'Anime Girls and the Rise of Crypto-Fascism' / Loughlin Foley
“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”
What do universities, mainstream movies and the Human Resources departments of major corporations all have in common according to the internet? They're all overrun with feminists and militant Leftists, apparently. If you've spent much time trawling comment sections and YouTube you've probably noticed some unusual but distinctive terms floating around. "Cuck", "Soyboy", "Triggered', "Feminazi" and "SJW" among others. The origin of these can be traced back to a loose political movement on the Internet know as the "Alt-Right".
A few years back, when I was angrier and more impressionable I found myself involved with this odd phenomenon of the Alt-Right. Now, being slightly older and marginally less impressionable I've stepped back and I think I'm in a pretty good position to explain what it is. In dry terms 'the Alt-Right' describes a political group comprised of predominantly young, white, male people who would consider themselves Conservative but are opposed to the mainstream parties that would identify themselves as such. It includes Libertarians, fascists, and more obscure groups such as monarchists and fascist mystics. However, the meat and focus of this article are the former two. Furthermore, interesting as feudalists and Nazi occultists might be in a post-industrial revolution and World War II world, they're so obscure they're an object of morbid fascination rather than productive study.
Having come out of it I was affected quite deeply by my time in the group. Maybe it's because my thinking has changed. Maybe it's because I'm worried that I could slide back into it without being rather rigorous. Or maybe it's because I'm alarmed that an otherwise sane and rational person could so gradually slide into the rhetoric of hatred and vitriol, and that the methods by which people are ensnared are so insidious.
If one person's beliefs can be so deeply changed and warped, it does not bode well for the future of a moderate or better society. Many remark on the strange and sudden lurch of people in authoritarian regimes, and wonder how people who had once believed in democracy or seemed otherwise reasonable could so quickly and extremely change their opinions. Experiencing it firsthand makes it all the more fascinating and horrifying.
My movement to the Right began rather innocuously and slowly, following a sharp swerve to the Left. I remember feeling distinctly disillusioned with mainstream Leftist ideals. I'd drifted away from a commitment to Labor or Democrat principles to orthodox Marxism. The dogmatic approach of the specific group I associated with and the general lack of any tangible plan to achieve this grand utopia began to haunt me. The mere idea of a better world was insufficient to console me through despair at the state of society. I felt purposeless and unable to channel my beliefs into anything meaningful or tangible.
Eventually, I stumbled across a video that first introduced me to the term Social Justice Warrior (SJW) and changed the course of my beliefs. In it, an Alt-Right 'gatekeeper' of sorts, Sargon of Akkad, spoke of how the SJWs had shifted away from reason and now sought to silence discussion and logical debate, relying instead on feelings and dogma to advance their ideas. At the time this spoke to me on a deep level. It was a counterculture movement that condemned that which I felt disillusioned with. I was hooked, and wanted more.
Thus began my entry into the YouTube skeptic community. For the uninitiated, this sounds pretty harmless, and so it seemed at the start. My first committed intellectual position was atheism, and being a typical white teenager, I looked to YouTube to explore it more. At first, it seemed rather astute. These men seemed articulate and quick, dashing the ludicrous assertions of some rambling Creationist or another. Then, however, an odd trend began to occur. They would speak out against the evils of modern feminism or attack the fact that some white character or another was being played by a minority actor in some big-budget adaptation of a beloved nerd property.
Precisely what atheism has to do with 'The Force Awakens' not starring a white man is unclear - yet at the time it seemed perfectly reasonable. The community billed itself as paragons of reason, defending it against the illogical nature of Christian fundamentalists (or anyone religious, really), Muslims, the Left and just about anyone who wasn't also a Skeptic. For a young white man who believes himself intelligent by virtue of being logical, this discourse is highly addictive.
What made it all the more impactful was that they still claimed to be Left-wing. This is a tactic that will become quite familiar the more this issue is looked into, so keep it in your mind. It allowed one to partake in racist, sexist, and otherwise prejudiced behaviour while appearing moderate or even progressive. In fact, not only were these skeptics supposedly Left-wing, but they were the real Left wing. The 'Classical Liberals' who remained committed to the ideas of liberty and freedom of speech espoused by thinkers who they never thought to actually read.
This Left, however, seemed predominantly focused on attacking other Left-wing thinkers - with the attacks on the Right seeming more of a gesture. They certainly condemned Conservative thinkers, but never on a specific point. In fact, this freedom apparently involved being opposed to affirmative action on the grounds of 'equality of opportunity' and denying the wage gap on the grounds that it was illegal to pay women less for the same job. The resultant 'earning gap' that was acknowledged was supposedly because women simply chose less lucrative, high-pressure or dangerous jobs. Now, to most listeners, this will sound remarkably like mainstream Conservative ideology, and you would be correct.
Feminism was supposedly finished since equal rights had been achieved. In a world devoid of nuances and unconscious prejudices, the need for activism was gone, and those that still practised it were simply entitled or driven by emotion. And, for the average young man who interacts with these problems in only an abstract sense, that can be quite a powerful narrative.
This is generally coupled with the fact that this group has rarely been spurned by the law or politics. For the average young white man, the institutions of the police and law can seem benign and infallible. The police will only respond adversely if you're breaking the law and you're unlikely to find people of your race and gender barred from positions of power by latent prejudice. There are laws against sexism and racism both generally and in the world of employment, granted. But these have been generally insufficient to assuage deeper issues of prejudice and material disadvantage. But, to the young white man in his world of relative stability, the question seems to arise. How could racism or sexism be an issue if they're already illegal?
From here it was a gradual slide into increasing extremism. After finding 4chan I no longer felt ashamed to claim to be Right-Wing. My beliefs became openly libertarian, and I struggled through Atlas Shrugged (a genuinely awful book, believe me). From here, it was only so long before I hit crypto-fascism. Every race needed a specific ethnostate, and it just so happened that the white ones were the wealthiest due to the nature of those within it. Blacks committed more crime due to broadly biological or cultural factors.
At one point I even opposed climate change against any kind of reason and a mountain of evidence. If there were a position to deny, I would seize upon it. I would find the videos that were placed up and down vote them. I would make my racist jokes, and browse racist memes. I would see and commit the bogus statistics to memory.
This is the other great ability of these videos. Beyond just exposing people to ideas, these videos give people the tools to present them. The oddly long videos (ranging from half an hour to a full hour of responses to what is generally a five-minute video) are always a unilateral debate, responding to some specific video. Often low-hanging fruit, many of these thinkers would lampoon it, allowing a new devotee to follow their favourite YouTubers tear down this person in what was equal parts blood sport and circle jerk. And soon, I too was enlisted as a soldier for bullshit. Posting online, disliking videos upon command, and telling everyone who would listen (a surprising amount of people were quite patient) about how good society was, except for everyone who complained about their issues.
'There's no problems, only solutions.'
In the modern age many people feel a general sense of meaninglessness and disempowerment. One group who this seems to have hit especially hard is the young white male. Despite occupying a comparatively privileged position in society, they seem to be responsible for the majority of lone-wolf attacks, shooting up schools and ramming cars into groups of people. Young white men are promised the world, told they must fill this position, and then find themselves as "losers", playing video games and watching anime, disdained by the people they're told they're superior to.
For a long time, these unpopular young men had a place to find solace. Video games, anime and image boards are dedicated to their discussion. Many of these canons had a long history of white male fandoms that could attain a degree of power and an in-group by virtue of their knowledge. Star Wars, Warhammer, and various others all acted as deep, detailed renditions of male power fantasies wherein they could exist.
However, as time went on, there was a gradual push towards inclusivity in these fandoms. Star Wars, in particular, found its fandom rocketed to mass appeal. The cast and story were shifted from the classic tale of a downtrodden white man developing incredible powers and rising to glory. Video games were also opened to the masses.
Soon people were making games about depression, and feminist video game critics were pointing out some of the issues surrounding minority representation in major fandoms. As such, what were once exclusively male spaces, resigned to subculture status, became massive cultural phenomenon. Suddenly, our Alt-Right to be was being told that not only did they have to share, but also the things they enjoyed were racist, sexist and generally 'problematic'.
Of course, the opening of fandoms to the majority is not at all negative. Although there is a fair degree of corporate opportunism involved, allowing people access to fictional worlds crafted for the joy of people seems as if it can only be positive. And if characters who belong to a minority are depicted in a positive or realistic light (as opposed to woefully restrained) this can only prove positive for the public understanding of that group. Of course, this itself is a rarity in Hollywood, with many portrayals of minority characters as shallow stereotypes.
These young white men can look back into the past and see a position of dominance. When mixed with normative cultural values or cultural social Darwinism, it seems that they are part of a demographic that should hold complete power over society, and yet do not. In movies, books, stories and shows, people who share a skin pigment and genitalia with them do remarkable things. They conquer all odds and are rewarded with wealth, women or glory.
White men are supposed to be able to achieve anything, and yet they do not. Rather than blame themselves - an approach that tends to lead to severe self-esteem issues or cognitive dissonance - they instead look outwards. Like a German nationalist standing in the ruins of that project post-World War I, it seems unthinkable that the culture itself could be wrong or toxic or need changing. Instead, there must have been some malignant external force that sent it mad, that granted autonomy to groups who never should have had it - groups who do not resemble you. Groups who, coincidentally, are often the object of cultural complexes built around them as the ‘Other’.
So we've got people who are ripe for radicalisation, but how does this happen? There's no guarantee anything will come of it, but the longer it goes on the more likely the group becomes to propagate itself. For me, it was a video, but it could be any video, any post. Look to almost any comment section and you'll see someone spewing Alt-Right rhetoric at the top comment. These people have spent their entire lives on the Internet as active users, meaning they're likely to make politically charged comments and bring in those who share their complexes.
This is bolstered by the sheer prevalence of these channels. The largest, 'The Amazing Atheist', has a million subscribers. This grows alarming larger if you add figures such as Jordan Peterson (1.3 million subscribers and millions of monthly views) and Lauren Southern (573 thousand) who also works for 'Rebel Media', a publication that dispenses radical right-wing news.
“The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?”
One noteworthy aspect of the Alt-Right is the degree to which its members seemingly continue to grow more radicalised. What begins as a commitment to logic, freedom and a love of seeing feminists trounced somehow grows to Trump support and eugenics. Part of this is the Alt-Right's method of engagement and discourse. Irony. A typical thread between the group often devolves into insults directed both at other members of the thread and anyone outside of it. And yet, despite seeming totally disunited and disdainful of each other, the group seemingly remains an ideological whole.
Irony is an incredible way to mask ideas, and commit to ones you're not yet fully ready to embrace. Plausible deniability. Outside the sphere, if anyone attacks you, you can simply claim it's an edgy joke and that you don't really believe it. It's even possible to attack the person for not being able to take a joke, making them look stupid. Not only that, it's proof that SJWs are killing comedy, and are waging a systemic war on free speech. Suddenly, your opponent is on the defensive, not only this, but they look to be attacking some value people hold.
Within the group, it creates a loop of radicalisation wherein those who already hold these ideas present them in an ironic fashion, allowing for them to be entertained by the less radicalised, who gradually begin to adopt them.
The other aspect that drives the Alt-Right to increased radicalization is not so unusual at all. Fascism has always thrived off selling narratives to the downtrodden ‘majority’ convinced of its own persecution. Jewish conspiracy, immigrant threats, the Feminazi menace. The Alt-Right offers a grandiose transformation for our disaffected young white man. From an unpopular loser, this young man is transformed into an enlightened individual who understands the true state of society. A man who has broken free from the conditioning of evil, external cultural elites. He has taken the 'Red Pill' and now must battle to save society from its black, Jewish, feminist, Liberal, SJW enemies.
Once you've tasted this power, it can become incredibly easy to crave more and thus immerse oneself more and more in the narrative. First a conspiracy against you spreading your legs on public transport, then a matriarchy as the reality of the world, then the need for women to remain permanently in the home, and so on and so on.
Something important to note in all of this is the way that racism and sexism tend to be understood. It's apparent that sexist, racist and classist attitudes are systemic issues. From a young age people are bombarded with the prejudices of previous generations, be it at home or in public. Movies depict minorities in set, degrading roles. In big-budget films, women are reduced to little more than love interests for men and eye candy for the audience. People of Colour find themselves depicted as but a few basic classes of Minstrels and Nannies for the benefit of the white cast. With all homogenized to the white male perspective, it's little wonder to find that young white men hold these beliefs about others, and tragically often, minority groups these images of themselves.
Yet, in line with the general individualist slant of modern society, wherein all responsibility is laid at the feet of the individual, racism and sexism are seen as moral failures, rather than social. Systemic problems are rendered as individual failings, and people tend to be entirely blamed for holding prejudicial beliefs when their only crime is living in a society that promotes them. This is further exacerbated by the way in which racism and sexism are understood. The average person tends to think of racism and sexism as colossally evil behaviours. A misogynist is understood as a wife beater or rapist, as opposed to someone who passively berates and speaks over women. A racist is understood as a Klansmen donning a hood and attending a burning, rather than as someone who believes that African-Americans commit more crime due to some failure within their culture.
Of course, both of the aforementioned examples are horrific behaviours and deserve extreme condemnation, but the issue is a lack of nuance in the discourse around the topic. This is certainly progress, but it is not where we want to be. As such, often, when a feminist accuses a young white man of racism or sexism, they are speaking two different languages. The Classical Liberal will decry the fact that these terms are being robbed of their power, while the Leftist believes them to be intentionally misleading or otherwise prejudiced.
Of course, the blame for this conundrum can be attributed neither solely to the Left nor the Classical Liberal. However, it does bear to remember, if you ever find yourself in a debate with someone who is espousing sexist or racist attitudes, you are almost certainly dealing with radically different understandings of concepts, and making this clear is likely the best way to begin alleviating the rise of the Alt-Right.
“The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”
This brings us to an interesting question. What can be done to stem the rise of the young Alt-Right? It's a difficult question, one far harder to find a solution to than to analyse. The Alt-Right on the whole seems to be something of a growing pain. The last agonizing gasps of eroding privilege. However, we would do well to not assume that the path of history is linear. Although we are making some positive steps towards alleviating racism and sexism, there is little reason to assume this will continue on nothing but the grounds of moral force. Income inequality is rising to staggering levels, racial tensions internal and international alike continue to brew and the specter of accelerating climate change lingers above us all. With Trump, Hanson and Brexit we have seen the rise of tribal politics, focused on restoring or exacerbating inequalities. In this context, the Alt-Right seems more like a response to widespread confusion and panic.
The key seems to lie in the way politically-minded people engage with the public. The Alt-Right critique of the Left as insular and divorced from the reality of the public does hold some weight. Often it seems as if we're speaking more to impress each other than to convince anyone in the public. Engagement is key. Part of what threw me down the dark path was the lack of strong systemic critique from the Left. Australian Labor and the Democrats promised little more than corporatist policy from behind a thin veneer of Leftism. For the Democratic Party, "America is already great". Put a few more minorities in office and the whole system will be fixed, is the general attitude of the moderate Left. Representation is, as has been established, exceedingly important.
However, to suggest that it itself will solve the underlying problems of prejudice and inequality is absurd. People cannot be persuaded that things are good when they are not, and telling disadvantaged groups that the system which placed them in this position will now cure it seems ridiculous. The mainstream is cracking, and people desire deeper critiques than slightly more representation or slightly lower taxes.
The Alt-Right, flawed as it is, offers a systemic critique of society. It's nebulous and almost entirely wrong, but for someone who feels that things are failing, and sees no solution being offered by anyone in power, the belief that some malignant force - be it SJWs, feminists, or even Jews - seems rather more understandable. It's the job of those who believe in progress to motivate people, before or after they've joined. I've stepped back, and many others have as well.
The key has always been interaction. It's far easier to maintain privilege in the abstract, and the cognitive dissonance of interacting with people who find these beliefs repulsive and don't act according to the crude stereotypes they're fed by profiteering pseudo-intellectuals on YouTube. It is perhaps the greatest way to begin moving these people away from negative outcomes and towards better alternatives.
I hate to have to say that it's the responsibility of marginalized people to fix a problem that they didn't create. And from my position it does seem questionable. However, sacrifices must be made, even if it's as simple as remaining calm in a debate and viewing the Alt-Right not as personally evil characters, but people who've been misled. We should not cry for young white men, but they often find themselves in confusing situations. Socialised in the ways of the old world, things are changing rapidly, and what they were promised is now failing them. Masculine aggression, a haunting ideal, to begin with, is now penalised when achieved. Furthermore, as has been established, people tend to flee to the Alt-Right because they desire a more systemic critique than is given to them by the mainstream.
These people are often critically minded and desire change in society. Let down by the education system, it can be hard to contextualise events within a broader systemic framework. No tools are given to these people to understand the social world they inhabit. While they are told their opinions always have merit, we marvel they cannot give meaningful critique but still do so loudly. If you engage with the Alt-Right you may be able to shift their perspective. What was once a misguided enemy may prove to be a passionate comrade in fighting for a better world, but only ever after engaging in good faith.
So the solution seems to be engagement, outreach and placing pressure on mainstream Left wing political parties to offer more systemic critiques.
For anyone on the Alt-Right who's made it all the way through, I hope I've managed to persuade you, just a little bit. You don't have to agree with me, you'd be a fool to do so immediately. But, I implore you to keep your mind open, to just consider the things I've said. I know what it is you're going through, I've been there too. It's a lonely world, and a paranoid one. A world of constant cognitive dissonance and of confusion as to where all those who agree with you are. I have no doubt you're astute, but I just want to ask which position is truly revolutionary. The one that challenges existing structures of power and society, or the one that espouses the ideas of the current regime, masks them in neon and memes and calls them 'Alternative'?