Seriously Though… Where DID All These Nazis Come From?

by | Jul 25, 2019 | The Monstrous Regiment, All, Master

Hosts

The Monstrous Crew

Description

In part three of our overly long and yet somehow still only surface-deep discussion of manipulative discourse, we finally address the patriarchal foundations of fascism. What does “Cultural Marxism” vs “Western Civilization” have to do with incels, Ancient Roman sexual ethics, and magic sperm?

Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: discussion of sexual assault

Hello again! Let’s talk about propaganda one more time! I’m Sarah, a graduate linguist focusing on Germanic studies, and cognitive science stuff, and I’m guest-talking for the real actual last part of the propaganda series.

I am going to start by talking about the Alt-Right and Doublethink: I feel I may have accidentally implied before when talking about mental models and coherence and such that there’s not a substantial amount of cognitive dissonance and inconsistency in far-right ideology. As mentioned before, religion is one of the murkier areas of thinking, it’s curiously syncretic you might say: you’re as likely to find evangelical Kinist constituents as neo-pagans and occultists or atheists. Some embrace Christianity as one of the prominent cultural features of “Western Civilization,” but do not believe in it themselves, for example. The Alt-right is broadly misogynist and sometimes straight up pro-rape, but there are still women in the movement. One of the major tenets is racism but there are still alt-righters who are people of color. Milo Yiannapoulos was once a prominent alt-right provocateur who at times hung around with Neo-Nazis, wrote one of the “touchstone” pieces on how the Alt-Right self-presents, and whose leaked passwords contained a startling number of pro-nazi and antisemitic references, like LongKnives1290 which is a reference to the night of long knives and the edict of 1290 expelling the Jews from England, but even during his era of prominence, many in those circles, included the Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin, rejected him because he is gay and ethnically part Jewish. Why a gay Jewish man sought the company of Nazis is anyone’s guess, but in all likelihood his expulsion from Breitbart was inevitable when his usefulness as a token expired. Alt-righters both deny the holocaust happened at all and suggest that its only flaw was non-completion. As is traditional in propagandistic depictions of the “world enemy,” alt-righters portray Jews as both sniveling laughable degenerates and as the all-powerful financiers of the One World Order, etc. To a certain extent all this is thanks to the fact that, like all ideological movements, the alt-right is not a unitary entity but a collection of individuals who are united, in one particular way–as seemingly tends to be the case with fascism, by what they are against more than what they are for—but not necessarily united in every way or represented by a single set of specific consistent beliefs. The unifying point for the alt-right is the idea that “equality is a dangerous myth” as white supremacist and editor of American Renaissance Jared Taylor put it. More specifically there are a handful of major themes, i.e. white supremacy/that white people are under attack, male supremacy/that straight men are under attack, and that Political Correctness is the worst thing that ever happened to human civilization and an assault on the truth etc.

As a collection of individuals, then, the various paths by which different individuals reach the unifying point or set of major tenets may differ considerably. I.e. one alt-righter denies the holocaust and says it’s a hoax perpetrated by Jews to increase their cultural victim-status, another insists that had the holocaust been successful, those Jewish financiers and elite academics would not have the opportunity to destroy the west today, but at the end of the day they both arrive at Jews as the enemy of western civilization. There’s no internal inconsistency for either one, just interpersonal inconsistency. In other cases, it may be that the same person embraces contradictory narratives at different times on an ad hoc basis depending on what will lead him to his desired conclusion or what will contradict his opponent in the moment. He may genuinely convince himself he believes that thing in that moment or may be lying just to push the real goal. Additionally, the short-lived and emotionally charged nature of some specific types of propaganda, in particular Agitation Propaganda, makes them easily disposable and forgotten once they’re no longer useful, so contradictions in propaganda narratives are expected. Meanwhile, a person may also have full cognitive dissonance—someone who embraces some parts of neo-nazism but denies what they imply, i.e. suggests that femininity is responsible for the decline of the west and that therefore the feminine aspects of society must be suppressed, but is unwilling or unable to admit the obvious implication of legal suppression of women, or someone who consciously believes in sexual hierarchy but denies racial hierarchy, which are inevitably co-referential concepts belonging to the same mental model of the world as I discussed at the end of my last video.

Finally, the shifting and goals-based nature of propaganda also creates weird dissonances: original Nazi propaganda portrays the Jews as the puppetmasters behind both international capitalism and international Marxism. This kind of thing happened partly over time—as the NSDAP propaganda narratives changed according to the present party needs, especially before and after they seized power when much of their rhetoric noticeably changes. But it also happened simultaneously and within the same speeches and writings, as a consequence of the propagandists trying to perform their inspirational vaguely revolutionary socialist populism alongside demonizing Russia and the Jews and immigration and multiculturalism and artistic pluralism, all associated in some way with “Bolshevism.” Finally, it’s common with specifically fascist propaganda, which as we’ve said before is reactionary and power-consolidating, to need to depict its selected enemy as weak in the face of the righteous and glorious cause, thus emboldening the propagandized to feel that victory is a historic eventuality, and to depict the ‘world enemy’ as an all-powerful existential threat that will cause the destruction of civilization if a sufficient force is not mustered to stop them. Yes, that’s cognitive dissonance but it’s not evidence against a frames-based analysis. It’s about the goal of each propaganda piece, with that goal being part of or emergent from a frame. Within a power-and-dominance-based view, or frame, or model, where the pyramid is automatically is the basis of human relations and civilizations, the narratives that serve that internally consistent model don’t always have to agree with each other as long as they all agree with and refer to the pyramid. They call it manipulative discourse for a reason, don’t they?

In any case, when I talk about propaganda needing to have at least something in common with the target’s base assumptions in order to work, I’m more talking about the process by which ordinary people in the non-radicalized world become propagandized and sometimes thereafter radicalized, rather than talking about how much consistency there is in the nebulous and absolutely wild world of the already-radicalized. If an ordinary person has a base assumption that, say, society is in decline, then a propaganda that says The X Designated World Enemy is responsible for the decline of society, has a chance of working because it takes the target’s given as a given. Most of the people this discussion is addressed to are not alt-righters and probably never will be, but do have some base assumptions in common with the propaganda narratives of the alt-right, which has demonstrably affected mainstream discourse especially in the last few years.

So anyway, concerning the wild thinking of the alt-right, I really wanted to talk about Julius Evola but I already exceeded my wordcount again, so instead please google Julius Evola, he’s really fascinating and really terrifying and really influential in the alt-right. Speaking of Super-Fascism and sex magic, let’s talk about the Manosphere!

Quick, what do pick up artists, incels (or self-described involuntary celibates), Christian fundamentalists, reformed theologians, androphiles (same-sex attracted men who do not regard themselves a homosexual), mens rights activists, anti-feminists, and yup, old fashioned Nazis have in common?
Well a lot it turns out but mainly: a preoccupation with discussing and defining “masculinity,” and often, by extension and in contradistinction, femininity (and anti-feminism.) Very often, it’s just as defined by an avoidance of femininity and feminine signifiers as it is by a masculinity and masculine signifiers. Some manosphere-subcategories focus on ideas like neomasculinity and paleomasculinity. Neomasculinity describes the idea of returning to a masculine ideal from the past, and paleomasculinity is the belief that male domination is anthropologically and biologically “natural.” There is considerable overlap between white supremacists and what is known as “the manosphere,” or a loose collection of online spaces defined by a focus on these ideas, not surprisingly, considering their common predecessor in old school Nazism’s misogynistic and authoritarian fetishization of male authority and male excellence. In fact, the Anti-Defamation League has argued that the idea of “male supremacy,” a term used to describe an ideological belief in the subjugation of women common in the so-called manosphere, is a “gateway” for young men to be drawn into the broader sphere of white supremacism and neo-nazism, because they are so essentially and underlyingly the same kind of thinking. Male supremacism, similar to white supremacism, generally doesn’t stop at subjugating the “outgroup,” but inevitably winds up narrowing the definition of the “ingroup.” The Nazis excluded many ethnic populations we would consider to be “white” from their definition of “whiteness,” both German Nazis and their sympathizers in Britain and America. Similarly, male supremacists inevitably wind up excluding anyone who insufficiently performs the traits and signifiers associated with their ever-narrowing definition of masculinity, which may be anything from “being strong” to “controlling your woman,” as implied by the common insult favored on the alt-right: “cuck,” short for “cuckold,” or a man who has been cheated on by his wife.

I just want to stop to point out that being a male and this kind performative “masculinity” are NOT the same thing, and it is very far from true that “all men” act this way. Many many men are well-meaning and well-disposed to see women as human beings and equal partners. It is probably true that most men, by no fault of their own, have grown up surrounded by the same tropes and assumptions about the world that deeply inform these worldviews. But inculturation is not predestination and there’s nothing essentially or inherently male about obsession with dominance. Power religion is obsessed with dominance and power religion latches on to qualities like physical strength as justification for the establishment of power structures but it’s not men or maleness or masculinity, it’s power and the social systems structured around it. Men and women are unequally affected by received assumptions and tropes of centuries-old deeply ingrained power structures, in part because of surface-level qualities like differences in physical strength, but that doesn’t make men or masculinity itself bad. What I am NOT saying, WHAT I AM NOT SAYING, is that being male or a man or masculine makes you a fascist. What I am saying is that power religion—and by extension its radical reactionary self-protective form, “fascism”—is preoccupied with various beliefs and assumptions about who has the right to hold power over themselves, who has the right to hold power over others, and the power-differentials that, in the faith-like worldview of power religion, are self-justifying and self-referential. Power structures, seeking to justify themselves, point to power differentials and claim they are prescriptive. Within this frame, being more “strong” or more “dominant” or more “whatever qualia are associated masculinity,” or in contradistinction being “less feminine,” becomes synonymous not just with holding power but with being entitled to hold power. That’s the role that propaganda plays. Remember that this is just the base cognitive frame which male supremacist propaganda takes advantage of, in order to integrate new propositions like women who have more [dominance/power/strength/influence or any masculine-coded quality] should have [that quality] subtracted. That proposition is often one integral to male supremacist propaganda, but it doesn’t start there. If the target doesn’t already feel that ‘men ought to be or have more X than women’ then propaganda won’t be able to convince them that ‘women should have X subtracted’ because it would essentially be a non-sequitur re: their existing frames. That’s not to say that a propaganda can’t take a true fact, like “men are on average physically stronger than women,” and frame it in such a way that it can set the stage for concluding “men ought to be stronger [physically or nonphysically] than women.”

There is no explaining Neo-Nazis without explaining the significant recent strands of misogyny found in the manosphere. The ideas are essentially linked, as often expressed by their most prominent proponents. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s good reason to think that young men are often drawn into other forms of extremism, including the ideological circles of neo-nazis, via male supremacy.

Fascism in European history leans very heavily on white supremacy (obviously there have been varieties of fascism in places like Japan that don’t include that element) but arguably, present-day neo-fascism leans just as heavily on anti-feminism (an attitude I used to agree with! There but for the grace of God, yeah? I mention that just to once again remind you that nothing in this podcast should be construed as an attack on the moral character of those who have consumed or repeated propaganda). It is possible that women are seen as a greater threat to the existing power system now or they are perceived as having obtained or demanded too much power recently, but whatever it is, present-day neo-fascism is much more fixated on women as the threat that justifies the mustering of great force than their 20th century predecessors. 20th century Nazis WERE very misogynistic, excluding women from state positions and emphasizing that women must not encroach in spaces that “rightfully” belong to men, as well as claiming that “feminization of men,” and “mascunilization of women” to quote literally Joseph Goebbels, are linked–even causally linked–to the degeneration and decline of society, but present-day neo-Nazis are much more fixated on women as the cause of societal decline though in both cases the whole notion falls apart without the base assumption that society is in decline. Indeed, the fear of being dominated by women is one of the unifying features of various manosphere and extremist subgroups.

To take a sympathetic view: young men who grow up receiving the message that if they aren’t sexually dominant, they aren’t really men, or that if they are emotionally self-aware they’re not manly, and who grow up receiving the message that doing the right things, rescuing the princess or following the right steps or becoming successful, entitles them to a sex as a reward are not at fault for receiving those messages, but they are in for a rude awakening when women and girls don’t play by the same rules, and they feel cheated. And since they’ve been taught to eschew emotional self-awareness as a form of feminine weakness, they don’t have the tools to interrogate that feeling of being cheated. I’m not saying they are right to feel cheated or that they really are being cheated, I’m saying that they feel that way because they are playing by the rules they learned, but women increasingly aren’t. He was told that not being sexually successful makes him not masculine, and he was told that if he did X things, he would be sexually successful, but women denied him the success he was promised (not by women but by the frames he received), so he feels emasculated. Women aren’t playing by those rules in part thanks to the increase of feminism in society. Therefore,  male supremacist propaganda takes advantage of those presuppositions he was taught, and tells that frustrated young man that feminism is responsible for emasculating him, and from there to get to women have unfair power to emasculate men thanks to feminism, and then to women should have power over themselves subtracted is not huge leap. “Women,” says the propaganda, “can be and should be made to play by the rules YOU were taught.” Again, not saying this is how it really is, just saying this is how they feel, and trying to be sympathetic. It goes further than that, obviously—eventually male supremacy leads to “men should make the rules by which women play.” And that’s how you get both incels—“involuntary celibates,” or men who blame women for their lack of sexual success, and Pick-Up-Artists—men who use ‘giving dating advice’ or the construction of steps by which young men should be able to find sexual success as a way of advocating for the domination, manipulation, control, and objectification of women. Even though incels and PUAs are often very much at odds thanks partly to PUAs literally promising that following certain (deeply hateful) steps will get you women, which doesn’t pan out. They’re linked by their shared base assumption that under the right conditions, i.e. “being a nice guy,” or “using the right techniques,” men are entitled to women, or even more fundamentally that women are for men. In 2015 Theresa Vescio performed a series of experiments in which men were given tests and then told that they scored like a female colleague, worse than a female, or better than a female taking the same test, with scores of “like” or “worse” being considered “threat conditions” on the hypothesis that the men might perceive it as a threat to their masculinity. Then they were asked to imagine if their scores were made public. Men who were told they scored like or worse than a female taking the same test expressed greater worry about how they would be perceived by others, expressed increased anger, and expressed more support for ideologies that promoted the subjugation of women.

The point is that all these propositions are linked. Feminism is perceived to be connected to a particular cluster of ideas which by extension makes the other ideas that are part of the same conceptual cluster, like agitation against racism and the rise of LGBT visibility, also responsible for the things about the world that make young men feel angry and powerless. That cluster of ideas is identified as ‘political correctness’ or ‘cultural Marxism,’ (a term especially well-suited to describe a “forced” redistribution of power away from those who are perceived to have ‘earned’ it toward those who are perceived not to have ‘worked’ for it). The propaganda takes the feeling of powerlessness, which may be expressed as the proposition I am powerless in this world, and links it to a cause outside of the young man’s control: you earned power but had it taken away, you are powerless because of forced redistribution of power, from you to others who didn’t earn it. Ultimately this is easily coherent with conspiracy theories like the Frankfurt School theory, where there’s vast plot to take away what rightfully belongs to the ingroup and give it to the outgroup. In our first episode we talked about how agitation propaganda is successful when it designates someone as the source of all misery. We talked about how you’re in dangerous territory when there is a monolithic human enemy to blame for everything? Well, here it is. As just one of an internet-sized massive corpus of examples, Anders Beivik, the neo-nazi mass murderer who killed 77 people in Norway? H wrote a 1500-page manifesto blaming female sexual self-determination and “feminism” for “emasculating men” and for an imbalance in birth-rates between racial groups that white supremacists fear eventually will end in the “replacement” of the white race by hordes of Muslims and non-whites.

(Preoccupation with comparing birthrates between white ethnic groups and immigrants is another shared feature of 20th century white supremacists, 21st century white supremacists, male supremacists, and Fox News.)

Obviously the process I describe above is only one way that young people, especially young men, get radicalized by online cultures like incel subreddits and 4chan. Investigator Robert Evan examined the stories of 75 fascist activists on how they got “red-pilled” a term for getting woke to the oppression of white males in various areas of social justice, (or as the fascists themselves describe it, being “fully red-pilled” is “acknowledging the JQ (or Jewish Question)”) and found that a lot of young men report getting drawn in with memes and jokes, which progressed to “ironic” racist jokes, and then to just unironic racism.

White supremacists don’t target exclusively Jews, they also target anyone who fails to meet their criteria for whiteness. In the same way, Male supremacists don’t exclusively seek to control and/or erase women, but to control and/or erase anyone who fails to meet their criteria for masculinity, (which, like whiteness to a white supremacist, has no real ethical meaning and relies heavily on fabricated bunk science.) Men who fail to perform the outward signifiers of neomasculinity are also despised as “betas.” The obsession with policing masculinity goes to such extremes that, within the manosphere, a widespread fixation on testosterone levels and sperm counts has developed, and there’s this bunk-science myth about the effects of plant phytoestrogens (which in reality have zero effect on human male hormone levels, because plant biology is uh… plant biology not human biology, it’s just a similar sounding name for a chemical), particularly those found in soybeans, which is the origin of the insult ‘soyboy’ if you’re curious. It’s based of the fear these circles cultivate of having almost any contact with “feminizing” influences. Femininity is indeed apparently a disease that one can contract by eating the wrong kinds of beans, like getting salmonella from raw chicken. Far-Right websites first hype a fear of women and fear of femaleness and feminization and then cynically shill testosterone pills or creams to their audiences at $30 per bottle. It’s a racket. It brings to mind older versions of fake science, where a person’s ability to meet the criteria of whiteness was determined by supposed “racial” markers like the size and shape of the nose or the long-debunked pseudoscience of phrenology. These goofy male supremacists measure your ability to meet the criteria of masculinity by your hormone levels and sperm counts, as well as by outward performance and appearance—young men agonize and self-loath over their sperm counts. These similarities are not incidental, they’re symptoms of the kind of ingroup-outgroup thinking that is foundational to fascist ideologies: preservation of the ingroup against the looming threat of the outgroup, which increasingly requires defining the ingroup in contradistinction to the outgroup, whether that outgroup is non-whiteness or nonmasculinity. Remember in the last episode how I said to keep the name of that website, Return of Kings in mind? Now remember how I said that fascism is tied up with a lot of assumptions about who has the right to hold power, over themselves and OTHERS, and that a characteristic of fascism is an obsession with restoring some primordial ideal, with returning to a historical era in the past when power was exclusively in the hands of the people it “should” belong to? With returning to the good old days? Return of Kings is almost the most perfect example of linguistic cues for cognitive frames I’ve ever seen, because it contains: the history-worship of fascism, the need to restore a primordial state, and the fixation on masculinism, and the obsession with power and “authority” in just three words. Return of Kings is one of the prominent manosphere sites that promotes the ideas of neomasculinity, and paleomasculinity. As a reminder, neomasculinity is the idea of the restoration of some ancient (sometimes understood as ancient Greek or Roman or Germanic) ideal of masculine excellence, and paleomasculinity is the idea that male dominance is anthropologically “natural.” It’s worth noting that such an idea depends on a base assumption that human hierarchies (based on ontology?) are biologically and anthropologically natural. (You know. Like lobsters.) Because power religion. Also Return if Kings advocated legalization of rape, in case you forgot.

This obsessive “neo”masculinism isn’t just friendly with fascism, it is fascism. It’s the exact same impulse: the impulse of power systems to preserve themselves. It’s power religion tightening its grip in the face of the Woman Question, and before you think I am exaggerating, alt-right and literal neo-nazi blogs and youtube channels have written about “The Woman Question,” in those words. The ingroup, the group entitled to hold power, sharpens the tightens the definition of ingroup-membership to exclude more and more people as a way of consolidating power (and that’s why it’s important that the focus is on a performance of a particular type, rather than solely on the state of being male—plenty of males, are excluded from the ever-narrowing-ingroup and labeled or ‘outgrouped’ as ‘betas’ or ‘cucks,’ ‘gays,’ or ‘SJWs,’ etc.) It widens the gap between ingroup and outgroup as much as possible, it doubles down on its claim to power on whatever grounds necessary in the moment, and it pushes for the subjugation or erasure of the outgroup on the zero-sum thinking that if the ingroup does not maintain dominance, they will inevitably become dominated by the outgroup. If this description sounds like the description of the influential political philosophy of actual literal Nazi Carl Schmidt, there’s a reason for that.

First, the historical domination of women by men is threatened by mere female self-determination, as expressed by white nationalist (sympathizer) Stefan Molyneux in his video “the matriarchal lineage of corruption: “women who choose the assholes will end this race, they will end this human race, if we don’t start holding them accountable. Women… guarantee criminality, sociopathy, politicians. And I don’t know how to make the world a better place except by HOLDING WOMEN ACCOUNTABLE. All the cold-hearted jerks who run the world came out of the vaginas of women who married assholes. Women… keep the evil of the species going by continually choosing these guys. If women chose ***nice guys***… we would have a glorious and peaceful world in one generation.” (I’ve cut some parts out because he rants a lot and there are more expletives, etc. but he suggests–or actually nearly screams–that ‘holding women accountable,’ i.e. punishing women, for choosing their own sexual partners is the solution to societal decline. He also suggests in his fall of Rome video that women are responsible partly for the fall of Rome because they weren’t keeping up the ***birthrate***.

Confessed rapist Roosh V complains in one of his talks, as recorded by Reggie Yates in a BBC documentary: “Women are no longer trained to submit to a man, to serve a man. Women are being applauded and encouraged to look like fat outer space cyborgs. Women and gays are seen as superior to straight men.” (And there’s your reference to ‘insufficiently masculine men’ being out-grouped and categorized with women.)

There’s also incel mass-murderers like Eliot Rodger whose extremely boring mostly autobiographical manifesto begins with “Humanity… All of my suffering on this world has been at the hands of humanity, particularly women” and ramps up for 140 pages to conclude “Women should not have the right to choose who to mate and breed with. That decision should be made for them by rational men of intelligence. If women continue to have rights, they will only hinder the advancement of the human race by breeding with degenerate men and creating stupid, degenerate offspring.”  So there’s your eugenics and fascism together.

And neo-nazi mass murderer Anders Breivik complains in his manifesto about the feminization of Europe, blaming women, in particular but not exclusively feminist women, for not having enough babies, for making “unnatural” demands for equality, and for using their “erotic capital” to control men—in other words, the commonplace but nonsensical claim that women are the gatekeepers of sex (an incel base assumption and central doctrine) implying that for women, self-determination is the same as controlling men. But perhaps most essential to the recent surge in male supremacist thinking, the idea of women, of “victims,” holding abusers and those in power accountable, is framed as a threat that the outgroup—the nonmasculine—will dominate and control the ingroup—the “masculine”—therefore in order to self-preserve, the power structure reacts by circling the wagons and doubling down.

This type of thinking that I talked about it is a characteristic of the male supremacist who feels that he is entitled to power (in particular over others), entitled to the submission of the non-masculine, which includes women, children, and insufficiently macho fellow men, as well at those within the LGBT communities, and has had it taken away from him. This terror of a redistribution of power, you could call it, is an expression of Jared Taylor’s fascist presupposition which he says is the unifying feature of the Alt-Right is fear of equality, of not being on the top of the pyramid. Dangerous to those at the top who award themselves the benefits of inequality thanks to the self-referential nature of power in their worldview. Being at the top means your entitled to be at the top. It is that way, so it OUGHT to be that way.

Now, here’s where we can talk a little about the spread of attitudes versus the spread of information. See, someone doesn’t have to repeat direct verbatim alt-right or manosphere rhetoric to demonstrate the influence of this kind of propaganda. As I said in the first episode, one of the long-term goals of propaganda is creating a new normal. One way this is often done is in terms of the Overton Window, which describes the “window of acceptable discourse.” Extremists often use very far-fringe rhetoric to make what previously would have been considered extreme positions look moderate by comparison, which is called shifting the Overton Window. Which is one way of creating a new normal. Something like this has been going on in recent years surrounding the spread of male supremacist propaganda. See, extreme ideas like legalizing rape, removing barriers to adult-child sex, or disenfranchising women have been floating around in fringe communities for a long time but gaining more and more prominence in recent years, especially after the last presidential election, which makes the in-reality still extreme positions of making rape harder to prosecute by requiring a certain number of witnesses, or the position of requiring women to give a certain amount of child-like deference to all men by default seem more moderate by comparison. So the Overton Window has noticeably shifted. Additionally, the recent shift from the old conservative party line: patriarchy doesn’t exist, it’s a fabrication of feminist gender scholars trying to seize power for themselves, to the increasingly common attitude in mainstream rightists of outrightly embracing patriarchy as the proper way of the world has not occurred in a vacuum, but in the context of increasing disinhibition under the influence of extremist fringe rhetoric. The Tim Baylys of the world may have felt the same kind of cheated entitlement and power-frustration before the Roosh V’s and Andrew Anglins of the world suggested it was their right to feel that way, their right to be alphas, their right to be deferred to, but their openness in embracing and demanding those attitudes, and the increasing boldness of their audiences in accepting and repeating those attitudes, has occurred in a particular cultural climate. The Bayly’s don’t have to call their invented doctrines of masculinity and dominance, their insatiable power-lusty longing to return to an imagined primordial era of manliness-as-godhood “neomasculinity” in that word in order to be exhibiting the influence off the people who do use that word. I literally came back to edit this script after I saw Tim Bayly’s bizarre tweets implying that the deeply oppressive, violent, rape-culture sexual ethics of ancient Rome—including legal situations where rape of women, girls, slaves, and young boys is completely permissible—were a model of sexual practice that should be considered instructive or admirable in some way because they revolved around the quasi-mystical, quasi-spiritual, legal and institutional elevation of the “masculine” and subjugation of the non-masculine, including, importantly, not just the explicitly feminine, but all insufficiently macho (aka “soft”) persons, which includes “soft” young boys (ew) and even men who did not have the rights of citizenship (!), aka civil rights, such as slaves and foreigners. That’s right, the legal recognition of the state is apparently a meaningful characteristic of non “soft” masculinity and who is and is not allowed to be “buggered” in Tim’s own words. Not only were these tweets mindblowing in their implications for sexual ethics but they were like the perfect crystallized exemplar of the influence of Antiquity-obsession among fringe (white supremacist and manosphere-adjacent) groups and how their twisted ideas of classical antiquity, especially sex and race in antiquity, are now being adopted by evangelical leaders in the mainstream. Mindblowing. And alarming.

Some items of specific rhetoric have definitely served as watermarks of these shifting attitudes and how they have spread from the corners of the internet where the reactionary spasm from power-frustration to outright fascism has already occurred into the mainstream. Take, for example, the “alpha male.”

Because the term “alpha male”  is derived from recent bad science, it doesn’t itself turn up in, for example, the works of Goebbels, but it definitely does reflect oldschool Nazi obsession with “masculinity” and power, dominance, and the “rightful” places of men and women in society, as well as a pronounced anxiety about assuring that power and authority remained in the hands of men to the exclusion of women. Worth noting that the views of modern day far-righters and… honestly mainstream reformed circles concerning women would have been a little too extreme for JG himself, or at least for his shrewd sense of optics; JG was seemingly aware that strict patriarchalist views were not coherent enough with the thinking of a large segment of his target population, presumably women in the pro-suffagist 20s (women’s suffrage became official in Germany in 1919) though they weren’t completely incoherent with his whole audience’s thinking, especially with the mindsets of German men whose monopoly on political power had recently taken a serious blow. Anyway according to the social hypothesis of the “alpha male,” men who perform dominance and hypermasculinity are “alphas,” while men who are perceived as not being adequately dominant are called “betas,” or “cucks,” or “male feminists,” or “soyboys.” White nationalist Richard Spencer once suggested to a Rolling Stone interviewer that women seek out white nationalist boyfriends because they are attracted to “alpha sperm.” (ew) This idea is meaningful to them.

Of course the whole theory of the alpha male comes from a description of wolf behavior proposed by scientist L. David Mech. One should note that behavior observed in one species doesn’t automatically translate to another species—humans have different cognition, physiology, and social structures than wolves do, to understate the question. But even were that not the case, L. David Mech has since denounced his own theory, stating that it was a mistake derived from observing captive wolves, i.e. wolves cut off from their natural way of living, but wolves in the wild do not really have “alpha males.” (It’s also connected to chimp social behavior though.) The point of it is to add a pseudoscientific veneer to an existing belief or assumption in the natural dominance of males and the hierarchical order of human relations. The term “alpha male” appears to have been steadily increasing in usage since the 60s, but has experienced a spike in popularity since the mid 2000s. It may have been popularized by the 2005 book “The Game,” by, YUP, a pick-up-artist named Niel Strauss. The book was a best-seller, and the term “alpha male” is a high-frequency subject on the alt-right and manosphere regions of reddit, especially in incel subcommunities, PUA groups, and places like TheRedPill subreddit, and incel,me. Mike Chernovich, a Mens Rights Activist, antisemite, and white-genocide conspiracy theorist said on twitter that “Rape via an alpha male is different from other forms of rape. We can’t really understand this, as our culture is too detached from instinct.” The term seems to have been basically popularized in the manosphere, by a PUA, probably simultaneously with its rising popularity in neo-nazi and neo-fascist communities, and then spread into mainstream discourse. Take, for example, the 2017 Fox News opinion piece hilariously titled “society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love” or PJMedia’s “10 essential traits of alpha males” or, look, you get the point, this idea is pseudoscience that appeals to people because it clicks with some of the deeply rooted assumptions about power as self-justifying. There’s little questioning in this thinking whether the “alpha” is a real and good model of behavior, it’s just taken as a given. It appeals to the idea, very much enjoyed by oldschool nazis, of the apex male as the rightful and naturally dominant leader: it’s 2019’s ubermensch. It feels right because it confirms what the target already takes as a starting assumption: human hierarchy is a naturally occurring feature of social order. (You know. LIKE LOBSTERS.) This idea is closely connected to fears about the decline of society, by the way, as Stefan Molyneux will gladly rant at you for hours.

The “alpha” fantasy is a power fantasy in which antisocial traits–in particular those associated with some aspects of the famous Dark Tetrad of narcissism, sociopathy, sadism, and Machiavellianism, by the way– become the signal of a person’s right to social and sexual dominance. It’s a story that promises some people are just dominant and as such just get access to sex and positions of authority by virtue of being what they are. I suppose you can imagine what base assumptions, frames, or mental models might inform this kind of thinking by now, right? In a word, the “alpha male” is the purest, silliest expression of male supremacy—the supreme male.

In 1951 during his trial for attempting to revive Italian fascism, Julius Evola (I know, shut up) a “racialist” who believe antisemitism was necessary for “racial rebirth” of society, and who has become a foundational thinker of the alt-right’s philosophy, denied being a fascist. He said, instead, he was a “SUPERfascist.” Evola also believed in tantra and sex magic, apparently was okay with rape because it was “natural,” and most importantly believed in the idea of virya, or spiritual manhood, masculinity as a force of spirit and nature, the glorious order to femininity’s duplicitous chaos. Maleness was indicative of kingship, priesthood, and along with total subordination of women, was part of the natural primordial heroic law. He… may have been referring to semen as the source of maleness-as-spiritual-superpower because sex magic or whatever. Point is, all these poor manosphere kids getting hung up on their sperm counts is not without precedent, nor is it without precedent that people obsessed with their own right to power and their right to be submitted to read religious or spiritual significance into male physiology and masculinity as some kind of ephemeral force that can be subtracted by exposure to feminizing influence. Like soybeans I guess. And its connection with fascism is as old as fascism itself. Umberto Eco’s 14 characteristics of fascism include: contempt for the weak, machismo or the sexualization of power and dominance along with disdain for women and nonstandard sexuality, cult of tradition, and cult of heroism.

Let’s do one more lexeme example, this time with less magic sperm: Time for the big one: “Cultural Marxism” 

Cultural Marxism = cultural bolshevism (an idea also closely tied with the Frankfurt School conspiracy theory–according to which a near-uniformly Jewish group of academic Marxists associated with the Frankfurt School are responsible for virtually everything wrong with culture. Hello, monolithic human enemy responsible for everything bad in the world!) The narrative of cultural marxism predictably begins with and is tightly bound up in Nazi propaganda.  And that’s what it is. A story. Stories have power in our lives because they evoke and resonate with our base assumptions, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a way we need to interrogate. Regardless of how you feel about the real critical theories advanced by the members of the Frankfurt School, which, yes, refers to a real prominent school of social theory founded in the early twentieth century, no one’s denying that much, the Frankfurt school conspiracy is unavoidably the creation of a Nazi-era anti-semitic narrative about “cultural bolshevism,” a phenomenon Nazi propagandists, and their contiguous present-day counterparts, explicitly blame on “the Jews” seeking to destroy art and culture and dismantle “western civilization” in their plot to take over the world and institute a one-world-order. They referred to Karl Marx as Marx-Mordechai, they wrote numerous pamphlets, essays, and works of (propagandistic) cultural criticism explaining that ‘kulturbolschewismus’ was an invention of the Jews who wanted to undermine ‘western civilization.’ Yes, that term, ‘western civilization’ too is one that peaked in usage during the nazi era and the whole story of the fight between the art-and-culture-marxist-leninist-bolshevists and the one-true-heritage of “western civilization” is a story entirely of the invention of propagandists. Incidentally, the term ‘western civilization” is a term that sweeps a huge and diverse multicultural history into one homogenous collectivist singularity precisely as we are supposed to fear the cultural Marxists are going to do.

From Joseph Goebbels’ Essay “Communism with the Mask off” (there was a LOT of anticommunist content in Nazi propaganda): “It was the Jew who discovered Marxism. It is the Jew who for decades past has endeavoured to stir up world revolutions through the medium of Marxism. It is the Jew who is today at the head of Marxism in all the countries of the world.”

“In its final consequences it signifies the destruction of all the commercial, social, political and cultural achievements of Western Europe, in favour of a deracinated and nomadic international cabal which has found its representation in Judaism. This grandiose attempt to overthrow the civilised world is so much more dangerous in its effects because the Communist International, which is a past master in the art of misrepresentation, has been able to find its protectors and pioneers among a great part of these intellectual circles in Europe whose physical and spiritual destruction mucst be the first result of a Bolshevic world revolution.”

From Gerhard Hahn’s (OOF) “Christuskreuz und Hakenkreuz” or “the Christ-cross and the swastika”: “We saw with terrifying clarity, without any doubt, that the enemy of the German people, Bolshevism, knew very well that a Soviet Germany could come only if it succeeded in separating and removing the German from his faith and his God, destroying, eliminating, or making ridiculous everything holy in the German. Bolshevism’s campaign was satanic on the fronts of politics, the economy, culture, the arts, entertainment, and the press.”

Those are just a couple of prototypical examples, that narrative is one of the fundamental through-lines of the whole corpus. For another example that actually starts with “the Jewish question” and gets to Jewish Marxism’s war on “western civilization” within a few lines, check Goebbels’ “European Crisis.”

Not every aspect of Neo-Nazi rhetoric exactly mirrors the narrative of the 20th century Nazis. I’ve mentioned more than once that older nationalist rhetoric had a veneer or socialism to it, because at the time the Nazis came to power, socialism and the narrative of social change it represented was really popular among Germans, and the Nazis were populists. Modern-day Nazi rhetoric is much more aligned with right-wing populism and is therefore generally pretty anti-socialist even while occasionally still having ‘socialist’ in the name. Midcentury Nazism was coherent with the popular frames of thinking within its target audience: midcentury Germans. While Neo-Nazism is coherent within the populist frames of its target audience: (frequently) modern-day conservatives. In the older narratives, ‘capitalism’ and ‘international finance’ and ‘cultural bolshevism’ and ‘cultural marxism’ were code phrases for “the Jews,” but they also didn’t need to downplay the antisemitism as much; Nazis were openly antisemitic, even from their earliest rhetoric. By contrast, in the more palatable, mainstream versions of alt-right narratives, the antisemitic angle of the story is usually masked behind words like “the frankfurk school” and the symbolic synecdoche of “George Soros” (a wealthy Jewish man blamed for ‘funding’ i.e. empowering groups of people who are seen as a threat to the status quo, namely immigrants, and connected to various conspiracy theorist in which he is responsible for masterminding and puppeteering the Marxist takeover of the world, much like the Rothschilds, a family rich Jewish bankers, were blamed by the original Nazis. In fact neo-nazi propaganda often frames George Soros as being controlled, in turn, by the Rothschilds). The Frankfurt School, Soros, and once again ‘cultural marxism,’ are figureheads and symbols of a ‘world power’ (that’s another Nazi keyphrase by the way) and critical elements of a story whose pieces are still the same as they always have been. The difference is in how much more Neo-Nazis must rely on hiding their antisemitic thinking behind sanitized terminology, compared with their predecessors. Which is less the case with each passing day.

As a target’s fear of social obsolescence or replacement, and their resentment of those people who are trying to ruin a perfectly good society with their systems theory and social criticism is stoked and encouraged, and they find themselves seeking out communities that affirm that resentment, they get more and more comfortable with more openly hateful rhetoric to be found on /pol/ and alt-right circles where variants of the happy merchant meme and pepe the frog and swastikas are passed around, and then, well, pretty soon they’re on youtube explaining how there’s a difference between an individual jew and ‘world jewry’ and using a picture of George Soros’ face as a shorthand for ‘world jewry’ or marching through a dark street with a tikki torch chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us,” or they’re releasing a manifesto raging against all the women who didn’t give them the sex they thought they were owed before setting out to punish those women as Eliot Rodger did or opening fire on a mosque or a university or a church.

There are some differences in the surface-representation because the popular frames of thinking among the target range are different. Still nationalist. Still fascist. Still antisemitic. Still built around a story which designates someone as the source of all misery, someone who is not too powerful.

Let’s do a little demonstration. If you track hits for the phrases ‘cultural marxism’ and ‘cultural bolshevism,’—which are synonymous—using Google NGram viewer, they spike un usage in between 1930 and 1940, unsurprisingly, then fall off and suddenly start gaining traction again in the 70s and more in the 80s, till most recently in the last decade when they rise to comparable prominence again. Though bolshevism is preferred in the earlier texts and ‘marxism’ is preferred in later texts since the 1990s, it’s important to note that even if they are not semantically identical, they are used interchangeably. Meanwhile the term ‘frankfurt school’ appears in the 40s, virtually disappears, and then suddenly spikes in the 70s. The term ‘western civilization’ shows a similarly suspect arc. It has a smoother rise to prominence than, say, ‘cultural bolshevism’ does, which was definitely coined by Nazis, but it clearly rises in usage in harmony with the rise of 20th-century ethno-nationalism, and peaks in usage in 1942. The “smoother” rise is speaking broadly; in particular in the German corpus, the phrase clearly experiences its sharpest rise between the 1920s and the 1950s. Now, I’m just using the NGram viewer to demonstrate something quickly and easily which I have observed previously in prior research in my program. By themselves, these observations are hardly definitive proof—if I were doing this in a real research capacity I would use much more rigorous methods and I would enlist the help of computational linguists to design and operationalize my search, and control the scope of my corpora, etc. These are only broad trends in limited corpora (for example it’s unlikely that Google Ngram viewer is searching Der Stormer or its modern day American legacy The Daily Stormer) but it is still an enlightening view into how tracking specific slogans and terms through public discourse can tell you something about how, when, and why those terms ‘trend.’

OTHER rhetorical tricks that spread DIRECTLY from ALT-RIGHT TO MAINSTREAM include:

  • Obsession with birth-rates (online neo-fascists absolutely LOVE Tucker Carlson for repeating this, among other common neo-nazi talking points)
  • Women as gatekeepers of sex (an idea I first encountered on The Federalist but which is widespread in mainstream discourse and assumptions, but which is as mentioned basically THE foundational doctrine and base assumption of incel culture)
  • “Blood and soil” (which was an ethnonationalist slogan of the NSDAP, was chanted by neo-nazis at the Charlottesville rally, and expresses a popular presupposition among Christian Kinists.)

The point is not to say, “these ideas are guilty by association because bad nazis also believed them,” but to point out that these ideas are inherited directly FROM the propaganda of palingenetic fascist ethno-ultranationalists. Through the ages. It’s not association, it’s lineage and influence. We’re not saying “this idea is bad because very bad people believe it,” but “this idea is bad, and you didn’t even think of it on your own, you got this idea from disingenuous and manipulative agents whispering it in your ears to stoke up your feelings and subrational self-interest and ingroup favoritism so you would help them achieve their goals of power, but since the ideas were always manipulative, you’ll be thrown to the wayside along with everyone you thought was so dangerous.” Because that’s what propaganda is. You can’t be like, “just because it’s propaganda doesn’t mean it is propaganda! Genetic fallacy!”

Propaganda is breathtakingly fast in the digital age, thanks to network dynamics, and as I’ve mentioned before, propaganda narrative quickly become self-reproducing and self-reinforcing. Within a few minutes of the news breaking that Notre Dame Cathedral, (considered by some a prominent symbol of “the west” in spite of its history and western history both being way more complicated and Notre Dame’s elevation to its present prominent status being way more recent than that mythic and symbolic concept implies) a politician named Christopher Hale tweeted that, I kid you not, a friend of a friend said the fire was deliberately set. “A jesuit friend in Paris who works in Notre Dame told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set.”  He quickly followed up by saying that it was an unsubstantiated rumor with zero evidence, and deleted the tweet just minutes later. Despite the tweet being literally the only evidence at the time (I’m sure the gab-4chan-8chan circle has developed “evidence” of all kinds since then), the story was picked up and spread rapidly throughout right-leaning circles, on the apocryphal anecdotal word of some guy’s friend’s acquaintance. Importantly, the tweet said nothing about who allegedly set the fire, but the story that became the official explanation of the online horizontal agit-prop machine while the cathedral was still on fire was that Muslims set the church ablaze, or, alternatively and a little spicier, that Jews acting on behalf of, yup, the Rothschild family, set the fire. Why did the word of some guy on the internet’s friend’s alleged acquaintance take off so fast as proof of Islamist or Jewish violence against a symbol of Western Civilization? Because the idea that the fire was set deliberately instantly clicked with the established propaganda narratives about Muslim and Jewish violence in Europe. It’s very likely that many people instantly thought “it must have been the [designated enemy]” before or entirely without seeing the tweet or screenshots of it being passed around, as evidence. They just jumped right to “blame the Muslims” or “blame the Jews” on gut feeling. But to those who did see and pass on the tweet, it felt like evidence. Some version of this story started turning up in my newsfeed, repeated by run-of-the-mill, probably-not-antisemitic non-propagandist normal conservatives within minutes. They repeated the “it was Islamic violence” story rather than the “it was Jews” version, but both versions were fabricated out of thin air solely on the grounds that if a prominent symbol of the west is burning, it must have been the World Enemy who did it. Pay attention, because that’s important: in an agitation propaganda, a single monolithic world enemy is responsible for all the misery in the world, right? So any individual instance of misery or tragedy, ESPECIALLY an instance of tragedy striking an emotionally resonant symbol of the “ingroup”, must be the doing of the world enemy. That’s what happened. The narrative of the designated enemy being responsible for all misery was already self-reproducing and self-reinforcing, to the extent that literally nothing is needed for each instance of tragedy to be presupposed to be the fault of the designated enemy. The ‘evidence’ is so flimsy because evidence is a helpful but non-requisite byproduct of having already decided who is to blame before tragedy even strikes.

Infowars associate (and testosterone enhancement salesman, soy-fear-mongering “alt-lite” conspiracy theorist) Paul Joseph Watson was repeating it twitter and providing additional equally flimsy “evidence” to add to the conspiracy theory.

I’m not talking about the genetic fallacy stuff here. I’m talking about a flow of information and ideas that starts with the “original” nazis, and end with a vicious feedback loop that involves conservatives and normal people acting as facilitators to the growth of a truly hideous worldview that demonstrably leads only to death. I’m talking about horizontal propaganda. Another telltale sign of a propaganda message, as we discussed before, is the presence of a ready-packaged script that counters all evidence without having to engage, and that’s the perpetual script that accompanied the Notre Dame conspiracy theories: anyone who says it wasn’t deliberately set by Islamists or Jews as a symbolic act of violence against Western Civilization (an idea invented in very recent history solely for the purpose of propping up the myth of a unified white culture (see footnotes)) must be controlled by political correctness or must be in on the Marxist conspiracy.

Using the term ‘cultural marxism’ doesn’t mean you’re an antisemite, and your understanding of that term may not have a conscious antisemitic element—you may not think of it as antisemitic—but the antisemitic element, the cultural narrative that birthed the term and its variants in the first place, is there for those who are “in the know” regardless of how you mean it, and this is why Arendt’s observation that propaganda’s aim is often to gather and retain people who are willing to consume and repeat it more than people who necessarily consciously ideologically sympathize is so important. By acting as the agent by which propaganda terms spread and saturate public discourse, even terms whose antisemitic content you are unaware of, you are still acting as an agent spreading the antisemitic message that is “trojan horsed’ inside it. You are helping to create the “new normal” discourse space that serves the fascist need to scapegoat an enemy as a means of gathering and retaining power. People hearing you still hear that term and think about the message you don’t know you’re spreading. It’s a short trip down Google to get from ‘cultural marxism’ to ‘the frankfurt school’ to ‘the jews seek to control the culture.’ Even if YOU don’t feel it to be antisemitic when YOU use the term, the baggage is there anyway  and it IS communicating itself to people who hear you, The concept—not just the specific term, but the whole idea it describes—exists and entered the realm of public discourse solely to serve the needs of a specific narrative. Imagine it like the leg of a table. You can’t detach the one leg and balance your books on just that leg. Detached from the table it is useless. If the leg is still attached to the table, then even if you try to put your books only on the one corner of the table where that leg is, if your set your books on that leg, and the books remain there instead of toppling to the ground, it’s because the whole table is intact and that’s what is providing the support for your books, not the one leg alone—the whole structure is unavoidably connected. The whole table. “Cultural Marxism” is an idea that came into existence solely for the purpose of creating a justification for antisemitism, as a name for the threat to German culture, identity, and way of life that the Jews were imagined to pose that demanded such an urgent solution. Without antisemitism, Cultural Marxism is not coherent, either internally or with the world or context in which the idea came to be. So the question a conservative who is accustomed to finding the concept of Cultural Marxism emotionally or cognitively resonant enough that he or she has been the person who is willing to repeat it must ask themselves is: what did this thing resonate with inside you? I.E. What base assumption about the world do you share with the antisemitic narrative this phrase is attached to? Again, please remember, I am not saying you are an antisemite if you have repeated this term or if it resonated with you. But you do have some base assumption or more than one in common with the narrative, the story, of the Frankfurt school Jewish cabal bent on taking over the world by encouraging criticism of the status quo to make the idea feel compelling. When it comes to propaganda, death of the author does not apply because authorial intent is text.

Let’s propose for the sake of argument that you can bleach the antisemitism from this story—what you are left with is still a story in which a specific human enemy is still designated the source of the whole world’s conflict and misery, a story whose sole purpose, absent the troubling selection of mainly Jewish actors to play the roles of the villains and to embody the dark forces at play on the world stage, remains the designation of some human world-enemy, a story whose narrative goal is to eliminate factors like empathy and integrative complexity and focus your energy on a group of persons who pose a threat serious enough to justify taking particular, especially political action. And by political action we necessarily mean taking action that removes power from the targeted world-enemy’s hands, and maintains power in the hands of those who can protect you from the world-enemy. A story which selects some true facts, yes, but frames them in a way designed to lead you to an emotionally charged truth-conditionally defective conclusion. Removing the antisemitic element only removes the ethnic identity of the world-enemy, it doesn’t change the manipulative nature of the story or the conclusion the story leads to: we must protect our power structures from the threat of the bad outgroup.

Propaganda promises that what’s wrong with the world is some other team, some villain who can be defeated in order to restore the world to the way it should be. Even that is a combination of assumptions, the zero-sum assumption of cultural selfhood and ‘dominance’ wherein persons or groups who are not like you are automatically threatening, the prelapsarian fallacy of history, not referring to the actual prelapsarian era in the bible but to the notion that things were “simpler” or more “honorable” or whatever adjective carries the most personal emotional weight, at some nostalgic point in history, when things were right with the world, the fallacy according to which the way things are now or used to be in an idealized old world, is the way things ought to be, an idea mainly popular among people who benefit or benefitted from the way things are or used to be and for whom questioning those ways of being is likely to be the most uncomfortable, an idea which is kind of an inherent assumption definitionally wrapped up in the concept of conservatism, of conserving something against the threat of changed imposed by an outgroup, etc. But obviously the most important base assumption is that there is something seriously wrong with the world, and honestly, this one is one of the true ones. You’re right to feel that there’s something wrong with the world, because there is. All of us, everyone on the left and right and in between and not-on-that-artificial-binary-spectrum, everyone feels our shared mass anxiety and tension. Again, I’m not saying base assumptions or strong feelings are bad or that you’re bad for having them. You’re right. Something is really wrong with the world. You’re right to feel that way. I’m asking you to think hard about what the term Cultural Marxism, really means—and why a story about vulnerable and systemically suppressed people—i.e. the Jews, women, people of color—amassing too much power and overthrowing the world as we know it, becoming a threat that justifies extreme force (and again, that was the point of the story when it was told and remains the point of the story in the modern-day sphere of discourse where it has enjoyed a return to prominence)—why that story felt so right to you.

See, this is why I knew I could only examine very few specific examples, every keyphrase and token requires 3000 words of explanation.

Propaganda and its slogans first appeal to your base assumptions, and by doing so manage to introduce truth-conditionally defective propositions into your frames. They take something you already presuppose, and link it to something that explains and confirms the bias. This is how emotionally resonant concepts like the specter of “cultural marxism” turn a normal non-neo-nazi into a trojan horse that slides antisemitic narratives into mainstream discourse.

Being vulnerable to propaganda does not mean a person are stupid, or uneducated. In fact, Jacques Ellul claims that people with more education are MORE vulnerable to propaganda because: {A} they read more and are more keyed into political, social, literary discourse etc. and are therefore exponentially more likely to be exposed to it, and {B} are more confident that they would know propaganda if they saw it and won’t be tricked. This doesn’t just refer to formal education or mean that “college leftists are propagandized,” while “salt of the earth republicans” are not—that’s another story, isn’t it?—it means the more confident you are that you aren’t affected by propaganda, the more likely it is that you will fall for it. Regardless of how you identify morally or politically, everyone is emotionally stimulated by stories that are coherent with their base assumptions, but a person who reads a lot and thinks a lot about culture is more likely to encounter stories that are designed to take advantage of that emotionally compelling coherency to push a target toward entertaining truth-conditionally defective beliefs, and that person is less likely to smell what’s fishy because to them, coherency with their base assumptions in a way counts as intellectually valid proof of the proposition, not just emotionally valid proof. Ellul was writing before the internet age, but he did predict that increasingly availability of mass media would exponentially empower propaganda. His claim that people who read more are more vulnerable to propaganda is exponentially more applicable in an era where everyone is on the internet and everyone is reading and consuming information CONSTANTLY. Everyone is being exposed to propaganda all the time, and everyone is convinced they’re too educated to be tricked.

To use another botanical metaphor, if you eat the leaves of a poisonous plant, innocently not knowing the plant was poisonous, and then someone says “uh, hey that plant is poisonous, you better get straight to a doctor,” the answer would not be to say “genetic fallacy! Just because I ate from a poisonous plant doesn’t mean what I ate was poisonous!” I don’t know, that’s not a perfect metaphor.

Here’s the most troubling trend I have observed in recent right-wing discourse. According to researchers associated with the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, a predictor of genocide is the introduction of toxification to discourse. This describes when speakers start using words related to infestations, to vermin or parasites, to disease or carcinogens etc. to describe people groups. Toxification takes it one step further than dehumanization. Dehumanization involves framing people as animal-like or object-like, as fungible, as commodities, as lacking subjectivity or internal personal viewpoint, or as de-individuated (referring to groups as though they were a single entity or organism, like “floods,” or “masses”—NSDAP propaganda referred to Jews using the word “hauch” or a cloud or miasma).This is the step which makes killing tolerable. It is okay to kill that which is not human, at least as a last resort to stop the flood. Toxification, by contrast, makes killing necessary. The toxic element, the infestation, is incompatible with life. As one non-Nazi related example, here’s Col. John Milton Chivington speaking of the genocide of the Cheyenne and Arapaho: “I have come to kill Indians… kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.” 

Now, in my own research, for which I am currently writing a proposal if you’re curious, I propose two types of “toxification,” the first of which can be called “first tier,” or referred to as “militarization,” and refers to the introduction of the language of war and military action to describe nonmilitary people groups. Words like “invasion.” This kind of language of war serves to justify the use of military action or acts of war against nonmilitary populations (which is a war crime). Like outright toxification, it frames the act of killing as necessary for the preservation of the ingroup. It still takes the possibility of violence from the realm of allowable to the realm of vital to our survival. “Second tier” then refers to the classical toxification as described: the introduction of the language of infestation, parasitism, or carcinogens.  There’s a noticeable overlap in these categories when it comes to words like “hordes.”

I don’t need to tell you how infamous Nazi rhetoric is for referring to Jewish people and other non-desirables as “parasites,” “pests” “vermin,” or “sponges.”

The first time I encountered toxification in rightwing discourse, I didn’t have a name for it, but I recognized it instantly. A commenter had added to an article about unaccompanied children crossing the border: “why aren’t we popping them off like vermin?”

And of course you know that the president has referred to immigrants as an invasion and as an infestation.

A few weeks ago I experimentally scrolled through a couple of Breitbart articles about migrants, including one about unaccompanied children. Because it was an informal exercise, I didn’t keep a strict tally but some screenshots that I collected will be released along with this episode, along with some typo-ridden comments from me. Impressionistically, though, I found an alarming amount of the comments referred explicitly to “invasion,” use of the word “hordes,” implied the immigrants were “dirty” and “diseased,” demanded the seizure of emergency powers (which is very alarming as a fascism-indexing gesture: remember how fascism is the reactionary consolidation of power), actually outrightly demanded the use of killing to save the nation. I found several instances of clear toxification, including one instance of children being called “parasites.” The most infamous pre-genocidal word in recent human history. The proposal I am writing now seeks to carry out a similar but formally standardized study tracking the same tokens.

At the end of the day, the people willing to repeat it–those responsible for consuming this rhetoric, for passing it around, for reproducing it, adopting its terms and parameters, and for helping it reach a greater audience, for helping it cultivate its desired attitudes slowly and through careful manipulation of information until its targets are primed for the more extreme versions which they find in online communities just waiting to take them in and make them feel like members of a swiftly growing and empowering movement that seeks to eliminate the source(s) of all human misery and return society to a prelapsarian ideal hierarchy which protects their interests…

Is us.

Is my friend. Is Near-And-Dear PMing me 4chan hoaxes and extremist special interest groups’ content. Is me. Is YOU. And it’s your business to interrogate the base assumptions that you share with nazi propaganda that made you vulnerable in the first place. Is ‘western civilization’ a meaningful concept? Is race a meaningful biological category? Is society actually in decline? Because it doesn’t seem to me like the end of legal segregation is ‘decline.’ That increasing antipathy toward racism—until we accidentally started spreading racist ideology again by adopting the terms and discourse parameters of racists, that is—is ‘decline’. What if some things have grown worse and other things have grown better, what if there is no unilateral direction of all culture all at once? What if culture is made up of people and people are complicated and there is no explanatory meta-story that makes the complexity go away and gives you a clear vision of who must be defeated to save the world from decline?

Because we listened to messages that appealed to our presuppositions and our anxieties. We found narratives that blamed all the misery of the world on a group of people instead of the universal fallenness of mankind. We shared these sources and their information. We adopted their paradigms of social and political discourse. We linked arms with them, whether we knew it or not. WE, normal people, well-read people, mostly (I hope) well-meaning people, were and continue to be the links in a direct chain of information that leads from the worst and most toxic parts of the internet—and by extension, the engines of a pernicious old ghost we have long hoped was gone for good, rendered ghoulish by history but still there all along on the fringes—to the public eye. Christians are most especially responsible, because we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we are forbidden to sit around deciding who meets the qualification of “neighbor” based on ingroup-outgroup qualifications (you know, like Joseph Goebbels did when he said your neighbor is your blood and ethnic comrade.) We are supposed to begin with the logs in our own eyes, because judgment begins in the house of God. So where did all these Nazis come from?

They came from us.

FOOTNOTES:

  • Concerning the legal status of rape in ancient Rome for any “yeah-butters” or “gotchas” out there, yes, I know there were “rape” laws on the books, but as well known, rape was totally legal in certain circumstances, depending on the relative positions and status of the perpetrator and victim in terms of social hierarchy (esp. re: slaves and noncitizens of any age sex or gender as long as the perpetrator was a male citizen, which is actually a very small portion of the population, and was penetrating rather than being penetrated. Or “buggered” as Tim Bayly puts it for some reason.)
  • Think about last time you heard someone read Genesis 3:16 and conclude that this verse implies women are naturally inclined to want to dominate men. That’s not actually what genesis 3:16 says, it’s not even close. There simply is no linguistically valid way of reading “her desire will be for her husband,” as “her desire will be for her husband’s position,”—the object of the verb ‘desire’ is completely unambiguous, and you can’t just switch the object of the verb “desire” out for a different object—switching it from ‘husband’ to ‘position’—without literally changing the actual text. And no, the preposition [PREP] does not imply oppositionality unless the parties described are already presupposed to be opposition. It’s like the preposition “with” in English, which can express either antagonism—as in “they fought with each other,” or affinity, as in “they talked with each other.” That’s how prepositions work, they don’t have any semantic content, they’re only able to link content words (or words like nouns and verbs that communicate actual semantic information) in relation to each other; they’re function words, and the nature of those functions relies on the semantics of the words they are linking. The fact that [PREP] can mean “for” or “toward” or “against,” indicates that [PREP], like English ‘with,’ doesn’t have oppositionality as an automatic informational ‘node.’ The preposition’s condition of being antagonistic or friendly is determined by the semantics of the words around it, and the word “desire,” both in English and in Hebrew, cannot be semantically validly interpreted as antagonistic in this context. The only way to read Gen 3:16 as antagonistic is to assume the words around the preposition imply antagonism by their own semantics, and since ‘desire’ has already been ruled out, then a base assumption about male-female relations is the only possible source of this antagonistic reading: one must presuppose that the two words–the woman and the husband, are antagonistic and in competition for dominance by nature. Either one dominates or the other dominates. It’s circular reasoning in its purest form: one presupposes a meaning and adds that meaning to the text and then uses that text to prove the presupposition’s validity. This base assumption, a competition of dominance based on ingroup-outgroupness, is fundamental to fascism, and fascist propaganda spreads virally in communities where this presupposition is part of the cognitive frames of the target. Many many many well-meaning people who are not fascists or self-described “neomasculinists” share these base assumptions, and, bear with me, that is okay as long as we don’t react in pride or fear of change when these false but unconscious base assumptions are brought to our attention. No one is responsible for the presuppositions they grew up immersed in, the presuppositions inherited from centuries of self-reinforcing social narratives. What we are responsible for is the willingness to interrogate those base assumptions and reevaluate the things we have concluded, not from evidence or from text, but merely from our own unconscious cognitive frames.
  • the problem is that it can be very difficult to bring base assumptions up to the surface because they are so unconsciously held, and the point of all that was to show how, if people are commonly reading something in a particular way that cannot actually be extracted from the text itself, they are not getting that reading from thin air—it’s coming from their own assumptions which they impose upon the text, and those assumptions are seriously tied up with a complex set of ideas about  who has the right to hold power, over themselves and others, a set of ideas that awards power based on ethically irrelevant ontological qualities, a set of ideas absolutely and unavoidably fundamental to power religion. And when someone comes along and presents a challenge to that power religion, that becomes a threat to the power structure that exists based on those assumptions, that’s when you start to get fascism. For example, when women agitate for self-determination, or especially for holding those in power accountable for systemic abuses against those with less power, as embodied by the #metoo movement, this is seen as a threat to existing power structures.

LINKS and READING:

Aggressiveness has nothing to do with becoming socially “dominant” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0165025407084054

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/society-is-creating-a-new-crop-of-alpha-women-who-are-unable-to-love

https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/the-10-essential-traits-of-alpha-males/

https://web.archive.org/web/20111124045123/http://cms.skidmore.edu/salmagundi/backissues/168-169/martin-jay-frankfurt-school-as-scapegoat.cfm

Nazis and classical antiquity: https://undark.org/article/hate-groups-love-ancient-greece-and-rome-and-scholars-are-pushing-back/

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/mike-cernovich

Spencer interview with Rolling Stone: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/meet-the-alt-right-spokesman-whos-thrilled-with-trumps-rise-129588/

“western civ” https://rfkclassics.blogspot.com/2019/04/on-history-of-western-civilization-part.html

Theresa Vescio’s experiments: https://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/abs/10.1027/1864-9335/a000248?journalCode=zsp&

ADL on male supremacy: https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/when-women-are-the-enemy-the-intersection-of-misogyny-and-white-supremacy

Text of Umberto Eco’s “Eternal Fascism”: http://interglacial.com/pub/text/Umberto_Eco_-_Eternal_Fascism.html

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