A Random Review of DEATHTOTHEWORLD

What follows is a random review by someone named Maxwell Foley on Goodroods.com. I am honored and pleased by his reaction, especially considering that his disavowal of my ‘racism’ seems mostly guided by subconscious calculations of social utility which cause him to avert his eyes from the bright sun of empirical reality.

The review:

For a long time, I have been obsessed with crazy people on the internet. An obscure wordpress blog with years of idiosyncratic political and religious rantings and perhaps one or two comments per post, is more alluring to me than any book in the library. This interest has probably fucked me up a little. But recently, in 2016, however, I think it has managed to bring me a degree of understanding of the zeitgeist that others lack, given to what degree the fringe, kooky right has managed to turn themselves into a (potentially terrifying) mainstream phenomenon. I wish I could prevent myself from being obsessed with these guys. The fringe left is extremely boring once you internalize the basic message, given that its adherents enforce a rigid ideological conformity among each other and thus all have essentially the same views. The fringe right, on the other hand, presents itself as an array of proud individual voices, each zanier than the next, each finding a new bizarre interpretation of conspiracy theory, religion, social dynamics, etc. in order to advance some counterintuitive (perhaps evil) political agenda.

The man that goes by the name of “HAarlem VEnison” might be the weirdest one I have seen. His website, AcidRight.info, presents itself as a bizarre unholy fusion of a hippy beat-poetry aesthetic and an openly racist right-wing worldview. When one reads further, however, it turns out that despite this veneer of bizarreness, HAarlem might in fact be one of the most perversely sensible voices in the so-called alt right. He seems to be convinced through some sort of genetic argument that there are innate differences between racial groups, a doctrine which is known as “racism”, and which HAarlem is perhaps completely unique among its adherents in his willingness to refer to as such. However, he is also adamant that no one is justified in being hateful towards one’s fellow human being, becoming a white nationalist, discriminating on a large scale, isolating oneself from foreign cultural influences, etc. His online presence seems to be an attempt to infiltrate the racist alt right and convince them, through both rational argument and a sort of subversive culture jamming, that just because they believe in racial differences doesn’t mean they have to consume themselves with hate or reject liberal democracy.

This book is a fictionalization of HAarlem’s travels as a hitchhiker, an activity which appears to be a permanent lifestyle choice for him. It is short, mostly well-written, and has a lot of entertaining commentary on various aspects of the American cultural landscape. The quality of the writing suffers when HAarlem attempts to directly inject exposition of his political views into the dialogue, leading to awkward moments like when two characters are cuddling in a sleeping bag and one says to the other “the blank-slate doctrine of genetic heritability is pseudoscientific” or something like that. (Although perhaps this awkwardness is intentional as some sort of postmodern joke? Who knows.)

It’s strange, because HAarlem’s persona almost appears to me as an embodiment of certain ideals I perhaps once aspired to, or alternatively am trying to back away from. There is an instinct to defy categorization – that to have any political viewpoint advocated by some large group or accepted by society is to be an uncritical member of the herd. There is a desire to turn oneself into a channeler of the zeitgeist, one who sees a specific discontent brewing in the youth and turns it into a shocking mystical, revolutionary force, rather than simply being yet another person reinforcing the older forms of thought and expression. There is a desire to see oneself as on some strange solitary journey, conversing with the universe, cultivating artistic and spiritual growth in the hopes of one day being understood.

But the paradox is that even as a part of one’s mind holds these hippie-ish “fuck society” ethics, there is always another part of one’s mind who expects to one day be rewarded by society, or at least history, for his steadfast devotion to individual truth. This is reinforced by the fact that one is likely to have derived this ethic from artists or poets who did in fact end up becoming famous, never finding reason to explore the 99% whose names were lost to history. I don’t agree with HAarlem’s “racism” and his mission seems mostly misguided to me, but I think there’s something admirable in the way that he has navigated the vast gulf between two ways of seeing the world and realized, correctly, that belief in racial differences is compatible with belief in liberal democracy, turned it into his own ideology, and is doing his sincere best to advance it in the world. And yet he will almost certainly never be rewarded for this nuance. How many souls exist in the world who can find common ground with him? His views entirely lock him out of mainstream discourse, and yet the alt right is likely to despise him just as much as anyone, viewing him (perhaps with justification) as a subversive left-wing entryist. Right now he exists as a somewhat pathetic figure, regularly recording YouTube videos which receive around 60 views, doing his best to reclaim the word “racism”.

It is obvious that HAarlem does not style himself as a shamanistic beat poet intellectual in order to look sophisticated, or get pussy, or earn social status, or anything like that. Perhaps his philosophizing comes from a truly earnest quest for truth. Or perhaps it stems from a sort of narcissism, a desire to play the role of a lone prophet ignored in one’s own time. Or maybe it’s a masochistic thing, a form of self-effacement. HAarlem toys with these ideas in the text of this book. Say what you will about him, he is self-aware. And, additionally, he seems to know very well that he will likely never be rewarded for the intellectual and artistic labors he takes. He has chosen a truly odd, lonely path through life.

There is something here, though. To look into the online spaces of the racist alt right is to find them extremely optimistic about the future, and HAarlem is by no means the only one to see themselves as a revolutionary youth movement similar to the counterculture of the 1960s. It is hard to deny that there is a resemblance, as sickening as the idea might be. A freewheeling anarchic spirit pervades the whole movement, as well as an utterly impressive use of irony and culture jamming to spread their views, which seem to be impossible to avoid on Twitter and YouTube. Going on the internet these days, there is “revolution in the air”, only it is not some sort of happy utopian fervor for a better life, but a growing appetite for fascism. If we take some view of history as driven by an inevitable dialectic, does this mean that racism is the way of the future? And if we take a view of history as essentially being a random, absurd process, this is hardly comforting. Now that Trump has been elected, I do not believe that anyone is able to predict what will happen next.

I would like to think that the alt right is just a passing fad, which it may very well be, but the alternative is disturbing. The fact that this seems to be the most energetic movement which dreams of a better future (no matter how irrational that dream may be) is disturbing. Something which asserts the value of love and co-operation needs to rise up to combat it, and HAarlem seems like one of the only voices making a sincere effort to challenge this rising hate, in his own way. So I guess I wish him luck in his fucked up mission.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1838857760?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

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