08:52
Saturday, 9
November 2019


Weekend read
08:52

Are the Kids Al(t)right?

by Mary Harrington

This week’s long read pick is Are the Kids Al(t)right?, written by Michael Anton at the Claremont Review of Books. It is a review of Bronze Age Mindset, a bestselling self-published ‘exhortation’ written by the anonymous “Bronze Age Pervert” (BAP), that has become hugely influential among the Pepe-memes-and-nihilistic-masculinity subculture loosely termed ‘alt-right’.

BAP-ism, Anton suggests, is a kind of Nietzschian perspective that views all of life as the struggle for “owned space”. In BAP’s view, this “space” has for some time been “owned” by a decadent elite that has reduced the vast mass of humanity to abject “bugmen” — soft-left male feminist types obsessed with trashy popular culture — a concept that owes a debt to Nietzsche made explicit in the text.

Roughly speaking, BAP seems to divide the human race into three types: natural bugmen, who will always be the majority but who can be led in positive directions by the right kind of man; naturally superior specimens who “desire one thing above all, ever-flowing eternal fame among mortals” (BAP quoting Heraclitus); and a sort of middle category who in good times serve the natural aristocracy but in bad times become regime apparatchiks and enforcers of the “Leviathan” (BAP borrowing from Thomas Hobbes). 
- Michael Anton

The apparatchiks and “bugmen” have, BAP claims, always attempted to hold back the naturally superior, whether via castration, ostracization or – today – via “a debilitating ‘education’ meant to render potentially spirited youth listless, hopeless and/or easily satisfied”.

What, then, is a more desirable state? If for Machiavelli the ideal man is “the founder”, for BAP it is the pirate:

Pirates being especially prone to violating the “owned space” of others means they are especially disinclined to being hemmed in by custom, law, tradition, religion, or anything else — including a stultifying and unjust regime. 
- Michael Anton

Anton weighs BAP’s worship of power and profound hostility to established order and the notion of equality against the Founding Fathers’ ideas of counterbalancing rule by the best with justice, virtue and the common good. If we embrace the BAP-ist idea of “natural aristoi”, Anton asks, how are we to identify them let alone elevate them to rulership?

One cannot find in BAM any principled reason—or any reason at all—to reject or object to tyranny. Or to slavery, serfdom, perpetual peasantry, might-makes-right, warlordism, gangsterism, bullying, or other forms of what the religious and philosophic traditions call “injustice.” 
- Michael Anton

Is this a problem? The article conveys a sense of an author first repelled and contemptuous: “In structure and tone, BAM appears at first glance to be a simplified pastiche of Friedrich Nietzsche written by an ESL-middle-school-message-board troll,” then intrigued: “Say what you will about Bronze Age Mindset, it’s not boring. BAP takes a flamethrower to one contemporary piety after another, left and right alike (but mostly left),” and finally profoundly wrongfooted. Because the issue is that, correct or not, the young men of the alt-right are not interested in debating with more mainstream conservatives (or even, it seems, in conserving anything much at all):

In the spiritual war for the hearts and minds of the disaffected youth on the right, conservatism is losing. BAPism is winning.
- Michael Anton

Today on UnHerd

13th December 2019