apparently never occurs to him that this is not apostasy so much as self-criticism, and though he pinpoints Judaism’s stultifying verbosity and solipsism, he cannot concede that so thorough and ineluctable a capacity for self-criticism is a virtue, nor that it’s indicative of how large a measure of the insights that Jews like the Coens bring to modern storytelling arises from their grappling with the conceits and deficiencies of character peculiar to our kind. But if Judaism, as the reviewer maintains the Coens are saying, offers “no meat and no marrow for the serious man”, perhaps protagonist Larry Gopnik’s mistake is that he takes Judaism, along with everything else, so goddamned seriously. The goy’s teeth (you’ll have to see the film) represent absurdity, which the rabbi and the dentist greet with apprehension but ultimately wave off with a characteristically Jewish shrug, while Larry Gopnik allows himself to nearly be driven insane by it. Not-so-subtleties like these are as lost on the hapless Professor Gopnik as they are on vindictive and equally serious ideologues like Trevor Lynch.

But far from exemplifying a strictly Jewish penchant for platitude, Job is just the Jewish take on a universal theme. The Coens aren’t recapitulating it, as our Aryan brother presumes. They’re augmenting it out of a peculiarly Jewish inventory. This is the yiddishkeit that’s so despised over at Counter Currents, and it will always elude their steely knives. But no religion, no philosophy, no manner of thought or line of inquiry is going to be more or less adequate than any other when it comes to the really big mysteries. Or, its relative adequacy is going to depend in turn upon the deductions of the source and each recipient’s own proclivities, rather than the peculiar merits of the ethnicity it emerges from. True, relative to other faiths Judaism tends to exacerbate the tensions the great mysteries provoke, rather than ameliorating them. But for Job and A Serious Man, the message (the reviewer’s “meat and marrow”) is real straightforward: suck it up, and lighten up, respectively. If the good Saxons at Counter Currents prefer Marcus Aurelius, that’s up to them, but don’t go barking up my Jew tree if the message doesn’t tickle your pickle. Like Rabbi Marshak, I’m thinking. That Judaism is replete with nonsense goes without saying, but Job isn’t it.

Christianity and Islam may not offer entirely satisfying answers either, but in attempting to, they stop the proverbial buck. In contrast, by positing a chosen caste, Judaism demands a measure of self-confidence that Christianity eschews, and Islam overdoes. And while the Hebrew God’s anthrocentricity innervates millennial Western theodicy, in His capriciousness He remains an Eastern God of Nature, the nature of the political animal in the anthropocine epoch. Western politics have their genesis as much along the colonnades of Athens as they do in the tent camps of recriminating Bedouins. In a democracy, we’re all elders of Chelm. Not even by putting words into God’s mouth have the Christians and the Muslims succeeded in stemming man’s internecine cat-scratching, not within families and not between nations. Not for wont of ventriloquy, the Jews have long been rending and gnashing at His silence. Neurotic? Hell yes. But don’t count it out. Buck-stopping imperial religions can run from this dissonance, but they can’t hide.

Punk’s Undead

Forgive them, mother

Forgive them, Mother

The Pussy Riot case proves nothing more clearly than the opposite of what it’s deployed to suggest: that Putin’s gravest failing is not his tough guise but its inverse, i.e., his enfeebled effort to play the democrat, which is nearly as half-assed as his much decried tyranny. To the considerable extent his regime concerns itself with domestic public opinion, this is really just an effort to keep one step ahead of America’s diffuse, variegated but—in toto—formidable techniques on that front.

Though glossier and holier-than-thou, the United States’ own forward march of dependent lividity employs all the same time-tested techniques that Putin does. But if recent media exertions designed to turn public anxiety over these into a race issue are any indication, stateside, mind-control commands the very heights of sublimity. It’s just that, in Pussy Riot’s case, Putin’s bumblefucking big-bad-wolfery was practically begging to be pressed into service.

Like Sheena, Heroin Bob and the distressed damsels of Pussy Riot, I was a young punker. I still am (an old one)—all my pottymouth training took place in that aesthetic and olfactory milieu.

Here’s a fun example: as a fourteen year-old, I watched the bass player of the Dropkick Murphys unstrap his guitar in the middle of a set, grip it by the fretboard like a Louisville Slugger and send a guy who had just jumped onstage and given a Hitler salute to the neurosurgery ward…. and get away with it (the guy was actively seizing as security dragged him off).

I’ll be the last to decry the violence of such an act. But the irony of the incident was that, at least aesthetically speaking, Dropkick is no more punk than the IRA is dissimilar to the Black-n-Tans for methodology. To wit, after conking the hapless ruffian, the bassist stepped over him, grabbed the mic and, to the approving roar of the crowd, declared in stentorian fashion that “This is nobody’s private political forum”—easily the most blasé condemnation of fascism I’ve ever heard.

But if Saturday night’s alright for fighting, try donning a sickle-and-hammer T-shirt to a Leftover Crack show and see if you can elicit one-tenth of one percent of that reaction from a human rights-conscientious schtarker. Just don’t overthink it—in punk-rock as in Komsomol, rules are rules.

The obvious criticism of Pussy Riot-hype is that no artist who enjoys the explicit sympathy of the Euro-Atlantic ruling class’ frontman (however melanotic a hipster he may be) retains a shred of punk credibility. But while (say,) Jello Biafra may not view Hillary Clinton’s Department of State as a moral improvement over Alexander Haig’s, any sanctimonious rabble that leaves an appreciable legacy will have its Bolsheviks and its Mensheviks. Before a bearded lady joins the circus, she’s just a freak—afterwards, she’s a commodity, but that doesn’t make her any less of a bearded lady (see also: Billie Joe’s return to the Gilman).

So Jello’s great claim to political correctness is that he’s a cut-rate bearded lady. In contrast, not only did the basically apolitical GG Allin not have a retirement portfolio, he was perceptive enough to croak rather than sticking around to appear on This American Life with Ira Glass. We can only imagine what Jello wouldn’t say if GG had lived and was out touring for car payments and being blasted as a misogynist on Gawker.

Another fine example: the other day I was driving along, listening to Born Against on my car stereo. If they were still around, they’d be #Ban[ning]Bossy, whereas circa 1993—the last year there was a substantive subset of unshorn college womyn—this band was raging against pro-lifers, John Wayne’s body, evangelicals, &c.; basically, avulsing a flux of creepy-crawlies with their gnawed-down fingernails. And thank God they did: are we, in 2015, living in a world forged by VFW Dole voters? By the Moral Majority? Then again, were we then (in 1993)? Sure, G-Dub did a lot of pandering to pro-lifers, but did he (as in: he himself, not some Iowa state senator) restrict baby-murder even just a little, i.e., did Planned Parenthood get one less federal dollar from January ’01 through January ’09? How likely is it that dead babies are anathema to the Bush clan, anyway? They’ve done a lot of pandering to the NRA, too, but after two terms of Texas, the number of rounds in my magazine is still subject to the Clinton-era limit. If you think Ricky Bobby wants the full body scan any more than Ed Snowden, I’ve got a 1911 with a 12-round magazine I wanna sell you, in Brooklyn. (I also thought I heard Matt Taibbi telling Amy Goodman that the Holder DoJ has not prosecuted a single banker, though I may just be off my Abilify.)

But if your entire sense of gall is predicated on the fear that Tony Perkins, Grover Norquist and Bill O’Reilly will one day lead columns of tanks down the Capitol Mall, Tiennamen-style, put Bernie Sanders, Lena Dunham and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on show-trial, then recommission the Enola Gay to frack Yellowstone with, you may be having a hard time following. I’m not saying they wouldn’t do it—I’m saying that such power exists somewhere, and that your Daily Show cast of villains will never even warm their hands in its toasty glow. “So you mean The System, the one that shredded Glass-Steagal and invaded Iraq for sport, is progressive?” Not exactly. I’m asking you to consider the purposes progressivism serves.

As komsomolka Nadyezhda Tolikonnikova informed one man post-sentience sleep apnea awareness campaign Slavoj Zizek in the Guardian, “Modern capitalism seeks to assure us that it operates according to the principles of free creativity, endless development and diversity. It glosses over its other side…” (Does anyone put their criminal history on a résumé?) “…in order to hide the reality that millions of people are enslaved by an all-powerful and fantastically stable norm of production. We want to reveal this lie.” That must be what she was doing on House of Cards and The Colbert Report—but then, would Lenin have gotten anywhere without the Kaiser?

Notice how unfiltered her big-girl thesis statement is. Taking a piss demands more mental energy, one at least needs to aim (well, maybe not Pussy Riot). What in the hell does Putin have to do with the enslaved millions? A cheese-fond knee-capper with a badass dojo is all he is. Are they his sweatshops, or Black Friday’s? For chrissake, Flava Flav bears more responsibility for the predations of global capitalism than Vladimir Putin does.

The norm of production is manic, not normative; precarious, not stable. What’s normative and fantastically stable is consumption, from pickled daikon right on down to Dinty Moore (TM) beef stew, yet these two beacons of post-retro moralism are blind to what any Dinty Moore consumer can garble if not exactly articulate, which is that Soilent Green is The People. So thoroughly is Anthony Bourdain to the reigning racket what Lazar Kaganovich was to Stalin’s that you’re even liable to find a can of Dinty Moore wet food in your Chopped basket. Do you reckon a ground-down Shenjien assembly-line tech would rather organize his colleagues, string up the foreman and issue a list of demands from behind a makeshift barricade, or indenture himself to the Triads for passage to the States—or Peru—on the off chance his kids’ll ever be in a position to afford the kinds of products he and his ilk manufacture?

Remember the mid-90s? I seem to recall a lot of fulminating over sweatshop labor. There were stories all over NBC’s Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, 60 MinutesTime and Newsweek. Nike was on a PR defensive. A bunch of brace-faced bar mitzvah kids from my synagogue organized a downtown candlelight vigil with their counterparts from the local Catholic school. Being anti-sweatshop was all the rage. Now? More sweatshops, more Whole Foods, more free range, fair trade, more low impact, more farm-to-table…… more contrived moral distance, but if you want a piece you’re gonna have to be paying a lower tax rate than somebody’s secretary.

In 2015 Nike is on the right side of history, and more evil than ever. The System picks its battles; these are what we call progressivism. Those skinny jeans aren’t going to stitch themselves, so moral qualms are outsourced to identity politics and presto!, everyone’s a Twitter activist, and no one’s a revolutionary. Thus the stability of the “norm of production”. Give it thirty years and see how you like the alternative.

Ever wonder why, since the early-90s—that pitiful last outburst of rock-n-roll ardor and petulance—there hasn’t been any superseding groundswell of teen spirit? The iconoclasts of that period are all now bloated icons. Meanwhile, weed is literally five-hundred times stronger, psych meds have become party drugs, the great satirists of the day are a pair of regime spokesmen, actors and actresses shamelessly model cosmetics and haute couture well into their sixties and seventies, Hollywood is cannibalizing itself with remakes and biopics of dead celebs before they’ve gone cold and the country’s number-one public intellectual is a food tourist. And they’re all red-diaper babies.

Menachem Begin (Yasser Arafat’s and my personal favorite fascist) once hypothesized, based on his experience of NKVD interrogation, that the publicized confessions of disgraced Soviet leading figures were almost never procured by direct physical coercion, but by gradually giving the prisoner to understand that if he were to persist in maintaining his innocence, his obstinacy would go unacknowledged and unremembered by the cognitively manicured society beyond the prison gates. How much more is this the case where the tap yields potable water, Payless is having a perpetual two-for-one sale and anyone can become a YouTube sensation? People protested sweatshops, and they got gay marriage, and if Kennedy sides with Ginsburg a whole lot of bar tabs will become wedding registries, and a whole lot of rent checks will become mortgage payments. “Endless development and diversity”, anyone? I’m afraid slave labor’s here to stay. I don’t much like it either, but if it really bothered me, I wouldn’t be in college, learning progressivism.

If you’re so disturbed by consumerism, no one’s stopping you from donning a bear skin and going foraging on BLM land, or dumpster diving, or cashing in your chips and homesteading. In Russia, they’ve got the whole of Siberia. There’s a well-known Old Believer named Agafia who has been subsisting off the taiga, single-handed, for upwards of five (count ’em) decades. Pussy Riot, on the other hand, was living in the heart of Moscow. I don’t think they hand-stitched those balaclavas.

(Updated 09/2015)