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Neo-reactionary cool kids for fascism

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I don’t have time to write much about it now, but I suggest you read this Vanity Fair piece by James Pogue about . . . well, that’s hard to say, exactly, but I guess it’s about the zeitgeist and stuff.

Reading the whole thing at one go right now was for me something like watching the febrile, coked-out four-hour plus director’s cut version of Apocalypse Now: Interesting for sure, but also pretty disturbing.

I feel I’m being vague.

A couple of quotes:

“So there’s this guy Curtis Yarvin, who has written about some of these things,” [J.D.} Vance said. Murphy chortled knowingly. “So one [option] is to basically accept that this entire thing is going to fall in on itself,” Vance went on. “And so the task of conservatives right now is to preserve as much as can be preserved,” waiting for the “inevitable collapse” of the current order.

He said he thought this was pessimistic. “I tend to think that we should seize the institutions of the left,” he said. “And turn them against the left. We need like a de-Baathification program, a de-woke-ification program.”

“I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” he said. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giving him one piece of advice: Fire every single midlevel bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”

“And when the courts stop you,” he went on, “stand before the country, and say—” he quoted Andrew Jackson, giving a challenge to the entire constitutional order—“the chief justice has made his ruling. Now let him enforce it.”

This is a description, essentially, of a coup.

“We are in a late republican period,” Vance said later, evoking the common New Right view of America as Rome awaiting its Caesar. “If we’re going to push back against it, we’re going to have to get pretty wild, and pretty far out there, and go in directions that a lot of conservatives right now are uncomfortable with.”

“Indeed,” Murphy said. “Among some of my circle, the phrase ‘extra-constitutional’ has come up quite a bit.”

I’d asked Vance to tell me, on the record, what he’d like liberal Americans who thought that what he was proposing was a fascist takeover of America to understand.

He spoke earnestly. “I think the cultural world you operate in is incredibly biased,” he said—against his movement and “the leaders of it, like me in particular.” He encouraged me to resist this tendency, which he thought was the product of a media machine leading us toward a soulless dystopia that none of us want to live in. “That impulse,” he said, “is fundamentally in service of something that is far worse than anything, in your wildest nightmares, than what you see here.”

He gave me an imploring look, as though to suggest that he was more on the side of the kind of people who read Vanity Fair than most of you realize.

If what he was doing worked, he said, “it will mean that my son grows up in a world where his masculinity—his support of his family and his community, his love of his community—is more important than whether it works for fucking McKinsey.”

Vance shows up a lot in this piece, which is about how Peter Thiel is trying to lead a neo-reactionary revolution against a world dominated by evil multi-billionaire tech overlords (I’m writing this non-ironically in case you’re wondering).

Speaking of Apocalypse Now:

“I’m not, like, into politics,” the writer Honor Levy, a Catholic convert and Bennington grad, told me when I called her. “I just want to have a family someday.”

Levy, who was a leftist recently enough that she cried when it became clear that Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be the Democratic presidential nominee, is friendly with Yarvin and has had him on the podcast she cohosts, Wet Brain—“Yeah, the Cathedral and blah blah,” she said when we got to talking about political media. But she said she’d never even heard of J.D. Vance or Blake Masters.

Levy is an It girl in a downtown Manhattan scene—The New Yorker has published her fiction; she is named in a New York Times story that tries to describe that scene—where right-wing politics have become an aesthetic pose that mingles strangely with an earnest search for moral grounding. “Until like a year and a half ago I didn’t believe good and evil existed,” she told me, later adding: “But I’m not in a state of grace, I shouldn’t be talking.” I asked if she would take money from Thiel and she cheerily said, “Of course!” She also described her cohort as a bunch of “libertines,” and on her podcast you can get a window into a world of people who enjoy a mind-bendingly ironic thrill by tut-tutting each other for missing church or having premarital sex. “Most of the girls downtown are normal, but they’ll wear a Trump hat as an accessory,” she said. The ones deep into the online scene, she said, “want to be like Leni Riefenstahl–Edie Sedgwick.”

Like Levy, Milius is in the funny position of being at the intersection of many of these crosscurrents, having worked in mainstream politics but appearing on so-called dissident podcasts and being on the periphery of a cultural scene where right-wing politics have taken on a sheen approximating cool.

She said she was too “black-pilled”—a very online term used to describe people who think that our world is so messed up that nothing can save it now—to think much about what it would look like for her side to win. “I could fucking trip over the curb,” Milius said, “and that’s going to be considered white supremacism. Like, there’s nothing you can do. What the fuck isn’t white supremacism?”

“They’re going to come for everything,” she said. “And I think it’s sinister—not that I think that people who want to pay attention to race issues are sinister. But I think that the globalization movement is using these divisive arguments in order to make people think that it’s a good thing.”

Milius is Amanda Milius, the daughter of John Milius, who co-wrote Apocalypse Now and a few years later directed the paranoid right wing shlock classic Red Dawn.

I’ll probably have more to say about this piece later, but I do think it’s very much worth reading. We tend to treat J.D. Vance as a sort of impliedly harmless buffoon around here, but after reading this article I’m starting to think that may be a 2015-style ha ha look at that clown Donald Trump-level mistake.

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