No revolutionary movement gets off the ground without an organizing myth. It needs to offer a comprehensive vision of the world. Crucially, it needs to make its adherents feel special just for believing it. It’s a tall order. If I were trying to do it — and I’m not; this is all strictly hypothetical — I’d start with The Enemy. After all, as Eric Hoffer taught, you can get a mass movement going without a god, but never without a devil.
My suggestion for a modern-day devil: The eggheads.
Europeans call Americans “anti-intellectual,” and as much as it pains me to admit it, those cheese-eating surrender monkeys have a point. Americans love intelligence — witness the fact that we invented everything that makes modern life worth living. About the intelligent we’re ambivalent — we appreciate what they do (that “make the stuff that makes life worth living” thing), but insist that they stay in their lanes. Bill Gates, for instance, writes a mean line of code, but despite spending gazillions on it nobody takes him seriously as a lifestyle guru — just give us the free computers and fuck off, four-eyes. We despise intellectuals, though, and that takes some unpacking.
Part of it is the old saw about American vs. European social life. In Britain, it’s said, the worst sin is to be boring. Hence the long parade of truly great English eccentrics. Oscar Wilde, for instance. Or, if you prefer a modern example, that Milo guy — though calling him a cut-rate Oscar Wilde is a gross insult to the bargain bin, it’s the same basic idea. People will listen to what he says because he’s entertaining (for certain values of “entertainment”).
In America, on the other hand, the worst sin is insincerity. Oscar Wilde did a very successful tour of the USA just as he was rising to fame, and though he packed the house every night, you could fit the number of young Americans who aped his style into a port-a-potty. Not because young Americans in big cities weren’t bored, rich, and decadent — this was, after all, the Gilded Age — but because Wilde’s act was so obviously an act. Wilde may have been making a serious point about art — then again, he may have been just a screaming queen — but every single thing he did was contrived. We had to wait until the 1960s to get a homegrown version of Oscar Wilde — Andy Warhol — and even then his actual influence was limited to a few rich New York degenerates.
The explanation for this contrast is simple: Britain had been civilized since Roman times. The British horsey set not only knew each other from the cradle, but had been intermarried for generations, in lots of cases all the way back to Hastings. When you’re at least kissing cousins with every single individual who matters in an empire that covers half the world’s landmass, novelty, any novelty, is the only thing.
The USA, on the other hand, was a rough frontier society. You could get yourself killed with frightening ease in America, even in 1882 (the word “dude” was originally coined to describe this exact situation, of a soft-handed, muddle-headed city boy wandering into Indian Country). In a frontier society, you’d better be exactly what you say you are at all times — you might not live long enough for a second chance at a first impression.
That leaves the intellectual — no quotation marks — in a tough spot. I’m pretty sure everyone has an interest that baffles everyone else in their lives. Comic book fans, I imagine, spend more time answering the question “How could a grown-up possibly still be into comic books?” than they do actually collecting the books. The kind of person who asks that question, of course, doesn’t really want to know the answer. He just doesn’t get it, full stop, and never will. Now: Imagine that situation, but with a truly recondite interest — Etruscan vases or the Metaphysical Poets or something. Like the comic book fan, it can’t but come off as contrived — since no adult could possibly still find value in a pastime for ten-year-olds (a bunch of ancient junk, whatever), it must be a pose.
Europeans, as we’ve noted, are completely fine with poseurs (feel free to change “completely fine with” to “all total,” depending on your level of anti-Continental animus). See “civilized since Roman times,” above. This is why they’re so good at keeping “weapons-grade philosophy” contained — up to 99.5% of the dorks in European “revolutionary” parties are just poseurs, and Europeans find poseurs amusing.
To Americans, poseurs are dangerous. The guy who says he’s a badass gunfighter better actually be a badass gunfighter, because the Comanche war party is always just over the horizon and we have to have each other’s backs instantly, completely, and competently. So when we hear some noodle-necked, pencil-armed nerd talking about liquidating entire classes of people, it fries our circuits. How can he possibly say these things? This…organism… doesn’t even know which pronouns to use, and xzhey cries whenever the cafeteria’s out of free-trade, shade-grown, sustainably-sourced tofu. We can’t possibly take it seriously….
…. and yet, we’re compelled to. America was a rough frontier society for so long that it’s in our DNA — a man making a threat is, in fact, making a threat. And so our “intellectuals” — note the quotation marks this time — are ruthlessly evaluated on the only metric that makes sense to a frontier people: Can he actually do what he says he’s going to do? Obviously, xzhey can’t — hence the utter contempt.
Part II soon.