DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE OF NEOREACTION
In considering the endgame of Trump’s administration, we conclude that it must be the end of democracy and the coronation of the Trump dynasty as the royal family of the world-spanning Holy American Empire. We can support nothing less in good conscience. -from ‘Social Matter -Statecraft for American Restoration’
It’s difficult these days not to have our eyes fixed with a horrified fascination on the USA as the Trump express rushes headlong down the track, attempting to demolish everything in its path and heading who knows where.
However, the more I see of President Trump and his inability to be traditionally presidential, I begin to wonder if he’s merely the figurehead for other forces and if these forces are actually controlling his puppet stings. His incoherent rambling address to the media this week contained a number of outright lies and made many wonder about his competence.
He has surrounded himself with a number of advisers and it is worth digging more deeply to understand who these influencers are and what their philosophy is.
The White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, may be one of the principal conduits between presidential power and outside interests. There’s a network of ideologues behind some of the people who now have direct access to the White House administration. In public statements over the years, Bannon has described a view of a world undergoing nothing less than a clash of civilizations, featuring a struggle between globalism and a downtrodden working class as well as between the Islamic and Western worlds.
I’ve spoken about Bannon in an earlier blog, a man with strong racist, misogynist and homophobic views but the people he’s connected with appear to have even more alarming worldviews and of where they see themselves positioned in world history. These once obscure ‘intellectuals’ may now appear to have unfettered access to the White House according to a recent article in the online magazine Politico.
Bannon himself has a reputation as a racist, a homophobe and a misogynist who believes that Western democracy is doomed and must be destroyed before it can be remade. Bannon evidently is widely read, unlike Trump, an admirer of what is being labelled as Neoreactionary (#Nrx in social media language) political theory or the ‘Dark Enlightenment’ as it is also called. These thinkers are mostly internet-based and believe that democracy is a failed idea and necessitates a return to the feudal state. This return demands a struggle which is overlaid with misogynistic, racist and homophobic overtones.
Carlo and Mark Citadel on Thermador a neoreactionary website identify Bannon as their ‘direct line’ and invent the term ‘Bannoning’ for their influence in the White House.
One of the main admirers of Neoraeaction too is Curtis Yarvin, a software engineer and blogger, who writes under the name Mencius Moldbug. A self-proclaimed “neo-reactionary” attracted a following in 2008 when he published a wordy treatise asserting, among other things, that “nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth.” (Sounding familiar?) The main thrust of Yarvin’s thinking is that democracy is broken; rule by the people doesn’t work, and doesn’t lead to good governance. He has described it as an ‘ineffective and destructive’ form of government. Democracy must be rejected and replaced with an autocratic leader. Any suggestions yet?
The alt-right is basically the white-nationalist political movement, while Neoreaction, up until now an obscure ideology, is the philosophical basis of that movement. Interestingly the Neoreaction website suggests connecting to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum, ‘our friends down under.’ One of the recommended reads on their site is Cori Bernardi’s 2013, ‘The Conservative Revolution’. This Australian-based site also links to articles critical of feminism, are anti-Islam and verge on racism. The responses to these articles are also disturbing. Who knew these ideas had so much support?
Yarvin’s own writings are worrying. He appears to be sympathetic to Nazism and believes that some races (presumably black) ‘are more suited to slavery than others.’
Although not blogging since 2014, Yarvin is now connected with Paypal co-founder and Trump backer Peter Thiel, who himself has said that ‘I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.’
Social Matter (Statecraft for American Restoration) is one of a number of websites committed to Neoreaction and in an article entitled ‘Hail Trump but let’s keep our heads’ makes this chilling rallying cry:
‘In considering the endgame of Trump’s administration, we conclude that it must be the end of democracy and the coronation of the Trump dynasty as the royal family of the world-spanning Holy American Empire. We can support nothing less in good conscience.’
The whole article with its thirty-eight comments is worth reading in full to give an idea of how these ultra-right minds operate and what their plans may involve.
Another writer Bannon admires is Nassim Taleb, the best-selling author whose 2014 book ‘Antifragile’ is a broadside against big government. Also Michael Anton, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, has recently been appointed to serve on the National Security Council staff. Some of his more controversial writings defend Charles Lindbergh’s America First Committee as “unfairly maligned” and asserts that “Islam and the modern West are incompatible.” Anton has also argued that diversity is ‘a source of weakness, tension and disunion.’
Some neoreactionaries have what seems to me to be a disturbing aesthetic vision and many post regularly on Twitter. Their images tend to be futurist and hyper-masculine; soldiers with guns, tanks, spaceships, Greek gods and Cathedrals. (They do oppose the separation of Church and State).
When Rosie Gray of the Atlantic Monthly recently tried to connect with Yarvin she was directed to a Twitter contact with the avatar ‘@BronzeAgePerv’, self-described as ‘Steppe barbarian. Nationalist, Fascist, Nudist Bodybuilder! Purification of world. Revolt of the damned. Destruction of the cities!’
Yarvin told Gray that ‘apparently there’s a big underground movement of right-wing bodybuilders — thousands. Their plan is to surface spectacularly this April, in a choreographed flash demo on the Washington Mall. They’ll be totally nude, but wearing Make America Great Again hats. The goal is to intimidate Congress with pure masculine show of youth, energy. Trump is said to know, will coordinate with powerful Executive Orders…’ The mind boggles. This super-masculine, misogynist and racist display appears to underpin their philosophy.
I began to follow some of @BronzeAgePerv’s own followers and pretty soon was embroiled in an obscure world of misogynist, homophobic and anti-Islam rants and images. Educative for someone like me but it soon became very exhausting. Connecting to one of the movement’s websites Post Anathema is an entry into a type of Middle Ages, super masculine, military world of images.
And there’s another group of powerbrokers busy getting settled in those Oval Office chairs. Doors it appears are now opening for a number of right-wing Christian Evangelists. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Methodist, has questioned the wisdom of separating church and state and now Trump’s cabinet is filling with deeply religious people who hold conservative views on religion, morality and social policy. Tom Price, the new health and human services secretary, helped lead an effort in Congress to repeal the federal mandate that insurers cover birth control, on the ground that it violates religious freedom.
According to the New York Times, ‘Mr. Carson, the nominee for secretary of housing and urban development, once said he doubted the validity of the Big Bang theory. Andrew F. Puzder, the labor secretary nominee, was an early architect of the legal effort to pass laws stating that life begins at conception. Among the Trump inner circle, Mr. Pence and Kellyanne Conway, the counsellor to the president, were known to the movement for their strong opposition to abortion.’
Falling down the rabbit hole of the neo-reactionary movement is a confusing experience, especially for those of us who have for the most part been isolated from this hardline, militaristic diatribe. I guess the question is whether such a philosophy can be contained merely within the world of social media. Are these just the ideas of disgruntled pseudo-intellectuals and a rag-tag of Twitterati bullies, self-immolating on hatred or a sign of something more serious? It is, I believe, indisputable that there are disturbing parallels between these neo-reactionary theorists and the way the new White House Administration is developing. There appear to be gigantic forces lining up at this period of our history and the Trump juggernaut may be just the tip of that iceberg.