“Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right”, a booklet (120 pages) by Angela Nagle, seems to attribute the rise of nationalist populism as a kind of sum-effect of the chaos on the Internet in the past ten years or so. As the author says in her last chapter title, it isn’t funny when the culture wars go offline.
I’m rather shocked at the meanness and bullying that happens on line, and the revenge and stalking; Melania Trump has said she wants to do something about it, even if it helped her husband get elected. The behavior reflects a certain cynicism and even nihilism, that the “system” is leaving a lot of “us” out, so we might as well rebel against civilized living.
Nagle’s presentation is non-sequential and rather random, so it is hard to follow an argument. But gradually she gets into the same territory covered by Milo Yiannopoulos in his book “Dangerous” (July 13). She gradually develops a comparison to Milo’s style of conservatism, which I would call hyper-meritocracy (a preoccupation with other people’s virtue and its visual evidence, and a cult of personal competitiveness) but not libertarianism and definitely not alt-right or fascism, and the older Par Buchanan type of conservatism evident in the 1980s with the “Moral Majority” crowd. She almost manages to make cis gay men as likely to prefer conservatism to the particularly constricting identity politics of the extreme Left. The alt-right has its own identity politics, with a different crowd. In the end, communism (or hyper socialism, Venezuelan style), fascism, and extreme nationalism (as Putin is verging on), and even theocracy (Islamo-fascism) all start to seem alike. They are all authoritarian, and easily morph out of excessive political concern over personal “right-sizing” and deservedness.
She manages to convey some interesting narratives, such as about the life of mass shooter Eliot Rodger and his manifesto “My Twisted World” (this 2014 Isla Vista case definitely made “manifesto” a bad word, but so did the luddite Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in the 1990s with his “Industrial Society and its Future” where he ranted about the imposition of socialization). She also gives a perspective on the hit film “Fight Club” (1999, Fox, directed David Fincher, with Ed Norton and Brad Pitt).
She also conveys pretty well just how far some people go into group identity belonging, especially on the radical Left. People have amputated their own limbs to “belong” to “people with disabilities”. She has the same horror at the staged anarchical violence at Milo’s events. She discusses “manosphere” as something sometimes disfigured by tattoos and wounds, something far removed from the cleaner fantasies of the 1960s when James Bond told us “what it means to be a man”, or when a perfected (except around red kryptonite) Clark Kent conveyed that on “Smallville” in the 00’s. (Tom Welling has gone downhill since then, sad to say.)
In the end, it seems like “populists” dislike “elites” who watch and criticize but don’t step up and swing and take the risks of getting beaned.
Vox interview with author.
Salon discussion of the book.
|Title, Subtitle:||“Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right|
|Publication:||Zero Books, 120 pages, paper (ebook), 7 chapters and conclusion|
(Posted: Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 at 11:15 AM EDT)