Reflections on Far-Right Propaganda[Trenchant Edges]
Thinking about UFOs again has brought up other issues
Good morning! We’re back to the Trenchant Edges, the newsletter where we dive into weird fringe topics and try to bring back some useful stuff.
Today, as I sit very pleasantly on my back porch watching the rainfall and listening to David Bowie’s last album, I’m thinking of the undeniable ties between fringe culture and varieties of far-right propaganda.
A couple weeks ago, I was talking with the host of the Nazi Lies Podcast, who was looking for a UFO expert whose politics weren’t pretty reactionary. I don’t know exactly how true that is, but it’s undeniable that right wing beliefs permeate many fringe spaces, as anyone who was friends with someone too into crystals over the last year or so has found out.
Bowie’s Blackstar is an appropriate Album to listen to, both because of his own flirtation with fascism and the Gnosticism woven into the song and music video.
And while historical Gnosticism isn’t much of a villain, what we might call the Gnostic meme has some explaining to do. We might get into that later.
In short, Gnostic Christianity proposes that the being usually worshipped as God is an imposter, an imperfect faker trying to steal worship from the true creator. The gnostic meme is a generalized inversion of a good/evil duality.
The classic American story about this is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown, in which a pious Christian discovers that all his equally pious neighbors actually worship satan and are trying to recruit him.
Lots of Nazis experience this kind of shift in moral perspective. And, in fact, it’s necessary to become a nazi. We’ve turned Hitler into a secular devil figure to absolve America of committing most of the same crimes, and our reward has been generations of people deifying him to spite the Liberal Establishment.
But I digress.
The Root of Conspiracism
It’d be easy to say that ignorance was the root of the belief in fantastic conspiracies. But that’s also ignorant. (Conspircism is distinct from theories about conspriacies)
What drives a great deal of paranoid ideation is a kind of psychic allergy to the concept of systemic forces, emergent properties, and stochastic terrorism. The idea that bad things must be caused by bad people with bad ideas is a driver of many of the worst ideas.
My suspicion is this is a kind of bug in human general intelligence, which I believe to have formed largely to facilitate better gossip and only later was turned towards other pursuits.
The net result of this, regardless of cause, is that a decent chunk of people just don’t find systemic analysis credible or believable. And in a world of such staggering complexity as our own, where the rationalist project imposes an enormous amount of faith on us every day, this is a problem.
Because If you want to draw explicit causes and effects between bad things that happen and bad people, you’re going to have to fudge some information a lot of the time.
You’ll have to decide that they’re not sincere and are so good at lying they only give off the barest hints.
You’ll trend towards exaggerating their evil intent until they’re, let’s say, murdering children to drink the special chemicals in their blood.
This kind of scapegoating appears somewhat hardwired into us. Or it’s at least a habit we’ve not yet broken.
Bringing it all Together
So, on one hand we’ve got this Gnostic Meme ready to bomb anyone raised within a good/evil duality with an Uno Reverse card and on the other we’ve got resistence to recognizing complex interactions versus scapegoating a group of people.
Now we add in a basic fact about political philsophy: “The Left” tends to embrace much more in the way of systemic arguments, especially since Marx. “The Right” tends to prefer Ethos/character/virtue driven arguments.
What does this get us? American fringe spaces where suspicion against “mainstream narratives” is standard will trend towards simplified, “Us vs Them” narratives which do not really address structural concerns.
Oh, and because the actual far right tend to be paranoid weirdos who try and show up everywhere and push their bullshit.
This isn’t our usual format, but I had a Dark Enlightenment/NRx guy show up this morning and I got to thinking about it.
If y’all don’t want me to go on this digression let me know. But it was in my head, and the traps of living outside the mainstream seemed relevant enough to me today.
My interest in conspriacy theories has pushed me to be kind of a conessiur of far-right propaganda.
And as this gentleman eloquently meant, I feel driven to understand the ideas of the worst people in our society.
Anyway, we’ll be back to talking about some McLuhan tomorrow.
See you then.
Interesting meditation today... you’re right, I think, about the impulse to concretize in the American psyche. Which is one lense for viewing conspiracy. It’s a kind of literalism that betrays a deficit in the perception of the distal cause. This is a rich area to mine.
I loved this one -- really thought-provoking.
What's the deal with Bowie & fascism? That's new to me.